Falling In Love with The Big Easy

This weekend I spent my 25th birthday in perhaps one of the greatest, if not the greatest city I’ve visited: New Orleans.

Nola, Nawlins, The Big Easy, whatever you prefer to call it, I fell in love with it.  And what a wonderful place to celebrate another year of life completed.  I have been somewhat dreading, somewhat looking forward to my quarter of the century mark.  I can’t quite come to the conclusion if I’m happy to turn 25.  It sounds sort of ludicrous reading that on the page, “am I happy” because of course I should be happy, I’ve lived another glorious year! However I’ve come to realize how much pressure I’ve internally put on myself about reaching this age.  As an adolescent I viewed 25 as the age of “becoming an adult.”  At this point, in my teenage brain, I should’ve be married, have tons of babies (well not tons, more like..one) be running my own business etc.  My expectations are far from met, but my expectations weren’t really realistic in the first place.  Who knows where we will be in the future, and not only that, who knows how our views have changed by the time we reach a certain age.

But anyway, this post was more supposed to be about how amazing my time in New Orleans was..not my constant neurosis. The Big Easy has a magical quality to it once you cross its threshold.  Perhaps it’s the humidity in the air, the slighty weird smells, or the old houses and buildings that reek history (or mold..)..or the incredible hospitiality that you approach around every corner (or the road rage if you are in a car) ..or perhaps it’s the live music that wafts on a warm Lousiana breeze..I could go on and on.  Also, I don’t know how anyone could maintain a thin figure in a town that makes some of the most delicious, heavest, anti-vegetarian food I’ve ever experienced.  All I know is my stomache is still trying to recover from all the beignets at Cafe Du Monde and oysters at the Royal Oyster House on Royal Street.

I’m back from New Orleans now and regular life has returned.  On my 25th birthday I did alot of soul searching regarding if I’m happy about where I am in life at the moment. (Some of these reflections occured on a airboat in the Louisiana Bayou funnily enough.)  I wouldn’t say I’m necesarilly unhappy.  I would call it more a feeling of not being totally complete.  I’m still yearning for my dream career to take off..and the scary truth is it is up to me, and only me to make that career happen.  It’s easy to get distracted by your day job and meaningless trivial problems.  It’s very easy to pay close attention to the negative, self-defeating thoughts..but being in New Orleans brought a happiness back to me that I haven’t felt in a long minute.  It returned a hunger for life that I felt so often when in school.  Joie de vivre is what they like to call it.. and it’s contagious in New Orleans.  Gorging yourself on good food and amazing music will do that.  I’m hoping my visit to the Big Easy was the perfect kick in the pants that I need to enjoy life a little more.  I’m hoping that joy will propel me towards action that is not fear based.  Kind of like this wild alligator named Woodrow I met in the Bayou.   Doesn’t he look like he’s pursuing me (aka “lunch”) without fear? :)   


Just some Daily Inspiration:

No long blog post here today! Just thought I’d share an interview with Jodie Foster.  This woman has inspired me to act and be a better person since I was the age of 6.  I remember first watching her in Nell and being inspired and tickled, and then as a teenager watching her in “Silence of the Lambs” and being empowered (and terrified!) Enjoy the video, I sure did!

Jodie Foster in Inside The Actors Studio

How I Discovered My Value in an Unexpected Place

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with acting and being a performer.  It’s one of those things that I’ve periodically tried to run from in my life, but find myself inevitably back at it.  It’s like an automatic feature in my identity.  Being an actor has become intrinsically connected to my identity, and I really hadn’t come to terms with that until recently.  Self-realization can smack you in the face at interesting times.

One of the symptoms of “running” from acting has been falling into the trap of forgetting or downplaying it’s worth.  Alot of actor stereotypes (you know, the one of the empty headed actor/actress living in a world of self-dellusionment and narcissism) lead me to believe (especially right out of college) that what I had chosen to do with my life was useless and invalid and totally self serving.  I still fall into that trap once in a while, but a recent job at UCLA Medical School definetly helped me fall out of that trap, at least, for the time being.

UCLA Medical School has a program where they hire actors to perform as “patients” for first and second year medical students.  The actors involved are given the patient history, and we then are interviewed by the medical students.  The interviews are of course totally improvised.  All the actors have as a tool is the studying that they did of their character history.  It’s a program to teach medical students bedside manner.  The idea is, the better the doctor is at developing a relationship with the patient, the more likely the doctor can help the patient. I had the privledge of playing a straight A, college-bound teenager (who is told during the interview that she is pregnant) and a teenage homeless prostitute who is also a drug addict.  The later character was by far one of the most challenging characters I’ve ever had to tackle.  Not only was the character an abused, drug addicted, homeless teenager, it is the medical student’s responsibility to tell her that she is HIV Positive.  These interviews usually left me in tears and left me with some amazing experiences with complete strangers (the med students.)

The situations are not scripted, and improvising connects you even deeper and personally to the situation since you are essentially coming from yourself, rather than a scripted piece.  I had some students who were completely insensitive and judgmental, and then on the other hand had a few who were so caring and lovely that I still am brought to tears when I think about it.  After every work experience during this program, I realized what value it brought to me as an actor.  I walked out with my head help high.  Here I am using my skills as an artist (and developing new ones) to teach the caregivers of society! The doctors that may treat me or my kids some day..here I am using my skills as an actor to teach people, future doctors nonetheless, how to RELATE, how to CONNECT with people and hopefully heal them in some way or another.  It makes me feel like a rockstar.  It made me feel grateful.

