Thoughts on this historic day...

THIS ARTICLE IS PUBLISHED ON THE  HUFFINGTON POST BLOG HERE

On November 8th, 2016, my 36th birthday, the world as I know it turned upside down. I'm numb. I'm sad. I feel blue today. So blue. 

When I considered the possibility that Donald Trump could be our next President, I felt scared. And angry. Enraged. Now that possibility has turned into reality and my feelings have not changed.

I never thought I'd face a day where I'd feel deep in my core that I'm ashamed to be American. Today I feel ashamed. 

I'm ashamed that our country is filled with hate and fear.

I'm ashamed we elected a leader who is a bully, a liar, a misogynist, a racist, a narcissist, and  a reality tv star to boot.

I'm ashamed of our new first lady.

I'm ashamed that our new president is the laughing stock of the entire world.

I'm ashamed that the new face of America undermines everything America is supposed to represent.

Just 2 days ago I stood on the boat to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I thought to myself, wow! Here are symbols of a supposed "new world." Of "hope." Of "freedom." Symbols that represent millions of people who immigrated to this country to create a better life for themselves and their families. New York City was built upon their backs. America was built upon their backs. 

Where would we be without Albert Einstein, Elie Wiesel, Carl Yung, Chaplin, Disney...?

What will we miss when we say "go away"? Who will shut down instead of contribute when we say "we don't want you here"? Who will be beaten? Who will die?

As a Jewish woman, this election has rattled me. I realize how much I've taken for granted. I didn't live through pogroms or through the Holocaust. I've been so blessed in my life. I've been given everything. I am free.

What will be taken from me? From my family? What basic human rights are no longer our own?

We've already announced it's ok to belittle. We've already announced it's ok to rape. It's ok to shame. It's ok to lie, to cheat, to steal. That there is merit in cruelty. Integrity doesn't matter. Intelligence and empathy don't matter. Listening does not matter. Nothing matters.

In this moment I can only hold onto the understanding that the human spirit is resilient. That love can and does persevere. It's bond is stronger than hate. It's what connects us ALL. I'm lucky to be an artist and call artists my friends. We create beauty from the chaos. We get people to see. We have a duty to uphold. To ourselves, to our families, to this country, to each other. 

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
— Thomas A. Edison

Let's get to work, friends.

All I Want...

I'm sitting outside in the (finally) cool summer breeze feeling and thinking a whole mess of things as crickets chirp, planes fly overhead and a band rehearses at a nearby residence. My home is quiet. Very quiet. Strangely so after 10 days of chaos. Actors and crew and equipment in and out, flying about, rushing around, making magic, working together, fighting the clock, fighting the sound of planes, fighting human error.

A backyard filled with lights and gear and food and people is now empty.

The house filled with red plastic cups and rotted party props and papers and hard drives and cables and bottles and snacks and people is now empty and (mostly) clean.

This project that I've fought so hard to bring to fruition with EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING, has. We did it. We shot it. It came together. Beautifully.

Several times I doubted whether I could pull this off. Several times I wondered if I was crazy or foolish for thinking I could. The support that initially inspired my story became fuzzy. Schedules got in the way. People's lives got in the way. Communication became hard to decipher. Were the people we wrote this for still on board? Were they excited or just doing me a favor? Did they doubt me? Did they feel hurt when I had to replace them? 

Who's going to make up our crew? Will they show up the first day? Will they damage anything? Will I damage them?  What if we don't make our days? What if someone has to drop out mid shoot? What if equipment gets stolen? Does the crew feel appreciated? Are they well fed? Do they respect me? Do they understand what this all means? Maybe I'm asking too much.

In a blink of an eye it's over. Did it actually happen? What do I do now?

The band has stopped playing. The crickets still chirp. The planes still fly overhead. The breeze rustles in the trees. I feel so happy. I feel so grateful. I feel so full, yet so empty. Lonely, yet surrounded by love. Alive, yet exhausted. Amazed. Fully spent.

