Performance Time

Yesterday was my last acting class for this semester.  I’m not going to lie; I seriously considered not showing up.  I had skipped last week’s class since I had just gotten in from out of town and didn’t feel like sitting for three hours getting lectured at.  Besides, I didn’t know my monologue and scene as much as I wanted.  I’d figured I’d have the entire week to perfect my scenes, but of course, that didn’t happen.  I was terrified of performing, even in front of only 10 people.  I knew that if I didn’t go, I would be a quitter and a coward, and I’m against living a cowardly life.  I’ve run from things that were scary to me too many times in the past.  I was determined to go through with this.

Still, I had been a little frustrated with the class. My teacher tended to lecture and take things way too seriously.  I can understand if we were in a competitive acting program, like Juilliard, but we were in a community college acting class, which had a motley group of mothers and full-time employees and college students.  Most of us would never even attempt professional acting, but were just in it for fun.  Going to these classes were supposed to be enjoyable.  Getting lectured at like I’m back in high school is not enjoyable.

An hour before class, I was sitting in my car, reading over the scripts.  I had the monologue memorized, even with my bad Southern accent, but didn’t have my other scene memorized fully.  My scene partner showed up and we practiced.  She told me that the class I had missed had not been good.  My teacher had gotten upset at the scene performances and apparently told the class that some of them were not meant for acting.  My partner said that one girl had gotten so upset that she didn’t want to come back, but my partner had convinced her to come back. This made me nervous but I told my partner that we should just have fun with it and not worry about it, since this class was supposed to be fun anyway.

We had to perform monologues first, and I made the choice to go last.  I learned that my instructor is usually more critical of the people who go first, and they have to do their scenes over and over again.  Everyone did a good job with their monologues.  Mine was Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  In the scene, she is talking to her husband Brick about how her in-laws and how much she dislikes her sister-in-law.  I went up and started, “Big Daddy dotes on you honey…” and skipped over the next line in nervousness. I told my teacher I had to start again. She had given us permission to start over before we started, so she nodded approvingly.  I stood with my face against the wall, thinking, “Get it together Jenny, get it together Jenny.  You KNOW this.”  I started over and this time went through my monologue without a hitch.  I found myself getting lost in the character and it reminded me of the joy of acting and why I had started taking this class in the first place.  No matter what my teacher was going to say about my performance, she couldn’t take that away from me.

Everyone clapped at the end, and my teacher said I had done a good job. I talked too fast (even though I had tried not to), but she was kinder about it this time.  She also gave me advice about doing my scene in front of a mirror, to make it more obvious with certain movements.

During our break, a classmate came up to me and told me that he thought I had done a great job. He said that he knew I was looking into a mirror.  At one point in my monologue, Maggie is discussing how her father-in-law looks lecherously at her boobs when she talks to him, so I adjusted my bra at this point and then sashayed into the chair (which was an unconscious movement). He really liked that choice.

Next, I had to perform a scene from Steel Magnolias.   I played Shelby, and the scene was where she tells her mother she is pregnant.  My partner forgot some of her lines but luckily I recognized the cues and was able to insert various parts of the scene into the cues.  I don’t think anyone noticed that we had only performed half the scene.  I didn’t care at this point – I was happy to just have the performance out of the way.  My teacher again was complimentary, saying I brought a lot of youth and energy to the role.  She said that I was talking too fast (again), but again was kind about it, saying that she understood how difficult it is to talk slower when you naturally have a fast internal rhythm, like I do.

At the end she gave us homemade cake and gave me a big hug, telling me to come back and to stick with acting (I swear she’s the nicest lady when you aren’t performing in front of her).  She also told the whole class, “Wow, you guys came through! At the last minute!” which gave me a little idea of what I had missed.

I am very glad that I took this class. I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that I need to slow down my speech in public performances. I learned that I need to be pushed out of my comfort zoned, and that I really enjoy performing despite my stage fright.  I also learned that acting is a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I probably won’t take another class until the next semester.  I might audition for a play but I will have to be sure I can commit to it.  I’ll still try and be an extra when I can (not on My Generation, that already got canceled, lol).  I still want to act in the future.  Who knows when this class will have come in handy?

Please Watch “My Generation” Tonight

Hey everyone.  Remember how I talked about working as an extra for two days on a TV show back in August?  Yeah, it was this one:

 

It is called My Generation and is premiering on ABC tonight at 8/7 central.  If I show up at all (which is almost improbable, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed), it won’t be until the fourth or fifth episodes.  BUT I don’t want this show canceled before my potential three seconds of fame, so PLEASE WATCH IT FOR ME.  Thank you 🙂

I Love the Night

This song describes how I feel about it perfectly.

