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!
...you should probably do it. Wise words that inspired me to sign up for an acting class with the very accomplished, energetic, and enthusiastic Rocco Lapenna. (Check out the links below) A few months ago, I decided to forgo my yearly battle with seasonal affective disorder (or the winter blues), so I sublet my apartment in New York to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January with my long time friend but new found love of my life, here in California. As our relationship has grown and my devotion to him has become more clear, I've realized that Southern California is my home. Forget the fact that my family moved to California when I was nine years old, that most of my closest and oldest friends live here, or that my college and post college years found me living in this one region of the country for the longest period of time when compared to any other throughout my life. New York has always felt temporary even when I was happy. So here I am. My last contract ended so I came to hang with the boy, head back to New York in February and finish out my lease until July, then pack up my crap, sell my furniture, and come back to the Golden State to see what this new chapter has in store for me.
These three months may be a stopgap, but that has not deterred me from making plans. I have been discussing projects with my fellow and others, I have volunteered to sing at a fundraiser and in a school project, and I signed up for an acting class. Last Wednesday was week two and all I can say is I had a rough one. I started the class feeling confident and prepared, but after one misstep early during our four hour time slot I went into a complete tailspin. The negative self speak would not turn off, the worries about my age, my talent, my castability, and my choice to move across the country again (not to mention making that choice for a man) started to overwhelm me. Hell, I even started to feel too tall. I had reverted to my 13 year old self. So with nowhere to hide, no song to sing, hands shaking and a gorgeous, confident, talented, 18 year old scene partner to read with, I could not get out of my own head. I was a mess. Fortunately, Rocco pointed it out and moved on quickly. An hour later, when class was meant to come to an end, I slipped out while several of the other students stayed over to finish their work. My teacher took a moment to say, "you had a terrible class today, but you better bring your black ass back in here next week and try again." Actually he said, "Bye, Brooke," but I think my interpretation captures his true meaning.
So after spending a day pondering my meltdown I remembered a few things. I haven't had to work in the way you do in an acting class for ten years. When you spend two weeks, eight hours a day putting a show up you just put your head down and go because it is all about the result. Class is all about the process, and though it feels a little masturbatory to me right now there will be tangible results; a more confident, comfortable, and relaxed artist- me. I am in the middle of a self imposed upheaval in my personal life. Even though I am switching gears and moving across the country that does not mean that the relationship I have had with my career for 19 years is over. It just needs to evolve in a way that considers my relationship with this new person in my life and the new place I've decided to live. I didn't take this class because I thought it would be easy. The twenty somethings (and teenagers!) in my class are discovering who they are, they are excited to take on the world, and they haven't been bowed by the many struggles of being an artist. They are brave. So I have to be brave as well. I've been all the way around this earth, I've moved across the country four times, I've been in love then heartbroken, and still managed to fall in love again, and I have passionately pursued my life as a performer for almost twenty years. I think I can get up in front of 13 strangers and have real emotions in imaginary circumstances!
As long as I don't screw it up.
Looking for a place to do some scene study in LA? check out Rocco Lapenna's class at The Director's Playhouse:
Well, my last contract ended on October 20th. Receiving unemployment benefits has proven to be more difficult than performing Chekov in front of my Russian, college professor having not consumed any vodka. Nerve wracking to say the least.
Applying for unemployment has become a full time, week long job. Last year, when I was living in New York, you were required to apply in the state you were living. Now, you claim in whichever state you have wages during your base period which is not necessarily your last date of employment. Because I didn't get through to CA until Friday afternoon and what I learned is that I have to apply in New York, I couldn't speak to anyone until a week after I actually became unemployed. Since no one gave me incorrect information, I cannot back date my claim, and in New York, there is a mandatory waiting period, so my benefits will not kick in until two weeks after I was unemployed. That is, they will kick in if and only if New York determines that I can receive benefits at all. Not to mention that tiny, little Superstorm/hurricane named after my Mother, that knocked out the unemployment offices in New York on Monday and Tuesday.
