Two Cents

Kitchen

I’ve been meaning to write another blog for awhile now…but time just slips away (surprise surprise). However, after reading this article: “Is Parenthood the Enemy of Creativity”,  I just can’t help myself but to take a moment and write a few thoughts of my own on the subject.

Stop doing so damn much! We get sucked into busying ourselves within every sweet second of our life (I am a huge offender of this thing). Specially while living in LA and doing all the business of being an actor and trying to get my work out there and be seen and noticed. Then to add on top of that being a new mom, the list of “must dos” and “should dos” is staggering and even debilitating.

I’ve had to take a step back and really look at this long list of things I “need” to do. Who is telling me I need to do it? My society or my instinct? This goes for both actor things and mom things. Here’s an example – that is actually quite timely due to recent events: Actor workshops. I hate them with a passion. I did a few because I was told they were what you needed to do in order to get any “real” work in this town but every time I went to one, everything in me cringed. The desperation you feel in that room is just awful, and you can’t help but become a part of it. In a town where you already feel quite helpless, this was just another thing to put you in your place.

So I stopped. The money I would have spent on workshops I spent on my own projects. New filming equipment, money for crew (or at least feeding crew), for submission fees for festivals, for classes that actually helped my acting muscles, etc. And now I feel a heck of a lot less shame – and helpless!

This idea can continue on to other actor-y things: building a twitter following, a large Instagram or YouTube presence, sending postcard after postcard, sending out a million envelopes with your headshot and resume in them, going to a bunch of parties to mingle and make industry contacts…. You can get so caught up in all the things you’re supposed to do to help make your career and get you noticed as an artist, and yet if you don’t spend time and passion on you art, what have you got to give?

Nothing in this town is certain. You could win an Oscar one year and in the next people could be asking “whatever happened to…?” There are no guarantees. You can book a commercial or a t.v show, get excited and tell all your friends, and then get edited out! I think what it comes down to is the work itself. Are you doing work you love and are proud of? Or are you focusing on taking the steps for success -whether that be financial or social. What is important to you? If its popularity and success, then fine! Go for it. But the only thing I have time to focus on, care about, and know I have a little control in is my own work. That means in the scenes I put up in class, the short films I write, shoot, and put out into the world, and even taking time to see the world around me and enjoy it.

So now I switch gears (a bit) and go into my dealings with being a mom. I feel it is very similar in my approach. I can get so caught up in what society is telling me I need to do as a mom! The amount of books I’ve read is… pretty ridiculous. I also find it funny that I am drawn to books and articles that basically reinstate what I already thought was good parenting. Isn’t that what a lot of us do? We take a piece of this theory, or that style, or a new program for parenting  (kind of like how some people take their favorite bits and pieces of religions)  just so we can feel less guilty about what we’re doing. And that’s another thing: GUILT!  Oh dear Lord, the way we can pile on the shame and guilt! I think we like it! Because no one likes a cocky parent or a parent that says “I think I’m doing a great job!”. But why not? (now take that idea back to acting – no one likes a cocky actor either!)

So, now to tie the two of these things together and actually relate it back to the article I had read about how being a parent can decrease you artistic abilities… or be the enemy… or whatever. So far I have not found that being a parent has made me less of an artist. It has strengthened my passion for my art, and it has laser focused the precious time I get when I can work on my art. Yesterday I dropped my daughter off at daycare, headed to the theatre for  three hours to work on a one act I’m directing. I then enjoyed a quiet afternoon to focus and work on a one act I’m acting in, then proceeded to my two hour rehearsal before picking my daughter up at 5pm. This is not a typical day, but when I get a day like that I relish it!! I’ll admit I felt a twinge of guilt for a minute or two, but let it go. I’m spending all day today with my daughter, and now I can focus on her and not worry about the art I’m not doing.

Perhaps I’m not quite writing this out as well as I would like… but the point I’m trying to make is that being a parent has deepened my relationship with life and the world – and how can that not make you a stronger artist. Don’t look at the quantity of time you put towards your art, look at the quality.

