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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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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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 First Six Weeks is Like a Stiff Cocktail…And now we’re at 3 months…

Just shy of our 6 week mark I am finally able to sit down and right a post post baby. We’ll see just how long it takes me to write this and publish it. Right now, it is 9:48am on Friday…

I like to think of the first six weeks like a stiff cocktail. Semi-sweet, bitter, a swift kick to the gut, and a cherry on top. Like a well done Manhattan.

They say that time flies when you first have your baby. To treasure every moment. It all goes by so fast and before you know they will be walking.

It hasn’t felt that way to me.

This time has lagged on so long for me. The first two weeks felt like a dark and scary cave. Here we were in our little condo with this tiny little human. No one knew how to communicate with each other (except for Eric and I) and many nights were spent trying to figure out how we could all sleep at the same time for more than 45 minutes. I’ll be extremely honest and admit there were quite a few times where I thought “when does it feel worth it?” And then would immediately cry feeling guilty for having such thoughts.

By the third week my parents came to town to help us out. I’m so glad Eric and I got to have the first two weeks to really get an idea of who we were as new parents and start to have opinions on things. Having the parents in town helped us catch up on a bit more sleep, helped me get through the days now that Eric was back to work, and gave us some good ideas for what could help Cordie when she got fussy. What it also did was help Eric and I discover we had opinions about how to take care of Cordie and that we actually were able to pick up on what she wanted or needed.

At the end of the fourth week Eric’s parents came into town as well. That was an epically crowded weekend. I’m glad all the new grandparents got to have time hanging out together, but dear lord our home was crowded and I’ve never been so happy to have to nurse Cordie and go into another room. A quiet, dark, room, with no one else in it.

My parents left after two weeks here. Eric’s mom is still in town till Sunday. And then, we’re “on our own”. It’s felt like 6 weeks of new parent bootcamp. Or at least what I would imagine bootcamp to be like.

So, here are some things I’ve discovered about myself and about parenting:

I kept reading that breastfeeding is magical and wonderful.

I freaking hated it. I’m getting the hang of it now, but I still don’t like it that much. It hurt, it’s annoying, and I have a time limit when I go anywhere away from her. Thankfully it’s starting to get easier – but you don’t believe it when you’re on day 3 and crying your eyes out. 

I’m no earth mamma

I try to eat organic and bathe organic and live organic… but it usually lasts a day or two. I’ll drink organic milk and then swiftly eat an overly processed Oreo cookie with it. I tried “healthy/safe” shampoo and it made my hair feel weird so I went to the chemically one I liked that made my hair soft. I’m surrounded by forums and posts with moms talking about chemically safe this and that and being opposed to pediatricians that tell them things they don’t like. They want organic cloth to surround their baby in, nature based cleaning things and wiping things and living things…. and I just can’t. I feel like I’ve entered a room I was supposed to go in but don’t feel like I belong. I just don’t have the patience or energy to try to minimize my footprint or chemical intake. I’ll just say an extra prayer of protection each night. 

“Formula is the devil!”

This goes along with my trouble with breastfeeding. The first night we brought Cordie home we ended up giving her a bit of formula – and instantly felt we had failed as parents. Bullshit. Now six weeks later I’ve eased up on myself. If I need to go run an errand and whoever is at home baby-sitting for me has to give her a couple ounces while I’m gone – fine. My baby will not become obese by a few ounces of formula – or if that’s the only thing I could give her she would be fine. 

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And now here we are at the 3 month mark!

As you can see, me sitting down to write has not happened much since I began this post. But it’s nice to look over what I wrote and I’m happy to post it as well. Those first 6 weeks were really tough. At 3 months Eric and I feel like we are getting into a groove of our new normal. Cordelia (lately) has been going to bed between 7 and 8pm. She wakes at about 4am to feed, then sleeps until about 8am. I could not be happier.

