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Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday

When my alarm rang at 6am this morning, I grumbled, grunted, and pretty much cursed the world. I hit the snooze button because I refused to put my feet on the floor until the sun at least started to peak through my curtains. As a human being, I don't think it's right to have to be up before the sun. When I did get out of bed, I plodded to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, and with half-closed eyes I picked out the most comfortable "business professional" outfit I could find. I did pretty well considering that "business professional" attire is generally not created for comfort. I hated everything about it.

If you know me at all, you know I am not a morning person. Anyone who has lived with me knows this firsthand. Any one who has had a 10 minute conversation with me has probably heard me mention it. My college roommates learned quickly that I only speak in grunts until I've showered or had coffee. My sorority sisters learned by trial and error that singing to me before I get out of bed will result in thrown pillows. My brave friend Alicia once continued singing after all of the pillows on my bed had been launched at her head, and ended up getting hit in the shoulder with a journal. That is not one of my shining moments - Sorry Alicia. My mother knows not to call me before at least 10am on a day off (or at least, she should know. Sometimes she forgets). My housemates here in the city laugh at my schedule. And my boyfriend, who is currently living 2 time zones behind me, is rarely up before I am, so that is working well.

My ideal schedule would be to wake up at 10 and begin working around noon. It's a great schedule for an actor. It's not really conducive to anything else I've found. I've learned that generally here in New York I have to suck it up and deal with it, but I really don't function well before 10. There is some sort of switch that flips in my head at 10am that seems to say "ok, I'm here. Let's do this." Until then, I'm basically useless, which is probably why this particular blog entry is so convoluted. It's not even 9 yet! Meh.

Anyway, the point of this post, and the connection to morning hatred and Black Friday, is this:

I got off the subway at the south east corner of Central Park at 7:50 this morning for my temp assignment, grumbling and complaining in my head, and I just froze. I looked out over the park - the quiet pond, that sweet little bridge, the trees (some of which are still clinging to their gorgeous fall leaves), the people bundled up walking with their dogs on the winding paths below - and I thought "wow." I turned around and looked up at the sky scrapers that cut through the crisp morning light, the Plaza Hotel with all of its wonderful "old New York" splendor, and the twinkling Christmas decorations that are now lining 5th Avenue, and I thought "wow." I was reminded in that moment just how much I love this city and how thankful I am to be able to live and work here. I have a job, and as strange and sporadic as my employment might be, it pays the bills and keeps me from having to deal with insane New York shoppers fighting for the best deals on this day of madness that we call Black Friday.

So, if you're reading this, I hope you find a moment today to stop and appreciate where you are, whether curled up with loved ones at home, braving the crowds shopping, or back to the grind of work. Continue the attitude of Thanks-giving today. It certainly changed my perspective.

Wow, that got a little cheesy. I'm blaming it on the fact that it's still well before 10am.

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

REALLY Odd Jobs: Part ? of that Series I Tried to Start Last Year

Y'all... Some weeks are weird.
This has been a particularly weird week, and it isn't over yet. New York City is a crazy place full of crazy people who will ask you to do crazy things.

For example, this morning I find myself at another temp job. This particular company hired three temps to sit in empty offices and "look busy" while they have a conference. They are PAYING me to LOOK BUSY. When I explained this to my boyfriend last night on the phone (Hey check it out! Another cryptic mention of Lindsey's boyfriend!), he inspired me to really take this job to the next level. So far I have been taking critical and detailed notes from my Facebook news feed, answering urgent imaginary phone calls from our international office partners, and now I am writing my VERY important emails to high-profile clients who requested my input on such and such matter personally. I am a very important asset to this company who shall remain nameless. Corporate America. It's weird.

I shouldn't be too surprised, though. This week has been pretty weird from the start. The entertainment industry is just as weird, if not more so, than the business world. I began my week at 7am, standing outside a building in 34 degree weather, waiting to be put into another line where a man would look at me and tell me if he wanted to hear me sing or not. After three hours of waiting and hoping I would get to sing, I got "typed in" and started hoping and praying that he wanted me to be an Angry Tree or a Flying Monkey in his production of The Wizard of Oz. Dream big y'all. He did not. I did get to sing, but I did not get a callback, so I trotted off to the next audition with my pride only slightly deflated and my dreams of throwing apples at Dorothy from the inside of a heavy synthetic bark suit put on hold.

My second audition of the day was out in Jersey City. I don't really know anything about New Jersey except that my unlimited MetroCard doesn't work for the PATH train. I bought a new card, hopped on the train, and went out to a theater in Journal Square. The audition was for a company that strives to be immersive in innovative ways. In this particular production, the entire audience will be blind-folded and the production will utilize the other senses to question our perception of reality: is what we see what we really believe? It promises to be an interesting experience. So, in the audition for this type of production, one shouldn't be surprised at interesting casting methods. However, when the director told me she was going to close her eyes for my whole audition, I was a little taken-aback. I mean, it made sense. If I book it, nobody will see me anyway, but I've never had someone actually close their eyes for my audition. I've had plenty of casting directors look at their phone or be really engrossed in the salad in front of them, but never so blatantly not look at me. Considering the circumstance, it was actually quite fun.