Though I don't know what the future will bring for me or for this project, I know I did everything in my power to make it happen. Several angels found me along the way to ensure I could see this through. I am speechless at the generosity I experienced from the day I pitched this idea to a small group of friends until now. It's amazing what falls at your feet when you FULLY and TERRIFYINGLY put yourself out there...

I end with this:

ALL I WANT is to THANK the people that said "yes," the people that stood by me and my vision, the people that generously supported this project, the people that worked their asses off for  little/no compensation, the people that showed up in front of and behind the camera, the people that saved my ass and taught me lessons along the way, the people that will help carry this labor of love forward and the people that we will (hopefully) touch with this story.

-Melissa Center 9/2/2105; The night after we wrapped my very first feature film, a dream come true, ALL I WANT.

Am I a Fraud?

There's this Syndrome. The "I'm a fraud!!!! Syndrome." Have you heard of it? Have you succumb to it?  I have.

A couple of years ago I started to write this book. An ebook. I thought it would be a good idea the put together a handbook of sorts for actors who want to get comfortable on set.  My boyfriend, Ben, a working Gaffer/Electrician at the time, sat down with me and mapped out a typical day on set, terminology, issues of etiquette, anything an actor might encounter on a typical shoot day. The idea was to compile all this information into an ebook and self-publish it. Sounds easy enough, right?

Here are all the reasons why it has taken me 3 years to officially announce the project:

  1. I'm an actor, not a writer.
  2. I don't have enough credits.
  3. I'm no expert.
  4. What if something I wrote is wrong?
  5. What if I get sued for infringement?
  6. I don't want to take financial advantage of actors.
  7. I'm embarrassed.
  8. I'm waiting for permission AND validation.
  9. Some of the links I incorporated might be obsolete.
  10. I'm a fraud.

Sound familiar? Most of these issues are, excuse my french, BULLSHIT. A couple are valid. So what? What's the hold up?

Something in my stomach wasn't sitting right about asking actors for $$$ for my book. Why? I wrote the damn thing. I spent a LONG time compiling it. I spent my own money hiring a Task Rabbit to edit it. I do deserve to be compensated for my work. Here's the deal, though. There are SOOOO MANY ways actors, myself included, are taken advantage of financially. It's endless. And I didn't/don't feel comfortable contributing to the madness.  What's the solution, then? What I arrived at was the following:

  1. Sell the book.
  2. Donate a part of my proceeds to a worthy cause....one that gives back to the acting community, perhaps?  THE ACTOR'S FUND

This makes me feel good. I can offer something valuable and helpful to my community of actors. I can empower my colleagues through the book to be their best selves. I can earn some income, but not feel bad or selfish about it. I can give back to my community with some of my earnings. I can be a good example for my fellow actors.  

WIN.

So. Without further ado, I announce:

THE WORKING ACTOR'S FILM SET HANDBOOK

Enjoy. Learn something. Send me feedback. Correct me. I dare you.

Be where you are...

I'm more than embarrassed to admit that it has been over a year since I wrote a blog post for my site.  A co-worker brought this to my attention in the most lovely way.  He had come across my site/blog after finding the link through my IMDB page, and was taken by my writing.  This was impetus enough for me to "pick up the pen" again, or just log onto my page.

In the time since I wrote my last post, A LOT has happened.  I celebrated my 2-year Anniversary of my NYC-LA move, I made my Network TV debut AND booked a recurring role on another major Network TV show, I got into a car accident, I got a new car, I celebrated a birthday, I cut my hair really short, and got a puppy.

Despite all of this forward motion, I was going through a phase recently where I was feeling down about the fact that I still had to work a "job," and a restaurant "job" at that.  I dreaded going to work, in fact, because it reminded me that I still had to.  It's not even as though my job was/is bad in any way, shape or form.  I enjoy my co-workers, everyone is respectful, and I've even met some really nice people who frequent the place.  What happened was I had put a major judgement on my job and I was letting it get to me.

