dani and britt kicked 2013 in the face! happy 1st bday, Two Evil Actors!

Holy moley. Did we have a year, or WHAT, Dani?!

Holy shitballs, Britt.  It was crazy.  What do you think was the craziest thing we did in 2013?

Start this blog, obviously. 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, BLOG-MATE!!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, TWIN-WIN!! 

Today is the One Year Anniversary of Two Evil Actors, and we thought this would be a good moment to take a look back at 2013 for a little highlights tour. To get a juicy, in-depth look at the crazy shit that happened to us this year, click on the sexy pink hyperlinks. Obviously, the first stop on this tour is…

We are BORN!!

NANTS INGONYAMA BAGITHI BABA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yo, Britt, did you know that those were the words to the Lion King song?  

Yes. Because I know ALL of the words to The Lion King. All the lines, and all of the lyrics. 

Damn, dude, I’m impressed.  I always thought it was “Ahhhh svegenya swuhduhgee vuhdada!!”  Turns out the lyrics are Zulu for “Here comes a lion, Father.” 

Of course it is.

Well.  Now that THAT’S cleared up.  We’ve veered off course as usual.

Typical.

 BACK ON TRACK, EVIL MOFOS.  And now for… (drumroll please)  THE YEAR 2013 IN REVIEW:

Britt goes viral

… but in a healthy, Internet kind of way.

Dani goes crazyballs

The winning rant. Based on charlie sheen and his crazy ways.

…in a losing-my-mind, grad school kind of way.  WINNING.

Britt comes out of the closet and moves into a closet

I came out of the closet about my secret dream to move to LA… but moved into my little brother’s frat boy basement like a real adult first. 

Dani gets a smartphone

This was MOMENTOUS for me.  Now I can check my email FROM MY CELL PHONE.  What will they think of next?

Britt stars in a movie

10 life-points earned! 

Girl, that’s like 1000 life points.  Truth be told, my girl was involved in too many badass projects in 2013 to even include all of them here.  My sista found some great collaborators and art-ed all over the place.  HELL yeah. 

Dani learns some damn discipline

Apparently I had to go to grad school in order to learn how to be an adult.  Just trying to whip myself into shape here, people. 

Britt and Dani are reunited (and it feels so good)

Watch out, Society. Total World Domination = Imminent.

Britt’s house burns down

I promise you– I am not making this shit up.

Dani goes to India

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There is no way I can sum up that two months of my life.  All I can say is that it was incredibly life-changing. 

Britt has a cancer scare

Everything will be okay.

Dani and Britt have hotswetymonkysex

WakingUpTheNextMorning 2

Ewww not really.  That would be incest.  But we did have a blast playing “the googlesearch game,” AKA What-the-hell-are-people-looking-for-when-they-stumble-upon-our-blog.  Turns out, people google some weeeeeiiirrd shit.

Britt quits her day job

And it feels so good.

Dani gets culture shock… in America

I had a hard time adjusting to being back in the United States.  I smoothed the transition with alcohol and had an EPIC August in Los Angeles.

Britt goes viral… AGAIN

I got drunk on a spaceship. Truth.

Dani has an existential crisis

It was a weird Fall.  Incorporating my experiences in India into my life in Los Angeles, Writing a one-woman show, Rehearsing a million things for grad school…. WHO AM I??

Britt eats a BIG MEAL

I have the time of my life working on an incredible show at Artists Repertory Theatre.

Dani stops eating everything

That’s right.  Everything.  I find out that I’m essentially allergic to wheat, corn, dairy, sesame, sunshine, and air.

Britt moves to LA!!! (And Dani’s poppin’ bottles)

We’re everybody’s favorite shitshow.

Dani has the Time of her Life

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Check out that sex-machine.  I got to play a boy in The Time of Your Life and act my ass off in a bunch of other stuff at USC.  Confession: I kinda miss having a dick.

Britt survives the jungle

I’m Queen of the Urban Jungle, baby. Or–at least–the Queen of being Dirt-Ass Broke.

Wow.  Between the two of us there were some super high highs, some super low lows, and just about everything in between.  I have to say though, I am so proud of the resilience and strength of my Britt, because she had one topsy-turvy year.  That is a lot of artistic creation and a lot of major life change for one person in one year.  

And I could not be more proud of my Dani girl. Her passion, bravery, and big open heart led her halfway across the world for a quarter of a year to immerse herself in a different culture and way of life, and those same Dani qualities inspired her to create bold and beautifully honest work in her intensive program at USC in 2013. That is a lot of artistic creation and a self-discovery for one person in one year.

As for myself, it’s hard to map the subtle changes that have taken place in me over the past year, but from where I’m standing, my internal terrain has shifted drastically.  I feel more honest, more myself, than I have ever felt.  For better or for worse.  

And from a Britt perspective, a Brittspective, this year has transformed me more than any other. It inspired me and shook me to my core. I have felt broken, I have been afraid, I have had moments of extreme clarity and have been surrounded with more love than I have ever experienced. And although I am far from having it all figured out, 2013 has made me the luckiest woman I know and I am so, so thankful.

In my opinion, we did 2013 right, even if we didn’t know what we were doing half of the time.

(…Typical.)

Yeah, that seems about right. 

Let’s ride that Furry Tractor of Badassedry right into 2014.

Bring it ON 2014!!

We love you guys.

~ dani & britt

 

dani talks shit

If you came here searching for some sexy gossip, I’ve gotta be up front with you.  Imma be talking shit. 

Like…shit.

You know what I’m talkin’ bout, y’all.  You had those big Christmas dinners last night, you had a big cup of coffee this morning… Okay I promise that I won’t spend this entire blog post talking about shit.  I mean it is the Christmas season after all, but technically Christmas is over so let’s get down and dirty.

Like shit, this story begins with food.  And like both food and shit, this story is deeply personal.  

We are omnivores, which means we have a huuuuuge range of food to choose from.  If you live in the USA, you live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  This gives you, theoretically, even more choice when it comes to how you feed yourself to stay alive.  But the weird thing about the USA is this:

  • 2/3 of adults in America are overweight or obese. 
  • 1 in 8 adults live in a home that is food insecure.  (Meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.)

In other words, America suffers simultaneously from both hunger and obesity.  On a large scale.  Now, I’m citing research compiled by the Food Research and Action Center, but this fact jumped off the page at me from Michael Pollan’s book almost 7 years ago because it just seemed so weird.  How can so many Americans be so unhealthy? And why are people suffering at both extremes?  What does that mean?  How is that possible?

I am an average American, and a 90’s kid.  I grew up with Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast, milk and cookies after school, and the food pyramid to guide me.  This food pyramid:

Check out all those grains at the bottom.  Those will come back to haunt me later.  This whole thing will, actually.  This is the USDA food Pyramid from 1992, when I was 3 years old. About ten years later, in beautiful, stark, sparsely populated, highly Republican Idaho, the concept of global warming will enter my young consciousness.  A concept which I discover is related to food in ways I never considered.  Al Gore came to speak at the Boise Pavilion, and I discovered that the American meat industry is responsible for more of our greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars and trucks on the road combined. 

That was when I decided to become a vegetarian.  

But for a dumbass teenager living in a land where vegetarianism is a totally foreign concept in the early 2000’s, this became the “Doritos and Coke” diet, and was both socially isolating and unhealthy.  I was the weird kid at Shari’s who wouldn’t order bacon, but I was eating soy products 3 meals a day.  I gave that up; broke down and got a bacon cheeseburger and wild fries at Good Times by the mall.  But on my way to college, The University of Portland Honors Program handed me Michael Pollan’s book and told me to move to Portland a week early to study food sustainability.  Something inside me was set on fire again, and I guzzled down information about government food subsidies, big business lobbyists, and all of the stuff that goes into making your food before you even walk through the doors of the grocery store.  

