Making Things!

Within just the last couple months I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects as set decorator, production designer, and window display artist. Since writing my last post I have been able to set my fears aside and focus on the joy that comes from creating things and learning as I go. What I’ve enjoyed the most is having my imagination explode with ideas when handed a project. I’d like to post about each project individually but as of right now I’m up to my armpits in freelance gigs.

I’m looking forward to posting more photos of the projects I’ve been working on. One of my projects was fabricating the props for Nordstrom Window displays (appearing in storefronts the first weekend of September).

This week I’m busy working as production designer for a fun fantasy short – let’s just say I’ve got a lot of magical wizardry to whip up before Saturday’s shoot!

Next month I’ll be designing the set for my old high school’s fall musical, Seussical the Musical. More fun fantasy and imagination work there!

And only 3 more weeks of the summer quarter. Lordy, I hope I find time for my homework and finals.

 

 

 

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Life Academy

I was writing in my journal this morning – pouring out my fears and concerns regarding the future and what I’ll do after I finish school in less than a year. Having a steady job – or even a good paying job – has always felt out of reach for me. Right after high school I decided to volunteer as a missionary for a few months in Ireland (honestly, I just wanted a reason to travel), and when I returned I attended my hometown community college. I received a full-ride scholarship through the theatre department. Free college? Heck yes, sign me up! But once I completed my Associate’s degree I couldn’t decide where to finish off college and get my BA degree, or with what major. I had too many interests. Did I want to focus on acting? Directing? Writing? It seemed too expensive to go to school when I didn’t have a laser focused passion. I decided to go back to Ireland to continue missionary work (actually, I just loved Ireland and didn’t know how to move and work there), but within a year I was very aware of what I passionately did NOT want to do. Returning home I looked into a few acting conservatories. I auditioned and was promptly not accepted. “Fine!”, I thought, “I don’t need school, I’ll just learn from experience and start working in the real world”. With that decision, I moved to L.A to study improv and try working as an actor in Hollywood. I had a friend moving down at the time and it felt like an easier way to move out of my small town to the big city with him than try and move New York on my own. I only planned to be in L.A for a year (here I am now at almost 10 years in L.A and still loving it) but for the past 10+ years I have struggled so hard to make a living: to pay rent, buy food, pay for my car, and afford some lifestyle luxuries (ie: clothes and dining out once in awhile). If I felt poor as a missionary, I felt just slightly less poor as a struggling actor.

Now, here I am back at school (I finally discovered something I had been passionate about all along) but I’m scared I won’t find a good paying job, that I’ll still be underqualified because I won’t have a Master’s Degree in design. I’ll be receiving a sort of Associate’s + degree with my Professional Designation course in Visual Communication. Will that be enough?! I can’t afford to go to school longer right now.

All this to preface my journal entry excerpt I wanted to share with you today. So here it is:

… but why does this nagging shadowy creature called “eductaion” keep tapping me on the shoulder – telling me I haven’t had enough “proper school” to be the professional designer I dream to be? I think there is always this creature lurking behind everyone’s back – whispering into your ear that you are not good enough, you’re an imposter and someday you will be found out.  I think in the arts it feels so much more scary and real because art is so personal and vulnerable.

But, I think with a passion to learn and a passion for the craft you can still move ahead even though you may not be in the brick cube confines of a school. My schooling is the world that I live in, the access to a multitude of books I can find in libraries, to DVD commentaries and trying things out by designing for friends’ projects. This is my lifetime academy. I will never stop learning, I just need to remember this when I fall into the trap of comparing myself to other designers I admire and want to be like. 

I write about this a lot and am constantly trying to cheer myself on when I feel like all the odds are against me…

I know the importance of education but if you can’t afford to go to school or continue to add to your degrees, it is not the be all end all. At least I hope not. So I’m going to see how far I can go just by learning by experience and soaking up whatever information I can.

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Chipping Away

As my second quarter is on its final legs and we begin our final projects, I find I’m able to just barely keep everything afloat. I start out the quarter so full of hope and energy, thinking that this time I will go above and beyond on my homework assignments – so I can really make the most of my short time back at school. But as the (very few) weeks pass, I find I have to turn in work that is not nearly as wonderful as I first set out to do. Time alludes me. I feel I’m constantly just getting by on my school assignments, work around the house and spending time with my daughter and husband. I just chip away at the long list of “to-do”s.

But as I chip away I unearth a deeper passion for what I’m studying. Today I had a pre-production meeting regarding a play I’ll be designing the set for. I get so excited thinking about the possibilities of what we can do and how we can further tell the story by what we show visually. I love reading a play and having images pop into my head.

