Of Meisner and Men

So for almost the last two years, I have been taking a Meisner Technique class down in the West Village on Saturday afternoons with a great, no BS teacher named Alan Gordon.  For those unfamiliar with the Meisner Technique, it is so named for Sanford Meisner, one of the preeminent American acting teachers.  Meisner came out of the Group Theatre alongside people like Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and Elia Kazan and eventually created his own approach to acting, which became known as the Meisner Technique.  The main points of the Meisner Technique are about not doing anything until something happens to you, doing something because of how you feel, and doing whatever you do fully.  Get that?  It’s all about DOING.  No thinking.  No trying.  It involves a LOT of repetition, which most people would assume is boring, but it disciplines you to listen, focus on your partner, and get out of your own head.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s basically a magic sedative for your neurotic tendencies. 

Well, at least it is for me.  I can’t speak for the OTHER 8,999,999 people in New York City.

Anyway, in Things That Never Happen To Twentysomething Female Actresses in New York (which will probably be the title of a chapter in my memoirs), my acting class happens to have quite a few straight men. 

13305013_10206618278437799_6338819931218120113_o

This is a vision board I made this past summer while drinking a glass of white wine, and yes, features a Beyonce quote. #hypocrite

Yes, you read that 100% correctly.  I am just as baffled as you.  I spent four
years at an artsy university where our unofficial slogan was “gay by May or your money back.” (That is a real thing. #goStars)  I haven’t been around so many straight men in a creative scenario for so long, it feels like being in a foreign country.  The best part is I didn’t even have to make a vision board (which, if I understand correctly, is where women drink white wine and cut pictures of yachts and six-pack abs and Beyonce quotes out of magazines?) or use the Secret to manifest this, it simply happened!

I am at an unusual stage in my development as an adult woman, I think.  My last relationship ended over three years ago, and I really haven’t dated anyone seriously since.  Yet, 75-85% of my closest friends are all in serious relationships now.  I’m 28, and I’ve basically had all of about two actual boyfriends in my life.  I realize I shouldn’t really compare myself to other people, but sometimes I look around and think, am I doing something wrong?  Even my ex is dating someone else (and honestly, I don’t even want to get into THAT right now).

And did I mention that I pretty much work with all men, the majority of whom are straight?  I am surrounded day in and day out by single, eligible men, and I didn’t even have to subject myself to being on the Bachelorette to do it.  No roses to give out.  No weird hot tub conversations.  No fantasy suites.  I wouldn’t mind chatting with Chris Harrison, because we went to the same university, but I don’t want to do it while I’m also trying to court twenty-five dudes with appallingly preppy names like Chad or Geoff (apologies to all non-douchey Chads and Geoffs).

chris-harrison

Chris Harrison, fellow OCU Star, and red rose/love advocate

ANYWAY…College Emmy would excitedly down half a Four Loko (the original version with caffeine, because those still existed in my day, sorry body) and proceed to try to get one of these dudes at work or in her class to be interested in her.  She’d try way too hard and get very drunk and force her best friend to drive her to get cheeseburgers from Whataburger at 3:30am and help her take her pants off before going to bed (which may or may not have happened…several times.  Sorry/Thank you, Caitlin.).

But Current Day Emmy can’t be bothered.  It’s not that I’m not interested, exactly; it’s that I’m less interested in TRYING.  Why should I TRY to make any of these men like me?  Why should I TRY to force my way into a relationship I’m maybe not enthusiastic about for the sake of saying I’m in a relationship?  I tried very hard to make my last relationship work, but truthfully, his heart wasn’t fully invested in it or in me.  Trying just isn’t good enough; it isn’t active enough.  Trying isn’t enough.  It is because of my Meisner class that I have become less interested in trying and more interested in DOING.  In FEELING.  In BEING.   I believe it was Yoda who said, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”  I subscribe to that more than ever these days.  It’s like carrying my OWN little Yoda on back through my personal Dagobah training ground (i.e. New York City…which CAN actually get quite swampy in the summer heat).  And that is why I just DO my work and don’t try to make men like me anymore, and you know what?  I have noticed interesting things have started to happen to me.

yodalukedagobah

I carry my Meisner Technique training on my back like it’s Yoda…except my sweaty hair never looks as good as Luke’s.