I had a wake up call after a very meaningful conversation with 2 of my regulars.  I was speaking negatively about waiting tables in an update I was giving them on my acting career.  What I got in return was a real slap in the face, again, in the loveliest way.  My regular asked, "Why do you speak so negatively about serving?  It's an honorable profession."  I replied with something along the lines of "Yeah, but..."  She said something along the lines of, "Putting food in front of people is a beautiful thing."  She asked me if anyone had approached me about projects since I'd started working there.  I responded with "not yet." She said, "If you approach your serving job with the same amount of passion that you approach your acting work, then people will take notice." Wow. She was/is right. Why not bring the same passion, enthusiasm, and positivity to my "job?" It certainly feels better to do so, and that energy probably permeates everything else I do too.

The day after we had the conversation, I felt like a weight had been lifted.  What I took from the pearls of wisdom my regular bestowed upon me was/is not that I seek to do a good job at the restaurant so that industry people will take notice and want to plug me into projects, it's that inviting love, passion, and purpose into all aspects of my life will only benefit me and the people with whom I come into contact.  It does me no good at all to carry around shame, embarrassment, or resentment about the fact that I have to serve to make ends meet right now, so I decided to let that go.

The fact is, right now, I have to work another job to support my artistic life.  That's great! My job affords me the ability to pursue my acting career with as much gusto as I can muster. I am proud to say that I work at a lovely restaurant called Panzanella in Sherman Oaks, CA. Will I work at Panzanella forever? No. Will I earn my living solely through my acting work?  At some point, probably.  Everything is temporary, though, so why not accept the moment, breathe, and be where I am? Life's too short to spend it anywhere else.

The Joys and Pains of Creation

I feel so blessed to have the freedom to create.

We are in the midst of an exciting time where technology has bust open traditional modes of filmmaking, distribution, fundraising, and promotion.  How lucky are we to have direct access to an audience?  To be able to record a story on an iphone?  To connect with people thousands of miles away who have common interests?

Though the possibilities are endless, the road to success is still filled with many roadblocks.  With so much content appearing online each second, how are we artists able to make our voices heard?  How can we connect to those people thousands of miles away?  Do we have to continue giving away our work for free?

I do not pretend to have the answers.  If I did, I would not feel this struggle to make a name for myself nor would I be worrying about whether or not I can support myself doing what I most love.  Luckily, I'm not in this struggle alone.  I am joined by MANY outstanding creators each plugging away on a similar path.  Additionally, I know that I'm supported by brilliant minds who are fighting on my behalf to bring awareness to my/our work.

Thank you, Film Armada, for diving into the sea.  I'm happy to be on board and look forward to braving the journey with you.

Moo Rools!


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I LOVE Moo.com.  I came across Moo a couple years ago when I needed new business cards.  I was instantly impressed by the site's ease of use, the ability to customize cards and general friendliness of the whole ordering process.  My love affair was solidified once I received my new cards.  The quality of the image looked great and the cards themselves felt and looked expensive.

Moo.com continued to impress me by offering a great range of unique products including MiniCards.  Who can resist these adorable marketing tools?!  Did I mention you can upload and use as many images you want in an order? (I know...NERD ALERT!)  This is great if you are a multifaceted "actorpreneur" like me!

 

MOO Business Cards - $21.99 for 50 unique, customized Business Cards, each one with a different design.

SHOW OFF! Design a portfolio in your pocket!

Sometimes you have to put things on hold....

It has been bothering me that I haven't written a post in quite a while, so I wanted to say to the following to the cybersphere:

Please forgive me!  I have been very busy creating and growing my web series Missed Connections Live.  In the meanwhile, visit www.missedconnectionslive.com to see what has been consuming my life.  I look forward to resuming my personal blog when my season 2 has come to an end.  Thank you for your understanding!

