A Love Letter to Storefront Theater Artists – Alcyone ’13

Alcyone ’13 “A New Dawn, A New Day”

If you’re in Chicago this weekend, go and see a show at the Alcyone Festival. It’s the last weekend of Halcyon’s sixth annual festival of female playwrights with the theme “A New Dawn, A New Day.” (Tickets)

Being in New York I won’t get to see any shows myself but I know the experience will be thought-provoking and I WISH I COULD BE THERE. It’ll have the energy of ambitious artists – many still young in their artistic careers – who signed up for a project much bigger than they anticipated.

This post is for those artists, especially Halcyon’s company members. Thank you for letting me listen in on last Saturday’s company meeting; you talked about audience reactions, if more concessions were needed, AND the frustrations/difficulties of putting up plays without enough time, money, or manpower. It actually made me smile a little because I remember what it was like. And I even miss it – the ideas, the collaborating, the WORK.

I’m a couple years removed from being either an actor (in multiple shows as you do) or a replacement director (did I really direct a pre-cast full-length play with of 8 adults and 2 kids?) and here’s what I have to say:

1. Producing storefront theater is hard. Very hard. You’re a badass.

This is probably true of most storefront (read: underfunded) theater being produced by artists without a lot of experience, but the Alcyone Festival is particularly difficult with up to 10 (is that right?!) rotating shows. Sharing one space. Every weekend. With so many actors, designers (if you’re lucky), tech needs, and never enough time, getting through the festival is basically like trying to herd 100 cats through Grant Park. Or Ikea. And it will try to break you.

My Angel/Jesus costume from Callimachus in Alcyone 08)

My Angel “omg, it’s Jesus” costume from Callimachus in Alcyone ’08)

You will not have enough time to rehearse and you’ve won the lottery if you don’t have distractions like doing run-throughs in someone’s apartment or creating your own angel costume. If you’re a director, you may also have to be the costumer, props master, and at least know what you want for the set/lighting/sound design. Oh you don’t have any experience doing that? Welcome to the festival.

And it’s like this every year. With each new season, there’s usually a new crop of artists (because people quit or got broken the year before) that sign up to go through the wringer all over again. Maybe there can be a warning or waiver for next year’s participants.

But before you bemoan why you volunteered for this theater bootcamp hell, let me make point 2:

2. You’re doing it, the balls-to-the-walls theater Chicago is known for.

You’re doing the good work. (See Tracy Letts’ Tony acceptance speech)

At a recent film audition, I met another actress who when I told her I was from Chicago was immediately in awe and said she would LOVE to live there. “I just want to do good work, you know?” I do know. I get it; I’m really happy and grateful to get the 3 minutes to audition for someone else’s project, but it’s not the same as immersing for weeks in a show you can sink your teeth into and actually have a say in.


Alcyone ’13: one week in spring
Photo by Halcyon’s Artist-in-Residence Charlotte Woolf

So know that you’re already awesome and growing from this experience. Unpaid, non-union storefront theater prepared me for the Goodman (where I earned EMC points) and Broadway. It built my stamina and taught me to make the most out of what I have (the lines, my attitude) and not take anything (or anyone!) for granted.

The process will ask you to give more than you are prepared or know how to. Do the best you can with what you’ve got with patience, understanding, and a smile. Discover your potential and make peace with your limits. Make art and friends in spite of it all!

When the lights go up, you may not have all of the cues set correctly or enough people in the audience, but at least you don’t have to worry about if your show will close before opening night. The festival WILL go on. And you get to be a part of that creation. You badass artist, you.

Alcyone ’13: Ensemble of The First Woman
Photo by Halcyon’s Artist-in-Residence Charlotte Woolf

So enjoy the journey while it lasts because you might just miss it when it’s over. Congratulations and a very happy closing weekend to Halcyon’s Alcyone Festival 2013! Rock it out!

This weekend’s schedule:

Christ Lutheran Church
4541 N. Spaulding
Tickets: $20 per performance

Check out more gorgeous show pictures on Halcyon’s facebook page and the festival writeup in the Chicago Reader.


Bossypants by Tina Fey

I know that I’m very, very late to the party, but I recently finished Tina Fey’s Bossypants, the first book I borrowed from the New York Public Library…which is now overdue…I shall consider the fines a donation!

The whole book is so funny and interesting – the honeymoon cruise chapter is a stew of fascinating, scary, and romantic – and I’ve been chuckling aloud on the subway, airplanes, and other public places. I wanted to jot down and share a few quotes with you…and also have all of my favorites in one place! Enjoy!

