Taking Advantage of a “Career Lull”: Using My Words

What do I have in common with Steve Martin, Tina Fey, James Franco, and Andrew McCarthy? We’re actors who are also writers. You read that correctly, Andrew McCarthy is, in fact, a writer. He’s an award-winning travel writer. Check out some of his stuff on National Geographic Traveler. Now, I’m not talking about actors who all of the sudden want to “write” their memoirs, and get a ghost writer to do it for them. I’m talking about people with actual skills, who do their own writing. As a matter of fact, Tina Fey and Steve Martin actually STARTED OUT as WRITERS. I’m guessing they did it while they were pursuing acting as well, due to the fact that they are in both realms of the industry. Granted, there are those actors who have also written screenplays or stage plays, and blogs,  but that’s a different type of article all together.

I started acting when I was around the age of 8, maybe 9.  But I started making up stories as soon as I could talk. I even had an imaginary friend when I was 5 who I would tell my stories to. Her name was Jinglelyn, and again, I was 5. When I actually learned to read and write, writing took a back seat to performing onstage. I had found my passion for storytelling on stage. And I loved it. It’s my first love. Telling stories, no matter what shape or form, is what I love.

What I find funny now, is the fact that my parents kept giving me journals on my birthdays or Christmas, and I never really used them. I wasn’t really a “dear diary” type of girl anyways. It seemed sort of silly to recount my day on paper. I started writing short stories and plays, and when I got to high school, I helped start up the creative writing club at my all-girls, Catholic high school. I wrote stories, parts of novels I was working on, and seriously wanted to become a writer and an actor when I grew up. I was involved in anything creative. I sang in choirs, acted in the school plays and wrote stories. My English teacher even gave me a writing award my junior year of high school.  When I got to college, I majored in English because I love the element of story-telling, plot and characters. I thought it would help in the acting realm because I was able to learn about the different things that make up a good story. It was sort of like four years of script-analysis. I acted throughout college, even directed. My senior year of college, I got my first headshots and auditioned at my first major theater convention, which led to moving to NYC to study at Circle in the Square Theater School.

Within these past six years, I have been acting and putting writing on the back burner. I got my union cards and even pursued stand-up.  The closest I came to writing, before starting this blog, was stand-up comedy, which I still love because you can create your own material.  I started this blog because I wanted to get back into writing, and I wanted to write something from the perspective of an actor who was going through the ups and downs in their career. Not someone who is washed-up and giving advice. I’m still in the trenches and being in a  career “lull,” I have been writing about what I love. Movies I love, movies I loathe, anything and everything that has to do with the industry, with a unique perspective. It seems like I’m in good company of those who came before me. If you use all of your talents, it can lead to something. What that is, I don’t know. But I am pursuing my writing and my acting. So I guess I can add a back-slash to my job description. I’m a writer/actor. And I’m so glad you are reading my blog. Thanks.

VHS Vault: Brighton Beach Memoirs

Back in the day, the motto of every video store yes, VIDEO store, was “Be Kind. Rewind.” Embracing the current movement to be “retro” I’m going to talk about a little movie called Brighton Beach Memoirs. Adapted from the play by Neil Simon of the same name, Memoirs chronicles the life of Eugene Jerome as he reaches puberty. It’s heart-warming, hilarious, and semi-autobiographical.

“Eugene, a young teenage Jewish boy, recalls memories from his time as an adolescent youth. He lives with his parents, his aunt, two cousins, and his brother, Stanley, whom he looks up to and admires. He goes through the hardships of puberty, sexual fantasy, and living the life of a poor boy in a crowded house.”–via IMDB.

The popular play is still being produced to this day by community theaters and pubescent high school drama departments all over the country. If you don’t believe me, do a YouTube search of the title and watch what comes up. I got it on VHS when my college was selling “old movies.” Jonathan Silverman does justice to the role and his voice-overs as Eugene are seared into my brain’s  association of the role for all time. However, I would have loved to see Matthew Broderick reprise his Tony-winning role on film.  Blythe Danner, the outstanding actress that she is, plays a Russian- Jewish mother more convincingly than anyone given the fact that most associate her with the WASP-y mother type. The fact that Danner didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this role escapes me. Equally as impressive is well-known stage actress Judith Ivey. Other than Designing Women,  growing up, my associations with Ivey and her work included Memoirs. It wasn’t until I got into the business myself and started seeing more New York theater that I truly gained an appreciation for Judith Ivey and her work as an actor and director. She’s slated to direct the revival of The Miss Firecracker Contest and I saw her perform the role of Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie which was amazing. A young Jason Alexander plays a bit part in the film as well, long before his days on Seinfeld. I do wonder what happened to the actor who  plays Stanley. But alas, a “Where Are They Now” post is one for another day.

The movie is humorous, heart-felt and still relevant today. Put it in your Netflix queue and if you can find a video store that doesn’t just sell porn, rent it. Pin-ups and puberty are the main themes of the movie and Eugene’s “wet dream” monologue will forever be considered one of the funniest speeches in theater and film history.