The more I have focused on my work and doing the things I want to do, the more opportunities have started to come my way.  Better creative jobs.  People wanting to collaborate with me.  Money is flowing in.  I’m happier (other than the deep worry over the spectre of fascism associated with this dumpster fire of a presidential election).  It feels as if the universe is conspiring on my behalf (I know, Amy Schumer; I’m the worst.) the more I DO my own thing, the more I DO my work.  And that has also led me to feeling a lot more comfortable in my own skin and worrying less about whether or not dudes are into me.  It’s actually really freeing.  And when you’re comfortable in your own skin, I think it also makes you more attractive to others.  It’s amazing how when you let yourself be seen for who you really are without apologizing for it (which is a major struggle for women, because we always think we have to be someone else in order to please everyone in a way men never do), the right people start making their way into your life.  You are far more interesting when you’re really being yourself.  And some of the gentlemen around me these days are noticing that confidence and noticing me…if you know what I mean.

And as great and flattering as it is, I realized I actually like having my skills and work validated more than my relationship status on Facebook.  It’s taken me awhile to get there, and I could very well change my mind tomorrow, but if I’m really being true to myself, I’ve always cared more about what I’m doing and putting out into the world my whole life than whether I’m attached to somebody else.  I KNOW.  That’s a pretty big life realization, but it’s the truth.  I never really remember dreaming about my wedding as a kid; it was always about what I was going to DO with my life.  But you all know that if Benedict Cumberbatch or Oscar Isaac or Tom Hiddleston or Michael Fassbender (or any of my other Dream Internet Boyfriends) came knocking on my door, there’s no way I’d be turning THAT down. Honestly, if I feel a strong attraction to a dude now (and maybe I currently do to one one of the fellows around me…which I will neither confirm nor deny at this moment in time), and I feel it’s worth doing something about, then I will (okay, fine, I’m currently doing something about it; I’ll confirm it).  But gone are the days of TRYING; that only led to me feeling unhappy and like I was less than others.  I may not have all the same things in my life right now as many of my friends, but that doesn’t mean anyone is better or more fulfilled than anyone else.  It’s just different is all.

kxkp3gq

Oscar Isaac: deserving recipient of my pancakes, $12 maple syrup, and my undying love/devotion

Do I get lonely sometimes?  Sure.  I’m a really supportive, smart, funny person who makes awesome pancakes that I think an intelligent, funny guy would enjoy eating for breakfast, but I’d rather the RIGHT intelligent, funny guy get those pancakes than waste my precious time and energy and maple syrup on a string of wrong guys (Hey, real maple syrup from Vermont or our Canadian neighbors is like, $12 a bottle. Not giving that liquid gold to just ANY Chad or Geoff.  Chris Harrison, you may have some.  Also Oscar Isaac.).

And it’s only natural that so much of what I’ve learned in nearly two years of studying the Meisner Technique has begun infiltrating my personal life.  If art truly imitates life and vice versa, then how could I possibly avoid speaking my mind/feelings honestly with others both onstage and off?  I’ve always been a confident person, but having grown up in the Midwest where politeness is prized above plainspoken candor, I haven’t always felt comfortable communicating my wants/needs out of fear of insulting others or being a burden.  But you reach a point where that repression is unbearable and you have a choice: wallow in it or DO something about it.  So now I DO something about it.  And that has made all the difference, because when you are clear about what you want and/or how you feel, it makes it easier to deal with others and for others to deal with you.  You can’t control how others will respond, but you eliminate the guesswork.  Honesty is still, most of the time, the best policy.  DO something because of how you feel.  DO it fully.  Meisner’s mantras are now MY mantras.   They should be all of our mantras.

So DO your work.  DO things that make you happy.  Don’t worry about the other stuff.

13719541_10207061163469648_7723329730975939319_o

Nothing says “I’m a confident, independent Millennial woman” like a hipster filter-y Instagram selfie on a mountaintop (that probably has a caption like #wanderlust)

“We know what we got, and we don’t care whether you know it or not.”

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

Advertisements

My Favorite Fierce Film Heroines Part I: Scarlett O’Hara

As you may or may not know, I am beyond obsessed with Gone With the Wind and Titanic.  Both feature spunky leading ladies who are played by amazing British actresses with studied American accents.  There are also insanely gorgeous leading men in both films aka Clark I-don’t-give-a-damn Gable and Leonardo Dreamboat DiCaprio each with impressively amazing hair.  Both Scarlett and Rose challenge society’s notions on womanhood.  Also they both have terrible boyfriends before they realize the heinous error of their ways and ultimately choose Rhett and Jack (although, I gotta say that Billy Zane had a pretty handsome head of hair himself).  Not to mention each has to survive some pretty crazy stuff like a giant boat sinking and the burning of Atlanta before they come out on the other end stronger, fiercer ladies.  In short, Rose and Scarlett are two of my biggest heroines.  Like, I wanna be just like them when I grow up with a dash of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey added when I’m an old lady.

