Thursday, November 29, 2012

On the lesson learned by finding a doctor on the Internet.

I starting seeing Dr. C a year ago when I moved to Chicago. He was the first doctor on my insurance's online list of providers in downtown Chicago. He went to Harvard and received strong reviews and many awards. The first time I went to see Dr. C, I was forced to confront my own, well, not racism and sexism exactly, but what I'd call racial and gender expectations. Upon my arrival, it didn't surprise me in the least that the curvy, black woman working the front desk was, well, a curvy, black woman. It wasn't until an elderly, black Dr. C came into the waiting area that I noticed quite suddenly that I was the by far the youngest and the only white woman in waiting room which was adorned with paintings of black mothers and children. It was the tiniest of reactions, a small surprise, a reversal of a subconscious expectation I didn't know I had.

When I think of the word "doctor," a middle-aged white man in a lab coat and plaid pants comes to mind, even though surely throughout my life I've had male and female doctors of different races. My subconscious has little more imagination than a 1950's children's book about careers (which is strange, since knitter/fake patient/nanny/actress was never featured in such a book.) Understand, I don't care what race my doctor is, but I didn't expect my doctor to be black. I noticed it. So what does an experience like this mean? In Dr. C's office ( and in many neighborhoods in the still very segregated Chicago), my age and race place me in the minority. I imagine when Dr. C started practicing medicine years ago many white women would not be treated by a black gynecologist, Harvard degree or no Harvard degree.  As the years have gone on, his patients have aged with him, except for those of us new ones who wander in confusedly off the street because we found his name on the Internet.

While I could list all the reasons why I'm not racist to make myself feel better, it seems more productive to admit I found an inadvertent flaw in my social constructions of race. We shouldn't be afraid to start a dialogue with ourselves about our racial expectations or biases. How else can we confront, challenge and seek to change them? It is 2012 and this country has not only elected, but reelected Barack Obama as president.  When I think of the word "president," I see a black man in my mind's eye.  But I've never met Barack Obama. I do meet doctors, teachers, engineers, artists, scientists, lawyers, human resources managers,* business owners and psychologists. And these people are not all white or men. They do not default to white or young or male or straight, for that matter. 

When my daughter thinks of the word "president," I hope she can see a woman's face. I'd also like her not be surprised when her doctor is elderly, a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay. She'll learn that from me, that's a promise. 


*For the record, thanks to Miss Tina Le, HR managers will always be Vietnamese in my mind.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Emma's Tardis Mitts

Not to get all sentimental on ya'll, but this is my 50th post! Wooooo! Something special is occuring. I made these Dr. Who Tardis mitts for my boyfriend's lovely and talented daughter, Emma, who is a super fan of the show. I wasn't wild about any of the patterns that already existed for Tardis mitts because many of them lacked a thumb gusset, so I made my own pattern!



MATERIALS

Any 3 skeins of a DK or light worsted weight yarn in blue, black and white.
Mine use: Blue Primarily Speaking Merino Wool, Black Blue Sky Melange, and White Malabrigo Rios.
Size 4 DPN
Size 6 DPN
Stitch markers
Tapestry needle

The yarn. 1/3 from stash.


INSTRUCTIONS

PM: Place marker
K: Knit
P: Purl
M1: Make one stitch by knitting into the front and back of the stitch.

In blue and smaller (size 4) needles, cast-on 45 stitches using the long tail cast-on method. Place 15 stitches on each of three DPNs. Join in round, being careful not to twist sts.
Work for 2 inches in K2, P1 ribbing.
Round 1-4: Switch to larger needles (size 6). Continuing in blue, knit 4 rows in stockinette.
Round 5, 6: Holding 2 strands together if you are using sport weight Melange, K 2 rows in black
Round 7-8: Knit 2 rows in blue.

Round 9: Begin thumb gusset as follows...
  • Needle 1: K2, M1 by knitting in the front and back of the stitch, PM, K to end
  • Needle 2: Knit all.
  • Needle 3: K to 3 stitches to end, PM, M1, K2
Round 10: Knit all stitches.
Round 11: K to 1 stitch before marker, M1, K around to next marker, slide marker, M1, K to end.
Round 12: Knit all stitches.
REPEAT rounds 11 and 12 three more times so that you have a total of 55 stitches.
On the final repeat of round 4, knit to marker, remove marker, K2 and then cast off 12 stitches, K2, remove marker and continue knitting Round 19, being sure to pull the yarn tightly when you come around to join both sides. (42 stitches)
Round 19: Knit
Round 20: Knit in black.
Round 21-25: Work chart (see below) by K2, then beginning with the E. My version is K2 POLICE K5 BOX K6.
Round 26: Knit in black.
Round 27-29: Knit 3 rows in K2, P1 ribbing in blue.

Cast off!

*I used the chart for the letters from Sarah's rad pattern on her blog. CLICK HERE TO USE CHART.
I embroidered the windows on the top side of the gloves using a darning needle.

Emma proudly rocking her mitts!

Friday, October 26, 2012

On blissful surprises set to good music.

I love The Mountain Goats. I've seen them at The 400 Bar in Minneapolis, a school auditorium in Durham, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the Blue Moose in Iowa City, and Second City in Chicago. The Mountain Goats are coming to Chicago to play at the Vic this Saturday. I didn't buy tickets because I was being fiscally responsible, but I still put the date on my calendar, because it seemed important to note. I kept my schedule free for a concert I was not, in fact, attending.

I always say I went to first base with Ben Folds and all the way with The Mountain Goats. They are my musical true love. When I first met Scot, he was working on his play, thank u 4 a funky time, which has a passage in it about the Mountain Goats' break-up album "Get Lonely." His character says, "GET LONELY?! I don't want to GET LONELY. I already get it. I've already got it. I don't want more." He then proceeds to delete the album (and any others that remind him of or resemble his ex) from his iTunes. I've written before about how my favorite thing ever is to talk to boys about music. So my heart exploded a little when I met a man who was writing a play that had the line, "You can't take relationship advice from Fleetwood Mac!" in it.