All my respect,

Melissa

Three Cups of Tea

The other night I was fortunate to participate in The American Place Theatre's 2010 Literature to Life Gala honoring the extraordinary Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea.  For those of you who aren't familiar, The American Place Theatre was founded 50 years ago by Wynn Handman and is the reason why Off-Broadway exists today.  For the past 15 years or so, APT has been focusing on a project called Literature-to-Life in which Wynn adapts a significant piece of American Literature into a 1 or 2 person stage play that is performed mostly for students and schools across the country.  I have the honor of helming Lois Lowry's The Giver.

Three Cups of Tea is inspirational account of how one man (Greg Mortenson), after attempting to climb K2 in honor of the loss of his sister to epilepsy, meets a group of children in a small village and promises to build them a school.  From that promise, Greg succeeds in bringing education to remote communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, focusing primarily on promoting education for girls.  He has provided eduction to 58,000 children, including 44,000 girls.  He survived an eight day armed kidnapping by the Taliban in Pakistan’ Northwest Frontier Province tribal areas, escaped a 2003 firefight with feuding Afghan warlords by hiding for eight hours under putrid animal hides in a truck going to a leather-tanning factory. He has overcome fatwehs from enraged Islamic mullahs, endured CIA investigations, and also received threats from fellow Americans after 9/11, for helping Muslim children with education.  Despite these challenges, Greg persists with his mission.
 

Needless to say, Greg Mortenson is a very special man.


At the gala, A.P.T. actor Curtis Nielsen performed a 20 minute excerpt from this amazing tale.  A group of children from a NYC public school were incorporated into the evening, and each shared how they promise to make a difference and honored elders who have made an impact on their lives.  It was an extremely moving evening.

After the performance, Greg Mortenson spoke to the audience about his work, how important it is to contribute to the community, and how much faith he has in the next generation.  Something that he highlighted was how exciting it is that schools are incorporating programs whose purpose it is to better our existing systems such as green engineering and architecture, ethics in business, etc.  Who is demanding these programs?  The students themselves.

One thing that really struck a chord with me was a comment Greg made about learning from our elders.  He asked the group of students sitting in the front row if any of them had spent 10 hours this year taking time to talk and listen to an elder.  The result---none.  He gave them an assignment for the summer:  Spent 3 hours listening to an elder speak about their experiences during the Civil Rights Movement, during Vietnam, during their first days of school.

This assignment got me thinking--How much time have I spent sitting with the elders in my family, listening to stories of their past?  How much time do I have left?  How much have I taken for granted? Though I check in with my grandparents every so often to see how they are doing and to let them know I'm thinking of them, when was the last time I asked to hear a story from my grandfather about his experience during the War?

Life, especially city life, moves at such a fast pace.  We let opportunities fly by.  We take A LOT for granted.  Let this be a reminder to pause and take time to appreciate the life you are free to live and the people you love, and remember to cherish your elders.

Kickstarter week 1

Yesterday evening, I pushed the button and launched a campaign to raise funds for my web series Missed Connections Live on Kickstarter.  For those of you who don't know, Kickstarter is an amazing fundraising platform for artists, musicians, filmmakers, inventors, entrepreneurs, etc.  Basically, a person has a creative idea/endeavor.  Said person posts their project on Kickstarter, sets a fundraising goal and time frame for a campaign.  The general populous can pledge any amount of money towards the project, becoming a potential backer. If the goal is met in time, the person's project is funded and the backers get charged.  Hooray!  If the goal is not met, however, the person doesn't receive anything and the backers return to their normal lives.  Boo.

Why did I set out to raise money?  Creating my own work has been empowering, fun, & challenging, and I want to be able to continue to do so.  It's very difficult to make anything, though, without the proper tools and resources.  Up until now, I've been getting by on borrowed and outdated equipment, pretty much running the show on my own with the help of a few amazing friends and 1 particular special guy.  How cool would it be, though, if I could invite more talented people to participate?  And how cool would it be if I could enhance the look and feel of each episode?  And how cool would it be if I can expand my series in a way that could really engage the community?!

