Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spoiler Alerts, But Not the Bad Kind

Ever read through old journal entries and thought, "Ha! Oh, younger self, if you could only see what would happen years into the future!" Yeah, me too. So here are a few imagined "spoiler alerts" for my own life. Maybe I'll print these out, put them in envelopes, and stick them in my journals, next to pertinent entries. A little perspective for my posterity. 

Dear 23-year-old Liz,
That talented man in that play you watch during the summer will one day become your husband.

Dear 21-year-old Liz,
Jordan and Heather will get married, and even though the journey to that union will have been crazy, their marriage will be the most beautiful thing in the world. They will move in to the same apartment complex as you and your new husband, and during the summers, the four of you will occasionally cross the parking lot for dinner or games. They will name their first daughter Kaitlynn Elisabeth. And parenthood will beautify both of them in ways you could never have imagined.

Dear 20-year-old Liz,
Also, Jesse and Kathleen will get married.

Dear 20-year-old Liz,
The curly-haired saxophone player in your FHE group at BYU-Idaho will cross your path dozens more times than you had anticipated. Nine years from now, you will stand next to him in the auditorium of the elementary school where you both work, and it will strike you as surreal that so much could happen in nine years, and that somehow, your lives still occasionally intersect.

Dear 19-year-old Liz,
That girl in your Acting I class that you are so intimidated by will become one of your dearest friends. You will write her letters during her mission, and more than eleven years later, you will still visit each other, still text, still talk on the phone for hours. She can still make you laugh more than almost any other woman you know, and her testimony will anchor you when you feel unmoored. Her children will delight and astonish you. (Also, you will almost fail your final for that Acting class, because she is your scene partner but instead of rehearsing, you will talk, and when it comes to your final performance, you will both forget your lines.)

Dear 14-year-old Liz,
By the time you are 30, you will have written over 200 poems, over 700 blog entries, one memoir of the time you sold vacuums door-to-door in California, and 2 novels. You will be a chronic journaler. But I think you might already somehow know that. I think you’ll sense, even when you're young, that writing will be a part of your life forever. And you'll be right.

Dear 12-year-old Liz,
Seventeen years after you make a scrapbook about the Princess Bride and write a fan letter to Cary Elwes, you will stand on set with that very man during a film shoot. You will not have a large role—you will play an extra in a party scene for a political candidate, played by the man you kept a signed photo of in your drawer, your first "celebrity crush." You will hold a table steady for him while he desperately writes out the changes to his lines that Rob Reiner gave him a moment ago, and afterwards, he will thank you, shake your hand, and ask your name. Later, between takes, he will ask the crowd why yawns are contagious, and you will explain mirror neurons, which he will think is a joke, but which you will insist is true. Before the final take, he will make eye contact with you as the cameras make final adjustments, and you will wink, and he will wink back. And you’ll smile and be cool even though on the inside, there will undeniably be a small part of you that’ll be all “CARY ELWES JUST F***ING WINKED AT ME!!!!”

photo via

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Audition Diary, July 2014 - present

SHOW/PROJECT: Damn Yankees
DATE: July 2014
THEATRE/COMPANY: Hale Center Theatre Orem
AUDITION PIECE: “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” from South Pacific
OUTCOME: Called back, single-cast as Sister!
THOUGHTS: Felt TERRIFIED in the audition, but was confident in my look. Also read/sang for Gloria at call-backs--didn’t feel great about that, but I went for it with confidence. Dance call-backs = CRAZY HARD. Learned that I either have to take dance classes, or make up in character what I lack in technique.

SHOW/PROJECT: Marriott commercial
DATE: August 2014
AUDITION PIECE: Dance combo taught at auditions
OUTCOME: Called back, not booked
THOUGHTS: Fun, and crazy! SOOOO many people! A good chance to put into practice the thing I learned from the Damn Yankees dance aud--if you can’t dance it, personality it! Although the dance was totally do-able and not hard. I did have a conflict, though (rehearsal) with shoot dates.

SHOW/PROJECT: Les Miserables
DATE: October 2014
THEATRE/COMPANY: Hale Center Theatre Orem
AUDITION PIECE: “Oom Pah Pah” from Oliver
OUTCOME: Not called back, not cast
THOUGHTS: Felt overly confident in auditions, but realized later that I was pretty bad...vocally, performance-wise, etc. Was admittedly (and stupidly) jealous when another girl got Madame T, but in retrospect, she works harder and brings it to every audition and every role, on a level that I don’t. I want to catch up with her. Spent way too long having a pity-party until a friend called me out on it. A good lesson to learn.

