Here's the thing, I've never been responsible to anyone except for myself. Sure, some would claim I have an unhealthy desire to gain the approval of my parents, but they are awesome so whatever; I spent two and a half years at the end of my twenties in a relationship while continuing to pursue my career, but to be honest he was never a consideration when it came to me auditioning for or taking a job that I really wanted. Maybe that was a sign, maybe not, but either way that relationship didn't last, and I reconciled myself to the idea that casually dating, partying with friends, and voraciously pursuing my career throughout my middle thirties, sans relationship and children, was the path that was laid out before me so I better get used to it. To tell you the truth I got so used to it, I was actually happy about it. Being single suited me. 2011 marked the seventh year since Brother and Mother had left me in New York with two bags and a pile of plastic tubs in Mom and Dad's garage to be mailed when I found a place to live. I have returned to the city again and again over the years- subletting, working in restaurants, auditioning, and taking gigs that took me out of town and around the world. It has been pretty frickin' awesome.
However, in April of 2012 I started dating one of my oldest friends and on New Year's Eve he proposed (8 months after we started dating, let the judging commence), in February we bought a condo in California, I gave up my lease in Harlem, got pregnant in May, and had an incredible wedding in September. I am not living the life I envisioned two years ago, but I am admittedly living one of the dream scenarios that I envisioned as a kid, and on top of all that I am frickin' happy! Like every single day for at least a moment I look at my man friend, my belly, my vaulted ceilings, my life and I am undeniably, irresistibly happy. But with all things there is a catch. It is a nagging anxiety that I wish I could squelch. After I pop this kid out am I still going to be a performer? A theater rat? A singer? An actor? An artist? Once I have a kid will I still be able to be me?
I couldn't spend months of my pregnancy worrying about this little quandary on my own, so I reached out to some of my performing/Mommy/superheroes and I asked them how they coped when faced with the same prospect. The resounding response was not only can I can continue to perform but I will HAVE to. Even my girlfriends who don't perform anymore said that I had to continue to pursue my passions after this little boy ripped his way out of me or I will go crazy. Of course, I'd heard that advice before- I mean I've been an avid watcher of rom-coms since puberty, but this time it was from the mouths of moms. Real moms. Moms who are my friends, because at 35, I realize, I have a a LOT of those. Thank goodness.
Most of my performing Mommies said that Dad is key. If Dad has your back and your breast pump has your front then you can make it work.
So here's hoping that after this last year's hiatus, the dizzying happiness I've had in my personal life will infect my professional life with opportunities that add to the happiness frenzy, and that my little boy likes musicals!
Yes my friends, the time has finally come for me to draft an Artistic statement. An honest assessment of my approach to the theatre. It was edited by my new friend, Roger Ellis, who writes a fantastic blog http://mtheritageblog.com that I recommend to anyone interested in musical theatre and its historical relevance. My statement was sent to the Stage Directors and Choreographer's Foundation in order to attain an Observorship of a master director as they direct a new production, revival or original, on Broadway, off-Broadway, or regionally. :
The audience offers the theatre artist their time, and in return the theatre artist gives them a glimpse into an imaginary world so that they may reflect and improve upon their own humanity. As a woman, African American, and a world traveler I have strong motivation to explore themes commonly tackled in drama, particularly love, race, and community. As a director, my guiding principle is to facilitate and guide the process of all the artists, designers, craftsmen, and performers involved in a production as they tell stories, create worlds, and, ultimately, reflect what it is to be human.
My experience as a performer has given me significant insight into the actor/director relationship, and I have developed a work ethic that has allowed me to boldly pursue employment in the theatre in many capacities. As the producing director of a non-profit theatre company, I directed three staged readings and one full production of original works. I was able to develop my process for analyzing text, plot, and structure, and I developed a framework for communicating that information to the actors and designers so that the productions were consistent, clear, and relatable to the audience. I have produced variety shows and cabarets performed by myself and others simply for the joy of being creative. I am equally comfortable directing musicals or plays, dramatic or comedic, and it is when I am at the helm of a collaboration that I am the most certain that my particular set of skills, as a leader, organized thinker, and decision maker are fully realized.
