Who Am I Anyway, Am I My Resume?

Like many people my age, I am in the throes of an identity crisis.  I am rapidly approaching the date marking my one-year anniversary of being a college graduate.  I do not have a steady income or a job in the actual field for which I (or rather, my parents) spent thousands of dollars in training at a private university.  Also, I don’t have a boyfriend (or god forbid, a fiancé), much to my extended family’s chagrin.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, and to be honest, that scares me sometimes.  I’ve always had a plan or known what I was going to do day-to-day because of school or my family.  We all grow up with a safety net, and the minute we reach a certain age, it’s yanked out from under us.  Once it’s gone, we’re in control of everything, and that is a lot of pressure to put on our shoulders.  Sure, we’ve been preparing for that pressure our whole lives, but until you actually feel it, you have no idea how much it can weigh on you.

Psychologists and news commentators believe my generation is self-absorbed, whiny, and spoiled.  They say we’ve been given more opportunities than any other generation and grown up with the latest technology, but we squander it by using our education and technology to complain about our lives and detach from society.  We’re branded as lazy and ill equipped to do “real work in the real world” because we majored in philosophy or world cultures or acting – things that actually interest us – and don’t want to sacrifice our principles to work a job for the sole purpose of just making money (even though eventually, many of us do).

So naturally, all these psychologists and news commentators don’t think the quarter-life crisis actually exists.

But I’m here to tell you it’s very real.  Though I’m about six months away from being twenty-four years old and thus, not a quarter of a century old yet, I still feel this aimlessness sinking in.  Who AM I?  What am I supposed to DO with my life?  Which direction should I head?  There are so many questions and never any tangible answers.  No compass.  No map.  No schedule.  I am the only one who can answer these questions and decide where I’m going and what to do, and that kind of controlled chaos is terrifying.

Though I suffer from the general form of quarter-life crisis I’ve been talking about, my real identity crisis can be pinpointed to the decision between film and stage.  All my life, I’ve been training to be a stage actor, taking dance classes and voice lessons and acting classes, doing shows.  I’ve always loved musical theatre, because it let me do everything I loved in one space of time: act, sing, and dance.  It’s the best of it all.

But over time, my interest in film grew.  I’ve always loved going to the movies, but as I got older, I became more interested in how they were put together, different directors and their styles, cinematography.  I would study certain actors I liked and look for all their nuances.  I started keeping up with what was in pre and post-production.  I read about Italian and French cinema and watched every indie movie I could.  I followed the awards season religiously and forced my family to play an Oscar prediction game every year.  I basically began having a not-so-secret love affair with film, and that’s where the guilt began.

As you all know by now, I have a degree in music theatre from a rather prestigious, if lesser-known, music school.  All throughout college, I felt as though I had to put my life and interests in a box.  I was there to study music theatre, and that’s it.  Though I had an excellent educational experience at my school, one I cherish, it was far from a perfect place.  There wasn’t a lot of room for exploration outside your chosen field of study, and I certainly felt that if I committed to studying music theatre in college, I wasn’t allowed to do or be anything other than that.  I felt like I had to be all about music theatre all the time and couldn’t be interested in anything else or I’d be branded a – GASP – traitor.

So I stuck to the plan: finished my music theatre degree and moved to New York City.  I audition for stage projects (unsuccessfully thus far, I might add).  My friends audition for stage projects (some more successfully than others).  And the nagging guilt is still there.  I want to do music theatre, I do, but I don’t know who I am in music theatre right now.  Nothing seems to fit.  And the only place I’ve been feeling a sense of belonging has been the few times I’ve filmed at NYU.  I haven’t felt boxed in by how I look or what “type” I am; I’m just me playing a character and saying lines to a camera.  It feels good and right.  And that’s where I feel guilty, because I’m here in New York with a music theatre degree, and I think I want to pursue film instead of musicals.  Even the idea of moving to Los Angeles at some point down the road doesn’t feel foreign or repulsive to me anymore; ME, the girl who has wanted to live in New York City her whole life, wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.