For me, this is both scary and exciting.  On one hand, the fact that a thing like Kickstarter exists to help me achieve these things is amazing.  I can reach out not only to my friends, family, colleagues, and fans, but also to a broader audience.  On the other hand, if I don't meet my goal, I get zip.

I spent some time agonizing over what my goal should be, how long I should run my campaign for, if I should consider a less risky option for my campaign.  I wanted to set the bar high for my goal, but not too high that I had no chance of making it.  I wanted to give myself enough time to reach my goal, but not too much time.  I wanted to create a sense of urgency to meet my goal.  EEEK!!  I stared at the LAUNCH button yesterday for a long moment.  If I don't make my goal, what does that mean?!  Am I doing the right thing?!!

After a few deep breaths I said to myself, "@#$ it."  Part of the fun is the risk and you have to play the game if you want to have a chance at winning.  (Did I just make a sports analogy?  What's come over me?!)  So I took the plunge, stepped off the ledge and....CLICK...let's hope the universe will provide.

In the meanwhile, I will continue to work on my next episode with the tools I have at my disposal and pray to Moses that I meet my goal come June 20th, 2010.

Zen and the Art of Archery

 I want to go to the Oscars.  When I say I want to go to the Oscars I mean that I want to be nominated for an Oscar someday.  When I say someday I mean that I want to be nominated for an Oscar and win one in the next 10 years.  A pipe dream?  Maybe.  Impossible?  No.  The idea of holding that statuette in my hands fills me with hope, with a sense of accomplishment, with a sense of pride and amazement, an idea that all the hard work I've been putting into my craft and career might someday be worth it.  I want to be able to thank my family, my loved ones, my friends, colleagues, & my team for helping me achieve my dreams.  I want to give hope to all the young girls out in the world who dream of someday standing on the same stage.  I want to be a part of the community of actors and entertainment professionals I admire.

Here's the problem...

I have no control over whether or not I get nominated for an Oscar.  And what is an Oscar anyway but a superficial marker of excellence or, a lot of the times, a token of popularity.  Where it's ok to visualize and dream about walking that red carpet someday it's not ok to become fixated on seeking an external reward for my work.  I have to let that go.  Such a trap might blind me from seeing real opportunities along the way.  I musn't forget what's really important and what ultimately an Oscar might represent--becoming the best artist I can be.  So how does one do that?  With such vivid dreams and goals, how can I just let them go?

Last night I was lucky to get the last TKTS ticket to see A View From the Bridge before it closes.  I really enjoyed the show.  It made me proud to be a part of the theater community.  It made me want to be more a part of  the community of actors who's work I seek to emulate.  I was very moved, especially by Liev Schreiber and Corey Stoll's performances.  Watching their performances reinforced my desire to dig deep inside myself to help illuminate those aspects of the human condition that people are scared to face.  Isn't that why we get into acting to begin with?  To communicate?  To shed light on what's beneath the surface?  To challenge people and help them understand themselves?

Ultimately, then, the idea of an Oscar, or a Tony for that matter becomes irrelevant--an afterthought.  What's really important is the work.  The artistry is not in the reward but (not to sound cliche) in the moment.  Maybe I will stand on the stage at the Kodak Theater with a statuette in my hand and maybe I won't.  I will still allow myself to dream but I will not allow myself to become attached to such meaningless things.  To quote Eugen Herrigel, "For access to the art--and the master archers of all times are agreed in this--is only granted to those who are 'pure' in heart, untroubled by subsidiary aims."

A Missed Connection Success

Do "missed connections" ever turn into actual connections?  This is a question that provoked me to create Missed Connections Live, an original web series inspired by Missed Connections on Craigslist.  Thousands of people write Missed Connections entries on Craigslist, but why?  Are they too shy to act in the moment of that initial spark?  Do they actually think that the subject of the missed connection will read their entry?  Are the entries even real?

