Thursday, February 26, 2015

February Slump

Warning: There are a lot of metaphors in this entry. There is also some onomatopoeia.  

I spend most of the winter dreading February. It's the shortest month of the year, but by the time I reach it, it seems like winter has gone on eternally, and spring seems too far away to bear waiting for. In February, I start googling plane ticket prices to Hawai'i, South America, southern California. I'm almost afraid to get in the car some days, for fear I'll just keep driving until I'm somewhere warmer, or where the days are longer. Somewhere where the pavement is still warm under your feet at 10 pm. 

I always feel sluggish in February. Like I'm fighting the urge to hibernate. I understand, intellectually, that I should exercise or something, that going on a walk would probably help me, that my body is a tool to help me accomplish amazing things. But commanding my limbs to do that seems as futile and as pointless as telling molasses to do jumping jacks. I'm the molasses, and the natural state of molasses in February is sitting in front of the space heater, eating an entire cinnamon crumb cake and reading "Harry Potter." 

I called this entry "February Slump" because the word "slump" seems so fitting. It's almost onomatopoeia. "Slump." The sound of a wet comforter falling onto the floor. Who wants a wet comforter? Nobody. Slumps are the worst. 

This February would be tough even if I didn't get the winter blues. I've felt disconnected from myself lately--spiritually, intellectually, artistically. Just in general. And that makes me feel disconnected to everything and everyone else. I'm an actress feeling the "rejection blues." I almost never have access to a car, making any errand or leaving of the house at all a long and expensive ordeal of public transportation. Jacob and I work almost exactly opposite schedules, so the only time I see him is a brief kiss (if he's awake) when I leave in the morning at 7:30. (Seriously. I haven't talked to Jacob in person since Monday.) 

I recently re-read "Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl." In one entry, Anne talks about feeling depressed, and how it would sound silly to the grown-ups, but she's really just a young girl in need of some good rollicking fun. I feel sort of like that. I need a rehearsal where we can't stop laughing, or a good session of binge-watching some television show with Jacob, or a road-trip to someplace I've never been before. I need spontaneity, and to ignore my responsibilities and pretend I'm 21 instead of 29 and get out of my house and under some lights or onto some road or just anywhere where people know me deeply and that's not this apartment where I sit and snack instead of eat meals and watch documentary after documentary and then go to bed at 9:30 and then wake up the next day to the same thing. I need to be doing THEATRE because I need to be connecting with other human beings without the small talk and theatre is the best way I know how to connect to people. 


Looking at my circumstances, I can see that I have all the tools I need to help myself. My life is a good one, with good opportunities and good people. But that's the thing about depression. It doesn't take away the tools. It takes away your own hands...your ability to grasp and use the tools you're surrounded by. 

I'll be all right. I'm always a little afraid when I write things like this that people will worry. But by the end of March, as the days grow even longer and the sun grows warmer, I'll be less like molasses/a wet comforter/someone without hands and more like my truest self. Right now, I'm far from the darkness and helplessness of deep depression. Just a mild case, and I know it will pass. This is just part of who I am, and even though it's rotten, I don't think I would change it. 

So for anyone else out there in the throes of a February Slump, we've only got one more day to go. Spring is three weeks away. 

We can do this. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Documentaries Part Two

More documentaries! You can find these documentaries on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Vimeo, and YouTube. And all of these can also be found on my new documentary website!

Decoding Neanderthals
Definitely a "laundry documentary," but there was some really interesting info here. The more and more we research early humans, the more clear it is that they were more advanced than we thought. It seems that early man was capable of language much earlier than we originally thought, and created and used much more advanced tools.

Nature: The Gathering Swarms
Nature is weird and awesome. This would be another "laundry documentary," except it really does need to be watched to be fully appreciated. This covers everything from swarms of bees to schools of fish to flocks of birds. Together, animals create a unique intelligence that's greater than the sum of their parts. It makes me think of the human there are all these connections between individual parts that create a whole.

Everything Or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007
This was a cool documentary because it covered EVERYTHING about James Bond, from the books to the overview of the whole franchise. Here's something cool--it's really been a family affair. The current producer is the daughter of the man who produced the original films. They talked about the different phases James Bond has gone through and how each film was received, and it's place in film history.