Quotes/excerpts from Bossypants by Tina Fey in purple:

“The Myth of Not Enough”

When I worked at Saturday Night Live, I had a five A.M. argument with one of our most intelligent actresses. It was rumored that Lorne was adding another woman to the cast, and she was irate. (In fairness, she was also exhausted. It was five A.M. after writing all night.) She felt there wouldn’t be enough for the girls and that this girl was too similar to her. There wouldn’t be enough screen time to go around.

I revived my old argument: How could this be true if we made up the show? A bunch of us suggested that they collaborate instead of compete. And, of course, that’s what they did, with great success, once they were actually in a room together. But where does that initial panic come from?

This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go with a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.

Conclusions of her chapters on being “Very Very Skinny” and “A Little Bit Fat”

We should leave people alone about their weight. Being skinny for a while (provided you actually eat food and don’t take pills or smoke to get there) is a perfectly fine pastime. Everyone should try it once, like a super-short haircut or dating a white guy.


We should leave people alone about their weight. Being chubby for awhile (provided you don’t give yourself diabetes) is a natural phase of life and nothing to be ashamed of. Like puberty or slowly turning into a Republican.

Tina Fey’s recollection of Amy Poehler being awesome or “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it”:

Amy Poehler was new to SNL and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room, waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always a lot of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike.”

Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.” Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any real beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)

With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear that she wasn’t there to be cute. She wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.

And I was tickled by this snippet about visiting relatives in the country for the holidays:

We always pull up carefully, making sure not to run over any outdoor cats. (One of the best-kept secrets of “country life” is that people accidentally crush their own pets a lot.)

Select verses from “The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter”:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.
What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

As you can see, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and you will too if you haven’t already! Check it out from your local library or you can get it new or used at amazon.com or on Kindle! The book description in either link is delightful in of itself: Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Staying Healthy with NerdFitness

As an actor, it’s important to be in good physical health to act your best. As a human being, it also just FEELS GOOD to be happy with your tangible self, aka your AMAZING body!

That’s why I LOVE this website NerdFitness; it has a TON of great resources to help you get fit and stay healthy, whether you want to successfully implement good habits, lose fat and build muscle, or level up your life in some other way (like taking a trip around the world for $418)! Seriously, this site has so much great stuff: inspirational stories of NerdFitness “rebels” (see below!), workouts with how-to videos, recipes, and much more!

Steve staying in shape while traveling in Peru

And the information is free! I subscribe to Steve Kamb’s blog to have emails sent straight to my inbox about once a week. I may not always be interested in the post (I don’t see myself doing parkour or eating a strict Paleo diet – did you see my last post about dessert?!) but I really like Steve’s writing style (“nerd“-centric!) and perspective (check out his bio and “rules of the rebellion“) and how many resources are readily available (Free Resources!).

My favorite posts include these three inspirational stories:

Saint – from 60 pounds overweight to 6-pack abs

These workouts:

Here’s Staci – a powerlifting hero

And these other random posts:

And if you find posts you like, feel free to share them in the comments below. There’s so much to read and I do love a good recommendation! Happy exploring!

Once again, Joe who lost 128 pounds in 10 months!

All photos from NerdFitness!

How to Accomplish a Big Goal

The Costco Pumpkin Pie with its 12-inch pie crust. From pievcake

or How to Eat a Costco Pumpkin Pie by Yourself!

I’ve got a number of projects on my mind and am determined to finish each one, but I get overwhelmed if I try to do them all at once. Even if I’m working hard, I spread myself too thin and end up making very little progress in any direction at all. Then I get discouraged and wind up giving up or at least spending a lot more time and energy stressing than necessary. So recently, I’ve been making my daily and weekly goal lists smaller – only 3 big items per day (and maybe 2 or 3 other little things). The keys are to focus on one thing at a time and to break down the big goal into little steps.

I liken it to buying and eating Costco desserts when I’m shopping for one: dessert-loving ME.

I really love their All American Chocolate Cake. It may look small, but I'm pretty sure it feeds 30.

Costco’s All-American Chocolate Cake. Looks small here but is 4 layers tall & easily feeds 30.

1. Focus on one goal at a time:

If I buy two desserts at Costco, like my favorites, the pumpkin pie (12-inch pie crust, $6) and the All-American cake (the biggest rich and moist chocolate cake you can buy for $17), I simply will not be able to eat them both in a timely matter without making myself sick. They take up a ton of room in my fridge and will sit on the middle shelf reminding me of my failure to shop wisely every time I open the fridge.

However, if I only buy one dessert at a time, let’s say the pumpkin pie because it’s marginally healthier and a party in my mouth, then I can focus on finishing that pie before it goes bad at a pace that won’t make me gain 5 pounds in a week. Totally doable. And delicious.

