Thursday, December 30, 2010

"I don't believe in God, I believe in Al Pacino"

That's what Spanish actor Javier Bardem said.  Provocative, yes, and he made a brilliant point.  He also talked about committing to roles 100% and putting yourself aside to ensure the character you're portraying is completely expressed.  Check out the interview.  The man is a true artist.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Keep Your Eyes Open

It's important to have representation.   This article on Tamara Tunie's allegedly being ripped off (to the tune of over a million dollars!) is a reminder that no matter who you hire, you have to keep your eyes open.  This actress has been working steadily for decades (As The World Turns, Law & Order SVU), she's made the career we'd all kill for and stayed in NYC (the best city on the planet!) doing it, winning praise all along the way.  She did everything right....  And still she's been victimized.  We, artists, love to get lost in the world of creativity and ignore boring/labyrinthian finance matters, so long as the bills are getting paid and we've got fun money.  That doesn't work.  Like Snoop, you've got to keep your mind on money and your money on your mind...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What was I saying about mentors....? Exhibit A:

Anthony Mackie photographed for Interview Magazine
I love Anthony Mackie's success story: the power of good mentorship, trusting your talent in the face of challengers, and picking smart projects. Read or listen here for free. It's great to see him rising and it's awesome to see a different kind of Black story told on film. Go see "Night Catches Us"!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stage Managing in Between Gigs

A few weeks ago, I wasn't able to make it to an audition, but something told me that I should offer my services behind the scenes, just to stay involved and keep busy.  Sure enough, the Director was happy for the extra help and I am now working as Stage Manager on Harlem on My Mind produced by Xoregos Performing Company.  This could be a great strategic move for actors between jobs.  I'm staying connected, working on an interesting project, networking, and learning new skills (graphic design for a postcards, for example)...  This was definitely a good gamble, whether I get cast in their future productions or not!

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to ruin a good thing

I freaked out.  I like the guy, he likes me, but it's new so we're not exclusive.  And that started to get to me.  I should have let that go, but I couldn't.  I began to imagine him going out with other women and it made me so angry/hurt that I stood him up for our last date.  Which, of course, is self-sabotage.  Now, I've jeopardized the whole thing.  Great.  And for nothing!  He's a sweet man and nothing else mattered this early in the game.
I need a smack.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mentors - Get One!

Mentor c/o Rediff

Whew.  Been a minute since I've posted.  All I can say is that I've fallen in love with an incredible man* and the giddiness has distracted me!  

Now, I'm back and I want to talk about what it means to have a mentor.  As actors, we live and practice our profession in little bubbles of self-centeredness interrupted by the odd class and/or gig.  That internal focus is important to our development and understanding of others, it also serves the inner shyness many of us have.  I recently learned the power of reaching out to another actor for career guidance.  I needed new monologues and rather than doing my usual internet troll, I decided to ask an actor friend who I greatly admire to give me a couple of recommendations.  And, boy, did he come through!  Yeah, that seems like a simple thing, but we actors actually don't reach out to each other enough.  Too often we toil alone and only come out to compete.  This was my lesson.  Having a trusted guide in the trenches with you is a great confidence booster.  Now, it's my turn to pay it forward.  Community spirit!

*Guess what?  It's the guy who I thought had rejected me back in October! always surprises...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Positive Thinking - And Follow Up Work

This is kinda freaky - in a good way.  On Friday, I did a little personal affirmation chant that I would book a commercial job this week.  Then I submitted to a couple of casting listings in Back Stage.  Right away, I got invited in for a Tuesday audition.  This afternoon, I got the call that I booked the gig!  ...if it could only be this easy all the time...  ;-)
Magic?  Not quite.  Affirmative thinking, focused marketing and preparation.  Thanks, Coach!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Folly of Meet-the-Agent Events

Actors get so much advice from people in "the industry".  One of the standards is "Go to those meet-the-agent events, they're great for networking!"  These events for which agents and casting directors are paid to attend and for which actors are charged a fee, are big business in NYC.  In L.A., they're illegal, but folks get around that by presenting the events as "workshops".
It always smelled funny to me to pay someone for the honor of being in their presence and the actor testimonials were just never convincing.  There was just too little evidence of real partnerships building from these.  Still, we're encouraged to spend our cash in hopes that the magical moment will happen there for us.
I was considering coughing up another couple hundred bucks for one of these, when I read an article in Back Stage today that knocked the sense back into me.  Basically, Michael Kostroff, writer of the "Working Actor" column, suggests that paying money to meet people only makes you look pathetic.  Right on!  Finally, some common sense!
The best way to network (besides performing your ass off!) is to use connections you already have and/or socialize with the people you want to work with.  No pay to play!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Good to be Scared!