I have an insatiable curiosity about people and the world and this has carried into many non-theatrical disciplines. As a child I played tennis, golf, water polo, and gymnastics. I was taught how to build a fire, ride a horse, and sell cookies. I can water-ski, sew, and play the flute, but the pursuit of all of these activities was never as satisfying as imagining and acting out scenarios inspired by whatever setting I found myself in. Playing castaways in a boat or vampires in the basement were my favorite ways to pass the time whether I was alone or with friends. My varied life experience has shaped me into a well-rounded theatre practitioner. As I evaluate my life as an adult, I realize that not much has changed. My acting career has found me playing a stripper with a gimmick, a fairy godmother, and one of twenty singing library patrons, singing horse race attendees, singing farmers and cowmen, and singing citizens of Baltimore. The theatre is where I have resided my entire life.
As I transition into the next chapter of my career, I intend to continue to work as an artist by directing musicals and plays from the classic repertoire to modern. Admission into this program will allow me to observe a master director while they tackle pieces with a larger scale, cast size, venue, and production team, and it will strengthen my resume by more accurately reflecting my interest in directing at a premiere regional theatre, off-Broadway, or on Broadway.
The theatre teaches us endless lessons about our own humanity. Whether witnessing from the audience or as a member of a production, these truths are what I will strive to learn from and communicate to others as I continue to grow as an artist.
This weekend I had the incredible opportunity to attend a portion of The young Americans 50th Reunion. I am completely overwhelmed by the scope of all that happened this weekend, and I have started a new job that is taking all of my creative energy so can't reflect and write about it just yet. That being said, my friend, Addam, wrote this beautiful observation and I wanted to share:
What an amazing era to be a part of this organization. While the 60s and 70s had so many incredible opportunities to work with legendary performers and the 80s had a seemingly unending line of divas I think we were afforded the witnessing of what seems to me, perhaps the greatest period of change.
At some point in the early 90's there was no Young Americans. The dream may have lived but for all legal purposes the organization was officially extinct.
Of the seemingly massive group that I had seen in the 80s, only a tiny group of people remained. Those folks that didn't jump ship are (nearly to a person) some of the most resiliant, headstrong, dependable, and admirable people I will ever know. Even at an age we now think of as children. It's hard to say if the group taught them to be these things or if these people were just this way by nature and happened to converge at the right place and time to keep things going.
It occured to me last night there was a magic that happened in the bankruptcy. If the group was to survive it had to change. I don't know if it ever would have on (what I know of) the course it was on.
Much like the Boyne shows are built around the individual people in the cast. The new incarnation of the organization would grow from the stuff these folks are comprised of. Greatly talented as performers, but more importantly as people.
This foundation gave birth to the NMOT. I don't know if the YA's could have done an outreach tour with the folks in 88. I'm not being critical of them, just saying their experience was different.
On paper, none of this should have worked out. An group that had seen glory days in the era of Perry Como should not have been able to survive in the same time frame as "Smells Like Teen Spirit". And it wouldn't have if we had continued relying on convention center shows and Boyne. We may have been able to draw out the death, but I don't believe the group would have made to to 2000 without NMOT. And I personally don't believe Milton and Bill would have had the confidence to send out the first one without knowing the kind of people they had at their disposal.
Once the NMOT started, being a part of the group felt much like entrepreneurship (without that pesky making money part). It was a world where hard work became reward. Our style of teaching grew from nearly nothing into the core principles of how the tours are conducted today. We learned by trial and error like some sort of music education pirate-gypsies. There were times where we had no money, times when we had no place to stay or food to eat but somehow just before the last bit of shit was about to hit the fan some inventive line of thought would solve or at least bandage the issue. These experiences helped shape all of our lives within the group and beyond. Seeing the current activities of the group really brought to mind the value of the folks that stuck around. Who they are as people casts a shadow you can still see in the mission and spirit of the modern organization.
So thanks to you guys. You know who you are
My title should be read with a very quick, ascending pitch, starting at the word "headliner:
"Divas! A Cabaret...soon to be headliner show?" because, let's face it, that was all I really wanted to begin with.
I wouldn't say my cabaret went off without a hitch. The first night started 30 minutes late, and when I realized my cousin was in the audience on the second, I nearly yelled an obscenity. She had driven to surprise me, and, to tell you the truth, that wasn't a hitch- it was AWESOME! I would never do that in a classy joint, like say...a showroom, but I do like to riff a little on what is happening, in the moment.
