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Friday, August 20, 2010

Two weeks ago I walked into a tattoo parlor with my aunt and uncle, bared my shoulder to a woman I'd never met, and ended up with this.

This wasn't a snap decision. I'd been planning on getting this tattoo for almost two years. The idea came to me when I saw a video of one of my favorite youtube filmmakers getting his first tattoo. He explained that he saw his tattoo as a signature--a snapshot of sorts, of him at that age. A way to remember who he was and what was important to him when he got it.
How cool would that be? So I started considering options. What could I possibly choose to represent myself that would be timeless? It took me a long time and a lot of online gallery searching, but I finally came up with the above design.
The comedy and tragedy masks are appropriate for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is, of course, it's been a symbol of the theatre for centuries. And as I'm sure you know by now, the theatre is my life. But I think that the two faces--one suffused with joy, the other dissolved in grief--suit me for another reason. I tend to be a very cheerful, upbeat sort of person. I automatically see the good in any situation and I don't let life's curveballs throw my game. I'm also very upfront about my personality; I don't pretend to be someone I'm not. I can put on any mask you'd like when I'm playing a character onstage or writing a character in a book, but in the real world, I'm myself--in all my kooky, theatre-loving, insanely-optimistic, Christmas-Elf-disguised-as-a-human glory.
Whew. Okay, monologue over. Allow me to explain the other features of my tattoo.
The letters are in honor of my little brother, who I am super close with. I figure that a boyfriend or a husband (common names to put on a tattoo, yes?) can change, but my brother will be my brother forever. Plus I think it's sort of cool that he'll always be with me. :) The colors are also symbolic: blue is my favorite color, and orange is my bro's. The tattoo is on my left shoulder (my brother's a leftie) and he's planning on getting one on his right shoulder when he's 18 because I'm a rightie.
Do I have a tie-in with something artistic and creative-y here? No, not really. I just wanted to share this cool little moment with you guys. :P

Friday, August 6, 2010

Every little piece

The other day my (amazing!) aunt and I were discussing the world of the theatre. Well, maybe discussing is a bad choice of words here. I was babbling like the loony bin that I am, and she was managing to interject a question or comment every five minutes or so. But anyway, I digress. One of the things that came up was how much behind-the-scenes work goes into putting on a play. My aunt, who appreciated the theatre but never studied it in that much detail before I became involved, mentioned that she'd never really thought about all the effort, time, and investment that went into the sets, costumes, props, sound, lights, scene changes, production, direction, etc.
When you go to see a show, you're looking at the final product of many weeks' work. What you see is a well-oiled, finely-tuned machine. You see the actors. If you look carefully, you might spot a member of the crew. You might see the director giving the curtain speech. What you don't see is the costume designer sitting in the dressing room frantically mending the lead actor's jacket in time for act two. You don't see the light board operator hunched over his script, waiting for the next light shift. You don't see the stage manager poised in the wings to cue the scene changes.
Today we had our last performance for Alice in Wonderland. Starting this Tuesday, my acting will take a backseat to more technical pursuits: I've been asked to design props for the next show at my theatre, and I've got a stage managing gig and an assistant directing gig lined up for next year. I'm planning on auditioning for a Christmas show, but that's, of course, an uncertainty. I may get a part, but I may end up stage managing. We shall see.
My point here is, it's really easy for people to forget how important the non-acting components of theatre are. When I tell my non-theatre friends that I'm in a show, I get huge reactions. "Wow, that's great! Good for you! When are the performances? I'd love to come!" When I tell them I'm stage managing or running the sound, notsomuch. "That's interesting. Is anything else new?" When I'm in the cast, friends and family crawl out of the woodwork to see me perform. No one but my closest family members and most hardcore theatre friends show up when I'm on the crew.
Now, don't get me wrong. I realize it's much more fun for the people who love me to SEE me onstage in all my glory. But what non-theatre geeks don't always understand is that being on the crew is just as much of an investment. If I'm the stage manager, I have to attend every rehearsal and every performance, just like the actors. I don't have lines to learn, but I have scene changes and cues that I have to memorize and practice. And while I don't get to take a bow, the actors couldn't do their jobs without me backstage making sure the technical aspect runs smoothly.
Without production, lights, sound, costumes, sets, props, and direction, a play is left mostly to the audience's imagination. The acting is there, but it's left to the viewer to imagine the world the characters inhabit. With those components, the audience is automatically transported to wherever the playwright invisioned. All they have to do is sit back and let the actors tell the story.
If you're a theatre lover reading this, you already know the truth in my rant. If you aren't, well...consider yourself enlightened. :)