2. Break down the big goal into little steps:

While I might be tempted, I’m not going to eat the pie all at once or…even in thirds. I’m going to tackle consuming the pumpkin goodness in smaller pieces. Every time I have a slice, perhaps one for breakfast and for a snack or dessert, I cut only a small piece and put it on a small plate. Not only do I enjoy it more – a nicely cut piece presented on an appropriately-sized plate is much more special than eating forkfuls of pie from the container while standing at the counter – I also don’t get tired of eating it and don’t stuff myself to self-loathing.

Accomplishing a big goal can be just as enjoyable (and without self-loathing). Focus on one big goal at a time.*  And break down your goal into smaller steps; write out the steps if there are more than you can count on one hand! For instance, when I’m creating my new reel, I might break it down to the following:

  1. Decide which clips I want to use and in what order.
  2. Gather all of the clips into one place on my computer.
  3. Work through the clips, deciding which parts to use for the reel, and add them accordingly for a very rough cut.
  4. Edit the clips and transitions to a rough cut
  5. Add opening and closing pictures/videos
  6. Add titles
  7. Review the rough cut to the final version
  8. Upload the reel to my website and my casting profiles as desired.
  9. Publicize my new reel through twitter or facebook, etc.

Writing these steps out will also help you foresee issues or think of additional steps that might be needed. For instance, maybe I thought I had all of my clips I decided to use (in Step 1), but I realized I have two only on DVD. So I have to create an extra step – 1.5 – to figure out how to get my DVD videos onto my computer. (FYI: I used Handbrake. No Mac the Ripper required!)

Without breaking down (and writing out!) these steps, “make new reel” on my weekly goals list is such a big undertaking that I probably won’t get anything related to it done. And it can get pretty disheartening to see “MAKE NEW REEL” on your list every single week.

I love Costco & often consider getting a giant $30 teddy bear…but he’d have to pay rent.

I love Costco & often consider getting a giant $30 teddy bear, but at his size he’d have to pay rent.

So learn from my discouragement!

Focus on a single big goal, like editing a new reel or creating a new habit, and break it down into steps, just like eating a Costco pumpkin pie. I like my pieces toasted and with whipped cream. Mmmmm…accomplishing a goal and eating pie without stress: delicious!

In case you want more, here are two articles from NerdFitness:

*Caveat: If you find that the project needs a lot of time between stages, like paint needing to dry between coats, you can have another project to switch to…but only if you REALLY get bored.

Posts from the Past

I made a picture link to Halcyon’s blog today (on the sidebar!) and discovered 3 posts that I had already written. I only remembered ONE about the first time I took off clothes for a show (see “Naked” below).

I wrote the posts in November 2010 and January 2011, and it’s pretty cool to revisit what I was thinking about and exploring at the time. I still lived in Chicago and re-adjusting to being single for the first time in over four years. I was doing Trickster and then taking on the lead in Iphigenia. I hadn’t heard of Chinglish yet or even dreamed about Broadway, let alone considered moving to New York! I had a vague and distant intention of LA at best, but I guess a lot can happen in two and a half years.

Eating dumplings in Taipei, December 2010.

Eating dumplings in Taipei, December 2010.

Holy cow, has it only been 2.5 years since then?! Oh the men I’ve gone through. Just kidding. Or AM I?

Regardless, the point I’d like you to focus on is the realization that no matter how “slump-y” I may feel at the moment, I’m actually very pleased with the acting-related things I’ve done since these posts: Soul Samurai, Chinglish, moved to New York City, Chinglish on Broadway, got commercial and legit agents I LOVE working with, joined SAG (now SAG-AFTRA), first network TV credits, finished UCB’s improv classes & now playing on indie teams,…and that doesn’t even include meeting Woody Allen! I mean, not bad for two and a half years, right?

But what’s perhaps even more amazing is all of the wonderful people that I’ve met and become friends with (in addition to my already AWESOME pool of friends) and how much FUN I’ve had during that time! Thinking of all the laughs, growing experiences, and ridiculous adventures we’ve shared makes it even more difficult to believe it’s been less than 3 years…I’m feeling really, really fortunate right now.

So without further ado, here are the links to the three posts (with their starting sentences) I wrote on Halcyon’s blog:

November 17, 2010: Diving In

I meant to write this blog entry 3 weeks ago after the Trickster read-through, but Life took over between Stir-Friday Night’s 15-year anniversary revue Bubble Tea Party! (Happy quinceañera, SFN!”) and being in a wedding (Congrats, Stephanie & Jason!) and well, you know how Life gets. I’ll start by saying that I had some “concerns” after read-through Tuesday…

November 18, 2010: Naked

We had our first rehearsal for the love/sex scene between the Swan Woman and Coyote tonight. It’s only about a page long but warranted an hour of rehearsal time. When I was stretching and going over my lines, questions like “what are we going to do for a whole hour?” and “am I forgetting about another scene we have?” floated around my head. And suddenly the thought “we’re getting naked today” interrupted…

January 20, 2011: Where to Begin? 

