Am I Successful Yet?

“We’ll say we knew her when….”

“Will we see you on a Broadway stage some day?”

“You majored in musical theatre? Do you want to be an actor?”

These words, or similar sentiments, I hear quite frequently. It makes sense. First of all, I’m constantly meeting new people, so small talk often includes asking about future plans. Second, it seems encouraging to imply that my craft will one day take me to the highest heights of the big Broadway stage or in a major motion picture. It’s a compliment, right?

If you’re reading this and thinking, “Uh oh… I may have said this or something like it at some point,” don’t worry. I’m not offended because I know these all came from a good place. However, I’ve been meditating on this for a while and have some thoughts to share.

Yes, it makes sense to be curious about the next step in my life. Hey, I’m curious too! I’m making this up as I go along! But, jumping ahead to picturing my name in flashing lights troubles me. To me, it’s the same as assuming all teachers want to be principals or superintendents; all employees of the company want to be CEOs; all small-town farmers want to upgrade to be massive producers.

But, Samantha, why wouldn’t we assume that? After all, aren’t all of those people more successful? Perhaps…. Financially? Yes. More power? Yes. In the actor example, fame? Obviously. Yet, with each level of “success” there are more sacrifices that must be made. And when does the road to “success” end? Do people reach a plateau when they’re successful and are fully content with life? Doubtful.

I’m not saying goals are bad or ambition is the enemy, but I’m also not sure if fame and fortune are part of my goal. After all, we celebrate celebrity couples that manage to stay together because it’s such a rarity. Family is so important to me, so I don’t know if a lifestyle that makes it that difficult to maintain a marriage is actually that desirable.

As to the question about whether I want to be an actor, my answer is that I already am. I am working for a professional theatre company where I act, direct, stage manage, teach, and get to work with so many wonderful kids. When I made the decision at age 17 that I wanted to major in musical theatre, I did not have working for a touring children’s theatre in mind. Of course, because I had no idea this wonderful job even existed! And yes, eventually I will do something else. A person can only tour for so long before needing to have a more permanent home, but even then, I am not going to place my identity in how “successful” I am as an actor.


John Mayer, a successful songwriter, pondered success in “Something’s Missing:”

Friends (Check)

Money (Check)

A well slept (Check)

Opposite sex (Check)

Guitar (Check)

Microphone (Check)

Messages waiting on me when I come home (Check)


I’m going to be honest, I don’t have as many “checks” as my friend, John. And what is “a well slept”…? Still, any time I listen to this song, and he keeps repeating that something is missing, it just seems so obvious to me. God.

When I think about my life in terms of my career, it is easy to get overwhelmed. There is  a lot of unknown. Actors live contract to contract. There’s a lot of rejection. There’s a pressure to be successful.

Here’s the thing, though. My identity is not in my career. Or even in my passion for acting. Instead, I identify first as a Christian, and suddenly life is as it should be.

Here’s my checklist:

God (Check)

Family (Check)

Friends (Check)

Enough money to live (Check)

A job I love (Check)

Feeling safe and secure (Check)

Happy (Check)

Success (That’s subjective)


Being a Christian, sometimes I wrestle with what it means to work as an actor. There seems to be this pressure to put your career above everything. And at the surface, so much of it seems quite self-absorbed, especially since I have to carry around an 8×10 picture of my face.

A different songwriter friend, Jon McLaughlin, sings, “I wonder how it feels to be famous/ but wonder is as far as I will go/ ’cause I’d probably lose myself in all the pictures/ and end up being someone I don’t know”

This post isn’t to say that I’m giving up on a dream or that I’m settling. On the contrary, it’s to say that I am an actor. I’m going to find jobs that let me be an actor. I don’t know where that will lead. Maybe I will be famous if that’s part of God’s plan. But maybe my biggest fans will be my future children. I don’t know them yet, but I already know that they’re more important than my career.

“You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

 

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Post Cards

I love mail. I was a ’90s child, so I associate mail with Steve and Blue singing the mail song on Blue’s Clues (not Joe… forget him). A more noteworthy reason (pun intended), is because of napkins. One day when I was little, I ventured over to the Fellowship Hall as a few church ladies were putting up tables and place settings for an after-church luncheon. They were stewing over the big decision of how they wanted to fold the napkins. Samantha to the rescue! I so cleverly suggested that they fold them in triangles (so original, I know). Later, I received a handwritten note in the mail from one of the ladies, thanking me for the suggestion and for helping fold the napkins. Her note required much more thought and effort than my simple suggestion, and the lesson of how that made me feel has stuck with me.

