Friday, September 17, 2010


Type: Stage - Straight Play
Title: Steel Magnolias
Role: Shelby
Company: Northside United Methodist Church
Location: 2799 Northside Dr, Atlanta, GA 30305
Date: November 12 and 13 (only two performances!)
Time: TBA
Cost: TBA

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Male Diva

Patrick and I have done several shows together over the years. It's rare that we actually get to act opposite each other; often our characters are peripheral to one another. But it's still a great bonding experience to be able to commiserate over the daily grind of rehearsals, our reflections of the casting choices, the idiosyncrasies of this director compared to others we've had, etc. That's the perks. I've dragged Patrick to many an audition based on that feeling.

On the other hand, there's the irrefutable fact that this is Atlanta, not New York. There are about 20 girls to every guy at most auditions I go to. Of course it's rare that a female and a male will be in direct competition for the same part, but the odds of getting cast - at all - are decidedly in a boy's favor..almost regardless of talent.

This is particularly true, or at least particularly irritating to me personally, when it comes to musicals. I love my husband very much and think he has quite a gift. But out of the two of us, I am the much better singer and dancer. This isn't bluster; Patrick would tell you the same thing, as would most of our mutual friends. Moreover, while the thought of singing and dancing fills me with joy and anticipation, it fills Patrick with chagrin and nervousness bordering on panic. (The same way I feel when asked to do improv, a skill at which Patrick shines. So you see, we're evenly matched). That situation is hardly unusual. There's many a girl who's felt the disappointment of a rejection email only to discover later that half the boys in the show didn't even have to audition.

But how many of those girls are married to one?

I recall a situation like this a few years ago when Patrick and I auditioned for The Fantastiks. He learned about the audition from me, and I more or less dragged him there. I painstakingly chose a piece from my thick songbook that I thought matched the tone and musicality of the role I was trying to portray. Patrick's audition song repertoire consists of Cole Porter's "You're the Top" and "If I Only Had a Brain" from the Wizard of Oz. And since he can't read music or sing with a piano, he only sings those two accapella. I wasn't cast and Patrick got the lead, and I was genuinely happy for him. Then I found out later that the director had acknowledged Patrick's lack of vocal prowess, but cast him planning to teach him to sing during the course of rehearsals. When the theatre went bust before rehearsals started, I felt terrible for Patrick, who had really been looking forward to the role. But secretly, I couldn't help feeling a little vindicated.

I've never had trouble being simultaneously happy for Patrick's victories and sad for my disappointments. So when Patrick was cast in a principal role in our latest show, while I was relegated (once again) to an ensemble role, I had a good laugh and an eyeroll over the situation and gave him a big congratulatory kiss. But later that day, Patrick mentioned offhand that he would never have accepted an ensemble role; that in fact it was his policy to only play leads because playing in the ensemble is a waste of time.


I hope you'll be forgiving and understanding, reader, when I tell you that I flew off the handle just a little bit. I thought it was pretty rich, coming from someone who isn't good at singing and dancing, who doesn't even like it, to insist on lead roles. And as a husband, he would have done well to remember that his wife plays ensemble roles constantly. It's very condescending to say that ensemble work is not worth the time and effort it would take when I am giving that very time and effort--in the same show! Not all of us have the luxury of playing only lead roles; if I waited around for only big parts I wouldn't get to act nearly as often. Patrick has this luxury, essentially because he is a good looking man who knows his way around a stage. And it has gone to his head.

I know it sounds like I'm picking on poor Patrick, but I'm merely using him as an illustration. I know for a fact this is not a unique thought pattern. Unfortunately for him, being used as an example is another side effect of being part of a show biz couple...particularly one who blogs.

I have to wonder, what kind of male actor are we encouraging here in Atlanta, when he doesn't have to audition, it's not important whether he can sing or dance or act, as long as you carry the Y chromosome? And if by some chance you don't get accepted in a lead role, it's completely understandable and even admirable to reject a lesser role, and in some cases even drop out? You might think I'm exaggerating the situation a bit, but consider that in the show I'm currently rehearsing, every single one of the guys is playing a principal. There are no male ensemble members.

I constantly hear actors say that "not everybody can be the lead." Usually, it's coming from somebody who consistently gets cast in principal roles. Well, take it from someone who's had a share of both, that statement is true, and I would add to it, "thank goodness". Just as the show doesn't work without its stars, neither does it work with only stars. And there's no room for divas at all.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Series of Surreal Miracles

Just wanted to share this charming New York Times 'Celebrations' announcement of the marriage of a costume designer and a choreographer. (click the blog title to view). If you subscribe to the "meant to be" school--or even if you don't--you'll love the part about the key.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It really is a muscle

Yesterday was Patrick's and my five-year "dating" anniversary. It's not something we really celebrate per se, but every year we do like to offer a little tip o' the hat to the day. Five years isn't a very long time, relatively, but I found myself reflecting on what a different place I'm in now than I was then--mentally at least.

