dani talks hygiene

I started writing this post back in November about how I had totally let myself go.  homeless-guyOkay not physically.  I’m still fly as fuck, obviously.  dc382cad06c7ec531fd869acaf4ca8b6891d8ab67605c8015f00c64a2d7ae314 But damn did I let myself go mentally.  After I got back from my solo backpacking trip in August, I jumped directly into rehearsals for our thesis project, which is known at USC as the “Three Play Rep.”  Fall semester of our last year of grad school, we rehearse three plays.  January of our spring semester, we rehearse the shows in the theater, and February-March of our spring semester, we perform all three in tandem Sounds cool, right?

Except as soon as I got back to civilization and was faced with acting again I got SO HORRIBLY DEPRESSED.  I was like: this is all meaningless, art is a waste of time, my life is a pit of despair, WHY AM I DOING THIS?

GO TO ALLIE BROSH'S WEBSITE RIGHT NOW

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

And I could barely drag myself into putting in the effort of rehearsing these plays which were supposed to be the culmination of my Master’s degree. I just couldn’t figure out what the point of it was. Why bother?  Was it going to do something for humanity? For me? Was it any more real than just sitting under a fucking tree and staring at a lake?  tumblr_lz3gd4LugV1r6i3cdo1_500 So something started happening to me that often happens to people when they are bummed out. My hygiene started to slip. Only it wasn’t my physical hygiene, it was my talent hygiene.  Andrei Belgrader, one of my film professors last semester, AKA this cool cat… AndreiBelgrader--copy Said to us, “You have to maintain the hygiene and sanity of your talent.” (Go back and read that again in the voice of a 65-year-old Transylvanian chain smoker. Good. Now you’ve got it. )

Whatever “talent” is, for the sake of argument, let’s talk about talent as just a certain level of openness. Some people, like Marlon Brando for instance, were just seemingly born in this state of total openness.  You might call it “presence” or “being present” which is really just having all of your senses open and receptive, like a dog. Marlon Brando’s senses were wide open. (Go down an internet hole sometime and watch him. He’s like a fuckin’ animal with super complex thoughts, which is really what we all are except he just lets himself be. He lets the camera see him.) 

Some people, like me for instance, jut turn into an awkward monster when there is a camera pointed at them. 

1889071_10152126595503511_2057774686786487518_o DANI, WHY WOULD YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?? bd631754783a8a7a8a14ecb5cc7f6a704e0ebdcca5b042227199c15e5ac345f3 I’m not one of those people who seems to naturally thrive in the spotlight and enjoy being seen.  It takes work for me to do what I need to do to be open and available in the way that so many talented actors are. Being seen is scary, and it’s an act of courage for me every time.  If I don’t believe in what I’m doing, it’s almost impossible to muster up that courage, and my “talent” suffers. I close off. 

So Andrei was right, there is a ruthless adherence to “hygiene” that is necessary to keep moving forward. Like how you have to clip your toenails or they get long and gross and scary.  

long toenails

Ha! Made you look. That’s why they call us two EVIL actors.

For me, that hygiene involves having some sort of belief in what I’m doing. And right around November 1st, 2014 I woke up and realized I’d wasted two important months of my life not believing in anything. My voice teacher finally said to me, “You know, you can’t just sort of phone it in anymore,” and I was reminded that none of us are ever invisible, no matter what we are going through or how well we think we hide it. 

You might say it is necessary to have those times of closing off or shutting down in order to gather strength for tougher days ahead. You might say that way of thinking is purely self-destructive.  I don’t know which of those I buy more, especially now that I am looking at my final semester of grad school and wishing that the quality of my preparation had been better. 

But I’m playing Nina in “The Seagull” by Anton Chekhov, and I have a line that has been stuck in my head since November 1st, 2014:

“And now I know, Kostya, I understand, finally, that in our business–acting, writing, it makes no difference–the main thing isn’t being famous, it’s not the sound of applause, it’s not what I dreamed it was. All it is is the strength to keep going, no matter what happens. You have to keep on believing. I believe and it helps. And now when I think about my vocation, I’m not afraid of life.”

And that, to me, is what it takes to maintain the hygiene of my talent. Don’t lose faith in the journey when it gets hard. 

S0 in the wise words of…. Someone-from-the-Interwebs: 

try2   XOXO,

Dani

dani’s poppin’ bottles (of kombucha)

BRITT‘S IN LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GABLAGFROMYGAHWHAHOWSWEETBABYJESUSGLABBOLDAFLAIMSOHAPPYYYYYYYYYY

I don’t know how I’m going to write this blog post.  I think I’m going to have to communicate only in gifs.  Because after MONTHS and MONTHS of excitement and buildup and anticipation my very favoritest Britt and bestie and soul sister in the entire universe of everything that exists is OFFICIALLY LIVING IN LA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

There are truly no words.  I would like to say that since Britt arrived we have been doing nothing but lying on the beach, running around like two Tasmanian devils, and partying like it’s 1999.  After all, if you have ever been to a dive bar with me and Britt you know that we will play Miley Cyrus on the jukebox, laugh like hyenas, and piss off the regulars until the sun comes up or we get kicked out of the bar.  Especially if we are also in the company of Suz, whom you met in Britt‘s last post.  There is some sort of chemical thing that happens when we are all together that makes my blood turn into liquid neon and makes us all a little crazed in the best possible way.  