Fast forward four months to yesterday, Scot West picked me up from work and asked me, "So Maura, do you like winners or losers?" He had entered a contest on his lunch break telling Reckless Records why he deserved a pair of tickets to see The Mountain Goats. He won. He won't tell me what he said, but it ended with "MAKE LOVE HAPPEN"and Reckless wrote on Facebook, "We have our winner- What a story!" Maybe one day he will share with me what exactly he said, but the man loves surprises and mysteries. I do too, in theory. I, to reference When Harry Met Sally, think I am surprising when actually I am completely transparent. We are a good balance, I suppose. Here is a short play based on a conversation we had which demonstrates my lack of ability to conceal anything:

 
A very earnest girl enters holding a glass bowl full of carrots covered in plastic wrap.
A boy (or a girl, a lover anyway) enters.
GIRL:
I love you so much I got you a secret present. You’ll never guess what it is.
BOY:
I can see what it is.
GIRL:
It’s a big surprise…
BOY:
You know that bowl is see-through, right?
GIRL:
Guess! Take a wild guess.
BOY:
Is it a bowl of carrots?
GIRL:
I’ll give you a clue… it might be a vegetable!
BOY:
Yeah, I bet it’s an orange vegetable. Probably similar to a carrot.
GIRL:
It grows in the ground…
BOY:
I don’t think you understand the concept of a surprise.
GIRL:
It’ll help you see better…
BOY:
I get it, it’s an effin bowl of CARROTS.
GIRL:
Bunnies eat it… nom, nom nom…
The BOY stares blankly. The GIRL holds out bowl, smiling.
BOY:
I give up, what is it?
GIRL:
A bowl of carrots! Don’t you just love it?
BOY:
(Sincerely) Yeah, I do. Carrots are my favorite.


Sometimes things come full circle. Scot's play involved The Mountain Goats darkest album which features the song No Children which holds the lyric, "I hope you die. I hope we both die." But time moves on. John Darnielle, the band's lead singer, is now married and has a gorgeous son who he is stupid fond of. When I first saw the band, it was Halloween in Minneapolis in 2007. A lot changes in 5 years. John now writes lyrics more like, "You'll never want for comfort/and you'll never be alone./See the sunset turning red/let all be quiet in your head/and look about/all the stars are coming out!

 Point is, everything changes. Seasons, jobs, friends, facial hair. But sometimes, the soundtrack stays the same. Sometimes you get to listen to your band for the first time with someone new who makes you feel like the luckiest lady this side of the Mississippi.

So Saturday night, you'll find us at the Vic. Boom.


Monday, October 8, 2012

I never thought being an adult meant I would eat this much cereal.

"Let no one tell me that childhood is lived in a timeless present. Rather it is a fever of anticipations. Edwin stretched his arms greedily toward the future, bright with unopened presents. As his sixth birthday approached, he was quite unaware that more than half his life was over."
-Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
 
I've been hounded by a dear friend for a blog post and it is certainly time to write again. Much has happened since my last post, and yet, I am not at all sure what to write about. I have settled back into a routine of sorts here in Chicago. Same apartment, same roommate, Eric. Life is much as it was before I left for Iowa City with a few differences. Audition season is slow right now and I'm hoping things pick up within the next month. For now, I am working hard for the money, taking improv classes at the Second City Conservatory, and marketing/costuming a show for the Vintage Theater Collective.

I am still working as a standardized patient (if you recall, that is where I pretend to be sick to train doctors). One week last month, I had meningitis on Tuesday, a yeast infection on Wednesday and a thyroid disorder on Thursday. I recovered miraculously by the weekend, only to be struck down by a seizure on Sunday morning. Oh, epilepsy... always sneaking up on you when you least expect it. I am currently working with the second-year medical students on the head-to-toe physical exam. This class involves me sitting in a fake doctor's office in a patient gown as three future doctors discuss how to listen to my heart and lungs with their stethoscope without exposing my nipples. There is really nothing like it. At most jobs, people are not allowed to say, "Now lift your left breast." I hear it every day.

Me at the office.

I am nannying for a new little boy in Wicker Park, who I affectionately refer to as "the 1%." A. is a very fancy, sweet baby who enjoys regular lunches at The Goddess and The Grocer and Miko's Italian Ice. At home, he delights in avocado and seltzer water. I have the guilt of the 99% on me as I order him his $6 macaroni and cheese lunch at the G&G. The hot dishes at this tiny cafe are served by weight a la carte. The first day we dined out, I only had the $6 in cash his mother had given me in my pocket. (I left my own wallet at home so as to not tempt myself to buy a meal I could not afford.) Despite asking for the smallest piece of macaroni and cheese, the total still came to $6.17. We all stared helplessly at each other as the cashier counted the contents of the "take a penny" cup and A. happily knocked over a stand of expensive toffees. The blonde, manicured woman behind me begrudgingly handed the cashier a quarter, more to get me out of her way than to be generous to a frazzled hipster. I thanked her and felt the need to explain to everyone involved that I was sent here by the boy's mother, not wanting to be perceived as a wealthy Bucktown socialite too cheap to carry around more than $6 to buy her son lunch. After this whole ordeal, A. proceeded to throw about $4.53 worth of the hard-earned dish onto the cafe floor. And yet, we return every week (with a pocket full of change.) I swear they cringe when they see me and his red stroller rolling down Damen. I will never take my own 14 month old out to a restaurant. Lil Clementine will just have to eat her pasta at home and drink her water sans bubbles.

When we aren't harassing upscale grocery clerks, A. and I love going to the dog park and reading Goodnight, Moon in Hebrew (I make up all the words, as I cannot speak Hebrew and refuse to read the book right-to-left, back-to-front. So really I suppose we read something more like Good Morning, Moon where the moon is rudely woken up by a pack of rabbits still in their pajamas.) I've become a regular at the Wicker Park playground, rubbing elbows with an Australian au pair, the homeless gentleman who play bongos at the park's entrance, and Hazel, a very cute baby who flirts with A. and wears her hair in a sprout at the very crown of her head. A. calls me "Mmmm" which is also what he calls 'milk.' Since it is I who provide him with his milk, our exchanges are quite efficient. In all seriousness, A. and his family are very nice and I'm thankful for the work.

A. and I reading Steven Millhauser
Much to my joy, I am not waiting tables this fall. The money was good, but the late nights and the erratic scheduling is simply not conducive to living a real life. A life where I can see plays, cook dinner, get up before 11 AM, don't have to wear farming clothes (okay, I still do that anyway.) I am juggling about 5 jobs, so it is a hustle to pay for rent, food and my improv classes (not to mention my yarn...). As year two begins, the hustle, while being a little less difficult to assemble because of previous established contacts, is a little less fun. Not that it was all a barrel of laughs last year, but beginning year two out in the world reminds me of suffering through sophomore year of the BFA. I start to realize why alumni of the Program would tell us how hard it is out there for artists (and everyone). Because it is hard. And people can warn you how hard it is with a sad look in their eyes, but no one is going to be able to tell you the specific way it is going to be hard for you. That's the mystery waiting for you floating out there in the world, on the backs of discarded headshots and in the air of a sleepless night spent wondering how you will ever have health insurance to provide for your unborn children.