A few weeks ago I helped shop for props for a short film my husband is producing. As I was browsing the aisles of Goodwill seeing what jumped out at me as the perfect little additions for a shabby 1991 kitchen, I realized this was something I’ve been doing my whole life. I like to wander the aisles at stores and look at things and see what speaks to me and where each item might look good or what kind of person would buy it.

It’s a really great feeling finding something else I’m passionate about and also feeling like I have a gift for it. The moment I read a script or a play my imagination flies. And now, thanks to school, I’m learning the tools to get the images out from my head and in front of other people.

This is freaking great. It’s not easy, and some days I really feel like tossing in the towel… then I remember how stir crazy I was waiting for my agent to call and going nuts feeling like I wasn’t helping provide for the family in some way. I know I was working a ton and it’s no easy task taking care of a kid and a home, but I felt so creatively dead. And maybe that’s what happened, maybe a part of me died – was creatively starved to death, which allowed a new artist to rise. I would never have pursued this field if the acting gigs had happened just a little more often. I find myself oddly grateful for the way things turned out. Of

I find myself grateful for the way things turned out. Of course I didn’t know it a year ago when I was really struggling and wondering what to do with myself, but here I am feeling full of hope and (still) wondering what will the future hold.

 

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LA Anniversary!

I just wanted to write a quick little “woo-hoo” post since today is my LA anniversary. 9 years I’ve lived here. Originally I was planning on just one, and then life here swept me up. In no way could I have ever predicted my life to be where it is today: back in school, married, kid, home, extremely happy and content. Feels good.

I’m in the midst of homework right now, but I try to post every year on my anniversary.

 

Woo-hoooooo!

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Back to School!!

School! I love being back at school! It feels so great to be back in the classroom setting and studying a subject I’ve always wanted to learn more about. There was only so much I could teach myself and now with deadlines and grades in the mix, I’ve been pushing myself much harder understanding the realm of visual communications.

So far I’ve been able to juggle the crazy schedule of classes, homework, working at the Dolby, being a mom, keeping our home in some sort of order, and even giving myself a little down time. However, this is only week 3 and the other day I put in my two weeks’ notice to the Dolby. I am very sad to be leaving the theatre that I have called home for the last 6 years. I have loved being a tour guide and entertaining and educating the public about the Oscars and the theatre. I knew there would be a day when I would no longer be a tour guide. There were times when I seriously thought they would scrap the tour department altogether, be we have somehow hung on. And now here I am having to let go of something I’ve loved in order to make room to move on to my next love – whatever that may be.

I have hopes of writing more updates as I go along, but the days slide by so quickly now with so many more projects to work on, I’ll have to let go of hoping to write really great blogs that are insightful and well written…and just write what’s going on and how I’m feeling about it. I deactivated my Facebook account last November, so this is just my little way to still express myself and share what I’m doing with the world.

Ok, back to painting, and cutting, and gluing, and so much more!

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(Insert Witty Thoughtful Title Here)

I’ve been putting off writing this blog for quite awhile because I wanted to wait until I knew what and how I was going to write an amazing blog talking about my next big adventure. But school starts next week and what I hope to do over the next year is write about my experience of going back to school to study Visual Communications at FIDM.

This was a bit of a quick decision to change career paths. At the beginning of October, I came across FIDM while looking up design schools in LA. By mid-October, I had taken a tour of the campus and had a meeting with an adviser. By the end of October, I had applied and created a  portfolio of some sort and was accepted starting the Winter Quarter of 2017. Whew!

I don’t know if I would say I’m altogether changing careers, more like adding more artistic tools to my toolbelt. I’ve been focused on acting for the last 20 years but have always wondered what it might be like to study another artform. I’ve always been interested and fascinated with interior design, style, and decor. I want to know why certain things work, and others don’t.

So I’ll keep this post short. Here on the eve of 2017, my hope is to weekly document my trek back into the school world and to write about this next adventure of mine.

Cheers!

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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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Starting with the basics…again.

I did it. I put up  my first scene in class…. and lo and behold all that fiery passion for the craft has come back full force. It’s so weirdly addicting. I feel so at home on stage discovering a life and story on stage.

So now I’m learning about finding the balance and new ways of doing my homework for the scenes. It’s a bit difficult sitting and doing my imagination work on the story at home while also trying to keep Cordie out of the dog food (boy, does she love that stuff!). I have to work towards a new discipline of using my free time a bit more wisely. Also, I hope to become more efficient with my work. Instead of trying to work at getting the entire play believed, just starting with little parts, problems, situations, etc and letting it grow. I have a habit of trying to get everything from the very beginning.

