The Never Ending Pasta Bowl or How I Didn’t Audition for the Olive Garden

I worked yesterday at Grey advertising again, and they just happened to be having auditions for an upcoming national commercial for that shining beacon of all that is Americanized about Italian food (but you get great free, unlimited breadsticks!): the Olive Garden!

Ooh the unlimited salad and breadsticks...

Now before you get all excited and start thinking that you will be seeing me chow down on pasta Lady and the Tramp-style with some attractive fellow while you’re waiting for Modern Family to come back, I didn’t audition nor did I attempt to sneak into the audition. I was working reception, and thus, it would be inappropriate for me to try to crash an audition for which I had no appointment unlike the hordes of attractive child actors and adult commercial actors who did. While I would have LOVED to have the chance to say some line to my good-looking, fake family about how much I love the never-ending pasta bowl, I instead spent my day directing OTHER actors back to casting with a smile plastered on my face.

Ah the ironies of life.

Or is it just situations that suck? I always forget because I learned about irony, like most people in the 1990s, from Alanis Morissette’s song “Isn’t It Ironic,” which is probably not actually the correct definition. (But despite your incorrect definition of irony, I still love both you and your songs, Alanis!)

Anyway, as I sat ushering child actors in, it occurred to me that a lot of them probably have more professional acting credits than I do. Like, here I am, twenty-three years old with a college degree in acting but no professional credits, no agent, no SAG card, no AEA card. Here’s this like, eleven year old perky blonde girl who probably is SAG/AFTRA with an agent and a resume full of commercials and probably a couple random guest spots on Law & Order: SVU and Royal Pains.  How does this happen?!

I’m not sure I would have wanted to be a child actor where people expected me to always act like an adult and never get to completely enjoy my youth.  I think being a child actor would have made me not like acting as much.  It would have made me have to grow up faster.  Already I could see some of those children maybe being there with their parents out of obligation rather than for their own enjoyment because it was something THEY wanted to do.  There are plenty of child actors who have grown up into successful adults, but also plenty who felt like they missed out on their youths.

But seeing all these children coming in to audition and knowing they probably have a longer professional resume than I do put things into perspective for me.  Then I thought about how much lengthier my CHILDHOOD ACTIVITIES resume is than theirs, and I realized I was the one with the upper hand.  I got to play baseball and go to the pool and have sleepovers and play in marching band.  I got to have family vacations and go to normal schools.  I have experiences that make up for my lack of professional ones; experiences that cannot be replaced by SAG cards or Olive Garden commercials.  I may not be where I want to be professionally, but when I DO get there, I’ll be happier and better educated.  I’ll be better adjusted.  I’ll be grateful.

And when I get acting work, I’ll celebrate  with my REAL family…but maybe not at Olive Garden.

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.

It’s a Helluva Town

I have been in New York City almost three weeks, and yet I still haven’t grasped that I actually live here.  Have you ever wanted something so much that once you get it, you can’t believe that it’s real?  That’s how I feel about living in New York.  I have been dreaming of it my whole life, and now that dream is real; I’m living it.

Things are starting to feel normal now.  Well, more normal.  I have now been in New York longer than I ever have, and it’s starting to feel like home.  I know, you’re wondering how a city of over nine million people, massively tall buildings, frequent noise, and a definite lack of greenery can feel like home.  Not to get all Bill-Clinton-at-the-Impeachment-Trial (oh the 1990s!) on you, but it depends on what the definition of home is.  Sure, “home is where the heart is,” but I think home is a place you feel comfortable and happy and especially where you feel infinitely sad upon leaving.

I suppose I’m still in the “honeymoon phase” of my life here: everything seems wonderful and new and significant.  You know what?  I’m okay with that.  I think we’re too jaded these days about everything in our lives; we’ve seen it and done it all.  I don’t want to go through life never enjoying anything because it’s passé to still be genuinely amazed by things.  Though I’m starting to feel more at home here, sometimes I’m walking around Manhattan at night when the skyscrapers are all lit up, and I can’t catch my breath.  I just look around me in wonder, thinking, “Wow, I really live here.  It’s just so beautiful.”  I have a realistic version of New York City and a romantic one; usually I live somewhere in between, but right now, I’m living more in the romantic one, the one where the sight of the Chrysler and Empire State Building make me swoon and a leisurely walk through Central Park makes me dream about having a great romance with someone.

