Monday, May 15, 2017

All Things Different, All Things the Same

I can't believe that it's been exactly one year since I've written on this blog. To the day.

I've spent the last year on a self-imposed hiatus from singing. I didn't tell anyone (other than my family and closest of friends) because of the cacophony of people who would try to stop me: Oh, but you're so talented! You've worked so hard and for so long. You've gotten so far, why would stop now? You shouldn't stop auditioning. If you stop, your career will die. But you want to know the truth? It's all bullshit.

Talent doesn't mean a thing if you don't have the drive; if you don't want to get up every morning to go audition and spend hours researching, sending out copies of your head shot and resume. Working hard is all well and good, unless it drives you to madness, putting your health in jeopardy. And just because you've gotten far doesn't mean that you'll go further, or that your career will wither away and die if you stop trying.

Everyone needs a break sometimes. Most people get that in form of a "vacation" from their 9-5 day jobs. As a singer, no one really teaches you how to take care of yourself in that way. When are you supposed to stop and assess? There is no time. You are constantly looking for the next audition, the next job, the next way to pay rent for next month.

And I had worn myself to the ground. I wasn't able to function after those last 8 months on the road. Think about that for a second. When most people travel, they're exhausted afterwards just from the simple act of it. And I traveled for 8 months straight. Even on the one week that I had off, I traveled to Texas so I could spend time with my best friend. But it was still travel. There are no words for the exhaustion that followed when I finally stopped. I couldn't bring myself to sing another note or look at another audition listing. So I made up my mind. I would take a break. I would try to be a normal person. I would try to find a full-time job and an apartment that I could call my own. I would try to date. I would (struggle to) pay my rent like every single other New Yorker.

So I tried. I found an amazing apartment in the neighborhood that I love to call home, where I peacefully live with two insanely talented painters. I found two temp jobs that both talked to me about coming on full-time, but neither of them actually happened. I dated. One started to look promising, but then small annoyances turned into big issues that I could no longer overlook. I deserved to be in a relationship with someone who actually wanted to be in one, and not just going through the motions because I was an option. I'm not an option. I'm amazing.

And then the inevitable happened. I got an email when I wasn't looking. Was I available and interested in singing in a production of In the Heights? My dream role. With one of my favorite directors.

A year and 2 days ago I sent the original email asking to be considered, but it looked like it wouldn't happen due to local casting decisions. So I filed it away in the back of my brain as another lost opportunity. I made the decision to stop after that. I started to try to settle down into normal life. One temp job let me go. The other sat on my application for months. So when the email came, I gave in.

And yet, I feel like a failure.

That's the fucked up part of all of this. I couldn't find a full-time job. I couldn't find a decent relationship. Those were my two goals this year. It is absolutely ridiculous to think about all this in these terms. Yet here I am, feeling utterly lost and lonely. When other people see me, they see someone who gets hired all the time, who gets paid to do what they love. They see someone who is sociable and outgoing, who dates easily and in no short supply. But it's not reality.

The only truth I know though is that I'm supposed to be singing. There is no place where I am happier. It's the only place I know that I can truly excel. And now I get to do it again. And my heart is full. Full but scared. And I've never been scared to take a contract before.

I left a decent job. They tried to give me an interview for the full-time position after I had put in my notice. I had already signed the contract. I had already made my mind up. But that doesn't mean it was an easy decision.

I'm leaving behind people that I love. I'm leaving the comfort and security of a steady paycheck. But to be honest, I suck at being an adult. I don't budget well. I spend too much. And that's even when I have a regular day job. So why not get paid to do what I love if the problems haven't changed? There will always be other temp jobs. There will not always be another production of Heights.

And so I'm spending this week packing my bags. And painting my walls before my sublettor takes over my room. I'm spending as much time with friends as I can. And in exactly one week, I'll be heading out of town again for another 2 months. But at least I'm back at it. Doing what I love. And in this, I will find peace. In this, I will find love. In this, I will find myself again.

And I can't wait.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


One of the absolute worst things you could ever say to writer is "You used to write...". Someone said this exact thing to me in the last five months. I know it wasn't meant in a bad way, but the truth of it stung. I haven't been able to write. I haven't been able to work on anything; no real progress on my poetry or screenplays, and my blog has been silent for far too long. But that's what happens when you're abused; you shut down in order to save yourself. And now, after finally finding my way out, I'm sitting here in a Starbucks in Texas, trying to think of all the things I need to say and how to say them all without getting in trouble.

That's the hard part though - staying out of trouble. I'm too good at bringing a mess, at burning a bridge completely to the ground when I find myself in a place that is abusive. And I've been in abusive places since November. First, an abusive living arrangement. Then an abusive job. Then an abusive tour.

There's only one common thread in all of these: me.