Friday, July 9, 2010


Today my acting camp had its final performance. We performed scenes from shows, songs, dances, you name it. At the end of the performance, there were fifty-odd kids between the ages of 11 and 18, about ten teachers, and several college-age interns onstage all hugging and smiling while hundreds of parents and grandparents snapped pictures from the audience.
Did I ever mention I love the theatre?
I've taken this same acting camp four times. The first year I did it, I think I was twelve. At the time, acting was just a hobby--something I loved doing, but not seriously...just for fun.
I took a few years' break, then when I was fifteen I took the camp again. A week into the camp, I realized I was having the time of my life. I would come home after a hard days' work at the theatre and spend a half an hour rambling on and on to my ever-patient mother about how wonderful a time I was having. At some point my mom looked at me and said, "Ruthie, I can't understand why you aren't considering this as a career."
Talk about your aha moments. It was like hitting the X on the treasure map.
The next summer I took the camp again, this time with the intention of studying acting as a profession. Shortly after I finished that year's curriculum, I realized that what I really wanted to do for a living was be a drama teacher in a high school somewhere. I wanted (sorry, uber-cheesy moment here) to inspire the next generation of kids the way that this camp had inspired me.
So this year, I went into camp both to continue on improving my acting, but also to observe different styles of teaching theatre.
And now that the four weeks are up and this year's acting camp has transformed from my reality to my memory, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is where I belong. The theatre is my world, and no matter where my career leads me, the theatre will be my sustenance until the day I die. When I stood on that stage today with all my camp friends around me, there was nowhere in the world I'd rather have been.
This is who I am.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Stretching towards the world,
The child looks to the future--
Mother smiles and waits.

Reaching up her arms,
The child grows tall and stronger,
Learning day by day.

Rushing at her goal,
The child is near adulthood
Ready soon to fly.

Mother smiles on,
So worried, yet so, so proud--
Her baby is strong.

Takeoff is anon
Coming to a beginning
Now she'll test her wings.

Mother flies along,
Watching her daughter's first flight,
Ready to encourage.

I wrote this haiku-style poem during camp last week. I'm currently attending an (AMAZING!) four-week acting camp, but during camp we get plenty of chances to try our hands at other art forms like poetry, jewelry making, mask making, etc. During this mini-haiku class I wrote several poems, but this one was my favorite. It just seemed to flow out of me.
In one month, I will be turning eighteen. I will be an official adult. I could get my own apartment if I wanted to, or apply for a full-time job. And after writing the poem above, I started really thinking about my eighteenth birthday and what it symbolizes. It's just a number. 18. One decade plus eight years.
This time last year, I was looking forward to my seventeenth birthday. I remember looking at my mom last July 29th and saying, "You know what's weird? This time next year, I'll be eighteen." And it was weird. I couldn't imagine that there were only three hundred and sixty-five days until I was an adult.
Now, with only thirty-three days left, the idea of being a grown-up isn't quite so bizarre. What changed? Why am I ready to face the world as an adult now when I wasn't ready eleven months ago?
Well, for one thing, this time last year I'd never had a speaking role onstage. I was still caught up in a difficult friendship that was on the brink of collapse. I hadn't decided what college I wanted to go to. I knew I wanted my career to be theatre-related, but I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do.
Now, eleven months later, I've been in four shows (currently I'm playing the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland Jr., my first main role!) and I've stage managed, assistant directed and helped on six others. I've learned what real friendship is and I'm smarter and stronger for my bad experience last year. I have a good S.A.T. score and am about to apply for the college of my dreams. I'm prepared for a long career as a high school drama teacher.
And I've realized something important: 18 really is just a number. On July 29th I will be an official adult, but emotionally, I'm already there.