So that’s my two cents on this early Wednesday morning. The sun is coming up and I hear my daughter waking. Time to get on with the day!

 

PS: I’m super excited to write more about how I’m letting go of my “identities” as mom, actor, wife, etc. ….. but that’s for another early morn.

In the mean time, check out this book: How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard.

 

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The Bitter Sweetness of Doing Your Own Thing

In just about 3 weeks my show, Dear Hollywood, goes up once again.

   
I may have bitten off more than I can chew by producing this show all by myself while finally getting the hang of having a baby around. But I’ve missed performing and being on stage so much since I wasn’t able to do much during my pregnancy. And also because when living in LA and pursuing the professional acting career, actual performing tends to feel few and far between. I wish I were involved in a theatre company or any sort of ensemble company at all. I miss going to my acting studio classes. I miss being part of a cast and working as a team to create art.

So here I am trying to promote my show, rehearse, re-write, and stay motivated during Cordie’s naps. Sometimes I get an hour or more, sometimes just 30 minutes. She falls asleep and suddenly a long list of things that need to be done starts to run through my head. Do I send personal e-mails to invite more friends to my show? Do I try to rehearse one of the monologues? Do I try to figure out how to write a press release? Do I finally make lunch for myself? Go to the bathroom? Or do I start 5 things all at once and then get nowhere by the time Cordie wakes up again.

And it’s not easy asking for help. This has been a huge lesson to me these last couple months…well actually even when I was put on moderate bed rest. What I forget is that Eric and I are not the only ones who like to help others. We will quickly come to the aid of a friend or help back an artistic project we believe in. We love to see our friends succeed and to feel like we are doing something good for the world. And by not asking for help from others, I may in fact be robbing them of a chance to do what they love as well.

Here I’ll be open and honest. This is tough stuff doing a solo show. This is new territory for me and I find I’m fearing an empty house at my show. That is a possibility and I know it happens to other solo artists as well. Specially when you are first getting started. I need to remember that this is all laying down the groundwork and foundation to give me the skills and tenacity to continue to do this and write/produce more shows. I’m trying to make this show as easily accessible to people as well. The ticket prices are pay what you can. I would love to come close to at least breaking even on this and right now the only thing I could think of was creating a “GoFundMe” account (here) . What sucks is seeing it at $0.

I believe I have a good show. I want to share it and entertain people with it as well.

How do you keep your self confidence up when you see you have a total of 165 tickets to sell (all 3 shows included), you’ve “sold” 7 of them (mostly comped), you need about $800 to meet the costs of producing your show (and you’re at $0), and you’ve invited 100 people on Facebook and you see 7 say they are coming. I’m doing the Fringe on a rather small scale because anything bigger would scare me. This may all seem trivial, but it’s how I’m feeling. I look forward to writing about how this all turned out.

 No matter what, I get to do my show 3 more times. People will be there to see it (the numbers don’t really matter) and I will have learned many lessons about doing a solo show at a festival in the safety of a town I don’t have to travel to. And $800 is a rather small amount for producing a show. We’ll survive if we have to pay the entire thing out of pocket. 

I hope you don’t mind my candor with how I’m feeling leading up to my shows next month, but I doubt I am alone and it helps to know that. 

Thank you. 

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Beginning of the New Adventure

This first week back in my hometown has been a great one. Week one of teaching and I’m loving the kids. I’m not too surprised by how much I enjoy teaching improv to them. And to be able to share my passion for theatre with kids who are just at the beginning of their own theatrical journey is quite inspiring and rewarding.

Of course it’s not all easy. This is quite new territory for me. Every day I’m challenged to find new improv games and figure out how to build upon what was taught the day before and also at what speed to go. Also, how do I keep a middle schooler’s attention for longer than 5 minutes?!!

I had no delusions that this would be easy. I knew this would be a challenge and I’d have quite the steep learning curve, but I like challenges.

On another note of being back in my hometown, it has been really great getting to show my husband around the Pacific NorthWest. We went up the north side of Mt. St. Helens one day and then yesterday I took him to the south side so we could hike through the Ape Caves and Lava Canyon. I hate the idea of having to drop him off at the airport tomorrow.

