Career Day/Facebook Posting/2nd Theatre Class

25 09 2015

Career Day:

A friend of mine – who now teaches high school – invited me to call in to talk to her class.  They wanted to ask questions of all different kinds of folks from different career paths.  A genius idea, I think!

They asked very insightful questions, and I found – as I usually do – how many misconceptions there are about being an actor/the life of an actor/the financial circumstances of an actor.  So here are their questions, and my answers.

“What is your typical day on set like?” Usually a 12 hour day.  If it is a day shoot, we are arriving around 5:30am or 6:30am, and we work till 5:30pm or 6:30pm.  There is a lot of waiting.  But when it is time to GO you need to be INSTANTLY ON.  If it is a night shoot, we usually arrive on set around sunset, and stay through the night till the sun comes up.

“How did you get ‘discovered’, and what was your path to that discovery?”  I started acting when I was 10 years old.  My first movie was a bit part in FLETCH LIVES, but I was in plays starting at 10.  I did Speech & Debate, and all kinds of professional and school theatre throughout MIddle & High School.  I got a BA in acting and then my MFA.  I was doing a play in New Orleans, and an actress I was in the play with – Lara Grice – told me I should really get into film & tv acting.  I told her I thought I was ‘too weird looking’ for film.  But she was kind enough to introduce me to her agent. I booked the very first job I auditioned for.  But truly, The Walking Dead is the break-out moment for my career.  And I will be 40 next year.  So…. 30 years.”

“What is the typical salary for an actor?”  There is a misconception that actors are all extremely wealthy.  In the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), only the top 2% of actors are really making the big bucks.  Your Julia Roberts, and Tom Hanks, etc.  The majority of the rest of the actors you see, for the most part, make “scale” on the projects they work on.  Scale right now is in the neighborhood of $850/day, and $3500/week.  Which sounds like a lot, and it is – but remember, not many actors work 365 days a year.  Most of us end up working 4-5 months out of the year – not by choice, by casting.  So, you can do that math.  It is not a profession you get into to get rich.  You do it because you love the craft.

“What would you do if a director asked you to do something that was morally disagreeable to you?”  It is all about context for me.  Nudity – context.  Is the nudity necessary?  Does it tell the story?  Then YES.  Is it to make fun of someone in a mean way, or just to have boobs on screen?  Then NO.  Subject matter – context.  Does the subject matter intrigue me, and ultimately stretch me as an artist to use my God-given gift?  Then YES.  Does the subject matter have no redeeming quality or present no challenge to me as an artist?  Then NO.

I thought their questions were awesome.


Piggy-backing on this career day experience, I had a rather un-delightful experience last week on Facebook…. imagine that.

A few caveats:

  • I am not Julia Roberts or Tom Hanks, and am just beginning to have a career that is viable.
  • I do free demo reel work for actor friends of mine all the time.
  • I do free teaching, reduced fee teaching, and all kinds of other charitable work related to my profession – which I have studied and earned two degrees in

So – I posted on Facebook about my need for someone to do make-up for me for THE WALKING DEAD premiere, which I will be doing this October.  I promised to give red carpet pics, Twitter credit, etc.  At no point did I say it would be free, but I suppose that could be implied.  I am certainly looking for something less expensive than the $300 a session (PLUS!) fees I was seeing in NYC.  Why do I need a reduced fee/free makeup help?  See the above caveats.

Add to the above caveats the following:

  • I am a mommy of two kids, one of whom I have to PAY FOR school for
  • I own a home
  • I live in a flood zone… insurance is a you-know-what

A friend of mine responded to my post by tagging a makeup artist friend of hers who lives in NYC.  Let’s call her AMANDA MAKEUP.  Amanda Makeup proceeded to respond – on my wall – about how belittling it was to her profession to ask for free makeup work.  She did go on for quite some time, in a very mean fashion.  I replied, “Thank you for bringing up this issue, I agree with you in certain situations.  If you would like to private message me, I would be happy to share my particular story/circumstances with you so that perhaps you can understand why I am asking at this point in my career.”  Her response was to say that she didn’t think a private message was needed.  Again, she said I was “devaluing” her profession, and that red carpet pics were nothing unless I was a Kardashian, etc.  WOW.

So, I deleted her comments, and I blocked her.  On Facebook and Twitter.

Because here is the thing.  She doesn’t know me at all.  She took an opportunity to bash me on my board, without knowing anything about my specific circumstances.  It was a real turn-off.  I hope if I am ever in this same place, I react lovingly.  And if I don’t, I hope I am open to gentle reminders.


Lastly, I taught my second Kindergarten-2nd grade theatre class at my son’s school today.  It is a 2 hour class.  I can tell you this:

K-2nd Grade Theatre Class teaching is NOT for the faint of heart.  But it IS good for the soul.

Afterwards, I feel tired – but accomplished.  I feel like I am being given an unprecedented opportunity to pay forward the gift I was given from my teachers through the years.

When we sit in a circle at the end of class, and I ask everyone what their favorite part of class was – and everyone loved a DIFFERENT part of class… it just makes my heart swell.


First Day Teaching

11 09 2015

Today I began teaching theatre class (after school) at my kid’s school in New Orleans.  It is a curriculum I am designing, and they will be doing an adaptation of several of Shel Silverstein’s poems from WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS.

The last time I taught elementary level drama classes was right after I got my MFA, and I taught Kindergarten – 5th grade drama once a week at a Catholic school in Queens.

I can remember, in a very visceral way, exactly how overwhelmed I felt about that teaching job.  I had never taught such little kids.  I was fresh out of grad school, having done some wild and esoteric theatre over the summer at THE BERKSHIRE THEATRE FESTIVAL, and having completed an internship with LONG WHARF THEATRE – where I got to act alongside some theatre greats – JEFFERSON MAYS (who won the Tony for I AM MY OWN WIFE) and FRANK WOODS (who won the Tony for SIDEMAN).

But I felt majorly out of my league teaching these little ones.

And I felt that again today.  BUT, the difference was, I didn’t feel AFRAID.  I felt like I would figure it out.  I have kids of my own now, and so know better how to negotiate and redirect.  I am so much less afraid to make things a work in progress at this stage of my life – whereas back then, I felt I had to know everything.  I was afraid to not know everything.

I want to try and blog about this teaching experience, along with other aspects of my career over the next several months – as I think it is time to take stock again.

SO – to sum up – here is what I learned today:

  1.  You must run little children like horses first, if you expect them to focus on theatre after a long day at school.  Next week – we shall run them ragged!
  2.  As much as it hurts to do so, you have to be pretty strict on the first day of class, to establish your role as the authority figure.  I definitely utilized time-outs, and talks, and as much as I hated to make a couple kids sad, I think it was necessary for a good start to the semester.
  3. Although the world would have you believe that all our kids are TV and video game zombies, this is not the case.  The sense of wonder I encountered, as I helped my littlest ones read through SARAH STOUT by Shel Silverstein, was enchantment at it’s best.
  4. I don’t care if the play is “good”.

Let me clarify that last one – of course we will practice, and do our best.  But it is lovely to not care about product as much as I used to, and care more about the experience.  I have so much to learn!  Talk soon!DreamPlay