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading through Craigslist in order to select new material for my series.  I came across an entry that really touched me.  It was so honest, sweet and sincere.  It made me smile.  I ended up contacting the young woman who wrote the entry to let her know about my series and to ask if she was interested in becoming immortalized on the (very) small screen.  She was thrilled I contacted her and excited to see the results.  I was grateful she jumped on board, and the icing on the cake...the man who she wrote the missed connection about actually contacted her!  They corresponded via email for a brief while but lost touch.  The young woman was convinced it was something she said and let the possibility go of maintaining a relationship....Until now!  Turns out, the gentleman hadn't received her email response.  They've started corresponding again and she sent him the link to my episode.  Though I don't think I am at all responsible for their reunion, I like to think that I've helped in some way!

I guess missed connections can work after all.

The New Frontier

I  attended an event last night sponsored by the Writers Guild of America East about the economics of new media.  Given my web series/production company, the WGA contacted me about signing with them as part of their 2.0 New Media initiative.  Cool!  So, as I'm in the process of forging a relationship with the WGA I thought I'd check out this event.

There were 3 panelists who gave their input on what the landscape is and how us New Media creators can shift our perspective to capitalize on these new opportunities:  Anita Ondine (CEO of Seize the Media), Mark Lukasiewicz (VP NBC News Specials and Digital Media) and Moishe "Mo" Koyfman (Principal at Spark Capital).  Basically here's the gist...the world is changing fast.  What once were the gatekeepers of creative expression are now busting open.  New platforms are continuing to emerge and we as creative artists have a duty and an opportunity to seize the reigns!  But how do we profit from this new-found freedom?  With traditional financial models falling apart as we speak, what form do we follow?

The answer is there is no answer.  Comforting, huh...?  What's exciting is that we get to have a hand in crafting the answer.  Some possibilities?  Sponsorship from a corporation, branded marketing, and crowd sourcing.  Companies like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo help artists raise money by encouraging fans to contribute to a particular project and help bring it to life.  The key is to engage the audience, get them involved in every part of the process.  Give the power to the people!

Though a bit overwhelming, it is exciting to know that possibilities exist.  People (myself included) are working really hard to create, to innovate, and to shape the landscape of media and entertainment as we know it.  It's a big deal and I'm proud to be a part of it.

My Mantra

As I'm integrating new tools and practices into my life, I've decided to come up with a mantra of sorts.  Plus, I have a great audition tomorrow that I plan on booking.  So here goes...

I welcome success, prosperity, happiness and good health into my life and into the lives of the people I love.  I am amazed at how quickly I have been able to make my living solely doing what I love!  How is it that so many exciting opportunities continue to present themselves to me?  How is it possible to get paid so much money to follow my dreams?  I can't believe that I am collaborating with and working alongside the best and the brightest talent in the industry.  Great work continues to fall in my lap.  Money continues to fall in my lap.  My career continues to unfold in the most thrilling ways.  I am able to share my success and riches with my family and my friends.  I am able to give back to my community in a way that I never thought possible.  I am continually challenged and inspired by my work and my peers.  I am able to afford luxuries and have more than enough money to help support those less fortunate than me.  I have the freedom to pick and choose my projects.  I have the freedom to travel around the world.  It's fun being in demand.  It's fun sinking my teeth into provocative, challenging acting roles.  It's fun getting my colleagues' work produced!  It's fun setting a positive example to younger artists who have similar dreams.  I feel amazed, humbled, inspired, grateful, empowered and overjoyed.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it :-)

To stay or to go?

At what point do you throw in the towel?  Do you just say, "Enough" ?

I've always been a fighter.  I have a good sense of what I want out of life and I don't let too much get in the way.  I think most often this determination and sheer will has been an asset to me.  But once in a while, one encounters challenges in life and the question arises..."How many chances do I give this?"