That became even more apparant in the afternoon when I had my first meeting with the volunteer coordinator for the Girl Scouts, with whom I've signed up. Because of my past work with the Atlanta Workshop Players summer camp (which was in the forefront of my mind yesterday since our dating anniversary originated there), combined with a year and a half doing kids' parties and classes at Imagym and three+ years teaching dance all over the place, volunteering with the GS seemed like a good fit.

When I say past work, I'm talking two, no more than two and a half years ago tops. It was about that time I started working a big girl job, and it was about that time, looking back, that my creative muscle started to atrophy. It was probably strongest while I was still in school. I know that not only intrinsically, but also by the excitement that lit up my volunteer leader's face when I told her I had a degree in theatre--I could just see her brain whirring, thinking of all the clever ideas she just KNEW I'd have.
It was still getting regular workouts the first couple years out of school and during most of my two year engagement. At Imagym especially, I constantly had to think up ideas to keep 30 kids with a pea-sized attention span entertained and non-destructive. I used some of those same ideas in dance.

But as soon as I entered the workforce of the masses, a slow decline began whose full effects I didn't feel, or at least fully acknowledge, until yesterday. It's not totally out of commission--as this blog's existence proves. It just evolved inwardly a bit. For instance, I did a lot of writing, including a frenzied period of working on my latent novel (it's not dead, just resting I promise), and I created the individual roles in shows I did. I continued to dance, but once again, it was more about nurturing my inner life than pushing out newness into the world. Muscle-maintenence, rather than muscle-building, if you will.

And just like how, one day, you go to bench the 185 that used to be easy and nearly crush your sternum, yesterday I got knocked over the head with my weakness. The project I'm going to be working on with the Girl Scouts isn't leading a troop, at least not yet (they like to try and make the parents lead troops. Evidently enrollment is better when that's the case). Instead, I'm going to be helping plan and implement a monthly event for middle-school girls whose troops have disbanded or who haven't ever been a scout, which is meant to get them involved again. My job, among other things, is to think up ideas for these events. (Sound vague? Imagine how I felt). As an example she told me about the last one they did before the school year ended, which was a fashion show kind of deal. She threw out some ideas for general themes (sports? animals?) and showed me some of the materials from the fashion show. The ideas were so adorable. God, would I even have thought of it, had I been in charge then? I think I started sweating at that point.

The real coup came when she was explaining a name game she did as an intro with the girls, and used my name as an example, "my name is Janie and I like..." I was supposed to fill in the blank with something starting with J. And I totally blanked. I'm pretty sure a fly flew in and out of my open mouth right then. The only thing I could think of was jujubes, and at that moment I wasn't even sure if that was a real item or if I'd just made it up. She ended up supplying me with "jumping." AGH! JUMPING?? COME ON JANIE!!!!

The kicker is that we used to play that game at the gym at practically every birthday party.

When I left all I could think of was running home and asking Patrick what kind of stuff he does with his improv kids. Then I gave myself a swift mental kick to the rear. This is why I volunteered. Somehow I knew, whether conciously or on some deeper level, that a part of my life, my personality even, was dormant. This is about more than getting experience for my grad school entrance essay. This is about flexing the creative muscle.

Creativity has one very important difference from a bicep, however. It feeds off others. No, not like a vampire (True Blood's not till Sunday people). Rather than draining one thing to nourish the other, creativity lives in symbyosis with its source. In a word, inspiration. For instance, my initial impulse to pick Patrick's brain--it needn't be to copy his ideas. Perhaps one thing he says will spark an idea in my own brain that I can develop into something bigger, and ultimately, useful. Perhaps Patrick might even be inspired by the idea I have. At my big girl job they call it collaborative brainstorming. I sometimes worry creativity is a use-it-or-lose-it deal, but it's really not true. As long as one cares to come up with good ideas, one has the ability to do so. I just need to hit the gym.

By the way, I've never benched 185.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nobody else but you

My friend and I were recently discussing Myers-Briggs personality types, and how less than 5% of the population shared our type, INFP. I thought about that. Fewer than 1 out of 20 people even think the same way as I do. It's no wonder it sometimes feels like the world is looking at me with a giant blank stare.