I’ve had several impulses to blog about Trickster (and having to miss all of December’s rehearsal process to be in Taiwan for my grandfather taking ill and passing) and Iphigenia…(a rave fable) now in rehearsals but I didn’t do anything and now my brain is clogged with a tangle of ideas. So I’ll just start with what’s going on right now: I’m overwhelmed. Tony mentioned after rehearsal yesterday and today that I looked like my brain exploded and it’s a possibility…

I’m usually the kind of person that writes or journals to get ideas out in the moment, but don’t often reread what I’ve written later. But perhaps I should start…at least every 2.5 years. Maybe I’ll set a “take inventory of life experiences” google calendar alert.

With Iggy today, June 6, 2013. New York City.

With Iggy today, June 6, 2013. New York City.

I’m really glad I did today.

Keeping the Faith During the Slump

Sometimes Life just gets ya...

Sometimes Life just gets ya…
Paris, 2011

So I’ve been feeling down about auditions lately, either they go terribly OR were great but nothing comes of them. Intellectually, I know that casting directors are considering me since I keep getting called in (they wouldn’t waste their time). And I remind myself it’s probably someone else’s turn to book or I just haven’t been right for the roles…but after a while, it can be tough not to take the rejection personally.

I keep busy with other projects (like starting a blog!) but find myself going through the motions instead of actually being happy and excited about my career. It’s not a life and death situation but also not that fun either.

Anyway, a horoscope app just gave me a boost. I was waiting for the subway on Sunday and opened Mark Binshtok’s DailyHoroscope to pass the time. I don’t take astrology too seriously – it’s entertainment not research – but I really liked the day’s passage. In fact, both yesterday’s and today’s could be really encouraging to anyone who’s frustrated with a big goal or project, not just fellow Cancerians.

So here they are: little reminders that we can choose to be burdened with stress and worry about tomorrow or to keep the faith and believe that things can turn around soon.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What if everything you have been worried about for the last few weeks or months turns out to be just fine? What if all that hand-wringing and nervous pacing and all those sleepless nights turn out to be a waste of time? You made such a big investment in emotional devastation, and you could wind up having nothing to show for it. No terrible outcome. No sadness. No fear. You have a choice, Moonchild, you can let go of the big burden you are carrying and choose not to think the worst and to worry as you have been. Or you can keep up the status quo and drive yourself crazy. But if you do, in the end, it will be a lot of suffering for no reason at all.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Progress doesn’t always happen quickly, Moonchild. But just because you aren’t seeing obvious progress with a treasured endeavor doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. A goal is unfolding. A process is evolving. You have chipped away at an aspiration for a long time. At various points you have had to chip very slowly, because you were so overwhelmed with other things, including simple survival. But your time is coming – make no mistake about that. Don’t lose hope, and don’t stop trying. Whether you can see it or not, you are almost there.

Photo by Austin D. Oie

Remember: slumps end and good times are straight ahead! Photo by Austin D. Oie

We’ve already begun

Today, I am resisting perfection. I’m experiencing some hesitation; what should my first post be about? Should I even blog? Will I write enough? Should I be doing something else?

I don’t know.

But before that leads to analysis paralysis, I’m going to let myself just BE.

Take a deep breath.

Check in with myself.

And remember that everything’s exactly where it is…and courage trumps imperfection.

I’m reminded of this Chinese saying from philosoper Lao Tzu: Qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià. It’s usually translated into:

I love it because it breaks down a large undertaking (starting a blog with lots of posts) to a single step (writing one post) that I can wrap my head around. A single step is totally doable and doesn’t define the whole journey…so there doesn’t have to be any pressure around it.

Wikipedia also translates the saying literally to “a journey of a thousand li [li = a Chinese mile] starts beneath one’s feet.” So I’m already at the starting point and have everything I need to begin. As Steppenwolf viewpoints teacher Alex Billings used to say to start an exercise, “we’ve already begun.”

So that’s what this entry is about: the first step. I don’t have any expectations beyond that…and who knows where this blog will go? Think of the possibilities! A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step AND the start of that thousand-mile journey is already under your feet.

So will I write about joys and frustrations? Share awesome resources like Dallas Travers, Nerd Fitness, or Chinese-English dictionary MDBG? Maybe acting techniques and auditioning tips? What I’ve learned in becoming an actor? Perhaps all of the above…and beyond!

We’ve already begun.