Last month, I had the honor of being invited to speak on the Theatre Alumni Panel at my alma mater, SUNY New Paltz, during Alumni Weekend 2018.
I was so thrilled and overcome with nostalgia to be back in the comforts of Parker Theatre and McKenna Theatre, where I spent four incredible years rehearsing, performing, dancing, learning, growing as an artist and young adult. I wouldn't trade my experience as a Theatre Arts Major for anything, and it was days like this when I wish I could go back and do it all over again, with even more awareness and mindfulness about how fortunate I was to be a student there.
Speaking on this panel of badass female alums, all of us working diligently in the industry in some capacity, was such a fantastic opportunity to connect with the current Theatre Arts students, answer their questions and try to offer some advice on how to continue building their acting careers outside college. I tried to emphasize the importance of defining their own vision of SUCCESS and what will bring them happiness working in this field. And to remember to maintain a full, active, healthy lifestyle beyond "The Biz". For me, creating my own content and performance opportunities with friends has been key, and consistent networking and creative collaboration within NYC's comedy community has kept me busy and fulfilled for the last decade. As well as fitness, travel, quality time with family and friends, and sometimes just long walks in the woods.
Something else I tried to express to the students, in not as many words, but hopefully they understood my meaning: There are days when I feel like a total fraud, when I feel like I don't have the talent or training or face or body to be seen by an audience, then days when I feel like an overnight commercial and subway ad star, days when I feel like the funniest person on stage, days when I feel really empowered as a producer and director and writer, days when I think I've completely outgrown acting because it feels like the most self-absorbed job in the world, and then days when I think I'm going to explode if I don't get back on stage or in front of a camera again, because I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. At this point, I don't think any of those emotions are going to stop, but at least I am getting better at stepping back and recognizing them all. And at least I know I will always enjoy connecting with other artists of all background and ages as we move through it together.
I am not now, nor have I ever claimed to be, a singer.
...except when I'm alone in my car, or putting my face on in the morning, or tipsy at a friend's wedding...
But somehow, last year, I was asked by a musician friend of mine to record backup vocals on a new totally rad 1980s dancy-pop tune he had written. And somehow, soberly, I agreed to do it.
That song is "No Defense" by Sans Frills, and has launched on the album Shag Birds, Vol. 1 on SPOTIFY AND ITUNES!
The real purpose of this post is to remind myself, (and maybe YOU too!) how important it is to constantly try new things that are outside my comfort zone, that I feel I have no business and no confidence doing, force myself to always say YES to new endeavors and see where they might lead, what new skills or friendships or opportunities I might find along the way. So far, no sudden singing skills, same old friends, no record deals, or fans, or checks in the mail...but no regrets, no fears, no limits, No Defense!
I am about a decade late to the blogging game. But it's never too late to start, right? Right, let's go!
I will spare you the update on the last ten years of my life, career, NYC hustle, and travel adventures, and just focus in on the last few exciting months. Summer-Fall 2018!
Earlier this year, I was cast in a supporting role in a new dark comedy feature film entitled, "The Improviser", with the NYC-based independent production company Rebel Lens Films. My good friends and long-time collaborators over at Rebel Lens are a stellar group of writers, directors, producers, DPs, editors, actors and content creators, based in Astoria, Queens.
Writer-Director Daniel Florio is the mastermind behind "The Improvisor", which follows a social misfit named Brett, with dreams of making it big in the NYC comedy world, as he continuously sabotages his own success and professional relationships by offending everyone he meets. I play Veronica, a talented and well-loved member of Brett's improv team- The Giggly Puffs- who stirs up an intense jealousy in Brett every time she achieves some great new success within the improv community. Veronica's kindness and patience with Brett begins to wear thin as he continues to make inappropriate comments during rehearsals and the team's live performances, causing the group's morale to deteriorate.
The unique challenge and thrill of working on "The Improviser" has been, well, improvising! Everything! Our writer-director Dan wrote a loose outline of dialogue for my scenes, but once we began production in June, he gave the cast a ton of freedom and creative license to ad-lib our scenes and interactions. It is incredibly exciting and gratifying to be able to put my many years of improv training and experience into motion while developing this story, creating the character of Veronica alongside my fellow actors and "teammates" in the movie, and letting my instincts and imagination take over while the cameras are rolling, rather than being restricted to tightly written lines of dialogue. Every day together on set, we have created so many hilarious and zany interactions completely off the cuff, and also discovered the most tense and awkward moments between rival characters.
We are getting ready to wrap this twisted and cringeworthy tale this November, and I am so grateful to have been a part of such a highly-collaborative, creative, professional film, with some of my very favorite people. Huge thank you to Rebel Lens Films team, the entire crew, cast, and supporters for making it possible! Cannot wait to see where this project lands in the near future!