My cousin recently emailed me about a last minute trip to LA.  She had a radio audition with a network.  She figured it would be a great opportunity to bring me along so I can meet her colleagues.  After double checking my commitments in New York, I jumped on the opportunity.  I've been wanting to make a trip out, I have no Giver performances scheduled, so why not?  I quickly emailed my main LA contact, informing him that I'd be making a trip.  Unfortunately, his office would be closed on President's Day and he said he might be going out of town.  He would, however, be available to meet up for drinks later in the week.  Ok!  Minor concern about President's Day, but problem seemingly solved...All that now needed to be confirmed before we got tickets was my cousin's meeting with the network.  After a lot of back and forth, she still hadn't gotten a clear confirmation from her contact.  Meanwhile, the flights to LA went up in price.  Uh oh.  Given that I wasn't going to have to pay for a rental car or accommodations, though, I figured it was still worth the trip.

Finally after much deliberation, and after the network contact said he assumed she was coming all along, my cousin bought the tickets.  Yay!  Some time later she got an email from her radio contact canceling the audition.  After all that?!  With no appointment in LA, there was no reason for her to make the trip except to introduce me to her peers, which can happen down the line.  What to do?  To me, although disappointed, I figured it is not worth it for my cuz to take the trip with no meeting in place.  I emailed my manager contact (who we were supposed to see for drinks) and let him know that the trip was going to fall through.  He was totally fine given his work has been so hectic the past little while and Monday is a holiday with his office closing.

Cut to...the next morning.  My cuz got an email from a big-wig radio agent she'd contacted saying he was available to meet her on Tuesday.  Another wrench thrown into the mix!  Now what to do?  Shouldn't this process be easier?  Is the universe telling us to go or to stay far away?  Why do we keep running into roadblocks?  Should I be staying in New York for some amazing reason next week?  Am I reading to much into this whole ordeal?

Ultimately we decided it was best to postpone the trip.  It seemed like we were trying way to hard to make the trip work and it just wasn't going to happen in this moment.  I guess sometimes life falls into place nicely, and sometimes it just doesn't.  Maybe (and most probably) none of this means anything.  In the meantime...now at least I'll have something to look forward to!

Mentors

The idea of mentorship is one that comes up again and again.  It's one that has been brewing in my mind for the past little while.  Last week I had the good fortune of attending an amazing event organized by New York Theater Experiment called The Generations Project.  This event was an inspiring forum between generations on artistic vision, leadership, and of course mentorship.  Anne Bogart, Seth Barrish, Virgina Louloudes, Beth Milles, and Maryellen Karnaghan all discussed their experiences as visionaries, as teachers, as students of the world, as mentors and as mentees.  What I found interesting was that their definitions of mentors all varied.  For them, a mentor could be a person who guides you one on one through rough learning patches.  It could be someone who inspires you.  It could be someone who comes and goes in your life.  It could be a fleeting moment or an interaction or even a piece of art...not even a person at all!  This idea comforted me.  I have been searching for mentors ever since the notion of its absolute necessity in life came up!

What I realized after attending this inspirational evening was that I have mentors in my life-a lot of them, and they will continue to present themselves as my journey continues.  Some of them I have a deep relationship with.  Some of them I have only met once or twice.  Some of them I look forward to meeting in the near future.  So with that in mind, I want to acknowledge and thank my many mentors: Wynn Handman, Austin Pendleton, Tom Woodrow, Ted Hope, Robert and Michelle Colt, Bob Fraser, Dallas Travers, Anna Wood, Benjamin Salley, Oron Stenesh, Dawn Mora, John Mossman, Michael Forman, Dani Super, Marci Phillips, Betsy Capes, Mitzi Hamilton, Franny Liebergall, Donna Drake, Robert Tunstall, Paul Russell, Evan Cabnet, Philippe Ifergan, Teri Shulman, Robert McKee, Jody Austin, Robert Ian Mackenzie and the old PST clan, Andrew Pifko, Michelle Martin, Lisa Donadio, Kelly Gillespie, the folks at NYTE, Meghan Rafferty, Shirley Curtin, Steven Spielberg, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Julianne Moore, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Jackie Earle Haley, Gosford Park, E.T., and of course, all the members of my family who have guided and will continue to guide me on my path.  I am grateful to you all.