I’m so tired of feeling guilty about my own life.  I’m tired of feeling guilty that I have a degree in one thing but I don’t necessarily want to pursue that right now.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about hating open calls for a stupid chorus role or rolling my eyes when someone talks pretentiously about some obscure, brand new musical.  I’m tired of feeling guilty about knowing more about what’s going on in the film industry than I do about Broadway.  I’m just exhausted by all this guilt.  It’s MY life, and I don’t know why I’m letting my guilt (or how I might be perceived by others) run it.  I have to take control, because there’s no net to catch me, and the leap or fall is mine alone to take.

I don’t know who I am or who I’m GOING to be, but I have to trust my instincts and stop apologizing for or feeling guilty about them.  I know who I’d LIKE to be, and I have to pursue that whole-heartedly and hope for the best, and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to make me feel bad about it.  I will not be boxed in anymore; I will not be categorized.  I am not one thing, I am MANY things, and I will explore and develop all these things inside of me because that’s what life is about.  Life is a series of identity crises and you have to get lost in order to find yourself.

So I’m lost.  Big deal.  I’ll find myself soon.

31: Tony, Tony, Tony

The Tony Awards were on Sunday, and it’s one of my very favorite nights of the whole year.  It’s the one night when musical theatre is broadcast to the cultured (and uncultured) masses (and no, Glee doesn’t count as “musical theatre.”).  It’s also a chance to review key players in the industry and celebrate the power of live theatre.

Lately, I’ve been in an artist funk.  By that I mean I have been feeling very detached from that world, the artist’s world, and creative inspiration/motivation has been quite low.  I’ve felt stifled and unoriginal.

But something started happening Saturday night.  I went to see J.J. Abrams’ spectacular new movie, Super 8, and was emotionally stirred.  The film conjures up so much nostalgia for childhood and films of the past (like basically ever Spielberg movie ever made).  It was well written, deftly acted, and beautiful.  As I sat in the darkened theatre, I thought about how much I wanted to be a part of something like that.  It was an overwhelming feeling.

Then during the Tony Awards on Sunday night, that feeling of motivation and inspiration kept churning as I watched some of my idols perform and speak.  Gone were all the feelings of dullness and detachment.  The purpose of my waitressing job seemed clearer than ever: keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to move to New York sooner than you think.  This state I’m in is temporary; soon I’ll be able to audition with the rest of the masses in hopes of one day landing a job that allows ME to perform at the Tony Awards and maybe even one day win one.

23 & 24: The Acting Bug Bites Hard

Every so often my love and desire for acting becomes intensified.  When I see an incredible performance or a great film, all I want is to jump in front of a camera or up onto a stage and work.  I feel inspired and totally motivated to produce something that might inspire someone else the way those films or performances inspired me.

I recently watched The Hours again.  I hadn’t watched it in a few years, but I had goosebumps from the very first frame.  Everything about that film is sublime perfection: the actors, the script, the score, the direction.  Every detail is handled with such care and attention.  I remember the first time I saw it, and as I walked out of the movie theatre with my mother, I said, “I want to do that.  You never catch those women acting.”  It’s a complete tour de force for female actresses and SO inspiring.

It’s not that I don’t love musical theatre, I do, but I’ve always had a passion for films.  Sometimes, I think I know more about what’s going on in the film industry than I do about the musical theatre industry.  I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m just saying that it makes me wonder where my priorities lie sometimes.  Then again, I’ll have moments where all I want to do is musical theatre.

It’s very confusing being an artist sometimes.  We’re controlled by impulses, and not always by sound logic.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing, do you?

I don’t want to move to Los Angeles right now.  I’m a New York person, but I can’t deny that I have had thoughts recently about visiting there now that I’m older, just to see what it’s like.  I DO want to do film, and that is based in California, so at some point, I’m probably going to have to go out west if I want to get serious about the movie industry.

(sigh) It’s all a little up in the air, but that’s the nature of being an artist, isn’t it?

I Hope I Get It

It might be the most famous opening number from a Broadway show ever.  The audition or “I Hope I Get It” from A Chorus Line is intense, nerve-wracking, and above all, totally awesome.  Having performed as Sheila in this last summer, it’s one of the most thrilling onstage experiences I’ve ever had.  The energy of the music and the choreography is infectious; it pumps through your veins, grabs hold of you, and doesn’t let go.