I began to reprogram by brain.  Food is incredibly personal, and way more emotional than food activists and fitness enthusiasts like to admit.  I am passionate about the evils of industrial food, but where do I put that memory of my Grandmom emptying her pockets to buy us a big bag of cheeseburgers from McDonald’s?  What do I do with the sense memory of the bacon cheeseburger my best friend bought me when I was sobbing from my first breakup?  Chocolate milk that your Mom used to mix for you.  Baking a Betty Crocker birthday cake from a box and then eating the leftover frosting  with graham crackers.  I felt like Monsanto had been bribing me with emotional currency and poisoning me with corn syrup.  

By Junior year of college I had become a vegetarian again, and most of my diet consisted of home-cooked meals that my roommate and I concocted out of our CSA box, also known as Community Supported Agriculture.  My friend had started a small organic farm after graduating from college, and he delivered huge boxes of beautiful organic veggies to our home once a week.  My fond memories of Cap’n Crunch and Mac n’ Cheese became nothing more than fond memories, and I was the healthiest I have ever been.  I still drank beer, ate grilled cheese sandwiches (Tillamook Cheddar on Dave’s Killer Bread, obviously), and ate cake when I felt like it, but I was more at peace with the way I was living on this planet.  

Fast forward to Monterey, California.  July 2012.  

CSU Summer Arts:  One month of Chicago Style Comedy and Solo Performance.  Arts camp for people who are of drinking age.

CSU Summer Arts: One month of Chicago Style Comedy and Solo Performance. Arts camp for people who are of drinking age.

Or as I like to think of it, the month that I stopped shitting.  I’ll never forget the friendships I formed, the mentorship I received, or all of the stuff I learned about improv and art. But mostly, I’ll never forget the gastrointestinal trauma that began that month and that has not stopped since.  

486585_469026566449236_11336238_n

I moved to LA and began grad school.  

grad school 2012 2

I forged artistic bonds and deep friendships with sweat and blood.

grad school 2012

I stopped dating.    I am a 20-something blond actress living in LA–you’d think there would be a little bit of romance in that, but it is hard to feel like putting on a dress and going to a bar when you are thinking about your own shit.  Literally.  

Yeah, y’all.  I told you this shit was personal.  

Fast forward again to India, summer of 2013.  

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A life-changing two months of spiritual growth and self-discovery.  I rode a camel, a horse, and an elephant.  I played with children in the Himilayas.  I did yoga in the middle of a flash flood.  And I got super, super sick.  Repeatedly.  My GI problems were exacerbated by the stress of traveling, eating unfamiliar foods, the vengeance of an angry god, whatever.  When you don’t poop, your body starts to fill with bacteria and viruses. 

I got the flu three times while I was there, and the third time ended with my host family driving me from doctor to doctor in the extremely under-served region of Ladakh, trying to get me some medical treatment.  Despite being sick so much, I had an incredible trip, and I had actually canceled my return flight and bought a new one for three weeks later in order to extend my trip and see more of the country.  But with a violent fever racking my body, deep circles under my eyes, and no color left in my skin, crammed in the backseat of my family’s car as we crept along the base of the Himalayas, I decided it was time to go home.  I changed my flight back and returned home, my head and stomach swimming after two months of extreme paradise.  

After I got back to the United States, I felt defeated.  For over a year I had been trying every possible modification to my diet I could think of.  I stopped eating wheat, I cut out dairy, I cut out alcohol, I tried eating meat again, and nothing seemed to help.  The doctor that I saw when I got back shrugged his shoulders and referred me to a specialist, who could see me in about a month.  I walked out of the doctor’s office with a referral sheet, an appointment for a month later, and a feeling of helplessness.  

In India, Ayurvedic medicine is very popular.  In Ayurveda, you eat foods which specifically help balance out your body, and the treatments are things like massages and colonics.  The idea is to detox your body of things that you’ve had to make you sicker, and food is the medicine which keeps you healthy.  It is a long term health regimen.  Naturopathic medicine, which is much more common in the United States, draws from both Western Medicine and more holistic medical approaches like Ayurveda.  Western medicine had shrugged its shoulders at me, so I called a Naturopath.  

After a million questions and a thorough examination, the Naturopathic Doctor told me that I had a leaky gut.  Ummm… gross.  That sounds gross.  What else is new?  Basically, my intestines couldn’t absorb certain food molecules.  So the rejected molecules were taking revenge on my picky intestines by slamming through the walls of my intestines and breaking into my bloodstream without permission and without being properly broken down.  Then my immune system had to create antibodies to attack and break down the rogue molecules.  Then the antibodies got super paranoid and just started attacking a ton of stuff in my body that didn’t actually need to be attacked.  It’s called an autoimmune response.  On my blood test, it shows that my body has autoimmune-levels of antibodies for Gluten, Corn, Dairy, Coffee, Hemp, Sesame, and basically all forms of joy and happiness.  My gluten test looks like what it would look like if I had full-blown Celiac Disease.  

At last, I knew the truth.  I knew what the problem was.  …And the problem?  Where do I begin?

Food intolerance like the one I have develops over time.  Our genetically-modified and industrially-bred wheat crops have an unnaturally high amount of gluten.  This is because if the wheat you grow has a freaky amount of gluten in it, you can grow more calories per acre, and you can make more money per acre.  Ultimately, this benefits not the farmers but the seed companies and the food manufacturers.  The problem is that the human body has not evolved to break down gluten in that quantity.  Now scroll back up to that food pyramid.  Eat your wheat, 90’s kids.  

And corn!!  Oh my God I’m allergic to corn!  Apparently, while I was watching Supersize Me and King Corn and reading Michael Pollan’s books, MY INTESTINES WERE LISTENING!!  How freaky is that?  Every time I ate wheat or corn my intestines were like, “No we don’t want any of that industrial bullshit” and then the wheat was all, “Fuck you, intestines, I’m gonna get into that bloodstream anyway” and then my body was like, “GTFO” and then there was an epic immune battle waged in my bloodstream.  

It’s kind of amazing when I think about it.  Activist intestines go on a poop strike to end industrial agriculture!  Angry bowels stop pooping in protest to irresponsible farming!  

…Or something like that.  To cut a long story short, this journey as been a huge part of my 2013.  I ended up going on an intense detox diet of ONLY VEGETABLES in the middle of my hardest semester of grad school yet.  No alcohol, no caffeine, no sugar, no grains and 16-hour days of lose-your-mind acting training.  I confronted a whole heap of memories and emotions tied in with food.  And actually, what I discovered is that I’m a lot stronger than I think I am.  I didn’t need coffee to get through the day, I just wanted it because it reminded me of a million beautiful moments and made me happy.  I didn’t need a million things that I thought I needed, and in their absence I didn’t experience despair.  The million beautiful memories I have tied to food didn’t just disappear when I became gluten intolerant.  They are still just as visceral and beautiful and important to who I am, and now I have the opportunity to form new memories.  Memories that aren’t tied to a food system that my intestines can’t handle and my heart and mind can’t get behind.  

I made a large portion of the Christmas dinner last night for my family, and beside the turkey and the gravy, it was all vegan and gluten free.  I told them all at the end of the meal, after belts were loosened, the stuffing was praised, and the kale was lauded.  It was a beautiful meal that created lots of beautiful memories, and my family was happy to feast with me in a way that I could enjoy it with them.  No one missed the butter or the wheat or the corn, and the quinoa stuffing was the first thing to get gobbled up off the plates.  