So, in this funk that I'm in, I got in a conversation with an old friend.  (Soooo helpful to have people in my life who have known me since before I got all angsty and confused.)  Mike's been fam since grade school.  and we've stayed constant through continental moves, family crises, colossal failure and modest success.  I love that and I love him for remaining grounded and honest.
Anyway, I was doing my woe-is-me spiel, when he cut me short and asked me why I chose acting.  I gave my usual response about escaping myself, but he pressed me.  Had I just picked something that sounded good, or was I looking for personal growth?  Why?  Then he told me about a seasoned jazz singer who'd told him that she's still unsure everyday what she wants to do or who to be.  She doesn't perform out of love.  She literally performs to scare herself - to push herself passed her own boundary.  In that way, performing becomes an activity that truly serves her.  That got to me.  And the Mike challenged me to try that: Take one project at a time - one day at a time - without commitment to anything more than learning something about yourself; to simply choose to scare myself for the edification, and then decide whether to try again the next day or not.
That's radical thinking for me.  I assumed I had to love this.  It's a whole different ball game to think it's ok, and even good, for it to scare me!  So tomorrow, I'm scaring myself by pushing past anything I've done before - and I won't look any further into the future than that.  Oh, boy.

identity crisis #.... who knows?....

this has been a tough week.  been in a funk.  chalking it up the recent personal rejection combined with some disappointment with my own slacking on the career front.  as an artist, you need to constantly be creating.  the minute you stop the action, you lose the identity, right?  and then what/who are you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Afro Work

I'm tired of my high-maintenance afro.  I'm transitioning from relaxed to natural hair.  It's so gratifying to be 100% me - no straighteners, no weaves.  And I love the DIY fun of concocting my own moisturizers and conditioners to keep this whole natural theme going.  But I'm not used to "doing" my hair everyday - spritzing, wrapping, co-washing...  Why can't I just wake up and effortlessly look like this...?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How To Be Alone

Been spending a lot of time home alone lately, so I've hit that point where you start to wonder whether you're just alone or seriously lonely.  The other day I was teetering toward the latter then I saw this video and it made me smile.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Old Time Radio

I have to confess that despite living in a world of 3D tv, interactive motion-sensitive video games, virtual reality and hi-def everything... my favorite entertainment at home, besides dancing around my living room, is listening to radio stories from the 1940s and '50s.  I feel like a senior citizen just saying that.  But these stories performed on low-tech, with one guy making all the movement sounds and a couple of actors performing into a mic with the script in their hands, are just so well-written and well-acted that they stand the test of time.   In fact, they beat our modern, overly stimulating, hyperactive, digital entertainment any day!  So for my afternoon break, I'm about to turn on an episode of "Suspense" from the Relic Radio podcast...  So relaxing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On taking risks

Met a cool guy.  He noticed me.  We flirted.  A crush was developing.  I could feel myself slipping down the rabbit hole of fantasy without any confirmation of his intention.  So for the first time ever, I broke out of my shell and asked him flat out if he might be interested in getting to know me.  ....Haven't heard from him since.

It was terrifying to put myself out there like that.  But I'm so glad I did.  I feel stronger and braver.  

What's weird is that I'd prepared for "Yes!" or "No...", but the silence caught me off guard.  Had to remind myself that no answer is also an answer: NO.

The beat goes on...

Epilogue:  he got back to me 2 days later to say he's not available.  *sigh*

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Got a Coach!

An actress friend of mine in Los Angeles turned me on to Dallas Travers.  Just went to my first class with her and I'm hooked.  She's got a proven method and a philosophy that aligns with all my personal and professional goals.  I'm so excited!

check her website to buy her book or sign up with her!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Website is live!

I feel so professional now! hooked me up with a beautiful site that showcases Peter Hurley Studios' photography and my humble credits.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Gig: "Better Left Unsaid?"

Tomorrow, I'll be playing a single lesbian trying to adopt a child in a cold reading of Joey Brenneman's play "Better Left Unsaid?". That'll be two lesbian roles in a row for me. Ha! But I'm not complaining - it's always good to be working.
The playwright confused my name with my email address so when I picked up the script, it was addressed to "Nicole Gray". And I kinda like that....has a good ring to it. (Certainly better than my crazy last name!). Time for a new stage name?