No one ever said it would be easy. But is it worth it? All the hustle and the moving and the pursuit? Today, I say yes. Yes it is. The dream must be pursued with energy and fervor. We just went to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Part of the home burned down three times and each time he rebuilt it. Because the home was his dream and no crazy person or act of God was going to defeat his dream. And so we must be grateful for our crappy apartments and endless job interviews. We must work on our audition pieces and read plays, even though we'd much rather watch 30 Rock. We must learn to cook things that could not be perceived as breakfast foods. We must celebrate our friends' successes, for they are great indeed. And we must end this post, because we have an audition at a theater company called Babes with Blades, and who wouldn't want to see this saucy minx speak some Shakespeare with a sword in her hand?

Much love to you indeed.

Enjoying a laugh with Breana, who just closed her first season at American Players Theatre


This post is dedicated to Melinda George, in recognition of her fierce pursuit of her dreams.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Something Special: a product review

The original intent when I began this blog was to create a space to post my original knitting patterns. Now, over 3 years later, I had no idea it would become so much more, a space for poetry, advice, stories and photos of my ever-changing, artistic life. However, today I thought I'd get back to my roots and review a new yarn and knitting pattern we just got in at Nina: a well-knit shop. Knitters, enjoy! All others, ignore or... better yet, get some needles and become a knitter. It will clear your pores and help you find love. Guaranteed.

BUCKINGHAM HAT, a blue sky alpacas royal petite knitting pattern

Completed hat, pattern, alpaca picture and leftover yarn.
First of all, the marketing of these new patterns is brilliant The pattern comes in a petite, sweet folder. All the designs have a vintage sketch of a handsome 1950's model on the front, echoing old Vogue dress patterns and Mad Men. They remind me of something innocent and lovely from my childhood, like my Playmobil Victorian dollhouse or a piece of sweet candy wrapped in pale pink cellophane. Simply put, the patterns are cute as can be! Inside the folder is the pattern and a picture of one of Blue Sky's very own alpaca. The Buckingham Hat pattern contains the proud image of Colonel Mustard, "a handsome boy with beautiful fawn colored fleece." Each pattern, depending on the garment, takes one, two or three skeins of Blue Sky Royal Alpaca. The yarn, oh the yarn, is so luxurious!! I loved knitting with it and I recommend using metal needles.

Practically, the pattern is written very clearly and the directions are easy to follow, but please read them twice or three times. I made a few simple, careless mistakes because I had not read the pattern carefully. I love that the pattern includes a ruler on the page so that I didn't need to carry around my tape measure. This is a company that knows that excellence is in the details!

On Nina's suggestion (she had made the hat in black/brown as a shop sample) I did make a few ALTERATIONS to the pattern:
  • The hat is intended to be quite short, as you can see on the cover of the folder. It ends well before the gentleman's ears. I wanted a longer version, so I knitted the hat to 7 inches before beginning my decreases.
  • The pattern also calls for the decreases for the head shaping to be done using ssk (slip,slip,knit). I used knit 2 together, which worked just fine.
Blocking is absolutely necessary with this hat. Don't skip this step! Blocking really evened out my ribbing and the transitions between knitting and purling. The cascading ribbing is very unique, most hats for men are rather dull, but this one has a little flair.

This product also makes a unique, affordable gift. You can buy your favorite knitter everything they need to make a complete project for only $25-$50. The projects are classy, classic, and simple designs which are likely to complement any one's style. Knitting one of these patterns feels like an experience, start to finish. I made the hat for my boyfriend, Scot, who posted on his Facebook: "When you purchase wool from Colonel Mustard, you receive a picture of him standing resolutely on his farm, keenly surveying the distance. His noble countenance fills one with confidence that it will be a quality hat which will protect my head from the possibly brutal upcoming Chicago and Iowa winter months." If a man can be so moved by a knitting pattern, Blue Sky is doing something right.

A "petite luxury" indeed. 




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On (good) habits formally known as bad habits.

Confession. I have a bad habit.  For at least 20 years or so, I've been a nail biter. Not proud of it. It's gross. But I'm not sure I can help myself. I've tried to quit; knitting or painting my nails helps a little. But a stressful day or scary movie sends my fingers to hide inside my mouth... because we all know that it is easier to win a argument with an official of the Chicago Department of Revenue or keep everyone alive in Inception if you have no fingers. In my defense, my nails are weak, so it's not totally my fault. All excuses aside, I may have to accept that I, Maura Elizabeth Clement, will always have the nails of a dirty, eight year-old boy from Fagin's gang. This is me accepting the things I cannot change... serenity prayer, right?

Truthfully, I have a number of bad habits. But I am not writing about those today because I want to explore a number of new good habits I am trying to develop out of my current bad habits.

Eating vegetables:
Actors (and everyone ever really) (blerg, we actors are so self-centered, another bad habit) seem to think that we have little control over our lives. As a result of late rehearsals, droll day jobs, pitiful stipends and general self-loathing, we eat most of our meals standing up, out of bags, with our hands. In the words of Valerie Mudek, "You eat what you find." Actors of the world (and everyone ever really), we must take control. Like our parents before us, we can sit down to a meal of different colored food, served on plates someone named Kurt left at our apartment before we moved in, at a table we bought on craiglist. It is our right. It is our privilege. It will help keep us from going slowly insane.

Have you tried ORANGE BEETS? I've been buying these orange beets from the Wicker Park Farmer's market. $3 gets you one bunch of beets which is enough for three meals at least. I've been dicing the beets and cooking them in olive oil, garlic, onions and kale. I know I'm like the last hipster in the world to discover kale but let me take a moment for my new found obsession with this crunchy green vegetable. It has the best of what broccoli and spinach have to offer! [While typing that sentence I discovered that I have no effin idea how to spell broccoli. I am no longer smarter than a fifth grader. Technology is making me dumb. See below.] Another confession: After I moved back to Chicago I only had butter to cook with. So when I say olive oil, I mean butter. But I ate my butter on a plate while sitting the dining room table. I even bought napkins. Fancy me.

Telling my technology to shut up:
 I recently noticed that upon waking up in the middle of the night for one reason or another, I reach for my iPhone and check for messages, Facebook notifications and e-mails. This is a bad habit if there ever was one. My body seems to stay the tiniest bit awake so I didn't miss any comets from cyberspace. This slightly conscious sleep feels similar to the unrest I feel when I have to get up very early for a flight or a big audition. I wake up and immediately reach for my phone... but unsurprisingly nothing important has happened since I fell asleep. Turns out, Broadway does not call at 2 AM.