SHOW/PROJECT: Barefoot in the Park
DATE: November 2014
THEATRE/COMPANY: Hale Center Theatre Orem
AUDITION PIECE: Sides from the show (provided), read for Corrie
OUTCOME: not called back, not cast
THOUGHTS: Felt pretty good about auditions, but knew I had a MAJOR conflict by being single-cast in Damn Yankees.

SHOW/PROJECT: Over the River and Through the Woods
DATE: February 2015
AUDITION PIECE: Sides from show (provided), read for Caitlin
OUTCOME: Called back (one of 4 women! for 1 role which would be double-cast!), not booked
THOUGHTS: Felt really good about making strong choices in the initial audition, and felt VERY connected with my scene partner in auditions. Although maybe “too”’s supposed to be a blind date. Also had to do that stupid line “Did I actually just say that out loud?” It's a line that I find so cliche, so I dodged it with a different choice. Maybe not the one the director envisioned.

SHOW/PROJECT: The Little Mermaid
DATE: February 2015
AUDITION PIECE: “Feed Me” from Little Shop of Horrors
OUTCOME: not called back, not cast
THOUGHTS: Decided on this audition at the last moment, and felt good about it for a few reasons.
Geoff (choreographer) waved at me with a grin when I walked in; also I approached this audition differently and less fearfully. Instead of “What do you want? Do you want me to be blonde? I can be blonde, what about height, I mean I’m a good height, but I can be meaner, do you want to see it again meaner?” I just thought, “I’m just going to do THIS piece really well.” And I feel like I did.
Also, afterwards, I felt aware of the fact that I wasn’t strictly following the music, which is something I should probably do in auditions, so they know I can.

SHOW/PROJECT: USPS In-house industrial
DATE: Feb 5, 2015
THEATRE/COMPANY: Jeff Johnson Casting, audition arranged through McCarty
AUDITION PIECE: no lines, moments from story-board
OUTCOME: not booked
THOUGHTS: Had fun! I still feel amatuer at this, but I’m just glad to be getting out there. Took everyone’s advice, and just was myself. I made the casting director laugh, so that was a boost, even if I don’t get cast.

SHOW/PROJECT: Being Charley - comedy film (dir. Rob Reiner!)
DATE: Wed, March 11
THEATRE/COMPANY: Jeff Johnson Casting (through McCarty)
AUDITION PIECE: Sides (Cindy - hippy equine therapist)
OUTCOME: not booked
THOUGHTS: Not my best work, but not my worst either. They asked for two different options and I thought I gave them a decent contrast. Jeff Johnson himself was there and told me “Nice work,” and the casting guy recognized me and was friendly. I’ve got to work on where to look--NOT the camera! That’s my weakness--I treat the camera like my scene partner. But am I supposed to treat the reader like my scene partner? And look there? I should also practice in the car or something first--my first reading was sort of a “dress rehearsal.”
I asked around among industry folks--I should look at my scene partner. Looking into the camera instantly shows that I’m an amateur. Blerg. Might have messed up that audition a little much, but it’s a good lesson to learn. And I’m getting better at dealing with rejection.

SHOW/PROJECT: Into the Woods
DATE: Monday, April 20
AUDITION PIECE: “Wait” from Sweeney Todd
OUTCOME: Not called back, not cast
THOUGHTS: Man, my voice is out of shape. Singing is like a muscle--and I haven’t really worked it in months. The song wasn’t in the best place for my range...the first half was golden, but I struggled a little bit with the higher second half. I thought about changing the key, but decided to keep it where it was, since the roles I'm most interested in (Baker’s Wife, Witch) are mezzo/soprano roles. I felt really good about my acting, although I fell out of it a little when my voice didn’t sound amazing on the higher stuff. I feel like I’m getting better at auditioning, slowly but surely. Or at least, I’m not getting as crazy-nervous and I used to.

Next audition: May 16th.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Accidental Tiny Fashion Blogger, or "Baby's Got Swag"

Because let's face it. My little sister, Beckah, had mad style as a kid.

