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Saying No. Sometimes.

September 29, 2014

 

As a young Stage Manager in a new country I find myself saying yes a lot. Yes, I will work two jobs. Yes, I will do that gig for free. Yes, I will spend 48 hours straight in tech. Yes, I will carry all of the laundry after a show from Downtown to Astoria every night for four weeks… I don’t believe this is necessarily a bad thing. I’m not here to tell you the power of using “No” or anything preachy like that. I am instead going to share my tale of woe from when I took on a great deal of work and ended up lying side ways in a bush throwing up whilst a small boy dressed as Pinocchio held my hair.

This summer I was hired for three months to work as both a Stage Manager and a Director for a children’s summer camp. I would stage-manage three shows every three weeks, one of which being my own that I would Direct. Putting up these shows in a barn on a mountain in upstate New York was some of the best fun I have ever had as a theatre maker.

But Viki, you say, two jobs. Two jobs!? The work required from SMing children’s theatre (meaning theatre made by children) is vastly different to other kinds of shows. You become a chaperone, a guidance counselor, make-up artist, dresser and so much more than what is usually expected from a Stage Manager. When I also began Directing my first show, My Son Pinocchio, I struggled to find a balance. I eventually got the hang of things by doing paperwork at night and utilizing the help of an excellent assistant director. Everything was going very smoothly.

Until I started projectile vomiting on the day of my dress rehearsal.

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Artistic Statement

September 24, 2014

After yet another summer filled with lots of theatrical adventures, I start the fall not only to begin my 2nd year as an in-school teaching artist, but also thinking about why I love theatre. What makes the theatre excite us as artists? What draws us into its seductive charm? What kind of theatre do we like to do to and why? Are we more of a Shakespearean artist or a musical theatre one? Or both? Or neither?

As theatre artists, especially emerging theatre artists, these are things we need to think about to take the plight of building our careers. The past 6 months (or so) in particular I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what that means for me as an artist. I’ve had a strong resume, cover letter, and bio for quite some time, but to figure out what kind of theatre work I want to search for, that was my challenge. So I wrote a new revised version of my artistic statement.

I first wrote an artistic statement when I was finishing grad school (which feels like so long now). That’s when this concept was first introduced to me. I think the one I wrote then was good for the first time out, but within the past year particularly I felt that it was more of a good starting point, but that it didn’t have everything that I’m interested in- just one thing. So I started my journey in thinking: what do I do, want to do, how I work, and why?

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival

September 16, 2014

My summer has been a little bit insane so now I’m back down south it’s finally time to process what has happened and tell all of you wonderful readers.

Some of you may know that the largest arts festival in Europe happens in Edinburgh every August, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I had wanted to go for a very long time and was very close to working at it last year for a large company but unfortunately had to turn the job down. Therefore I was ecstatic when my boss said he wanted to take some shows up this year and wanted me to come up with him.

We took three shows up; 2 for the whole festival and the other just for a week. They were all very different; one was a two man straight play with two iconic British TV stars, one was a musical based on an album by Jaymay and the third was a children’s show. I was Stage Manager for all three, in hindsight I should have realised this was a challenge that I was not prepared for at the time considering the struggles I’ve had this year, however I ran into it with open arms.  Read more…

The Best Note I Ever Got

September 12, 2014

I got caught off guard the first time I heard the phrase, “Learn to love auditioning.” I never thought of trying to love something that most actors disliked. While I was eager to apply this technique, it didn’t work right away. In fact, it didn’t work for a while. How was I supposed to suddenly change my mindset just like that?

There’s a plethora of awesome advice out there for actors and creative artists. Often times we’re left with this advice without specific instructions on how to apply it. Sometimes coaches want us to pay them to learn more. (Hint: If a career coach whose name rhymes with Ballas Cavers is offering a program, there’s a 99% percent chance it’s for you. Give her all your money!)

Most of the time, however, there’s a perfectly good reason they don’t tell us exactly what to do: They don’t know us.

The best note I ever got from an acting class was about “process.” Instructor Steven Ivich told us that process is “knowing what to do, when.” While there was a general guideline Ivich gave us, there were different ways to approach it. Everyone handles their process differently. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to go about it. It’s finding the way that works best for ourselves. Read more…

Note Taking Etiquette

September 8, 2014

Maintaining a long running production can be the toughest part of a stage manager’s job. One hopes that when the director has left, the cast will respect and listen to the notes that are given by the stage manager as well as the fight and dance captains. Equity dictates that actors are required to take these notes – it is part of their duties as listed with this union.

Recently, I witnessed a situation where an actor reacted unprofessionally to a note that was respectfully being given by the Music Captain at music call (interesting to note that Equity says nothing about music captains – it’s not in their vocabulary … yet). The Actor aggressively began shouting and verbally abusing the Music Captain in front of the entire cast, crew, and front of house staff. He then stormed away leaving behind a poisoned atmosphere. The Music Captain and Stage Manager handled the situation with grace and professionalism. The Actor was spoken to after he had cooled down. But it brings about some keys things to remember when giving and receiving notes for a production: Read more…

A Simple Trick To Staying Inspired

September 2, 2014

I totally planned on writing a “how to stay inspired” post today….and I couldn’t feel less inspired.

Don’t get me wrong – things are going pretty well right now. This past week I got a paycheck from a gig, scored two (very last minute) extra gigs, applied for a reoccurring gig that would bring in many more paychecks, plus got an audition for a national commercial. Yet today, for whatever reason, I kept focusing on the negatives: It’s really hot in my apartment. I fell off track with nutrition earlier in the week, which means clean eating for the next several days. (WHY are there always cookies on set??) I also have a big life change coming up, which is exciting!….but is going to mean much less income. I don’t like having less income.

