Theatre


Young Playwrights Festival Banner

The Blank Theater’s Young Playwright’s Festival Banner

Yesterday Ron and I went up to Hollywood to see a play at the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Festival. My incredibly talented friend Nicole had directed one of the plays.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say that I was utterly floored by the caliber of the work I saw. The three plays I saw were written by young adults who were all under the age of 19, but they were written with such mature viewpoints that I found myself truly inspired.

Usually, when I’ve seen plays written by young adults who are in high school or their early years of college, I can see their potential. They are rough around the edges or maybe they haven’t quite found their voice or point-of-view. Often, they are trying too hard to emulate a writer they admire (I definitely am guilty of this as a writer). I can tell in a few years, with practice, with care, with work, they could be really good.

But these kids…I wasn’t seeing their potential to be really good; they were already really, really good. And they already had strong points of view and really knew what they wanted to say.

It’s so inspiring. Seeing really good art is always inspiring to me. The ways that art tells truths about humanity–sometimes deeply painful and uncomfortable truths–has always been my favorite thing. And I was really impressed with the way all of the plays I saw let me live in the discomfort and didn’t necessarily offer an ending that made me feel okay.

As a matter of fact, I relished that. In a time when so much art (I’m looking in particular at film and television) is market-tested to within in an inch of its life and is designed to be comfortable, challenging pieces are refreshing. And I applaud the Blank Theatre for not telling these kids that theatre has to be easy and for letting their plays stand as they were. It gives me hope that there will continue to be art that isn’t the same old escapist boring stuff that I see every day.

(As an aside, there is nothing wrong with escapist art/entertainment per se. I love my light and fluffy silly science fiction and cartoons as much as anyone. I just find it disheartening that there is so little challenging work being promoted and funded. I’m trying to go out of my way to seek it more and support it more.)

So kudos to the Blank Theatre, my awesome friend Nicole, these kids who are writing these plays, and everyone who tries to make art. Keep doing what you do. It makes things better.

Madroña Shawl

What I can do when I feel like myself.

So I’ve been feeling kind of blah the past few weeks. Some of it was because I was sad because of Danny. Some of it was post-Craftcation/post-Stitches let-down. Some of it was just a general bad feeling. I don’t know why, but I was just feeling blah.

I wasn’t running. I was eating lots more ice cream and junk food than normal (I try to be pretty sparing with it). I wasn’t knitting.

When I’m not knitting, I know that it’s gotten really bad.

I’m usually knitting constantly. When I watch TV, on my breaks at work, waiting for my food in a restaurant, at the movies. And I just didn’t feel like it.

This wasn’t a question of none of my projects exciting me. I just didn’t feel like knitting anything.

I thought that going to knit night last week would help, because usually being with my Stitch and Beach group is really inspiring. I see what other people are doing, I touch pretty yarn, and I fall back in love with knitting. But it didn’t help. I picked up my project. I set down my project. I picked it up again, I knit a few stitches, I set it down. I got home and it sat in my bag, unloved, while Ron and I watched Star Trek.

When I get into moods like these, there is only one thing I can do to pull myself out of them. I have to commit to a bunch more stuff. It seems counter-intuitive. I’m already feeling blah and overwhelmed by all the things I haven’t done. But somehow, by saying yes to a ton of commitments, I manage to jumpstart my dead emotional battery and then I’m energized again.

So, I signed up for a 5k and started a bootcamp class to get myself really motivated to run. I signed up for an acting class. I committed to a couple of singing gigs. And then I waited for it all to start working.

It took some time. I started to get scared and overwhelmed, but also a little excited at all the new projects I had in my life. And then last night, it finally happened. I went to knit night, and I knit, and I loved it. I was a focused knitting machine.

I got a lot of knitting done on my Madroña Shawl, and I enjoyed it. It was a good feeling. And then I came home and went for a run. And knit some more.

I’ve always found it funny that my method of overloading myself with commitments so I have no choice but to rise to the occasion is what always make me feel better. Now I just have to get through the next couple of weeks without collapsing! But it’s better (for me) to be too busy, rather than not have enough to do.

What about you? What do you do to chase away the blahs and feel like yourself again?

Thursday night Ron and I went up to see a Groundlings improv show with our friends John and Deb. Before the show, we went to eat at Phillipe’s, which has the best French Dip sandwiches ever. And also baked apples, which are amazing. I don’t get to go there much anymore, because the drive isn’t that long, but it’s a little long for a sandwich.

