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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We’re getting there…!

E&J

Well, here I am at 37 weeks pregnant. That in itself seems like a miracle considering where I was in my last post. More than anything my doctor wanted to make sure I at least made it to 32 weeks. Now little Cordelia is still growing and pretty much full term. Huzzah!

Since I last wrote it has been quite an interesting ride. I’ve rediscovered a new artistic side that I had put away for a very long time. Now that I wasn’t able to go out for auditions or work I had to find something to let my creative juices flow. Turns out I forgot how much I loved painting! In the last few months the paintings that I created just to amuse myself amused others and I sold a few! How neat is that? I’ve also learned how to knit and crochet, sew curtains, a table cloth, runner, and made a handful of scarves (some I’ve even sold!).

I’ve also started writing a new solo show about the adventures of pregnancy. It’s amazing how closely it follows the “Hero’s Journey” and all the steps. This show will probably include a panic attack in Babies ‘R Us, a boxing match of The Hospital vs. The Birthing Center, oh, and me crying over a burrito. ‘Cause that actually happened. If anything it has been rather helpful for me to write down all the funny crazy things that happen to you and since we don’t seem to talk about pregnancy much, what it’s like to discover this new land on your own. Just think of it as another coming of age story.

Now that we’re down to the last few days/weeks and I have no idea when Cordelia will decide it’s time to make her big entrance I find myself wondering what this new version of myself will be like. Here I am now, never having been a mother (or had much of a maternal instinct) and knowing that sometime soon I’m going to cross the threshold into a new world. I feel I’ve transformed a bit from who I was before being pregnant, but after baby I sometimes worry about just how much I’ll change. I know we all (hopefully) grow and learn as each year passes, but why am I so afraid of this change? Perhaps I’m worried I will turn in to someone who only posts things about how tired I am and how the baby did this or that cute/aggravating thing. My hope is that if anything, I’ll have a plethora of new comedic material to write and create from. I hope to still perform, direct, write, and continue to build on my artistic career. But I seem to be bombarded with a message from parents saying “good luck” with a smirk. There’s always the eye roll and “ya….”. Look, I know it will be a big change and adventure and hard work, but could you please make it not seem like me, Julisa, will die off. Yeesh.

And please no more warnings about labor. Dear Lord. I do not want to enter that experience full of fear. I have hopes and plans for what it will be like and I’m open to taking things as they come. I’ve done enough research and now it’s left up to just unfold how it will for me.

So, this post is the most pregnant-y post I’ll do. I’m sure I’ll have one post baby’s arrival.

In the meantime while I wait I continue to write and paint. I even am set up to do one more improv show next week. Who knows, I could go into labor on stage! Nothing like adding a little extra drama to a show.

 

And thank you, dear friends, for all of your support. I’ve had so many people come visit and hang out and send supportive messages. I love you all.

-Julisa

 

 

PS: Here are some of my goals for the upcoming year (And are totally possible!):

-Perform Dear Hollywood at the Hollywood Fringe
-Finish writing next solo show
-Perform second solo show
-Teach an improv or acting class again
-Direct a show/film
-Have my artwork in a boutique
-Sell at least one painting on Etsy
-Sing jazz at one venue
-Book one acting gig
-Take second level of Groundlings

 

Some of my crafty projects:

image10Charlie, Mary, Buster Marx Bros.Maleficent   PaintingsCurtainsHatsCowl Cowl 2Coasters

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bed Rest Bound: what to do with so much time?!

Starlet

I haven’t written in awhile mostly due to the fact that I didn’t know what to write about. Usually I like to write about things that come up along my path as an actor but something new has really thrown me a curve ball and it’s taken me awhile to adjust to it.

I am now 23 weeks into my pregnancy. The last 4 weeks I have been on bed rest and it looks like I may have to spend the rest of my pregnancy this way too. I was hesitant to say anything earlier because I didn’t think it would last this long.

The baby is healthy and fine, I’m just at a high-risk of pre-term labor so my one and only job right now is to stay relaxed, healthy, and happy. Not a bad gig unless you like being busy all the time like I do. Perhaps I should have seen this coming with my last post being about taking things easier and narrowing down my focus.

