Reality Bites

Rehearsal with castmates and co-director, Bree

Third rehearsal for The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever. I spend an hour beforehand going over the scene I think I’ll be working on tonight. Of course, that is not the scene I’ll be doing. This worries me. I hate being unprepared. I tell Paul (the director) that I didn’t prepare for this scene and he tells me that’s fine. But I’m already getting in my head.

We’re doing the last scene of the play, which is with my character, Janet, and another character, Jim. It’s a quick scene with pretty simple blocking.

Jim is played by Matt. He introduces himself to me and we shake hands. Paul sees this. “Oh, you guys haven’t met yet. That’s cute.” In our last rehearsal, Matt and I were on stage and in the same scene together, but there are A LOT of people in that scene, and we have dialogue and everything, but we never actually met. Which seems weird, but we only have two hours to work so there isn’t much room for small talk.

So it’s just me, Paul, and Matt. We go through the scene a few times. Paul has notes for me every time. I need to be more powerful. I also need to be super likeable and happy. And I need to move more. Be physical. “Your movement needs to match your words.” This is definitely a struggle for me. I’m used to film. Less is more. And also, I just get self-conscious with lots of movement. That sounds weird but I don’t know how else to say it.

We go through the scene again and I’m still not getting it. I’m struggling with being mean and happy. I actually say that out loud. “I don’t want you to be mean. Or bitchy.” Isn’t it interesting, that when he tells me to be powerful, I go straight to mean and bitchy?

Then he starts telling me how important my character is. “She’s our only female. She’s a lead. Well, Moremi (another female cast member) is, too, but… no, this is the last scene of the play. You’re the love interest. You’re the ingenue.” As he’s saying this, a lot of things are going through my head.

One is, fuck. Get your shit together, Lindsay. You need to step it up right now. Two is, yea, damn right, you’re a lead in this show. How fucking awesome is that? Three is, and this is the one really taking over my thoughts, that as Paul is talking to me, I can read his mind, and what he’s actually thinking is, shit, why did I cast this girl? This was a mistake. She can’t do this.

In general, I’m starting to become more aware of my insecure thoughts. And how I always jump right to the worst case scenario and believe that to be true. Which, when I really think about it, is a little crazy. I try to block it out and pump myself up. You can fucking do this. This character is so you. Just be confident and do it.

Granted, having the script in my hand and not being off book yet is giving me less confidence, but that’s no excuse.

Do the scene again. When it’s over, Paul seems excited. “Yes! That was it. That was so good.” Then he prefaces what he’s about to say. “Listen Lindsay, I’m blunt. I’m not going to tell you what you want to hear. When I get on actors, it usually sets something off in them and gets them to do it. So what I’m about to say is going to be blunt.” I just stare at him, bracing myself, but also knowing that he can’t tell me anything worse than I’m already thinking. And also, I was a Division I athlete. I’m very used to people telling me the opposite of what I want to hear. Bring it.

“The other day, when you rehearsed with Moremi (Moremi and I have a scene with just the two of us), you scared me. But then I gave you the direction and you got there. And it was great. And again today, you scared me.” Now I laugh. In embarrassment. “But then you got there. So you can do it. Just do it as soon as you walk in the room. Don’t wait to get there. Because like, for an audition…. nevermind.”

I know where he was going with his last remark. He was about to talk about having only one chance to make an impression, but he stopped himself because he doesn’t have time to coach me about my acting outside of this play. And also, it’s not his responsibility. And also, he already made his point. I get it.

We finish up and Paul leaves the room so it’s just Matt and me. “You OK?” Yea, I’m fine, I just want to be able to do what he wants me to do. “Yea don’t worry about it. Just let it roll off the shoulders. You obviously can get there.” I appreciate what he’s doing, trying to make me feel better. But I really don’t feel bad. I’m not sure exactly how I feel.

I mean, now I do.

I love bluntness and honesty, so I very much appreciate Paul’s approach to directing. We don’t know each other very well yet, so he might be trying to be a little careful to gauge my response (very similar to coaching an athlete, so I get it). I’m also still trying to feel him out as a director and give him what he wants.

Normally, I would think about the negatives of his comments, that I need to be better. That I need to bring it from the get-go. That I shouldn’t need him to direct me to get where I need to be. But the positives are way more helpful. I am capable of this role. Paul cast me for a reason. Because I’m good, and I can do this. Also, I take direction well. Which is a great note.

So, moving forward, I’m excited. I will bring this character to life and make her awesome. And Paul will be proud.