I have to also credit my mom for furthering my love of mail. Whenever I went to overnight camp, even if it was just a week, she would send me a letter every day. Then in college, I must’ve gotten something in the mail every other week. Sometimes I would chuckle because she’d spend $4 to send me a package of M&Ms when I could’ve easily bought myself M&Ms. But practicality is not the point of mail. Another time I was disappointed to open up a large envelope to find underwear that I had accidentally left in the laundry on a recent visit home. It doesn’t matter what she sent; it was thrilling seeing something in my little box and knowing whatever was there had been in my mom’s hand just a few days before (or more if USPS was slacking).

When I started my first tour last summer, I decided that it would be fun to send post cards. After all, not many people get to travel to a new town every week. Post cards normally are associated with vacations or particularly touristy areas, rather than towns with a population of less than a thousand. So, I quickly learned that my writing project is also a weekly treasure hunt.

There have been a couple weeks where the hosting theatre has post cards, so that is an early victory. However, most weeks I devote an hour or so to wander through locally owned shops for a 3.5×5 piece of paper. It’s actually been a cool thing because what started as a way to connect with friends and family has led to several wonderful conversations with shop owners, parents of cast members, and other townspeople I run into while on the hunt. Yay, human interaction!

Is my hunt successful? Usually, yes! The goal is to have it say the name of the town and state. Sometimes, however, I have to write in the town name if I can’t find a town-specific one. You’d be surprised at how many small towns have them, though. I think the hardest ones to find are suburbs to bigger cities because it seems like they identify more with the larger city than claiming their own town. Anyway, I can count on one hand the number of weeks I haven’t sent anything.

Each week, seven post cards go out to some of my closest family and friends. With modern communication, people could argue that mail is unnecessary, but sometimes I feel more connected through a handwritten note than using FaceTime. I like that people have something tangible from me since I can’t see them in person.

If you could use some happy mail, please let me know. I would love to send you a post card! (But not every week because more than 7 per week would start to get excessive!)

Love,

Samantha

 

P.S. Real life worry: I write almost exclusively in cursive, and apparently they don’t teach that anymore. I like to think that all of these things I write could be held on to read years later, but I think those years may be more numbered than I’d like to admit. I’ll be teaching my kids cursive….

Me Party

A few weeks ago, in preparation for singing at my brother’s wedding, I rehearsed at home with my favorite accompanist, my mom. What started as a necessary task on the to-do list turned into a full-blown song session including songs from my repertoire dating back to the song I sang for my first musical audition in 3rd grade. (Side note: The audition was for The Sound of Music. I sang a song from The Tap Dance Kid that the angsty, overweight, but starving for attention, African American character sings. I was not cast.) It was such a joy to return to the comforting musical bubble my mom and I share, without the stress of an upcoming audition, jury, or other pressing vocal event. One of the songs I pulled out of the stack was, “Me Party,” from the 2011 Muppets Movie. Ironically, it’s a duet with Amy Adams’ character and Miss Piggy, but, in true “me party” fashion, I sang it solo.

As I was squinting to read the lyrics on the page (the piano light situation is not ideal), I laughed to myself thinking about how many “me parties” I attend regularly. Of course, the difference between what Mary and Miss Piggy have going versus my life is they have men/frogs who just happen to not be around. My “me party” is a more regular affair.

Tonight I was a party of one at a small-town restaurant where the owner’s face is on the cover, the decorations look like they came from an antique store, and there are columns wrapped in fake vines. I sat down and took my time with the menu, not having to look and hold a conversation simultaneously. I ordered, then dove into reading my latest Kindle book. I savored my meal, my book, and I even conversed a bit with the waitress. Then, I walked back to my hotel room, which is the space where I sleep, shower, eat most meals, watch Netflix, do yoga, talk to my mom, read, etc….

This job is tricky because you definitely have to be a people person. We are in a new town each week with a different group of kiddos to meet and direct. We work with the contacts who bring us in. We often live with a homestay. Sometimes, we’re invited for dinner with a family of someone in the cast. Yet, despite all of that, there is a ton of alone time, so you need to enjoy people, but not be dependent on having them around. Otherwise, it would be very very lonely.

Of course, I have a tour partner, but working together, driving together, and spending all of our free time together would just be too much. Alone time is necessary for a healthy working relationship. That being said, last night we enjoyed a post-show dinner together at a restaurant bar & grill, recommended by several cast members. “It’s a bar!” whispered a child, encouraging us to go.