Now I just have to send a fax, yes, I said a fax! Then wait to hear back from New York. Fingers crossed and prayers by my Mom, and hopefully I won't be reduced to Top Ramen and selling my body on the street. The life of an artist?
My dear friend, who I assume is the sole reader of this blog, told me last week that I need to write more. So as I reach the halfway point on my tour with PEG’s national tour of All Shook Up I am writing this one just for Josh.
Our first week was spent in New Jersey and Pennsylvania which meant that our shows were within striking distance of much of my extended family on my Father’s side. So coordinating tickets and communicating schedules pushed me to the limits of my social networking capabilities. Happily, my two cousins who are closest in age to me managed to trek down to Uniontown to see the show. They admitted to me that they were a little late getting to the theater and I laughed because so was the cast bus! About an hour and half outside of town our bus got a flat tire and we were stranded by the side of the road. A service truck was called along with the crew bus driver, who was put on alert that he may have to come find us. As the driver of the service truck worked on our little problem, the time ticked by for what seemed like eons. For some reason the tow truck was unable to fix our issue immediately so the crew bus was called and arrived back at our bus at precisely the same moment as our crew’s bus. The tire was changed, but we arrived at the theater fifteen minutes after the curtain was supposed to go up! It was hectic, but at least my family didn’t miss a moment and I got to spend some time with them after the show was done.
The following week included some blissful time off in Colombus, OH and Birmingham, AL where I was able to reunite with some dear friends and head to some of my favorite tourist attractions. However, dear reader, you will have to click over to http://adventuresinbrookeland.weebly.com to hear about my time there.
If there is one thing this tour has taught me it is that I know someone everywhere! I had two awesome reunions the last week of January one planned one a surprise, both unofficially adopted siblings from one of my many past lives. Desiree has been teaching in Mississipi for about two years and seems to be doing wonderfully. Jeremy moved back to South Carolina, and despite the fact that he prefers tall girls, under 20, who are skinny enough for him to climb up there rib cage like a ladder, I love my little brother from Young American’s to pieces. It was fantastic to be able to share what my life has become, a series of hotels and groups of people spontaneously breaking out into song and choreographed dance, with each of them!
And then there was Florida. Blissful, five days at one hotel, heavenly, some rehearsal, relaxing, fun venues, warm - Florida. That was when I really got to settle into the show and reaffirmed that I love this role, this crew, and this cast. Oh and I went to Disneyworld - FOR FREE!!!
After that you could say the crazy travel portion of our tour commenced and is still happening. Thankfully, we have had some evenings off in incredible towns like Dallas and Davenport. There was a three story water slide in the hotel in Topeka, I got to see a friend from YA’s do a production of All Shook Up at Circa 21, and, best of all, I reconnected with Josh, the inspiration for this blog, on a side trip to Austin.
Every time things get difficult, my back hurts from being on the bus for so long, or I get no sleep because we have a 4:45 a.m. bus call, or our lead quits the show and we have to add rehearsals in the towns that I, inevitably, know people in, I wrap myself in the warm blanket that is the fact that I get to do a musical, and travel all over this incredible country!
Six more weeks.
As usual I have tried to avoid growing any moss. My contract onboard the Crystal Symphony ended on May 26th, and since then I have been an auditioning and submitting machine. I've managed to spend some time with my lovely family, including my brother and his family, and I've even gotten some sleep!
I am so thrilled to be heading back to Louisville for a few months to play the Godmother in Rodgers and Hammerstien's Cinderella, and I cannot wait to see all of my good friends there. I also think it will be a great opportunity to focus on writing a headliner show and submitting it to different booking agencies. My expereince on the ship gave me some fantastic tools for creating an entertaining headliner show, and I met some of the most incredible musicians who create fantastic custom arrangements.
Here's to making goals and staying on track.
Since the age of sixteen my adventures in music have taken me all over the country. After years of bouncing around I've made Orange County my home. Here are my stories.