So anyway, that’s my thought today on the validity of being an actor.  For any actors reading this out there, or anyone in any profession, do you have any stories about how your career path has helped people in unexpected ways? I encourage you to share them, and to think of them whenever you doubt the validity of what you’ve chosen to pursue.  Don’t forget to celebrate them as well, to celebrate yourself, and have a happy Thursday!


Sarah’s War Receives Rave Reviews

Hey Friends! just to update, Sarah’s War has received great reviews! Our opening week/second week has been well received.  The talk backs after have been amazing, it’s so wonderful to have an oppurtunity to engage in discourse with people about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in the context of our story, which focuses on the human element, on human connection, rather than politics/extremism.  It seems that people are being moved in some way or another and it’s wonderful! Check out the reviews below and get tickets here



Los Angeles Times Raves about Sarah’s War!

LA Weekly Gives Sarah’s War Pick of the Week!

Backstage Gives Sarah’s War Critic’s Pick!



The Myth of the Theatre Major Stigma

For those of us who decided to be Theatre majors in college and are now out in the “real” world, the reactions we can receive when sharing this information can vary from disdain to enthusiasm.  It wasn’t until I read Tom Vander Well’s blog post on having a theater major that I realized alot of the discomfort I had from admitting I was a theatre major came from within me, rather than the outside world.  Tom wrote a wonderful blog post about how being a theatre major prepared him for success and it really changed the way I looked at myself and the relevance of a theatre major not only as an actor, but as a well adjusted person venturing into any profession out there.  You can read his blog post here

Looking back on my college experience at UCLA (which was oh a whopping 3 years ago) I realize how much being a theater major prepared a work ethic for me that I will value reglardless of whatever profession I venture into.  I was rehearsing, researching, and studying from 8am-11pm almost daily my first year.  I learned about self-sacrifice and teamwork.  In addition I was forced to learn about a wide variety of subjects that opened my mind to cultures and histories that I otherwise never would have studied.  It prepeared me how to deal with all sorts of personalities (and lets face it, in the entertainment business “personalities” are rampant!).  I learned incredibly valuable communication skills and how to work with whatever little resources you have.  It stretched me, enlightened me, and helped me grow immensely.  Anyway, Tom sums it up incredibly and I highly encourage a gander for all you wayward, perhaps recently graduated Theatre Majors who are second guessing their major choice in this volatile yet exciting world.  Have a happy monday!

Becoming a Social Media Power Player

I’ve started many projects this year.  Sarah’s War opens in two weeks, we had our first few run throughs this weekend, which went fabulous.  I’m so excited to be working with such a great group of actors.   Another project that I’ve set for myself this year is to create more of my own work and become more visible through the internet.  That is why I’ve signed up for Dallas Travers’ Social Media Power Player Program.  I’m looking forward to it, as it’s premise is to teach actors how to utilize the tools of Social Media for maximum marketing visiblity.  Also I’ll be honest, it’s alot of fun.  It connects marketing with creativity, which makes marketing much more enticing for me.  I needed a change from the constant printing of postcards I never use.  I’m always trying to find new ways to make my website, facebook page, and twitter page more enticing.  Another honest statement: I’m not really that computer savvy or tech savvy, so I’m even more excited for SMPP as I think it will be incredibly useful and empowering for someone like me.  I’m still in the process with the website, as I’m a wordpress newbie (if you can’t already tell), but SMPP has given me the impetus I needed this year.  For more info about Dallas Travers and all that is amazing about her (seriously, she inspires me on a daily basis) visit her blog here.

“Sarah’s War” opening Feburary 11th at the Hudson

It’s always exciting and incredible when I get to work on a production that I feel passionately about.  It’s a rare experience when I am handed a role that is not only a challenge, but incredibly rewarding.  That is the experience I have had the past couple months in rehearsal for Val Dillman’s play Sarah’s War.

The play takes place in 2003 and revolves around the true story of Rachel Corrie.  Rachel was a 23-year-old human rights activist who died when she was crushed by an Israeli Bulldozer.  She was attempting to prevent an Israeli Bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian home by acting as a human shield.  There is alot of speculation and opinion as to what happened on that day, whether the driver saw her or not, whether he intentionally killed her or not, and as far as I’m concerned I’m not so sure if these questions can be answered.  The story itself is riveting, whether you believe she was a hero or a traitor.  Our play uses different names and is a story of fiction based on true events.  I play a hardened activist who has already been in Gaza months before Sarah (the character based on Rachel) arrives, and am with her as she dies in the bulldozer’s path.  My character is also based on a real woman who was there with Rachel as she died.  She also cleaned Rachel’s body and watched another close friend and fellow activist die from a bullet wound to his head while he attempted to pull a child out of gunfire in Palestine.

The play doesn’t attempt to answer or solve any questions, but presents a story.  It presents hard truths about our government, and about what we as humans are capable of.  It’s been a wild ride, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict awakens many emotions and opinions from people of all walks of life, but I feel that I am fulfilling my purpose as an actor by doing this play.  It’s my belief that art shouldn’t always be comforting or easy, but awaken the senses and present difficult questions..and while doing so hopefully it encourages peaceful discourse and connection rather than hate speech and disconnect.  All I know is that I’m having a blast, feel empowered and am excited! To find out more information about Sarah’s War opening at the Hudson Theater February 11, 2012, click here.