So what do I do with the next 3 months?! I had to stop beating myself up for not writing more or doing more creative job-like things for the first few weeks on bed-rest. Mostly I was just trying not to worry too much about possibly losing the baby.

Now that I see the next 3 months laid out ahead of me and not being able to go out into the working world I have to do something with this time. And since I won’t be able to do any acting gigs for awhile I will have to pour out my creativity elsewhere.

I’ve started painting and drawing again. I’ve picked up the flute and the ukulele (not simultaneously, duh). I’ve started an art journal to help me deal with all the fears, worries, hopes, and dreams for this baby and I. And I have quite a few stories and another one-woman show up my sleeve that I would like to write out.

This is the path my pregnancy has chosen, so I’m choosing to embrace it. I’m hoping that by turning my focus to other artistic outlets and getting used to the idea of becoming a mother this will in turn enrich my work as an actor.

So, I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks so much for all your prayers and warm thoughts. I can honestly say I have felt them  give me peace each day.

 

 

20 weeks

 

(My reaction to seeing my profile as a pregnant woman for the first time – at 20 weeks. Yikes!)

 

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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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Embracing My Own Path

I sat at the computer ready to write some sappy “I feel sorry for myself because I’m an overwhelmed and confused artist” and then I watched this video:

What a great speech. I love Charlie Day and his show and his path that he took.

Seriously though, I sat at the computer this morning feeling overwhelmed with this LA world and feeling like there is a never ending list of things you “must-do” to become a successful actor in LA. I got up to pour another cup of coffee before writing and it was like I had walked up and out of my weird sappy mood. I looked behind me and couldn’t help but laugh.

Who is this girl who feels sorry for herself? Boo hoo, you haven’t booked anything in a year. So you haven’t gone on an audition in quite a while. Etc.

Wake up! I have a lovely home with an amazing husband. I just wrote, produced, and starred in my first one-woman show. I get to teach theatre for a whole month back in my home town this July, and in August I’m directing a friend’s short film.

Sure, I get overwhelmed sometimes (a lot of the time) with all the amazing things I want to do and learn. The list of classes I want to take is endless. That’s part of never wanting to be done learning. That is part of being an artist. And, yes, I wish I was part of something bigger. Part of a creative community. Ok, so I need to get off my ass and go participate. It will mean sacrificing some of my evenings but in the long run will pay off.

I don’t want to knock the tough times. I’m just acknowledging and admitting that I have been in it lately and now I’m making a choice to try and get out. Hopefully get a glimpse of the bigger picture. Breathe. I am on my own unique path. No need to compare myself with anyone else or where they are on their path. I release my need to prove myself to everyone else (this is a daily thing to remember).

And I could not be more excited and happy to be teaching in my hometown in just a little over a month. I’ll write more about that later.

Now I must pour another cup of coffee and begin to watch my show that I filmed and work on making it better for next time.

Happy Wednesday, dear friends.

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Remembering Why I Do What I Do

I can’t watch this without smiling from ear to ear.


I love both Danny Kaye and Luis Armstrong. Their pure joy and love of performing and entertaining is contagious. And both of these men were at the top of their game. Always improving and a force to be reckoned with. I hope I’m that someday. A force to be reckoned with. Not in a weird conceded way but just always playing to the top of my ability and constantly working and becoming better. I hope to inspire others to do their best as well. Every time I get an opportunity to perform (auditions included) I want to exude an air of this is what I love, let me share it with you.

It’s a challenge. What I would like to do is just sit around, watch inspiring movies, and wait to be handed something on a silver platter. The problem is is that I won’t be ready to take whatever is given to me by just thinking in my head I have talent. I need to work on it daily. There are days when that is really really REALLY tough. And some days I succumb to just sitting on the couch watching movies or t.v shows I wish I  was working on. Some days I have to push through and make myself write something or practice working on a script of some sort. And a few days it’s a breeze and I make huge strides in my work. Like I said, it’s a challenge. But when I’m resisting something the strongest it usually is an indicator of where I need to go.