Totally fascinating. This covered the cultural and medical ideas behind breastfeeding and focused on the journeys of several different women in different situations. One of my favorite mythic/poetic ideas they covered is that in some ways, breasts are phallic. They give this life-sustaining liquid. The woman who made this point said it might be more fun to just say that penises are breastly. :)

Frontline: Secret State of North Korea
North Korea is so crazy, but I think things are slowly moving towards change. I think it's going to be in the next few decades that change will come to North Korea. More and more outside influences are moving into the country (movies, music), and more and more people are openly resisting the regime. Government officials are turning a blind eye to free market business more and more often. The little infrastructure that remained in the country is crumbling, and the current leader doesn't hold the same religious fervor over the people that his father or grandfather did. Time will tell.

E-mail Order Bride
Laundry documentary all the way. This focuses on the international marriage broker business, mostly in bringing together men from the U.S. and women from Russia. It focuses on several different stories and covers the challenges and benefits of a brokered marriage. Here's what I think--I think there are a handful of men who do simply struggle to connect with women, and for them, this could be a helpful service. And there are also men who are jerks--who choose Russian women because they "haven't had feminism over there" and those women "just want to stay home and take care of their men." And there are the rare cases in which creeps who are unhappy with their brokered bride get crazy and murder them. But it seems that nowadays, it's a little safer.

To Be Takei
Oh I love this man. I love love love George Takei. That voice. That sense of social justice. That sense of humor. This documentary was charming and enlightening and made me adore the man even more. It covers his early years in a Japanese internment camp, his choice to remain closeted for much of his life, his relationship with his now-husband Brad, his career path, his Facebook presence, and much more. Awesome.

Reel Injun
AWESOME documentary chronicling the history of how Native Americans have been portrayed in film. One of the very first motion pictures EVER was of a tribal dance--there are many people who believed that a main purpose of film was to capture native peoples before they disappeared (ominous). Native Americans have filled a gamut of archetypal roles since then, and it's only the last few decades that film has been truly representative, instead of just stereotypical.

Secrets of the Dead: The Lost Diary of Dr Livingstone
Laundry documentary, but with some decent cheesy reenactments. One of the coolest parts of this documentary was how they deciphered Livingstone's old journals. He didn't have access to plain writing paper, so he recorded his notes on the pages of old books, on newspapers, etc, using ink made from berry juice. Which meant that his words are incredibly difficult to read. They did a whole series of experiments to try to read the diaries--what they came up with was pretty darn awesome.

Jesus Camp
I'm not even sure if I'm ready to talk about this. I found it incredibly upsetting. But to discuss it is to tread a fine line...I can't criticize other religious groups if I'm not willing to let my own be criticized. And that's difficult. But the disregard of science among evangelical Christians makes me furious. I sense so much fear and anger among fundamentalist religious groups, and I don't think it's making the world a better place. I recognize that there are sects of Mormonism--break off groups that are the same way. And I don't like them either. And in some cases, well-intentioned orthodox Mormons can create a culture of fear and anger and fundamentalism, and I don't like that either. It distresses me to realize that a whole generation of the world's children are growing up in a world of fear, and disregard for science. And I don't know what to do about it. Shut churches down? Nope. Because I believe in the First Amendment. Ugh.

Bound By Flesh
Interesting documentary about conjoined twins who grew up at a time when Vaudeville and sideshows and circuses made a fortune in "freaks." This focuses a lot on their story, but also covers the history of the entertainment industry in general. There are some strange complications in the world of conjoined twins...things I hadn't thought about until I saw this documentary.

History Channel: Albert Einstein Documentary 
(I'm having trouble finding the actual title of this documentary, but I found it on youtube here.) 
Here's something crazy. Sooooo while Albert Einstein was brilliant at physics, he was not so brilliant at marriage. But here's how things went down. In 1905, Einstein publishes the general theory of relativity, which totally disregards Newton's explanation of gravity. Newton said that objects pull things towards them--and the larger the object, the stronger the pull. Einstein said that gravity was caused by the mass of an object bending the fabric of space, kind of like if you put a bowling ball on a piece of fabric. But it's an almost unprovable theory. There's no way to test it. So Einstein finally gets the idea to prove it by photographing a solar eclipse. If he's right, the stars around a solar eclipse will appear to shift slightly. So it's four months before THE solar eclipse that will either prove him right or wrong. He and his wife are on the rocks. Finally, he tells her that if she divorces him, he will give her all of the Nobel Prize money. She will take their two sons and move back to Zurich, and their support will all depend on that money. Which is a total gamble, because he doesn't know if he's going to win the Nobel Prize. It all came down to whatever the eclipse reveals. But here's the other snag. Einstein is German. The eclipse is only visible from Russia. And it's 1914. (Google World War I history...)

photo via

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Pip With Pizazz

Warning: This post is 80% pity party and 20% inspirational. I hope. 

