Casey-Hayes

Learning to Act Off Stage

By Company Member Casey Hayes-Deats

At some point in her career, an actor will have to face the daunting task of having to laugh uncontrollably when nothing is really very funny or wail and moan when the tears just don’t want to come. When this happens, the only thing to do is force yourself to release a sound before your brain has a chance to register just how ridiculous you are. If you can take action before you allow yourself to be ruled by fear and judgment, then you will find that wonderful, dangerously exciting moments can come when you are willing to take a risk.

Lately I have attempted to apply this same principle to my life off of the stage. When I have an idea for a creative project, I usually keep the idea to myself. I spend hours evaluating the worthiness of my idea, as well as my ability to see it through to the end. I worry about the ways in which I could fail more than I dream of the ways in which I could succeed. The result of these habits is that I expend a great amount of emotional energy, but ultimately have nothing to show for it. My idea is stifled until it is forgotten. But imagine what might be revealed if I were more willing to risk releasing my idea out into the world?

I actually already know the answer to this question. When I release my ideas out into the world, they have a far greater chance of becoming reality. A few years ago, I showed a friend the script for a play that I wanted to perform in. My friend became interested in directing the show, and in the year that followed we obtained the rights to the New York premiere, raised several thousand dollars for the production, and even managed to get reviewed by the New York Times. Had I not taken the initial risk of sharing my idea, none of that would have ever happened.

But even after such a success it is difficult to push past my own fears and judgments. Thus, as I continue to dream up new ideas, I am attempting to commit to several new habits. 1) Develop an elevator pitch for my idea, even if I still have more questions than answers. 2) Share my pitch with friends and colleagues who will hold me accountable. These are the people who will send me articles related to my area of interest. These are the people who will suggest that I talk to this person or read that book. These are the people who will ask for updates the next time that I see them. 3) Keep track of who said they were interested in being part of the project and invite them all to an event – a party, a workshop, a play reading. It doesn’t really matter what it is, I just need get my potential collaborators in a room together. This is a small but significant start that makes it infinitely more likely that a larger plan will fall into place.

The key principle behind these habits is getting out of my own way by taking action before my brain has a chance to convince me that it is a bad idea. If I share my idea with the world and open myself up to the possibility of collaboration, then it is likely that my initial ideas will grow to be much more that I could ever imagine. And if that doesn’t happen, that is okay too, because at least I will have done one of the hardest, most essential jobs of an artist: pushing past my fears for the sake of something with the potential to be much larger than myself.

Mariana Vily

Expectations

By Mariana Vily. Director of Communications

Let’s take a trip down the memory lane. Rewind to four years ago, during my first semester at Stella Adler, when I was assigned my first scene. I remember feeling both that it was a brilliant casting choice for me, and that I was ill-equipped to take it on. (In hindsight, this is probably why I was in school in the first place.) I don’t know what I expected from my first scene, but certainly not what I got. It was emotional, and it included a monologue that back then felt endless. At any rate, I had no idea how to approach it. Further, considering this was just one of many assignments I had at the time, and that I was also adjusting to New York, I was a little overwhelmed.Maybe because I am an optimist at heart, as I tackled my monumental task, I had a moment of revelation: someone thought I could do it. I mean, they wouldn’t have assigned me the scene in the first place if I couldn’t do it to some extent, right? I was aware that what was being asked of me required a stretch, but I implicitly trusted that I wasn’t being set up for failure.I don’t remember the outcome of this particular scene. My guess is that I achieved some things and failed at others. I was aware of my shortcomings, but fired up to bring my best game and keep on learning. And as I continued to juggle increasingly complex assignments, I also became more grateful for the faculty, because I knew the alternative: feeling that nothing was expected of me, or getting infinitesimal tasks that wouldn’t allow me to grow.

There have been many times in my life when I felt the weight of the expectations of others. I haven’t always gotten along well with that feeling. I now know that I owe many of my achievements to those who dared to imagine better things for me. Self-fulfilling prophecies can work for better, too.