BUT I’m 95% sure I won’t be anything like them.  In this two-part blog, I’ll break down why Rose and Scarlett (both named after shades of the color red…coincidence?  I THINK NOT!) are way more awesome than any woman alive and why I’ll never live up to them.

SCARLETT O’HARA

  • A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for.  As unattainable as a unicorn.

    A 17-inch waist even Kate Moss would clamor for. As unattainable as a unicorn.

    First and foremost, Scarlett has a 17-inch waist.  I do not have the discipline (or probably the frame) to support that kind of petite waif-ery.  I’m from the Midwest and was raised on a diet of carbs and potatoes, so…ain’t nobody got time for that, ya know?  Even in a corset after the Master Cleanse AND P90x, I wouldn’t be able to hit that number.  After having a baby, her waist is like, what, 19 inches?  Then she COMPLAINS about it.  I MEAN, COME ON!  Can you even TRY to make us feel less inferior, Scarlett?!

  • Vivien Leigh.  I adore her, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, her acting is unreal, and she was married to Laurence Olivier, the greatest actor in the world.  Can you guys imagine anyone else playing Scarlett?  NO.  Because Vivien is perfect.  And no one else is.

    The only time I'm ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I'm at a gay bar with friends.  YEP I'M SINGLE!

    The only time I’m ever surrounded by this many good looking men is when I’m at a gay bar with friends. This might explain why I’m still single.

  • Scarlett goes to the Twelve Oaks barbeque mostly to see Ashley Wilkes (ugh) and winds up surrounded by a bevy of hot Southern gentlemen who all want to feed her ribs and probably okra, but really they all just want to politely get into her pantaloons.  I’m going to be honest when I say I would mostly be going to Twelve Oaks for the barbeque, not the men, because I really love barbeque.  And unlike Scarlett surrounded by men, I would be surrounded by empty plates.  This is why I’ll never have a 17-inch waist and probably be single forever.  See?  No discipline.
  • Scarlett possesses an undying devotion to her family’s plantation, Tara.  When she finds herself in times of trouble, she always goes back to Tara.  After the war, she takes it upon herself to revive her land by working it with *gasp* HER OWN HANDS.
    "As God is my witness, I'll never go hungry again! " - Scarlett...and also me when my bank account is zilch

    “As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again! ” – Scarlett…and also me when my bank account is zilch

    Keep in mind this is 1865, and proper young ladies only use their hands for delicate needlework or raising cups of tea to their mouths.  I’m so impressed Scarlett actually knew how to plant and pick crops even though she was raised to take afternoon naps and be admired.  I may have grown up in the Midwest, but I don’t know the first thing about real farming.  I can barely keep floral bouquets alive for more than a few days, so…saving a plantation?  Forgeddaboutit.

COMMON GROUND: the Ashley Wilkes problem

Here is where EVERY woman can identify with Scarlett: we all have or once had an Ashley Wilkes in our lives at some point or another.  You know, that one guy you just feel all the feelings for, and they’re kind of unrequited but also kind of requited which makes everything extremely confusing?  That’s Ashley Wilkes.  Scarlett throws herself at Ashley every chance she gets despite him being in love with his cousin Melanie (Was incest like, seriously a thing back in those days?  I mean gotta keep those bloodlines going, I get it, but…ick).  However, Ashley perpetuates the situation by constantly giving in to Scarlett’s advances.

"Scarlett, I'm just not that into you.  But I kind of am so let's makeout."  ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

“Scarlett, I’m just not that into you. But I kind of am so let’s makeout.” ASHLEY IS THE WORST.

After the war, he even makes out with her a little bit at Tara.  This is clearly not okay now or pretty much EVER.   Ashley is the kind of guy who likes all the attention he can get, even though he’s just not that into you.  I’ve totally been there; probably 75% of all the guys I’ve seriously liked were Ashley types, and it’s just not fun.

YOWZA.  Am I right, ladies?!

YOWZA. Am I right, ladies?!

Thank god Scarlett FINALLY realizes Rhett Butler is way hotter than Ashley, not to mention treats her like gold and truly loves her.  Also, let’s be honest: who would rather kiss Leslie Howard over Clark Gable?  No one, children.  NO ONE.