Anyway, all in all I felt good about it. I am so grateful to all the crazy people who came out to watch. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And to anyone who missed: next time. No worries. I felt a lot of love this weekend, and I am grateful for that.
Me- "I guess I just miss being creative." Abigail- "But you get be creative you are going to auditions." Leave it to my new friend Abigail to always look on the bright side. As we lumbered down Broadway headed away from the bar and towards a fabulous, rooftop, Fourth of July Party, over looking the Hudson, there was one thing that was clear, my fabulous summer had resumed, and the deep, dark depression I had slipped into during the month of July had subsided at last. A few fabulous parties, a free ticket to The Book of Mormon, and a visit from my best friend Amanda with baby bump in tow, and I am feeling good.
When I first told my Father I was moving to New York, he said that, "every city is the same, just with it's own quirks. What matters is that you surround yourself with good people." Soon after I realized that I was feeling a lot of inner turmoil in regards to my career, living situation, and tenuous relationship. My friend, Derek, called me out of the blue and took me to Cleopatra's Needle for a little jazz and martinis. My verbal diarrhea combined with my inability to keep track of what I had just been talking about prompted him to say, "what the fuck is wrong with you?" at least once. Every time I get depressed, my body seems to start working independently of my brain. I have a hard time waking up and going to sleep, and the slightest provocation can send me into a fit if tears. On occasions like that, I simply tell myself as often as I can, "nothing is as bad as it feels." I also try to heed Dad's advice, and wrap my self in my own warm blanket- conversations with my friends.
My other dear friend Chris had slipped into a similar state despite the fact that only one week prior he had won tickets to the fan performance of The Book of Mormon, the foul mouthed, religion mocking, multiple Tony award winning show created by the same guys who brought you...wait for it...South Park. Since my tip about going to the daily lottery had lead his name to be entered into the drawing for this special performance, he thought it was only obvious that he would take me along. It was not, however, so obvious to me. Me- "I can't believe you won those tickets?!" Chris- "yeah! It's on July 1st at 2p. It's general seating though so there will be a line. And if they try to make me work I swear to God...", Me- "soooooooooooo- who are you taking?" Chris- "You, dumbass. I think that's only fair!" He showed up at my door around 11 am and I cooked us a quick lunch. After he spewed a string of verbal attacks on the city that I recently decided to call my home, I made him promise to spend the day noticing and remembering the charm of the city, and we were off. As we followed the line from the doors of the theater to it's end, I ran into one person from almost every sphere of my life. Winners of the fan performance tickets stood in a line that snaked across 50th street, down eighth avenue, east on 49th encompassing an entire city block, had it not ended up switch-backing under the shelter of a hotel parking lot. Claiming aisle seats in row Q of the orchestra, laughing until we cried, and heading down to Union Square for dinner at a cute little place called Chat and Chew, I definitely felt like we had recaptured the charm of the city.
The past week was a whirlwind of auditions, bars, restaurants and Amanda et Alex, my best friend and her husband, in from Paris for five nights. They brought the eldest of her younger brothers, Scott, along with them and the youngest, Jeff, is here for the summer, working as intern at a financial company. My busiest day went something like this: 8:30 wake up, 9:30, work, 5pm done, 45 minutes at TJMAXX for some quick shopping for an upcoming wedding, 7pm dance class, 9:30 home, 10:30 Hiptix party with the cast of Death Takes a Holiday, including my buddy, Mara Davi, midnight to a bar opening, 2:30 in a cab, 3:15 bed. Swap out an audition here and there, or maybe a morning of laundry, a trip to a piano bar, or possibly apartment hunting and you will have a clear depiction of my five days with the Louis'. Today I am so tired my eye is twitching.
Which takes me back to Abigail's comment and my need to recognize when I am doing good things for myself, my career, and my life. My never ending quest for work in the theater and beyond has taken me to Chelsea Studios, Actor's Equity, Pearl Studios, and Ripley Grier more times in the past two months than I would ever describe here. Which, when you think about it, is ironic because this is my "professional blog". Instead I am describing my depression, frustrations, relationships, and daily happenings. Well at least I am doing it in a creative way!
Since the age of sixteen my adventures in musical theater have taken me all over the country. For the next six months I will be coast hopping between New York and LA. Here are my stories.