(Yes, Blue Oyster Cult actually does other songs besides “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”)

There is something about nighttime that I have always loved, even when I was a little girl.  There is no mystery in the daytime, there are no surprises –  you can see everything plainly, better or worse.  But the night always hold an element of wonder, a sense of adventure.  Anything can happen.  And when the night slips into the wee hours of the morning, sometimes you feel like you are the only person still awake.

I was thinking of this as I drove back from class tonight.  Fall was in the air, good tunes were on the radio – I felt like anything was possible.  I had an urge to keep on driving north on the interstate, just to see where it would take me.  But it’s Tuesday, which means I have work tomorrow and have to be downtown early and act semi-responsible.

I liked my class tonight.  We didn’t have to do our monologues or scenes, which is good.  I practiced my monologue all the way down to class (took an hour and fifteen minutes for a 30 minute trip – RIDICULOUS.)  My Southern accent continues to be absolutely hideous.  It is a cross between Scarlett O’Hara and Angela Lansbury.  My instructor was being a little hard on us in the beginning. We had to do various exercises, including one where we had to mirror our partners.  Many of us had the giggles, and our instructor lectured us because we had to take it seriously and focus, since we are actors and actresses.  But then once we stopped giggling and focused, she seemed much happier with us.  She took us outside and we had to close our eyes and listen to the sounds.  Downtown has such a cacophony that is easy to ignore when you’re around it all the time.  But closing my eyes made me feel vulnerable.  I thought if I were a blind person, how terrified I would be to have to deal with all these sounds everywhere.  Afterward we did breathing and body exercises.  One was oh-so-relaxing – we lay on the floor and in a soothing voice, she told us that each body part was now free of tension – the tongue, the eyelids, the toes.  I could have done that exercise for the entire class, let me tell you.

It is 11:47 and I am still, regrettably, wide awake.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t love the night so much so I could get myself to sleep at a decent time.

Gothic Flavor, How I Miss You…

I don’t know why, but that song was in my head today.  That song, “Keep Fishin’,” and “Dope Nose” actually make me nostalgic for college.

Yesterday I had strange dreams.  One of them was I was moving back to Virginia and quitting grad school.  I was all excited about going back to Virginia since I hadn’t been back there since I moved in 1994.  And I was excited about quitting grad school because in my dream, I’d realized that I was unhappy there and needed to get out.  When I woke up, my brain was all, “Oh hey Jenny, you already graduated from grad school.”  That dream was 4 years too late.

I am feeling better. I have been taking Tylenol Sinus and that seems to have done the trick. Either that, or I have an immune system of STEEL.  Tonight I went to eat Tom Ka soup at my favorite Thai restaurant.  It was an excuse since I was “sick.”  Also, I was too lazy to make anything myself.

Tonight was productive.  I memorized the lines for my monologue and scene for tomorrow. At least, I hope I memorized them. My monologue is hard.  I try to talk in a Southern accent but I realize that my Southern accent kind of sucks.  Hopefully I talk slowly enough for my teacher so she doesn’t have a coronary again when I am on stage.

Then I practiced drums.  I am trying to start getting into doing fills to supplement the beats I am learning. I was overly ambitious and decided that maybe I could learn the drum part to “Toxicity,” because the drums are freaking awesome on that song.  I tried playing along to it and it was pretty near impossible.  Then I took a look at a youtube video and oh my gosh, you guys:

If he’s making it look easy, then he’s doing something right.  That’s the mistake I made when I first started drumming. I thought, “Oh whatever, it seems so easy.”  No, it’s not.  About the only thing I can do on this song is the beat on the chorus.  Forget the rest.  So I will save this song for a little later.  Right now, I will focus on something more attainable, like “In Bloom” by Nirvana.  I would post it here but Youtube is being a little bitch.  Let me try it anyway.

The thing about Dave Grohl’s drumming in Nirvana is they were awesome but simple enough for the average drummer to play along with.  His drumming in Them Crooked Vultures is a lot more complex and so that will be something for me to build up to.

Ok.  I need to go wind down for sleep.  Night night you all.

Me, Hyperactive? Noooooo.

