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Black Wedding Rings and Abortion: An Ode to Choice.

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Today is the March for Life.

Today is the goddamn March for Life.

Tomorrow marks 1 week since the first march that I participated in. Only, the march that I participated in was the Women’s March.

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A march that stood for so many things. Women’s rights. Standing up to a terrifying time in our country’s history. A march that stood for finding your community and grabbing onto it for dear life in order to find your voice in a time when you feel that at any moment, you could be shunned on twitter by the leader of the free world.

On this day…the day of the March for Life, I would like to reflect on a few realizations I’ve had only recently.

I was recently scrolling through Instagram, and came across a Vera Wang wedding dress collection.

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I wasn’t the type of girl who dreamed of my wedding day growing up.

The extent of my wedding fantasies included an elaborate setup that included the groom shouting, “We must hurry! They’re coming!” Followed by a downpour over the crowd about to witness our nuptials, as people with fiery stakes came running down the aisle. Immediately after, a group of T-Rex dancers graced everyone’s presence, followed by me…the drenched and delighted bridge.

But other than that, no. I haven’t fantasized about my wedding day. But back to the dress. A black wedding dress.

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My brain had never even taken into consideration that black was an option. It was stunning. I felt like my world had changed.

I never realized that I had a choice. I thought white was the only option. And trust me, I look hideous in white. White makes me sad. It’s not me. But this daring vibrant piece…it was art.

After I had this realization, I had to take a step back and re-evaluate other choices that I assumed I had to make.

I was never a fan of the typical engagement ring. You know the one.

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Silver band, perfectly cut stone. That’s not me. That style is screaming for me to lose it down the sink. Or better yet, drop it down the toilet when I’m fumbling with my cell because I love catching up with friends on the toilet.

I love gold bands and gaudy stones. Something that looks like it was dug out of a treasure chest in a grandma’s yard sale.

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And under $50 please! I would be truly hateful if someone spent over $50 on my engagement ring. I’d be like, “We could’ve spent that on a fancy delivery order! You know I’ve been craving sushi!”

After I had this realization, I felt like I had to share the info with my boyfriend. To any stranger on the street, me pointing at $3 vintage rings at the local antique shop would appear like I am nudging my boyfriend to propose. But it’s not the case! First of all, I don’t nudge. It’s passive aggressive, and also, an engagement wouldn’t just be his decision. It would be ours. Something we would talk about. Like, a grownup decision between two consenting adults, you know?

I was just excited to share a new thing with him that I had learned about myself. All of a sudden, I was having all of these new options that didn’t have to be dictated by tradition. One last thing before I jump away from the wedding topic, I would love both my parents to walk me down the aisle. And they wouldn’t be giving me away. They’d be like, “You kids are a good fit. We’re proud of both of you.”

Here’s another realization I’ve had. I don’t enjoy wearing makeup 24/7. And I frickin’ hate even bringing up this topic, because no, this isn’t me going on a #makeupfree rant. I think it’s insanely ridiculous that there has to be movements that pat women on the back telling them that it’s ok that they don’t want to wear makeup. I don’t want a movement. I don’t want goddamn debates over what I choose to wear on my face. It’s my face. Me not wearing foundation doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my appearance or how I’m perceived. Me not wearing foundation also doesn’t mean that I need to be celebrated. I wish I lived in a day and age where it was a non-issue.  Where me not wearing makeup isn’t remotely a thing because people are paying attention to other things that I have to offer this world. On the same note, I truly appreciate women who love wearing makeup. We genuinely love it. Women who treat it like art. Women who are full of life sporting red lipstick.

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Women who express themselves with blush. I applaud all of you. Because it was your choice. And it is my choice.

Another realization I’ve had falls under the realm of success. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. My personal idea of success isn’t a corner office or even a 9-5 job. In fact, both of those sound like my personal version of hell. If you want to quickly swipe my soul, feel free to put me in either of those predicaments. My idea of success is a creative life.

But that’s crazy! ‘Creative’ and ‘Success’ reside on two different planets. You truly are a moron.

For me, personal success is being free to be creative and not tied down by what I’ve been told I’m supposed to do. 

Personal success is doing what makes me happy, rather than implementing a work plan that makes others comfortable. Personal success is staying true to yourself, not living in the shadows of other people’s fears. I always have a choice.

I’m turning 32 this year. I don’t want children right now. When I was a teenager, I thought that I would be married and on my 2nd kid by the time I was 28. Now, at the age of 31, I know that I don’t want kids in this very moment. Someday, yes. But not in this moment.

And this choice of mine freaks people out.

But aren’t you listening to your biological clock? You need to shape your life to fit the idea of having a child into it if that’s what you want someday. You might regret not having had a kid sooner. You will be an older mom. You really want to wait a few years??

Let’s be clear about ‘biological clocks’-I’m aware of my age and your concerns because you haven’t wasted a moment in expressing either to me. My ‘biological clock’ is telling me that I’m doing the right thing for me. I’m listening to my clock, and my clock is telling me, Girl, you will be a kick-ass mom someday. You will take your kids to Disneyland and setup the best pillow forts and you will stand up to bullies who mess with your kids and you will always fight for them. But again, it is my choice to wait. My clock is telling me that I have to get my life together, and someday will be the right day to make a family. Not when my life is perfect, because I’m a realist, but someday when it is the best choice.

Today is the March for Life. Here is the final thing I’ll say. I’m very much in support of Planned Parenthood. I’m very much in support of establishments that give women a choice.

Have you ever had the following question go through your head:

What would I do if I got pregnant? Abortion? Have the baby? Adoption? What would I do…

Everyone thinks that the answer to this is black and white. That you know in your heart of hearts what your choice would be. Either you would have the baby or you wouldn’t. Here’s the point I would like to make. No one can possibly know what decision they would make until they are actually in that situation.

I don’t know what emotions would suddenly pour through me if I suddenly found out I was pregnant.