But this month already seems booked up. Teaching in mornings, rehearsing my one woman show in the afternoons (I will hopefully be performing Dear Hollywood here in 2 weeks), and then prepping for the film I’m directing when I return to LA. I’m hoping to throw in a few more workshops for adults while here, but nothing is set yet.

I look forward to the coming weeks and I look forward to reporting my adventures with you.

Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July.

Cheers,
Julisa

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Passing on the Torch

I’m sorry I missed last week. It was my birthday on Wednesday and well…we were in the midst of buying our first condo. We have the keys!!! First time homeowners!!!

Ok.. So, two weekends ago my husband and I went to go see “13” the musical production our theatre company, Big Bear Theatre Project, put on with the local kids. I’ll admit, I was surprised by how moved I was by the end. The lights were nothing fancy and it was a bare bones set but there was nothing lacking or bare in the heart of the kids performing. I had seen where they had started at the beginning and now to see them at showtime was amazing. And how neat it was to hear that the kids were hungry for more! Some had never done musical theatre before (let alone theatre in general), so it was such a great feeling to hear that we had gotten them “hooked”.

On the 15th I volunteered, through the SAG Foundation, to help the literacy and theatre program. For a couple hours that day I helped 5th graders write monologues. It was a blast talking with them and giving them a little nudge when they were unsure of what to write. Some were scared to write anything at all – worried they would write the wrong thing. What a great reminder to myself! There are no mistakes on a first draft. The key is to just write!! And it was  super fun giving ideas of where their imagination could take them. I left the classroom inspired to write my own material.

I’m excited to work more with the kids. I’m loving reading to the kindergarteners and first graders every Monday. I’m probably learning more than they are.

Maybe it’s due to my birthday last week but I feel a new urge, maybe even a necessity, to help the next generation be involved in the arts. I’ve been focused on myself and my own career long enough. I have a good foundation and I’ll keep moving forward but now it’s time to set aside some time to give a hand or an hour to ignite a little spark to the up and coming artists and patrons.

Happy Wednesday my friends.

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I Like the Books With Pictures In Them

On Monday I had my first day volunteering as a BookPAL. I discovered this program when I went to the SAG-AFTRA member orientation last spring but knew I couldn’t really volunteer until we moved back to the city. 3 weeks of living in LA and I’m all set up as a volunteer. It feels good to take time out and do something for others. And I don’t mean helping others on their own film projects or supporting a show (although I love to do that too). This is different. I don’t feel like this has much connection to the my own goals for my career. It’s a nice little break. I think scheduling these book readings every Monday morning is the perfect way to start my week. I get to hang out with awesome kindergarten and first graders.

I didn’t get a chance to look for books to read until last Sunday night. I headed over to Barnes & Noble, walked straight past the film and theatre aisle, and straight to the kids section. I was suddenly overwhelmed by all the colors and silly pictures. As I began to flip through a few of them I suddenly felt like laying on the floor and just looking at the pictures. The illustrations were so amazing and engaging. It made me feel like as I’ve grown up, the colors in my life have seemed to get a bit more dull. And then when I began to read the books I discovered the vast range of subjects and lessons.

When I was a kid, I loved The Berenstain Bears. And I specifically remember some of the lessons they taught – don’t eat too much junk food, don’t judge an apple by it’s skin, careful of strangers,  learning to share, etc. I also remember Amelia Bedelia, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Goodnight Moon, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and so many others. I can’t wait to share some of my favorites with these kids.

There’s a lot I look forward to with this program. Learning to find the right reading material for the kids and to help increase their reading and listening skills, share my love of story, get them involved in stories, and hopefully inspire them to create their own.

I said I liked that this seemed separate from my work, but I have a feeling it will infuse my work and how I approach my work with a new sense of play, wonderment, and childlikeness. I’m ok with that.

 

Happy Wednesday my friends.

 

If you are interested in becoming  a BookPAL check it out here: http://www.sagfoundation.org/childrens-literacy

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