I have replaced this bad habit with a new, good one: I now turn the phone off when I get in bed and do not turn it back on until morning. Unfortunately, on the iPhone, the alarm doesn't work unless the phone is on. So on nights when I need to set an alarm, I put the phone on silent, face down and across the room. Although I have no way to prove this, I'm pretty sure I'm sleeping better. My body now knows that no shooting stars of information are going to be flying through my room on North Avenue, so we can all actually sleep. Ride, Sally, Ride.

Even during the day, I am a Pavlovian dog slave to my cell phone. It goes bing and I jump up to see what delightful tidbit has come my way. My reaction to it has become unconscious:
Bing. Jump. Blerg. I'm in love with a robot that has no feelings.

I am now practicing rules like:
No checking the phone during dinner.
Phone always on silent when reading.
Phone stays off during the intermission of plays.

Our brains have become schizophrenic. I've barely typed a paragraph of this post and without thinking, I just opened a new tab to check my email. WHICH I JUST CHECKED NOT FIVE MINUTES AGO. Tabs will be the death of me. I know I'm the billionth voice in the "don't let the robots rule our lives/cell phones are making us dumb/i'm afraid of the technology my children will have/sexting makes me really uncomfortable" dialogue. But seriously, try turning your phone off at night. It'll make you sleep better which in turn will make you look more attractive which will increase your ability to actually get someone's phone number. You can then call them on your iPhone, before 9 pm.

Sending thank you notes:
When a house manager, a stranger or a friend of a friend gets me into a show for free or at a discount, I promise to find out who to thank and thank them. I made their job just a little more complicated that day and they saved me money. I want our industry to continue to provide opportunities for artists to experience work they otherwise could not afford. If I say nothing, my ambivalence could make them feel taken advantage of or unappreciated. On the other hand, my thanks might ensure that the artist after me also has a chance to get to see the play.

Remembering that my siblings can also be my friends:
This one is simple. My siblings are the only people in the whole world who know who exactly the Knights of Shanara were or what anoxeric Peter looked like or where Secret Beach was or what the lunches that Jenifer Clement made tasted like or how Dave Clement looked at you when you were in trouble. Our siblings are the only people who perfectly understand the world which made us. So why is it that so often our siblings are the last people we go to for advice or to share about our lives? Are we afraid that they will judge us... or worse, tell our mothers what we've been up to? Over the last year, I made a promise to myself to include my siblings in my life. I mean my whole life. I want to tell them the things I would tell my friends. The things I don't write about on this blog because I may want to teach children or run for president (of a knitting club or thespian [not lesbian] society) one day. Relationships are built out of habits. If you get in the habit of not talking about the important things, eventually you will stop talking about anything important. I didn't have a big sister to explain the hard stuff to me. I was on my own for the first time I got sick at a party, or left the party alone, or worse, left the party with the wrong person. So if you are a big sister or brother, make sure your kidsiblings know that, in the words of Irving Berlin, "Anything you've done, I've done worse..." That's how that song goes, right? 

Lastly:
Especially during a time when so much senseless violence is plaguing our country, the best habit of all is gratitude. When I feel let down or indignant or sad or selfish, I must remember that I am grateful for the farmers who grow the vegetables I eat. I am grateful for my family that loves me enough to tell me when they think I am wrong. I am grateful for my job at the yarn shop where I get to teach people how to do something with their hands. I am grateful for my boyfriend who believes in me and inspires me to create art. I am grateful for the technology which makes my faraway friends appear in the palm of my hand. I am grateful for the art which surrounds me in this amazing city. I am grateful for the god who gave me this one precious life.

And, dear reader, I am grateful for you. I wish you good habits and happy days.

Along Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis August 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

On a Blessed Summer in Iowa


“For life is the best thing we have in this existence. And if we should desire to believe in something, it should be a beacon within. This beacon being the sun, sea, and sky, our children, our work, our companions and, most simply put, the embodiment of love.”
-Patti Smith

The joy of being unemployed every few months is that I have time to spend time with the people who made me and the people who made them. A day after the Riverside Theatre in the Park’s season closed, I land in Louisiana, the birthplace of my father. Within five minutes on the bayou, the gate attendant has called me “baby” in that sweet, albeit slightly condescending way that only Southern women of a certain age can. As in, “Get out of the way, baby.” Even in the airport, the air smells of caramelized sugar folded around fresh pecans. I’m craving a praline already; perhaps Yiya has some from Christmas in one of her three deep freezers. I’ve not been back to Opelousas in almost three years. We get out of the car on Hibiscus Street and the first thing my grandmother says to me is, “Well if it isn't Ethel Barrymore... You look so skinny!!" She quickly seeks to remedy my starving-artist-induced-weight-loss with an entire plate of ham, a sheet of heavenly hash, and caramel pecan topping with sweet potatoes under it. After all this food, I insist on doing my yoga in the garden… her response: “Well, that will be a treat for the neighbors!”
208 Hibiscus Street. Opelousas, Louisiana
Coming back to the home my father grew up in and the only place I’ve known my grandparents to live has helped me maintain my grounding during yet another transition from one job, one city, one relationship (or lack thereof) to different jobs, a new old city, and a new relationship. Endings and beginnings. Everyone’s lives are full of them; however, as an actor, my work revolves in two or three month cycles... so the endings and beginnings just keep on coming.

