Friday, August 22, 2014

"And you can only wear your hair in a ponytail once a week..."

Today was my first day in a high school classroom in almost two years. It was…okay. Classroom management was less than ideal, but what the hell is a substitute supposed to do? It’s not like we know anything about the established rules or discipline procedures. It’s not like we have any real power to enact consequences. After class got out today, I immediately googled “substitute teacher classroom management tips.” I’ve got a handful of good ideas to try. I’m choosing to mark this day down as a learning experience.

But here’s something that was kind of awesome. I was reminded that artistic people are, in general, an accepting group. Drama kids are a welcoming group. I was subbing an acting class, and (classroom discipline aside) it was kind of awesome. I saw every shade of hair color, including blue, green, purple, and orange. I saw Betty Page bangs and lipstick, and boys with Steelers jerseys. I saw piercings and heard people walk in with a cheerful, “I’m here and I’m queer!” I saw boys with long hair and girls with short hair. I saw fat kids and kids with learning disabilities and kids with no concepts of personal space. And no one was left out. I saw kids who would be eaten alive in any other class be EMBRACED, literally and figuratively, in that drama room. I love that. That’s beautiful to me.

And it was a good reminder as Jacob and I find our footing here in Utah.

I’ve never felt like I could “fit in” anywhere except for a drama room, or a theatre (or at home). Even places that should be welcoming haven’t always been. (Young Women’s group, circa 1998, anyone?) It’s like…okay, I read this YA novel a few months ago called This Song Will Change Your Life, and it’s awesome. The main character in it has trouble making friends among her high school peers. At one point, she says:

“I feel sometimes like…there are all these rules. Just to be a person. You know? You’re supposed to carry a shoulder bag, not a backpack. You’re supposed to wear headbands, or you’re not supposed to wear headbands. It’s okay to describe yourself as likable, but it’s not okay to call yourself eloquent. You can sit in the front of the school bus, but you can’t sit in the middle…There are so many rules, and they don’t make any sense, and I just can’t learn them all.”

I’ve spent most of my life feeling exactly the same way. I could sense the rules around me, and sometimes pick up on them, but either I didn’t actually get it, or it was always too late. I was wearing baggy t-shirts until 2001, even though I think they went out of style around the early 90s. But I can’t be sure, because I could never pick up on the rules in time. I’d figure out one day that everyone around me was wearing button-down shirts from The Gap. So the next school year, when we went school shopping, I’d get a button-down shirt. But by that time, everyone was wearing graphic t-shirts from Hot Topic.

But the stupid thing is that as a teenager or young kid, if you’ve been marked as a pariah, it doesn’t matter if you follow the rules or not. If you’re the kid with bushy eyebrows and a button-down shirt from The Gap when Hot Topic is the new thing, you’re “not cool.” And if you notice, and you DO get your shirt from Hot Topic, by then, you’re just trying too hard.

(I know I’m bringing up a lot of angsty stuff from my childhood here, but this stuff sticks with you, man. I’m trying to embrace my vulnerability and say something important, so stick with me.)

There were also times, apparently, when I thought I was accepted and actually wasn’t. When I was fourteen or so, maybe fifteen, I went to Girl’s Camp. We’d just moved to a new ward and I didn’t really know many people, maybe one or two girls. But we had this fun cabin and an AWESOME leader, and I spent most of that week feeling pretty good about the new friends I was making. But towards the end of the week, the one girl I knew pretty well said something while we were sitting along in the cabin. I don’t remember how it came up, or her exact words, but she said something to the effect of, “Well, so-and-so and I were talking about how you’re kind of the odd one out, that like, you don’t really have any friends in our cabin, like no one in our cabin really likes you.” (In retrospect, what a bitchy thing to say.) But more than being hurt at her saying such a mean thing, at the time I felt a wave of confusion. I was disoriented because “not having any friends, not being liked, being the odd man out” was news to me. I had been completely unaware that I was still “not cool.” I thought I was making friends, connecting to people, having fun. The fact that I could be so incorrect was shocking to me. It’s a revelation that mystifies me to this day.