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Need a Coach

I'm watching a documentary on the basketball coach, Bob Hurley, at St. Anthony's and it's making me think about the power of outside force.  It's not just talent that makes success, it's the push.  Some people carry that drive within, but most of us need prodding all along the way.  And the people who do that, for no glory, are fiery angel/devils.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

First Manhattan, Then Berlin

Am I seriously considering moving to Berlin?  I definitely need a change of scenery.  Part of me wants to run away from some complicated personal s*%# here.  Another part of me loves adventure and the freedom of starting over.  And a third part of me thinks it would be a smart career move.  But I wondered how I could want to leave NYC, the greatest city on Earth.  Then I heard old Leonard Cohen singing "First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin". That was like a sign.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gig: S/He

Last week I performed in a staged reading of a new play called "S/He" by Nick Mwaluko.  Great cast and great producers - Mixed Phoenix.  Getting this part was a huge success for me because I was invited to audition for a supporting character, but I really wanted a shot at the lead.  The director reluctantly gave me a chance so I poured myself into preparation for the audition.  Then, stupidly, I got my wisdom teeth removed two hours before the audition.  (What was I thinking?)  I really thought the numbness would subside in time.  Of course, it didn't but there was only one shot at the audition, so, totally numb from the nose down and bleeding, I went anyway and delivered my performance in the voice of Elmer Fudd.  Shockingly, I got it!  Lesson:  Show up and give everything you've got; talent shines through all obstacles.
Anyway, the play is an edgy piece about a transgender woman transitioning from female to male.  The writing is raw, confrontational, and touching.  Nick Mwaluko is in the Public Theater's Emerging Writers Group.  Wish him much success!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oprah had to shave her head once, too!

I'm still struggling with my short hair so it was comforting to learn that even the mighty Oprah once lost all her hair her at the hands of an overzealous stylist, too.  Check her video explaining the disaster - here.

Hers grew back long, strong and thick.  So can mine. 
Thanks for the inspiration.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lessons from the internet dating game

I'm not even close to the halfway mark of my goal, but I've gone on enough internet dates now to learn a few things:
1.  The internet is for practice only.  Really meeting people has to happen in real life in real circumstances.  The internet is just a great tool to sharpen your dating skills.
2.  Meet up quickly.  No use investing time and energy in endless emails/IMs/texts, then meeting up and finding out there's no real physical chemistry there.
3.  Keep the first date short.  Meet up for a happy hour drink and leave within 1.5 hours.  Then meet up with friends.  If he never calls back you won't feel like you've wasted time and if he is interested, you've left him wanting more.  Capping the time also helps you avoid awkward intimacy issues that come up when you hang out until the wee hours (kiss or no kiss, touch or no touch...  all this should be saved for another date).
4.  Drinking is ok (it loosens you up), just keep to a 2 drink limit (don't get too loose).
5.  Dress your absolute best.  Show off whatever figure assets you've got. (Tastefully, of course!)  You are definitely being judged on how you look - that's reality.
6.  Do something empowering before the date.  Workout, pay a debt, beat a challenge, whatever....  Your confidence will be boosted and whatever flaws you're self-conscious about will feel more under control.
7.  Keep the conversation positive and interesting.  Talk about your passions.
8.  Don't talk about past relationships, your job, things you detest...  Nobody wants to hear all that the first time they meet you.
9.  Remember what your Mama said, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything at all."  So watch what you say and pay attention to what he says.  Beware of dubious compliments like "You're cute" or "Your look is really earthy"...  A real compliment from a guy comes in the way he would brag about you to his friends, "She's beautiful" or "She's gorgeous"... not "She's got an interesting style"..."
10.  Even great dates can result in nothing.  People are good actors.  You can have an awesome date, he can tell you he's had a great time and looks forward to seeing you again, but then you never hear from him again.  It happens.  And we do that to guys sometimes, too.  So enjoy the date for what it is, an opportunity to meet a new person and have a quick drink - nothing more.
11.  Profile photos:  Post pics that others have taken of you; too many of the self-portrait "arm-out" shots gets weird.  Don't post pics with your ex cut-out or blacked-out (that just screams psycho).  If your weight is up and down, post pics showing you both ways; that way nobody's unpleasantly surprised.  No more than one picture should be shirtless (what are you actually selling?).  Photos showing you doing you favorite activities are great; so are shots showing you with your friends - it shows you have a life.
12.  Pay attention.  The majority of communication is non-verbal.  Tune in.  You'll learn more about your date and yourself that way.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tiny Apartment Design

I've been obsessed with Ron Marvin's apartment design ever since I saw it on Apartment Therapy's 2007 Smallest Coolest Apartment contest.  It's seriously inspirational how elegant he's made 300 tiny square feet look...


Friday, February 26, 2010

Why I will always answer my phone now

German Speed Skater Misses Olympic Competition Because He Didn't Answer His Cell Phone

Patrick  Beckert missed a shot Olympic medal.  Poor kid went shopping after his coaches advised him not to go to the arena because there'd be no chance that, as a 4th alternate, he'd be called on.  What's up with these coaching mistakes?  The Dutch skater's coach advises a foul lane-change and now this? 
The lesson here is follow your instinct (Beckert repeatedly asked to go to the arena, but was told not to) and answer every call because it could change your life.