This post is not to invoke pity, by any means. Sure, sometimes life on the road is a little lonely. I miss my friends and family. I miss hanging out with people my age (once again, minus my tour partner). But I know that these days of hanging out with myself won’t last forever. One day, I’ll probably have a family of my own with a busy schedule full of my kids’ activities, and then I’ll be wishing I had a hotel room to myself to do whatever I want for hours on end. So, I do my best to celebrate each “me party” I throw myself. After all, as the song says, “I’m such good company!”

Now, it’s your turn! Throw yourself a “me” party! Take yourself to dinner. Go to a movie. Go to a museum. Explore a new shop in town. It’s fun! You might be surprised how much you like spending time with yourself!

 

P.S. In case, you haven’t heard the song, please watch. I wish singing desserts would join me at my me parties. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXH3Gnvxpw0

 

 

Exercise on the Road

I consider myself athletically challenged. My two brothers, Jacob and Will are not. In fact, they are both incredibly athletic and played/will play on their college baseball teams. Here’s a visual:

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Anyway, I never minded that much. I always just laughed it off and said that I balanced the family out by being the artsy one. The performer. The pageant girl. Little did I know, my two-year pageant career is what led to the most embarrassing “active” moment of my life.

Because I competed in the teen division, we were saved from walking on stage in a bikini and heels. Rather, we had an activewear competition where we strutted around in little exercise outfits and did a couple “flexing” poses (sometimes accompanied by a duck face), and then peppily exited the stage.

The first year was fine. I mean knew I was a total poser, but I was pretty sure that the judges didn’t. Year two at Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen, the week of the pageant we were informed that instead of the usual pep and pose deal, we were going to do an activewear routine. I was not prepared for that. They taught it to us, and it wasn’t overly difficult, but when my moment came… well…

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Needless to say, I was not crowed Miss Indiana’s Outstanding Teen. Thankfully, I had already ordered the DVD to treasure this moment forever. When I watched it for the first time, I had actual tears because it was so funny. I knew it hadn’t gone well, but I didn’t realize exactly how bad it was. I mean, how could I not look normal when I’m running in place?!

Due to my lack of athletic ability, I had never been into exercising. I was always so busy with all of my other activities. Plus, I was always fairly thin naturally (thanks for those genes, mother).

College. I realized that exercise is a thing that people do. It’s not just for athletes. Also, my metabolism was changing (rude)! Plus, you’re paying for that rec center as part of your tuition, so you might as well take advantage of it. I started to go on occasion, but felt very lost in a sea of people who looked like they knew what they were doing. Don’t get me wrong, I had taken gym class, so I knew how to use machines, but there’s a difference between knowing how to use a machine and knowing how to create a workout that isn’t just 15 reps on each machine. So, I’d hop on that elliptical and run for awhile.

One time I was adventurous and decided to go to a zumba class at the rec when they were all free the first week of classes. Unfortunately, I came directly from another class and was a little bit late, so I had to stand in the back of the class. Normally, that would be a good thing, but because half of the gym was the zumba class and the other half was full of guys playing pick-up basketball, I wasn’t too thrilled. Things were going okay, and then the zumba instructor said, “Who’s ready to tweeeerrrkkk?!”

I was not ready.

Sometimes, people are confused about my ethnicity because I tan really easily and my curls are confusing. Those people should see me attempt to twerk. I digress.

“Samantha, this post is called Exercise on the Road. Why are you telling us stories about your past?”

Right, right. I’ll get on with it.

With this job, I have a lot of free time, so I can no longer use my favorite excuse for not working out, which is that I’m too busy. I like to find different ways to be active. First, the job itself is pretty active with directing on my feet for four hours a day. We also put up the set and get some arm workouts carrying the heavy bags. Sometimes, though, I try to convince myself that the job itself is an actual workout. It is not.

I’m a big fan of finding places to walk/hike. A few weeks ago I walked for almost five miles (the point of the walk was to find a good cup of coffee, but nevertheless, I walked!). Sometimes, we have access to a fitness center. I always act like that is something that really excites me, but then I get there and I kind of go back to my activewear moment. People surely know that I do not belong at a gym.

I have discovered, however, that I like working out in my hotel room. Alone. No one is there. I pull up some cardio dance youtube videos and look like an absolute fool, but it doesn’t matter because I am the only one there. I am glad that I do not have these workouts captured on DVD. I’m also slowly figuring out yoga. There are also lots of cool exercise apps! It’s nice to be told what to do, so that I don’t quit the moment I start feeling tired (aka, me on an elliptical).

