An Artist at Play

Eventful Weekend

Friday night, my boyfriend and I went to a comedy show that included two of my favorite comics and friends, Jeff Richards and Earl Skakel. They rocked.

Saturday night was Shane’s Inspiration’s Annual Gala. I spent the past week shopping for an outfit for this event. I wanted something fun and a little sexy, since usually, when I go to a nice event, I’m representing some organization. Saturday night, I was representing myself. There was a part of me that felt guilty getting all dressed up and going out without my boyfriend, but that’s how I roll.

I was supposed to meet a friend at the gala, but we never hooked up. Attending the gala by myself was a first for me. Prior years, I’ve always gone with my mom or friends. When I bought my dress, I made sure it wasn’t long so I wouldn’t drop it in the toilet. Luckily, at dinner, I sat next to some people who I knew. The woman sitting next to me was nice enough to feed me. I’m a little insecure about not being able to feed myself all the time. This night, I was particularly shaky and my pills and wine did not help, like they usually do.  

Steve Valentine and Stephani Victor were amongst the honorees. They deserve it. They do a lot for Shane’s. I’ve been part of Shane’s since its beginning, about fourteen years ago. Shane’s builds universally accessible playgrounds so that children with different abilities can play beside their temporarily able-bodied peers. This teaches kids from an early age that people with different abilities are no different than people without them. I wish these playgrounds were around when I was a kid. I can’t tell you how many field trips I went on where we stopped for lunch at a playground and I would have to watch my friends play on the jungle gym from the sidelines.

Although I’m way past playing on playgrounds, I went to Shane’s Inspiration Playground in Griffith Park two weekends ago, after saying goodbye to my friend. Seeing all the kids playing on equipment I helped design perked up my mood. I tried to go on one of the swings, but some five-year-old beat me to it. A friend asked me why I just didn’t knock the kid off the swing. I was too depressed that a five-year-old could outrun me. I also realized it’s the kids’ time to play, not mine.

The couple of  hours I spent at the gala let me pretend I have money. Until the live auction started. My table was shocked when they auctioned off five thousand dollars’ worth of cosmetic surgery. Surprisingly, only one person had the guts to bid on that. We were even at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, in the heart of cosmetic surgery city.  

The gala was a night of magic and play. There were magicians everywhere. At least five magicians performed on the main stage during dinner. The concept couldn’t have been better. The kids and adults were entertained. I was glad there were magic acts. When I was a kid, I loved magic. Now that I’m older, I’d forgotten about it. I think it reminded everyone in audience of the magic of being a kid again. And that’s perfect for Shane’s.

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The Week of Goodbyes

My dad officially moved to San Diego this past week. He said since I wouldn’t move, he had to. Really, he moved for a new job. Since the entertainment industry is mostly in L.A., I have to stay here. I’ll miss my dad, but I’m excited about visiting him in San Diego. It’s a great city and a friend of mine lives there, so I’ll be able to see her more. As I said in the previous blog, saying goodbye to my dad was like goodbye to my childhood. Being adult is kind of scary. Being a responsibile adult is a whole other story and something I can hopefully get away without doing for a little while longer. I should start by not drinking until after five. I’m kidding. After three.

I’m kind of freaked out about my dad moving because I used to go to his house and have peace and quiet. Now, I’m stuck at my house with people in and out all the time, my boyfriend, and my three bonkers dogs. I will miss dinners with my dad because he was the better cook. Do you feel the love?

The same week, my friend Martin left for Australia. Martin is my friend’s husband. They are a gay couple. They’ve been together for six years. Martin and his husband did not break up. Martin is from Australia and has been here on a student visa to be with his husband. He is part of our family. We’ve gone on many vacations together, celebrated birthdays, and Christmases. After I turned 21, Martin and I hit Vegas. We went clubbing. He was a great dancer and for the most part, kept the creepy guys who tried to pick me up away. Martin and his husband are registered as domestic partners so he couldn’t even marry someone just to get a green card. We suggested that to him. He refused. He wanted to be able to emigrate to the country legally. Seeing how our government treats homosexual couples, I can’t help but wonder how far has this country come? Our country claims to be very progressive but it’s not. If Martin was heterosexual, he’d be able to marry his partner. But because it’s not the way God intended us, they have to be apart. Yes, Martin looked for jobs in hopes of getting a work visa, but no one would hire him because even if he got a work visa, he had to leave the country and come back. His partner is devastated, as you can imagine. I’ve only been with my boyfriend for five and a half months, but I can’t imagine what it feels like to have the government say you can’t be together. I think if they had broken up, it would have been less painful, even if Martin could stay here. Even if the state’s vote to legalize marriage, it’s up to the federal government to honor it. Of course, if all the states legalize it, the federal government would automatically honor it.

All of us are going through a mourning period. People keep saying “Just Skype”, but Skype and actually having someone here are two very different things. I understand people are trying to be helpful, but just shut up. And I’ll block you on Skype. You can’t take a person out to dinner via Skype. And yes, they could write letters and try and to be romantic, but the point is they should just be able to be together. There have been talks about Martin’s partner moving to Australia, but both of their families are in America. Martin’s sisters are in America with green cards. One of them just got her citizenship, but it could take up to ten years for her to be able to sponsor Martin.

My dad left town by choice and that’s fine because I’ll see him again. Martin had to leave the country because he loved the wrong gender. In the immortal words of Lewis Black, “That’s fucked up.”