I've been going over every step, every decision, every word and email. How did I get to this place? Fear. Desperation. Not listening to my intuition. Following the path of things I know I shouldn't do, but doing them anyways because it looked like I had no other choice. But hindsight is 20/20, correct?

I wish I could have been a better person on this last tour. But honestly, none of us were our real selves. We were in constant survival mode; fighting to find decent food, energy to somehow push through a show (or even two) after traveling on a bus for 8 - 10 hours, and trying to somehow keep the physical pain at bay. Four months of that as daily routine makes a person completely insane.

So we fought. Within and without. A few people quit or got fired. I tried to make a difference, but pretty much failed. There were three times where I spoke the words out loud, I can't do this anymore. I have to quit. But I didn't. That's not what I do. I stay until the bitter end, until I cannot take it anymore and then set fire to everything and everyone around me. It's not pretty. I've done it to relationships. I've done it to employers. And now I've had to do it to a theater company. I never in my life thought I'd have to write those words.

Theater is what I love. It is my entire life. It is the only place where I'm truly happy. I've sung on three national tours now, traveling the country for months at a time, getting paid to do nothing but sing. You'd think it would be the perfect match for me. But it wasn't this time around. The struggle was too much. And my mind has permanently been changed on one issue: the social media campaign that AEA (Actor's Equity Association) began in the fall of 2014, "Ask if it's Equity".

When I first heard of the campaign, I found it to be horrible. It was an affront to my own working circumstances. I'm a non-union singer, but that doesn't mean that I'm not Equity quality. I heard it numerous times at auditions, "You're non-equity? How is that possible?" And so the campaign struck a nerve. I hated every mention and found it completely distasteful. I had already sung on two tours and had decent experiences on them. The only meaning I could find from it was that non-union singers were somehow unworthy of audiences. And that was simply not true in my world.

I've come to realize however, that it was not the intent of the campaign. No singer should have to get up for a 4 AM bus call only to drive for 8 hours straight to a theater into a two show day. Yet it happened. No singer should have to fight for clean, safe accommodations. Yet we had to. No singer should be so pushed to their limits that they need therapy, both physical and mental, after a production. Yet here I am, needing both.

As I've been spending this week off in Texas, I've noticed new patterns in my life; I'm shoveling food down too quickly because that's what I had gotten used to, having only 15-30 minutes to eat or shop. I am in a constant flight or fight state of mind, my nerves always on edge. My muscles do not remember how to relax. I spent five hours at a spa, but was only able to let go and enjoy it after a couple of hours had passed. It's exhausting, being this distraught and frayed all the time. And it will take months of work to undo.

But I am one of the lucky ones. My next contract is in a place I love, where I feel safe and completely supported. And at the end of that contract, I'll be joining AEA. I will have protections in place. I had always been so scared about joining the union. The only things I've heard were that jobs were harder to get and all the tours were going non-union. And that's partially true. I'm moving up in the ranks. I'm going to be auditioning against the people who are on Broadway now. But I also realized that I have been auditioning against them already. I found a role that I had submitted for went to a woman that I idolize. So in reality, not that much is actually changing for me. Except that I'll have someone on my side when things go wrong. That I won't have to fight as hard to make sure that I'm taken care of. And my sanity - well, hopefully that will return in the weeks to come, as I spend another six weeks in Missouri.

My mind however, keeps going back and thinking about those people I am leaving behind, the ones who aren't as lucky as me. The friends who are still non-union, desperate for work and taking whatever comes. How are they supposed to survive? How can I help? Is there anything that I can actually do?

I will do what I know: I will write. I will speak up. I will speak out. I will teach others how to stand up in a way that might make a difference. And I will not be afraid. I will be here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Art Above All

Months have gone by and I've been trying to force myself to sit down and write to you all. But I haven't been able to. My life has been tumultuous and messy. And for the first time ever, I did not include everyone in the drama that unfolded. I kept my mouth shut. I was lucky enough to have friends who have taken care of me. But it's not been easy to ask for this help. Or to speak about the damage that's been done to me mentally and emotionally. When I feel this threatened, I shut down. I rally the wagon trains in a circle around myself and let only a select few in. I now realize however, that I have closed off everyone. I had stopped speaking to my mother, my sister, and my best friends. Facebook had basically become a non-existent entity. I have needed space.

I've moved to Brooklyn for the month, taking a sublet from one of the wonderful friends I made in Missouri (Roll Tide!) I had taken a job in a very stressful real estate attorney's office, and after a month, got a promotion to a paralegal position that is better-suited to my skills and ability. I have been lucky to have been so supported through this insanity. However, there has been one very big question mark that nagged me. Where was my art? My singing was non-existent; my writing so far away from my fingers.