But it’s also an event that I still think about. When I am thrown into a new situation, especially. If I was so unaware then, is it possible I could still be just as ignorant now? Do these friendly acquaintances actually not like me? Are we not actually friends? It’s made worse when, Mean Girls style, I see people act friendly towards people they’ll say later that they can’t stand. THEN HOW DO I KNOW YOU’RE ACTUALLY BEING FRIENDLY TO ME? You could just as easily turn around when I leave and say I drive you crazy. It’s certainly possible that I don’t belong…she’s so much prettier than I am, he’s so much better-looking, she’s so much more stylish, he’s so much funnier. I mean, I think the last joke I made was a pun based on ancient scripture. I prefer trees to blockbuster films and I love jigsaw puzzles. I’m obsessed with Ancient Aliens and Star Trek: TNG. I’ve had some of my clothes since I was a sophomore in high school, which was roughly thirteen years ago. I HAVE ADULT ACNE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. This is the epitome of uncool.

And it’s true that there has been the occasional drama geek that has noticed this and treated me with disdain for it. But I think about every single close friend I have today, and here’s the thing. Every single one of them I met because of theatre. Our friendship solidified on stages and in acting studios. On the nasty couches that all acting classrooms have. In the tech booth. In the Dairy Queen after improv shows. My husband and I met while playing husband and wife in a One Act play. Annie and Sarah and Jordan and the whole gang from Rexburg all came about because of “Comedy of Errors” and “Crazy for You” and every other show in between. Carrie and I became friends in 2004 when we did a final scene in Acting I together (which we almost failed because we would just talk instead of rehearse). I can’t even begin to name how many other friendships were born because we all just followed our bliss.

Because sometime around 2002, right before my senior year of high school, I decided that if I couldn’t figure out the rules, if I couldn’t follow them, I’d just be myself. I’d follow my own rules. I had spent so long trying to fit in where I didn’t even belong. And I had loved theatre my whole life anyway. So I auditioned for “Little Women” in my high school drama department and never looked back.

So I guess what I’m saying is, find your tribe. Find your people. Follow your passions and be yourself and you’ll find the group of people who will embrace you for it. And if all else fails, join the drama kids. We’ll take just about anybody.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Confessions of a beginning Utah actress

We have officially lived in Utah for a little over two weeks. I still feel all kinds of unsettled, mostly because there are a few more permanent job things we won't know about until September or so. There's no set routine around here. But I'm starting to work my way into the entertainment industry, just like we came here to do. I've had two auditions, two callbacks, and I've submitted myself to two agencies, and submitted myself to work as an extra in four additional projects. (Which sounds way more impressive written out than it feels.) I'm waiting to hear back about three projects, and I've begun rehearsals for Damn Yankees. And here are my thoughts on this world so far:

1. I'm in love, IN LOVE, with acting. With rehearsing. With theatre. With "Damn Yankees" at the Hale. I've only been to three rehearsals so far, but over the course of the few hours I'm there, I feel myself slowly filling up with this bubbling joy. It's exactly like when you first have a crush on someone, and you have this CONNECTION with them, and every single thing about it is amazing, and when you're not with them, you can't stop talking about them. I feel like that, only my ardor is directed towards the world of theatre in general, and this production. I spend a few hours after I come home from rehearsal just trying to bite my tongue, to keep from gleefully babbling about every little detail of the night. But I've got all that bubbling joy left over, so Jacob just has to sit and listen while I tell him about a funny moment or a great acting choice someone made or some production concept. I love theatre. I love this opportunity. I forget sometimes how much I love this world.

2. People are generally very friendly at auditions and callbacks. I feel like I've made so many friends, even though I don't remember all of their names or have any of their contact information. I've grown a little more comfortable making small talk, and I've felt like I've made some genuine human connections with fellow auditioners. That's felt good. In an industry that has a reputation for being a little cutthroat, it's been beautiful to find so much kindness.

3. Fellow actors occasionally ask me things like, "Who are you with?" and the first few times it happened, it took me a second to realize that they were talking about agencies. And the question makes me feel very grown up and professional. Even though the answer is, " one, right now."