Show Time

Two weeks before the show at the Broad Stage, we had a rehearsal. The night before the rehearsal, my boyfriend and I were supposed to go to a comedy show, but he had a panic attack. I ended up going to the show alone, since a friend of mine was performing. That night, I came home and found he had fallen deeper into depression. I consoled him as best as I could, but I also knew I had to be alert for rehearsal so I had to sleep in the other room. Luckily, my mom took over. I don’t mean to sound like a bad girlfriend, but I had to do what was best for me. Sleep is very important to me. If I don’t get enough sleep, my muscles become even more uncontrollable and I’m pretty much not functional. I did the rehearsal on sheer adrenaline. I also was still worried about my boyfriend, but didn’t let it show. That’s the thing about being an actor, you have to put whatever bullshit aside and pull off the show. Fortunately, my boyfriend got better.

However, the week before the show, loving girlfriend that I am, I made him sleep him on the couch because he snores. My batshit crazy pitbull was happy to lick his face in the morning. I continued practicing my piece with my speech therapist every day. The more I practiced, the more confident I became. During rehearsal, I noticed I got nervous when I first started the piece so I was extra aware this when I practiced the piece. I always get nervous in the beginning; then, once I get going, I’m okay.

The week before the show, my nerves really got to me. Not to mention my dad was moving to San Diego during this time. Between the show and visiting my empty bedroom at his old apartment, I had lots of breakdowns and mood swings. I was a lot of fun to be around. Seeing my empty bedroom forced me to say goodbye to my childhood. I’ve been an adult for six years, but I sure don’t feel like it. It’s also a bit hard for me to keep my inner child alive since I had to grow up very quickly. However, I’m able to have lots of moments of immaturity. The people around me keep me laughing and remind me that life isn’t all about work.

The day of the show, I was ready to do it. I felt like I had done all the preparation I could and since it was so time-consuming, I was ready to get back to focusing on other projects. Like all shows I do, I made sure I looked good. I figure, if my performance sucks, I’ll at least give the audience something that’s aesthetically pleasing.

When I got the theater, I tried to explain to the tech person that a mic that rests on my ear wasn’t going to work for me and that I’ve been doing this for a while so I know what I’m talking about. But they insisted on trying and failing with those mics. Finally, they let me use my tried and true one lapel mic on each side of my vest so that no matter how much my head moves, it picks up my voice.

The Broad Stage is a beautiful theater. I was thrilled to be performing in such a place. I was a little intimidated to be sharing the stage with Benjamin Bratt, Muse Watson, Amy Brenneman, and Stephen Stills since they’re all accomplished in their own right. Zach Hatch is also a really talented actor and poet. There was a part of me that wanted to go in with my SAG card displayed on my neck to show that I’m really an actor. Everybody was really nice and supportive. It was my first time doing a professional theater show. I was not expecting the thirty-minute curtain call, which was more like a forty-five minute curtain call. Or the fifteen minute mic call. Luckily, my friend Marty, who does a lot of theater, was my assitant for the evening and guided me through. Everything was funny to us because I was so nervous. My coping mechanism is laughter. There was a bottle of tequila in the green room I was tempted to take a sip out of. When I first started doing stand-up comedy, my parents used to give me a drink because I would get so nervous. I worked through that. I actually intended to have a celebratory drink the day after the show, but was too tired. 

Waiting to go on stage was the hardest part. I became surprisingly calm. I just went into the zone, I guess. I was the last actor to go on before Stephen Stills. As soon as Benjamin Bratt got on stage, I waited at the curtain for him to get off. Although each piece was only about fifteen minutes, it felt like an eternity. When I got onstage, I had many things going on in my head at once. Which is surprising because usually, there’s not much going on up there! I was making sure I paused and planned (my piece looked like Colin Firth’s speech at the end of The King’s Speech; it’s good to know I used a tried and true method), connected with the audience, didn’t strain my voice, tried to keep my hair out of my face, and have fun.

It worked. I got a standing ovation and hugs from the rest of the performers when I got off stage. After the show, I received a lot of praise for my performance. I was worried that my head might not fit into the car for the drive home. Michael Chiklis surprised me by being moved to tears by piece. The evening made me feel like I was doing something right. All my hard work was worth it for those fifteen minutes on stage. I look forward to doing more often.

Dramatic Reading Preparation

On February 26th, I will be performing at the Broad Stage to raise money for charities including CHIME Charter School, for which I’m on the board of directors. For this performance, I adapted a piece I had done at a spoken-word show two years ago to make it more dramatic. Comedy is my strong suit. Writing a piece that was more on the dramatic side was a challenge because I’m a smartass. I snuck in comedy. The most challenging part is going over the piece for pronunciation. With a speech disorder, not everyone can understand me as easily. I’ve spent the past three weeks on the phone with my speech therapist for forty-five minutes going over a fifteen minute piece. When I started practicing, my speech therapist noticed that I was straining my voice. My confidence in speaking came from overusing my vocal cords by bashing them together. For the first week, I got off the phone and had to only speak at a whisper. I had to relearn how to speak, focusing more on moving my mouth properly then tensing my voice. There were days where I just wanted to crawl into bed after practicing because I felt so drained. Realizing that I had been speaking incorrectly for so many years and trying to reprogram my brain was frustrating, especially when I wanted to yell at my three barking dogs. The thing that got me through it was knowing that what I had to say was important. My speech therapist, friends, and family were all very supportive. Throughout moments of frustration, I reminded myself how much I’m an attention whore. The stage feels like home to me. If performing came naturally to me, I wouldn’t like it as much. I like coming off stage and feeling like my work has paid off.

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