The first time I experienced the harsh reality of show business was in high school. Up to this point, theater had been one long trust fall and back rub - a giant playground full of acceptance, joy, community and … I mentioned back rubs. It was during the statewide one-act competitions - and any young thespian will tell you, it is a place unrivaled in swells of ego and emotion. It was winter in Wisconsin and the van with all of our props and costumes was in a ditch. Indeed, The Actors’ Nightmare… Which, if I’m not mistaken, was the name of the Chistopher Durang one-act play we had performed the previous year. Surely, you can not do a show if you have none of the props and costumes!
Que our friendly (and bearded, of course) theater teacher with the first of many ‘show-must-go-on’ monologues one hears (or composes) after even a short duration in the theater. After a moment of crying, and panic - maybe some awkward accusation - finally acceptance. Unification. And even though it was hard, the show indeed, went on.
On a very cold October night over 10 years ago, I found myself shivering my ass off as I applied cat-eye make-up by dome light in my rearview mirror. I had been hired by a very eccentric, wealthy woman to show up to her Halloween party as a psychic - an hour of improv mixed with her pre-arranged ‘discoveries’ about her friends. At the last minute she decided it would be much more convincing if I came from the outside (in my freezing car) than from upstairs (her ‘guest wing’ with mirrors, a sink… and heat). It was really hard, but I made my first ‘serious check’ on a freelance gig. (Photo: A later, much more comfortable, party psychic gig: Ultimate Pajama Party, 2013.)
Then, this Friday, on my first shoot in Los Angeles: Surely, the glitz and the MOTHER-FUCKING GLAMOR that this business is known for!
Until… in-between locations when I was scheduled to change make-up and wardrobe. It’s a student film, so no one expected a stylist, but a room in which to get ready was also absent. So, there I was, standing under florescent lights in the public ladies’ room of none-other-than The Stephen Spielberg Building. I’m in my bra and bare feet, airbrushing myself while explaining to the cleaning staff that this is ‘muy necesario’. It was also Hard. Humbling and hard.
So I find myself returning to a hypothetical question, which seems to be the overarching summary of the many questions I’ve heard - asked myself - regarding this actor-thing in LA: When does it stop being ‘hard’?
It seems to me - regardless of whether you define ‘hard’ as the crazy last-minute schedule, or the pressure of body image, or the endless job-search - the answer is, never. It never stops being hard.
Because even if my NEW AGENT or EVENTUAL UNION eventually demand that a private toilet and mirror be provided for Ms. Brodey… I believe the bizarre nature of this job will always require improvisation and good sense of humor to make it through. Because even if you’re being well-compensated for it, you’re still gonna have to shoot outside in the winter; kiss someone with bad breath; or jump into a glass box full of rubber snakes… And thank god.
Perhaps you caught my ALL CAPS news drop up there about MY LA AGENT!!! They are KMR Talent, and they are bad ass. I was signed with them as a commercial talent on Monday and am over-the-moon. They are consistently ranked among the top LA Agents and they are uniformly praised by every actor I’ve talked to. I’m getting new head shots next week (didn’t you just get those gorgeous ones? I know, right...) and am very eager to start going out for them.
I still don’t have theatrical representation (television and movies) so to that end, last night I went to my first ‘Casting Director Workshop’. This translates as an opportunity to pay a casting director $30 to talk to you for 10 minutes. This particular CD has cast, and is currently casting, several television projects for which I may be a good fit, including ‘Sons of Anarchy’, and ‘Mad Men’. As I was about to go in to meet him, the attendant stopped me with what I hoped was good advice - I had just told her that I was new to town and this was my first time at one of these things. Instead she held my arm and with a puzzled expression and real concern said, ‘You don’t seem nervous.'
I wasn’t nervous. I was curious, excited - kinda' hungry - but not nervous. …Well, maybe a little now that she seemed surprised that I wasn’t…
When I entered the room, the CD sat in a particularly ornate corner of a particularly drab room. The chair, thrown-like, was flanked by two towering plants and before him, a vintage coffee table. He sat, wide-legged and confident - a perma-smirk that may have been a smile - and a manicured hand holding a chiseled chin that was precisely four and a half inches below his quaffed hair. His Excellency.
I performed my scene (2.5 minutes from the Kevin Smith film ‘Chasing Amy’) and he gave me this expert evaluation: I’m a good actor although a little loud (he first said ‘big’ but who noticed) for the screen. He liked my look. Bu-bye.
And off I went. The idea is that in the next 18 hours - or however long an impression like this remains in his head - he may read a role and think of me. If it sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is and yet… It is also among the ways that people get seen and it works for many, many people.
But it’s not reason to get nervous.
Working in a coal mine is a reason to get nervous. Going to war or teaching in a public school should make you nervous… To professionally Make Believe - even if the landscape is new and the stakes are high - that ought be fun. Hard and fun.
And speaking of fun, I have the profound privilege to begin rehearsals next week for the play, Bob’s Holiday Office Party. This show, now in it’s 19th year, is a huge hit - has a sort of cult status. It was created by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk - Midwest natives - and it plays with some new and familiar characters. Its wildly funny, and I am really lucky to have been brought into the fold. For those of you who may know the show, I will be understudying Margie - going in at least three performances for the lovely and talented Andrea Hutchinson - and I am also getting familiar with ‘The Twins’ just in case.
In the meantime, Melby and I are continuing to feather our nest at the RV Park. We’ve ordered some patio furniture that, along with the grill and the movie screen, should make a real nice living room. We’ve been digging the hell of sitting outside every night … although (and please, for their sake, don’t let my Minnesota friends hear this:) it’s often too cold to sit outside at night. A bone-chilling 52 degrees.
Also, tangentially, for those of you who know me on Facebook - you may have seen that I rescued a kitten last week. I saw her above a drain pipe during my morning run around the Van Nuys airport. She was very sweet, if not a little skinny, and asked very politely if she ought or ought not wander onto Saticoy Avenue and die.
I suggested instead, she come home with me. I brought her back to the camper and set her up in a little kennel outside while I called around. Our two (useless) cats inside could not be introduced because of potential infection but I could provide food, water, litterbox and shade.
Before the sun had set, my big-hearted neighbor who houses many wayward animals (safely, cleanly, and humanely in an intricate outdoor enclosure) took her in. She said she would have her spade, micro-chipped and adopted in no time. Everybody wins.
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