An episode of “Friends” once explained this perfectly. You know the episode. Rachel thinks she’s pregnant. She takes a pregnancy test. Phoebe looks at the test and reveals the results to Rachel by telling her that she’s not pregnant. Rachel, who thought that she didn’t want a baby, starts to cry. Phoebe tells her, “Just kidding, your pregnant! But now you know how you really feel.”

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My thoughts exactly, Phoebe. You don’t actually know until you are there. I’m not in that situation. But there are women who are in that situation. And those women deserve to be able to make the choice over what happens to their bodies. They deserve to make the choice. I shouldn’t have to argue this. This should be a very basic fact, but I live in a world where I get cat-called on the street as men tell me to smile. Where I get told to stay silent and take it as a compliment. Where I get told that I shouldn’t openly talk about depression or it will make me look weak. Where the box marked as ‘woman’ is getting created by men and I’m supposed to climb inside and live up to their expectations.

No more. 

I have been lucky enough to have wonderful men in my life. Both of my grandpas were saints to me. One of my grandpas used to lay a towel down on a wall near my school building because he knew that I loved to climb over the wall every morning to get to class and he didn’t want my school clothes to get wet. My other grandpa encouraged me to be brave and loud and yell my head off while soaring over the water in a speedboat. My dad still gushes about me to people. I know this because in the past, I’ve gone to the dentist or chiropractor only to have the receptionist get teary eyed explaining, “We’ve heard so much about you. He idolizes you.” My brother gets me. I never have to explain myself to him. He always understands, and in that simple act, he is a lifelong support system. My boyfriend wants me to be happy. Seeing me happy makes him happy. He fights for my happiness every single day even when I feel like I can’t fight for my own happiness.

I’m lucky to have these men in my life. I’m lucky that I can make choices that shape my present and future. I’m lucky that I’ve realized that I can rip open the box and dictate my own life and what’s right for me. I always have a choice. And to the people who feel like they can take away that choice. To the people who feel like they can make any of my decisions. To the people who think they have me figured out when I say that I fully support abortion. To the people who would judge what I do with my body and tell me that my clock is ticking:

My body is my choice. It has always been this way. You cannot take this choice away. This isn’t a choice that I’ve suddenly realized like the black wedding dress or the joy of not wearing makeup. I have known this my entire life. My body. My choice.

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To the Actors who Hate Online Creators

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

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If you’re an actor, you’ve picked a challenging road to head down. This isn’t news to you. You’ve stared the dragon in the eye and said: Breathe fire at me! See if I care!

So why on earth is there so much hate from actors toward online creators (and by online creators, I’m mostly referring to Youtubers)? As an actor, you’ve been denied roles before for a number of reasons: You don’t ‘look’ like the girl-next-door, your not believable as a love interest, your hair isn’t blonde enough, you’re not skinny enough, you don’t have enough classical training under your belt. It’s all so unfair! I totally get it. Half the time, you’re getting denied for things that are completely out of your control and now you have a whole new element to complain about…those damn Youtubers. They’re stealing all the work from the hard-working actors!

First off, let’s define a hard-working actor: To me, a hard-working actor is focused every single day on acting. They’re taking class. They have an agent or are doing everything in their power to find an agent. They’re networking. They’re learning new skills to add to a resume. They’re doing open mic nights or standup. They’re jumping in to be in plays whenever their agent can’t land them a gig. They’re sending out postcards. They’re trying.

I know actors like this. People who are not only passionately saying that they are an actor, but rather, they are doing everything in their power to sculpt their fate or at the very least, be prepared for that moment when hard work meets opportunity. I wish that I could say that I was doing everything in my power to be a writer, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not. I don’t dedicate myself to writing in a journal daily. I have about 3 projects that I’m halfway done with but I’m stalling on finishing any of them. I don’t seek out literary agents. I’m not submitting my scripts to festivals. I can honestly say I’m not trying hard enough. I can put the blame on myself, but not on anyone else. If I don’t find success in the entertainment industry, its my own damn fault. Because it’s my own damn fault, it’s incredibly easy for me to just not try sometimes. If I don’t try hard enough and fail, then I can just say that I never amounted to anything because I didn’t try. Imagine how terrible it would be if I tried my hardest and it still never worked out? How awful!

The mind-numbing fear of not finding success even after trying your hardest is what leads to people choosing to become the victim.

Stupid entertainment industry. They’re only hiring that online personality for the role because they have a huge social media following. That person is clearly not as talented as me. I’m more talented. I went to acting school and they didn’t. It’s not fair! The system is made for me to fail! I’m going to blame my agent and the studios and Hollywood because it’s not frickin’ fair that that 18-year-old who does makeup tutorials is getting the part that I want!!

Enough. Look, if you’re angry that you have invested your savings account and you audition day after day and are making your way through earth shattering day jobs and you are in non-union plays and you’ve just about had it….I completely understand your frustration. Really, I do. It’s the same way I feel when I used to walk through New York and think to myself, “Why the hell is every single show on Broadway an adaptation or revival? Can’t Broadway produce a single show that is brand new? Are they so afraid that tourists won’t see a new show if it’s not featuring an already established character? Should emerging writers just give up now, because clearly there is no room for us out here?” I’ve had these thoughts on more than one occasion. And not fleeting thoughts either. I’ve stewed in these thoughts and screamed these thoughts, and you know what happened? Nothing. That’s right. Nothing. My angry ass went a year without writing a show. I emotionally gave up. In the first two years of living in New York, I wrote a new play and a new musical and both got produced. On year 3, I sunk into a deep dark hole and the idea of writing wasn’t fun anymore. I played the victim and trust me. It didn’t fucking work.