It's been two months since "Damn Yankees" closed. At the time, I was grateful for the break--November was madness and I was grateful to have a few extra hours each night to refuel. But now I'm getting antsy. I can feel my acting muscle starting to atrophy, and I'm getting desperate for something to work it out with.

And for the first time in my life, I'm dealing with rejection on a level previously unknown to me. I seem to be in the middle of growing a thicker skin right now, but I'm finding it to be slightly more painful and confusing than I ever thought it would be. It's slow at the agency, and I had laryngitis the last time they called me for an audition. I've done three auditions since Damn Yankees, only gotten a callback for one of them, and not been cast at all.

Which, in the grand scheme of things, is totally not a big deal. But to one who's spent the last ten years as a big fish in the little Rexburg pond, my ego is feeling slightly crushed. After each rejection in the last two months, I spent a few days feeling certain that I was the worst actress ever. Then I snapped out of it and started gearing up for the next audition.

But it is tiring. My feeling is not so much that I might be a bad actress. I do think that now and then, of course I do. I think every creative type occasionally feels certain that they're the worst ever. It's more's like this: like I'm a bagel on a plate of onion rolls. Like I could wow 'em if they'd just give me a chance. I feel like this:

Which I know sounds a bit conceited. And maybe it is. I don't know. Probably. I'm absolutely certain that I'm no Barbra Streisand, but I know I'm a good actress. I know I can carry a tune. I know I can fake my way through a dance. I just really suck at auditioning and am completely unknown to almost every director in Utah. I gotta up my game here. I never realized until now that I've been half-faking my way through auditions for the last several years, just because every director I was auditioning for in Rexburg had already seen me and knew me. And that's not gonna cut it anymore.

And I know I'm not going to be every director's cup of tea. I do think I'm pretty, but I also know that my teeth are terrible and my nose is crooked and I have a weak chin and I'm prone to acne and I make onstage/onscreen choices that aren't always what they're looking for. But that's okay. Because I'd rather be successful as myself than try to be anyone I'm not. I just have to find the directors who want me.

I'm impatient. I want them to find me right now. To write "YES" in big bold letters on the top of my audition sheet.

The other part of my problem right now is I'm a bit picky about the projects I seek. I want to be paid for this. And if I'm not paid, I want it to be a project I really care about. But maybe I need to get over it and just get INVOLVED. Audition for anything that comes my way. Get myself out there.

Saying it out loud, I see how wise it sounds.

I also wish there were more opportunities than there are. I recognize that compared to Rexburg, Idaho, Salt Lake City is FULL of opportunities. But, that we're here, it's apparent how unlike New York City this really is. If we were in New York/LA/Chicago, if I didn't get cast, I could audition for something else the next week. But here, it feels like FOREVER before the next audition comes around. And I've got my heart set on auditioning for certain shows that I really care about, which makes me reluctant to audition for other things that might conflict with them.

A good summary of this entire post so far is just: "Ggaah arghh someone cast meeee!!!"

So now that I've gotten all that out of my system, here's what I'm gonna say to myself. Screw waiting around. Just audition. Just get involved. And if no one is giving you opportunities, make your own. And give 100% in auditions. Don't fake your way through. Give an opening-night performance. The auditioners deserve that from you. And you owe it to yourself to do that. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter if your teeth are terrible, if you have a crooked nose, if you have a weak chin, if your skin is prone to acne. If you're talented and if you work hard and if you audition for roles you're suited for, those things are so so so secondary. Don't waste your time comparing yourself to women who look different than you do, who have been doing this longer, who know people in this area better. Just be yourself and trust that the RIGHT opportunities will come to you if you seek them.  Keep working on your craft. A dry spell isn't the end of the world. You will have your time under the lights again soon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Art Vs. Pornography: Navigating the Media World

I wrote about this idea a few years ago, but I think it's time for an update. Disclosure: I'm no expert. Just a girl with a blog who does a lot of thinking (and research).