When I accepted the apprenticeship at Riverside this March, I focused everything toward that goal: On May 15, I move to Iowa City. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to quit my day job(s), sublet my Wicker Park  apartment and work only on my art for two months. I packed my Honda Civic, affectionately known as Elliot Smith, to the brim groceries from Trader Joe's, my sewing machine, bags of yarn and books on Shakespeare. (The car was bought for my pensive older brother when he turned sixteen. He named the silver car in homage to the ill-fated singer and the freedom a junkyard car provided for Good Will Hunting at the end of the film by the same name. Fortunately, the car continues to be in better shape than it’s namesake… and allows me to “go to see about an acting job.”) With the fierce tunnel vision which is simultaneously my greatest ally and fatal flaw, I was completely focused on getting to Iowa City and playing a fun, classic role at a theater I'd never been to. I arrived and began to play.
But it only took me a week here to realize that this job too would end. Eventually I would have to begin my second year out of school, which would look a lot like my first year. It’s amazing how the obvious can be so insanely surprising sometimes. WHAT?!? You mean I have to do all this over again? You mean I can't live in Riverside board member Natasha's basement forever? I have to move back to Chicago, work a day job, audition, mail out headshots, send email after email??? Chasing a dream sometimes feels like just that, a chase. I guess I’ve got to learn to love it because building a career is a marathon, not a sprint. And you don't really know if you are winning or what the prize is at the finish line. The prospect of another year in the theater is exciting and intimidating, isolating and hopeful.
I gotta say, things do get easier. Work begets work. Because of my job this summer, the Riverside artistic staff has cast me again in an upcoming new play. I shall return to Iowa City in the middle of December to be a part of The Exit Interview by William Missouri Downs. Riverside's production is a rolling world premiere produced through the National New Play Network. This production not only marks my first new play, but also my first professional show at an Equity house where I am not an apprentice. I feel I have graduated and for that I am truly grateful. But boy, do I appreciate being an apprentice with this fantastic group of human beings. These young artists are going places. 
Apprentice Class of 2012. Photo by Kelly Gibson
So it's back to Chicago for me for the fall. I'll be back at the yarn shop and standardized patient work and some other way to make money yet to be determined. I will say that if I'm going to do this vagabond actor thing, I must learn to pack lighter... I have too much stuff. Stuff is weight. Weight is burden. Burden is bondage. Bondage is slavery. Slavery is not freedom. I want freedom. To be fair, I did not think I’d be bringing back a person from Iowa as a souvenir. But I did and for that I am grateful. More on that later.

As I look back on my five years in college and my first year as an actor, I am amazed at how time and integrity change all things. Time changes us without our knowing or consent. Integrity ensures that we become the people we intend to be. I am grateful for this summertime and the splendid integrity of the artists I had the honor of playing with.

Residents of Arden during intermission on closing night. Photo by Kelly Gibson.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Audrey, Corin and Phebe's Big Adventure

As many of you probably know, I've been teaching myself simple video editing and production over the last few years. I was excited to get the chance to put my skills to work on a promotion video for As You Like It at the Riverside Theatre. I firmly believe that theaters must begin to fully embrace online media. The Great River Shakespeare Festival has been leading the way in this field, at least in the Midwest. Their promotional video for the 2012 season, The Real Housewives of Shakespeare, has 16,000+ views on youtube. Besides hopefully drawing up audiences, videos like these humanize Shakespeare's characters to modern audiences, create visual references for viewers who attend the play, and are just plain fun. I would argue making videos like this also support the storytelling of the play. Taking a character out of the play and into the world, like all character-based improvisation, strengthens the caliber of the actor's work onstage. We, as the actors, now have new memories, new muscle memories as our characters.

So if you have a good idea, speak up. Actors are often the most creative people in a room. Chances are someone will love your idea and let you run with it.

Enjoy the adventures of 3 country folk in the "big" city.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

On booking a job so you can perform in the rain.

"The task of theatre is to find action that creates such vibrant resonance in our imaginations that it enables us to reach a mutual understanding." -Why is That So Funny? by John Wright
 
Last night, As You Like It opened to a very warm house. The audience deserves the true applause because it rained for the entirety of the second act. I told Riverside's production manager and founding member Ron Clark that I really liked the theater they built, but they seem to have forgot to build a roof. We were all drenched. Audrey looked like a wet goat. I've never done a play in the rain and I thought the show stayed strong, albeit slightly measured for safety's sake.

Many of my readers are theater practitioners, but most are soldiers of other infinite multitudes and probably have little to no understanding about how actors get jobs. I thought I would explain the journey of one way an actor books a job and gets to opening night. There are countless ways... but here's mine for this job.

Audition, Audition, Audition

My friend and fellow actress Katie Hartke says, "You audition for your career, not for a job." The fact that most often theater companies do not employ an actor after their first audition proves her point. Although most auditions last less than five minutes, the process of auditioning takes time because many auditions only come around once a year. It took me about 8 months to make my way into the audition rooms of all the major theatrical houses in Chicago... and that was just the first audition for each company. But the exciting thing is that I will only get more castable as I get older. There are many early twenties women pursuing acting, less late twenties, still less early thirties, etc. Which is why it is so important to work, work, work during these early years so that my skills are sharpened and ready if (but I shall say, when) a break comes my way.

Jody, the Artistic Director of Riverside Theater, has a relationship with my alma mater and every year auditions our students. I auditioned for her in Minnesota in early 2009 and a few times since then. Ron and Jody run a very generous audition room, laughing and always making sure to learn a little bit about you as a person. This year, I auditioned for the company in Chicago, where most Midwestern theaters come to conduct their season audition. My audition consisted of performing two monologues, Perdita from A Winter's Tale by Shakespeare and Jennie from Chapter Two by Neil Simon. Auditions generally call for contrasting monologues; these particular two contrast because Perdita is classical, in verse, serious, gentle, fearful and Jennie is contemporary, in prose, intense, humorous, loud, demanding. Monologues are innately silly, because you are talking to someone who is not, in fact, actually there. But we do our best to share a piece of ourselves with the auditor who generally knows within the first six seconds of you walking in the room whether they want to work with you or not. Sorta like speed dating, except you want them to pay you. So sorta like speed dating for prostitutes. However, unlike prostitution, you also need a headshot and resume. Mine currently looks like this...

Jody contacted me shortly after the audition to offering me an apprentice position in the company and the role of Audrey in As You Like It which I obviously accepted. When I received my contract, I found I was to understudy Rosalind, Shakespeare's most loquacious heroine, a thrilling and fun challenge.

After accepting the contract, I moved to Iowa, rehearsed for four weeks, memorized over 200 lines, opened the show and drank the rain like it was my job. Cause it is. I'm playing a goatherd named Audrey whose most famous line is, "I'm not a slut." It's a good life, who can really be upset when they are wearing ruffles like these? Don't tell Ken Washington, but I'm really just in it for the ruffles.

Audrey and Touchstone, photo by Bob Goodfellow


Monday, June 11, 2012

On growing a brave, thick skin.

I've come to the conclusion that my insecurities are boring. There is nothing more boring than continuously thinking of all the ways I will fail at this completely insane artistic career I have chosen to pursue. I will no longer give these insecurities, or bad movies, life because they stand in the way of what I want. Whether it be in personal relationships, your career, or at a sushi bar*, it is hard to know what you want... It is even harder to admit what you want once you know what it is, especially if you want whatever it is really bad. If we admit how much we want something, then we acknowledge how much we will lack if we fail to attain it. I want to be a professional actress. (It was even hard for me to write that simple sentence. I deleted it twice.)