I am constantly reminded that fame is fleeting and is only sometimes a byproduct of pursuing and working on  your craft. The true joy (hopefully) comes from working on what you love. If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to reassess what’s going on and what you want.

I want to be great. I want to continually be getting better. To inspire people with my art. Grand scale or small, as long as I give it my all 100% of the time. That’s what I want.

 

Happy Wednesday, my friend.

 

Oh! And my show goes up again this Saturday. Just FYI

Dear Hollywood 4.26 (c)

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Happy Birthday Charlie: Year 6

Charlie-Chaplin1440x900

I love that the anniversary of my moving to LA coincides with Charlie Chaplin’s birthday. It makes it’s doubly special.

I am so very grateful for these past 6 years. I’ve learned so much and am very happy that so many of my first LA friends I still call friends today. I may not have accomplished all the things I had hoped by now but through the years, the tough times and the smooth times, I have let go of some plans, made a few new ones, and better yet – hung on strong to the goals that I really desire. Somedays it all seems a bit fuzzy or overwhelming. I wonder if I should give it all up. But those thoughts quickly vanish. I would much rather keep plugging along. Letting the little victories come as they may.

Last year was quite a doozy. I look forward to this next year. I have my hopes but I look forward to the surprises even more.

Thanks for following me on this journey.

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Dear Hollywood – from page to stage

Whew! I did it!

And no way could I have done it without all the amazing support from my husband, family, and friends. Thank you.

It feels good to finally get the show up on its feet. Now it’s on to refining, adding, subtracting, and booking it at another venue. This is the fun part. Thanks to my friend Dustin for filming it I can go back and see what worked and what didn’t. I’m ok that it’s not perfect. It will continue to get better the more I do it. Besides, this is my first solo show attempt.

I am very excited to see how this will evolve over the next year.

Here is a little highlight reel for those who weren’t able to make it.

Thanks again!

 

Dear Hollywood: Live – Highlight reel from Julisa Smith on Vimeo.

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Storm Before the Calm.

Only a quick little post today. Most of my time is spent trying to get this show in ship shape for Saturday.

But I thought I would just check in a say that this is not easy! I’m struggling a bit here. It’s amazing the how loud that evil little inner critic can get. You wonder “why you ever came up with this crazy idea and how dare you ask people to spend some of their Saturday night watching you perform on a stage by yourself saying things your wrote”….lame shit like that.

This afternoon while I was wallowing the idea dawned on me – what if this was the only time I get to do this show? I’ve lost myself so far in the future and how great I hope this show can be…that I’ve lost the pure joy and fun of just performing and telling a fun story. That really what I’m doing. Sharing a funny idea I had. Just for one night. Done.

So with that, it’s back to rehearsals. A little more pep in my step.

See you Saturday!

 

 

Oh, and if you’d like more show info:

iO West link

Dear Hollywood promo 2

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Discovering the Madness of Writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was my deadline to have the first draft of my solo show completed. My goal was to have 15 pages of script but I only ended up with 12. I won’t beat myself up since it felt like it had completed it’s arc by page 12.

Getting to just that little bit of 12 pages was way tougher than I thought. How often do I get lost in the romance of the idea of the artistic life while avoiding the actual work.

While writing this story I woke up and went through my day with dread, depression, toddler fussiness, and intimidated by what my standards are for this project. Looking at a blank page you wonder how you can make things up out of thin air. But when an idea floated in and my pen went to work – it felt like something magical just happened. Something I will continue to work for. The key is to clock in and do your time. Be patient.

Working from home is nearly impossible. Too many distractions for me and not the best self-discipline. So for the price of just a plain cup of coffee a day I walked to my neighborhood cafe and wrote for 1-2 hours every day. Since my story is about LA and the modern Hollywood types, the cafe that I write at is full of them – producers, directors, and casting people from the studios. I couldn’t help but think to myself the irony of actually getting discovered there while writing. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

And now it’s on to editing. You can’t get to the next stage unless you have something to work from. The script that I have finished on my desk right now could look a lot like my show on the 29th or it could look like just a distant relative of it. Who knows.

I enter through to the next stage.

I think I like this writing thing. And creating my own work. I have a new shade of pride.

Dear Hollywood promo 2

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