This is all really great, but on weeks where I am staying in someone’s home, rather than a hotel, it gets awkward again. Why is working out so awkward? I mean, it’s something that everyone does (or should do), but wow, I do not like doing it in front of other people. I don’t even really like working out in someone’s basement and them knowing that that’s what I’m doing.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that exercise on the road can be hard, but not much harder than exercise in everyday life. I just need to get over myself. Hopefully sharing these stories will get me one step closer to not being awkward. Or not.

Byeee Gif.gif

Byeeeeeee

Kids Say the Darndest Things…

This week I’ll set sail to Treasure Island for the last time. Time is a funny thing. On one hand, it seems like forever since I was in Missoula ringing in the new year; yet, these past five months have flown by. As I reflect on this first tour, I am flooded with memories of heartwarming moments, and, of course, some hilarious gems. Please enjoy these anecdotes/quotes from children across America.



One week there was a little boy who, for some reason, was convinced he was being cut. He ran to his mom, so my tour partner, Jacob, had to convince him to come back to the circle and finish the audition. He was cast as a seagull (the youngest kids who are adorable and lead the way to Treasure Island), and after we dismissed from the audition, he came up to Jacob and said, “My whole life I have dreamed of being a seagull.” His WHOLE life. Of SEVEN YEARS! There you go, ladies and gentlemen, Jacob and I make life-long dreams come true.

The seagulls don’t have rehearsal until Wednesday, but he was around the theatre the next day because he had a sibling at rehearsal. Before rehearsal began, he walked up to the stage and said, “One more day,” as if he were preparing for battle.

Finally, Wednesday rolled around, and he was a shining star. I put him as the line leader, and before each seagull scene, I would remind him what to do. He would nod, and summon all of the focus a 7-year-old can muster, and prepare for the cue.

In between the two performances on Saturday, we were touching up makeup. During this time, we sometimes like to give the kids an opportunity to give compliments to their fellow cast. It was almost time for the show, so we needed to end compliment hour to give instructions for what to do after the show. All of a sudden, this boy had these giant crocodile tears. I took him out into the hall to figure out the issue, and he informed me, between sobs, that he didn’t get the chance to compliment the cast (even though he definitely had already said something). Being a softie, I told him after Jacob’s announcements, we might have time for one more compliment. It basically turned into an Oscar’s speech of him thanking everyone for making this the best week ever, and everyone was so amazing, and he loved everything, etc, etc, etc. Oh, that boy. I wish he had a social media I could follow so I can see him turn into a star.


Another week during compliment time, the kids once again turned it into their Oscar “thank you’s,” rather than saying, “Sally did a great job!” One girl raised her hand and said, “I’d just like to thank the audience. Without the audience, we would have no one to perform for. Really, they’re the reason we’re doing this. As long as we make people happy, we’ve done our jobs.” Or something like that. I think she went on several more sentences. We didn’t have outro music available.


In addition to teaching Treasure Island, we get to do workshops with kids who may or may not be in the cast. We do various exercises about different elements of acting. One of the exercises involves select students standing in front of the group, answering questions about their characters. The catch is that they don’t know who their characters are, but they figure it out based on the questions asked.

One student was Batman, and a student asked, “Why are you black?”

Another time a student was Olaf from Frozen. “How does it feel having two balls instead of three?” I tried to rephrase the question, saying something about proportions. Whatever I said, I didn’t make it much better. We tried to move the exercise along, but not before a kid managed to blurt out, “I thought he was talking about testicles!” Great… thanks for that.

A different exercise involves one of us being the ruler of a kingdom. The students are the subjects and must make bold choices to earn our favor. They are then either welcomed to stand next to the throne or dismissed. One time I was the ruler for a workshop with a high school theatre class. Someone came up and sang really high, and I dismissed them. Jacob informed the court that the Great Samantha prefers lower voices. A teenage boy walked up and said, “Oh, Great Samantha, I heard you like sultry voices.” He then got down on one knee and PROPOSED! He didn’t earn my favor because I didn’t want a lawsuit. However, I wish I could’ve rewarded him for his bold choice, which was the point of the exercise. 


One dress rehearsal when Jacob was Long John Silver and I was the director, Jacob had his costume on and I was wearing my denim jumpsuit. The kids were excited to see Jacob’s costume, knowing they would soon be getting their costumes as well. They also liked my costume, but they couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be. A nurse? They simply couldn’t understand that it was a real-life outfit.

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Said jumpsuit, for your reference. 


“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Are you engaged?”

“No.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“That’s really sad…..”

(These children should make friends with my grandma)


“Do you two have kids?”

“Haha, no. We wouldn’t be very good parents if we had children since we’re in a different town every week.”