We are all very good at self-preservation. We shy away from risks, lest we should disappoint others or, even worse, ourselves. Often we are encouraged to settle, and we do so because it is safe. So here is a challenge of sorts: what would happen if we chose to expect more instead? If we raised the bar for others and for ourselves? I am sure we would know how to deal with imperfect results. What we couldn’t do anything about, though, are the risks we never took.

Julia Rae Maldonado

The Elephant in Our Pockets

By Julia Rae Maldonado, Company of Actors

Be it Puritans or the Plague, the theatre always seems to be under threat.

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of Today’s dangers – a highly insidious foe which attacks the artist’s very ability to Dream. (You may even have one in your hand right now.) Certainly, it’s important to keep abreast of current events, sure. It’s probably important to answer that e-mail. Immediately. That cat is doing what? I better just click on that. Whenever I have ten minutes, I start gobbling up little niblets of information. Stories reduced to bullet points, “25 Things That…”, 140 Characters! Don’t get me started on all that candy that needs crushing. I tell you, when I have time to kill, I kill it. I really kill it. My forty minute commute? Every minute of it is dead.

This little machine means not a second has to go by without my mind being occupied! This is great. I hardly know myself anymore. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and do nothing? I remember about a year ago, I went through a horrible experience. It was this sort of artistic “cleanse” I read about in an actual book. It’s called “Reading Deprivation”. Pretty scary stuff. I hear Julia Cameron has now expanded the exercise and rechristened it Media Deprivation. The idea is you don’t read anything, watch anything, or click anything. For an entire week!
Because apparently, to dip into the unconscious, that spring of unbridled creativity, an artist needs downtime. Like, real downtime. And drama is a medium fueled by conflict and connection. Well! At least we’ve got plenty of conflict. As a society, we seem to feel isolated and crave attention. If you don’t believe me, glance at your Facebook feed.

But before you get too depressed, consider that this barren cultural landscape may be the perfect environment for the theatre to flourish. The success of immersive shows like Here Lies Love, Then She Fell, and Sleep No More prove that theatre-going audiences are starved for direct connection like never before.

As long as we can keep that device in our pockets, sit still, and Dream.

Rachel Caplan

Let’s Go With this “Season of Giving” Thing…

By Rachel Caplan, Special Events Manager

Outside of acting, I’ve been bartending for about a year now. Sure, I’ve  learned to make a killer margarita, but I don’t think that’s why all of my regulars continue to visit during my shifts. I genuinely like hanging out with them, listening to their stories and dreams and concerns, and throwing in my two cents over a pint. Our goodbyes have grown from smiles and waves to high fives and hugs. It’s just like my own personal “Cheers.” I love it.

Connecting with people, especially during this time of year, is so important. New York City looks glamorous and so damn sparkly, but all of those Gap ads with warm families in giant houses, greeting one another in perfectly “normal” sweaters can make our lives seem a bit lonely. That’s why we need so strongly to find our own versions of extended family. More than any other city, I think that New York is a place where your friends quickly become your family, and this was so apparent at last week’s reading of A Christmas Carol at O’Lunney’s with Theatre East. I looked around the room and saw glowing faces, both new and familiar, young and young-at-heart, all dressed up and participating in telling a beautiful story together. Some lending their talents, others lending their ears. All giving.

A while back, a young man began coming to the bar during my shifts. I learned he is a director, a rather up-and-coming one at that, and we began talking shop every time he came to grab a beer. He has taught me so much over these lager-filled hours, lessons I couldn’t learn in acting school, and I’m not sure he knows what an impact he’s had on me, but his simple gifts of time and attention have benefited me so tremendously, I feel I should leave him a tip instead of the other way around. One issue we’ve discussed ad nauseum is our fear that theatre is becoming a “rich kid’s sport,” something that is so expensive, many young artists cannot afford theatre tickets, not to mention sustain a career in which it is tough to keep one’s head above water. This is why giving is so essential, and so very doable.