I also now feel like I can play with her and she interacts with me. I love my days at home with her (something I never thought I would say!). This has been a gradual thing for me to love. Fortunately, the day before Mother’s Day I came home from a long day of workshops/meetings for The Fringe Festival and held Cordie in my arms and something clicked. Like the stories you hear from moms who hold their baby for the first time and instantly fall in love and know their lives will be forever changed and they could never imagine life without their little one…. ya, that happened to me. 12 weeks (to the day) after beginning my contractions with her. I am not ashamed to admit it. I hear other moms took some time falling in love with their babies, but you never seem to see it mentioned in our more public society.

I hope to write more soon. And I look forward to writing about the last improv show I did and prepping to do Dear Hollywood again. But goodness gracious, this post has taken me 6 weeks to finish and post. So here it is.

Cordie

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A Great Reminder

How is it that I can so easily forget the wonderful at home feeling I get when I’m on stage?! Why does it take me so long to get back up there?!

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to perform improv again. It feels like it’s been ages. It was great to take the Groundlings class last fall but to perform in front of an audience again was thrilling. I love love love being on stage and falling into a character and playing out a scene. What was extra great was that I didn’t feel like a student anymore. I was playing with friends who’s work I’ve long admired and I didn’t feel pressure to try to be funny. Just honest. The desire to be “good” and “funny” and “the best” use to haunt me in class and when I used to be on a regular playing team a couple years ago. Perhaps it’s the changes that have occurred in my life over the past couple years that have helped me feel a little more settled and grounded. I still want to continue to improve in my skills but with a less frantic need to be perfect. I finally feel like I can slow down and learn from each experience. Failing in a scene doesn’t scare me nearly as much. All I want is to get better and that takes time. I’m ok with that.

It was really great performing one more time before Cordelia arrives. I was reminded of what makes my heart so happy. What makes me feel most alive. All of these months I’ve been so focused on the pregnancy and trying to make it to full term (no worries of that now) that I lost sight of something that is very deeply ingrained in me. I love performing and entertaining. I won’t lose that when Cordelia arrives. That will always be a part of me and I don’t ever have to give that up.

Long Hard Tuesday Promo

So thank you, my friends, for inviting me to play. I look forward to doing it again in the very near future.

Photos thanks to Stephanie Pressman

 

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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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At This Moment.

Well, I didn’t book the play. Good thing we still have our new puppy, Dinah.
Puppies make everything better!

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Sometimes (a lot of the time) I’m reminded of how thankful I am for all the shows I got to do back home. Since moving to LA 6 years ago paid gigs feel so few and far between. Granted, I’ve been quite busy enjoying a lovely life and adventure and enjoying the company of amazing friends. But every once in awhile I get the Hollywood Blues. Those days when you wonder if you’ve been fooling yourself this entire time. It’s been so long since you’ve been on stage or in front of the camera that you just feel dusty. It’s not easy trying feel like an artist every day. Or even reminding yourself that you are one. Especially when you can get so wrapped up in trying to do the business side all the time and always trying to be a smart business savvy artist. When I get these Hollywood Blue days I take a look at what I’ve been doing lately. Usually I find that I’ve been working on digging deep into marketing, reading the latest Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, or Variety. Checking up on Deadline, IMDb, and casting websites.

I’ve found that sometimes I hide behind the biz so I don’t have to face the fact that my last silent film was finished over 3 years ago. I’ve half written a few ideas for the next film, but it is far from completed. I feel like a big bag of wind.

I know I write a lot about swinging back and forth between working on my craft and doing smart biz things. I think I may find myself swing back towards the arts side. I now know a lot more tools to getting word out and communicating about my work. Thing is, I need more work to talk about.

So perhaps it’s time to step back from the hustle and bustle of this tinsel town. Hole up in my office and create. If I were a painter I would paint everyday and not worry about commercial success. I’d just be a painter (who would hopefully get to sell a few paintings – that would be nice) but just being a painter. Not having to prove myself and my worth to the world everyday – which I feel like I have to do so often with being an actor in LA.

So for today, I let that go. I release my need to be seen. My need to be liked, popular, cast, booked, thought of as brilliant. I am a humble artist. Plunking away in my little office in Studio City. Surrounded by big fancy houses and cars. Ladies with big sunglasses clinking cocktail glasses.

I am thankful for what I have. It is enough.

I am enough.

And you are too.

 

Happy Wednesday, my dear friend.

 

 

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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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