I hate days like this, but I’m almost glad it happened. It reminded me of something important: There are going to be days where we feel discouraged. This happens at random times with or without reason. When it does happen, it’s important not to kick yourself. It’s also important to realize that there are different ways to get out of your funk. Go with a few trial runs to find your best solution.

Okay, onto the positives. When starting out in a creative field, it’s easy to think of our big and scary goals as difficult and impossible. This causes many artists to quit before even getting started. We certainly don’t want this to happen. Here’s a trick: When we surround ourselves by inspiring people, those big and scary goals suddenly seem less scary and easier to achieve.

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On Vacation!

August 20, 2014

Hi, lovely Green Room Blog readers!

As much as we all love this business, even Green Room Bloggers need a vacation now and again.

We’re spending this week relaxing and recharging, before launching into Fall full steam ahead.

See you on the flip side!

RedheadedActressSig

How to be an Actor *and* a Mom

August 12, 2014

howtobalancemomandcareer

When choosing to pursue any artistic career, there’s a lot of sacrifice involved — job stability, a predictable working schedule, vacations planned way in advance, a cushy corner office, extended families who understand what we do, and often, financial abundance, are all things that we agree to say no to when signing up for an acting career. But does having our own families have to be something we sacrifice, too?

I’ve personally been balancing being a successful actor and being a good wife (I hope!!) for years now; it’s totally do-able, although the choices aren’t always easy. But figuring out how to add children into that mix is always something that’s stumped me. How do women do it? How do we find Sheryl Sandberg-style career boldness, while also being the best Moms that we can be?

Gwyneth Paltrow upset a lot of women when she was quoted as saying that movie star moms have it harder than other moms, and it’s not hard to see why — of course she has financial advantages that ease many of the struggles that regular working moms face. But although she could have phrased it better, she was right on the money about the many unique challenges that actress moms face — intensely long hours on set or onstage, unpredictable work schedules, having to fly to far-flung locations at a moment’s notice…among other things like the pressure to be in great shape and have a youthful appearance.

So to soothe my curiosity, I started to talking to actor moms friends of mine to find out how they do it. And friends recommended a few other incredible actors moms they knew. And before I knew it, I had compiled this fabulous resource for anyone contemplating jumping into motherhood without giving up their artistic aspirations.

The talented, hardworking, and generous actor moms who contributed to this post are:

Jessica Leigh Smith

Carolann Sanita

Stephanie Scott

Chloe Dirksen

Erin Gilbreth

Margaret Kelly Murphy

Valisa Tate

Eevin Hartsough

Read on to learn about the challenges these actor moms face in their careers and at home, and how they manage to overcome them with wisdom and grace. It’s a virtual manifesto for how to be an actor and a mom, and it’s one of my favorite posts I’ve ever written.

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How many kids do you have, and how old are they now?

JESSICA: I have two daughters. They are 5 years and 20 months.

CAROLANN: One boy and he is 5.

STEPHANIE: I have one child, a boy, and he just turned three!

CHLOE: 2 boys: ages 6 and 3.

ERIN: I have one son, Finn, who is three months old.

MARGARET: I have 3 boys, right now they are 7,9 and 13.

VALISA: I have two girls: Zoe is 5 ½ and Mia is 3 ½ (Mentioning that ½ is very important to my kids!).

EEVIN: I have one child – a boy – who is two years and five months.

 

How old were you when you had your first? Are you happy with the moment in your life when you got pregnant, or would you change it if you could?

JESSICA: My acting age range when I had my first daughter was about 21-25. I think I am very happy with the timing of it all. It has worked out well. We were trying, so we really wanted the good news.

CAROLANN: I was one month away from turning 35. It was one of the most magical times in my life. I felt like a goddess. I couldn’t believe that my body just KNEW how to grow this human!

STEPHANIE: I was 39 years old when I got pregnant. It was sort of a surprise. As an actress, I had hit the point where I was tired. I remember telling my friends that if things didn’t start progressing with my acting career, I was ready for a break. THAT is when I got pregnant! It was a sign.

I think that being an actress in your late thirties can be a very confusing time. It really is a ‘now or never’ feeling. I made a very strong choice at that time to allow whatever to happen to just happen….let fate decide if I were to be a mother or continue on with my freedom as an artist. If I had never gotten pregnant, life would have continued on as usual. If I did get pregnant, I would be very happy as well. I made the choice to be happy regardless.

CHLOE: I was 28. It was the perfect time for me. My life would be different if I had had my kids earlier or later, but I can’t imagine changing anything at all.

ERIN: Ha! I don’t mind sharing that I am turning 40 this month. I was surprised that I was able to get pregnant easily. I’ll admit that I was scared about derailing my career. I know how hard it can be at my age to conceive. I didn’t advertise anything but happiness, lest I offend any friends who were trying to get pregnant and finding it difficult; but secretly, I was terrified.

MARGARET: I started late, in my mid 30s, I knew when I had kids I wanted to be present for them. I had been touring doing stage work around the country. Since I had kids I have stayed in the city. I’m very glad that I did all the touring before I had kids.

VALISA: I had Zoe when I was 39 years old and Mia two weeks before I turned 41 years old. I’m very happy with the timing of when I had my children.

EEVIN: I was in my mid 30’s. It was right in terms of my relationship with my husband – us being ready as a couple. I had hoped to have reached certain career milestones that I hadn’t reached when I got pregnant so, given that, part of me wishes I hadn’t waited quite so long. But it all happened the way it happened – very deliberately, making the best choices we could at the time – and I’m so delighted with my son and our little family that it’s hard to imagine it any other way (or feel particularly regretful in hindsight).

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