I don’t have much money to give, but I do have TIME. All of my mentors, those whom I respect and turn to for advice, have given me only their time, which is a most precious gift. I recently produced a play (None of the Above with Pegasus 51) for the first time, an experience which was incredible and overwhelming, and was made far more rewarding by the generosity of the playwright, Jenny Lyn Bader. She found me on Twitter and invited me to ask any questions I had about the play. On top of that, she came to see the show not once, but three times, bringing different guests all along. Because of her openness, we began a dialogue that fostered a lovely new relationship. I have so much respect for people like Jenny Lyn and my director friend, established artists who reach down to the next generation and offer their resources.

This, I believe, is the spirit of the holiday season, and of Theatre East. We are a company of artists at different points in our careers, and I’m proud to be part of a group so willing to give of their wellsprings of knowledge and experience.

I suppose this is something we can all learn and apply in our respective communities. I dare you (and myself) to take a look at your position in your community and find someone seeking advice or a bit of inspiration or even just a high five. Be generous however you are able, whether that means sponsoring someone so that they may see a piece of theatre they wouldn’t have been able to afford or simply sitting across a table from them and and listening. I can tell you as someone who is young and hopeful and unsure, a pair of ears is the greatest gift in the world.

I will dip into heavier business for just a moment and say that now is an essential point in history to give of your time, not only to individuals, but to greater causes. Be brave, be bold, gather your friends and march for justice. Let your voice be heard and support those whose voices have been silenced.

And perhaps it is my youth and hopeful outlook that make me believe this, but I think that if we step up, we can create a remarkable chain of giving and a glorious future for every beautiful, valuable person in this world.

Happy Holidays!
Channukah Sameach
Merry Christmas
Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri!
One love.

Emily Verla Headshot

The Best Pieces of Advice I’ve Been Given

By Emily Verla, Company of Actors / Roudtable Co-Chair

I want to be clear from the beginning that I did not take the majority of these pearls to heart the first time they were uttered to me. Usually I had to bash into them (to an almost concussive level) before admitting that these wise words were the best course of action.

Starting with something my Dad began saying to me in the 6th grade: “Lean into what you’re good at, and find someone else to deal with the rest.” This felt idiotic in primary school; no one else could answer questions I didn’t know on tests. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve accepted that if it takes me 4 hours to edit a piece of writing and 15 minutes for my friend to do it I should ask them, and spend 15 minutes taking over one of their 4 hour headaches.

From Alithea Philips, who oozes kindness : “Respect your fellow artist’s process (they may be a genius).” Not everyone works in the same order. Nothing good comes from judging the people you’re working with, whereas fully committing to whatever choices my comrades make has led me in directions I had never thought of. Often that direction may not stick, but going there as a team helps everyone figure out more quickly that something else should be done, without shutting anyone down in the process.

“Other people’s success is not your failure.” Full disclosure, this one was not directly delivered to me; it was an answer of Christian Borle’s in a Tony interview. Though this seems like the easiest piece of advice to follow, I have found it to be illogically difficult in practice. I know a lot of people who are more competitive than I am, and seeing others succeed stokes their fire, but I tend to shut down. Developing the habit of being happy for your friends feels so much better.

This one is the newest addition to my arsenal: “Fuck It, someone’s ‘gonna want this!”, from casting director Kimberly Graham, a much more active way of doing that “letting go” thing everyone’s always telling you to do. Accepting you can only do the best you can do. The war cry version of “you are enough”.

“Find your people.”, from my mom. Once you find your people all the other stuff gets easier.

Alice Qin

How I Learned to Deal with Worrying and Avoid the Bomb

By Alice Qin, Director of Social Media

I heard something fantastic the other day – “Treat worry like a heckler, not a mugger.” It’s an interesting distinction that frames all the things that stop us in our tracks, into a trajectory that allows us to move forward. It being the end of summer, and the spirit of Back-To-School is all around us (in forms of office supply sales), and being based in a city like New York; this mindset feels particularly pertinent.