Young Adult

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Natalie and Gibby

August 27. 2014

Tuesday night I have work and by midnight, my awesome staff has gotten me a cake and sang me happy birthday and given me some shots. “So what are you doing now? You gonna get hammered?” No, actually, I’m gonna go home and go to bed. And I’m so happy that the idea of staying out late and drinking is so unappealing to me in this moment. I’m looking forward much more to waking up early and starting my birthday right. (God, 30 changes you.)

So I do just that. Wednesday morning I head over to Natalie’s for a morning workout and chant. (Natalie introduction: one of my closest friends out here, we work together at the bar, we’re actors, we hold each other accountable for all our acting endeavors and are there for each other. Also, she is hilarious.) I text her when I’m outside her gate and she takes forever. What the hell is she doing? The door opens and there are Natalie and Gibby (Natalie’s boyfriend; he’s awesome). They’re holding what looks like a wooden block with three pieces of fun size chocolate sitting on it and candles sticking out of each piece. To be specific, a Tootsie Roll, a Nestle Crunch bar, and a Baby Ruth. Aren’t they the sweetest? Gibby really wants me to eat a piece of chocolate. “Which one do you want?” Oh, I’m good. Natalie chimes in (as she does often with Gibby). “Gibby really wants you to have a piece of chocolate. You have to eat it.” This is where Natalie and Gibby have their Natalie and Gibby thing that I love. Like, the expected response from him when Natalie said that would be, Nooo, I don’t care. You don’t have to. But instead, he doesn’t even look up, still looking down at the chocolate. “Which one do you want me to save for you when you get back?” OK, fine, the Baby Ruth. “You got it!”

With that, Natalie and I hop in my car and drive to the Santa Monica stairs. They are steep and narrow and my God, does it burn. We go up the first set of stairs and a homeless lady parks herself right in the middle of the climb and starts yelling. Something about us fucking panting like dogs or something. I don’t know, but it’s scary, so we move on to the other stairs. Do them four times and then I die. Dead. Legs are jello. It feels great.

We get back to the house where I guiltlessly eat my Baby Ruth. Yum. Then Natalie and I chant for 15 minutes. We go for a couple minutes before Natalie stops and turns to me. “What are you chanting for?” Well, when I’ve chanted before, it’s been few and far between, so I really have something to chant for on those occasions. But since I’ve been doing this 30-day challenge to chant every day, I haven’t been thinking about specific things as much. Mostly just for happiness. “My sister chanted for happiness for three years. That’s good.” Oh. OK then. Cool. Happiness it is. “Nothing for your birthday? I’m gonna chant for you to have the best year ever.” Aw, Natalie, thank you! So much love. We get back to chanting. As soon as we finish our 15 minutes, my phone is ringing. It’s Nikki (the director of the play). She would like me to be her Hipster. I just start laughing. What? Wow, I thought that was over. Already put this one behind me. But there you have it. I just booked a role in a play. And I had been saying for weeks that on my birthday I really wanted to have an audition or be working on a set or book something. And I did.

I start to worry a little bit about my finances but Natalie stops me. “Stets, we don’t want to be waitresses. We want to be actors.” You’re absolutely right. I get to act for four weekends in a row. It’s going to be amazing.

Later that afternoon, I meet Jon for lunch. Jon is a screenwriter I met while waiting on him at Brick+Mortar. He’s a regular. Comes in all the time and parks himself at Table 51 where he opens his laptop and puts on his headphones and works for hours. We always talk about writing but now we talk about everything else, too. Sometimes he even lets me housesit for him when his family goes away (he has a sick backyard).

Jon recently finished a screenplay and sent it to me, Anna Rose, and Natalie, with the promise that whoever read it first and gave him feedback would get lunch on him. Naturally, I won. I’m not being cocky. I just love assignments and deadlines, especially when the reward of food is attached. Plus, I know AR and Natalie. AR is super ADD and can’t focus on one thing for too long. And Natalie doesn’t read.

So Jon doesn’t know he’s actually taking me out for my birthday lunch. We meet at M Street Kitchen and I announce to him that it is in fact my birthday today, and I’m 30. He insists we celebrate with drinks. Well, he insists I celebrate with drinks. He has some work to do after lunch. So I order a glass of chardonnay and we catch up on life.

That evening, I uber my way back to Natalie’s, and Gibby drives us (what a nice guy) to The Huntley. It’s a really nice hotel in Santa Monica with an amazing view of the sunset. We take the elevator to the top floor and have a seat at the bar. We might giggle a little as we sit down. It’s ridiculous how excited we get about going out. This is what happens when you work in a bar. You don’t ever actually go out, so when you do, it’s giggle-worthy. We order some fancy cocktail that is quite deliciously expensive. The plan is to have one drink here and then walk somewhere for dinner. Anna Rose meets us a little later and one drink turns into three. Lucky for us, all you have to tell the bartender is that you work at Brick+Mortar and they don’t charge you. Pretty sweet deal.