Needless to say, Britt and I were active in a group text all Christmas day with our besties, and I feel the need to round out this post with a photograph that Britt was foolish enough to send to all of us.  I don’t have any pictures of myself on the toilet, but I do have a picture of my twin of the toilet, and I believe it encapsulates all I’m trying to say about memories, food, touchy-feely stuff, and of course, shit. 

Britt Harris, in pottytraining.

Britt Harris, in pottytraining.

dani hides like a sneaky little weasel

Human beings are slippery little creatures. Do you have any idea how easy it is to hide from yourself?

I feel like as human beings we spend a lot of time skirting the issue, avoiding the confrontation, masking our feelings, and hiding from the things that are actually the most important to us–the things which are so important, in fact, that they are major motivators for us and dictate our behavior. But we are so clever at hiding from ourselves (and others), that we don’t even know that we are hiding! Humans are so smart!

Oh my God! In fact, the truth is that I’m actually avoiding the real point of this blog post by speaking in general terms and skirting the issue RIGHT NOW!

I have barely written a word since being back from India, either for my self or for this blog, and I’ve come up with excuse after excuse to avoid addressing it. To be honest, I’ve been deeply unhappy and confused for the past month or so. I’ve felt totally lost and fragmented. There were so many things that I unearthed in India–deep aspects of my personality and past that I discovered as things that are hidden motivators for my behavior. We all have them, and sometimes you have to take yourself out of your comfort zone in order to shed light on the things that usually lie in darkness as they dictate your behavior in your day-to-day life. My major discovery was that perhaps my biggest motivator–the dynamo that is the engine for every good thing I’ve accomplished in my adult life and for every bad thing that I’ve brought on myself as a form of self-sabotage–that motivator is a sense of self-hatred. I sense that I am not enough and so I have to do X, Y, and Z in order to prove my worth to myself and to the world.

This might seem like a heavy thing to share in a public forum, but I feel motivated at this moment to do so because I know for a fact that I am not the first person to feel that way. In many ways, it is a fundamental aspect of American consciousness, which is maybe why I needed to go to India and experience another way of being in the world in order to identify it as my personal truth. Being back in LA has been extremely difficult, and I think the major reason it has been difficult is carrying around this new self-knowledge in an old environment, and seeing my own insecurities so clearly reflected in the world around. For example, show me a twenty-something in LA who ISN’T insecure about her body and I’ll show you a thousand women crammed with false images from the media who hate their own skin. It’s not a comfortable fact, but it’s a true one.

I also feel that as a writer, as an actor, and as an artist I can’t move forward in my work until I acknowledge my personal truth. I felt artistically crippled. I couldn’t write in my journal, I couldn’t write this blog, I couldn’t be more than 90% present in my acting work because I quite simply did NOT want to know the truth about what was going on with me. I was hiding from myself.

So yeah, I guess that’s what I wanted to share with you all today. There is no point in hiding from yourself, in denying what it is that is really going on with you, because the things that you hide from the most are also the things that motivate you the most. Whatever inferiority complex I have, it has made me move to Portland by myself at the age of 17, it made me take a million credits per semester in college and get a super pimped out resume, it made me a major player in the foundation of a nonprofit opera company, it made me go to grad school and move to a city I never thought I would be ready for. It’s that inner dynamic that helps move me both towards and away from my dreams.

Even though this underlying dissatisfaction has been an omnipresent force for the last several weeks, here are some of the fun activities I’ve been doing to distract myself and lighten my spirits in the meantime! It’s been kind of a love affair with LA in a weird way, because despite the angst which has sprung out of transitioning back into my life here, I’ve been exploring all that this amazing city has to offer. And LA is actually really fucking rad, you guys.

My month:

ImageHiking adventures! We got a huge group together to go hiking/swimming/cliff jumping at Hermit Falls. This is Sean and Suzanna, who invited us to a huge warehouse party in downtown LA, successfully giving us the most “LA” day in the history of time.

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Hollywood Forever Cemetery movie screenings! Cinespia hosts huge events over the summer in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Thousands of people turn out with blankets and picnics to watch their favorite movies projected on to the side of a mausoleum, and it is AWESOME. My favorite night was all-night movie night, which was a vampire-themed triple feature of The Lost Boys, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Interview with a Vampire. At least, that’s only how long I was able to stay awake. Movie enthusiasts in LA will watch obscure French lesbian vampire porn until dawn. I am not that enthusiastic.

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Beach trips! Most of the time my Silver Lake home is just too far from the ocean to see my Mama Pacific too often, but in the summer it is all palm trees and hot white sand. Bliss.

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Visiting family! I am lucky enough to have a bunch of family about 4 hours north of LA in the scenic town of Guadalupe, California. Ahhhhh the smell of broccoli.

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Reuniting with friends! That beautiful woman is one of the very very VERY best friends of Britt and I. She is now living in my house in LA, where Britt will soon join us, and she is a social activist and social worker and Master’s student at USC. We are in love. We are also both in love with Phil and Connor, two of my very best friends and two of the very best sexy man-actors in the history of the world. All of these people are part of the Portland takeover of LA. Watch out, world!

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Bachelorette Party?! That beautiful woman in white is now a Mrs., and she came down to LA to celebrate her last weekend of bachelorette-dom in the sunshine with her ladies. In a stroke of madness, she left the bachelorette party planning to me and another LA-based ex-Portland artist-friend, and we had a magical weekend of beach-time and debauchery in Santa Monica. Needless to say, Batman was our designated driver that night.

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School resumes! I just finished week 3 of year 2 of my MFA in acting, and I am pretty damn excited about all of the work we are getting to create for the next two years. How many actors in LA actually get to ACT for 13 hours a day for nine months? I am a lucky mofo. Lucky, lucky, lucky. This pic is of my ensemble playing with letter pillows in voice class. Life is good.

Much love,

Dani

dani tries to figure out wtf country she’s in

I just got off the phone with my very favorite Britt and as usual, I felt instantly inspired to write (and make movies and make art and make fun, but I have this blog to write and so I am going to WRITE).

I have felt somewhat at a loss for the past couple of weeks since being back from India because, as I mentioned, I have been experiencing REVERSE culture shock. As in, you leave your country for a while and go experience another culture and then you come back home and you’re like:

wtfamerica

And it’s hard not to go into a downward spiral that goes kind of like…

WTF is wrong with this country?
WHY did I come back?
CAN I just go back to India forever? Is that throwing away all of the opportunities I was given by being born in this country?
HOW SOON can I go back?
WHY do I feel this way?

nobodyunderstands

Except that’s NOT TRUE, Emo-Dani, it’s just NOT TRUE. We live in a global age and bajillions of people have traveled and moved and immigrated and gone through this stuff over and over again and it’s just NOT TRUE!!

So let me rewind a little bit.

INDIA IS AWESOME. It is this incredibly diverse, chaotic, beautiful, crazy UNIVERSE of possibility where there is quite literally a billion different ways of living your life and being in the world. Total FOOD for my actor-brain, and the best kind of nourishment for my soul. For the first month, Tarah and I were traveling around India like the twentysomething backpacking bums that we are:

Dani and Tarah arrive in Rishikesh

Dani and Tarah in full backpacker mode

We spent a couple of weeks doing yoga in Rishikesh when intense flash flooding hit the state of Uttarakhand, upriver of where we were staying. Seemingly overnight, the big, beautiful Momma Ganges River turned into a rageful and torrential stream of destruction.

Right as the floods started, our new Canadian friend Kelsy happened to leave for the mountains which would soon become incredibly dangerous, Tarah and I had AMAZING astrology readings with this spiritual guru lady named Amodini, and I got horrendously sick with the flu. We were completely safe in Rishikesh, but there was no electricity or internet anywhere for days, so bad news from upriver trickled in slowly–corpses of wild elephants, cars with bodies still trapped inside, remains of ancient temples… It all flowed by somewhere under the raging river a few hundred yards down the hill. And I was pretty much bedridden with a fever and no voice, the words of Amodini echoing in my head with talk of my birthright, my spiritual relationship with Jesus and Buddha, and god knows what else. It was a surreal time.

