Friday, January 14, 2011

Acting: It's What's not Paying For My Dinner (...but that's okay)

"Acting is merely the art of keeping a large group of people from coughing."
-- Sir Ralph Richardson

Simply put: I like acting. It's the ultimate game of pretend and quick frankly, had "playing pretend" ever been an Olympic sport, you would have found my quirky visage on a box of Wheaties.

I remember the moment when I wanted to act. I was in fifth grade and had just watched The Karate Kid and was spellbound by 1) Ralph Macchio's good looks and 2) how moved I was by the acting. 
(And yes, now you know how much the 'mumble' stands for in thirty-mumble-years-old is, shut up.) I held my precious copy of Teen Beat magazine in my tiny hands and sobbed. I walked up to my mother as she was making up my sister's bed. I stammered at her, "I want to be an actor." Being the awesome lady that she is, my mom calmly replied back, "YOU WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE!" Ha! I kid! She said, "Well you can join drama club next year when you start middle school." Tears of passion turned to tears of joy and I happily skipped back into my room to survey my wallpaper made entirely of Ralph Macchio with guest appearances by Michael J. Fox. ("The Coreys," River Phoenix, Kirk Cameron, Rick(y) Schroeder and Jason Bateman came a little later in my interior design scheme...)

Fast forward to middle school! I made it into the drama club and auditioned for a few comedy sketches. I was good! I made people giggle! But the GROUCH OF A BAD WORD lady who ran the club HATED my guts wouldn't cast me in anything. (I have no solid proof why she didn't like me but my guess is because she didn't believe in television and my dad ran a television station. Yeah, messed up, right?) Anyway, I was banished to the back line of the chorus for the opening act which was a rousing rendition of "There's No Business Like Show Business." (And by 'rousing' I mean, 'disjointed.') I was seen on stage for about 4.5 seconds. I wore knee socks. That's all I remember of the show.

In 7th grade I applied to be in the drama club again and was flatly rejected. This meant I couldn't audition for any shows that the school produced. Understatement: I was devastated.

In high school I was in marching band and couldn't audition/participate in the fall play due to scheduling. I never auditioned for the spring musical because, well... if you've had the misfortune of sitting with me in a car while I "sing" to the radio, you know why. (And I apologize to your ear drums and sense of good taste.)

I let my passion for acting go at the time and sunk into writing. I'd always been a good writer and now that I hadn't been able to get on stage when I was fearless, writing better suited my now shy and withdrawn personality. (No, for real, I barely spoke. Unlike now, which I'm getting to so simmer down.)

Fast forward (again) to 1999. I'm in LA and working in sitcoms, hoping to be a writer. But, my shyness is still VERY apparent and I knew I'd never make it in a writers' room which was basically a joke factory. I could barely say my own name, much less pitch a joke to a room full of people. Friends of mine were doing improv and suggested I take it just to help get over being so shy. With the tune, You're the Best Around, bouncing around my head (and lagging self-esteem), I signed up for my first class at TheatreSports LA.

In short, when I started improv, I WAS HORRIBLE. (I also would stand in the parking lot for a half hour before each class and debate whether or not to quit, throw up or both.) I could barely speak or move and was so sure that everybody was judging me harshly. I was so inside my own fear that I couldn't see anything really going on around me. Thankfully, I had amazing teachers who held my hand when they needed to and yelled when they needed to. One made me cry! And it was the best day of my life.

Let's fast forward one last time to 2011. For those of you who know me now, "shyness" isn't a word you would use to describe me; however, "she could shut up from time to time" might be a phrase you would quickly blurt out. Improv gave helped me find the confidence I had in life before being shut down in middle school. It also gave me a way to combine acting and writing.

This brings me to the fact that 13 (holy shit!) years later, I'm living as I wanted to in 6th grade: on stage. I've been doing improv professionally for over 10 years and in the past 6 have gotten into scripted acting. I LOVE IT. All of it.

So this brings me to the sales pitch part of this blog: JOIN MY CULT! No, I mean, please come see me in my first off-off-Broadway appearance in NYC! (And by the way, off-off Broadway has nothing to do with location, it has to do with theatre size and ticket sales. Otherwise this would be "off-off-2-subways-later-and-bring-a-snack Broadway.)

I'm part of the 6th Annual One Act Festival in Long Island City. (Click here for details, directions, etc.) I'm in two one acts that are both comedies and play on different nights. So if you want to see both, you have to buy 2 tickets. (I didn't make the rules!)
So here's the details on the shows:

"The True Story" is during Program 2:
1/13 Thursday- 8pm
1/15 Saturday - 8pm
1/20 Thursday - 8pm
1/22 Saturday - 3pm

"Cookie Darling" is during Program 3:
1/14 Friday - 8pm
1/16 Sunday - 8pm
1/19 Wednesday - 8pm
1/22 Saturday - 8pm

Both one acts I'm in are comedies! "The True Story" is 14 minutes and just as a teaser I will tell you that I have 2 accents, 2 dialects and an interpretive dance piece. If that doesn't entice you, then I can't help you. "Cookie Darling" is a longer piece which is probably around 20+ minutes or so. It's very funny as I have to play sexy, which for any of you who know me well, know is just inherently (and awkwardly) funny.

I hope you can make it! Based on audience VOTING, the top one acts will continue on to a finals week! So please come and vote!

Yes, acting doesn't pay the bills (and may never) but it makes me happy. I enjoy the laughter of the audience. I enjoy that we had that experience together, but moreover, I enjoy the discount at the concessions stand and keep hoping to find Ralph Macchio in the audience.  Sweep the knee!


  1. Oh please, Jen! You are only ::mumble:: year(s) ::mumble:: than me!

  2. This blog makes me really happy. Since I was 11, I've dreamed of moving to Los Angeles and trying my hand at professional acting, but as you know, it's A. insanely expensive and B. supremely terrifying/intimidating/every synonym for scary and I, too, am shy (and have terrible anxiety, so it doesn't help). I find it so inspiring how you are finding your own happiness and doing what you love fearlessly. Break legs!



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