One day, when I was so homesick for California that I couldn’t pull myself out of bed, I decided to make a Youtube video and talk about my love for Disney. I felt like I had gained a little of my creativity back. I felt like I was connecting with people again. I love writing. It fills me to the brim. But I’m not going to lie, sometimes, writing fills me with loneliness. Hours of sitting alone in my room stuck in my head and talking to no one. When you’re prone to depression, writing (at least for me) can add to it. With Youtube, I felt like I was immediately reaching a community of people who understood me. And it freed me. It re-awakened my creativity and made me want to write again. Most of all, I finally felt like I had more control over my place in the entertainment industry. I don’t have to wait for someone to tell me that they want a video from me or what the video should be about. I get to create the content when I want to. It’s my little baby and I love feeding it and watching the damn thing grow. And if you’ve seen my channel, my videos aren’t necessarily the best thing on the internet, but they’re full of passion and genuine love for the topic. I’m really excited to continue to grow this channel and down the road, I even plan on writing sketches to produce on the channel.

This is why I hate it when people just knock down online creators. It’s so easy to say that it’s not fair, or that online creators are lazy or not talented. But all of those things are cheap blows. I didn’t understand the Youtube community until I was a part of it. I have almost 4,000 subscribers. It’s not a lot, but there’s still so much upkeep on my channel to keep it growing. I get hundreds of comments and messages that I respond to. I tailor all of my content to what is trending on my channel. It’s not ‘lucky’ that my channel is growing. I sit and study numbers and do my research and dedicate a significant amount of time every single day to my channel. It’s a lot of work. But I do it because I love it. I do it because I get to be in control.

So, here’s what I have to say to all of the haters: Hating online creators will get you nowhere. If you are pursuing acting, you are pursuing show business. Studios are going to invest in a product that has more of a financial guarantee. Instead of pouting about it, consider this…You have just as much access to the internet as the people you hate. If you’re talented and tired of waiting for your break, then go for it and create your own break. Get your friends together and film a web series and YOU write it. YOU star in it. You are just as capable of creating stuff. The beauty of the age of technology is that we all have access to it. We are all on an equal playing field. The kid that got the part that you wanted has been waking up every day and turning on a camera and taking initiative not knowing where the chips would fall. It’s a risk. You can take that risk too.

Let’s stop saying that it’s just not fair. Because if you truly believe that it’s just not fair, then you are playing in the wrong business. Hold your head up high and think of people like Lin Manuel Miranda. Here’s a guy that never thought the words, “I can’t write a hip hop musical because no one will ever see it and why bother?” He’s a guy who took the higher road and said, “This story would make an excellent hip hop story. And if someone in the world hasn’t thought up the idea to turn Hamilton’s story into a musical, then I’m going to be the guy to do it.”

He never asked permission to create art. He never blamed the industry or complained that he couldn’t get a part or that his writing wasn’t going to get produced. He just did the work. He created his own opportunities. So, next time you want to point the finger, ask yourself, How can I be doing more?

 

The Art of Failing While Pursuing Your Dreams

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2016 at 6:42 pm

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Are you a dreamer? I sure am. And I’m going to be completely honest with you. Dreaming kicks my ass. But when it works out, dreaming actually kicks ass. Have you been told that you’re unrealistic? That it’s cute that you’re still pursuing your dream? That you should maybe have a Plan B? Then pull up a chair, and let’s be friends. I’m in your corner. You’re going to need as many people in your corner as possible, because dreaming, if done incorrectly can be a nightmare. I know because I’ve been there. And I’m alive to tell the tale. So it can’t be that bad, right? Great. Let’s get started.

The Tale of Failing Level One at Groundlings.

Have you heard of Groundlings? If you’re living in LA and pursuing acting, you’ve definitely not only heard of it, but you’ve probably passed every level and used your Groundlings street cred to get you an audition for a co-star role. I auditioned for the Groundlings school and got accepted into the level one class. I was ecstatic. I was making my way as an actor in LA. I had a commercial agent whose office was based out of the lobby in an apartment building in Sherman Oaks and now I had passed an audition to start taking class at Groundlings! I was on my way in the world of Hollywood! I had no aspirations to be on SNL. I had never taken an improv class. But I had heard that Groundlings looked great on a resume so here we go! Guys, I was terrible. I was stuck in my head. The format of the class made no sense to me. I couldn’t let go. Ever. And I was unable to create characters who weren’t happy/peppy. There was a class in which the teacher kept telling me over and over again, I need your character to be upset. Cry. Get angry. Do anything. But don’t make this character happy. I couldn’t go there, guys. This improv class taught me more about who I am as a person, than any acting class has. I have struggled with depression my entire life. Most people don’t know this about me. I’m usually the happiest person in the room. Always smiling. Always securely locking away my dark feelings of sadness deep down where it can’t be touched. This class taught me that all sides of our personality and all of our emotions are beautiful. It is what makes us human. And human is funny. Its relatable. On the last day of class, I finally let go and felt like myself. My teacher told me that if I had ‘let go’ in earlier classes, she could’ve passed me. That is what they wanted from me. So I failed. For years I steered clear of Groundlings. Afraid I would fail again. Afraid that I wouldn’t ever be able to let go. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I was sitting and watching the movie Ghost with my boyfriend during one of the many scenes where Patrick Swayze is able to communicate with Demi Moore as a ghost. I was sobbing my stupid face off and sputtering at the TV: Ah shit, Demi. He loves you! That ghost loves you, Demi. Ditto! I can’t handle this. That’s right, you give him a hug. Go get it, Demi! Believe! He’s really there!

As my boyfriend sat watching me cry and yell at the TV, he started rolling over laughing. I was crying and he was laughing. And it finally made sense to me. When we are genuinely feeling the extreme of whatever we are feeling, it can be hilarious. Because it’s real. I was being real. And that’s all that Groundlings wanted from me. Not a happy/smiley/seemingly perfect girl. They wanted me. Flaws and all.

The Tale of Performing for No One.