No offense to Leslie Howard, but Gable is sheer sex with a fab mustache.  I like tall, dark, and handsome, not blonde and wishy-washy.  And don’t forget Rhett paid an exorbitant amount of money to purchase a dance with an in-mourning Scarlett because he knew how much she wanted to dance.  Back in those days, if a lady was in mourning, she wasn’t allowed to have fun, so Rhett and Scarlett basically committed social suicide just by waltzing around.  If that’s not a sign of devotion and ballsy-ness, I don’t know what is.  Ladies, hold out for a Rhett.  Ashleys are just not worth it.

Rhett's the best, y'all.  Hold out for a man who'll dance with you even if you're in full 1860s mourning.

Rhett’s the best, y’all. Hold out for a man who’ll dance with you even if you’re in full 1860s mourning.

  • Scarlett pulls a Lady Sibyl from Downton Abbey and works as a nurse in a Civil War hospital.  Okay, so we all know that Melanie really is the Lady Sibyl of Gone With the Wind because she’s super nice and selfless and quietly volunteers herself to help with everything whereas Scarlett begrudgingly helps so she LOOKS as selfless as Melanie. But Scarlett does start to suck it up and get the hang of it (even though watching an amputation makes her sick…but who wouldn’t want to vom after seeing someone’s leg cut off?).  She sweats and gets blood on her and still looks amazing and beautiful.  Like, her hair looks even better than all those beauty queen doctors on Greys Anatomy (does no one EVER look frazzled on that show?).  While initially I would be gung-ho about helping with the “War Effort,” the minute I saw someone cutting off a limb or scarred worse than Freddy Kruger, I’d probably faint and then hightail it back to Aunt Pitty-Pat’s where we’d discuss her getting a new nickname because Pitty-Pat suggests spinsterhood, cats, and too many hours spent crocheting things.
  • BIRTHING BABIES.  Since Prissy is an idiot (and with a name like Prissy, how could she NOT be an idiot?  My apologies to any Prissys out there because you probably would at least be able to dial 911 in case of a birthing emergency), Scarlett is forced to birth Melanie’s baby while Atlanta is literally burning down around them.  I mean has there ever been a bigger drop-the-mic moment?!
    I don't know nothing about birthin' no babies...or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER.  Basically, I'm worthless.

    I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no babies…or HAVE ANY COMMON SENSE WHATSOEVER. Basically, I’m worthless.

    Like, Scarlett births that baby then flags down Rhett in a carriage and gets Melanie and the baby inside before hauling ass back to Tara.  Hi, my name is Scarlett O’Hara and I birth babies, save people from mass fires, and drive a carriage by myself back to my home plantation.  [drops mic]  Even Jay-Z couldn’t do that…but I bet Beyoncé probably could because she’s a fierce diva like Scarlett.

  • Taking down a Civil War burglar.  Technically, Melanie is the one who shoots him, but Scarlett gives him a whole lotta shade and sass.  Ladies, THIS is how you deal with would-be rapists and plunderers: grab your shy BFF and make her shoot him for real while you just shoot daggers with your eyes and yell things like GET OUT OF MY HOUSE YOU VARMIT!  (Side note: let’s all make a pact to bring back the word “varmit”)  That’s what I’d do…and also call the police, because God knows Prissy sure wouldn’t know how to do THAT either.
  • The curtain dress.  Only two ladies in history have ever gotten away with this drapery couture: Scarlett O’Hara and Maria from the Sound of Music (okay and those VonTrapp kiddos).
    The best in curtain couture

    The best in curtain couture

    It’s a tricky business wearing your own household decorative items, but Scarlett makes it look like literally the best thing in the world.  If Vogue had existed in 1865, Scarlett would have been on the cover in that thing.  I can barely get away with wearing bedsheets at a Toga party, so there’s pretty much no hope for me wearing window drapes.  Also I don’t have any luxurious, long curtains anyway, so I’d wind up in my window blinds, which would probably come off more Lady Gaga and less Lady Cora Crawley.

  • Face it, ladies: none of us will ever find a man as dashing as Rhett Butler.
    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler.  ANY TIME.

    You can kiss me ANY time, Captain Butler. ANY TIME.

    That whole “you should be kissed and often and by someone who knows how” thing makes me weak in the knees.  Men, you have your work cut out for you.  Always be a Rhett, never be an Ashley.

Basically, Scarlett is the bee’s knees.  Also Mammy because she always gives Scarlett the lowdown when she’s acting like a major beyotch.  Anyway, I’m sure there are a million other reasons I’ll never be as cool as Scarlett, but I’ll think about it tomorrow.  After all, tomorrow is another day…

STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO: Rose’s Turn!

Rose