“Just get a babysitter!”

“No, I don’t think that would work out very well.”

Cue a different child:

“So, what do you do with your kids?”


On a Thursday:

“What’s your name? I remember that it was really long on your name tag….”


“Okay, you two sit right there so I can take a picture of you. Okay, now we need to take a selfie.” – A 5-year-old with her iPhone


This story isn’t exactly funny, but it was one of those moments that didn’t feel like real life because everything was spiraling out of control. I was teaching the group of seagulls, and all of a sudden one of them had a nose bleed. I asked the assistant director to watch the kids while I ran to get our contact for the week. When I returned with the contact, it looked like a crime scene. The child had wiped the blood everywhere, and it had spread to the floor. The contact quickly rushed the child out, and I was trying to move the rest of the kids away from the blood. What’s that sound? Oh, a child just threw up at the sight of blood. Now, there was a blood pile, and a puke pile, and a group of frightened children. I moved them out into the hallway to try to salvage any chance of saving the rehearsal. Oh my word.


In order to teach a show in a week, Jacob and I teach separate groups and then piece the show together later. One day, we reconvened for announcements before dismissal. I asked Jacob’s group how their rehearsal went. “Great! Fun! I loved it!” etc. etc.

Jacob asked my group.

“BORING!”



In case this blog post has you feeling like that poor group of over-worked children, I will wrap it up by saying that I will be boring kids for the next twelve months. That’s right, Treasure Island is coming to an end, but I will soon be traveling to infinity and beyond with Gulliver’s Travels… in Space! Forever grateful for the greatest job in the world.

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy…

… but let’s spend a very concentrated amount of time with each other, and then see you never, maybe.

On the road again. I began a contract with Missoula Children’s Theatre on December 27 (and am just now getting around to writing a blog post). Anyway, I rang in the new year with what an outsider would call a complete group of strangers – the other tour actor/directors training for the job. Yet, as we were all squished into a hotel room hugging each other and wishing one another a Happy New Year, there was so much love in the room.

One of the people I hugged New Year’s Eve was my roommate, Christina, a fellow tour actor/director. She and I instantly clicked. We would finish a full 10-hour day of work and then, though we were exhausted, would stay up late chatting, crying, and giggling — like we were young girls back in the days of sleepovers. Finally, one of us would cut the other off in the middle of conversation and say, “It’s time for bed!” We would go to sleep maybe ten minutes later. Maybe. Actors have a gift for bonding quickly because we love to study people (and talk about ourselves). It’s also a necessity because we don’t have the luxury of being with our family or long-time friends, so we have the responsibility of filling that void for one another.

Training ended and I drove to Alabama, and she and her tour partner went to California. We’ll see each other when we return our trucks to Missoula, but after that, who knows? (Just kidding, Christina. We’re going to be next door neighbors and I’ll knock on your door when I need to borrow a cup of flour.)

Speaking of the end of training, that marked the beginning of the 32-hour drive from Montana to Alabama. Just me, my tour partner, Jacob, and our truck. Our friendship began during training, and as we drove across the country together, opening up about our lives. I was struck that in just two weeks I perhaps knew him more than most would learn about a co-worker in a year. Maybe I’m wrong, as I don’t have much experience with more traditional jobs, but I’m guessing that normal everyday banter doesn’t include your favorite music, guilty pleasure snack, or details about your childhood.

For those of you unfamiliar with my job, my tour partner and I travel to a different town each week and teach a different group of students Treasure Island. It may sound mundane to do the same show week after week. However, each week a new group of students transforms it to be something entirely unique. As I say goodbye to the students when they turn in their costumes after the final show, it means so much to think how far they have come in just a week. Sometimes I look at some of the younger kids and wonder what they will be like as teenagers or young adults. Many of them may not remember much of the week, but for some it may spark a passion. Either way, I feel lucky to have been involved in what is hopefully a fun, enlightening experience for them.

When we’re in each town, we either stay in a hotel or a family opens up their home to us for the week. My own family has hosted three different exchange students, several baseball players, and then there are my brothers’ friends, who always seem to end up on our basement floor. From my experience hosting, I know the importance of host-guest interaction. So as a guest, I don’t want to just go to my room; rather, I want to take advantage of this small window as life intersects with these people. So far, we’ve stayed at just two different homes, but both experiences have had a deep impact, resulting in a nearly choked up goodbye.

