A Whole New Book

Sometimes in life you get to start a fresh new chapter.

Today, I feel like I’m starting a whole new book.

Yep. I got that first day of school, fresh, clean notebook, crisp pages, shiny ink-filled pens vibe.

I’ve been away from LA for almost a year and a half. Not totally, strictly “away.” I’ve been there for chunks of time. Months, sometimes. But I haven’t had a true home there in something like 18 months.

It’s been an exciting 18 months, for the most part. I did get to start at Groundlings. I spent two weeks in Thailand. A month traveling all over Ecuador. Performed onstage in NYC for the first time.

I worked random jobs- a hosting gig here, a commercial there.

I got to go home- as in my birth home- a lot, spend a lot of time with family, mine and my husband’s.

Today, we are packing up the Cadillac and starting the road trip home. To the west coast. To LA. To the place my dreams live. To the city that makes me feel like I can take a deep breath and be the most me.

Life is full of twists and turns you can never expect. Now it’s time to ride those twists and turns out west, to jump on Route 66 and start my new book with a road trip adventure.

Also, Los Angeles is now offering yoga classes with Lola the Sloth, so it seems my return is just in time. 🙂

 

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On the Death of a Man Who Didn’t Know He Inspired Me

This morning I woke to the news, shared all over Facebook, that a man named Nathan had been battling depression for years, and now he is gone.

I grew up watching this tall, powerful looking man, then just a boy but never seeming so, performing on various stages around my hometown. I had the bug so bad. I wanted to be amazing like the people in Varsity Singers, our town’s show choir. Whenever I was cast in a local show, the leads were my heroes. I was a total fangirl to those near me with talent. Just by being close to them, I felt more empowered to follow my dreams.

I imagined myself singing duets with the guys, me in a short sequined dress, belting my heart out, while fog rolled in around us. It was the only glamorous thing to hold on to in that little town in Indiana, and I clung to that like my life depended on it.

It did depend on it. My early hormones threw my yet undiagnosed depression into a whirlwind. My home life was rocky, to say the least. I swung between mania and deep pits of despair, often surviving on adrenaline alone.

I wanted to kill myself so many times. I fantasized about it. I wrote suicide notes in my journal. I got so close on more than one occasion, I terrified myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. There was no support system that I knew of, no one that I thought would understand. I didn’t know how to put into words pain that was so crushing I just wanted it to end.

I had my dreams, though. I had my younger siblings watching me, too. They needed me. So I needed my dreams. I had to believe there was a shiny, beautiful future waiting for me if only I could survive and make it out.

Nathan was one of those performers that lifted me out of the pit and into a place of hope. When he lifted his voice to sing, you felt it in your very core. His voice was full of beauty and power. You couldn’t help but watch him onstage, somehow magically moving his large frame so gracefully around with the other dancers.

He was older than me by a few years. I was too starstruck to ever speak to him, though we had many friends in common. I thought maybe, years later, we would both be on Broadway, and I would walk up to him and sort of casually say, “Oh, remember me? I used to be such a fan of yours!” But of course now we would both be big stars, so he would laugh and be flattered.

That would be extra amazing because his laugh was so amazing. Authentic and true and loud and lovely. His smile was so shiny and joyful. He seemed so happy to me.

And now he’s gone. He’s gone.

I wanted to share this today because I’ve had mental health issues on my mind in a big way lately. Earlier this week, a young family friend was stabbed while she and my cousin were providing volunteer health services to the homeless. She was rushed to the hospital and made it through, thankfully, but the man who stabbed her explained all. He is schizophrenic, and off his meds, and the voices in his head told him to kill one of the girls.

He could have killed her. Or my cousin. Because of a very real mental health issue. Just like that, all of our lives could change. Just like everyone’s life is changed that knew and loved Nathan. Just like so many, many more.

Recently, a woman shared a video about how “depression is all in your head.” I’m not sharing it here because it’s disgusting and I don’t want to give it more clicks. She shares a lot of controversial videos, but this one was particularly reckless. Her advice for beating depression ranged from somewhat true (“Just work out!”) to completely ridiculous (“Compliment people more!”) She has clearly never battled actual depression, so speaking about it as if she has some type of authority on the matter is beyond irresponsible.

Being sad is not being depressed. Your depression can’t be compared to the depression of others. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I hate meds for myself, but some people truly need them.

If we don’t truly shift and start working together in this country (and all over the world) for real, true, effective mental health support, we are going to experience more heartbreak and more loss, not to mention a huge amount of suffering that could be eased or prevented. We are all human beings, just doing our best on this planet. Let’s love each other. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s be there and fight for each other.

We have to stop dismissing the need for better and better mental health care. Today, I’m recommitting myself to supporting legislation, organizations, and information that can create real change. I’m doubling down on my mission to get rid of mental health stigmas that create shame and make people afraid to ask for help.

