Acting! Genius! Thank you! - 09/08/2020
I remember when I first decided I wanted to be an actress. I was maybe 8 years old, and I was with my mother at what I think was a high school production of "Oklahoma!" This was my first experience with live theatre, and I was spellbound. About halfway through the first act, I turned and whispered to my mother, "That's what I want to do when I grow up!" I remember she laughed, and the idea was dismissed. But I never forgot it. I wasn't a theatre kid in high school, but I did act in a couple of in-class plays and a short film. I loved the acting experience, but since I was a very good student, my arts background was forgotten in favor of a business degree, leading to a career that began in sales.
I didn't do any more acting for many years. I was a singer as a sideline to my business career for a long time, and so didn't give acting much thought. But once I had to retire from business due to illness and injury, I started thinking about acting again. I took a musical theatre class that was offered at the Foster City Community Center when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. I loved it, and I turned out to be surprisingly good at interpreting show tunes. My teacher was very encouraging, and recommended that I start auditioning locally. My response? "I'm too old to be an actress" (I was 42). He laughed and told me, "You're never too old to act." I was skeptical, but I signed up to audition for the next show to be put on at our local community theatre, Hillbarn. It was "Little Shop of Horrors," and I auditioned with "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" from "Grease." I was amazed when I got a callback, and then was cast as one of the ensemble members. I was thrilled, because I would get to sing and dance and be a part of a really fun musical.
I absolutely loved my first theatre experience. We had a great cast, and wonderful direction, especially from Music Director Michael Langham. We had just opened the show, however, when 9/11 happened. We had to go on for our second weekend right after this terrible event. A lot of the cast of LSOH gets eaten or otherwise killed, so it was a little dark in light of the then-current events. But I learned that the show must go on, and that musicals can really make people feel better about everything. We had a very successful run, and I was hooked.
I started working regularly in the Bay Area theatre scene, and also quickly booked a commercial and a recurring role as a re-enactor on one of the very first "TruTV" type shows, "I, Detective." Some weeks the show reached 1.2 million viewers. It was the predecessor to "Hard Cover Mysteries" and "Forensic Files," both of which I went on to perform on after I moved to LA in 2010. I continued acting until the end of 2016, when I retired in order to move to the warm, dry climate of Tucson. Since then, I've only done one commercial (in Phoenix). I haven't missed it terribly, although I do really miss theatre people, and the wonderful camaraderie that develops among the cast of a play. But recently, a couple of opportunities have come my way that make me want to start acting again. I submitted this blog to a producer who is looking for people who have been writing about the pandemic, in order to pitch a docuseries to Netflix and Hulu. He liked my work, and I am looking forward to learning more about what this will entail. And out of the blue, last week I was contacted by the director of an upcoming Zoom play about Hilary Clinton to audition for the lead role.
But here's the thing. When you are an actor, you learn early on to accept rejection, and to learn to love auditions for the opportunity they give you to practice your craft. I was very good at this when I was in LA in particular. I always booked a lot of the roles I auditioned for, and I worked so regularly that it didn't bother me when I didn't get cast (well, most of the time!). However, it has been a long time since I was auditioning regularly. I'm out of practice in accepting rejection. So when I auditioned for this role on Sunday, and got great feedback from everyone involved, I got my hopes up that I might get cast. And when they chose to go with an actress they had worked with before, I wasn't surprised, but I was really disappointed.
It's hard to know why you don't get cast, especially when you feel like you have knocked it out of the park and everyone in the room seems to agree. I once lost a role because the director had a blonde ex-wife that I reminded him of (at least, that's what I was told, unofficially). Sometimes you aren't cast because you are playing someone's mom, and they don't look enough like you. Sometimes it's because you sound too Southern. Sometimes, it's actually because someone else was better than you. But it's always subjective. Maybe they just had a better read that day. You tell yourself all these things, and you get right back on the horse and start auditioning again. In LA, that was easy. In Tucson, auditions are few and far between, especially for a woman of a certain age like me. I don't know when I'll audition again, unless it's for the full season auditions of the theatre company putting on the Hillary play, which aren't until next March. But the desire to act has been re-awakened in me, and it will be hard to wait until then.
I'm really grateful that I had the chance to work as an actress for 16 years. I appeared in 34 plays and over 100 films and TV shows. I've done over 20 commercials and countless web series, a couple of which were nominated for Streamy awards and reviewed favorably in EW. I've been reviewed in the SF Chronicle and the LA Times (both good and bad). I've met more famous actors than I can remember. It was fun, and exciting, if not lucrative - I never made more than $6000 in a year during the entire time I was pursuing my acting career. I never booked a primetime speaking part, although I had some featured background roles on shows like "Grey's Anatomy" (my first primetime show) and "Parks and Recreation." But I did a lot of leads on re-enactment TV, and I even played the lead in a feature film, which unfortunately was never released (this happens way more often than people realize). I'm proud of my work in the entertainment business. But I'm not sure I can ever go back to the kind of relentless rejection that all actors face. I'll always have my memories, and my IMDb credits. And that little girl who loved "Oklahoma!" feels pretty happy about all of that, because she really did get to be a actress when she grew up.
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