Tarah took these one day.  See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

Tarah took these one day. See that big white building? The first floor is covered in water.

After a few days, Kelsy came back with some terrifying tales of spending three days and two nights on the road fleeing the floods, and while she was happy to be in the safety of Rishikesh, she needed to get the hell out of the mountains and out of sight of the Ganges, and so we decided to go south to Udaipur:

IMG_0906

ISN’T IT FUCKING GORGEOUS??

Wait wait wait I’m getting ahead of myself again. So we decided to flee Rishikesh:

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

I swear we are not as freaked out as we look.

No really, I swear Kelsy is not ACTUALLY as upset as she looks in this picture. Or maybe she was. But I’m pretty sure we were just messing around. Anyway, here are some of the sights we saw as we left Rishikesh for Delhi, and they really help paint of picture of what I mean when I say India is a place of POSSIBILITY.

Donkeys moving bricks!

Donkeys moving bricks!

Oh sure, GIANT TRUCK you can pass that tourist van on the shoulder of this one lane road next to these stacks of bricks. Just make sure you don’t run over that unsupervised donkey that is in charge of moving all of those bricks.

Typical street scene

Typical street scene

Check out that food stall. These food stalls pop up about every ten feet and feature a cooler (or cardboard box) with some cokes in it, and a giant wok. If you own a wok, you can own a restaurant. Can you imagine trying to do that in the US? Also check out the mish mash of Indian and “Western” clothes that people are wearing, and the ratio of men to women in this picture. Both are pretty typical.

On the road...

On the side of the road…

“Hey guys I think we should start a custom cabinetry business.”

“Yeah man, I think we can set it up between those trees where the pigs hang out.”

……yeah!

Paharganj, New Delhi

Paharganj, New Delhi. Quintessentially chaotic

Amidst all this chaos, Tarah and I managed to stand out; Tarah with her pale skin and me with a mane of blond hair. We made a ton of friends, people openly shared their kindness and hospitality, and we occasionally had to avoid a hustler trying to make a buck off of the “rich white ladies.”

heid_I'm-Rich

ERMAHGERD I’M RICH

But you know, who can blame them? As you can see, if you have ANY idea of a way to make a living or a way of living your life, then India is your oyster. Being there felt completely liberating. It didn’t matter what we wore or how we acted or what we did because we stood out whether we were quiet as mice or completely ridiculous. I know that we were excused from a lot of social expectations because we were foreign tourists, but I think that in general Indian culture is more accepting of differences; the Indian imagination is much bigger when it comes to humanity…when it comes to the things they think people are capable of.

Imagine going from that to Los Angeles: the judgiest place in the human universe.

becky look at her butt

Within my own culture, and especially as one of a million blond actors in LA, I am keenly aware of the fact that people I don’t even know (without even thinking about it or without even trying to) are constantly judging and classifying me depending on my weight, on my skin, on my eyebrows, on how expensive my clothes look, on the car I drive, blah blah blah. This Sunday I was at a coffeeshop in Silver Lake watching a parade of hipsters trying so hard to BE something or to NOT be something, and then later in the day I was at a jazz night in a fancy hotel watching a parade of supermodels and wannabe starlets also trying to BE SOMETHING and NOT be a failure or something…

I guess ultimately it’s the same thing…. The people struggling to survive in Delhi are the same people trying to find there place in the world in LA. It’s just difficult. It’s not easy for anyone–from the skinny eighteen-year-old model at the bar in the fancy hotel to the skinny twelve-year-old kid in India with more tattoos than my musician brother. In the end I guess it’s just about accepting that I am another gypsy soul trying to find my place and my purpose in the world. Trying to find meaning in it all.

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

An ACTUAL gypsy in Rajasthan

AHEM.

…..

Man, people with Emo haircuts are really keeping this blog in check today. Thanks, dude.

So I got sidetracked and only really talked about 1/4 of my trip so far… Let me explain something real quick: For the first week that I was in LA, I was LOSING MY MIND. I felt like sleeping all day (as the nice British man explains) so for some reason I decided to combat this by doing a bunch of crazy shit during the daytime in order to stay awake, but then at nighttime I was wide awake so I just continued doing a bunch of crazy shit and not sleeping. So I have not been on top of my blogging game.

yeah… like that.

Anyway! To round out this edition of Dani-tries-to-figure-out-WTF-country-she’s-in, I’m going to call in the aid of another dude with an Emo haircut to tell you about jet lag. After two minutes he changes the subject, so feel free to go about your day after that.

….Yeah. India. Jet lag. Transitions. Emo-hair.

mic drop

–dani

guess who’s back. DANI’S BACK.

WHOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!

Exactly a week ago, my plane touched down in Los Angeles after a two month trip to India.

Landing at LAX at sunset

Landing at LAX at sunset

It’s been a whirlwind week back in the United States, and I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time poring over Britt‘s posts from this summer, getting misty-eyed about how amazing and inspiring my best friend is, and pondering what I could possibly say at this time to sum up the last two months of my life AND riff off all the inspiring things Britt had to say in my absence.  It’s nuts to me how much my girl has been through in the last few months: shooting a million projects, juggling a million jobs, being in a million plays, taking care of her health, enduring major life upsets, leaving her day job, closing down a theater, and just continuing to be hilarious and charming every step of the way.  I don’t know about you guys, but it makes me dizzy just thinking about it!

And that is saying something, because India can be pretty dizzying at times.  Honestly though, the reason it has taken me a week to write a freakin’ post is that being back in America has been more overwhelming to me than touching down in India.  Look you guys, they even have a bunch of charts on google to demonstrate reverse-culture-shock:

Graphs mean SCIENCE

Aight, so a lot of that is hooey…  Or at least I can say that a lot of that wasn’t the case for me personally, but still THERE ARE CHARTS PEOPLE.  And I was only gone for two months!  That’s nothing!

But now….

And I’m slowly readjusting to bleach blonde hair and fake tits.  YAY LOS ANGELES!!  Britt, there are so many fake bitches down here! (No offense to all the fake bitches.  I am sure you are all wonderful beautiful people at your core.)

In all seriousness, folks, this city is waiting to embrace Britt Harris and lift her up to the heights of glory, because Los Angeles has never SEEN such an original, authentic, intelligent, beautiful, insightful, creative, REAL woman in all of its days.  I can now safely say that I’ve been all over the world and never met someone with such unbridled passion, creativity, and drive, and it is really, really special.  I’m jealous that you all have had internet for two months and have been able to keep up with all of her exploits.

Meanwhile, I keep going back and forth between this…

and this…

For the past week I’ve been alternating between sleeping/taking care of my self and partying-like-it’s-1999.  My body can’t decide if it wants to sleep for 10 years or take Los Angeles by the horns and ride it like a drunk middle-aged lady on a mechanical bull at a square-dancing bar trying to forget her past.

I don’t know y’all.

The second month of my trip was spent in Stok village, which is near Leh, Ladakh, in Northern India. What????

ladakh map

Ohhhh! Thank you, cartoon-y map!  That’s where it is!  As you can see, Ladakh is actually part of the political province of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which is part of India.  J&K is frequently subject to political violence and activism, since there have been border disputes between India and Pakistan for years and years and years–pretty much since India became a country when the British left. Ladakh is the part of Northern India that is largely isolated, both culturally and practically, from that political unrest, and is home to about 200,000 Ladakhi people who are mostly Buddhist and much more similar to Tibetans in language, religion, and culture.  Ladakh is often called “Little Tibet,” but in my opinion that’s kind of like calling Canada “Little United States”… a somewhat true/offensive generalization. 