Friday, February 5, 2010

p.s.  I was temporarily seduced by the iPad's price, but regained my senses.  I will not be adding it to my tech family.  And as for the State of the Union, i liked seeing the Supreme Court justice getting indignant and the high ranking military guy standing up to applaud the idea of ending Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple v. Obama

                                                                         Possible Apple slate image from Engadget.

I can't decide which of the events expected later today is less underwhelming: Apple's new product announcement or the President's first State of the Union address. The only thing interesting about the State of the Union event is the ceremonial pomp and circumstance in the Senate and whatever Apple comes out with won't be affordable (for me) for 2 years.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Best company when you're sick

...he's camera shy...but he's still the best entertainment you can have while stuck at home (he's all wide eyed here because he's just been stalking his fish toy).

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Yesterday, an earthquake of over 7 on the Richter Scale hit Haiti.  We all know that now.  But what can we do?  How can we help?  Everybody can't pick up and run there to offer a hand.  Prayer is great, but it isn't enough.  Here is a list of easy things we can do RIGHT NOW to give resources to programs that are already on the ground in Haiti:

1. Red Cross - make a donation on the website or text the word "HAITI" to the tel # 90999, an automatic $10 donation will be made to the Red Cross' earthquake emergency response fund.
2.  Support Doctors Without Borders.  They work in 3 free hospitals in and around the capital, serving the slum areas and shanty towns that have been completely destroyed by the quake.  Make a donation on their website or volunteer in any of their offices to support logistics.
3.  Support Partners in Health.  By teaming up with Haitian doctors and nurses they've been able to provide free and permanent health care in remote communities since 1987.  Make a donation on their website AND do this simple thing:  add a supportive signature to your email via Reply For All which will make a small donation to Partners in Health every time an email is sent with this signature.  Instructions are here.
4.  Contact your local Goodwill or Salvation Army to see if they are donating supplies to Haiti.  Many are (and more will, if we ask).
5.  Yele - This is artist Wyclef Jean's non-profit organization providing community service in Port-au-Prince.  Send a text with the word "Yele" to the tel # 510 510 which will result in an automatic donation of $5 do the organization.

And of course, we should support the standard organizations that have been there for decades:  UNICEF, WORLD VISION, SAVE THE CHILDREN.  

There's so much more, but we can all do these things TODAY for a start.

Haiti map courtesy of Lonely Planet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 2 - The Master Cleanse

Yesterday, I started the The Master Cleanse (daily "lemonade" fast of lemons, water, cayenne pepper and maple syrup followed by nightly salt water flushes) .  This is my first time and my will power's too weak to make it through the 10 day standard, so I'll only do 5.  First of all, let me say that I caved a little yesterday - not badly, though, and I got right back on track afterwards.  The cravings were just making me delirious.  Today, however, my resistance is already a lot higher and the cravings are a lot less powerful.  As for my body's reaction to this cleanse.  Let's just say Day 1 was followed by a rocky night.  This thing is not pretty.  I'm quarantining myself to a work-home-yoga regimen for the duration.  Good Lord...

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Freshman 15 - in my Junior Year

When my skinny jeans wouldn't come up my thighs, I thought things were bad.  When my fat jeans were tight, I knew things were out of control .  The scale confirmed it Saturday: I've put on 13 lbs since November (and probably 15% more fat).  Unacceptable.  What happened?  I let cheese back into my life for all the holidays (damn!), but more importantly, I just stopped moving - completely.  I cut out all exercise to make time for schoolwork.  So I was sitting at work all day, then sitting at home all night.  Result: Fat and flabbiness. Yikes.  So I'm jumping back into my regimen and I've teamed up with a friend, to keep us both motivated.  Starting tonight, we'll hit yoga class twice a week.  And, looks like I'll have to go back to a gym membership so I can squeeze in an early morning spin class and get into the sauna a couple times a week.  These thighs will not be rubbing together by Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blog Love: Nappy Sexy Fly

 Image of one of the stunning natural hair models posted on NappySexyFly

While doing my daily inspirational read of BGLH this morning, I got introduced to a fierce and fiery blog on natural hair called NappySexyFly.  From Ayoka's story of her daughter's beautiful hair, to her scathing review of the film Precious, to her poetry, this blog woke me up.  Best part was reading her account of the "scalpgasm" she had as her husband massaged her head.  That was the single best argument ever made against weaves - makes me want to rip these bangs out now (and find a beautiful man to make my own head tingle)!
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