I have my worries too, mostly concerning finances.  In a city where you have everything at your fingertips, they don’t tell you how much having everything at your fingertips actually costs.  I suppose it’s a rude awakening for any young person, moving out on his or her own and starting their life.  Having to pay for everything your parents took care of for you like groceries and utilities and transportation can feel overwhelming.  I’m only about three weeks into it, and I finally fully understand my parents’ worries about how to make ends meet.

On the other hand, I am wholly optimistic about the future.  As of this moment, I only see possibilities, and I’m keeping the negative thoughts at bay.  The bad comes with the good too, you see, and you have to figure out how to deal with both, and right now, I’m doing a pretty good job of focusing my energy into positivity.  Yesterday, I auditioned for and was cast in a cabaret show at the Duplex down in Greenwich Village.  It showcases emerging talent and gives us an opportunity to perform, potentially for agents/managers.  I’m performing in November, and I’m pretty excited to have a chance to do that again since I spent my summer winery-ing and being jealous of all my friends with summerstock jobs.  It’s a place to start.

A New York debut.  You only get one (and of course, you only get one Broadway debut, but that will take longer to secure).  It’s hard not to feel like I’m on the precipice of something special…a life finally fully beginning.

Trying to Catch Up (Not Ketchup)

Okay, okay.  So I got lazy and extremely behind on my whole 365 days of post-graduate blogging.  Sue me (Actually, don’t.  I’m trying to save every cent I make for my move to New York as I’ve said only about five million times on this blog).

Let’s just fast forward to where I should be in my post-grad blogging and forget this whole being lazy thing ever happened.  Deal?  Thanks!  You’re the best…whoever you are that might read this.  Internet high-five.

Not much has happened in my life here in this existential redneck hell known as a summer in the Midwest.  The weather has been getting hotter, which unfortunately means the town white trash thinks they’re at liberty to wear as revealing of denim as possible, leading to the poking out of my eyes during trips to Wal-Mart.  The winery is still sucking up my weekends.  Though I took a fun, brief trip to Tulsa to see my BFFs Caitlin and Hassan about two weeks ago, I was hit on at a gas station on my trip home by an imposing black man who looked like a cross between Snoop Dogg and Antoine “Hide yo kids Hide yo wife” Bedroom Intruder rapper (I swear I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried…okay, I could, but I swear I’m not.).

Last weekend I went to the wedding I discussed in one of my more recent posts.  What I thought would be an impromptu high school reunion (I was already prepared to reenact the scene from Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion with the interpretive dance to “Time After Time”) actually turned out to not be a big deal at all (except for the fact someone forgot to mention it was an OUTDOOR WEDDING IN JULY so I sweat my ass, tits, and all other appendages off.)  In fact, I barely knew anyone there, and the people I DID know were all people I like/am good friends with still/can tolerate.  I spent most of the evening with my long-time friend, Claire, and her new boyfriend.  Though I realized later I might have been kind of third-wheel-ing all night, I don’t think they minded because I provided a lot of witty, snort-into-your-free-but-shitty-liquor quips about some of the other guests aka I provided plenty of laughs at other people’s expense (which is what comedians/comediennes do, right?)  Though of course we couldn’t get through the whole reception without some good ole high school gossip and obviously a drunken sing-along to Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” (which I am a little embarrassed to admit I have ceremoniously performed drunk AND sober in many a bar in Oklahoma City in college).  When the groomsmen started singing along to old frat-house standards (rap crap and Journey songs) and getting teary eyed about it, I knew it was time to leave, so Claire, her boyfriend, and I snuck out, and I nearly sprinted for my car so I could get some A/C on my almost-as-sweaty-as-the-sweat-villain-Moist-from-Dr-Horrible body.