I’m excited to work these muscles again and to see my confidence grow in my work that I put out into the world. Whether that be my own writing or what I bring into the audition room.

My overall career/game plan is still a bit fuzzy but let’s just start with the work. I think over the coming weeks more will clear up.

Mary Blair

PS: I’ve come across Mary Blair’s artwork, and I’m in love!

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Soul Searching on a Sunday Night

I’ve begun acting class again and it is stirring up quite a few soul searching questions for me.

How serious am I about being a professional working actor? Am I willing to make the sacrifices? What do those sacrifices mean? Does that mean I’m putting my husband and daughter second? Am I afraid of true success? Am I afraid of failure? What if I put in all this hard work and I actually am not that talented? Do I have actual goals? Something tangible to head towards? Am I flailing about aimlessly?!?

Do I still want this? 

That’s the biggest question I seem to keep coming back to. Do I still want to be an actor? And I honestly don’t know. But do I not know because I don’t get to act much anymore? Will that strong desire and passion come back once I get to perform again (even if it’s just in class at first)? Or have I given up on the hope and dream but continue to plug along out of sheer habit? I am scared to answer this question. I have found my identity in acting/as an actor for so long that I’m scared to have to go “find” myself if I let that go.

The last time I was in acting class was about 4 years ago. I was a single girl working 5 jobs (none of them acting) and trying to get work as an actor. Now I’ve come back after having moved to a different town (and back), married the love of my life, bought a home, and had a baby. All really awesome things! And pretty significant life changes.

I think I expected to go back to class and pick up where I left off…. but that place (and person) feel long gone. I know I will always love acting. But to what degree and how far do I want to go?

And now I just have the lyric from A Chorus Line going through my head: “Who am I anyway? Am I my resume? Or just a picture of a person I don’t know….”

 

I don’t know what I want. I don’t even know where to begin.

So I’ll just start with a scene. Put a scene up in class and take a look at what we’ve got.

 

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Opening and beyond!

I survived the opening of my show at Hollywood Fringe Festival!

Phew! It got super tough near the end there. Turns out it’s pretty difficult trying to rehearse your show with a 4 month old at home. On Saturday night just after the show was finished I realized I hadn’t actually rehearsed the whole thing all the way through since I had last performed it almost a year ago. Holy smokes! My lighting and tech guy had never actually seen the whole show either due to some tech snafus during our tech rehearsal. But we did it and the audience seemed to have a good time.

Here’s a few snippets from the reviews I’ve received on the show:

” ‘Dear Hollywood’ is like a swig of champagne…bubbly, sparkling, and delightfully refreshing. See it.”

“Julisa demonstrates her silent film background with great success. Her movements are exact, well formulated, choreographed and everything plays to the house very well. Her character voices are spot on and has great range slipping several raspy octaves below her chest voice and nails every dialect that she goes for.”

“Julisa Wright may be the new Carol Burnett if her Dear Hollywood one woman show at the Ruby is a glimpse of more to come.”

“Julisa Wright is an incredibly gifted comedienne! Her timing is fantastic! Her characters are very amusing! Her versatile voice, facial expressions, and physical humor are remarkable! She is charming and witty. She is truly talented – and funny, funny, funny!”

You can see all the reviews HERE.

I also got to do a fun little interview with Ladies Lunch in LA if you want to check that out.

Two more shows to go. Next Monday (June 22nd) and Friday (June 26th). I have a pretty good amount of tickets sold for Monday’s show, and I hope Friday’s picks up soon.

I am so thankful that I get this opportunity to perform. I know I said I was finished with Dear Hollywood last year, but I’m thankful I pulled it out again so I could be onstage once again after having Cordie. It’s a lovely reminder that I will always be a performer and I don’t fit into just one category or title. I hope Cordie grows up seeing her mom do what she loves and I hope it inspires her to follow her dreams as well.

It’s also been really great seeing so many shows at the Fringe Festival. Big thanks to Eric watching Cordie in the evenings and on weekends and pushing me out the door to go out and do what I love. I am inspired by the LA Theatre community and I hope so very much to get more involved over this next year.

I’ll write more after the Fringe is done. The babe is asleep and I want to rehearse a few pieces of my show while I can!

If you’re in the LA area and want to catch one of the last two performance of DEAR HOLLYWOOD check out tickets HERE.

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