Anyway!  Where was I going with this?  Are you all bored with my pseudo history lesson yet?

Oh yeah! So Ladakh is this stunningly beautiful and sublimely peaceful little slice of heaven nestled in the Himalayas between two incredibly contentious political regions:  China-occupied Tibet and the Pakistan/India territory fight in Jammu and Kashmir.  I lived there for a month with this guy:

IMG_1487

Khen Rinpoche Geshe Kachen Lobzang Tsetan with me and Tarah, my friend from the USA

Khen Rinpoche is an incredible human being, and meeting him was a karmic and life-changing stroke of luck.  I am sure I will talk more about this later, but he taught me about Buddhism (and life) and taught by example how to live with deep compassion for all sentient beings, and use the life you were given to bring compassion and love to the planet.  I’m weeping now just thinking about it.  

So try to imagine with me, for a moment, going from life in a peaceful and remote village with a bunch of Buddhists where this is what you see every day, 

IMG_1443

To LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.  LA is essentially the breeding ground of America’s largest export:  AMERICAN CULTURE (which could not be any different from Ladakhi culture if it tried).

Thank you, Ke$ha, for personifying everything that I am trying to say. 

So yes.  Dear, sweet, beautiful blog readers.  For the next few weeks before I start the second year of my MFA in Acting at USC, I will be presenting you with a series of blogs which will attempt to share with you some of my experiences from my summer in India, to make up for the fact that I did practically NO blogging while I was gone.  I have nothing but love and appreciation in my heart for anyone who is willing to plunge down this rabbit hole with me and help me to digest these experiences and apply them to my life as an actor in the city of angels.

PEACE OUT!!

dani

dani gets lost in India

I met an Australian travel writer at Anand Prakash yoga ashram in Rishikesh who told me about a certain profession.  In this profession, your job is to go to India and bring home young Westerners who went to India on vacation and never came back.  Worried American mothers can hire this sort of bounty hunter to go track down their kid who went to India on some kind of spirit quest and ended up staying illegally as a Sadhu (often-stoned ascetic holy man) or otherwise finding an excuse never to leave this incredible country.  Keep your eye out for Nina Karnikowski’s book on this subject sometime in the next couple of years.  She kicks ass.  

Anyway the point is: Mom, I’m not saying you need to hire a bounty hunter quite yet, but I really fucking love it here. In my mind I was going to be blogging about India as I went, but I’ve been too lost in the experience of experiencing it to blog a whole lot.  But I promise I will do a lot more when time allows!  I think what I’ll do is a trip-in-a-nutshell  thing right now, and get deeper once I’m back in August.  It’s hard to want to spend a bunch of time tracking down an internet cafe and staying inside when there’s so much to see!

So here is one of the main things that I’ve learned so far:

 People are people.

1.

We arrived yesterday in Leh, Ladakh and were picked up at the airport by Kunzom and Chauldin, our hosts for the next month.  Kunzom is the sister of Khen Rinpoche, the founder of the Siddhartha School who invited Tarah to come to India in the first place, and who subsequently invited me to come to India.  Kunzom is a woman-about-town in her village of Stok and in the nearby countryside, doing treasury work for the government, helping villagers settle the distribution of land, taking classes from a nearby lama, and hosting  guests for her brother Rinpoche as he goes around the world making friends on behalf of the Dalai Lama and his beloved school.  

For people this amazing, it’s hard to imagine them being… normal.  But as we hung out in the family room last night, the sixteen-year-old daughter Chustik and the father Chauldin bickered over whether to watch the juicy drama or the cricket game on TV, and the mother Kunzom subtly moved closer to the TV whenever the Bollywood soap opera prevailed.  Dinner got started late, and although Tarah and I didn’t care and were enjoying th process of making vegetable “momos” by hand, the hostess was embarrassed and the host’s impish Ladakhi jokes made everyone giggle and kept the mood light, despite language barriers.

2.

As another example, the young yoga teacher at our ashram in Rishikesh was quite imposing with his uncompromising expertise, strict classes, and deep baritone voice.  Then I found out that he had gotten his undergraduate degree in Acting at SUNY Purchase with Michael, who is now one of my classmates at USC.  I was going to include some sweet media here, but I’m at an internet cafe in Ladakh and nothing is working now, hopefully I can still post this blog.  Imagine a hilarious picture of a Chinese-American yoga teacher/actor right here. 

3.

Kids are kids.  Before the flooding in Uttarakhand that decimated the banks of the Ganga and washed away the Shiva statue in Rishikesh, Tarah and I liked to go down to the river to play with Sanjee, my “little monster.”  He was pretty much the funnest.  It made me excited to come up here to Ladakh and spend more time with the kiddos.

Me swinging Sanjee

The most sobering part of knowing Sanjee, though, was knowing how unlikely it is that he will make it to adulthood.  He had a deep cough and lived along the river, and I don’t know what happened to him during the floods.  The water rose over the course of a few days, so I’m assuming his family was savvy enough to move uphill, but I don’t really know.

4.

Death is death.  In my opinion, Indians have a much healthier relationship with life and death than Americans.  Tarah and I were on a camel ride in Pushkar, and we saw a dog eating the entrails of a dead cow through his…well…you know.  Our camel guides, who happened to be 20-year-old boys dressed like hipsters straight out of Silver Lake, shrugged and kept moving.  We did the same.

But it wasn’t upsetting.  Life and death coexist here very honestly.   It causes pain, of course.  We made a friend who was telling us that he won’t go swimming because his friend unexpectedly drowned on a swimming outing, and the memory still causes him immense pain.  But death is part of life, and like life it has something to teach us. I don’t sense this sort of desperate need to cling to this life and make something of it hat I sense is fundamental to American culture. My running joke here is “YOLO… No wait… You Only Live Infinite Times Until You Reach Moksha.”

5.

Prayer is prayer, and Love is love.  We met a group of young American women in the Delhi airport traveling with Youth With a Mission, a Christian organization doing volunteer work abroad.  We had a really inspiring conversation with them about the bottomless nature of God’s love, and I thought about touching silence and bliss during Osho meditation in Rishikesh.  I thought about talking to an astrologer in Rishikesh about Jesus and Buddha and their lessons on love.  I thought about crying at the end of yoga class as something holy pulsed through my veins.  I thought about dancing with the kids at the Hare Krishna temple and sitting up late smoking cigarettes under the light of the full supermoon in Udaipur.  I thought about taking off my shoes and feeling the intricate marble work at a Jain temple that took 69 years and hundreds of lifetimes to build.  As my mind flashed back to the present moment the Christian girls in the airport were asking Tarah and I if they could pray with us.  Why not, I thought.  Prayer is prayer. 

Anyway, like I said I was going to include a lot of sweet media in this post, but technology has thwarted me, so I’m going to stop here. Tarah and I start teaching regularly at the Siddartha School tomorrow morning, and we’ll be working with the kids for a couple of weeks, until the school hosts a big celebration for it’s 20th anniversary and then the kids go on summer break for a couple of weeks.  Not sure what we’ll do after that, but that’s okay!  Who knows??  More news to come!

Lots of love and light and joy and stuff,

Dani

britt confronts cancer fears and has the best road trip EVER

My life is crazy. Seriously crazy. In the past week and a half, I confronted my fears about cancer, took a road trip from Twin Falls, Idaho to Los Angeles, California, and went to a theatre-nerd prom. Simply existing has been a thrilling yet frightening rollercoaster with all of the best payoffs (although I think I may be getting a little motion sick from it all).

But good news!