Pornography is FAMOUSLY difficult to define. Supreme court cases on the subject have ended in vague phrases like “I know it when I see it.” Right now, the best legal test we have is the “Miller test,” which is limited in scope. In order for something to be considered “obscene,” it must meet the following criteria:

1. The average person, applying local community standards, looking at the work in its entirety, must find that it appeals to the prurient interest.
2. The work must describe or depict, in an obviously offensive way, sexual conduct, or excretory functions.
3. The work as a whole must lack "serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific values".

As an actress and a writer, but also just as a consumer of media, I’ve spent a long time trying to come up with a better working definition of pornography for myself. The Supreme Court’s obscenity criteria just doesn’t give me enough to work with.

After watching the film “Don Jon” and three seasons of the TV show “Girls” with my husband, we had a conversation about how to define pornography, and I had a chance to put into words some of the thoughts I’ve had on the subject. Since then, I’ve taken some time to create a more formal list.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF THIS POST: I don’t want to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t watch—for the most part, that’s up to you and your family and whatever higher power you may believe in. You have the right to abstain from anything you are uncomfortable with. You don't have the right to tell other people what to abstain from. So that's not what I'm trying to do here. I just recognize that the line between pornography and art is not a solid one, and it's confusing to try to navigate all of the books and movies and tv shows.

For the purposes of this list, I’m going to focus on sexual acts, and just skip over nudity. Not all nudity is sexual. Some is tribal. Some is ancient Grecian. Some is maternal. Some is classically artistic. Some is medical. Some is just the human body being a human body.

As far as sexual acts in the media, here are some of my guiding ideas:

Of course, this isn't a perfect list at all--it's very incomplete and totally subjective. And something artistic can have aspects from the "pornography" column, and vice versa. But these are the ideas that have helped guide me in my decisions about what to read and watch.

For example, the film "Don Jon" is about a young man's deep attachment to pornography, and how it affects his ability to have meaningful relationships. Because of the subject matter, there are brief clips of actual pornography--stuff that straight up just belongs in the pornography column. But the majority of the movie isn't in that column, and the entire POINT of the movie is how consuming pornography can be harmful. Some people don't want to see the pornography clips, even if they're part of a more important message, and that's okay. But my husband and I decided that we were comfortable with watching it.

I've read books that I felt uncomfortable with, and books that I thought were fine. Same with movies, and tv shows. If ever I'm uncertain, or feel uncomfortable, I pause and take a moment to evaluate. Sometimes I'll decide that what I'm consuming is more on the pornographic side and choose not to continue. Or sometimes I'll decide that it's on the art side, but I'm still uncomfortable and choose not to continue.

And finally, there's the fact that I have agency, and I can choose to view something pornographically or not...even if it's on the "art" side, I can choose to follow through on any arousal I may feel. For more details on that idea, check out this post.

Happy reading/watching!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Inner Monologue/Mental Loop

While waiting for a cast list to be posted:

"Maybe I dreamed it. The audition. Maybe it never happened at all. I just had some sort of bizarrely elaborate dream that I went to a call-back."

"I didn't get cast. I just have to accept that. When I'm checking the website to see if the cast list is posted, it's just out of curiosity to see who actually did get cast. Because it wasn't me."

"I did pretty well in that call-back. I felt really connected to my fellow actors. I could have gone bigger, though. Could have projected, made bigger choices. Maybe I actually sucked? Hm."

"What do they want?! I can be flirtier! I can be funnier! What do you want--should I dye my hair? Wear more lipstick? Wear less lipstick? Whatever it is, I can do it!"

"Okay, but maybe I actually want to just be myself. I don't want to just be some weirdo who is so desperate for a part that she's willing to do or be or say anything. I just want to give myself. Offer that. Be centered and steady and confident and if I don't get cast, it's just because the director had something different in mind."

"But the director doesn't know me! What if I CAN do what she wants but she just doesn't know it because I sucked in the call back!?"

"Then again, if I sucked in the call back, that's my own fault."

"If I sucked, I am a horrible human."

"No no no, I know I'm not a horrible human. Just a horrible actress."

"Well, if I'm realistic, I know I'm not a horrible actress. I'm no Meryl Streep, but I know what I'm doing."

"Maybe I'll refresh the cast list website again."

(And also all of this.)

photo via