I moved to New York a couple years ago, because like many others, I dreamed of Broadway. I dreamt of spending my days writing in my Soho loft, and grabbing a cab to the theater at night (more specifically the Cort. Or Lyceum. Of all the Broadway giants, these two are my dream babies to be produced in) to sit in the house and give notes and make adjustments as actors said my words out loud. I dreamed of parts of the script not working, and I would delete entire scenes and everyone would panic and say, “You’re deleting that scene! But I  loved that scene!” And I would sit for a few minutes and scribble out something brilliant. Something better. Then, just to show off,  would delete that scene and write a whole new and more spectacular one. This was my dream. When I first moved to New York, I had a lot of energy and I didn’t give two shits about what anyone thought of me. I walked into a cabaret space and said that I wanted to rent the stage for 2 months to self-produce a play I wrote. The producer who ran the space was intrigued. I had just moved to town. Did I have the resources to fill the space? Of course I did!

Side note: I came from an acting background. I was used to being rejected. I loved being rejected. I was once asked if I could tap dance and I said ‘yes’ so that I could land a primary tap dancer spot. I would learn how to tap dance later.

So that’s what I figured would happen this time around. I would learn how to fill a house later. I just had to get my damn foot in the door. And my confidence worked! I landed a two month contract. I auditioned folks for the show and found a wonderful cast. I even found a girl to run the box office. We were a kick-ass all female ensemble. I had just moved to town and I was nailing it! Nothing could go wrong!

Here’s the thing: Even on the most smallest level, theater in New York requires an obscene amount of promotion for even 5 people to show up. It’s ridiculously competitive. There were nights we had 10 people in the house. I gave out comp tickets left and right. I also made the terrible mistake of assuming that I would make a profit off the show, and that money would go back to the cast in the form of stipends. Can you see how many mistakes I’ve made so far? A lot. But people trusted me to steer the ship. And on one particular night, I steered the ship into a rock. Not a single soul was in the audience. I was shattered. I felt like a loser. People kept telling me, “You should be so proud of what you’ve accomplished! It takes balls to get as far as you’ve gotten!”

But here’s what I knew to be true: I had friends who had babies. I had friends who were literally raising humans. I had friends who were pursuing a Master’s degree. I had friends who were achieving their goals. And I felt like the universe was telling me, This is clearly not the right path for you. You are failing miserably. Stupid dreamer. Don’t you think everyone wants to run off to New York and write plays? Sure they do! But they don’t because shit like this happens. So go back to your 3 day jobs and closet-sized apartment, because all you’ve accomplished out here is higher levels of anxiety.

On the night that no one showed up, I was also told that my contract with the theater would be cut short. There was a bartender working the lounge who wasn’t going to make a dime that night because I had failed. There was a cast who had no one to perform for, because I failed. There was a venue owner who was stressed out, because I failed. But there was my tech sitting in the back who saw the empty theater as an opportunity to perform one last time full out and we could get as crazy as we wanted. This talented young man has a wildly successful career because he finds a way to make things work. We performed the full show that night. It took me months to not want to cry whenever I thought about this night. And then, a few months later, the following happened:

I was working as a porter at a Broadway theater. I was backstage cleaning a toilet in a dressing room when I happened upon a familiar face working on the crew for the new show that was loading in. It was the girl who ran the box office on my failed show. She was a PA on this new show on Broadway and I was cleaning the toilets. You won’t believe this. I didn’t cry. I didn’t feel upset. I felt blissfully happy. It was solid proof that good things come to people who take the right path and work out the kinks. Here was a girl who ended up working for free because my dumbass didn’t budget her stipend. And now she was a PA on Broadway. Shortly after, one of the actresses from my show was in a new show and getting rave reviews by the NY Times. Again, I was thrilled. She survived. She had performed for no one and she had risen above it and continued to pursue her dreams and it worked out for her.

I scrubbed the toilet extra hard that day. It was going to work out for me someday, because that’s how the universe works. The universe was teaching me that when it comes to success, you can’t race to the finish line or skip a step. Sometimes, you have to take the baby steps and take the time to learn. Even if it means learning the art of failure. And I’m great at failing! I’m even better at overcoming my failures! Watch out world!

 

Out of New York. Into Boise.

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2016 at 7:22 pm

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I’m sitting and writing a blog with a wide-ass grin on my face. I must’ve done something right. In the adventure known as Where the hell does Erika live Nowadays? I’d like to provide an update. I’m currently living in Boise, Idaho for the month of May.

Wait, what? You said you were moving to California! You can’t take detours. Just go! What are you waiting for?

I don’t think that anyone is actually saying that, but in case they’re thinking it, here’s the thing: It’s my life and my adventure. And right now, my soul is telling me that I need to detox New York out of my system before heading to California. Could you imagine my anxiety filled neurosis infiltrating California? It would be terrible

Side Note: If you’re not able to remember me having anxiety filled neurosis, then you might’ve met me in California and haven’t seen me in 4 years. I’ve turned into a mess.

That’s the biggest reason why we left New York: To be happier. I can’t speak for Matt, but that’s why I left. I wasn’t happy anymore. It killed me to realize that in New York. I thought I would live in that magnificent city forever, but after 3.5 years, something wasn’t clicking anymore. I’d see my parents and be twitching and developing a strange form of PTSD. I’d cry when it was time to go back to New York. I stopped making eye contact with people, smiling or even believing in myself. I felt like a sack of shit every single day. I felt like I was deflated. The energy that brought me to New York was gone. I had completely burned out and lost my sparkle.

The fact that I only felt like myself once I left New York was a huge red flag. I had turned into a militant version of myself in New York. I no longer wore bright colors, because I just wanted to be invisible. I didn’t want to get comments from guys on the street every minute. I started wearing shorts under my sun dresses because it was too exhausting to remember to strategically cover my ass as I hiked up flights of stairs leaving the subway every day. I took any job that paid me. I didn’t want to be like the characters from Rent who I used to lovingly look up to. I didn’t want to stand up for a creative life. I wanted to stand up for paying my high rent on time. My energy for pursuing theater went away during year 2, where I was consumed with surviving financially, and that consumption sucked me dry.

Here’s what I’m grateful for: I’m 100% sure that I can survive in New York. I’m not above any job. I do what it takes. I can meet the people I’m supposed to meet. Network in every situation. Learn how to live in the tiniest living spaces.