The show was really, really funny. I totally recommend seeing it if you’re in the Los Angeles area. (It’s not family friendly though, so leave the kidlets at home.) This particular show, Cooking with Gas, was all improv with no sketches (other shows on other nights at The Groundlings also have a sketch component). The whole cast was really talented and there were only a few moments where the scenes they were doing didn’t work for whatever reason. Mostly, it was really clever and funny. I’m always impressed when actors commit to what they are doing, and these guys were totally there. In fact, the one scene that really didn’t work for me, it was because the actors were trying to kind of backpedal out of earlier choices they had made, instead of committing. But mostly, it didn’t matter how ridiculous a bit was going to make them look, they went for it wholeheartedly.

I think the thing that impressed me most is that the actors really listened to what was going on in scene and mostly could respond organically. This is where I have a lot of trouble with improv. Even though I know better, I find myself trying to be funny. Or I reject my first instinct as too boring or too ordinary or too obvious (and really, I’m a pretty darn boring person if you want to know the truth) and try to come up with something more interesting and I get paralyzed. I’ve never taken an improv class, because when I have to do improv I feel just nauseated with worry. The idea of experiencing that week after week doesn’t sound appealing. Of course, I felt the same way about my scene study class and I think that turned out mostly okay. My fear of it probably means that taking an improv class is exactly what I should be doing. And if I felt less icky about the acting world right now, I probably would.

But acting in general is in a weird place for me right now. Or am I in a weird place in it? I don’t know. I feel like I’m in some kind of limbo.

I find myself really wanting to do another show, since it’s been a while. But nothing that the theatres around here are doing is right for me right now. It’s either a show I don’t have any desire to be in at all, a show with no role that I’m interested in playing, or a show with a role I would love to play but that I know the director won’t consider me for because–well you know, all that “type” stuff. I’m running into trouble because I’m not marketable or easily typed. I get totally different answers from people about the kinds of roles I can play, so that it’s gotten to the point that I don’t know what to try for anymore.

It’s confusing to get told in the same day that I’m too young to play a character in her thirties and too old to play a character in her twenties. This was by two different people. And I recognize that those are individual opinions. The point is that I can never know how a director is going to see me. Unlike some other actors, I can’t say “Oh, I’m a _______” and know what kinds of roles to submit myself for.

I know that as an actress, I’m not supposed to worry about these things. I’m just supposed to go to an audition and do my best work. But auditioning takes time and energy and preparation and I don’t like to spin my wheels and just audition for stuff to be auditioning. I don’t want to audition for a show where there is literally no chance that I will be cast. My time is valuable and I don’t want to waste it. And I’m not saying that an audition where I don’t get cast is a waste of my time. But an audition where I’m not even considered is a waste of my time, if that makes sense.

I’m not feel particularly sad or heartbroken about this. This is just where I am right now. I probably won’t feel this way forever. There are some projects coming up places later in 2013 that I feel like I want to do and might have a chance to do, so I’m prepping for those auditions. I’m just debating what I should do to feed my acting desire in the meantime.

So I took a page from the Yarn Harlot and Tuesday was for spinning.

Okay, no, Tuesday was for cursing. I just got my drop spindle. And despite the foul language I used Tuesday, it’s a very nice spindle. But wow, spinning on a drop spindle is much, much, much harder for me than wheel spinning. I am having so much trouble doing that much stuff with my hands. At least with wheel spinning my feet do some of the work. I destroyed a lot of fiber for very little yarn. And of course it’s all uneven.

I’m going to try weighting the spindle more; I think it’s a little light for me at the moment. It doesn’t stay spinning long and tends to backspin, which, according to my research, points to there not being enough weight on it for the thickness of yarn I am spinning. I’ll stick a couple of washers on it and see if that helps. Spinners out there, am I on the right track with this?

I’m also looking at maybe using it as a supported spindle instead of a drop spindle. It looks a little more intuitive to me. We’ll see. I have to experiment more. Even though right now my instinct is to chuck the whole thing because really? Why is it so difficult?

I also spent Tuesday picking out and re-seaming my sleeves on the Wispy Cardi, again. I’m still not 100% happy with it, but short of re-knitting the whole thing, there’s not much I can do because part of the issue is in my selvedges.

I didn’t write on Tuesday because between the spinning and the seaming, any blog entry I wrote would have looked like this: “*#$***! AJSKLD;JF;KALJSD;GKLJA[NVBJKNAKD;Jsdkl;nf;alklomnab[.” That’s how frustrated I was.

Last night, things were considerably happier, because I had knitting group. I got quite a bit of work done on my Frost Flowers. By quite a bit of work, I mean one whole row! Since my rows are like a million stitches long, that’s actually an accomplishment for three hours of social knitting. I’m actually not making horrible progress on this. I’m beginning to be mildly afraid that I will run out of yarn. No, screw it. I’m not even going to entertain that thought. I’ll burn that bridge when I get there. Plus I have a Plan B so it will be fine. (Famous last words!)