Summer 2013: Britt helps Suz make the roadtrip to LA, prior to her own big move in October.

Summer 2013: Britt helps Suz make the roadtrip to LA, prior to her own big move in October.

But with Suz at USC for her Master’s in Social Work and me at USC for my Master’s in Acting, smack dab in the middle of Fall Semester, grad school has completely eaten our lives.  EATEN THEM.  So instead of being like this:

We are more like this:

image

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed about it.  The first day that Britt and I spent together in LA we wanted to be poppin’ bottles and livin’ it up, but we were in coffeeshops and juice bars with our noses in laptops and books, trying to get our lives together.  Truth be told, we probably spent more time pouring our souls out to one another than doing actual work, but it was amazing just to be together and share the truth of our lives with each other.  And right now the truth is WORK.  This girl truly is family to me, and that means sharing the stressful times and the fun times.  With Britt making a huge move and with me in the throes of grad school, maybe it was a little overly hopeful to think that our days would be nothing but sunshine and rainbows.  My girl brings some major light into my life, but unfortunately I still have a cubic shit-ton of work to do.  

And what is the truth of my life right now?  What the hell am I doing all day?

My Life:  Year 2 in Grad School

Bein' a bimbo.  Complete with duck-face.

Bein’ a bimbo. Complete with duck-face.

Physical transformation.  Movement class with David Bridel is 4 hours a week of pure FUN.  Since the beginning of the semester I have worn (literally) a dozen masks, and transformed into a cranky old man, a sweet old lady from Rhode Island, a Bakersfield Bimbo (see above), and a member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot.  For the rest of the semester, I am working on Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, in which I will get to hate my husband and ruin a few people’s lives.  You know, like you do.

Steph Schroyer improvising a Victorian gown on her model, Amaka.

Steph Schroyer improvising a Victorian gown on her model, Amaka.

Choking on Chekhov.  In our “Space and Movement” class, we are delving into the late 19th century Russian plays of Mr. Anton Chekhov, and it is completely fascinating and difficult to me.  Chekhov is known for telling stories that require you to completely read between the lines in order to know what the hell is going on, which makes it perfect for a class focused on how you use space and movement to tell a story.  If you can’t say what you’re thinking, how does that thought communicate through your body?  Between that challenge and the challenge of immersing myself in a world that existed 120 years ago, this is one of my hardest classes.  

photo (17)

Playing with stuffed animals.  Those things in the middle of my class are “phonetic pillows” and they are in the shape of the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet.  We have been doing all kinds of fun activities with these fuzzy little guys, and they are helping us learn accents in Voice class.  I am pretty much a big, giant child.  It’s great.  It’s also been helping us to get down New York accents for a black box/studio version of this play:

Waiting for Lefty by Clifford Odets (Original production @ the Group Theater)

And helping me to work on a Swedish accent for an iconic transformation into…

The inimitable Greta Garbo

Thankfully, we do not have to worry so much about learning accents for our FIRST FULL PRODUCTION AT USC…

photo 1 (1)

Directed by our fearless leader Andrew Borba, looking directorial in the middle there.

Time of Your Life, by William Saroyan. Set in 1939 San Francisco, this Pulitzer-Prize winning play is born of the Great Depression and seething with social unrest seen bubbling under the surface of the people seeking solace at Nick’s Pacific Street Saloon, Restaurant, and Entertainment Palace.  The whole play takes place in a bar by the waterfront, and people come and go, bringing their troubles and joys with them.  This is the only show we are doing this semester that is fully produced (set, costumes, etc.), and it runs November 21-24 at the Scene Dock Theater.  

After that show closes, we will get to focus on our other big project of the semester, Solo Performance.  All semester we are working with Luis Alfaro to write our own one-person plays.  Let me tell you, if getting through year 1 of grad school together wasn’t enough to bond my class, or if the requirement of spending 13 hours a day together this year wasn’t enough, we have been brought together by Luis Alfaro’s class.  This man fearlessly plunges into the deepest darkest places and he accepts no less from his students.  All semester he has been encouraging us to write the story that we need to write, not the story that we want to write, and I have learned so much about the incredible people I spend my days with by hearing their stories.  We are going to have a stunning night of Solo pieces by the end of this semester.  

Last but not least, there is film class over at the School of Cinematic Arts: “The Art of Collaboration” with John Rubinstein and Eugene Lazarev.  We’ve been working with directors in the MFA Film Directing program to explore the relationship between actors and directors in film, and we’ve created some pretty rad projects.  We are screening all of them tonight, and hopefully I can post a little something for you guys soon.

THAT’S IT!

whew.

So although what I want to be doing is partying down with my Britt and/or writing sweet blogs about all the stuff going on, I just get to do the things.  All of the things.  I am exhausted, exhilarated, consumed, focused, determined.  Some days I feel completely overwhelmed and under-rested and unable to bring myself fully to the work.  But by the same token, I get to imaginatively explore all these different worlds and all these different facets of humanity every day, which makes me one lucky actor.  And when I am lying on top of my bed on a Sunday evening, trying to find the motivation to get up and prepare for another week of grueling 13-16 hour days, I find myself in the snuggly embrace of my best friends, the muses that inspire me every single day to take the road less traveled and do the work necessary to get there.  And it is totally worth it. 

Reunited, and it feels so good.

Reunited, and it feels so good.

❤ ❤ ❤

Dani