I think I can say with moderate certainty, dear friends, that I am out of the woods with all the major life-threatening drama. I swear that sometimes it feels like Portland is trying to dispel all of the toxic shit floating around me before I move to Los Angeles. Fine, I’m down with that, Portland. Let’s do it all now. As long as the pendulum swings the other way in time to bring me a pleasant and successful transition into my new life. Got it? Good. Thanks, Portland.

But yes! Good news! Before I tell you the bottom-line of this saga, let me take you on a journey of my past week or so.

In my last post, I tried to address in a somewhat tactful way that I was going through a bit of a cancer scare and was pretty freaked out about it. It was a tough thing for me to write about. The whole experience and “waiting game” that came with it made for the longest few weeks of my life.

Last Tuesday, I got a biopsy on a class 4a solid cyst was found in my left breast (as I have learned, fluid cyst= good news, solid cyst=reason for concern). My mom drove down from Tacoma to take me to the procedure. I could not have been more thankful to have here there. Thanks, Mom.

I felt pretty strong while we were in the waiting room, but when I put on the patient dress thing and walked into the room where the procedure would be done, I started shaking. I assumed the position on the cold, reclined chair where they have you lie down really still while they poke needles in you and vacuum out of your insides. This is when I started to cry. I cried on that chair in my pathetic apron, feeling stupid and helpless and scared, while my mom held my hand and told me I was being brave. I felt like I was 7 years old. I felt embarrassed and I’m not really sure why.

I got most of my tears out before the radiologist and technician came in, thank goodness. The experts walked me through the procedure (I realize I had no idea what a biopsy entailed exactly, and I’m glad I didn’t know until then) and I nodded calmly in response and they asked me if I had any questions.

“Can I watch the screen while you do it?”

I can’t remember if I actually asked that question or if it remained within the walls of my skull because my voice-box stopped working. But either way, they did shift the screen on the monitor in a way that I could watch the procedure if I wanted to. And I did.

I looked down my apron as they stuck a huge-ass needle in my boob, I watched as they removed the needle that numbed the area, I observed intently down my chest as they inserted a vacuum to extract a biological sample of the cyst. I also watched the monitor.

At this point, I was genuinely academically intrigued. It was pretty incredible. I saw the different instruments puncture through my skin and penetrate the gumball-sized lump in my chest. I watched them poke and prod, I watched the mass change shape slightly in the monitor as in pulsated and moved around, reacting to the foreign attack.

The most unsettling thing about the procedure, however, was the way the vacuum felt as it sucked out parts of my body. I can’t really describe it, it just felt unnatural and horrible. But luckily I had other things to focus on while they were doing that. Like coughing.

Among other things on my mind that day, I was getting over a pretty gnarly cold on the day of the biopsy. I was in the part of the cold process where I would have extreme coughing fits at any time and would need to chug a glass of water to get it to stop. While the procedure was underway, I was concentrating so damn hard on not coughing while the needle was in my chest–such a delicate fucking thing– that I kind of forgot about everything else that was happening. It took every ounce of my concentration, breath control, and will-power to keep that cough at bay while the doctor was at work.

I never warned anyone in the room of this (which, in hindsight, was a mistake), but I told my mom about it afterwards. I think she was half impressed and half alarmed. But whatever, I did it. I am awesome.

The second most unsettling thing about the whole experience was when the doctor told me that he diagnosed a 21-year-old of breast cancer a month ago. I don’t remember why he felt the need to tell me this. I think his point was something along the lines of: “you never know”, and “it’s good to catch things early”. But still. Thanks, Doc. Minor heart-attack happening, here.

But yeah… eye on the prize, people. Eye on the prize! I got through the biopsy just fine. And now I have a rad battle scar (until the bruising fades, at least) and it is a fucking badge of honor. Black and blue and green and yellow and bandaged. This, my friends, I call ZOMBIE BOOB. And I am proud!!

Good job, boob! You did it!!!

And best news, my friends?!

…I got the results from the biopsy back last Thursday… and I am CANCER-FREE!!!!

I heard this news in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I flew out to road trip with my dear friend Suzzane to Los Angeles (she is starting her grad program in social work at USC– you go girl!). The doctor called me when Suz and I were watching episodes of Parks and Recreation on the couch at her mom’s place. My phone rang and I froze and didn’t answer. I hid in the bathroom for a while and had a minor panic attack. Then Suz held my hand and encouraged me to check the voicemail. Bless her heart.

And it was the best news I have ever received. I am so grateful. So happy.

..And to top it all off, we woke up at the ass-crack of dawn the next day to road-trip to our new home (well, my new home in a few months)! 14 hours in a car, 10 pee-breaks, 2 alien-themed jerky tourist-trap stops, and epic fun. It was one of the best days ever. EVER. My little heart was pounding the happiest of beats in my chest every mile of the way.

What a journey. 

Let me take you on a journey. A journey of epic shit I did this WEEK!

My Week:

After the close of “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” with Theatre Vertigo (my last show as a company member… sniff sniff, cry cry!) last week, I welcomed a much-needed “break” between projects of mine. Well…”break” is such a relative term. ‘Cause let’s be real. I never rest.

So! Last Monday was the annual Drammy Awards, which is the biggest cast party/awards ceremony/reason for theatre people to drink that Portland has to offer. It is the Tonys, Oscars, and nerd- prom all rolled into one. And this year, my amazing friend Nicole Gladwin MC’ed. She is the Baddest-Ass there ever was. And the best stage manager ever. And the best human ever. I love her.

So anyway. Each year the Drammy Committee books out the McMenamins Crystal Ballroom downtown and hundreds of theatre professionals get dressed up in their hottest suits and dresses to celebrate all things theatrical. Pretty rad, right?

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

This is what a sea of theatre people looks like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

No, THIS is what a sea of theatre people look like.

I very was proud to sit at the Theatre Vertigo table this year with my company. Because we kiiiinda TOOK IT HOME. We won Best Sound Design (GO RICHARD MOORE!) for our winter show, The Velvet Sky (which I helped produce as Company Artistic Liaison to the director) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for our fall show, Mother Courage and Her Children (GO BROOKE CALCAGNO**!). Company Member Kerry Ryan also received the other Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her work in Post5 Theatre‘s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream (HELL YEAH!).

Brooke and I were joking that night about how our spring show, “Aloha Say the Pretty Girls” was a shoe-in for Best Production (the show was kind of a train-wreck), but HEY. Ya can’t win ’em all, right?

Oh, theatre. You slay me.

But anyway. For the most part, we were kind of a big deal that night.

**Also, for what it’s worth, I was wearing the now Drammy-Award-Winning Brooke Calcagno’s dress to the ceremony that night. So, obviously, that gave me hot and talented points.

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I'm having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

See? Hot and talented points. And yes. I did get ready by myself in the dressing room of the theatre. I’m having some separation anxiety issues already, okay?!

In other news.

On Wednesday of last week, I had an audition for a theatre job I reeeally wanted to get at a company I reeeally admire, but alas. I dropped the ball on that one. That Wednesday I gave a vanilla, not-dailed-in, super-distracted audition. Sigh. It happens. I had to remind myself at least eight times to “let it go” as I walked back to my day job after the audition.

To be quite honest, I just couldn’t get my head in the game after the biopsy the day before. I was scared and shakey and was having trouble sitting up straight and moving my left arm without feeling pain or a weird weak sensation. But most of all, I was scared to death of finding out the biopsy results at any given minute.

But whatever. It’s about showing up and doing the work no matter what, and I showed up and did the work. It’s okay if it was not my best, I cannot always deliver my best. I am not a machine. I am HUMAN!