4. I find myself sometimes keeping kind of aloof about all these auditions/submissions. I think I've been using that as subconscious coping mechanism to deal with the constant possibility (and occasional reality) of rejection. Like, I'll kind of think, "This audition is no big deal. Just a job. Just a chance to do what I love, and if they don't want me, that's fine." Which is all very Zen of me, but I think lurking deep down is a part of me that's like, "HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP THIS IS A NATIONAL COMMERCIAL AND HOLY CRAP THAT LADY WAS IN THAT ONE MOVIE AND HOLY CRAP ALL THESE PEOPLE HAVE AGENTS AND HOLY CRAP THIS IS MY LIFE RIGHT NOW WHAT WHAT WHAT?!?!?" But I think you have a certain degree of agency when it comes to which part of yourself you give power to. I want to acknowledge the bit of me that's freaking out, but I want to give power to the Zen part of me. I don't think actors could survive very long without a bit of Zen perspective. And while I think feeling fear is inescapable, I don't want to let it rule me.

5. "Pretty" doesn't matter as much as I thought it did. It does matter for certain jobs and certain roles. But for the most part, it's just one "look" of many that are sought after for different projects. Which makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I belong here, and like what I have to contribute is valued. I do think I am beautiful, but I'm not Zooey Deschanel/Scarlett Johansson/Audrey Hepburn, and I never will be. Which is totally okay, because I'm Carol Burnett/Lucille Ball and they got work too. (I hope this doesn't sound snobby...I am far from the talent of Carol Burnett/Lucille Ball. But I'm just trying to say that I understand my niche, and my look, and that the Zooey Deschanel/Scarlett Johansson/Audrey Hepburn look isn't the only valuable one out there.)

So that's life right now. Between a few odd jobs (dishwashing, substitute teaching, making burgers, selling plasma, etc.), we've got enough to pay the bills. And enough time to keep living the dream. :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Home is where your stuff is

We made it. This here is a huge, picture-filled post, but I wanted to update everyone, and this seemed the easiest way to do it. If you don't care about seeing pictures of our friends or our new apartment, feel free to skip this one. Otherwise, read on, Macduff. (And consider that reference foreshadowing...)

After lots of adventuring, we're here, we're settled, we're cast, and we're even sorta employed! All of this is making my glasses rose-colored again. So here are the details.

Lots of adventuring: 
We moved in last week and spent a few days auditioning, unpacking, decorating, running the errands necessary to help us finish unpacking and decorating, etc. Then we immediately hopped on a plane to visit "the Other Chapmans" and my sister in Denver/Colorado Springs. This also meant that I got to run around the Denver Airport, which is currently my favorite conspiracy theory.


Our plans were a little thrown off by the fact that it rained almost the entire time, but it was still a fantastic visit. Highlights included a trip to the zoo, where we fed giraffes and rode a sky lift, dinner with Beckah’s girlfriend (whom I think we overwhelmed a little, but that’s okay because we adore her), helping put together baby Ruthie’s first birthday party, and visiting Meredith and Seth and little Asher. And of course, cuddling and chatting with people we love, and helping take care of babies, which was awesome.

(I just noticed that Ruthie and I are making the same face in this picture--bottom right. Kindred spirits.)

Also, look at this baby. LOOK AT THIS BABY. I hope all my someday future babies are Ruthies (although I'm sure I'll love whomever comes). Georgia is so much fun, and we're good buddies, but it was fun to also get to know sweet Ruth on this trip. 

Little angel! She's like this perfect little woodland sprite. This picture KILLS me!

Here's another thing that occurs to me while posting all these pictures. Carrie and I are BFF's, but I don't think there are any recent pictures of just her and I. I think there are very few pictures of just her and I AT ALL. The only one I could think of is this one, from BYU-Idaho theatre awards, sometime in 2005?

Carrie, I say, next time we see each other, let's take a classier picture together.

We're settled: 
There are still a few finishing touches and adjustments I'm making in decor, and we're on the lookout for a free couch and/or loveseat to add to the living room, but I'm falling more and more in love with our little apartment every day. We live in an old brick house that's been split into a duplex. I love having a yard and a porch and a back door and big trees around. 

The living room has hardwood floors and I have a crush on them.

Filing cabinet with art supplies. (The hieroglyphs up there say "Chapman household." Or "Shpmn household," because ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs have neither the "ch" sound nor vowels. And things like "household" are represented visually rather than phonetically.)

Decor. I still wanna tidy up that shelf a little, as well as all the guitars/amps/etc in the corner off-camera right.

Books and glider rocker and husband. The glider rocker is on loan from a friend. The green was throwing off my vision of the decor, so I made a temporary slipcover, and I'm REALLY pleased with how it turned out. No tutorial because I made it up as I went along, and it's probably the most successful made up sewing project of my life. That footstool had corners and everything!