I consulted with three people whom I consider mentors and friends; administrators in their chosen artistic fields and lives. I trusted them to see past my talent-level, yet keep in mind that I'm capable of artistry that many people would give up a limb for; a blessing and a curse. I knew that if I wasn't performing, perhaps finding a job in a theater would keep my happy. I started applying for artistic administrative positions. And then, as a fluke, sent in for two other national tours. And then booked one of them. And a decision had to be made. Give up the stability to be where I am happiest? Or stay in one place, be a financially responsible adult, and be completely miserable.

All I kept thinking was Art above all.

Is this statement supposed to be the one thing that defines my life? How am I supposed to be a stable adult, and still be happy as an artist? Am I capable of being an artist and an adult? (Kinda.)

When I first moved to New York, I told myself it would only be for a year - just to see what would happen. I promised myself that I would not fall into the 'working a full-time job' trap. The last time I did that in Chicago, I didn't sing for two years. I told myself that, as long as I was living in New York, I would not give up on my singing career. That I would push myself beyond what I knew I was capable of. And push I have. It's been three years of auditions and tours, unfamiliar cities, and the lulls in between shows that make life difficult.

As I spoke with my mother one afternoon, I said something out loud that I've never been able to admit before. I don't do this for the money. I never will. My life does not revolve around money as it does for many other people in this world. My world is my art. My singing. My writing. And that is frustrating to the people who care about me.

When I began to slowly make the announcement that I would again be hitting the road, I was not met with the usual excited and supportive comments from some family and friends. They want me to be stable. They want me to have a job and an apartment like most normal people do. They don't want to see my life in constant upheaval. And I understand their apprehension.

However, their negativity struck me. Hard. It's not as if I make any decision in my life lightly. I have been one step away from being homeless. I haven't had a real relationship in ten years (plenty of dating though). I haven't had a stable apartment...well, pretty much ever. But much of that is changing.

So I made the decision. I have taken another tour. Even though my resume doesn't necessarily need it. Even though I will be leaving many dear people behind. People that I don't want to leave. But I must. And I will return again in five months. And it will feel as though it's flown by. And the reunions will be all the more sweeter bc I will be exhausted and happy. I will be doing the one thing that fulfills me like no other. And that is all I want in life. Art above all. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Finding Missouri. Finding Myself.

I fall in love easily. Chicago. New York. Missouri. South Pacific. Les Mis. La Mancha. Cast after cast after cast. But my heart usually heals after each break, after each show closes and casts part ways. We all move on to other projects, to new casts, and new auditions. This time however, has been different.

I think my heart has permanently moved to Arrow Rock, Missouri. Who would have ever thought I'd say that? The middle of nowhere, where the closest Wal-mart is a twenty minute drive away. This summer I spent six weeks with the single-most loving and talented group of people I've ever had the chance to work with in my life. I don't know or understand how I could ever have been this lucky; what kind of stars aligned to bring me to this place at just the right time that I needed it. Every single person there impacted me in ways that are inexplicable, and none of them even know.

The last year brought me immense pain and loss. A year ago, I sat in an airport having just finished another South Pacific; this time in West Virginia, where I met another terrific group of singers and actors who became fast and steady friends. But that day, one year ago, I sat in a terminal just minutes before boarding, with my cellphone in hand, having just gotten the news that we had lost Goog, one of my most steadfast friends of all.

An hour later, I touched down in New York a different person. I had no idea what to do. I had no next contract, no group of people to get lost in. I laid in bed and stared at the wall for days, weeks even. My mind could not wrap around the fact that she was just gone. And so, I did nothing.

I finally found solace in an unexpected place, Trader Joe's. I found a group of people who were just like me; who worked hard and took pride in what they did, who laughed as much as they could, and supported each other to the best of their ability. I lost myself in the wet-pro case where the vegetables are kept, and in the freezing temperatures of the dairy box. But I was faltering. My auditions were a mess. I sang like shit from the physical exhaustion; but in my mind, I thought I was happy. How couldn't I be? I was surrounded by people that I loved at a job that I adored.

So I kept trying, working till two or three in the morning and then heading to audition after audition just a few hours later. I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong, why I wasn't getting another singing gig. I got to the final callback of the Ragtime national tour. And I completely bombed it. Twice. I felt as though I couldn't show my face after that. We all make mistakes as singers. But that isn't something that I had been used to in a very long time. Auditions had become second nature to me and I could sing my music cuts in my sleep. But I faltered. My nerves got the best of me. The usual self-confidence was nowhere to be found.

But then everything changed as I walked into an audition room where the faces that stared back at me were filled with warmth and smiles, where we were able to laugh when I winked at the pianist to start my cue for Bali Ha'i, and someone in the room whispered I love her. It's a moment I'll never forget.

And then I got a contract. And then I left Trader Joe's. And then I finally found myself.