Something kind of cool also happened at knitting. It’s a huge complement to my knitting and I really needed that after feeling like such a talentless, non-spinning, non-finishing idiot on Tuesday night. I’m not going to say specifics right now, in case it doesn’t pan out. And if it doesn’t, it’s not a huge deal, I just don’t want to tell you all to watch for something that isn’t going to happen. But I’ll say eventually, I promise. Just know that it’s cool for me.

When I got home, I started picking up stitches for the neckband of my Wispy Cardi! And just in time, too. Ron and I are going up to see a Groundlings show with our friends John and Deb tonight. Since I’m not driving, it’s lots of car knitting time for me. And, since this is 1×1 rib at this point, I can do it in the dark. I was totally out of mindless knitting that didn’t require beads or lace, so I’m glad I finally got past the sleeves that just wouldn’t be knit. I really just want this thing done so I can wear it. It’s so soft and warm. And we’ve actually had some legitimately cold weather lately (not just California cold), so I could really use it.

You’d think I’d never mattress stitched before

When I first started knitting, I never ripped anything back. Ever. I knit it and it was done and however I had knit it, that was right. Okay, if I made a mistake in a pattern–if I dropped a stitch or forgot a decrease, I would drop the stitches down and fix that little part. My knitting was always technically correct. The pattern was right–all the knits and purls and yarn overs right where they belonged. But it never was spectacular knitting. Because sometimes the drape of the fabric would be wrong. Or I had the wrong gauge. Or the colors would pool. Or the yarn was too busy for the pattern. I did not rip back for things like that.

The tiny mistakes, those were okay, because anyone could have a little slip up and miss a stitch. They were easily fixed, and no one would even know they had happened. But the big mistakes…oh, how could I ever admit to such errors in judgment and taste? Those things pointed to the idea that maybe I didn’t have “taste” or “a knitter’s eye” or a real creative vision. Because I had chosen my yarn and my project with an idea of how I wanted it, and if those choices created a terrible project that went sideways, that meant that I had failed. And the finished project would sit in a box, proof that I had no idea what I was doing.

The problem was that I was a perfectionist.

No, that’s not right. A normal perfectionist would definitely rip out the green scarf knit on size 8 needles in worsted weight yarn that had NO drape whatsoever. She wouldn’t persist in knitting this thing that felt more like chain-mail than a nice soft scarf.

The problem was that I was a perfectionist who never wanted to make a mistake.

And I admit it. I still am. I want everything to be perfect the very first time I do it. The first draft of what I am writing should be the most perfect poetical and breathtakingly honest and true words ever written in all of history. The first time I work on a scene, I should automatically be able to perform it as if I were Dame Judy Dench herself. The first time I try a new recipe, it should be the best food anyone has ever eaten. I don’t want to have to edit, or work deeper, or make adjustments.

This isn’t laziness on my part (I swear). It’s just a near crippling fear that if I don’t get something right the very first time I do it, I will never be able to do it right. Ever. And that would make me a failure. No one wants to be a failure.

But lately I’ve been getting the idea that my definition of “failure” might be a little bit skewed.

It all started when I started reading more knitting blogs and listening to knitting podcasts. And I realized just how much trial and error goes into designing and knitting. These were people who I considered really amazing knitters. People like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Brenda Dayne spoke with such ease about projects that had gone totally sideways, about ripping stuff out and starting over ten times.

And suddenly, something clicked in my head. Obviously, they had gotten things to be so good by making and fixing a lot of mistakes. And that didn’t make them failures as knitters. So maybe I didn’t have to consider myself a huge failure either?

Suddenly, I was willing to look at project and say things like “This yarn is not working at all. I have to use a different yarn,” and actually rip it all out and start all over. And even more important, I was willing to not beat myself up for having to start over.

And I find myself at least slightly more willing to not immediately admit defeat when other creative attempts don’t come as easily to me. I know that a few years ago, I would not have been nearly as willing to stick with spinning after the terrible yarn I made. And I never would have survived my scene study class, which involved a lot of going back and trying a scene over and over and taking critiques. I would have been far too fragile about it all if knitting hadn’t gotten me used to ripping something out and starting it over and trying it again with minimal feelings of failure.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t have times when I want to swear off all knitting (or acting or playing an instrument or whatever) altogether. Sometimes it’s so frustrating to try and try and feel like you’re going nowhere. But it happens a lot less than it used to.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick out some terrible seaming I have done on my Wispy Cardi (pictured above). My mistake: seaming without blocking first. And that’s okay.