I didn’t leave New York because I was broke. New York didn’t spit me out. I got to be the one to make the decision that the shoe didn’t fit for me in a long-term sense.

So, here I am. In Boise for the month of May. Settling my mind and spirit before jumping head over heels into LA. Settling my spirit so that its ready to take bigger risks than I’ve ever taken.

I know I’m happy right now in this moment. I haven’t felt this happy in a long time. The west coast will forever be my home. My skin feels different here. You can feel the different energy in the air and it is revitalizing me. The air in Boise is stronger than 5 cups of coffee. It lifts me up. I floated through the downtown area last night happily strolling past bars, enjoying the beauty of my surroundings and breathing in this beautiful air.

I met Matt in Boise. At the time, we were two energetic people who were itching to be in New York. Now we’re back in Boise for the time being, and everything feels just as it should. We have been together 4 years. We both grew up a lot in that time. Fortunately, we also grew together. It’s incredible walking through the downtown streets with him. We’ve come full circle. We can see Boise and New York for what they’ve always been. New York as a town for dreamers that every person should experience and take on. New York shows you who you are. Even more importantly, New York shows you who you truly want to be, and proves to you that you are capable of it. Boise shows you the importance of balance and happiness. Boise is running into friendly faces on the street. Boise is community. Boise is about coming together to support creativity. This week alone, Matt and I are going to an art crawl and two plays. Let’s play. California, I’m gonna be so ready for you. I hope you’re ready.

My Beautiful Breakup with NYC

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2016 at 5:04 pm

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I’m leaving New York in exactly 3 days. It sounds so casual when you say it that way, doesn’t it? I’m leaving New York. As if I’m popping by DC for a latte over the weekend on a Bolt bus that I found a great deal on, and I’ll be back on Monday. I’m moving away from New York. We’re parting ways. We’re breaking up. Whatever you want to call it. For me, this is a good decision. This is a great decision. I’m happy with my decision. All the same, it doesn’t take away from the fact that yes, I was very much in love with New York, and leaving him will not be easy.

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The first time I went to New York, it was a day trip while I was staying in Philly. I was still in college, and competing on the speech team. This trip was one of my favorite college experiences. My days consisted of wearing bright colored business suits and delivering speeches, and evenings spent discovering Philly. On one particular day, our team visited New York City. I was blown away by the energy. I had never experienced anything like it. I knew I would be back.

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A couple years later, my dear friends and I ventured to New York for a week of madness. Dance clubs into the wee hours of the morning, romps through Central Park and getting lost in the wonderful night life of underground music venues. This was also the trip that I got to see my first Broadway show. Now, at this time, I was no stranger to theater. I had season tickets to the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium from the time I was 3 years old. I was performing on a professional stage while I was in high school, and I devoured every possible production at the Pantages theater. But Broadway? There’s nothing like it. My first Broadway show was Mary Poppins.

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It played at the New Amsterdam theater. The sheer beauty of that theater brought me in before the curtain went up. I cried during the overture. I cried during Feed the Birds. My heart sank, then grew 10 sizes bigger after hearing Rebecca Luker’s 11 o’clock number. I felt like I was in a world that made sense to me. In a city that made sense to me. I walked out of the theater and immediately called my mom as I walked down 8th avenue.

I have to live in New York someday!!

I’m sure everyone thought that I was on a vacation high, but it was so much more than that to me. New York made sense. I was growing tired of the slow pace of California, and I had lived in California my entire life. I didn’t know about the world outside. I didn’t know what Christmas felt like wearing anything other than flip flops and tank tops. I wanted to see a different world and feed off of it and let it feed me. It was in that moment after I walked out of the New Amsterdam, that I decided to move to New York.

When you decide to move to New York, you have to (in my opinion) become a New Yorker before you move to New York. You have to rip off the bandaid multiple times as you start sacrificing things to make it work. I gave up my fun theme park jobs for a full-time call center job to save money for the first month’s rent while I was living in Idaho.

Rip.

I sold my bass clarinet that was given to me by my Gramma. It sold for less than advertised.

Rip!

I got rid of all my furniture. The only things I took to New York were two roller suitcases. My cats had to stay with family until I had long-term housing in the city.

Rippppp!

I made it to New York. I had $750 to my name when I arrived. My first sublet was in Bed Stuy. I lived with two other girls. One of which I never saw until a few days before I moved out. I can’t remember the name of the other girl I lived with. None of it mattered. Within a week of living in New York, the play I wrote was in a festival at a tiny theater near Times Square. The theater was a unit in an apartment building. There was a doorman and everything. It was so New York!

I moved 5 times in my first year. I’ve lived in Harlem, Sunnyside, Bed Stuy and Crown Heights. For a short stint, I lived near Grammercy park, and I even got to dog sit for a month in Soho. I paid my bills by dog walking, distributing headsets at broadway theaters, selling tours at NBC, soliciting donations for the 9/11 Memorial, and most recently, working full-time at a Broadway theater. I do everything from unlock doors to clean dressing rooms. I’ve been Barry Manilow’s dogsitter and I’ve cleaned Hugh Jackman’s dressing room. I did whatever it took to make it work.

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Theater-wise, I started off producing my own work. I negotiated a contract for my show to perform at a cabaret space. My contract got cut short by a month after a performance in which there was no one in the audience. That took me months to get over. But once I did, I was back. I wrote a new play that got into a festival. The rehearsals were held in the basement of a porn shop down the street from my first New York theater venue. I wrote the book for my first musical. Something I always dreamed of doing. I had never felt so many extreme high’s and low’s while working on a project. I loved it.

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So, here I am now. Three days from leaving. I think back to that girl who rushed out of the New Amsterdam feeling all the feels. I think of that girl who was able to see through the fog and make everything work. I see the girl who was ready to fight. And in this moment, I wonder, What the heck happened to her? This is the first blog I’ve written in almost 4 years. I haven’t written a new theatrical piece in almost a year. What happened to the dreamer in me? And that is the very reason I’m leaving New York. Some people might say that you should stick things out when they get hard. And I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not giving up theater or a creative life. Leaving New York when all you want is theater seems crazy. For me, it happens to be the right path. I will miss New York, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t the right decision.

