Monday, July 28, 2014

See the Target.

When I was working 3 jobs, not that long ago, all I wanted was to have some downtime to read the books I had purchased and watch the films I have cued up on my Netflix. I am in the perfect environment right now to do these things; I have no responsibilities other than to pay my bills and be prepared for my workdays. Yet, somehow I cannot relax into the simplicity that is my life. 

I have a tenancy to do absolutely nothing, literally stare at the wall, or just walk around my apartment, and feel like that is a better use of my time then reading a book, or watching a film that will educate me. I just sit and scroll endlessly through media feeds hoping for something amazing to show itself and relieve me of the guilt I experience from killing time. Obviously I know how great I will feel when I finish something that has spoken to me and allowed my work to go deeper. Yet, in the moment I can't work up the energy to close my laptop and open the book that I am genuinely excited about reading.

I was thinking yesterday about how I wished I could have grown up before society was so dependent on the Internet. Here is this miraculous tool that allows me to find the answer to any question I could have and when I think about what I actually use it for, it's mostly Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr; all platforms where the amount of likes, favourites or retweets speak to ones online popularity.  I'm realizing that I crave these notifications to a severe fault. It's becoming my vice, and reducing my intelligence. It's the equivalent of watching endless bad TV, there is only so much I can take before I start to feel sick and bloated. 

In an attempt to start weaning myself off of social media I have deleted the Facebook app off my phone, but now whenever I am on my computer I am constantly logged in and checking it. What I am looking to gain from this constant scrolling? Am I lonely? Am I expecting people to always be interested in my life? Do I think that I am sooooo important that people will always have something to say about my posts? It all sounds unhealthily vain to me, and that is what scares me. I find myself relying on online engagement to define how I feel about myself; a dangerous territory to be in...

I've noticed that even simple activities, like walking, are being supplemented by listening to music and checking my applications regularly incase a notification didn't actually make itself known; God forbid. There is nothing wrong with listening to music, I love it, but there is something to be said about not always having background noise and constant stimulation. I read the other day that Jason Bateman goes for a 5km run every morning WITHOUT music so that he can simply be with his thoughts and meditate. It clears his mind and prepares him for the day. 

Since moving to Toronto, I have been procrastinating on actually committing myself to a schedule and budget. I have adhered for a few days and then something happens where I fall off the wagon. I am nearing the stage again where I can feel my body craving healthy stimulation and it wants to be energized, not always drained from eye-fatigue. There is no middle step, I just have to apply myself and get rid of these bad habits that I have been developing since graduation. I need to shift my idea of relaxation, and downtime. It is imperative to my well being to start giving things the time they deserve and pulling myself away from online engagement. There are obvious benefits to understanding and using social media effectively, especially as an actor, but not when it crossing into addiction territory. 

Tracking, as I was speaking about in my last post, was helping for the week I did it. Then I forgot my book at home and got derailed. Where tomorrow is Monday, it's the perfect time to get back on the horse; I need to establish a routine and stick to it, I need to resume tracking how I use my days. 


I have to stop making excuses and actually focus in on what my motivation is: If acting were an Olympic sport, I would be the Canadian representative at the games. 

My mental and physical health HAS to take precedence again. My body NEEDS it, more so then the embarrassing amount of cookies I ate this week. I need to shift the negative rituals and habits I am forming into positive ones, it is so simple I just need to muster up the energy to begin incorporating them again. It's in these moments that I wish I had a personal trainer or a life coach who could keep me accountable to all this. It is difficult to keep myself aligned, but I have done it before and I shall do it again!


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Olympian Gratitude.

Last week was a blur and I posted something from a few weeks ago to tie you over until I could get my thoughts together for a more recent post. 

My life has changed drastically in one week. 

I think it started with getting sides for a new project and feeling a deep almost electric connection with the text. I read it and immediately thought, "This is mine. No one else could play this." 

This may sound arrogant or cocky, but it truly came out of positive visualization. I have been listening to Darren Hardy's The Compound Effect, in combination with reading The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and both men speak highly about the benefits of visualizing goals. 

Having that magnetic connection to a script was something I had never felt before. I wanted this role with every fiber of my being, and was more than willing to work my butt off for two days and nail the self tape that was required of me. 