While it's true that there's a slightly higher concentration of intuitive feelers in artistic professions, the general population of the world, and most certainly that of the US, neither understands nor rewards that type of personality. Even when surrounded by other creative people who may share some or all of the same letters, such is the traits of the type that he or she still feels, more often than not, totally isolated.

That's why I so appreciate those rare shining moments when I don't feel so singular. A couple weekends ago, my good buddy and I took our annual trip to the Rennaisance Festival, as we've done since we were little. We go more out of nostaligia than anything else, as the festival rarely changes from year to year, right down to the position of the vendors and the quips of the actors. There were, however, a couple of acts we'd never seen before. One of them was an aerial acrobat who worked with silks (dead cool, btw). She'd renamed the childhood playground move commonly known as 'skin the cat' a nomer with more pleasant connotations from her own youth: the 'my little pony.' I'm only slightly embarassed to admit I felt an instant kinship. After the show I heard her tell one of the kids in the audience her birth year, which was the same as mine.
A bit later we watched a martial arts act with two guys. One of them looked familar--which isn't unusual at the rennaissance festival when you've been in Atlanta theatre a long time--but I couldn't place him. When my friend said she recognized him too, we realized he could only have gone to our high school. We went up to speak to him after the show and sure enough, he graduated in the class behind us and remembered me well; he even said I looked exactly the same. Besides the kung fu act, he told us, he also washed and walked dogs to pay the bills.

It gave me some sort of weird sense of commraderie to know these other people my age..that is, hovering dangerously close to you-should-have-your-shit-together-age, are working at a reenactment fair for the second/third/fourth year in a row. The work may be a bit closer to their Myers-Briggs type, whatever it is, perhaps, but probably not any kind of life goal. Is it really so different than what I do? I.e., the good waffle?

Maybe, maybe not, but the idea is one that I cling to during more difficult times when I feel like the weight of the world is mine alone to bear, and that I'm the only person struggling with what society says should be simple. This sense of, for lack of less-fruity term, cosmic companionship is a big part of what attracts me to social artistry like theatre in the first place.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nothin' like a good waffle

Update: I neglected to properly emphasize in the orginal post that any experiences I felt were negative were just that--my own feelings. This post is about introspection and how what is inherently "off" in my own brain projects on my outside activities. I was and remain grateful for ever single bit of experience I've had in the past six monts, year, my whole life.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." - Annie Dillard

I prefer the term waffling to say, existential crises of identity and meaning.

There are many who have faith and take comfort in the old belief that everything happens for a reason. And it's no wonder--randomness is dangerously close to meaningless-ness, which is scary as shit. But there are times when one can take comfort in the concept of a meaningless, random universe.

Like for instance, right now. All the signs (if you want to look at them that way) in the past half year or so seem to be pointing me away from theatre and my performance life. First and foremost, the fun on my last few productions has been outweighed by the not-fun. That becomes all the more relevant when you consider I do this mostly for love of the art--translation: for free. When you're working pro bono, and the only person who's bono-ing is you, masochism isn't so much selfless as pathetic. Not that I'm equating theatre to masochism, but certain of my recent experiences have been borderline unpleasant and certainly wasteful.
Other nudges have been less abstract. Circumstances recently made me have to drop out of my next gig. Financial circumstances have forced me to quit my voice lessons and dance classes. My agent's been spending more time playing farmville than sending her more than 300 talents out. I was personally invited to an audition but I can't make the dates. The results of a project I worked on some time ago were very disappointing. Then followed a callback for a role in a professional show, one that would have really been a breakthrough into something like a legitimization of my life's work--which I didn't get. Not an unusual occurance in itself, of course. What worries me is the relief I felt on reading the rejection. I took a deep breath today and realized I had nothing coming up at all. The fates seems to have made an empty vaccuum of my creative life.

But my parenthetical emphasis in the first sentance above is exactly the point--is there really any such thing as fate? As a "sign?" Is the universe really aligning with my subconcious to prod me into some alternative action? Everybody in their twenties wonders from time to time if they're on the right path, but most at least know their intended destination. Or if not, they wander aimlessly by choice. In this deep breath I'm taking now, against the vague sense of a burden lifted, my involuntary aimlessness is set in stark relief. It's comforting to think a little riptide of randomness has pulled me under. The thought that some cosmic force or some higher power put me here is much more terrifying.