Chair, updated:


Okay, entry way to the kitchen:

In the kitchen. That IKEA TV cart is one of my favorite things. It hold all our DVD's, and can be rolled into any room in the house. Also, that free-standing thing on the left is a dishwasher, but the landlord said she wasn't sure if it worked, so we just use it as a prep table.

I love that molding above the kitchen sink.

One of the quirks of this apartment: that's my clothes closet. It's in the kitchen.

The itty-bitty bathroom. I'm kind of obsessed with that shower curtain. 

And IKEA spice racks are a revelation. (And not just because of their proximity to the religious picture on the wall...)

Le boudoir:

I did that space painting a few years ago, and the composition of it drives me BANANAS, but I still like it.

There's not enough closet space in the kitchen-closet for both of us to store clothes, so this is Jacob's "closet." He's also got some rolling tubs underneath the bed to serve as drawers.

See? IKEA spice racks! So great!

Jacob bought me this cool drawing from a vendor in New York, and it's living by the light switch right now, on my side of the bed.

And our creepy cellar, which is giving us some much-needed storage room:

There is a part of me that thinks that if you need to put something in storage, you shouldn't have it at all. But there's some valuable stuff that we just don't use ALL THE TIME, like luggage and camping gear and a sled. So I'm grateful for our creepy little cellar.

I was going to wait to post pictures until everything was FINISHED, but I realized recently that interior design is never "finished." You're always adding and adjusting and re-doing. So whatever. That's our home! We love it!

Our neighbors are definitely not LDS, which felt simultaneously refreshing, and if I'm being completely honest, a little scary. But they've been SO friendly, and we think it will be great. They seem to kind of run an open house, and there are lots of people coming and going, which keeps things interesting around here. :)

We're cast: 
So we moved down to Utah with the exclusive intention of building our performance resumes. So the stakes felt high at auditions. I drove down on a Tuesday a few weeks ago, and auditioned for "Damn Yankees" at the Hale Theatre in Orem that very night, just a few hours after arriving in town with a van full of stuff. And the second I walked into that audition room, everything I'd ever learned about auditions, acting, singing, etc, flew out of my head. I sort of went on autopilot, which I'm grateful for, because it got me a call-back. Dance callbacks felt like this: 

Okay, so it wasn't that crazy. But there was a double pirouette and a double stag jump to the floor, and a crapload of floor work and a handful of other things that I definitely could NOT do. And I was surrounded by all these girls in leotards who have Music Dance Theatre degrees from BYU and it was crazy. I learned two lessons at dance callbacks. One: I've got to get into shape. Two: If I suck, I've got to make up for in character what I lack in technique.

Reading/singing callbacks went well, and I had a BLAST. And it seemed to pay off because I WAS CAST AS SISTER. It's a small character role, but a very fun one, and I loved reading for it. I'm single cast as well (instead of double-cast), so I get to work consistently until Thanksgiving. Woo hoo! There are also a handful of familiar folks in the cast, all from past years at the Playmill. I'm excited to work with them, and get to know a few others.

And JACOB did a video audition for the Echo Theatre's production of Macbeth, and he's playing--nay, REPRISING--this role:

That's right, folks, he's playing the Porter! The director of the show is currently in England, where she's worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Globe and everything fancy. It's an awesome opportunity, and it feels validating to be cast in the first things we auditioned for here. 

(If you're in the area, or nearby, and are interested in seeing the shows, here are links to more info. Jacob's show. Liz's show.)

We're even sorta employed:
So, one of the awesome things about "Damn Yankees" at the Hale is that it's a PAID gig. It's not a huge amount of money, but it's significant enough to help us make ends meet, and it feels amazing to not only have a job, but to have a job doing what I love. Jacob was able to pick up a few hours at the Sammy's down here in Provo, which isn't a perfect employment situation, but it's better than nothing, and he's enjoyed working at a place where he doesn't need any training. I've got an interview for a substitute teaching job this week, and Jacob's got a handful of other leads he's following up on as well. We feel good about our situation here, and we've got enough to make ends meet for a while longer. 

Whew. Okay. Epic update.

Now I'm going to bed. Sweet dreams, everyone!