It’s absolutely useless to pretend that your worries don’t exist. Ignoring your problems usually create far worse ones down the line, we know this, but it’s worth reminding ourselves every once in a while. Making ourselves the victims of our own brain and allowing fear to rob us of everything is obviously not very useful either. Better to acknowledge it, assess it for any merit, own up to what is true which allows room for dismissing whatever it is that we made up ourselves. No point worrying about a mere remote possibility if it stops you from doing something that is important.

Dealing with personal failure is a basic job requirement of, well, people in general, but people in the creative arts, especially. We can try to draw inspiration from famous stories of how failures made incredible things possible, from Edison to Steve Jobs and everyone in between. However it’s one thing to know, intellectually, that failing is a process and not an ending, it’s a hard to accept platitudes when we’re in the middle of it. Stopping to evaluate the voices in my head has always been the best I’ve come up with to coax myself out of the fetal position and get on with it. When that doesn’t work, there’s always ice cream, and Netflix, and another morning to try again.

JLJ

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

From Judson Jones, Artistic Director
Gestalt. It’s one of my absolute favorite words. It’s a German word that basically means that the whole cannot be derived by a simple summation of its parts. For me, this isn’t an example of how theatre can work, but instead how theatre should work. A few years ago a group of artists, members of our business community, and supporters gathered in a room to ask a question. That question was:Can we build a theatre company whose commitment to community, whose commitment to operating in a transparent and inclusive manner, whose commitment to the incredible power theatre possesses, is matched only by the commitment to producing earnest, catalyzing, provocative, needed, and great work?
While it has not always been easy, and we haven’t always succeeded, this continues to be our goal. The success of this company—our educational and community programming, past and future productions—is not due to the work of any individual, but to the work of many.
I’m constantly fascinated by the process of putting a production together. Everything about it. From selecting the script (or the script selecting you)…to assuring the playwright you won’t destroy their play…finding the space…hoping you can afford it…bringing on the director, supporting their vision…hiring the creative team and hoping the designers get along…the director leading the creative team to his or her vision and then being brave enough to let them run with it…finding your cast…hoping you find them…trusting that you’ll find them…being so thankful when you finally find them…doubting every decision you make…production meetings….staff meetings…marketing meetings…board meetings…meetings about meetings…publicity…unions…realizing that, while you have 10 bottles of wine for the opening night gala, you need to frantically run to the store immediately after curtain because no one brought a corkscrew…all of this, and ultimately hoping you have the budget to pull it off.
And you do all this in the fervent hope…to share a moment. All of these people working together, giving of themselves, their craft, working around the clock, hours of rehearsals, months of planning…hoping to create a single moment. A single shared moment with you. Why? Because it is in that moment we are closest to the gods.
I believe that.
TomOppenheim, Artistic Director of The Stella Adler Studios, lauded Theatre East at our first benefit with the following words: “I see there a mirror that reflects exactly the vision of a sane theater that Harold Clurman calls for. They have beautifully articulated alist of values, which are sound, noble, and creatively potent. They sing of the theatre providing a communal experience, connecting us to the world and each other, catalyzing critical thinking, educating us; they insist the theatre be accessible and, like Harold Clurman, see it ultimately as a civilizing force.” I told Tom then that we did not deserve such words, but I hope we can earn them.All my very best,
Judson
JMPsquare

The Natural Producer

from Joseph Mitchell Parks, Associate Producer

My parents got me involved in the theatre at the age of 8, and as I look back I can see the signs of a future working as a producer even in the beginning. I had a sense of wonder and must have overwhelmed the  producers of the show with my many questions about the set, costumes, lights, etc. … At the age of 12 I began working with a local community theatre in Dallas in which I was the youngest member of the company and I wanted to soak up all the information I possibly could from my mentors of the time. I was always fascinated by the production process and always wanted to be one of the people making the decisions about the shows.