Tour life could be very lonely. There’s only one person that you consistently see, and the majority of the people you interact with are under 15. Yet, by allowing myself to be vulnerable and really connect with these people that I’ll likely never see again, I don’t feel alone. Goodbyes are hard, and sometimes it’s tempting to not open yourself up to such short-term relationships. Why have a conversation with someone who’s basically a stranger and is only in your life for a week when you could instead call home? Maintaining existing relationships is important, but so is living in the present. The heart has no boundaries – it continues to expand with each new connection. I am so lucky that every week I meet so many beautiful, colorful, interesting souls. And, who knows? Maybe somehow the universe will find a way for our paths to cross again.

New Acting Gig!

Blog time! It’s been awhile, as my children’s theatre contract ended mid-August. I haven’t really had much to say in my BFA blog because I have since been spending some quality time at home saving money and searching for the next acting gig. However, when I started this blog I said that it would tell of adventures during contracts and in between, so here we are. In between.

As I mentioned, I am at home saving money. I have been hired as a server, which is one of the only non-theatre jobs I have had… or so I thought.

Here are the ways I’m using my BFA as a server:

Listening

In the first semester of acting, our professor blew our little freshman minds when he said that one of the most important tools of an actor is listening, rather than our own delivery of lines. It is, of course, important to listen to the customer’s orders and make sure that it is right. I also “listen” to body language to know whether the table wants me to interact with them or give them their freaking food and go away.

Makeup

In serving, like acting, it does matter what you look like. I have never worn makeup more consistently than I have for this job. So far, so good.

Illusion of the First Time

We talk about making scenes fresh so that it doesn’t sound rehearsed, but that we are truly saying these lines for the first time. I haven’t been serving that long, but I’ve noticed it is already a challenge to bring this freshness when I introduce myself to a new table and go through all of the usual questions. I try to tailor my “lines” based on the responses of the different guests. Also known as being a real person having a conversation, rather than a robot.

More importantly, I’m getting really good at running into people I haven’t seen in a long time and updating them on my life. Some people are very concerned that I have decided to drop out of school because they don’t know I graduated in May. They are then concerned (or pretending not to be) that I am at home serving. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I just don’t want to move to Los Angeles with no money.

Improv

Going along with the old saying, “the customer is always right,” I’ve learned to go with the flow and be a problem solver. For any special requests, I respond with, “yes, and….”

Acting

Here are some of my best acting moments:

  • Hiding the judgment when people order incredibly fattening meals and then need about 7 more sides of ranch. *TANGENT* I never knew how obsessed people are with sauces. Why do you need to dip ranch in everything? I do not understand! One server had a man ask for an entire bowl of ranch for his cheeseburger. Oh, absolutely, have some liquid fat for your fat. Whatever. I love ice cream, so I shouldn’t judge.
  • Acting happy to serve the man who came in with a free appetizer card and ordered an appetizer and water
  • When guests ask for recommendations from the menu on things I have never eaten
  • When I first started and actually had no idea what I was doing
  • When people hear I’m an actor and then try to give me advice on jobs I should look for or say things like, “Have you ever thought about New York?” New York? What’s that? Never heard of it.

Objective

Tips.

I am so #blessed to add this credit to my résumé. Please come out and see the show!*

 

*In all seriousness, despite my sarcastic remarks, I am thankful for this job and am actually having a lot of fun 🙂

 

Acting While Directing

Life with a BFA – the title of my blog. Four years ago, I was getting ready to move into my freshman year dorm, meet a whole bunch of strangers who would turn in to my best friends, and learn that I knew nothing about acting. Acting class consisted of learning about objective, really digging into who my character is, developing an inner monologue, etc. Throughout my training, I studied really complex characters, analyzing their every thought and back story. It was a long way from my audition into the program, when I broke down my monologue by thinking “it would sound convincing if I said it that way.”

Fresh out of my university bubble, I have been given this unique challenge of acting and directing children simultaneously. Every week, we teach an entire show to a new group of kids. Here’s the breakdown:

Monday – 2 hours of audition, 2 hours of teaching one group of the cast everything they need to know for the show

Tuesday – 2 hours of teaching a new group of the cast, 2 hours of another group

Wednesday -The groups that I’ve taught + the groups that Kevin has taught unite, and we have a 4 hour rehearsal to put the entire show together

Thursday – 2 run-throughs of the show

Friday – Get kids fitted into costume, dress rehearsal, dinner break, get them in makeup, and finally a performance

Saturday – Performance #2

So much of my energy goes into making sure that these kids learn the material, remember everything, and, of course, are quiet backstage. Directing is definitely the main part of this job. During rehearsals, my inner monologue during my solo is not about trying to convince Pinocchio to plant his money into a magic field in hopes of stealing his money. Instead, my mind is on the vermin: “TURN – TURN NOW! WHY CAN’T YOU REMEMBER THAT?! SEMI-CIRCLE!!!!!!!!!!!! NO, DON’T SQUAT YET!”