A close up of the little prince shawlOkay, a full three months without an update.  Ugh.  Sorry about that.  So much has happened in that time.  I was in a little bit of a funk for some of the time, but luckily, I spent a lot of time doing things I love too.  So overall, it was a good time. I wish I could say that I did some work on my business, but I did nothing about that. Unfortunately. But I still did a lot.  There’s a lot to update on–knitting, theatre, and fitness–so I’ll divide this up into sections to update you on everything.

Haiku SocksKnitting:
1. I joined a knitting guild. There isn’t much to say about it, except that I’m glad to be a part of a group that gives me an opportunity to learn new techniques (we have monthly programs with guest teachers). I’m really excited.

2. I did finish the Haiku Socks from Knitted Socks East and West. If you have a Ravelry account, you can see my project page here. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, but I think if I made them again, I would make the leg section longer. I certainly had enough yarn (I have a fair amount left over). I have a few more skeins of the Jojoland Melody, but I’ve started using better sock yarn (more on that later), so I’ll use that up, but probably won’t be buying anymore of it.

3. I cast on and finished The Little Prince Shawl from The Unique Sheep (Ravelry page here). I knit it in their Luxe Yarn (which is a gorgeous Tussah silk/merino blend), in a gradience colorway called African Violets (which is green and transitions to purple). The picture up on the left is a detail of the lace with the clear 8/0 seed beads I put on. I loved knitting it, although the beading was a bit fiddly sometimes. But I’m incredibly happy with it.

Edith Sock WIP4. I cast on Edith Socks from the book Custom Knits Accessories. They are basic top down socks, with a lace panel in the middle and a picot cuff. I have cast off one sock and cast on the other one. I’m knitting these out of Malabrigo sock, and I LOVE it. It is more expensive than the sock yarns I usually buy, but it is totally worth it. The fabric it knits into is amazing. I started listening to this great podcast, The Anatomy of Knitting. Erin, the host, talks a lot about the yarns she uses and she uses really good yarns. It just made me change the way I think about yarn, because it made me realize that if the yarn knits up into something I really want to wear, it’s probably worth the money.

5. I cast on the Ready for the Floor Blanket (which you can only see on Ravelry). The knitting part is done, but I still have to block and assemble it. I’ll put up pictures when I’m done. The most exciting part of this is who it’s for. My sister-in-law is pregnant and due on Thanksgiving. This is my first little niece or nephew and I’m incredibly excited to have a wee one to knit for!

Theatre:
1. I was cast as Maria in a production of Twelfth Night that ran a few weekends in May. It was a great experience, with a great cast. I don’t get to do much Shakespeare, so that was especially awesome. I also got to work with a new director, whose work I’ve seen a lot and who I was really lucky to get to work with him. And the icing on the cake is that I got paid for doing this show. I don’t do it for the money, but it feels good anyway.

2. I am currently doing an all-women production of Julius Caesar. I’m playing Marullus and the Third Citizen. I haven’t had too many rehearsals yet, but I’m excited to be doing it. This is the first Shakespeare drama I get to do, which is extra exciting.

3. Immediately after that closes I’m doing a silly show about the Beat Movement and I get to play a folk singer. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

4. I’m taking a second acting class, with the same teacher from Acting I. It’s going really well; I’ve done quite a bit of good scene work and I’m just trying to grow as an actor.

Fitness:

1. I re-started the Couch to 5K program, but a different version than I did last time. This one is working out much better for me. Yesterday I was able to run for 20 minutes non-stop. That doesn’t sound like much, but I haven’t run like that in a long time, so it felt totally awesome to get to that point.

2. I’ve started using my bike to run a lot of errands and stuff, which is making my life a lot easier. I love biking so much, I can’t even tell you.

So that’s what’s been up with me lately. I’m incredibly busy, but that makes me happy, because (aside from work) I get to spend my time doing all the things that I love. And I promise I’ll be better at updating in the future, no matter how busy I get.

I am really honored to be performing in a staged reading of the musical Titanic at the Rose Center Theatre next Sunday night. Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Our performance is a tribute to that tragedy. The music in the show is beautiful and I’m really proud to be a part of it. I will be playing Charlotte Cardoza, a first class passenger based on real-life passenger Charlotte Drake Cardeza. I will also be the soloist on “Autumn,” which I’m very excited about, because it is a truly beautiful song.

The show will be performed only one night, Sunday April 15th at 7:00pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. If you’re unfamiliar with the music in the show, I’ve included a link of the original Broadway cast performance at the 1997 Tony awards, so you can hear a sample of the how the music sounds.

Please come see this show if you can; it’s really beautiful and sure to be a meaningful night.

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