Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Victory Groove or Throw Your Heart Over the Bar

On my morning walks I love to listen to inspirational audio books. I feel like it is a kind of brain washing--a good kind. I overwhelm any negative and/or anxious thoughts with positive ones. I find that for my daily “treatment”, the sweeter and cornier the book the better. My current favorite is Norman Vincent Peale reading from an abridged version of his classic “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Here is an excerpt:

“A famous Trapeze artist was instructing his students how to perform on the high trapeze bar. Finally, having given full explanations and instruction in this skill, he told them to demonstrate their ability.

One student, looking up at the insecure perch upon which he must perform, was suddenly filled with fear. He had a terrifying vision of himself falling to the ground. He couldn’t move a muscle, so deep was his fright. ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do it!’ he gasped.

The instructor put his arm around the boy’s shoulder and said, “Son, you can do it, and I will tell you how.” Then he made a statement which is of inestimable importance. It is one of the wisest remarks I have ever heard. He said, ‘Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.’…

Heart is the symbol of creative activity. Fire the heart with where you want to go and what you want to be. Get it fixed so deeply in your unconscious that you will not take no for an answer…’Throw your heart over the bar’ means to throw your affirmation over every barrier, throw your visualization over your obstacles. In other words, throw the spiritual essence of you over the bar and your material self will follow in the victory groove thus pioneered by your faith inspired mind. Expect the best, not the worst and you will attain your heart’s desire.”

____Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking.

“The victory groove”…love it. Sounds like a Beat Poem. This book was written in 1952. Check it out…

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Post "House" post (finally!)

A week ago I had the pleasure of doing a guest star role on the fabulous television show House.

It was great. The producers, director and the regular actors did their best to make me and the other guest actors feel welcome, from the table-read through the shoot. Just a wonderful experience.

House has a table-read (a read-through of the entire script with the full cast) before each weeks episodes filming begins. This is usual in half-hour comedy but not so much in one-hour. The pace of one-hour television shoots is usually too intense. In fact the actors on House give up their lunch hour to do the table-read. It is nice to have the opportunity for a read-through because you get a feeling of the flow of the show. And speaking for myself, it really helps create a feeling of ensemble. I feel like I am a part of the process of the whole show rather than just a gun-for-hire coming in for a day or two to shoot my scenes, often never even meeting the other actors on that weeks episode.

One of my students asked me how the regular actors performed at the table read---he asked if they were at “performance level”. He assumed that the guest actors would be because they could easily be replaced, but wondered about the regulars. The regular actors on House gave as much at this reading as the guests. In my experience most actors do. I think they realize how important is for everyone to get a real sense of the script. Especially the writers. There will often be re-writes after the table read. Especially in half-hour where the script changes sometimes after every run-through.

When I do a guest role on a show I really look at it like I am a guest in someone’s home. If I am invited for dinner I don't complain about the food, I don’t tell my hosts how they should rearrange their furniture. Likewise, on a set, I don’t change my lines--I learn them “word-perfect”, I show up on time. I know that if I am a gracious guest, I may be invited back. This was a great “House” to visit, the “hosts” were incredibly warm and gracious, I would love to visit again…

FYI: my episode is the first of the new season. It will air in the Fall.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

House MD

I finished filming my role on "House" at 3am Saturday morning! I had a fantastic time. Will post details soon.

Friday, May 2, 2008


“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”—Seneca

I’ve had a string of good luck lately. I’ve gone from acting job to job for the last couple of months—did a pilot for a web series called In2iton, the episode of Two and a Half Men (read below) and now I am doing House M.D. It feels absolutely wonderful to be working and I am so grateful. For each of these jobs there were at least five other women who could have done the role as well as I, but I was lucky in that I matched the producers and/or directors visions for these roles. But I wouldn’t have been lucky had I not performed to the best of my ability at each of these auditions.

Before I booked these roles there were several auditions that I didn’t book. My auditions for those roles were just as strong as these last few. It’s not like suddenly I have changed—suddenly I have discovered some kind of booking “trick” or “formula” or “right” way to audition. Well, actually I am doing the one booking “trick” that I teach—the one I have always used in my thirty-year-plus career as a professional actor—the one “booking formula” that gives you the best shot at getting the job. Do great work. Always act to the best of your ability every time you get the chance to put your work out there.

Now I know that this probably sounds obvious, but believe me it’s not. I was talking to a Talent manager friend today and he shared with me a story about a client. This is a client who doesn’t often get a shot at series regular roles and my manager friend was thrilled that he was able to get this client an appointment for a regular role on a top series. He emailed the client the appointment and the sides two weeks ago and then today, the day of the audition, the client calls the office and says, “I can’t open the attachment that contains the sides.” My manager friend said he was absolutely speechless. He is considering dropping the client.

A few times a year I bring in a working professional from the entertainment industry into my Acting Studio for a seminar. I have a dear friend who is a top Talent manager, and she agreed to do a Q & A and then let my students read for her. I thought this would be a great opportunity for them to hone their audition skills in a safe environment and get their work seen at the same time. I pulled scenes from TV and Film for each student—doing my best to tailor them to each student’s strengths and I gave them the material a week before the she came out for the visit. The night of the seminar I found out that at least half of them had barely looked at the material!

When I was in classes when I was a young actor, if an industry guest came out and I had the chance to have my work seen I always did everything I could to make sure my work was as good as I could possibly make it. I was shocked when so many of my regular students didn’t’ do the same. I knew these students. Most of them had been with me several months--even several years. I knew they were hard workers, so what could explain their apparent laziness? And then I realized, it looked like laziness—but it wasn’t—it was fear.

Fear has many disguises: It can show up in the form of not putting enough time into preparation for auditions; not dressing appropriately; not keeping your PR tools (photos, demos, etc.) up-to-date; missing class; resisting direction; or being late for professional appointments. Recently I suffered from this last one myself. For a while last year I just could not seem to show up on time for my auditions. After a few weeks of this, I took a hard look at my behavior. And I realized that I was sub-consciously withholding from really doing my best at my auditions. I hadn’t booked in awhile and I was feeling frustrated, so, like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, I was acting out by being late. But of course the only person being hurt by my tantrum was me.

If I pulled my punches, if I didn’t give my all, I was not really putting myself completely on the line. If I didn’t play full out--to the best of my ability--and got rejected, a part of me could think, well, I didn’t really show my best, so therefore it’s not a complete rejection, if I show my best and don’t get the part—that really hurts. But of course that was wrong thinking.

For me the worst feeling is when I have a chance and I don’t grab it. When I don’t make the best of each and every opportunity. Of course it hurts when I give it my all and don’t get the role, but at least I gave it my best shot. I can live with that. When I don’t do my best, that’s what eats away at my soul. So, I have to be willing to go out there and put myself on the line, over and over again for as long as it takes. And then of course, I may get lucky