Whether the forces be cosmic or random, the only way out is forward. But there are so many directions. Looking back on the way I've come so far, I have no idea if the paths I've taken have been the right ones, or whether they've been paths at all and not just dead ends. Every day I have new thoughts and new plans. I spend my most of my waking hours in a soul-crushing office enviornment, and equally as many hours imagining ways to get out of it. Ironically, it's the sheer number of plausible ideas that I come up with that have probably put me here in the first place. Looking back at my life, there are so many things and ideas I've abandoned..enough to fill multiple lifetimes had I seen them through to completion. Theatre is my sole truly consistent endeavor. If I abandon it, I'll be totally lost.

Therefore I've made a decision NOT to make a decision. I've decided to enjoy a great big waffle right here in the middle of the intersection and wait until my eyes adjust to the dark enough to read the signs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Type: Stage - straight play
Title: All in the Timing by David Ives
Company: Epidemic Theatre (
Location: British Academy of the Performing Arts (2550 Sandy Plains Rd, Marietta, GA 30066, in the LA Fitness Plaza), and The Arts Place (3330 Sandy Plains Rd, Marietta, GA 30066)
Role: Betty in "Sure Thing" and Kafka in "Words Words Words"
Dates: March 26-28 at BAPA and April 8-11 at The Arts Place
Times: 8:00 Friday and Saturday, 3:00 Sunday
Cost: $15 Purchase tickets through me or at the website starting March 1, or at the door. $10 presale before 2/17 (contact me directly)
Notes: All in the Timing is a collection of six short plays with heavy emphasis on word play and comedic timing. Patrick is in three of the shorts too, including "Words Words Words" with me.


Type: Stage - music and dance cabaret
Title: Seasons of Love VIII
Company: benefits the charity CHRISKids, sponsored by Tiffany
Location: 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th Street, Atlanta, GA 30309
Role: singer and dancer (soloist)
Dates: Friday & Saturday, March 5-6
Times: 8:00 pm
Cost: $40. Purchase tickets at
Notes: This is the second year I'll participate in this fundraiser that includes Glee-like musical complilations of pop and broadway hits of today and yesterday. This year's theme is "First Love," so there will be lots of music from the 60s and 70s. I will be belting out "These Boots are Made for Walking" and dancing (expect me to be a "flyer" again). CHRISKids is a great organzation that helps homeless children and teens get off the street and make a new life.

After a long hiatus

After Thirteen Hours closed, I took a much-needed mental and physical health break for the entire holiday season. I'm still learning the value of things like saying no and doing nothing, and it's a daily struggle. It's hard to disassociate guilt and idleness.

But I wasn't totally unoccupied all these weeks. I've been focusing on my day job and was rewarded with a bonus and a salary increase at the end of the year, which was gratifying. I've been putting extra time and effort into my friendships and my marriage as well. I'm also taking some time to consider my future, both in the business and otherwise. Patrick is still underemployed and our little family continues to struggle financially, and the constant rebudgeting is like manning a dinghy in a hurricane. In other words, your typical new year/new decade thoughts and activities.

Additionally, 2010 has brought me an unexpected hurdle in terms of my health. Some peculiarities in the girl-doctor arena prompted an office visit and a blood test, and the results of the blood test were very abnormal. After a couple days of panic and worry, during which I mentally diagnosed myself with cancer and planned my funeral, I found out it was a only deficient thyroid. I've been referred to a specialist, who I'll see later this week, and who should be able to give me an official diagnosis and treatment that are pretty run-of-the-mill.

I say "only," but if I truly have hypothyroidism, it's going to explain most of what's been wrong with me my whole life. Even things I thought were just luck of the genetic draw - like extremely dry skin, nails that chip easily, and weight sticking to my middle - plus things I thought were just annoying physiological quirks, like ringing in my ears and being cold all the time, are the effects of an underactive thyroid. Most significantly for my life-satisfaction, hypothryoidism causes feelings of depression and extreme lethargy even in the most mildly dysfuntional of patients, and my levels were through the roof. It almost makes me cry to think that all my life I thought I was just incurably lazy and glum.

You might ask, Janie, if you've had all these symptoms forever, why has it taken so long to discover their cause? I believe, and my hunch will be confirmed or disproved at the doctor this week, that my condition was exacerbated when I started medication for GERD. Evidently, Nexium can sometimes interfere with the hormones that regulate the endocrine system, namely, the thyroid. Moreover, treatment for hypothyroidism sometimes treats GERD itself without any extra medicine at all. The symptoms that promted my initial visit to the GYN started around the same time I started taking Nexium.

But lazy or no, healthy or dysfuntional, broke or rich, you knew I couldn't stay away from the stage for long. Read on for further postings about my upcoming projects for the first half of 2010.