It’s also pretty exhausting, but ridiculously fun.  I think A Chorus Line is still the best, truest-to-life musical about the cutthroat world of showbiz.

This performance is of the original Broadway cast at the Tony Awards (Skip the 80s movie version; it just doesn’t do this terrific musical justice…and I don’t buy Michael Douglas as a choreographer.  Sorry, but NO.).

Sometimes at auditions, I catch myself singing, “…GOD, I hope I get it!”  What can I say?  It’s a catchy number.

Give Me the Streets of Manhattan

Greetings all!  I’ve been noticeably absent since Saturday the 13th; a fact of which I am very aware and will now spend this post apologizing for by regaling you with tales from my spring break trip to New York City.  I didn’t mean to take such a long break from my blog.  Unlike most of my fellow twenty-something collegiate peers around the world, I wasn’t re-enacting scenes from Jersey Shore, doing shots of tequila out of weird crevasses on strangers’ bodies at crowded beaches or getting myself into situations worthy of recognition/embarrassment on the hilarious website Texts From Last Night.

My spring break was more like a business trip than a vacation.

I spent over a week in New York City attending free workshops with casting directors, Broadway actors, choreographers, etc.  My university has a great spring break program sponsored by our NYC alumni (and our wealthy board of directors) group who put together a week of workshops and a mock audition for aspiring Broadway actors, singers, and dancers at my school.  And it’s FREE. All I have to pay for is my plane ticket and a place to stay (which in my case, is nothing, since my aunt and uncle live in the City).  Great, right?

The truly fantastic thing about my school’s spring break program is it provides a safe environment for students to test their performance skills in a real-world setting in front of real, working Broadway professionals.  I look forward to this special week the entire school year, because each time I go, I learn new things about myself as a performer and as a person.  It also strips everyone of their school identities and equalizes us so we all have to work hard to prove ourselves instead of just relying on our reputations/popularity from school.  I’m pleased to say that I received extremely positive feedback from my mock audition and feel absolutely recharged in my abilities to actually excel at this crazy profession I’m getting into.  Believe me, no completely sane person would ever go into such a profession as acting.

New York City is like an electric charge too.

There is a palpable energy there like no other place in the world.  I feed off that energy every time I go.  Granted, I have a completely romantic notion of Manhattan (and its boroughs).  I swoon over the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge, taking long walks in Central Park, the lights of the Broadway marquees, the skyscrapers that reach high into the heavens, the paintings of the Impressionists at the Met, riding the subway, the noise of the traffic, the beauty of the Statue of Liberty.  The city is so full of history and extraordinary people it gives me goosebumps when I’m there amongst it all.  I feel the nervous excitement the immigrants felt as they left their old lives for a brand new one in the City That Never Sleeps.

New York City is my drug.  I’m addicted, and I can never get enough of it.

People in my hometown never understand what I’m studying or why I’d want to live in New York.  They say, “it’s a great place to visit, but not live.”  I disagree.  Where better to live than in a city so constantly alive?  I need a place like that; a place where I am surrounded by culture and art and history and people.  I feel free there.

While in New York, I saw four shows: Twyla Tharp’s new show Come Fly Away, Memphis, A Little Night Music, and Hair. I loved each show for different reasons.  I ended my week by seeing Hair, and I think that was the perfect show to close out spring break.  The energy of the cast is infectious, and I love all the audience interaction.  It really makes you feel a part of the show, especially a show about hippies!  Not only that, but I got to go dance onstage after the curtain call with the cast, and it was a blast!  You can watch my “Broadway debut” here.

“Keep your woods, O Nature, and the quiet places by the woods…give me the streets of Manhattan…with their powerful throbs, with the beating drums, as now; Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus—with varied chorus, and light of the sparkling eyes; Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.

—Walt Whitman

Happy Birthday, Carol Channing!

Attention world:

Today is Broadway broad Carol Channing’s 912th birthday! Okay, really she’s only 89, but I feel like this woman has been old for forever! Though I’ve never cared for her abrasive voice or looks, there’s no denying she’s truly one-of-a-kind and a legend in her own right.

Hello, Dolly!  You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong.  Cheers, Carol!