We leave the Huntley and walk to The Misfit, a bar down the street, for dinner. After dinner we walk back to The Bungalow for one more drink. Natalie teaches me how to be engaged in our conversation while also checking out the scene. “OK so you’re looking at me, you’re engaged,…” I start laughing at her. She laughs with me. “Now you’re laughing, you’re having a good time, and see there’s a guy standing behind me?” I lean completely to the left and stare at said guy. “OK Stets, not like that.” Right. Not so obvious. Got it. I’ll be better next time.

Anna Rose drives us back to Natalie’s and I uber my way home. Have to be up early for my flight to Jersey. Today was a great birthday. 30 is gonna be the best ever.

I Am Not a Hipster

I have an audition for a play. I very rarely submit for theater roles because I’m not really a stage person. Not to mention they’re usually unpaid. More recently I’ve been thinking that plays are great exposure and it would be really fun to get to act every weekend for a month or however long it runs. And this one caught my eye and looked fun so I submitted and got called in.

The play is called I Want to Kill Lena Dunham, and I was auditioning for the role of Hipster. An obsessed Lena Dunham fan who talks fast and confidently about things she knows nothing about. Totally fun. I spend most of the day memorizing lines and practicing over and over. It’s very dialogue heavy. And all monologue, just me talking to the audience. By the time I get to the audition, I’m feeling really good. I know my lines and I like them. It’s well written.

I meet the director as soon as I walk in – she’s only just arrived. One other girl and I are the first two waiting. The director is super sweet and talks to us about the role. “Why don’t you read for Reporter as well?” Sure, why not. Reporting is easy. I look over the sides (script) for Reporter since I’ll be reading that cold (first time reading it). Nikki, the director, calls me in first.

I walk into the tiny theater and down to the stage. It’s Nikki and one other guy. Definitely feel my nerves creeping in but in a good way. Or so I think. “Let’s have you start with Hipster.” OK. No problem. The asshole that I am decided I was off book (lines memorized), so I didn’t even bring the sides in with me. Like I really wanted her to know that I had my lines memorized. What an idiot. So I start into my three paragraph monologue. After the first paragraph, I get a laugh from Nikki. Oh shit, she laughed. Nice. That’s good. What’s my next line?

Fuck, what’s the line? I can’t remember. I’m really sorry. “It’s OK, take your time, I’m impressed you’re off book.” Well Nikki, I guess I’m not because I’m completely blanking up here. I start over. It’s awful. I’m really hot. Why is it so hot up here? “You know what, just improvise.” Oh my God, I’m in improv class. Like, this is exactly the reason I’m taking improv and she’s asking me to do it and I can’t. What the fuck. I literally can’t say words. I’m really sorry. “It’s OK, you can read it.” Oh. Right. I didn’t bring the sides in with me. Because I’m an asshole. So Nikki gets up and goes out to the lobby to get me the sides. I’m left standing there thinking, this is so awful. Pull it together, Lindsay. She comes back in, unperturbed, and hands me the sides. We take it from where I left off after the first paragraph and I finally get through it. “OK this time, just do the third paragraph, and this hipster lives in Brooklyn and it’s always rainy and cold and miserable. She’s that hipster.” Oh OK, cool, I like that. I go into my Daria-esque hipster and have some fun with it. “This time you’re at Burning Man and you love everyone and you may or may not be on drugs.” Awesome. This one is even more fun. I get a big laugh from a small gesture I make which feels great.

Then she has me read for Reporter. This role is less fun but still fun for me. And then it’s over. I’m incredibly hot and feel almost dizzy as I start to walk out of the theater. By the time I reach the sidewalk, my head is pounding. I walk to my car and sit with my head on the steering wheel, moaning in pain and embarrassment. A great combination. Finally drive home, holding my head in one hand the whole way.

Well that was a great learning experience, if anything. I’m gonna be so ready the next time I audition for a play. And as bad as I felt about myself, the director did not make me feel bad about my performance, so that was nice.

Four days later I get the callback. Whattttttttt?! Yea. Callback. No shit. Even though I completely blanked and bombed, she still liked me. Well OK then. Great. I go to the callback much more relaxed. There’s a little more dialogue for the callback, but all in all, a pretty short audition. Nikki tells me she should know by Friday.

By Monday, I know I didn’t get the part. Definitely would have heard by now. But that’s OK. A callback is definitely a win. Besides, I would have been super stressed out with figuring out my schedule and taking off work and not making enough money. Money is tight enough as it is. Moving on.