Before receiving the sides for said role, I had been prepping for my Book of Mormon audition that was taking place in Toronto on Monday. They were looking for replacements for Broadway and two separate National tours. For the last six weeks this had been my focus, Susan and I had been working diligently on getting my voice to the agile state it needed to be for the role of Elder Cunningham. During our last session Susan brought some brilliant insights into the work for me; She spoke about not going in to audition but to be present with myself and allow the panel to see me live the story that I was telling. She also spoke about focusing on being true to myself and truthfully feel what I was doing. This would result in it not feeling like an audition for anyone, it will feel as though someone came in and was alive, rather than filling a cookie cutter role. 

Throughout our lesson we continually brought up the similarities between an actor and an Olympian; All of us have the ability to run fast, but only a few people have the ability and stamina to run at the speeds and precision that Olympians do. The time and training that they put into those races is truly superhuman. Acting is no different, in my mind, it requires constant physical and mental maintenance, through eating well, exercise and dedicating ones life to developing empathy for the human race. This may seem like an extreme comparison but it makes so much sense to me. To truly play someone different requires my body to become an empty vessel and let their spirit and experiences inhabit me. If I show any doubt, the spirit will be unable to use me effectively. 

An Olympian can make or break a career in milliseconds, so it is imperative to give themselves the preparation and focus time they require to center themselves and visualize the goal. Acting is the same. It's easy to memorize lines and say them in front of people/camera. It's all the work that goes into a complete transformation that makes it truly remarkable. Preparation is key, and I'm slowly establishing my routines. This is my life and I can either use my time wisely by keeping my instrument at competitive levels or simply letting it all fall to the waste-side and waiting for the role that requires no work to come along. 

I have to think long term, not impulsively. 

I want to run the race because I love to run, not because I want first place. That being said, I want to train my body so that I am capable of swooping in and nabbing first place if I so desire.

I read a fantastic article about craftsmanship on one of my favourite websites, The Art of Manliness. It spoke about applying the principles of great craftsmanship to ones daily life. Here are some passages that really rang true for me: 

With any project the craftsman creates twice: first mentally and then physically. Before he sets chisel to stone or hammer to wood, the craftsman has already created the work in his mind. In other words, he plans how to bring the object from the rough materials and tools before him. 

A good craftsman has the patience to stay with frustrating work, even when it takes longer than he originally thought. He avoids frustration by living by the following maxim: When something takes longer than you expect, stop fighting and embrace it.

The Craftsman willingly opens himself up to teaching, criticism, and judgment from his peers and clients because that’s the only way he can improve. He doesn't take criticism personally because the craftsman is more concerned about doing good work than feeling good about his work. A true craftsman understands that nobody cares about how he feels about his work. In the end he knows that the only question that matters is: "Does it work?"

I have started journaling and tracking all of my daily activities, from what I eat and how much to the amount of time I spend on Facebook every day. It has been eye opening to see all that I can accomplish (or not accomplish) in a day. By tracking it, I can see what holds me back or propels me forwards in achieving my goals while also bringing attention to the areas of my life that need improvement. After doing this for a week I have already seen the positive effects on my creative mind as well as my time management. Along with tracking I have been taking time every day to think about all the positive things that happened to me in the last 24 hours. This positivity has made me feel extreme gratitude for all the people in my life who are constantly supporting me and providing me with the connections that I crave. 

When I open my eyes to all the beauty the world has to offer, that is all I see. 

I know at this point some of you may be thinking that I drank too much of the Kool-Aid, but I assure you by changing my view of the world and starting to look inward, my life has begun to shift drastically. It has been wonderful to simply look at random people and see something beautiful about them, it reminds me of how unique and special we all are. 

Cue Louis Armstrong’s version of "What a Wonderful World". 

I have started a new adventure in a new place, surrounded by new people and I cannot wait to take advantage of their knowledge and experience. I want to be the most respectful sponge, outside of Spongebob Squarepants, and take advantage of every opportunity that is given to me. I have worked hard to be where I am and this new phase of my life is an opportunity to put all the aforementioned steps into motion. 

This is my time.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lessons Learned.

I am currently waiting for my phone to charge so that I may head to the gym, and whilst I wait I may as well reflect.

I just got home from my 4th lesson with Susan Cuthbert and things are going extremely well. She is able to provide me valuable and practical insights towards monitoring my voice, as well as sharing beautiful stories from her past and present work. We share so many insecurities and fears that it is a truly therapeutic experience being with her. 

I know that perhaps I can get repetitive with my epiphanies, but the more I burrow into my life as a working actor and trying to find my niche in this big world, the more discoveries I make about myself and how I can move forward with a positive and healthy mindset.