Recently, after a long rehearsal and over a drink at the bar, a fellow actor offered me a critique about a role I had recently played. His critique was simple and I acknowledge the validity of his suggestion for a missing piece in my characterization. It was a great note, actually, which I wished my director had given me. However, my response to his criticism took me on the following journey of emotions in my mind. I was... taken aback, defensive, angry at myself for being defensive. Next, I overcompensated by being overly receptive, beat myself up, felt sorry for myself, and then finally got over it.

I've thought a lot about this interaction and the idea of criticism in general over the last few days. Why was my initial reaction to be threatened by this criticism? Because I have insecurities about my own abilities, talents and work. Because my pride and vanity were hurt. This criticism seeps in through the holes created by my insecurities and hits at my core. But criticism is essential for growth. I want to be the type of artist who can take critiques and use them to make my work strong. I will not learn or grow by compliments and accolades. When I think about it that way, critiques are more important than accolades, especially during an artist's formative years. Rather than using criticism to cripple us into self-pity, we must use it to fuel the depth of our work in the future.

That said, we as artists must be discerning with our criticism for others. I have a few simple suggestions to offer:
  1. The bar is probably not the best place to give criticism. Flirt with the bartender or whisper to your whiskey instead. People will be more receptive if the sun is out anyway.
  2. If you are going to offer criticism, it doesn't hurt to offer a compliment too. 
  3. When critiquing a role that an actor (or anything that anyone) is over and done with and has no chance to alter, may I suggest wording along these lines: "Next time you play a role like that, I'd love to see you delve deeper into your..." as opposed to "What I think you were missing was..." 
  4. Let's also acknowledge that we don't always need to share what we think.
  5. Lastly, we don't always have to care what others think. Choose whose opinion matters to you. It's similar to what I've said before, "Strangers will shout things at you, especially in a big city. You have the choice to ignore these things. You don't have to "Go F*** Yourself" if you don't want to."

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt


In the rehearsal room, a director's criticism is the lifeblood of a production. As actors we cannot step back and look at our work like a visual artist can. A painter can step back from her canvas and say, "That doesn't look anything like a goat." But I cannot step outside myself and watch me perform a scene as Audrey, the saucy goatherd. Our director, Ted Swetz announced on the first day to remember that everything that happens in the rehearsal room is professional, not personal. Theater is our profession, yet our work is innately personal. Ted constantly says to us, "More self... you need more self." He pushes us to speak through our characters from honest places within ourselves. The "more self" an actor allows onstage, the more present he or she can be with her partner. Another actor in As You Like It, J, sings an English folksong in the production. During tech, he jokingly busted out the chorus with an R&B, soulful riff. Ted shouted from the back of the theater, "You can do it like that!" J responded, "You're opening a whole big can of worms" to which Ted replied, "I've been trying to open that can for two weeks. SELF!" The new flavor J. had added to his character held his own intrinsic truth, which is more interesting, more electric than a body onstage trying to be a 1562 minstrel. When someone in any profession brings so much of themselves to their work, it's hard not to take criticisms of that work as personal failings.

John Carroll Lynch once told my acting class that there are three stages to taking a note:
  1. F*** you.
  2. I suck.
  3. Wait, what was the note?

I hope that bringing my "self", giving and taking constructive criticism, not taking things personally, and abandoning insecurities becomes easier with age. One of my favorite actresses, Helena Bonham Carter recently said, "Everybody has an inferiority complex when they step into a room. But then, when you have children and you get older, it doesn't really matter. When I was young I had so many inferiority complexes... Then it gets tiring. And you do get bored of it."

In the mean time, I'm dressing up like a pirate wench and picking goat fur lint out of my belly button in front of hundreds of people in Iowa. Because I'm a professional actress.


The beautiful festival stage in Lower City Park, Iowa City, IA.



*If you are at Takanami in Iowa City, get the Dragon roll. Shrimp tempura, avacodo and eel. It will cure whatever ails you.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On boys, music, and boys who love music.

Look at the two people dancing on either side of you. 
If you don't see a girl, you are dancing incorrectly.
-The Keyboardist for LCD Soundsystem

Greetings from Iowa City where I'm currently in rehearsal for As You Like It at the Riverside Theater for the summer. This Shakespearean play begins with a usurped Dukedom watching a wrestling match and ends with a quadruple wedding of the play's lovers. When talking about these lovers (of which I play one, more of that anon) our director, Ted Swetz says, "Being with your beloved is the best thing; talking about your beloved is the next best thing." It got me thinking, what is my best thing? For me, music and boys are the best things, so talking about music with boys is the very best. I'm not sure what it is, and I know I'm not alone here, but the mention of Paul Simon or Fleet Foxes or John Darnielle makes my little heart skip a beat. I can trace my first boy/music cataclysmic shudder back to my high school crush making me a mix CD entitled, "Probably the Sweetest Mix Ever" which included the Mountain Goats, the Avett Brothers, Stars, Ryan Adams, Iron and Wine, and Old Crow Medicine Show to name a few. I still have the CD, which is too scratched to play anymore  and I've not talked to the boy in years, but the mix is still probably the sweetest ever.


Friday night, I decided that what I needed was real people, live music and a beer. The universe proved accommodating; Deer Tick was playing at the Blue Moose. I could get my fix for music and men who play music and men who love to watch other men play music. Indeed, the concert hall was filled with all sorts: the tattooed lead singer of Deer Tick in leather pants, the nerdy guys with glasses up front who knew every word to every song and jumped with one hand in the air after hearing the first few chords of each song, the boyfriends who have brought their girlfriends to "see this band that is so awesome and you're gonna love them," the bearded head nodders, the wrinkled townies... the one type there wasn't much of was girls alone in overall jorts. I actually think there was only one. Her name starts with M and rhymes with Shlementine.


I was the only person in the back room of the Blue Moose when the opening band, Teenage Mysticism, began except for the girl who sold me a PBR Tall Boy . I particularly enjoyed the band for the lead singer's unique lisping quality and upbeat vibe. As the room filled, I sat smiling on the upper bench to the left of the stage, singing along when I could pick up the chorus. At the end of their set, an older woman next to me leaned over and asked, "Okay, which of those boys is your boyfriend?" Why else would one be here alone? A guy later in the evening asked me if that woman was my mom.


