...Although I have been acting for more almost fifteen years, I just launched a website. I spent the last nine years teaching Acting and Directing, Filmmaking, and English in the New York City Public School system. Teaching was very rewarding, I was extremely passionate about it, and I loved the kids with whom I worked, as much as I could have done without a few of the schools’ political landscapes. But, as the demands and commitments to full-time teaching grew exponentially, I found myself with little, if any, room to practice the crafts that I had been teaching, which, upon reflection, perpetuated a further feeling that my soul was being drained.
Signs had begun to appear last Spring (2012)...
However, a high degree of uncertainty came along with my decision. I was going to be replacing a steady income that provided me with a very comfortable life with a changing financial landscape and unpredictable schedule. Yet, it feels right. It always has. One basic tenet of acting is to trust your instinct. To practice what I preach, I had to make this decision. So far, it was the right one. I have never looked back, and I have been fortunate to book jobs since I made this decision. Don’t get me wrong; these jobs didn’t fall into my lap. I hustled for them, and will always continue to hustle. It's what we do. But artists don’t book everything for which we audition, and that can always carry a varying degree of frustration with it. It's part of the game, which is fine.
Yet, I now wake up every morning excited. I maintain a structured schedule on days when I’m not auditioning, shooting, or rehearsing. I use that time to network, search for representation, answer casting calls, etc.
But there's something else. Every now and then, I give myself a day off to explore the city, go to a museum, whatever strikes me at that moment. Working as a full time actor and voice artist again (after ten years) is my creative sandbox, yet giving myself permission to take that occasional day off is my sacred playtime.
Play. A few years ago, someone who was the dearest and most important person in my life had an idea to make a living from facilitating 'play' as a ritual for people tied to their jobs, under the umbrella of life’s stresses, what have you. (I only put the word 'play' in quotes here to avoid confusion of that word in theatrical terms.) I remember loving the idea, feeling how important it was and how this person would be providing such a service and giving a gift to so many people. Yet, I didn’t know what that ‘play’ looked like. (Great trait in an artist, wasn’t it?)
In retrospect, play is a service, no, a gift to myself that I could have used and would have relished. That's true for all of us. I had been so tied to the demands of my teaching work that, when the Theatre program budget was cut from one of my schools, forcing me to find work in another school, I could think of nothing else but finding a job for the next academic year. I had grown so used to the routine. I had stopped thinking creatively outside of the classroom or studio where I would be teaching a class. (In class, it was great. Very creative atmosphere, and it kept alive my 'Teacher as Learner' philosophy.) But beyond the classroom or studio: Self-paralysis. Tunnel Vision. Finding myself in this position was as scary as hell. I automatically went into survival mode, which consumed my life. Life became all about finding the Next Great Teaching Job to maintain my comfortable standard of living. I landed a decent teaching gig in another school for three years.
However, this came at a heavy cost. That job (and its preceding search) began to consume me, and I had not considered the concept of play as the most important mechanism which sustains the human spirit. We need the ritual of play not just to relax and retreat from the stresses of everyday life, but to survive, and thrive. To live. Although I had gotten picked up by another school, my search for that Next Great Teaching Job, again, came at a heavy cost: I had alienated the most important people in my life, including myself, and lost sight of what is really important. These alienations existed in different permutations, and I rue the fact that I did such things to others and in turn, myself. However, I learned from them after a soul-searching journey within that of life's overall journey. The lessons stay with me, remain indelible parts of me, and I move on.
My work now is a form of play. Acting is hard work, booking gigs is hard work. Yet I had forgotten all these years how much I revel in it. It is play for me, even when I’m on a twelve-hour shoot, auditioning all over the city, seeking representation, submitting myself for casting calls, or even learning lines. Don't get me wrong, because to do this, I have to work damn hard, yet I love the work.
But there is another level of play, beyond the job. That is allowing myself to take time that is just for myself and spend it however I want, even if it’s just for a day. Going to a museum. Playing music. Discovering more about my city. Yoga. Meditation. Love. Growth. Family. Friends (also a form of family). Learning. Travel. Letting go. I give myself time to play now, and it is one of my sacred rituals. I dedicated part of my journey to figuring out what play could mean, and its healing powers. My gratitude to the person who introduced this concept to me is eternal.
I don’t know what this chapter in my life’s journey will bring. But I guess it doesn’t matter; I embrace the uncertainty wholeheartedly. That’s what life is. I follow a passion which I had lost, and make it my profession again, allowing myself time for play, within and beyond acting and voiceover jobs. I am consumed only by the desire to chase what sates my hunger to fulfill my passions, work and play. While my work sustains me and feeds my soul in many ways, play, my work’s counterpart, also sustains me. And within that professional framework, I don’t just exist; I live. Play at work and outside of it feeds life’s passion. I thrive in it. And I’m so lucky. I'm free. I get to live those passions.
There’s a line from the film Awakenings which I’ll always treasure:
What we do know is that, as the chemical window closed, another awakening took place; that the human spirit is more powerful than any drug - and THAT is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. THESE are the things that matter. This is what we'd forgotten - the simplest things.
The title of this blog entry is no accident. If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about, specifically, where that line appears in the script. The answer was beneath me this whole time. But I know and live it now.
It's good to go back to my roots. It's healing.
Most of my posts will be heads ups about upcoming projects, and updates of when and where I can be seen. There also may be a random musing here and there. But please feel free to leave comments and subscribe to stay in the loop; I also want to know about your journeys, so please feel free to include them. Perhaps they will start great forums!
(But if they're bad reviews of my work, go to hell.)
(I follow and contributed to threads in a great blog - everysixminutes - posted by a former Big Law attorney who left her job to embark on a journey of self-discovery. She wrote about where it would take her as her journey unfolded, and it was great to be a part of it, just by following it. I'm so happy to say that she's in a career completely unrelated to that of her former, and she writes with such happiness that I could do nothing but draw even more inspiration from it. I would be remiss without mentioning it.)