Thank god for car A/C and Frank Sinatra.  I couldn’t stomach one more generic rock song from one more generic rock band (I’m looking at YOU, Nickelback) or “Get Low” rap at that reception (Applebottomed jeans and boots with the fur went out a LONG time ago, rappers.  Don’t you read VOGUE?!).  I mean, actually, I was impressed by all their indie choices for their ceremony: Damien Rice, Ingrid Michaelson, etc.  Their first dance was to Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love,” but after that, the shit music started, and I had to bail.  I mean, where were the wedding reception standards like the to-the-left-take-it-back-now-y’all “Cha Cha Slide” and the B-52’s “Love Shack”?!  I was all ready to bang-bang-bang-on-the-door-baby!

Whatever.  I just put Frank Sinatra on in my car and let Ole Blue Eyes cleanse my sweaty, sweaty soul all the way home.

34-36: Ten Cent Skee Ball

I’ve fallen a little behind in my 365 blogging, so in order to catch myself up, I’m combining some entries together.  I guess this could be considered “cheating,” but since this 365 days of blogging thing was my idea in the first place, I figure I get to make my own rules.  While there’s nothing that says I HAVE to blog every day, I do think I should at least ATTEMPT to get myself back on track.

Anyway…

Last Friday (June 17, as it were), my childhood best friend, Meredith, came over for a day of fun and frivolity.  The original plan had been to go to that theme park of apparent number bias, Six Flags in St. Louis (Why only six, oh theme park gods?  Why not Eight or Five?  Or one of THESE numbers…).  Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and in the best interest of our hair and clothing, we decided against braving a rainstorm for roller-coasters run-ins with too chipper costumed versions of Bugs Bunny and the 1990s’ favorite t-shirt decoration, Tweety Bird (*shudder.  Don’t act like YOU didn’t own one too.)

Instead, we checked the weather and decided to head south where the rain was on its way out.  Meredith and I, in a fit of boredom, decided on a rollicking day of trashy mini-golf, outlet mall shopping, and outdoor arcade games at the Lake of the Ozarks.  The Lake is like Branson-lite (if there is even such a thing): it has a few awful country music shows, a “strip,” outlet malls, mini-golf, tourist trap stores, and a wealth of tanned-to-the-point-of-looking-leathery women whose outfits reflect their desperate cry to recapture their youth and their rich, corny husbands who espouse such sentiments as “God Bless America” or “Proud to be an American” every five seconds.

The Lake has its merits too though.  First and foremost, the lake itself is large and beautiful, and there ARE a lot of rich people who live on or around it in huge homes with even bigger boats.  There are some decent restaurants (selling “fresh seafood” as it were, despite the fact this is a FRESHWATER lake in a LANDLOCKED state, but whatever), and there are some great golf courses around (so I’ve been told.  I don’t play golf or even pretend to understand it.).  But all this does is make me upset that I don’t live closer to a REAL beach on one of the coasts where fresh seafood is actually fresh and there’s a chance I’ll spot some cute, rich boys who aren’t backwoods white trash.

But back to our roadtrip, Meredith and I got down to the Lake and headed straight for the Black Rock  Pirate Cove mini-golf.  It features two different courses (the Captain’s Course or Blackbeard’s Course) with historical facts about different famous pirates at each hole.  There’s also a giant, blue waterfall.  When I say blue, I mean BLUE.  Apparently, the groundskeepers (I imagine a Hagrid-like furry man who only comes out at night) at Pirate Cove want to give the waterfall a Caribbean, tropical feel by way of INTENSE aqua dye probably last used by the costumer for the Lawrence Welk Show in the 1970s.  Anyway, Meredith and I chose to play the Captain’s Course on recommendation of the nice, old man at the ticket window.  We golfed our way around the course, hoping to not lose our balls (Yes, you can snicker), giggling at each subsequent historical fact, and not giving Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus any reason to worry about upholding their golfing titles.

Me with the gorgeous, BLUE waterfall at Pirate Cove mini-golf

After our golfing excursion, we noticed two things:

1) Despite our best attempts at saving our hair from rain troubles, we had NOT saved it from humidity troubles.  Damn.

2) We were hungry.