Between working 3 jobs, doing audition prep, singing lessons and hosting for a show at the Tarragon I was exhausted come Sunday. This week taught me that I do actually need time for myself, sure I can "manage" to get all those things done, but am dead when it comes down to where my energy is needed most: Auditioning. There was a moment this week where I was not as prepared as I should have been for an audition, and it showed. Not necessarily to the casting directors but to myself. This was the breaking point for me. Sure, I need money to pay my bills, but I never want to be so busy that I cannot dedicate the time that my health and passion require. These 2 things need my constant attention, no matter what.

The aforementioned audition taught me something big: I received the sides the night before and there was quite a bit of text. As a challenge for myself I wanted to see if I could have it confidently memorized for the next day, despite the time crunch. I woke for my 10:15 audition I ran the lines in the shower (my ritual) and I made it through confidently; I travelled out to the casting location and met a friend of mine who also happened to be going out for the same role. He was calm and collected (or at least he appeared to be) and I was about as nervous as a suspect about to be interrogated by Matthew McConaughey on True Detective .

I wasn't focused on getting the role, but more on proving to myself that I could memorize a lot of text on short notice.

I went in and attempted to get my breath under me and stack up my American Bravado. I started the take really well and had almost made it the entire way through before I stumbled and froze. My brain blanked and that little green man jumped in and started yelling, "See, I knew you didn't know it!" In my panic and frustration I called "line"...which you DON'T do in a film audition and upon remembering this my brain started firing off surrender flags and my bravado smashed like a glass window having a stone thrown threw it. 

To my surprise, the casting director said I had a great voice and requested that I go again, without saying "line". At this point I was so embarrassed by the previous event that I couldn't even get the first few lines out without apologizing. I went for a third time and stated that I was going to use my sides to give them a clean take.

The reason I had not used my sides until then was because I am stubborn and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it without using them. The issue was that this was not the place or time to be challenging myself in this way. The casting directors don't have time to watch me take copious amounts of time to work through a personal barrier.

I finished the 3rd take and the casting director repeated his compliment of my voice and said I had done a good job. He then asked for my resume and said that I must have a theatre background based on me saying "line". As I handed him my resume and turned to go, holding my dignity in pieces, he called after me saying, "You need to get those nerves under wraps, kid!"

I couldn't agree more.

I walked out of the office and walked down the street so deeply disappointed in myself, for not only letting myself get in my own way, but for not being as prepared as I thought. It made me want to find a way to simulate high-pressure situations so that I could get comfortable in them before the next audition. After thinking about this for a moment I realized that there is no way I could do that, the only way I can get better at auditioning is simply auditioning.

I have to learn how to embrace the tension that comes with this aspect of my career and use it to my advantage. I have to strive to be so prepared that nothing can throw me off my game. I have to come to terms with the fact that I am a nervous actor, acknowledge it and keep moving forward.

That night I spoke to my pseudo parents, Nina and Richard, about the aforementioned audition and how to get my nerves "under wraps". This was Nina's frank and loving response, "There is no formula to doing the 'perfect' audition. It is a useless and impossible endeavor. Take 5 minutes and reflect afterwards on what you learned then move on to the next thing; there are so many factors out of your control that it isn't worth focusing on them." She then followed up by saying, "And please don't do the f**king Sex and the City s**t where you dwell on how you could have done it better for two days in bed. I will f**king punch you in the face if you do that."

Love is a many splendored thing. 

I had a break through with Susan last week; we got to a place in my voice where I was scared to let it go. I was trying so hard to maintain control over my voice that I was stopping it from letting it sing me. It was through this moment that I realized the crux of my issues lie in the fact that I am afraid of what I might be capable of. I am actually afraid of myself. This is not to say that I have never let go, I have many times but usually in performance. When there is no safety net. One would think that this would be scarier, but it is actually liberating because there is no way out. I simply bring it or I don't. I have to start instilling this "performance" theory into rehearsal. 

My analytic brain wants to find the key to this deadbolt. I feel that if I can unlock my insecurity, of seeing what would happen if I just released, then my life would improve vastly. I seriously need to just trust and open myself up. 

I am the deadbolt, and action is the key. 

The more I discover the more I realize I already have all the answers, they are all around me. I simply need to use them. And the only way to do that is to hunker down and execute. I need to stop making excuses, like time or energy, and give my life the stakes it requires. 

I am in a constant search for balance.

P.S. I have some great news coming down the pipes so stay tuned. 

Also, if you yet to purchase/rent/or download a copy of All the Wrong Reasons I would highly recommend it. 

It is officially available on all platforms.