Soaring together,
Mother and daughter equal,
Flying now as friends.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


It's the big night.
An hour and a half before the show will make its debut, the actors begin gathering in the dressing rooms, putting on makeup, placing props where they need to be, and donning costumes. They have weeks and weeks of rehearsals under their belts, and last night's final dress rehearsal went marvelously. Still, there's a thrill of nervous excitement in the air. Will everything go as smoothly tonight as it did the night before?
Crew members flit about anxiously testing lights, administering microphones, and setting the stage. They have only a short while to make sure everything is perfect--if it isn't, the actors will be the ones to suffer. The orchestra warms up and awaits its first cue.
The spectators begin trickling into the theater and finding their seats. Although they aren't supposed to, cast and crew sneak peeks at their audience through the curtains. Their delight is tinged with hope; will this audience, large though it may be, react favorably to the show they've worked so hard to perfect?
Before anyone knows it, everyone is gathered backstage waiting to go on. The director stumbles out and makes a quick preshow speech, trying not to let on that he's just as nervous as his cast members. When he cracks a joke and the audience chuckles, the actors shoot each other encouraged grins.
With the director's speech completed, the orchestra's first tentative notes pierce the stillness of the auditorium. Cast, crew and staff draw in their breaths. Here it is. The moment of truth. Now or never. Here goes nothing.
The music swells into a crescendo as the orchestra picks up speed, and in a sudden burst of movement and color, the cast explodes onto the stage. The nervous energy the actors have been swallowing back all evening only drives their performance onward; nothing can stop them now. This is the moment they've all been waiting for. It is this moment that keeps them coming back again and again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Home sweet home