Resistance

Time and time again I've heard that success is just outside your comfort zone.  As this keeps coming up in my reading, learning, etc, I made the following New Year's resolution:

Do 1 thing a day that scares me.

This can be something physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, whatever...so long as I am consistently putting myself in a position of discomfort.  Call me crazy, but I believe in order to really achieve your dreams, you have to go there.

A little over a year ago I took a seminar called Acting Success Now led by the wonderful Robert and Michelle Colt.  I didn't know much about what I was getting myself into, but I figured what the heck.  I had signed up for a free introduction to their program and was intrigued.  So I took 3 days off to delve into the unknown.  What I learned is pretty eye-opening.  The gist is that we as human beings are made up of a brain and nervous system (among other things of course).  Our brain and nervous system functions to protect us, so if my brain, for example, perceives that I am in danger, it will alert my nervous system to react. That signal will manifest itself physically and prevent me from harm.  Basically, we are hard wired to stay safe and in status quo.  The very notion of this, however, goes against everything we need to attain success in the acting world.  Think about it.  We put ourselves "in danger" on a daily basis--we open ourselves to rejection, failure & humiliation.  We expose our inner secrets and vulnerabilities.  We constantly step into the unknown.  So of course our system will react.  It will make our palms sweaty.  It will make our hearts beat in our stomachs.  It will make our bodies feel heavy.  It will activate voices in our heads.  It will do everything in its power to keep us safe.  So know that to feel these things is to be human.  And to feel these things doesn't mean anything about how capable you are.  It's just your system trying to keep you safe. 

Michelle and Robert teach you a variety of simple techniques to handle what comes up when your system perceives that you are in danger.  I won't go into them, as it is better to consult the experts, but I will say that they work.  They pop you back into that place of quiet, spaciousness and relaxation--everything you need to really do your job as an actor.

Had it not been for Robert and Michelle, I don't think I would have set up an audition to study with the incredible Wynn Handman.  And if I had not auditioned to study with Wynn Handman, I would not currently be doing the most rewarding, challenging, and inspiring work of my career thus far (and be getting paid for it!)

Which brings me to this point....fuck you fear and resistance!  I know that you are just trying to keep me where I am.  I thank you for trying to protect me, but I don't always need you.  And so now when I feel fear or resistance, I know that whatever my brain/nervous system is trying to protect me from is EXACTLY what I need to be doing if I want to make leaps/bounds of progress in my life.  I'm not saying that this is or will be easy, but I look forward to the challenge.

New Day New Way

My Red Oak Elementary School substitute teacher used to say the following which has stuck with me in my .....years of life: "New Day, New Way." And so I take that pearl of wisdom through me as I embark on my journey into 2010. With a very successful 2009 behind me, I ask myself, "how can I continue to break new ground in my life and in my career?" I already have some of the ingredients in place: A newly formed production company (LBM Productions, LLC), a new webseries (Missed Connections Live), and an ongoing theatre gig (The Giver, directed by Wynn Handman and produced by American Place Theater). But how can I approach these new things in a new way? How can I use my company, my series, my theatre gig and my brand new blog to perhaps effect change? To positively contribute to my personal and artistic communities? To inspire those in my constantly growing network? To gain financial freedom? I obviously don't know how I will achieve these things, but I look forward to the journey. And so I introduce myself to the world of eblogger on this new day: Wednesday January 6, 2010. Thank you for joining me on this ride!