So, here I sit at Noah’s Bagels in Westwood… doing my “pages.”
I detest the west side. Traffic is hell.
Los Angeles…. I want a divorce!
For those of you who haven’t read “The Artists Way,” by Julia Cameron, pages are journal entries where you barf up your guts in type, first thing upon waking to clear the minds’ path for creative flow. I had revisited the book’s exercise recently.
Unfortunately, I don’t spring out of bed like I did when I was twenty-two. My page writing begins after I drop my son off at the bus stop, and before Pilates, when I park myself at Starbucks, or anywhere else that I can find a cup of caffeine and an internet connection.
In my pages, I was reflecting on a seminar I had attended the night before hosted by renowned acting coach, Robert Davanzo and Jenna Fischer from the TV show “The Office.” I arrived ten minutes late. I had to enter through the back of the theatre which, damn it, faced the audience. This put me in the position of having to walk across the stage, where Robert and Jenna were perched in front of about 55 attentive actors.
I inadvertently became Act One, as the audience giggled at Jenna’s quick witted quip.
“Well, how dare you, for interrupting?” she teased with a wink and a smile.
As my face turned beat red, I apologized for being tardy.
Since when did I start using the word tardy? It’s an old lady word. I must have picked it up from those computer generated “bad parent” letters I got from my son’s elementary school days.
Perhaps the reason I reluctantly came to the seminar is because I didn’t know how I would feel being in a crowd full of former “me’s.” Here I was facing twenty-somethings with hope in their eyes, and dreams of seeing their names immortalized in the stars on Hollywood Boulevard. I had my legal pad and pen out to take notes.
Jenna was telling us that we have to be self-centered and ambitious to make it in this town. We have to tell ourselves we are unstoppable!
I could so relate.
Precisely the reason I reached out to Robert Davanzo was part of a personal mission to re-discover the self-centered actress in me. It is not a desirable quality in most job descriptions, but you really do need to be into yourself to make it as an actor. As an actor, you are your own instrument. A painter has a canvas; a musician has a guitar…an actor has him or herself.
Jenna Fischer, was curious. “Who has been in Los Angeles one year?
Who more than two? Raise your hands.
You are starting to feel discouraged now, right? Anyone been here more than five?
Ten years? You cry every day,” she joked.
“Fifteen?” Two people raised their hands.
Then she asked “Anyone more than 20?”
I raised my hand and, out of sheer mortification, I blurted out, “Don’t feel too sorry for me. I haven’t been trying to act the whole time. I’ve had other things going on. I had a baby!”
Jenna and Robert agreed that if you have a passion for acting you should never give up, even if you have been at it for 20 years. I shrunk in my seat.
Then I wonder…Have I turned into “mid-life crisis Mom” or do I still love acting? I need to find out if the person I was before I became a mom was still there, somewhere inside of me.
As Jenna lifted the spirits of the crowd by telling us, “You don’t need everyone to believe in you, just one or two people”…my life as an actress flashed before my eyes.
My mind wandered to the former agents and managers I’d been represented by, otherwise known as “believers” in me. All dead or retired now.
I was glancing around the room, feeling ridiculous for being as hopeful as the hopefuls, if that makes any sense.
Pretending to be taking notes, I penned the words “I feel old and I have to pee.”
Jenna told us amusing stories about her struggle to stardom. She was very open and charming. Part of her story was “The Artists Way.”
Call it kismet. Call it coincidence. But how did Jenna, who doesn’t know me from Adam, know that I just resumed “The Artists Way” after a 20 year hiatus?
What was the message here? Did I know her in a past-life? Was Jenna channeling one of my spiritual guides?
She asked how many of us had done “The Artists Way.” Five of the fifty-five raised our hands.
“How many of you have finished it?” she asked.
None of us.
Was the divine universe reaching out to me? My twenty-two year old self would have thought so. But my forty something self was saying “Hey, why didn’t you finish the f’n book, you dummy?!”
Nevertheless, I was entranced by the story Jenna was telling about how finishing the book changed her life. I aspired to finish it myself.
As Jenna started telling us about balancing her children with her acting career, I began to relax and relate. I felt like I belonged for about ten minutes before I began trembling.
I always say “parenthood is like signing up for a lifetime of all worry and guilt.” True to my theory, I had visions of a ladder…the one that leads to the not so secret Playboy magazine stash in the attic. My son climbs up to reach for Miss August and slips to his demise.
I was hoping no one saw my rude reach for my phone, but I needed to confirm that I wouldn’t be coming home to find my son lying on the floor with a broken neck. I tell myself that great acting comes from people with great imaginations. Maybe I am going to be a better actress now than ever, since motherhood has turned me crazy.
According to Jenna, all artists should be a little crazy, so it’s all good if I am. However, after thirteen years of motherhood, I don’t remember how to be self-centered.
This personal mission to find my former self came from the fact that my son doesn’t need me 24 hours a day anymore. It’s a part of motherhood that no one warned me about, no one ever told me I would have time for me ever again, and I didn’t know what to do with it.
As I recalled a recent conversation between my son and my friend Elena, I finally realized that I need not analyze myself any longer. Elena relayed the conversation to me that she had with my son.
She asked him, “Do you have a favorite actor or actress?” He replied, “I don’t have a favorite actor, but I have do have a favorite actress, my mother.”
Jenna was right.
I don’t need everyone to believe in me … only one or two, and if my son says I am bankable, well, then I have to agree with him.
So, that makes two!
I’ve decided to use my new found free time to delegate my love…as in, give some to myself from now on.
Check out www.carriestevens.net and www.infamousfudge.com
So, here I sit at Noah’s Bagels in Westwood… doing my “pages.” I detest the west side. Traffic is hell. Los Angeles…. I want a divorce! For those of you who haven’t read “The Artists Way,” by Julia Cameron, pages are journal entries where you barf up your guts in type, first thing upon waking […]