Tap posted an album yesterday on our band’s Facebook page (“The Tap and Jenny Project,” check us out), and there was one picture in it that was just SO me that I immediately made it my new profile picture.  Here it is:

From the day I was born, I’ve been hyperactive.  My parents call me the devil baby who never wanted to go to sleep.  In contrast, my brother Patrick is calm and totally chill.  My mother is Italian and talks loudly and quickly – I definitely picked up my speaking traits from her, and my dad said that he was pretty hyper when he was younger.  I saw one of my old teachers a c0uple of months ago, and he said, “Jenny still talks with her hands,” which I thought was funny.

The good part of my personality is I’m generally enthusiastic about things.  Like if I get excited, I’ll slam an object on my lap or desk.  I’m passionate.  But I’m impatient, and have dealt with anxiety on and off since I was a kid.  I have the tendency to be a perfectionist, but when you combine that with my impatience, I sometimes end up rushing through things.  I’m very intuitive to the thoughts and feelings of people, and will often try to anticipate my reaction based on my environment.  As you can see, these are not traits and tendencies of a calm person.  It is accurate to say that I can never relax, because I’m always anticipating what’s next, always preparing myself for the worst.  I have a hard time living in the moment because I can’t stop thinking about what’s ahead.

As you can imagine, this has overlapped with my professional life. I find myself stumbling and explaining things too quickly, leaving out details because my mouth is going faster than my brain can keep up.  One time, a woman called me back and said she couldn’t understand anything I had said on my voicemail message because I talked way too fast. I remember taking offense at that, though I probably shouldn’t have.

Yesterday in my acting class, I was pretty much eviscerated by my teacher for my rapid speech.  Well, eviscerated is too strong – but definitely scolded at one point.  My teacher is a kindly older woman who calls everyone “baby” and “honey” but she sometimes scolds you when she’s giving criticism.  I’m sure she was frustrated at having to tell me 4 or 5 times not to talk too fast, but in my defense, it’s hard to get rid of something you’ve been doing since you were a child in two minutes and when you’re incredibly nervous.  I didn’t really say anything really in my defense – I already had a headache from the scene I was blocking and trying to remember all the millions of suggestions and critiques that my teacher was telling me, and I felt vulnerable at being criticized in front of everyone.  So I was just more shocked than anything and could only stare at her blankly as she stared back with a frustrated expression on her face. (Next time I will be more prepared and will politely request that my teacher refrain from imitating me by saying, “BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH” rapidly.  Yeah, I talk fast. I get your point.)

But when I got home and really thought about it, I realized my teacher had a point – I do talk way too fast.  To confirm, I called my brother and talked to him about it.  I can always count on Pat to be completely honest.  “Jen, you talk WAY too fast,” he said.  “You don’t even take a breath when you talk.  You just keep going and going.”  “It’s so HARD to talk slower!” I said.  “It’s torturous!”  “Well, you can’t just start talking slowly,” he said.  “It’s a lifestyle.  You just have to be more chill.  You’re just so wired and anxious all the time.  You just have to slow down and chill out. And then once you are a calmer person, you’ll find yourself reacting more calmly and you will naturally start talking slowly.”  My brother is three and a half years younger than me, but he’s so much smarter and wiser than I am, I swear.

Pat sent me meditation and relaxing videos to watch and I listened to one before falling asleep. It was very soothing and nice.  I had a hard time clearing my mind during the video like you’re supposed to – I kept thinking of random things like class and my morning commute and meetings.  So it definitely hammered home what Pat was trying to tell me – I worry too much.

So, here’s to trying to live a calmer life. I don’t want to lose any of my enthusiasm because that is one of my favorite traits, but I think you can be enthusiastic about something without talking ten miles a minute.  It’ll be a challenge though.  Oh boy, will it.

This Rain Needs to Leave

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  My mind was racing too quickly and I couldn’t settle into a comfortable sleep. By the time I did, it was, of course, time to wake up.  I got to work and saw on the news that rescuers were busy last night saving people from flooded roads and creeks.  I got lucky.  One woman had driven past a police barricade and police cars and was swept away; she is still missing. I feel sad for her but really? Why would you drive past a barricade?

I’m annoyed because there was an install of some sort in my apartment and I was not alerted. I do not like having people in the apartment when I’m not here, and not being alerted is even worse.  I would have spruced the place up a bit, hidden away some of the valuables.  The apartment office is going to hear about this tomorrow.