My very first week, my own lines were still fresh in my head and our cast was small in number AND in age. Kevin and I were improv masters for that week, as there were just too many lines for those little ones. There’s one particular scene where I say a line, praising Pinocchio, saying he has “grace, poise, and statuosity.” After, different vermin have lines basically restating mine. The kid who played the head vermin that week was probably 7 or 8. Like I said, a young cast. He couldn’t remember pretty much any of his lines. Because I was so frazzled and I was still new (and likely the scene before had been a train wreck), I somehow jumped over that one line and skipped ahead in the scene. Later, he asked me backstage, “Samantha, when do I get to say, ‘Yeah, grace’?” Bless his heart, there was ONE LINE that he remembered, and I RUINED IT FOR HIM!!! It broke my heart to confess, “Oh… you don’t get to say that line. That scene already happened.” Since then, my lines have been correct so that I don’t destroy the dreams of small children.

Our scripts were mailed to us prior to training week. We were told to come in with our lines memorized so that during training, we could focus on learning the rest of the show. I did my usual actor homework and made all of these plans in my head about the Fox and motives and all of that. Halfway through this tour, I remembered that and chuckled a little. Then, however, I remembered the main note that I received at my freshman year assessment. I tend to over-analyze things, so my professors wanted me to continue to analyze prior to a performance, but then trust that all of the homework I did will be there and simply act. I think it took a bunch of kids distracting me from my own head to really let loose and trust my acting, even if it is children’s theatre. Because, I realized, I have been simply acting. Yes, the dialogue and subtext is a lot simpler than Chekhov, but still…. using that BFA for good.

Tonight is Thursday, which means that tomorrow I will once again be in director mode for the majority of the day, but by 7:00, I will share that opening night with those kids. I will put on my costume, and I get to perform.

I realize that the audience consists of parents coming to see their children and so much of my energy during the week is focused on making said children look good. Still, I share the stage with them. I get to sing a solo and most weeks no one applauds because the parents are probably tired and also because Pinocchio has the next line and he usually goes straight to it. I’m not offended – mostly I’m relieved that Pinocchio knows his line! Last week, however, the audience applauded and I had a moment of gratitude as I realized what a gift it is that every single week I get to sing and act and be silly for a different community. After the show, one of my sweet little “spirits of the enchanted forest” came up to me and said, “Samantha, good job. You’re a really good actor.” I think that’s the best compliment I’ve gotten all summer!

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I can’t neglect to mention that I was lucky enough to one week have audience members there for ME! Much love to my mom, brother, and future sister-in-law!

Today at break in between our two run-throughs, one member of the cast was very confused. She said that she knows we’re directors/actors, so she wanted to know if I’m the actor or the director. Then I was very confused because I had just spent the last two hours yelling counts to her choreography and then appearing onstage saying my own lines. Both, little girl. I am both. And I love it.

Living That Tour Life Part 3: Lodging

As I write this, I’m sitting on a lovely wooden lawn chair outside of my motel watching the sunset over Lake Superior, realizing I forgot to put on bug spray.

Pause to go get bug spray.

Ahh, bug spray, my favorite perfume.

Anyway, this perfect writing spot is on the front lawn of my motel for the week. Confession: I have a fear of motels. I prefer entering through a lobby, walking down a hallway, and arriving at my door INSIDE. As a kid, anytime my family stopped somewhere to sleep during a road trip, I would beg my parents to stay at a hotel. I was convinced that all motels were broken into. You literally park your car right outside your door! I mean, come on! THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE (whoever they is). Pretty princess, Samantha, didn’t always get her way at 2AM, and we would have to stay in a motel. Though I was paranoid and terrified, I was comforted knowing that my parents were there to protect me. Or at least to block the invader as I make my epic escape! I kid… sort of.

I’ve joked with Kevin all summer that if we ever stay at a sketchy motel, he will have to stay with me. So far, so good. This is only our second motel. The first was a lodge in a wooded area, so I felt secluded enough; though maybe seclusion should’ve made me more cautious. This week, I have an extra layer of protection with a screen door that locks, which is probably more for bugs than intruders, but it does help me a little. Kevin is also next door so can listen for any signs of scary. If I don’t post anything later on this week, though, please send a search team.

Nevertheless, it is nice that I simply walked out the door and was able to take in this amazing view. Maybe my motel fear can subside for the week.

