Actually, no I don’t, but in my head, you are asking yourselves, “Who’s the ethnically ambiguous chick with the giant perm?” That, my dear readers, is me, and that is the very first professional headshot I’d ever gotten. It was taken when I was a Sophomore at the University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music.
Why did we all do that thing with our bangs in the 80’s? Why? My four years at the Conservatory were equal parts challenging, thrilling, intense, exhausting and fun; but gazing at my 19 year old self, I am once again reminded of a piece of advice impressed upon us by many our professors; always stay fashion neutral in your headshot.
Sort of. There is still a LOT of product in that hair. But it was with this headshot that I moved to Atlanta to Intern at the Academy Theater. The program was under the tutelage of the Artistic Director of The Academy, Frank Wittow; a truly extraordinary Director and Teacher. Funnily enough, my decision to audition for The Academy was not my idea, but my friend Bill’s. We were both Seniors and it was mid-January and we were discussing what our plans were after graduation. The day we had this discussion, Cincinnati was experiencing record cold weather. It was, wait for it, 20 degrees below zero outside. Twenty. Below. (That’s not the “with wind chill” number either. If you factored in that, the temperature hovered somewhere near 7,000,000 degrees below zero). I was complaining about how much I hated the cold. Bill suggested I might want to check out his hometown of Atlanta after graduation. It was warm there, and it had a burgeoning Regional Theatre community. I had been looking for a good Internship program, so I auditioned for The Academy, got in, threw away my thermals and headed down South.
In addition to my responsibilities at the The Academy, I had the good fortune to work with several other theatre companies in the area as well. Actor’s Express and Onstage Atlanta, to name a few. I was very busy and very happy. Fast forward to another cold, but thankfully above freezing, day in January, 6 months into my tenure at The Academy. The top news story of the day was that Atlanta had made the short list of cities being considered to host the1996 Summer Olympic games. It was a long shot, but Atlanta was determined to host! It would take a lot of hard work and careful planning and heart, but they would do it! Oh, and 1.8 billion dollars. Yes, 1.8 billion. I googled it. Less than one month after the announcement, the corporate funding so essential to the survival of any functioning Regional Theater disappeared. Evaporated. The Academy lost their space and many of the other theatres were curtailing their seasons. So, I moved to Chicago, because, you know, it’s warm.
I didn’t know a soul in Chicago, but I did have a job waiting for me. A friend of mine in Atlanta worked with a puppet theatre up there (Hystopolis Productions) during the summers and they happened to be looking for a female puppeteer. I had no experience working with puppets, but they loved me vocally, so I was in. I began working with the Hystopolis crew (Michael Schwabe and Larry Basgall) by performing their kid’s shows at the Bristol Renaissance Faire just over the border in Wisconsin (OK, we all make fun of Renn Faires, but, those of you who have performed in one, admit it, they are totally fun).
Hystopolis was also producing a show for adults; an all puppet version of The Adding Machine by Elmer Rice, and they kept asking me to come see it. I always begged off. Although I enjoyed doing the kids shows, I suspected that had more to do with ye olde after-hour partying in the woods of Bristol than in the actual work. Honestly, I wasn’t sold on the idea of puppetry as an art form adults would appreciate; but one day they caught me when I couldn’t think of an excuse fast enough, and I had a ticket for the show. Great.
No, really. It was great! Beyond great! I count it as one of the best, if not THE best, evenings of theatre I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience. A few weeks later they asked me if I would replace the female puppeteer who was leaving, and I jumped at the chance. We had a successful run in Chicago and took the show to several different cities as well. I didn’t work exclusively with Hystopolis, I also worked at The Next Theater with Dexter Bullard, Bailiwick Rep., and The Annoyance; but Hystopolis became my most consistent supplier of inspiring and gainful employment. AND it was with them that I made my New York Off-Broadway debut! We were invited to The Public to perform The Adding Machine at the First International Festival of Puppetry Arts. Long story short, I fell in love with New York and decided it was time to move.
(That’s not completely true. First there was a brief detour to Cleveland where I did a whole bunch of voice-over work and performed with Guerilla Rep, Ensemble Theatre, and a whole slew of improv troupes. I saved up a bundle of money and then I moved to New York.).
OK, New York. Here is where I could get really wordy, but that’s what the “Resume” page is for. Really quick, I’ve done over 25 Off and Off-Broadway productions, countless readings and workshops, joined Equity and AFTRA, became a member of four different theatre companies, appeared as Wendy-the-very-very-stupid-maid over a dozen times on As The World Turns, shot lots of fun video (see aptly named “Video” page), did a whole lot more improv, worked with some people it was a lifelong dream to work with, got married to my favorite person in the world, wrote and performed a one-woman show, and then turned blue, bleached my hair and sprouted shiny facial growths.
Oh, no, no, no. That’s a picture from “The Lily’s Revenge”; a show I workshopped at Sundance in the Summer of 2009 (I just really love this pic and ran out of room on the homepage).
If I have any sort of guiding philosophy it is summed up in the following quote by my friend Dana’s mom, Jane Ferris Carpender:
“You are the world’s only supply of something unique. You would not be here if the world did not need that combination of qualities, and you have a responsibility to present your true account.”
I try to remember that whenever I embark on new and unchartered territory.