Between sets, I noticed a square young man near me wearing a backwards cap enthusiastically taking photos of his two cans of PBR on his phone. He then noticed me noticing him and began to attempt to take off my boot. I can only assume this was him flirting with me, a sort of reverse Cinderella story... My love, I have found you, let me take off your $300 shoe in this bar. Any other woman who owns a pair of Frye boots will agree with me here... no man takes my boot from me! So I curled my toes and denied his solicitation. To be fair, he did offer to buy me a "whiskey drink," which I kindly declined. The rule to follow with drunk men trying to flirt with you is the same with Greenpeace canvassers on Milwaukee Ave and coyotes in the wild... Don't make eye contact. It only encourages them to touch you, ask you for money or eat you, respectively. Fortunately, his friends shortly came and collected him. I told them I was new in town and they apologized on behalf of the State of Iowa. I chatted with one of Prince Charming's friends. He was nice and asked for my number. I gave it to him... but then he left two songs into Deer Tick's set list. Another rule, you don't want to be with the guy who leaves when the good music just got started. Where does he have to go? Deal breaker, ladies.


Deer Tick, Blue Moose, May 18, 2012
The second band, Turbo Fruits, has the stupidest name ever... they weren't quite my style, but their drummer was very handsome. He wore his arm in a navy sling which he only removed to play drums or cowbell. What charm, an injured drummer! Yet he continues to play, a noble self-sacrifice to the gods of Rock. However, this broken winged gent brings up two more hard and fast rules for me: When you find yourself attracted to someone, you must ask yourself, "(your name here), does s/he look exactly like your ex?" In my case, seven times out of ten, he does. Now this doesn't mean one should abandon all hope for said doppelganger, but it is a good observation to make. Are you looking for someone new or are you looking for something that you lost? Second rule, if you don't like his band, don't bother. You will have to tell him his band is good and they probably aren't. No one wants to live a lie. I didn't talk to him.


I don't think I'll ever solve the mystery of why indie rock music and the boys that love it melt my heart. If you want to read more on the gender relations through music subject, I suggest Rob Sheffield's Talking to Girls about Duran Duran. He says simply, "I could claim that Duran Duran taught me everything I know about women, but that's not exactly accurate: I learned it from listening to girls talk about Duran Duran."


Now, I ain't looking for a musician, everyone knows musicians are bad news... but if anyone wants to talk about Patti Smith or road trip to see the Hold Steady or throw around ideas for a Mountain Goats tattoo, you know where to find me...


Iowa.



Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sing a song of your passion.

I saw this on the wall at the Old Town School of Folk Music. It is an anthem.

Monday, April 30, 2012

On Virtually Telling the Truth... Almost


“It’s a lonely business, wandering the labrinyths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen and what they will hear.” -Stephen Marche
In a recent article in The Atlantic, Stephen Marche posed the question, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” It got me thinking about my own online identity via Facebook, Twitter and this, my blog. In the digital world, I am able to create an image of myself specially designed to project the person I want my cyber neighbors to see. My facebook makes me seem artistic, fashionable, young, alive, free, namaste, blah blah blah… and while this image is certainly close to how I am and damn near exactly who I want to be, there are things about me omitted from my online collage.
Do this exercise. Forget you know yourself and look at your Facebook wall. What does this person usually feel? What is going on in their life right now? What do they care about? What do they think about the other people in their life? My guess is that most of you seem confident, successful, attractive and popular… and that is how we all want to be… but are you really all those things? Every day? Really?
Your sixteen-year-old cousin in the Slipknot hoodie excluded, most reasonable people don’t post their fears, hurt feelings, disasters, nagging issues and insecurities online. Even Facebook has a social etiquette and the people who complain on Facebook are annoying. You know you’ve hidden that old friend from high school who posts about how the rain makes her want to die because she's alone and that really conservative cousin who posts about how America's problems would be solved if women returned to the home. There are things you just don't (or shouldn't) say (online).
If I wasn’t a reasonable person, here are some things I would post that I have felt or experienced recently:
“I made blueberry pancakes this morning alone and that made me miss the man that I left a year ago. Regret is a b, and not b for blueberry.”
“@Jenifer Clement, I never want you to die.”
“Last night’s whiskey gave me some serious digestion issues this morning. #youdontwannagointhereafterme”
“Yeast infection. Great, thanks, ladyparts.”
“Some days I’m afraid that I’m a bad actress.”
Terrible, right? Overshare, yeah? So I am not calling for all out honesty here; I don’t want to know that you cried yourself to sleep because you think you're tubby. (And I've told you a hundred times that you aren't!) But this selective posting and conscious omission leads to our digital selves being a picture of only our best selves, which isn’t real or honest.
For example, let’s say I have a terrible night, which happens, right? Because I am a mildly decent, mature human being, I am never going to post online: “@Beth Jones, you were a real b tonight. I didn’t have any fun. I wish I’d stayed at home and watched my roommate workout on the rowing machine all night because at least that is more interesting than your latest narcissistic rant. Lay off the mojitos.”
But the next week, when Beth and I run into each other in Wicker Park and she suggests we stop into Myopic books where we bump into Aziz Ansari who takes us out for pizza where I pitch my sitcom called Aayush and Me* which he loves and he calls Greg Daniels to arrange a meeting in LA and we get on the next flight out of O’Hare, you can bet your britches I’m updating my status to read: “AHHHHH! Thanks to the fabulous @Beth Jones, I met Aziz Ansari and am on my way to LA to meet with NBC about creating a sitcom for next fall’s lineup! My life is so crazy awesome!!”
So the result is that in the virtual reality version of my life, the world sees only that I think Beth is fabulous and that we do fabulous things together. [But we all know that in real reality, she is a narcisstic b with a drinking problem.] You need only look at your own newsfeed to see that most people’s facebook walls are full only of the fabulous things they do with their fabulous friends in fabulous places. Which of course quickly leads to… JEALOUSY. My whole point is that what you’re being jealous of is not real. You are busy being jealous of someone’s new job, baby, wedding, boyfriend, house, vacation, while they are secretly struggling with a drug problem, a sick relative, an STD, loneliness, fear… Here's a clue, everyone is a mess, just like you.
So remember: 
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
There is nothing inherently wrong with posting happy, celebratory, fun or fabulous things on Facebook. I do want to know you got that amazing job in Antartica, and gosh, your baby dressed up as Yoda is really effin cute, and I can't believe you just got married, your husband is so attractive I'm going to steal him when you die... But these cyberspace blips are not the 360 degree reality of a person. As my mother just said to me, "We must stop comparing our insides to other's outsides." It's a losing game and the loser is always you and you aren't a loser, you're fabulous, remember?

And make sure to write on my Facebook wall how much you loved this post, because as you know, I am a fabulous writer and you are one of my fabulous friends. Let's go some place fabulous together, I just hope my yeast infection doesn't come back while we're there.