Nathan never knew how much he helped me on my darkest days. He had no idea. Probably very few of those people in my hometown did. Still, all these years later, he’s inspiring me to do better and be my best self, to use my voice in a powerful way.

Even if I’ll never have the power in my voice that he had in his.

AFI Fest, Hostiles, and the “LA Party”

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Ah, LA parties. If you want to see a bunch of people packed into a small space with little to no food, all sort of talking to each other but mostly looking around the room to see if there’s anyone more exciting nearby, get yourself to any industry related party in Los Angeles.

And “industry related” really just means there are actors there, I think.

Tonight I went to one such party. AFI Fest is happening now, and I want to do a huge shoutout because, at least for now, it’s my second favorite film festival in LA. The American Film Institute appreciates and celebrates the art of film in an important way, and their festival reflects that. If you get a chance, get your tickets now. (They have a Robert Altman career retrospective this year. What else do you need?)

Tonight my girl Kristine and I went to a screening of Scott Cooper’s new film Hostiles. It’s an epic western starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and a generally incredible cast, and I definitely recommend seeing it. It isn’t a perfect film by any means, but I like to judge art based on how it moves you and what it makes you look at inside yourself or out in the world. I was definitely moved, and I think the types of conversations this movie sparks are important to have. Continue reading

Back in the City of Angels

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I’m home. I’m HOME! I’m so happy to be back, I can’t even begin to tell you. My heart is here in LA…. and now the rest of me is, too.

I watched La La Land (finally!) on the plane ride here. My husband and I watched it together, and we were equally teary by the end. I’m not a particularly critical person- I like to like things for what they are, not tear them apart for what I want them to be, generally- but I above and beyond loved that film. Obsessed. Amazed.

 

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That lighting is the reason we all moved here. Magic.

 

 

A love letter to the city I love? An offering of hope and joy to the “ones who dream”? A story of artistic soul mates without a cheesy romanticized ending, where they learn some crap like “love matters more than everything you ever wanted”?  Continue reading

Places I Love- Detroit: The Heidelberg Project 

Today I’m starting a new series on this blog called “Places I Love.” I’m obsessed with exploring my city and finding awesome little gems, great restaurants, cool museums or shops, all types of sweet, must-share, well known or not-so-known experiences. Since I’m based out of Los Angeles, I will definitely start highlighting my favorite spots there. However, we also split our time with Detroit, and I’m really growing to love that city as well. To that end, I’ll be sharing some of the places that really excite me there, too!

You can take the girl out of the Midwest, but you can’t keep her from falling for a guy who still lives there and is so great she has a long distance relationship with him and even marries him and then has to go back there all the time.

That’s the saying, right?

To kick it off, I want to tell you guys about the Heidelberg Project, a crazy and amazing art installation/ community/ program in downtown Detroit. Not the super gentrified, condos popping up, high-end restaurants, shiny and new part of downtown Detroit, but near and yet somehow very far from there.

“The HP” was founded in 1986 by the Detroit artist Tyree Guyton. He returned to Heidelberg, the street where he grew up, and found it in shambles and decay. Guyton had already lost three brothers to the streets, so, encouraged by his grandfather, he picked up a paintbrush and decided to use art as his weapon.  Continue reading

When You Feel You’re “Missing Out” on the Bigger Things

Being the age

I dropped out of college after about two and a half years. I say “about” because I sort of just stopped showing up somewhere during my fifth semester. I wasn’t being lazy or giving up- quite the contrary. I was working several jobs to make ends meet, so when I started booking paid acting and modeling work, I didn’t have time to fit in everything. I figured I didn’t need a theatre degree for my career as an actor if I was working as an actor, so I let the need to finish school go.

(Side note- I am not advocating the idea that one should take dropping out of school lightly. However, I also don’t think anyone should finish college and get up their eyeballs in debt if it doesn’t make sense for their lives. Another blog post for another day.)

Since I left school before most people I knew at the time who were pursuing the acting life, I suddenly had this feeling that I was a little bit “ahead.” Not as a person, or an actor, definitely not in experience or financially, but just as far as time was concerned. It was like I had two “free years”, where all acting credits and experience were “bonus”, where I could slack off or not, and it didn’t matter. Continue reading

Volunteer Trip to Ecuador!

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I have amazing news- an upcoming project I’m incredibly excited about!!

I’ve been cast with a group of actors and artists going to Ecuador this summer. We will be living there for 30 days, participating in a series of workshops, lectures, and incredible experiences.

The BEST part is that we get a chance to give back and make a real difference. Our group will work within disenfranchised communities and with indigenous people, empowering the local youth with theatrical education. We will help them find their voices through the magic of acting and playwriting, giving them the tools to tell their stories.

This will all culminate with the creation and performance of our own original pieces inspired by our experiences in Ecuador. Our casts will preview these works in Quito before performing them in a festival in NYC the following week. Continue reading