Someday, I hope my work is worthy of New York. I hope I can see my name up in lights. I want people to see my work. I sprinted to New York and made it work as I went. I don’t want to just make it work anymore. I want to learn. I want to grow. I want to create better work and have the focus to do so. Someday, I will be back. Maybe I won’t be living in New York. Maybe I’ll pop in to work on a project. But I will be back. I know it the way I knew after seeing one show that I would move cross-country. For the first time in my life, I’m not making a rash decision to move and find a new dream. I’m moving because I have to fight for what I want. I am the girl who makes life-changing decisions when she’s inspired. And I never want to lose that side of myself. In order to keep it, I have to break up with New York for now, and find the happy. For now, New York will be in my heart. It will feed me as it always has. Afterall, the dream of New York captured my heart long before my first Broadway show. New York had my heart from the first show I saw. Period.

 

 

Sense Memory: My super power.

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

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As a kid, I wanted to fly. This simple want of mine turned into something so extreme, that every answer I formulated in response to every adult question had to involve the concept of flying.

What do you want to play today?

Flying.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Someone capable of flying.

What super power do you want?

Flight. Duh. 

I was a dreamer from the start, so I had actually convinced myself that this was something I was capable of, if I just wished it hard enough. I used to do flips off of an acrobat set that was hanging from a tree in my gramma’s backyard. One day I convinced myself that I could do my rendition of a back-tuck off of the bar and land safely on my feet because I would fly my way out of any un-safe situation. That was the day Erika landed on her head. That was the day I’m sure that I permanently damaged whichever realistic side of the brain I had left. That was also the day that I received my super power. My super power is Sense Memory.

Boring? Are you dare thinking that this super power is boring? Let me explain how cool this one is. I fell asleep once during a college class. Once. The memory of me sleeping in the class was so profound, that when I showed up to class the next week, I fell asleep the moment my ass hit the chair. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t bored. My body just stashed away the memory that this is what I’m supposed to do. It was only in that one class, but it was a daily issue. So much so, that my seat partner got used to checking in on me and hitting my arm whenever the professor looked my way. I fell asleep while driving my car on the freeway. Once. I wasn’t tired. It was a beautiful sunny day. The mix of the sunshine beating down on my skin and the wide open freeway put me to sleep. I don’t know how I was fortunate enough to not die on that day, but every time I drive on a beautiful day over 80 degrees, my body wants to sleep. I literally have to be prepared with loud music and shorten my trips to no longer than 5 minutes. I have sense memory with relationships too, which as you can imagine, will get you into a lot more trouble a lot faster than it ever will falling asleep in class. I’m guilty of carrying my disgusting, bed-bug ridden baggage from one relationship to the next. I’m guilty of hearing a person tell me one thing, and my body literally shutting down because I’ve heard people say the same thing in the past. The sense memory side of me desperately hangs onto one statement, and leaves my heart and my head with the task of coming to a resolution. Why do you feel the way you feel, etc. It’s taken practice for me to train my sense memory side. It’s taken time for me to drop the baggage and look sense memory square in the face and say, “Look. I know you’re my super power. But I’m fine. Everything in life is a learning experience. Not all people will treat me the same. I know you’re trying to protect me, but in this particular situation, you’re actually hurting me. You are going to steer me away from something that is really good, and I can’t listen to you on this one.” 

Today, my sense memory hit me like a bag of bricks. Ok, that was harsh but still…I had an amazing night last night. I slept well. I have a trip to New York to look forward to. I’m happy. I’m confident. Every element is there. Every ounce of my day was perfect until the minute I showed up to work. I suddenly felt miserable. Grouchy. Irritable. I immediately wanted to blame my feelings on P.M.S. That had to be it. Maybe it was money I was stressing over. Sure, that was it. I couldn’t get rid of this gut-wrenching awful feeling. I’ve felt this feeling before. You want to tell yourself you’re crazy and bi-polar because you can’t explain the mood swings. You want to convince yourself that you’re doing the better thing by being in a job that makes you unhappy because you are sacrificing to save up for something that will one day make all your dreams come true. Here’s my theory. If you’re miserable, make a change. Staying in something to appear less selfish or to stand at the forefront of the idea of, “You have to be unhappy to be a hard-worker” is just that. An idea. And a crummy one at that. I’m unhappy in my job. Therefore, I’m trying to make change. It’s absolutely not fair to my co-workers for them to have to be around someone who is a pain in the ass. It’s not fair to my friends and family to hear me say that I’m not happy. I’d be better off being broke as hell and happy. Thank you sense memory for giving me that dose of reality that I need sometimes. I have tried to convince myself that you need an awful day-job to pay your bills while you do what you love on the side. At the end of the day, you are still contributing 40 hours a week to something you can’t stand. The best thing to always do, is love everything that you have going on in your life. Love your day job because it covers your bills while you work on other things. The minute you stop loving it, or you can’t love it anymore for that simple reason, time for a change. You’re worth it. You can always make money elsewhere. 

As Erika dramatically leaves apartment and starts walking across the country. Kidding. But yeah..sense memory…my super power kicks some ass. 

Politics according to Jenko.