* A quirky, yet heartfelt comedy about two struggling actors who fall in love despite their ideological and cultural differences.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

23 at 24

On my 24th birthday, 23 lessons from My Year of Becoming

1. If you buy a table and chairs off Craigslist, make sure it comes with the screws that hold it together. Otherwise it will not hold together.

2. The hardest part of practicing yoga is showing up to class. That, and resisting the urge to drop hundreds of dollars on fancyyogish*t at lululemon. An expensive tank top will not make you able to do crow pose. For 89 dollars, that tank top better make me effin fly.

3. "The price of adventure is loneliness." -Robert Bruce Hope IV

4. You can get a parking ticket in a parking lot in the city of Chicago. Especially if there is a really large sign that says, "PAY TO PARK" above the spot where you park your car.

5. It's really hard to tell someone that you're just not that into them.

6. Often the dreams we have for others aren't their dreams. Sometimes those dreams are meant for us. I often told Michele he should start a blog. Really, it seems it was I who wanted to write.

7. Wish success for others passionately and often. All competition comes out of our own insecurities.

8. I can parallel park like a boss now thanks to an argument I had with Anna Reichert.

9. You can decorate your roommate's rowing machine for just about any festive occasion; Christmas lights look great on the Concept 2.

10. Join a bank that serves free coffee at it, preferably if it is adjacent to your home. Ration your pay and make small deposits every day. Enjoy your morning joe. It's sorta like paying for coffee, except you get to keep the money.

11. "As actors, we audition for our careers, not for a job." -Katie Hartke

12. "To be great, a writer must write through both inspired and questionable impulses.... The reckless reach of Tennesee (Williams)'s many works remind me to sit my ass down and work, no matter how afraid I am that it might not 'turn out good.'" -Lisa D'amour

13. Sometimes an entire island of traffic is at a standstill just so that you will miss your bus because someone is running late on a train to kiss you goodbye. Without all the delay, he'll never make it in time.

14. If you have the choice to stay at work or go to a waterfall, always go to the waterfall. You never know who you might see naked there.

15. You can bake cookies in a toaster oven. Anna Pahomova taught me that.

16. Gregory Corso to Patti Smith:
"Poets don't finish poems, they abandon them," and then he added, "Don't worry, you'll do okay, kid."
I'd say, "How do you know?"
And he'd reply, "Because I know."

17. Although I am lonely, I no longer fear being alone.

18. "I am inviting you to cultivate a special kind of receptivity-a rigorously innocent openness to experience that will allow you to be penetrated by life's beauty with sublime intensity." -my CityPages horoscope

19. Strangers will shout things at you, especially in a big city. You have the choice to ignore these things. You don't have to "Go F*** Yourself" if you don't want to.

20. "You know who is more beautiful than you, Maura? My mom! She has really great skin and I love her hair." -Vivien, age 4

21. "Pretend like every audition you do happened a hundred years ago... that way if you don't get it, you think, 'Who cares? It was soooo long ago.' Then when you get one, you'll be like, 'I can't believe I got that! I did that audition 100 years ago!'" -Vaishnavi Sharma

22. If you are going to flash someone outside from inside a bar, make sure the glass isn't highly reflective... otherwise, you will effectively flash the whole bar.

23. Love. Love yourself and the god within you first. Then love those around you, love those that need your love, love those that don't know that they do. Love your mom and pop. Fall again in love with those that already love you. Love the life you are given and you never know what you will become.

Here's to my 24th year, title unknown. And here's to you, dear reader, for coming along for the ride.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On playing someone like you. Actually, not the song by Adele.

"Crimes of the Heart" closes next weekend. It's a play I'm performing in Chicago* that I first read when I was in acting school in Minneapolis, set in Mississippi which is sort of like North Carolina where I'm from** and a lot like Louisiana where my father's family lives. With my birthday approaching (I'll be a proud 24 on Wednesday!), I reflect upon who I've become during this last year, my self proclaimed Year of Becoming, and I find I have a lot in common with my character, Meg Magrath, the middle sister with "sad, magic eyes."

Meg is fun, brave and passionate. She moved far away from home to pursue her dream of being an artist. She says what is on her mind, even when she shouldn't. She's got a tough shell, but really needs the chance to cry sometimes. She's afraid of being weak, of being obsolete. She loves her family, bourbon and chocolate. She's had a mental breakdown. She is very young and somehow old.

Men are a sore subject with Meg. She broke one man's heart in a big way, like ran away to California the night his leg was crushed when a roof caved in during a hurricane BIG way. Since that time, she fears caring for anyone. Because if you care, you can get hurt. If you care and you destroy everything, it breaks your heart. It breaks your heart almost as much as being trapped in the wrong relationship, the wrong town, the wrong lifetime does. I am like Meg in this way; I care too.

As Meg, I get one more beautiful night with the man I left. One night to heal the seeping ache of five years spent wondering why. One night to move forward with clear, understanding eyes. One night to forgive myself, the hardest forgiveness of all. Even though Doc doesn't ask Meg to run away with him, she comes in singing the next day triumphant and joyous at the realization that, she "could care about someone... could want someone!" This understanding look in his eyes breaks open her heart.

As Maura,  I haven't met "the one"*** and I still am my own wife, as it were. But after nearly a year "back out there," I'm happy to say that recently my heart has returned. Fear's ally, numbness, has subsided and I am left a full, feeling woman ready and open to the world, and love, if it comes my way.

Of course, I am not like Meg in a few ways. I don't chain smoke and the practice smoking I did really effedup my voice for about a week. Thank you, Anna Pahomova. I don't think my father is a bastard. He's actually really nice. I don't have a thick Southern accent.**** I don't fight like mad with my sisters, an ever growing group***** Except for Alison, but she started it!

So no matter how many Tony's I'm not winning for this production, how many cabinet doors fall off the set, how many times the technical elements surprise us, how many Illinois suburban folk love it, how much money I've spent on gas, how many sweet friends travel across the country to see it, or how many pairs of pantyhose I tear through, I have learned wonderful things about Maura Clement by playing Meg Magrath. And that may not be as good as money in the bank, but it sure beats smoking two packs a day.

The cast of Crimes of the Heart, April 2012



*Okay, it's in St. Charles, so sue me!
** Okay, I moved there when I was 12, my dad was a JAG for the Navy. Just like Harmon Rabb Jr. Okay, not like Harm at all, so sue me!
***Okay, I don't believe in "the one." I just mean someone I'm effin wild about who feels the same way about me.
****Okay, I sorta do, but only when bourbon is involved.
*****Okay, I'm not sayin' nothin.