This has been a really weird couple of months for my family. For one thing, we're moving again. We just moved a year ago, but a mix-up with a bad-egg of a landlord has actually opened a great opportunity for us. We just purchased our very first house! Very exciting (I'm loving the fact that I get to paint my room for the first time in my life) but also very stressful. Moving is chaotic, especially when the move-ees are a family of packrats. I hate the idea of stuffing my treasures in boxes and moving them in disarray. It'll be great once we're at the new house and unpacked, but for now, it's just work and stress.
Another fun situation adding to our stress levels is my dad's job. Bad economy equals bad job security, and even large industries like my dad's are looking to cut some employees. My dad's in a good place--he's a great worker, and he has several other job possibilities lined up should he be downsized--but the not-knowing what will come next is still stressful, especially for him.
In the midst of all of this weirdness, there is my favorite activity in the whole widest of the world: theatre. At the moment I'm tap-dancing in/stage mananging a musical called "The Brain From Planet X." And not only that, but I'm fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams: being in a show with my theatre coach, a.k.a. my acting benefactor, a.k.a. my dad. He's in the show, too--playing the role of the ever-suffering and taciturn Private Partz. (Get it? Private Partz? Tee hee!)
The show is hilarious--it's a parody of all those oh-so-cheesy 1950's the-aliens-are-coming-to-take-over-the-world sci-fi movies. Plus it's a musical. Perfection much? The characters are all larger than life, from the hard-working inventor-for-the-government perfect-1950s-father Fred to the faithful-alien-lackey Zubrick to the world's oldest one-star general, General Mills. (Once again: tee hee!)
And besides the show, there's the theater itself. Buck Creek Players is my second home. Ever since I walked through the doors to audition for A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley a year and a half ago, BCP has offered me nothing but opportunities and great friends. Even when I'm not directly involved with a show, I just love being there. I've acted, assistant directed, stage managed, run sound, and built sets. I love it all.
It's strangely grounding for me--amidst all the chaos and disorder of moving, painting, packing, etc., I know that every night, my dad and I will jump in the car, make the half-hour trip to Buck Creek, and sing through the score of the show or block out scenes. I love watching Dad perform on the stage I'm so familiar with, among the actors, directors, and crew members I know so well. I love sharing the experience with him. He's cheered on my acting endeavors for so long, I love knowing that this time, I'll not only be cheering him on, but I'll be right there with him backstage. It's a dream come true.
To a fearless father who wasn't afraid to audition with his daughter, no matter what the outcome: thank you, and all my love. You're the best in the world.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Have you ever had a particularly rotten day, or had something really bad happen to you, and suddenly stumbled across the most meaningful quote, or turned on the radio just in time to hear the perfect song? Something that maybe doesn't fix your bad day, but puts one bright moment into it?
This has happened to me on several occasions. Most of them have to do with music. Once I was trying to get over a particularly bad crush on a guy I knew (yeah, yeah, I know, it's typical teenager-y stuff. Stupid hormones). The guy in quesiton was very cocky and full of himself, and I knew he wasn't for me, but I was still in the process of moving on. And one day, while I was listening to Pandora radio, I came across these lyrics:
"Bye bye love, I'll catch you later
Got a lead foot down on my accelerator and the rearview mirror torn off
'Cause I ain't never lookin' back, and that's a fact.
I've tried all I can imagine
I've begged and pleaded in true lover's fashion
I've got pride, I'm takin' it for a ride
Bye bye, bye bye my baby, bye bye."
A bit overdramatic, perhaps, but the song totally cheered me up. It was as if the universe had whispered in my ear that I'd done the wrong thing, that there were other fish in the sea, and that it understood.
Another time, riding home in the car and fretting about opening night for a show I was in, I turned my radio to 98.3 FM (Disney channel, lol...I told you before I have eclectic tastes in music) and caught a snippet of a Miley Cyrus* song:
"So I put my hands up
They're playing my song,
And the butterflies fly away
Noddin' my head like yeah
Moving my hips like yeah,
And I got my hands up,
They're playin my song
I know I'm gonna be ok
Yeah, It's a party in the USA!"
And I felt better. I felt encouraged. Maybe it's all in my head, but as a wonderful literary character I'm sure you all know once said, "Of cousre it's all in your head, but why on earth should that mean it isn't real?"
Remember how, in my last blog post, I mentioned that my writing soundtracks are sometimes incomplete until midway through the writing process? Well, one of my OTHER novels--one of the two I said were un-soundtracked as yet--has been untangling itself since then. I've got a good portion of the plot mapped out, a few chapters written, and I know the characters WAY better than I did before. So, naturally...I soundtracked it.
This novel is totally different from anything I've ever written before. It's first-person (meaning I write "I did such-and-such" rather than "she did such-and-such") which I've never tackled before. It's dark. It's spooky. It's futuristic-y. And I only have three main characters, but those three characters are three of the darkest and deepest characters I've ever been introduced to in my time as a writer.
So I spent a lot more time on the soundtrack than I have with my other novels (which are still progressing, just on the back burner.) I made sure each of my main characters had at least two songs. Yet one of the characters (my favorite one, although I suppose I shouldn't play favorites) eluded me. I had a couple of songs that fit certain facets of his personality, but not him as a whole. After tinkering around for awhile, I decided to leave well enough alone for the time being, officialized the rest of the soundtrack, and moved on with my writing.
Then, a few days later, I rewatched the Disney version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I hadn't seen it for several years, and I wanted to reacquaint myself with it. I didn't remember much about it, anyway.
The instant the song "Out There" came on, I sat straight up in my seat. This was it. The song. It had found me. The more I listened to it, the more perfect it became. And before the movie was over, I'd whipped out my iPhone and purchased the song from iTunes. Thank you, internet.
What's my point in all of this? Hmm...maybe that, if you're patient, the object you're seeking will often find you on its own? Maybe I'm using this event as proof that my characters really do exist in some alternate universe and are trying to communicate with me? (I remember reading a book one time that stated blandly that, "It's okay--authors are allowed to hear voices in their heads.") Maybe I just thought it was a really cool occurrence and I wanted to share it? Who knows.
In any case, if you're interested, here is the completed soundtrack for this novel. And just so you know, I had the song God Help the Outcasts way before I rewatched the movie. That was totally a coincidence...weird, huh?
The novel itself: "God Help the Outcasts" from the Hunchback of Notre Dame
The narrator/main character: "Bigger than Us" by Hannah Montana*, "I Stand" by Idina Menzel
The caring but solitary love-interest: "Out There" from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, "These Hands" from Frankenstein the musical, "I Stand All Alone" from Quest for Camelot, "Getting Better" by the Beatles
The vulnerable and immature brother: "No More" from Into the Woods, "Nowhere Man" by the Beatles
The love theme: "These Days" by Rascal Flatts

*Please, all you anti-Hannah Montana peoples, don't kill me! I can't help it if her songs are catchy!