She was also, as evidenced above, extremely photogenic.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Acting Inspiration: Melanie Stone

If I were a "real" journalist, I'd be starting this by describing the restaurant that Melanie and I are meeting in, and what brands she's wearing when she breezes into the table I've been saving for us.

But I'm not a real journalist, I'm a blogger. And I conducted this interview over the internet and not in a fancy restaurant. But I'm as excited about this interview as I would be if it were Jennifer Lawrence, or Tina Fey, or Cate Blanchett. I will never get over having talented, successful, brave, and beautiful friends.

This is Melanie Stone. Melanie and I met way back in 2009, when we were in a BYU-Idaho production called "Pioneer Song." (I had seen her before in a production called "Smash," but I was a little distracted at the time by another cast member in the show named Jacob Chapman, so I just thought, 'Man, she's good' and then watched Jacob.)

But then we did "Pioneer Song" and she really was fantastic. Melanie is one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out, and her performance in "Pioneer Song" as the youngest daughter of a woman crossing the plains was heartfelt and endearing. We never got to work together as closely as we both wanted to, despite plans we made to film a short about two girls who discover a computer that's alive. (My fingers are still crossed that somehow, the universe will allow us to work together someday.)

Between 2011 and now, Melanie has managed to land some pretty awesome work, most notably the 3-part feature film "Mythica," in which she plays Marek, the magician's apprentice who scrounges up a handful of adventurers to save the day. (You can watch it for free here!)

And you guys. She's so so so good.

Like, I'm not even sure how I have a friend this good. I mean, she's up there on that screen with Kevin Sorbo, and winning "Best Actress" at the 2015 "Filmed in Utah Awards." See, look how awesome:

So, completely unashamed, I sent her a message asking if I could interview her for my blog. Because I want to learn from people I admire. And I figure that while I'm learning, the rest of you could too. I feel so lucky to know people like Melanie. Because going out and DOING this kind of thing takes courage. A lot about this industry is luck, or looks, or who you know. So it takes courage to just get out there and go for be brave enough to put yourself in places where luck can find you, and to go out and create your own art when it doesn't. I love that about Melanie. I love that her career so far has been about just going for it. Even when she was skeptical. Even when she was discouraged. It means that even when I'm skeptical or discouraged, I can still go for it. It's inspiring.

I had originally planned on creating a profile kind of article from this interview, but Melanie just said so many awesome things that I couldn't bring myself to cut any of it. So here's the good old-fashioned transcript. Thank you thank you thank you to Melanie for doing this! I learn so much from you.

How did you become involved in Mythica?
I was auditioning for a smaller role in another one of Arrowstorm’s previous films, “Survivor.” The director of that film (John Lyde) recommended me to the producers of Mythica. I think it was a few days later that I received a call from them asking me to audition. I remember going in to their office and they were using a cell phone to record my audition. That definitely took the edge off, to say the least. Admittedly, my initial thought at that point was, “So this is the kind of project I’m dealing with." I was called back a few days later to read with another actor, and to be honest I was a bit skeptical throughout the entire audition process. I’m glad I was dead wrong on my first impression though; Mythica really surprised me. It’s been the greatest thing I’ve worked on so far.

What was your favorite thing about playing Marek?
This question is hard for me to answer. I’ve been asked it a few times and whenever I get done answering, I think “That’s not quite right.” So let me try and get it right this time.
I think my favorite thing about playing Marek was the fact that this was the first character I had really gotten to know and experiment with. It was the first time I had really grown attached to a role. Halfway through filming I found myself defending her all the time, on and off set.
On top of that I like how conflicted she is. She’s always struggling against this dark side, but she’s also spunky, sensitive, and caring.

What was the most challenging thing about playing Marek?
Making sure I was hitting the emotional beats. We were shooting movies one and two at the same time, and there were days when I would be in a scene from the second film and I’d realize, “Oh crap! That was totally a movie one Marek move!” She changes a lot, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t playing the wrong emotion because of the whole out of sequence thing… like I said it’s a struggle for me!

