dani sings hallelujah

There is SO MUCH to celebrate!!!  

I kind of can’t contain myself.  Let’s just try to count the things.

1.  I have returned to blog-land! 

I kinda look like Steve Buscemi right now. It’s been a long semester.

Oh man, I’ve missed you guys.  This week marks the completion of my 3rd semester of grad school, and I’m pretty sure that they were actively trying to kill us this time.  It has been an incredible 16 weeks, but I am so thankful I get to come up for air for a month before diving back into the deep end again.  So now I just get to enjoy…

2.  Christmas time!  

Even though it is a “frigid” 50 degrees and sunny here in Los Angeles, it still feels like Christmas for some reason.  I don’t know if it’s my newfound Christmas Break freedom or what, but I literally want to kiss everyone I see and sing love into their hearts.  Wait a second, I know where this “joie de vivre” is coming from…

3.  Britt!

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A beautiful Britt in a beautiful backyard.

For the past two months, I have had 70-hour weeks at USC.  And for the past two months, all I’ve wanted to have is 70-hour weeks in Britt‘s arms.
MY BESTIE IS IN LA, Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can’t even handle it.  

This dog who is so freakin' happy, he just physically CANNOT.

This is the only photo that captures how much I CANNOT EVEN HANDLE my Britt-related-joy right now.

We were too busy hugging each other in our rare spare time to write any blogs together, but we’ve got something in the works, never fear.   But one thing that is so exciting to me now that I have a moment to catch my breath is how fuckin’ PROUD I am of my girl.  Britt is KILLIN’ it, y’all.  She would be the last person to say that probably, as she is keenly aware of her own struggles and challenges, as are we all, but seriously, she is DOIN’ it.  Moving to LA is hard.  I don’t think I felt at home in LA until… right now.  Or at least not until the last couple of months.  It wasn’t until I had struggled to adjust for 9 months, spent 2 months in India, and then all my best friends moved here.  So really, I just got lucky because I got to go to India and then move in with my best friends.  LA is a whole can o’ worms… Oh!  But this leads me to…

4.  The house!

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Suz cannot even handle her excitement about the new soaking tub.

Oh. My. God.  We have a home.  I believe Britt has introduced you all to our roommates: Suzzane, Dean, and last but not least, Napoleon.  You know.
This hottie: 

Just kidding.  Napoleon is a dog.  He IS ACTUALLY a stud though.  If anyone wants their dog to be mounted by a purebred Pomeranian, go ahead and contact us through our blog.  Seriously, Dean could use the money.  We’re ready to start whoring out the dog.  

5.  Art!

As exhausted as I am, it has been a hell of a semester.  My ensemble, the Class of 2015, The Ten Commandments, The Ten Fingers, The Bad News Bears, whatever the hell you want to call us, put up it’s very first full production.  The ten of us tackled William Saroyan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1939 script The Time of Your Life.  Our ensemble of 10 took on a cast of 25 characters who float in and out of Nick’s Pacific Street Restaurant, Saloon, and Entertainment palace.  We cut a few characters, but long story short, I got to play a boy…

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Willie Faroughli: Marble-game-maniac and ultimate CHAMPION

AND a girl….

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Elsie Mandelspiegel: “A dark, dreaming girl…” Although I look pretty happy backstage.

…within one two-hour play.  My Mom touched my hair wistfully after the show and said, “It was interesting to see what you would’ve looked like if you were a boy…”  Aw comeon, Mom, didn’t you like having a daughter?  Just kidding, I know that you don’t secretly wish I was a boy. …Right?  But I also had one gay dude and two straight girls say that I was hot as a boy.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.  And I tricked my Grandmom completely–my Mom had to tell her who I was.  

But in all seriousness it was actually a really incredible experience.  Willie Faroughli spends almost the entire play onstage playing a pinball game, and Elsie Mandelspiegel has one love scene right in the middle of the play.  So I got to go from this young, driven, focused, ambitious, determined guy with nothing better to do in Depression America than conquer a marble game, to this extremely sensitive, feminine, nurturing, compassionate young woman who sees the tragedy of the Depression.  The experience of going from this incredibly masculine, prideful outlook on life to an incredibly feminine, gentle outlook on life and then back again was actually kind of life-changing.  It was an incredible reminder of why I love acting so much.  The opportunity to explore all these parts of yourself and all these viewpoints on the world.  The opportunity to be explore the masculine and the feminine.  The opportunity to breath life into a character and allow their story to live.  The opportunity to enter a state of communion with the audience and with the other actors.  The opportunity to channel your own ego through the ego of another.  It’s so fucking fun.  By the time we were done with the show I felt like I was ready to do a six month run of it.  But, as my Britt has said, these things are transient, which is part of what makes them beautiful.  

My station backstage.  Starring The Big Dick which my friend lent me as inspiration.  (Don't look at me like that, 3 of these Dicks were juggled onstage in an MFA show last year.)

My station backstage. Starring The Big Dick which my friend lent me as inspiration. (Don’t look at me like that, 3 of these Dicks were juggled onstage in an MFA show last year.)

There are other worlds that I am bidding farewell to now that the semester is winding down.  I’m saying Goodbye to the life of a desperate housewife in Depression America in our black-box studio work on Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty.  I’m saying farewell to Hedda Gabler, Pussy Riot, a Bakersfield Bimbo, and other characters from our work in movement class.  I’m saying See You Later to Chekhov, until tackling that son-of-a-bitch again next semester.  I’m going to miss our film class with the inimitable John Rubinstein,

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Kim Flores, Sedale Threatt, and Michael Bernardi on set for “Revolutionary Road”

I live in Los Angeles, I’m a Master’s Acting student, and I know next to nothing about film.  But I’m working on it! Stage and Screen are two different mediums for the same kind of transformative acting that I’m interested in doing, and the differences between the two are just technical things.  The art form is different, and I’m developing a real itch for it.  My body understands live storytelling, and I want to understanding storytelling through film in the same way.  We are taking two more film classes next semester, so the exploration will continue!

Speaking of transformative, I think the most transformative acting experience of this semester was actually the doing my Solo Performance piece.  Despite the number of roles I’ve explored in the last few months, the experience of going deeper into myself, finding my own story, determining the story that I needed to tell… That experience was life-changing.  And despite it being a “solo performance” experience, it bound together my ensemble irrevocably. We shared pieces of our souls and helped each other shape them into pieces of art, and we culminated in a 90-minute performance during which each of us shared a piece of our solo work.  

But enough about art!  I am on VACATION.  (Which apparently means drinking a lot of booze and thinking about the art that I want to be making.)  In the meantime I am going to figure out how to make gluten-free baked goods, enjoy sweating like a construction worker in December, and kick it with these crazies. 

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Dean, Suzzane, Britt, Dani, and Napoleon.  A Very Ke$ha Christmas 2013

So in honor of being HALFWAY DONE with my MFA in Acting, here is this guy, who was my Muse this semester.  This is what commitment looks like.

OHHHHH WE’RE HALFWAY THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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:

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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.  

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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…

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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