Writing

10 Years Later… #NYC #Career #WorkingActor

10 years ago, my father and I drove to NYC from Massachusetts. The Tom Tom GPS in my father’s car took us to the opposite side of the city, but we eventually made it to the apartment that I sublet-ted for 3 months, unpacked my weird luggage that I managed to fit into about 5 Spacebags within 2 suitcases, and said goodbye. I thought I was only going to be in the city for the duration of the summer program at Circle in the Square Theater School. I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

I started with small projects, background work, independent, low-budget, non-union work for no-pay and long hours. I got a survival job that provided health insurance, flexible hours, and place that has supported me to this day (although, let’s change that soon, shall we?) I paid my initial “scraping at the bottom of the barrel” dues. Unlike some people who seem to find a trajectory and aim high fast and early, my pounding the pavement has taken literally 10 years (almost to the day).

Before I moved to NYC, I got my first headshots back when they used both color AND black & white. And while the color one was usable, the black & white one was all sorts of wrong and will probably end up on some weird website of actors horrible headshots or something. I was trying to fit into a box that wasn’t meant for me. I was trying to be someone I thought the industry wanted me to be.

For years after moving to the city, I went to every single open call, and worked on every single independent thing I could get my hands on, whether it was for theater or film. I did background work on TV as a human prop, and I’ve learned from all of it. I’ve watched Oscar winners prep for scenes, I’ve watched background actors ruin shots that took far too long to set up. I’ve learned from every weird, what would seem silly experience I’ve had. Does that mean I won’t have weird and silly experiences to come? No. But, I finally feel like I’m at a place in my career that isn’t stagnant. I’m not dead in the water. I feel like I’m finally going somewhere and it feels good, and I am forever grateful.

It took me almost 10 years to secure representation. I heard so many “No’s” and “You’re too weird” that I was beginning to believe that I didn’t belong at all. I started freelancing with my manager and my agent around the same time for about a year and half before I officially signed with each of them. 10 YEARS. Now, let me preface this by saying, I’m an odd duck. I don’t fit into that mold I was trying to cram myself into for all those years. I’m just me. I needed to find the right people who accepted me for the quirky gal that I am. Thank goodness that my manager and agent saw something. I am so grateful. Over the past year and a half, I have been slowly stepping up my game, auditioning for bigger and bigger projects, casting directors, etc. I wrote a solo show, performed said solo show, and can’t believe I actually told my story.

I have been a member of SAG-AFTRA since 2009 and a member of AEA since 2010. For years, I felt like a fraud because I felt like I wasn’t worthy of it. I don’t know why, but within this past year, I finally feel like I can proudly say I am in the unions. I’m a working actor. I’m auditioning, and I have a good relationship with my reps. I did a job back in April that is my biggest credit to date. I can’t talk about it yet, but I will say, that my weird, quirky self was what the director needed for the part. He even said to me on set, “I need to see that awesome smile. Look up, kid. You got this.” At the end of the take, the director of a Golden Globe winning show put two thumbs up, and shouted to me, “That was great, Steph!” Last Monday, I signed with agent Gail at KMR, five minutes later, my manager, Brandon called me with an audition for the next day. I have an audition on Thursday for a project I think is really awesome too.

Today, I finally feel at peace with the weird voices of doubt. I’ve persisted for so long, and the dream I had of moving to NYC and being a full-time working actor finally starting to come true. Here’s to more auditions, more bookings, and a whole lot more gratitude.

Why I Tell My Story: Theater & Raising Awareness #disabilityawareness #cerebralpalsy

When I first started writing my solo show, “Walk With Me” about growing up with cerebral palsy and learning to walk again at 13, it wasn’t even a one-woman show. In all honesty, I was avoiding the elephant in the room. I was writing characters who resembled myself and my parents; I was trying to be “creative.” However, as the writing process continued, I began to realize that I had to do this one alone. I had to tell my own story, use my own voice, and, no matter how painful, share my own memories.

I first got involved in theater around the age of 7 or 8 because my mother thought it would be a good thing to do and enhance my social skills. I obviously fell in love with acting, and here we are. Growing up, my perception of why people act, whether in theater, film or television, had been a self-serving one. Actors want to be in the spotlight. We want to show our talent. We want to win the coveted Oscar. The End. It took me a while to realize that theater, film, and television could be more than just a self-indulgent vehicle for people who want to be in the spotlight. It could be more than just a money game.

It wasn’t until I was in college when I realized that theater could really help people. Theater education can help those of all ages relate to one another. The reason humans tell stories and fables, recite poetry, is to help each other relate to the world around us. The reason I finished writing my show is to help others understand another perspective. I was born with cerebral palsy, and while I still question on a daily basis why,  I am slowly coming to an answer. I was born with a disability, with the health issues I still deal with, and am using those struggles to help bring awareness to others. I am using my love of theater, my acting ability, and training, to tell my story.

Last week, I performed my show in the most unlikely of places: a hospital. My neurologist from when I was a baby had come to see my show when it premiered in November at the People Improv Theater. The next day, I received an email about doing the show at Boston Medical Center as part of their Grand Rounds. For those who may not know,

Grand rounds are an important teaching tool and ritual of medical education and inpatient care, consisting of presenting the medical problems and treatment of a particular patient to an audience consisting of doctors, residents and medical students. The patient was traditionally present for the round and would answer questions; grand rounds have evolved with most sessions now rarely having a patient present and being more like lectures. An actor portrays the patient in some instances.

Grand rounds help doctors and other healthcare professionals keep up to date in important evolving areas which may be outside of their core practice.

So, for the first time I performed my show for a room full of doctors and medical students. In a way, I helped bring the patient perspective to the forefront. There was a Q&A afterwards with myself and my parents, questions varied, but the most common one was “How did you come out so normal?” Well, I think that the “normal” part is still up for debate. But, I am thankful that my parents didn’t restrict what I could and couldn’t do based on my physicality. I loved theater and dancing, and I did it, despite being told I wasn’t “normal” by some. Last week, I was able to help doctors understand that the preemie babies they care for now will turn out just fine. They will lead lives, they will be human. In the end, that’s all we are: human.

I am fortunate enough to be given a gift of cerebral palsy. It’s an unlikely gift, but it’s mine. I was given the different-ability of seeing the world around me, of moving, of being on this earth. Everyone has a story, we just have to be open enough to listen.

My show will be at the PIT again in March, April, and May. Tickets are available now:

http://thepit-nyc.com/event/2017-03-07-walk-with-me

 

 

 

Goals for 2017

Last year, despite what was going on in the country and the world (that’s another blog post for another blog and time) I’d say 2016 was a good year professionally for me. As we enter 2017, I have so many goals I want to meet.Because of the strides I took last year, I am confident that this year will 1000 times better. Last year, it was important for me to make connections, and I did. I got into rooms with casting directors I would have never imagined I would because I have an awesome agent and manager who are in my corner. I was able to hone my audition skills. My solo show premiered at SOLOCOM in November, and will be returning to the PIT in March, April, and May. Plus, I’m already off to a good audition start this year with a film audition I had 5 days ago. So, I’d say that 2017 is going to be about using what I learned last year, and putting all that knowledge and skill I acquired to work. Happy New Year Everyone!

  • Goal for 2017: Play a cyber genius on a prime time drama. I mean, I finally have the headshots for it.