In Uncategorized on October 16, 2012 at 7:15 am

 

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Most of you will hate this post, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Most of you will start yelling ‘naive’ at your computer, or feel sorry for me and want to send me a message summing up what is going on politically in our country so that I can form an opinion. Here we go. I’m only posting this because Project Free Tv is taking a moment to load and my A.D.D. kicked in as I was loading the latest episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” I started to notice a lot of posts regarding recent political events, and it got me thinking….I don’t have an opinion. I love my friends who have passionate opinions. It doesn’t matter if the opinions are blunt, vague or even comically formulated…they’re opinions and they’re fantastic. So it got me thinking about a lot of things. Got me thinking about the fact that I haven’t voted in a couple years, and I’m pretty sure that the last time I voted, it was to get the ‘I voted’ sticker because it looked cute with my outfit I had on that day. My favorite experiences with politics came from watching far too much Dave and The American President growing up, and of course listening to The West Wing theme song, because I’m too cool to listen to the radio. The last time I felt passionate about politics was watching Legally Blonde 2. That cheesy courtroom scene kicks ass. The time before that was learning how to debate in college and watching my peers do so on a competitive level. I must admit, I have a fear of politics. My feelings toward politics are very similar to my feelings toward religion. I always think of high school. I was always told the same thing from my family: It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or Athiest. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. It doesn’t even matter if you pick a side. But whatever you pick, do it because you’re passionate about it and because it’s the right choice for you. And that’s exactly what I did. I test drove a few religions in high school. None were a good fit. Classmates couldn’t figure me out. Why didn’t I want a label? Wasn’t I afraid I was going to go to hell? What, you don’t believe in hell? All of the labels and all of the hate made me turn around and finally say to the world, “I believe in myself. I believe I can be a good person and do the right thing and I believe in me. I believe in my peers to do the right thing. I believe we can love and I believe we can inspire.” This is what is right for me. I have family members and friends who share a different viewpoint when it comes to religion, and I love it. I love it because it is what works for them. They’re happy, so I’m happy. Of course, the only problem with my beliefs is it doesn’t include anything visual, which got kind of boring for me. So to fix this, I put my faith in a woodland tree fairy. And she kicks ass all the time. High school put the same twist on politics for me. Remember your classmates running for President? My vote was solely based on who gave me the best candy. If you handed me a snickers, that’s it…I’ll vote for you a thousand times. But then do you remember how awful it got? Cliches started to form over it. It became a popularity contest. Did the best person ever really win in these things? Politics. I couldn’t pick a side. I guess I’m pretty damn liberal if I had to pick anything. It would be easy to say that I just don’t do politics. That they don’t impact me. That I don’t have to care. I’m not an idiot. I know it impacts me and the things I am passionate about. I know that a simple decision to put a cut in the arts budget effects my future. It affects the way the arts are viewed. It makes it consistently more difficult to get them back. I’m not naive enough to not know this. Here’s what I do know: I know that I don’t know enough about any given side because I haven’t given myself the opportunity to do so. Having said this, I’m cheering on those of you who have done your homework. It’s easy to pick a side and jump on the apple box. If you have a side, research the hell out of it and stick by it. I haven’t chosen my side or my label yet, but here’s what I will say. I remember sitting on my couch last year in the middle of one of my worst weeks of 2011. I was in a financial hole of misery that I couldn’t dig myself out of. I cried a lot. I lost hope. And I needed it back. Sat on the couch and listened to one of Obama’s speeches. Even though I hadn’t done my homework enough to agree or disagree with what he was saying, I finally felt what could only be described as a moment of hope. A moment where I thought that someone else had my back and my best interest at heart. I guess that’s the magic of politics. It does the same damn awesome thing that faith/religion/etc can do. It gives you some sort of hope. Whatever your hope is, and whatever your side is, just know that you’re awesome. You’re awesome because you care. 

Death and taxes and a codfish.

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2012 at 2:39 am

You’ve all heard the warning before:

The only certainties in life are death and taxes.

Whenever I hear that quote, I see myself riding “Pirates of the Carribean” at Disneyland, and hearing these words being uttered by the pirate who is supposed to say, “Dead men tell no tales.” Right?! I should break into Disneyland and switch the track to the death and taxes quote. It would be hysterical.

Death & Taxes. The damn villain of the financial story of everyone’s life. Parents have warned you. Friends have warned you. Co-workers have warned. Be careful with life’s decisions, because death and taxes are the only sure bet. Don’t take a chance or waste your money or death and taxes will attack. They’re lurking in your closet just waiting for you. Death and Taxes have been made out to be the codfish. Lately, (due to an alarming number of hours that I’ve spent reading up on J.M. Barrie’s life and re-reading Peter Pan), I would have to say that Death and Taxes is in fact the hero…maybe even the Peter Pan of the tale.

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There is another popular quote: To die would be an awfully big adventure. A quote written by J.M. Barrie and spoken by Peter in the classic, Peter Pan. Barrie’s tale of Peter in the book, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens can be described in one way…it was a way for Barrie to get through the death of his brother David, who had passed away at the age of 13. Peter symbolized David. A child who would live in the gardens and protect the children who had passed away. He would live eternally as a young boy. While Peter believed himself to be lucky to be able to stay young forever, the underlying sadness that Barrie sprinkles in, shows the tragedy of a boy who will never grow up and experience the beautiful things that life has to offer.

To die would be an awfully big adventure.

Death is something that is unavoidable, but it should follow a life that was full of moments of surprise, the ability to take chances and the strength to love others and push yourself to try new things.

Death and taxes. Perhaps it is a more positive message than we once thought. If death and taxes is the only sure bet, then life has given you permission to take a leap and enjoy your life. There is no such thing as bad decisions, time wasted or mistakes. Every mistake I have made has taken me to the place I am today. Life is an awfully big adventure. So go eat too much McDonalds. Have one too many beers once in awhile. Apply for the job you actually want. Say ‘I Love you’ if you feel it. Change things if you’re unhappy.

1 year of self-producing.

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2012 at 1:46 am

 

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I’ve come a long way in a year. One year ago I had a script sitting in a computer that I even I couldn’t take seriously. To me, it was like having a diary that I wanted to perform for people.

It was too personal. It wasn’t good enough. My story is not special…it’s something that everyone has gone through.