The show called me this afternoon to play, what else? A high school student. Haha. Beggars cannot be choosers. I guess I cannot complain that, at 26, I’m still able to pass for a high school student. Unfortunately I couldn’t do it.  I wish I could but I have this long, 4-hour meeting scheduled for tomorrow and a report due next week.  I don’t want to give anyone a reason to retract the good performance review I received this afternoon (oh yes, it was good, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t work myself into a tizzy beforehand).  Perhaps after my report is done, I can.  I love being on set…it’s like being in an imaginary world. I hope I get to do it again soon. I can’t help feeling jealous of people who get to do it tomorrow, but I always knew that my real job, my bread and butter, comes first.

This evening I went to Half Price to purchase Steel Magnolias and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and then got some Panda Express to get some yummy food to celebrate.  It’s already 9:30 and I felt like I haven’t done anything. Blah.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

It was a long day, so I’m here sipping Sleepytime tea and listening to some Pink Floyd in order not to feel so wired.  Work has been busy and it will be even busier tomorrow. And my much-dreaded performance review is tomorrow at 4. I don’t know how I will wait until 4 tomorrow.  It will be torture. I don’t want to think about it because  my blood pressure immediately rises when I do.

Tonight was my second acting class.  We had to present “monologues” about something we are passionate about. We couldn’t use notes, we couldn’t memorize, and we “couldn’t fly by the seat of our pants.” Basically we had to be comfortable enough to get up there and discuss it.  It was really interesting hearing what other people were passionate about. One woman, who is a vegan chef, is passionate about healthy food. She started getting emotional when she talked about her grandmother having a chicken fried steak because her grandmother apparently has high blood pressure, so that was a bit uncomfortable to watch.  Another woman talked about scuba diving.

I talked about running. I had printed out an old blog post I’d written five years ago for a class and then modified it with a new intro.  I compared running to a love affair – how you’re afraid to commit at first, then  you go all in, then take a break, and then miss running and want to renew your relationship.  I hadn’t thought I was that prepared, but I was surprised how easy it was for me to present this topic articulately since I took my time with it and was really passionate about it.  I talked about the first time I’d gone running, and how my dad and I really grew close through running together.   I thought about how presenting something about my dad was bringing something that he had done years ago full circle. When I was 9, my dad started college at night and his first class was an English course.  For his first assignment, he had to write an essay and when he was finished, he let me read it.  He chose to wrote about me. I don’t remember the details but it was about my being born and how I changed his life and how he was so proud of me.  To this day I still remember how happy that made me feel, so I think my dad would like it if he knew I talked about our running together.

We did a scene later on, which my teacher said was really good until the ending, which “sucked” because the script was kind of flat and because I had forgotten a line and took out my script to read the line, LOL BAD.  My partner and I have to revise the ending and I’m pending her comment, but I think the ending I came up with is pretty juicy and dramatic.  It ends with me yelling “BITCH!!!!!” dramatically so hopefully she goes for that.  I also talk too fast. I always talk too fast but that’s not any surprise. Maybe if I get anything out of acting class, it will be to talk slowly.

I am excited about two parts she “cast” me in for class presentation because they are juicy roles.  She assigned us all additional scenes and a monologue.  I have a scene out of Steel Magnolias. I am playing Shelby and the scene is where she’s telling her mom she’s pregnant.  My monologue is Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Holy crap, that monologue looks tough.  Maggie is this sensuous, sexy Southerner who is basically everything that I am not. It is probably why my teacher gave me that one.  It will be a stretch but I can make it work. I plan on reading both plays just so I can really get a sense of the characters.

The drive home was terrifying.  Tropical Storm Hermine made her debut into our city today and while it has been raining all day, it wasn’t anything really bad.  In fact, once I got to class, it had stopped altogether.  Sometime tonight, the downpour became torrential.  Driving on the highway in it was terrifying.  I’ve driven in bad weather before but this was BAD, mainly because other cars just were not slowing down and taking it seriously. At one point, a car had driven quickly through a pool of water, causing a wave to crash onto Pearl Jr. I didn’t have any visibility and I braked, preparing myself for hydroplaning or for impact. It never came.  Thank goodness I got new tires in July or I would have been a goner.  Once I got off the highway, there were areas that had flooded too, so I drove through the pools of standing water praying that they weren’t deep. It was only once I’d gotten home that I could see that a flash flood warning had been issued while I was in class. Ahhh. I’m just so grateful to be same in one piece.

I can’t wait until tomorrow is over with. I’d better get to sleep, it’ll be another long day.  Goodnight.