It seems like it would be kind of surreal to see your face on all these posters, and on the big screen. What is it like for you? How do you feel when you watch your own work?
It doesn't really feel like anything. Ha! I don't know, I think I might be weird or something.
As far as seeing myself on screen, I usually feel uneasy about it. I had a unpleasant first experience watching myself in a theater with an audience; I was suddenly made aware of all these flaws I had and it almost made me stop acting. I thought I was so bad. Obviously I didn't. Now when I see myself I try to enjoy it for what it is, but I'm always playing the critic when it comes to my performance.

When you first started working on movie sets, what were some things that took you by surprise?
Shooting out of sequence. I mean I knew this happened, but I didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me. I really struggled with it… I still do, but I’ve come a long way.
Also all the food! There’s so much food to eat! That was a pleasant surprise. I like to sneak crafty [snacks] from set at the end of the day.

How is film different from the stage for you?
Like I mentioned earlier, shooting out of sequence in film really threw me. In Theatre it’s nice as an actor to just follow the flow of the story; it’s not as emotionally jarring.
Sadly I didn’t really figure out how to truly connect as an actor until I started doing film. I would rely on really good mimicking of what I thought I should be feeling as my character. I was doing it all wrong and no one was calling me out on it. To be honest I didn’t even realize what I was doing was wrong, so when I started acting on camera, I kept on doing it. It wasn’t until I had watched a few films I had done that I stopped and thought “Wow…this is really bad. I’m really bad!” Film doesn’t lie; it’s in your face and if you’re not feeling it, it shows. So I finally went out and took some private lessons from an awesome teacher in Provo, Ben Hopkin, and he steered me in the right direction and taught me about the importance of connecting.
I really would like another stab at theatre I think. I can imagine how rewarding it is to allow yourself to be in the moment for the entire show and not have someone yell “cut” or “okay, now say that line three different ways."

What about acting appeals to you?
How much I learn from it. I’m definitely a more empathetic person because of acting. When I was younger is was all about the rush I got from being on stage and being told I was great, but as you get older you have to find a better reason than that...otherwise it’ll drive you crazy. To be honest, it still does sometimes.

What are some of your goals as an actress?
To always be challenging myself, and to always be improving. I think if I can keep to those two things I’ll be fairly happy.

Where would you like to be in one year? Five years? Ten years?
In a year I’d love to be in New Zealand shooting a successful Fantasty or Sci-fi series! I’m a geek so of course that would be ideal. Although, I’d be grateful to still be getting paid for this sort of thing in a year. If I’m ever in a financially secure situation I’d love to go back to school and really study acting, take some time off to really wrap my head around it. As far as ten years from now… I haven’t a clue.

What hobbies and interests do you have outside of acting?
Being in nature. Any chance, I make it a priority to escape into the mountains. It’s oxygen for my soul. Aside from that I’m constantly changing my hobbies. Right now it’s Yoga, last month it was sewing ties.

Who are some of your major influences and inspirations?
I mentioned Ben Hopkin earlier. He really is fantastic. I think I’d still be stuck in my bad habits if it wasn’t for him. I mean I still have so much to learn (and always will) but it’s nice to feel like you’re headed in the right direction. I have him to thank for that.
Also Gary Oldman. I’m trying to figure out how to describe what it is I feel for that man’s performances… just complete awe and respect. He makes me want to spend years and years just learning and honing my craft.

What advice would you give to actors who want to get into film?
Aside from the typical “Take a class! Get out and audition!” I would say this: when you get discouraged (which you will), create your own work; write, produce, direct—whatever other aspect appeals to you—and share it with others, even if it’s bad. I’ve learned so much from dabbling in these other things, and I’ve learned about acting while doing it. This is a tough career, and it helps when other people in the industry see how passionate and proactive you are.

Finally, what are some of the things you've learned during the whole Mythica experience?
This industry is not easy. I recently stumbled across a journal entry from my niave 17 year old self that said something along the lines of “I want to be an actor because you’re getting paid to do nothing.” Yes, I also had to suppress vomit when I read that. I feel so lucky and fortunate to be doing what I’m doing, but I work very hard, and although it’s rewarding I also deal with a lot of disappointment. It is, however, certainly worth it. So I guess I’ve learned that to be a part of this industry, you have to really care about creating; you have to one of those people who doesn’t mind working hard, even if you're not making large amounts of money like the Hollywood A-Listers...because at the end of the day, it's still all worth it. At the end of the day, you're there because you really wanted to tell that story.