And, as you know, I found out the (terrific!) results that next day, on Thursday. So I was not in limbo for too long. 🙂

…Which is when I began my EPIC TRAVELING ADVENTURE with Miss Suzzane Cawthra to Los Angeles, from Portland, via Boise/Twin Falls Idaho (don’t try to understand it, just go with it). It was beautiful.

Suzventures

#suzventures

That Thursday through Monday was one of the most amazing stretch of days I’ve ever had. There was so much to be thankful for, to be happy about, and even more to look forward to. I feel like I have already received my prize.

You guys, I simply CANNOT WAIT to move down to LA. With each trip I make down there (and clearly, I cannot stay away) I feel more and more at home. During each trip, a couple more tiny pieces fall into place. And some of the most important people in my life, the ones that I have chosen to call family, are there. It feels right. I’m going with it.

I am wanting to talk more and more about this experience, but I will save it for next time. This post is already too long and even I’m starting to get bored reading it (Quick, Britt! Put in more GIFS!!).

Done.

But if there is one thing my life isn’t, though, it’s boring.

I am in a good place. I am so happy to be out of the woods after the BIG LIFE THREE (burnt-down house, hit-and-run on car, cancer scare). I am grateful to be back to the “normal life” stresses of trying to not-perform-shittily at auditions, paying-off massive credit card debt, double-booking myself and worrying about letting people down, breaking my own heart, and being deathly afraid of failure. No, that’s not melodrama people. That is my amazing life. Chock-full of challenges, ups-and-downs, and major successes and payoffs. I feel much stronger today than I did a month ago. And I have so many amazing forces in my life that have carried me through and leveled me up in life.

… Not the least of which were the three tubs of Salt and Straw ice cream (2 pear/blue cheese-my FAVE-, and one strawberry balsamic and pepper!) that found their way to me, like magic, after my biopsy.

Sigh. Amazing.

Sigh. Amazing.

And also, thank you, dear Dani, for your love from afar. Even though you are in India, I feel lucky to have little gems like these to get me through your two-month stateside absence (yup, you knew this was going to end up on our blog somehow… I LOVE YOU!):

(Ladies and gentlemen, that is my soul mate.  So BACK OFF.)

love from the lucky girl born on Friday the 13th,

~britt

dani’s adventures in yoga.

Dani is currently in India on an adventure.  This post was pre-written to entertain you while she’s gone and to pimp out all of the instructors who have shaped her yoga journey so far.   If you are looking for yoga recommendations in Portland, Oregon or Los Angeles, California, you’ve come to right place.  Scroll down and click on the links below. 

I did the calculation, and as of setting foot on the plane to India on May 31st, I had been practicing yoga for exactly 18 months. 

So let me just clarify that, despite the fact that I’m doing yoga in India, I am NOT an expert yogi.  Not even close.  I’m like…level 2.  So what the hell am I doing?

For the first year after I graduated from college  I got a desk job, I lived with awesome friends, I went to happy hour, and I just generally tried to enjoy being a twenty-something-year-old in the fabulous city of Portland.  The only problem was this fire burning inside me like a disease that prevented me from fully enjoying my awesome life.  I was floundering artistically, physically, and spiritually. 

So one cold and rainy Portland afternoon when I was doing my best to pretend to do my job kind of, I bought a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Vancouver Bikram Yoga.  I had never done yoga before.  I didn’t know what the hell I was getting myself into.  It just seemed like a good idea and the thought of being in a 105 degree room for 90 minutes sounded amazing in December in Portland.  Maybe the heat would somehow satisfy my inner fire.  

I got to Bikram and I was mediocre at best.  I totally sucked at locking my knees, which they ask you to do like every ten seconds, and I was forced to stare at my lumpy, imperfect body for 90 minutes straight while trying not to pass out.  It brought back flashbacks to my mediocre athletics career, and getting heat stroke during a Middle School track meet after coming in last place in 1600 meters.  

But each day I felt progress in subtle ways as I felt myself getting stronger and more focused.  I took naturally to the breathing and meditation, and felt cleansed and unburdened in the heat of the yoga studio.  I swear I learned more about myself in that first ten days of Bikram than I’d learned in the last two years of college.  It was amazing to look into my own searching eyes and experience compassion for my self in all my flaws and assets, for all my incapabilities and strengths.  

So began an 18-month smorgasbord of yoga, as I tried out as many studios and yoga styles as I could get my paws on!

Let the yoga journey begin!**

**NOTE:  I can’t do any of the things in these pictures.  Except number 7.  I kick ass at number 7.

1.

the crack-monkey

Next I bought a three-month Groupon for YogaNW, so I could see what normal yoga was like without the strict parameters of Bikram.  YogaNW is great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone in Portland looking for a studio.  The instructors are  patient, kind, and great at adjusting your alignment.  At YogaNW, I began to see the wider world of what yoga can be.  From the spiritual focus that Sheila brings to the practice to the personalized vinyasa practice that Jennifer encourages to the deeply restorative practice that Aimee provides.  

2. 

the foot-hat

Then I went back to Sellwood Bikram Yoga for another month of good, hot fun.  This studio features some of the same instructors as Vancouver Bikram, but with the added benefit of Tom Leimert, a physician-turned-yogi whose knowledge of the body is so helpful.  Sellwood Bikram also has a more competitive atmosphere and more sexy men with six-packs.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t question it.  

3. 

the WHY, GOD, WHY?

Next in my yoga journey I met Julie Hunicutt while at a one-month acting workshop in Monterey, California, and because of her incredible expertise and communication, I re-learned some of the standard hatha yoga poses with better alignment.

4.

the pac-woman

She introduced me to Yogavidala in Los Angeles, and it was at Yogavidala that I found a spiritual home in Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, because of a major rent increase, this gem of a studio is shutting down at the end of June, but I met some amazing instructors here who I’ll continue to study with.  Some of the gems are Jennifer Netherby, who made yoga fun and helped me conquer the headstand, Nina Snow, who made my Dad feel welcome in class after a 20+ year hiatus from yoga, and Robyn Bennett, whose deeply spiritual classes always left me on cloud nine.  

5.

God’s teardrop

I try to quit you, Bikram but I just can’t.  I felt compelled to do another month of madness at Bikram Yoga Silverlake.  The Silverlake studio is super super crowded, the floor there is a little weird/uncomfortable, and I like some instructors there more than others… If you go to the super early classes,avoid stepping off your mat onto the hard floor, and choose your instructors wisely, you’ll be fine, but ultimately it’s not my favorite studio.  

6.  

CAPOEIRA!!

Brazilian Yoga and Pilates!  I’ve been studio hopping a little bit in the past few weeks, since I’m trying to find a new yoga home now that Yogavidala is closing.  This studio has a super laid back and hippie vibe, the classes are always super small and personalized, and they sometimes have classes in Capoeira, Samba, and Pilates, as well as host the occasional drum circle.  I went to a Samba class last week and it was an absolute blast.  The best part about this place is that it has the cheapest monthly rate I’ve ever seen–$69 a month!  The class schedule is pretty sparse, but if you tend to be free in the afternoons and/or evenings, you will be able to get your money’s worth.  Unfortunately, in my real life I am in school from the asscrack of dawn to the dead of night, so I probably won’t be going here. :/

7.

Urth Yoga.  This place has $5 “happy hour” classes 3 times a day during the week, and it’s within walking distance of my house.  Because I live in Silverlake and it’s cheap, that can mean only one thing: HIPSTER YOGA!!  

It kind of felt like what would happen if you were in a hipster singles bar and everyone decided to drop into downward dog.  It’s mostly anusara yoga. with is a spiritual/philosophical viewpoint more than anything, but for some reason it was super ass-kicking.  Definitely $5 well spent. 

8. 

INDIA!!!