This blog post isn’t just to talk about this week’s motel, but to share some of the benefits and struggles of living in a new place each week.

Temperatures

I have yet to be in a place with no type of air conditioner (so #blessed for that), but I cannot, for the life of me, ever get the temperature in the room right. Usually when you walk into a fresh hotel room, the A/C is either off completely or blasting cold air. I immediately adjust accordingly to try to make it comfortable, but somehow I always manage to get it to another extreme. How do I get it to a comfortable room temperature? Last week, I was so hot, so I turned on the A/C. The next day my room was completely damp. That was Tuesday, and the rest of the week everything in my room was slightly wet. WHAT DID I DO?!

Another temperature that is tricky is the temperature of the shower. A fellow tour director, Larren, posted a Facebook status that perfectly captures this dilemma:

“Every hotel shower seems to have such a fine line between ‘Hmm this could be a little warmer.’ and ‘Boiling lava, I’m melting, it’s getting hot in here so melt off all my skin, now I’m a lobster.'”

Finally, there’s the temperature of the mini fridge, assuming there is one. I’ve found that the mini fridge is either so cold that my lettuce becomes little frozen treats and my milk is a slushie, or not quite cold enough for the freezer section to keep ice cream solid. Cereal slushies, it is!

The Beds

Mostly, I’ve been lucky to have beds that are fairly comfortable. Sometimes I immediately strip down the comforter that looks like it’s as old as the hotel itself and replace it with my trusty freshman dorm comforter.

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Note the dated comforter that has since been removed

When you live life in a hotel room, you quickly learn that the bed is not just for sleeping. Yes, there is often a little desk with an office chair, but who really wants to sit there? Therefore, the bed is where I sleep, eat, read, and watch endless hours of Netflix.

As nice as a king bed seems, I have determined I much prefer two double beds to one giant bed. First of all, who needs all of that space to sleep? I’m not that big – I’d much rather have room for activities than have that giant bed! Second, two beds are really nice because I can reserve one bed specifically for sleeping and the other bed for everything else. That way, I can eat and not sleep in the crumbs from my breakfast that morning.

Housekeeping

Do Not Disturb. Nothing against housekeepers, but it’s just me, so I don’t need my room cleaned that often. Plus, I don’t want them to judge me for my dirty dishes that are sitting around. I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they finally do clean my room at the end of the week. They probably can’t figure out why there’s so much orange makeup on my towels.

Though I don’t need their service during my week, I am lucky to have someone else clean for me. Sometimes the kids bring us candy as a treat, so I often leave extra behind in my room as a thank you.

Living Out of a Suitcase

Or two suitcases. Or two suitcases and a cooler and a toiletry bag and bags of food.

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My possessions for the summer vs. Kevin’s possessions for the summer. Sorry, not sorry. 

Whoops. I have a clothes suitcase and a stuff suitcase. I unpack my stuff suitcase every week, which consists of a:

  • tea kettle
  • box of tea
  • George Foreman
  • mugs, silverware, food containers, lunch box, and plates
  • books waiting to be read (they remain packed until it’s their turn)
  • iHome

My clothes, however, stay in my giant suitcase. It used to be that anytime I vacationed anywhere, no matter the length of time, I would unpack to feel at home. When it’s no longer a special occasion and you travel every week, that just seems silly. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase that much, except for a few things.

  1. The clothes that I packed that I have yet to wear. I look at them and think, “Why the crap did I think I would want that this summer?” I resent these items every time I have to carry my insanely heavy suitcase up or down a flight of stairs, which I’m a pro at, by the way.
  2. The clothes that I left behind in Indiana that I miss and am longing for. Fun floral dresses, I’m talking about you.
  3. Everything is always wrinkled. Always. I’ve become very good friends with Downy wrinkle releaser spray. Sometimes the hotel has an iron that I can use (I’ve busted it out a couple times), but not always. Plus, even if there is an iron available, who irons a t-shirt? That’s just silly.
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    If this blog were super popular they’d probably send me some for free, which would be nice because I’m out….

     

Keys

I’m shocked at how many actual keys I’ve been given, rather than the piece of plastic that you scan. I have a bad history with keys. The key to my house I somehow never can manage to open the door with. There may or may not have been a time when I have stood outside my house WITH A KEY, crying because I couldn’t open the door. Luckily, I’ve had better luck with these.

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The sun has now officially set and the light from my laptop is a meeting place for the mosquitoes that do not care that I loaded up with bug spray. I’m headed in to my home for the week. Hopefully no one follows me in….