We hit up Vista Grande, my favorite place to eat at the Lake based on its awesome salsa, margaritas, and chicken chimichangas.  It was reliably tasty and a welcome escape from the swashbuckling “fun” of Pirates of the Caribbean Pirate Cove.  It also provided us with a chance to bemoan our humidified hair.  Following our Mexican fiesta, we headed right across the street to the Factory Outlet Mall for some bargain shopping although it turned out to be a lot of looking around at clothes not snapped up by the tanned, leathery ladies of the lake (ha.  Ladies of the Lake?  Get it?  Lady of the Lake?).  I wound up buying some awesome jams but that’s not the good part of the story.

So last but not least on our grand tour of the Lake, we went to the old “strip,” which is like if a 1955 carnival came to town, overstayed its welcome, and slowly but surely became a forgotten, backwoods, junky version of its former self.  We found the Holy Grail of outdoor arcade games: 10¢ SKEE BALL.  As we walked up to the building, I instantly thought of the awesome movie Adventureland starring the awkwardly cool Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg (and the girl who defines acting as biting her lip and running her hands through her hair whilst she kisses a vampire or werewolf, Kristen Stewart): I got the feeling that if you worked there, you’d feel like you were dying a slow, painful death from heat, white trash, junky prizes, and the annoying sounds of the skee ball machines.  Meredith and I played $2 worth of skee ball and with our collected tickets, we won two cheap finger traps and a couple Tootsie Roll Pops.  Awesome, right?

Ten cent Skee Ball place on the old "strip"

Right across the street was the “Haunted Hotel,” which basically looked like it had been decorated by the leftover Halloween decorations from Wal-Mart.  There was a sign in the door window indicating that if we wanted a tour, we’d find the owners across the street at the Old Time Photography Studio.  Clearly business was booming.  There was also a dead cat skeleton in the window, which they claimed was from a cat that disappeared in the building in 1977 and was found in 2004.  CLASSY.

The cat skeleton from the "Haunted Hotel"

So it may not have been roller coasters and log flumes, but I’d say Meredith and I had a successful if not memorable sojourn.  At least we know we fared better than the cat in the window of the Haunted Hotel.

32 & 33: Wide My World, Narrow My Bed

“Personally, I think if a woman hasn’t met the right man by the time she’s 24, she may be lucky.” –Deborah Kerr

For the second time in the last six months, I received a wedding invitation addressed only to me.  This one was from my good friend Olivia who had a baby about a year and a half or so ago.  It feels like her life is in the acceleration lane in comparison to mine, at least when it comes to the so-called “settling down” part.  The thing is, I’m fine with being twenty-two and single.  I don’t feel in any rush to run out and find a boyfriend or god forbid, a husband.  There’s just too much in my life I want to do first.

I actually find getting married and starting a family at twenty-two strange.  Back around a hundred or even fifty years ago, I would be considered strange for being twenty-two and unmarried, but in this day and age of more opportunities for women, I simply cannot fathom missing out on my own independence and having a life of my own before I even think about dedicating it to someone else.  Am I selfish?  I guess, but I choose to look at it as embracing having a LIFE, embracing my OWN life.  I wouldn’t want a family right now, because I’d resent it.  I’d resent my husband and child/children because I’d always feel like I settled, like I’d missed out on doing all the things I truly WANTED to do.  Eventually, I WANT to get married, but only when I’m truly ready for it, and I know that at this point in my life, I’m not ready.  And that’s not selfish, that’s smart.

“Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed.  If I fail, no one will say, ‘she doesn’t have what it takes;’ they will say, ‘women don’t have what it takes.’” — Clare Booth Luce

It probably sounds like I’m on an über-feminist rant against Olivia and any women who choose to get married before they’ve had any sort of career, and I don’t mean it to.  As a woman, I fully support women having a right to choose what they want to do with their lives, since god knows that hasn’t always been the case.  I think if Olivia is happy with her life, then more power to her.  I support her choice fully; it’s not right for me, but she seems to be happy, so I think it must be the right one for her.  I suppose time will tell, but I AM truly happy that she is happy.

Anyway, thus begins many years of being the single girl at weddings.  But you know what?  I might just be the one everyone is jealous of, because I’ll be having a good time…whether at the wedding or just in LIFE.

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.