My fascination continued in my undergraduate training in which I had the privilege of working with members of Anne Bogart’s SITI Company. Each company member, in addition to their many talents as actors, were integral parts of the producing process of the show. Anne’s Associate Ellen Lauren is one of her principal performers in addition to her work with Anne on a producing level. I knew then that was the kind of artist that I wanted to become. I did not want to be the kind of performer who sat around waiting for opportunities to come, but one who went out and made them happen with other artists that I respect and admire and more importantly to work on projects that were important to me. During my training I also worked on work study in the box office and was able to get experience in the financial business of working in the theatre. Our professors at St. Edward’s University were also professional Equity artists who often shared the stage with us, so it was always clear to me that you need to wear many hats to have a full career in the theatre.

When I moved to New York five years ago I knew I wanted to find a home working with  companies that I cared about. As the Associate Producer of Theatre East I have found just that. My passion for classical theatre is also fed by my work with The Acting Company as the Producing Assistant and Resident Company Manager. With them I have had the opportunity to go on two national tours, understudying many tracks in one of them, and have learned everything I know from the great co-founder Margot Harley, who started the company in 1972 with the late John Houseman. My involvement with these two companies has shaped my life here in New York. I have also been able to work with Shakespeare NYC and produce independently.

I feel like I am exactly where I should be in my life and that this is only the beginning of my career as a Producer and I am so glad it is with a company like Theatre East.

All the best,

Joseph
Christa Kimlicko Jones

Finding and Revealing One’s Voice

 

from Christa Kimlicko Jones, Associate Artistic Director,Director of Programming:
To be honest, I was dreading writing a blog post and then I realized that, in fact, what I am most anxious about is putting myself out there. Putting my voice, my thoughts out there. Exposing myself. But then, I realized, that perhaps that’s exactly what I need to write about. That’s usually the case, isn’t it? To tackle those fears head on?!
Then it occurred to me that finding and revealing one’s voice is one of the main reasons why I do theatre. It’s really what interests me most about theatre. It’s why I love to be a part of a rehearsal process so much. It’s why I read plays and want to bring them to life. To exchange ideas. To expose. To question. It’s why I feel like a theatre company is important; Theatre East is definitely a celebration of many voices coming together for a greater mission. It’s also why I teach (Voice & Speech) at Stella Adler Studio. I get to help a young actor breathe more deeply, more fully, and find their most specific, most muscular way of speaking so that they might better reveal the character’s passions, allowing for an audience to be moved, changed so that they might see a bit of themselves.

I guess I’m incredibly interested in people, in their stories, in their thoughts and dreams, their opinions—and in revealing, unveiling, exposing the truth. I’m interested in coming together to tell stories, so that we don’t feel quite so alone in this crazy journey of life.

It feels a little funny to share this in blog format. I have to say that if I had my way I’d rather sit over a lovely cup of coffee or tea (or beer or wine or whatever) and look people in the eye…and connect. And exchange. Listen. Respond. Truthfully. In the moment. Of course, there are only so many hours in the day! So, until then…this will do.

Nevertheless, that’s why I do what I do. The people are what keep me going. The stories. The ideas. The hopes and the dreams. The light bulbs. The furrowed brows. The challenge of it all. The searching for truth. One’s pure and honest, glorious voice.

And I’m thankful that I get to be a part of a world and of a craft that allows for that revelatory exploration.

Actors’ Equity Association, the union for stage actors, sends out membership renewal cards twice a year. One of the things I look forward to the most is the quote or anecdote included in the letter portion. This one hit the nail on the head for me:

“I wanted to be an actress in 1912; I want to be an actress today. That walk from the darkness backstage through the door or opening in the scenery where I make an entrance into the bright lights with that big dim mass out beyond, which bursts into applause, then the first terrifying sound that comes out of my throat, which they describe as a voice, but that first instant it is the siren of terror and intention and faith and hope and trust and vanity and security and insecurity and bloodcurdling courage which is acting.” ~Ruth Gordon (1896-1985)

Yes, it’s scary to put one’s self out there—but if you do, unabashedly so, in my heart of hearts I feel that it’s absolutely worth it. Until next time,
Christa