These were all of the obstacles that I gave myself. When I look back on all of it, it was exactly that…obstacles I gave myself. No one was holding me back. No one was actually telling me I wouldn’t be able to do this. All creative people manage to destroy themselves before they get out the gates. Its amazing really. In 1 year, I learned a lot. I learned how to go venue shopping. I learned which questions to ask. I learned what elements are important in a contract. I learned that you have to ask for help…there simply aren’t enough hours to take on the responsibility on your own. I learned that I could produce a successful show with little to no tech rehearsal as long as I had a strong team working with me (and I always did. They were always amazing) I learned that its ok to let others believe in you…and that was the hardest part. I produce my show because it makes me happy. It gives me fulfillment. I’ve always turned to theatre when I was unsure of something in my life. When I quit my salary paying job, I turned around and marched my ass into a theatre and found a way to perform on their stage. When I moved to Idaho and didn’t know a soul in town, I walked into Opera Idaho and asked for a job, because I had to work in theatre for Idaho to feel like home for me. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I was on the verge of seeking therapy to figure out why I was going through massive bouts of depression, that I turned to theatre and wrote “Princes Don’t Live in Cyberland.” Theatre gives me everything I could ask for, and I only hope that I’m somehow giving even an ounce of that feeling back to people when they see “Princes.” I don’t claim to know everything about theatre or producing your own show, but here’s what I learned this past year:

1) Don’t be afraid of what you want out of life. Don’t wait for it. Not even a day. If you aren’t waking up completely excited about something that you want to achieve, go find that something.

2) Theatre costs money to produce. Plain and simple. Don’t be a dumb-ass like me and think you can use your rent money and be just like those characters in Rent living on the edge to produce your art. It’s not worth it whatsoever. Do your research. Look into investors. Look into fiscal sponsorship. Find the best option for you.

3) Reach out to everyone you know and don’t trust that facebook is the best and only source to do this (it’s not). Email people. Call people. Text people. Let people know what you’re doing. You’d be shocked at the number of people who want to support you. Who want to hear your story. Who want to be there for you. This show has connected some of my family back together. I’ve gotten back in touch with people I haven’t seen in years. It can be truly amazing. 

4) Pretend like you know exactly what you’re doing at all times. The night before my first meeting with the production manager of my first venue, I sat at home and reviewed the venue contract line by line. Then I made a list of questions. Then I reviewed everything again. Then I practiced asking my questions. By the time I got into the meeting the next day I sounded like I’d been producing theatre for years. I got handed the keys to the venue on the spot for my professionalism. You won’t know everything right away, and that’s ok. But do your homework.

5) Follow your industry. Know the players. Just because I don’t live in NYC doesn’t mean that I don’t know the names of at least 5 women’s theatre groups who would produce a show like “Princes.” A successful theatre industry is contingent on one important thing: the audience. Follow tourism trends. Are people seeing theatre? How are they hearing about it? What marketing are they responding to? Do you need a street team? Should you tweet it? I follow Ken Davenport’s blog on a daily basis. (highly recommend it!)

6) You’re always selling yourself, whether you like it or not. You’re the brand of your show. Plain and simple. I can’t tell you how many people have sent me Disney imagery on facebook telling me it made them think of me. You have to carry the image of your show everywhere you go. Own it. If people are investing in what you stand for, own it. 

7) Protect your work. It sounds so silly, but seriously. Protect your work. Copyrights are approximately $30. Don’t post a script online unless you’ve put a symbolic condom on it. Wrap it up!

8) As much as you love doing what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to give yourself a break. People have told me I’m ‘lucky’ that things are working out, when it has absolutely nothing to do with luck. It has everything to do with waking up, pounding a pot of coffee and sitting at my computer until I’ve either researched, updated my website, created a mailer or researched some more. I think about theatre when I wake up. I think about theatre when I go to bed. It’s something I’m passionate about and it’s non-stop. Sometimes you have to stop or it turns into a job. Give yourself a break. Trust that you’re busting your ass enough. 

9) Getting rejected is the fun part. Rejection is part of the business. A funder will reject you. A theatre group will reject you. You’ll do a show with 5 people in the audience and feel like you want the roof to cave in on you because you’re working so hard and something needs to work out. Enjoy the rejection. The champion of rejection is Tyler Perry. He was self-producing his own show for years before his career happened. He performed to audiences with only a handful of people. Threw money down on as many venues as he could trying to produce and make it happen. Got told ‘no’ a lot. He could’ve quit at anytime, but he didn’t….and well, you know the rest. 

10) It’s a huge risk. You’re better off not doing it. A part of me has been wanting to lean toward going back into auditioning mode and auditioning for other people’s projects when I get to NYC. It would be easier. Easier to put the producing part into someone else’s hands. Easier to be a player in an already established project. Here’s the truth of it..it will always be easier that way…but if you have an idea sitting in your computer and you don’t know what to do with it, stop worrying about it and just do it. It’s so incredibly rewarding to see your little theatre creation learning to walk on the stage. Theatre needs new ideas. It needs new scripts. New ways of telling a story. Go produce something. Anything. 

No.

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

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My parents used to tell me that I handled the word ‘no’ better than anyone they knew. They never worried about me when I sauntered off to job interviews or auditions. They knew that with each ‘no’ I was more set in my ways. For anyone who has pursued a career in acting, we get used to the word ‘no.’ You aren’t the right body type. You don’t have the right hair color. You don’t have the right personality. You stop taking it personally. At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with you, but it has everything to do with a business. I’ve been producing my own play for the past year, and I’ve never heard more ‘no’s’ in my life. I’ve submitted my play to festivals in just about every state. I’ve gotten rejected. I’ve heard, “you’re not exactly what we’re looking for right now.” I’ve even gotten email invites to play festivals that I’ve been rejected from. I’m a firm believer that with each ‘no’ you’re one step closer to getting you’re ‘yes.’ I’m trying to move to NYC this year and applying to every possible job. Yesterday I got an email saying that I was rejected from the opera company in NYC. I almost jumped out of my seat with joy. Someone saw my resume. Someone knew I existed. I’m one ‘no’ closer to the ‘yes.’ To all you actors and aspiring theatre folk, you’ll get rejected a lot. It’s the nature of the beast. Learn to love it. Pursuing theatre is like dating. The person who finally says ‘yes’ to you is the person you’re meant to be with. So go out there and live the dream!