I came to Arrow Rock, and was surrounded by the most caring group of people I've ever worked with. Every single person was committed 100% to telling the story we needed to on that stage. Every single person was an equal. There was no weak link. And for the first time ever in my life, there was zero drama in huge cast of people. I was able to fully be myself without any kind of judgement from anyone. And when things became stressful, we supported each other even more than I thought could be possible. We watched out for each other, and in turn, formed a bond that will never break.

But just a few short weeks ago, I sat in an airport alone at the end of that contract. And I was again terrified that I would have the same type of phone call just before boarding. I stared at my phone while waiting for my flight to Chicago, and luckily, no call came. But it was all I could think about. The fact that Goog has been gone for a year numbs me. And it's been one exact year, to the day, that I was first able to write about it, on her birthday.

And now, here I am, in the same place again, but such a completely different person.

I think of Arrow Rock daily; the small town of 58 people, the corn fields that surrounded us like some kind of protective wall from the outside world, the cows I never got to pet. We, as a cast, are still posting to each other on a constant basis on Facebook. Pictures float around like candy I can't taste. I have texted and messaged my love and adoration to a few. And we are still wishing the casts who came after us happy openings/closings. The love we have for each other is palpable. And I am so grateful.

I have never in my life been more happy or more depressed at the same time.

I am now living in Chicago for two months, singing another South Pacific with yet another fantastic group of people, at the same place with some of the same people where I had my first run of Bloody Mary nine years ago. And I keep trying to figure out just what I'm supposed to do next. Do I return to New York? Do I stay in Chicago for a little while longer? I have nothing keeping me in any one city, but love each for so many different reasons.

So I have some decisions to make. A plan is forming in my head and to be honest, there will be some people who will be unhappy. But the fact is that I'm not a person who stays in one place for long. I never have been. So maybe the only way that I will be happy is to spend the time in the places I love in whatever way I can. No more planting roots. I'm giving away most of the things I own. I don't need them anyway. I've lived without them for almost three years. I will spend time in Chicago during the off-peak audition seasons. I will spend winters in New York. And my summers are for singing. And for Arrow Rock whenever they will have me.

And some day, I will retire, as all singers eventually do. And that's when I'll gladly plant myself firmly in the Missouri soil to finish off my days. I'll open a writer's retreat and help those who are just like me, who need the wide-open spaces to clear their heads in order to be able to return to the big city and to the work that calls. And to give back as much love and support as I've gotten these last few months. It is immeasurable. And I am so lucky.

Thank you to all of you. You know who you are.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tangerines and Telling

Hello my Dearest of Friends,

It's been almost four months since I've sat down to write to you all. And there's good reason for it. I had decided to take a break. There was no grand announcement, no sighing and wringing of hands...ok, maybe a little wringing, but it was just something I knew I needed. I had to take a step back and have a long, hard look at my myself.

The one thing about being so public is that you are always swayed by the opinions of everyone around you. I know that everyone means well and wants the best for me. But earning less than minimum wage for working on a couple of super famous tv shows isn't really what's best for me. Neither was killing myself getting to auditions, and singing without being able to actually connect. So I finally found a (somewhat regular) job, but not one that anyone expected me to find.

I've been working at Trader Joe's for the last three months and couldn't be happier. I'm surrounded by people who are genuinely kind, who will help without a second thought. It's just always yes there. We work hard, we get our jobs done, and we try to have a good time doing it. I haven't felt like this, more like myself, since Goog's death.

To be surrounded by such caring and compassionate people has reminded me that I am not the hardened New Yorker that I was turning into; that Midwestern sweetness is still a part of me. And it's finally brought me around. I'm smiling more. I've been slowly losing weight, and working on a healthier way of life. I've been getting out of the house. I've gone out on dates with a few different guys. Some good. Some bad. But at least I'm trying. My confidence is slowly returning. I can genuinely say I'm happy. And that is terrifying.

The last time I was this happy, I was in West Virginia singing another South Pacific, surrounded by the same type of people that now surround me in TJ's; caring, supportive, and kind. The day I finished that contract, my entire life changed. Goog was gone and I was left looking at this pile of smoldering rubble that was supposed to somehow resemble my heart. Losing one of your closest friends at that young an age just isn't supposed to happen. It makes you realize that life is truly too short and it can be taken from us at any moment. And that is scary as fuck.

So I retreated. I stopped talking and posting about what was going on. I had to figure out what was most important to me in my life. And that has always been balance; finding that sweet spot where happiness exists without being dependent on other things or other people, being able to work hard and achieving some kind of small goal whether that's putting up an entire shelving unit full of tangerines quickly and beautifully, or nailing an audition for a theater that I truly wanted to work with.

And I have.
(You should have seen the tangerines last night. They were perfection.)