Ummmmm…. Who the hell knows what this will hold.  I’m in Rishikesh, India right now.  When my friend Tarah invited me to come with her to India this summer I said,

“Hey, did you know that you can study yoga at yoga ashrams in Northern India and live there for very little money and extended periods of time?”  

And she said, “Hell. Yeah.”

So now we’re in Rishikesh–a couple of amateur yogis in India.  

…I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes. 

🙂

Namaste!

D

dani goes to india

In two days I’m getting on a plane and leaving for India for 2 months.  

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Wheee!!!

 As Britt and I have mentioned about 10,000 times, and as is currently evident by the fact that Britt is living on an air mattress on our friend’s floor after losing her house, we are gypsies at heart.  Because that is the case, when I chose to go to grad school until 2015, I made a deal with myself.  I could only go to grad school if I used the two honest-to-God summers that grad school includes to travel.  I had to find ways to go places in this big crazy world before life sets in and bitches start coming after me for student loan payments.  

To be honest though, India wasn’t really on my radar.  Despite things like this…

And this…

Taj Mahal, India…

And this…

…It had just never crossed my mind to go there.  

But then, back in January, I got to talking to Tarah.  

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This is Tarah. (And Britt and Sedale and Amaka)

Tarah has just finished year 2 of her MFA in Acting at USC.  Put another way, she’s a year ahead of me in the program.  Here’s a picture of Tarah without sunglasses on, lookin’ all serious n’ actor-like n’ whatnot.  

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she’s amazing. just try to deny it. impossible.

Tarah was telling me about how for years now, her good friend Khen Rinpoche has been trying to get her to come up to Ladakh in Northern India and see the school that he runs there–The Siddhartha School.  She decided she was finally going to go this summer so she could attend the school’s anniversary celebration, but she was nervous about traveling abroad for the first time alone.  We talked for a long time that night, and somehow, in her infinite generosity and love and wisdom and amazingness, she invited me to go with her.  

OmigodOmigodOmigodOmigodOmigod. Seriously?  What?  I said to her what I usually say when people say things like, “We should get lunch sometime” or “We should be friends” or “You should come with me to this cool place” which is

“Be careful about inviting me.  Because I’ll go.”

5 months later, we’ve done all the preparation we can muster and now we are itching to get on the plane and just go.  

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Okay well we’re not actually going to paaaarty.  As they say.  We’re actually going to do some of this:

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yoga!!

As Tarah and I planned our trip, we realized it’s not actually cost-effective to go to India for a short amount of time, because the flight over there is expensive, but it’s super super super cheap once you’re there.  So the longer we stay, the further my tiny summer budget will stretch.  Cause let’s be real, I’m living off my leftover student loan money, y’alllllll.  Anyway, we both had an interest in studying yoga, and Rishikesh, India is not far South of Ladakh, and it’s the yoga capital of the world.

So.  We fly into Delhi on Sunday night, and after a brief visit to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, we’ll journey North to spend a month studying yoga in Rishikesh and a month visiting Ladakh.  We’re hoping that by the time we fly home, we’ve figured out how to levitate so we don’t have to take a plane.  

Flying - GIF

In all seriousness, though, I could not be more grateful and excited and humbled to be making this journey.  We’re as well-prepared as you can possibly be, and I feel so blessed to be Tarah’s companion on this trip.  I’m ready to go to India with a savvy mind, a free spirit, and an open heart.  Let’s doooo it. 

I will post as much as I can to TwoEvilActors while I’m gone, but I’m sure Britt will have plenty to tell you about until I come back, and once I am back in the U.S. it won’t be long until the Two Evil Actors are reunited in sunny Los Angeles.  Until then, namaste…

xoxo

Dani

dani talks new beginnings

SPOILER ALERT:  I’m going to India.  I have over a billion new faces to see, sights to soak in,  and discoveries to make.  My mind has been filled with anticipatory daydreams like this:

Ladakh, India

Delhi, India

Rishikesh, India

GAHHHHH INDIAAAAA!!!!!!  Just to keep you in suspense, let me start at the beginning by saying that this has been a pretty freakin’ rad week full of new beginnings.  Maybe I’m riding the wave of Britt’s new-birthday-year.  

My Week

Last week I pulled two all-nighters shooting and editing a project for my FreePlay class–which means me and Sedale and Amaka losing our minds together by trying to figure out how to make a ten-minute short film about a woman who gets pregnant by her foster sister’s husband.  And then the three have to figure out how to build their lives around this baby. 

My ensemble also finished writing our first draft of our staged version of Don Quixote.  Which means after weeks of playing around we have officially started the laborious process of birthing our first artistic baby as an ensemble. Which makes me think of the very first time I heard the story of Don Quixote…

Aw Wishbone!  Nothing is imPAWssible!  However, I WISH I could post a video for you guys of Clown class on Friday, because we started playing around with the trampoline for the first time, and DAMN!  Talk about new beginnings.  It never ceases to amaze me how many self-imposed limitations I have been operating under for my entire life.  But every time I come out of clown class I realize that I’ve done 10 new things with my body that I never even thought possible.  It’s wild.  

But not as wild as these ferocious kittens!!

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Doris the Kitten. March 2013

Linus the Kitten. March 2013

Linus the Kitten. March 2013

That’s right!  My house became the home of TWO KITTENS this weekend!  In a stroke of pure genius, my housemates decided to adopt two kittens full of nothing but spunk and snuggles.  Meet Doris and Linus, my new animal friends.  I played with them allllll weekend long and there was cuddling and purring and it was all pretty magnificent.  

When they first came home and we opened the cat carrier, two curious and cautious little noses protruded out into the wide world, followed by four little paws.  After some tentative sniffing, the little guys ventured out of their carrier and explored their new space.  Within half an hour they were romping and exploring with utter fearlessness.  I thought, “Hmm… this will be inspiration for this summer, when I am in India!  Streetwise and cautious up front, followed by fearless exploration and wise vigilance.”

Full circle, y’all!  Prior to meeting my two new feline housemates, I met up with my friend Tarah Pollock to purchase two roundtrip tickets to New Delhi, India.  Meet Tarah:

Tarah Pollock March 2013

Ooo!  So sassy!  Work it girl!  A couple of months ago, Tarah was telling me about a friend of hers who is a monk in Northern India, and how he had invited her to travel to Ladakh, India this summer for a festival.  He had told her to bring a friend and see The Siddartha School, which he helped to found.  Tarah is a second-year actor in my MFA program, an independent lady extraordinare, and a complete badass. She also happened to be in the market for a travel-buddy, and my hand shot into the air faster than you can say “HOLY-SHIT-TAKE-ME-WITH-YOU-YES-PLEASE”

Turns out, India is super cheap once you’re there, so we decided to spend two months there–studying yoga, hiking, and hanging out with kids in Ladakh.  

Check, ch-check, ch-check, check it OUT!

New Delhi Confirmation

Before I came to grad school, I promised myself that I would spend at least a portion of my summers traveling.  Once I’m done with school, it will be more important to focus on career stuff and money stuff and all that jazz, so I figured that now is the time to travel, to harvest experiences, and to be a 20-something-year-old girl.  

I’ll be updating this here blog as much as possible while I’m there, and on the weeks that I can’t, Britt and I have some tricks up our sleeves to keep you entertained.  So this week, I feel deeply grateful for the opportunities I have been given and the many blank pages that I have left to write on.  Thanks for sharing the journey, loves.  

Oh WAIT!!  I almost forgot!  HAPPY PERSIAN NEW YEAR!!  Today is the first day of Spring, as well as the new year in Iran.  THAT’S why it feels like a time of new beginnings.  Happy Spring Everybody!  Wow. My goodness.  Look what happens when I start to pay attention. Things make sense.  Love and light, y’all!