I have another weird audition coming up tomorrow. There's a new children's tour going out with puppets designed by Jim Henson's creature shop, and in addition to singing a comedic song, the breakdown asks for a puppet lip-syncing audition. They will provide the puppet, but I have to provide the song, so all week I've been rehearsing in front of a mirror with my sock and an emery board. The cat thinks I'm insane. I would also like to take this moment to thank my mother for instilling in me an early love of puppets. If I book this job, it will be because of the hours of entertainment your various puppet creations gave me. Special shout outs to Mr. Sock, the sock puppet you actually left ON YOUR FOOT for me to talk to, and the weird little finger puppet googley eyes that lived in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

Another slightly weird aspect of my week was my first yoga class at a new studio in my neighborhood. The class was actually fantastic, and it was donation-based with a suggested donation of $5, which is awesome in this really expensive city. The weird thing about it, which my mom actually pointed out later, was that I was doing yoga... in Harlem... It was basically like a meeting of all of the skinny white people in the area, and there aren't a whole lot of us. I did learn, however, that I can no longer call myself the only blonde in the neighborhood... stupid little yoga girls. :(

I think the most normal part of my week will actually be my babysitting job at the church tomorrow morning, and for most people, that would be a far cry from normal. I love it though. Those kids keep me young. I mean really young. Like, I tend to act like a 4 year old when I'm with them. Don't judge.

Wait. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the most normal part of my week was the fundraising gala I volunteered for last night with my new comedy improv group, Cherub Improv. OK, yeah, maybe not. Hobnobbing with rich people who like to support a non-profit comedy team who does charitable outreach and free improv shows was pretty weird. REALLY awesome, but probably weird. Also, if you would like to learn more about Cherub Improv or support this really awesome group, check us out at www.cherubimprov.org.

Well, I guess that's pretty much been my whole week. I hope you enjoyed the weirdness of it all. Maybe next week will be a little more normal for me, but I almost hope not. It's been fun.

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Donkey Days of Summer

This morning I find myself at the reception desk of an investment firm (I think?) answering phones and making coffee for people who don't know my name. I'm not complaining. It is a pleasant environment, the work is not difficult, and I have time to blog --you're welcome, Mom. It is, however, a far cry from the artistically fulfilling 5 months I just experienced. As I have been reminded, there are many seasons in life, especially for a performer, and we endure the less exciting seasons so that the thrilling ones are even more wonderful. In an effort to make this "less exciting" day a little more fun, I have decided to revisit my summer experiences and recount some of my adventures for you today.

This summer, I was hired as an actor for the Thin Air Theater Company in Cripple Creek, Colorado to perform as Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls and Mrs. Champain/Duchess in The Spoilers- a classic melodrama. I accepted the contract because I knew the role of Sarah would look good on my resume. Little did I know, that would be the least exciting talking point of the summer.

Cripple Creek is a tiny little town nestled on the top of a mountain near Pike's Peak.Once upon a time, at the height of the Colorado gold rush, it was the 5th largest city in Colorado. Today it is a casino town with a few historical museums and tourists attractions. It may not sound exciting, but what it lacks in activity, it certainly makes up for in character. The residents of Cripple Creek are very proud of their heritage, and EVERYTHING in the town has a heritage: the theater, the businesses, the gold mine, and even the town mascot- the donkeys.

The Theater:
The long-running history of theater -particularly melodrama- in Cripple Creek began with the Mackin family. At a time when the town population began to dwindle after the gold rush, the Mackins introduced a new revenue- live theater. The "mountain people" of the area were attracted to these productions at the Imperial Theater because they were allowed to boo and cheer as the play went along. Tourists were attracted to the town because of the quickly-spreading reputation the theater had earned. It is rumored that even Walt Disney visited the theater when he was in town. These days, the melodramas are performed down the street from the Imperial at the Butte Opera House, and a different company produces the shows, but the commitment to historical excellence is held to a very high standard. The theater is the pride of the town, and we as actors definitely had moments of "celebrity" treatment.

Our shows were generally very well received by our audiences. However, there were a few performances that didn't go so well. One afternoon, during Guys and Dolls, the entire front row and half of the second row got up and left at intermission, complaining about the "excessive cursing." Now, I understand that cursing can be offensive, but the script isn't excessive. I think we said "the D word" and "H-E-double hockey sticks" MAYBE 3 or 4 times. That, apparently, was WAY too much for this group. We actually ran into one of them while out shopping the next day. I attempted to control my annoyance and be polite when one of the elderly men chided me for my allowance of such language. He told me his life story, explaining that he once "had a mouth like a sailor" but then "found God and can't tolerate that lifestyle no more." After a few minutes of quietly smiling and listening to him, I sweetly said "Well, sir, I understand that. However, both of the words that offended you are found in the Bible, and our play actually contained a very strong message of redemption. I wish you could have seen the end, but maybe next time you should do a bit of research before purchasing tickets."  We all joked about it later, but at the time, it was a miserable experience. So, soapbox moment, if you plan to see live theater at any point in the near future, please remember the following:
1) The internet is a fantastic resource when you want to know what you're getting into. Feel free to use it BEFORE you purchase tickets.
2) If you still want to see the show but think you might need to leave, PLEASE don't sit in the front row.
3)WE CAN SEE YOU! Especially if you sit in the front few rows, the actors on stage can see what you are doing. So, if you fall asleep, if your phone goes off, if you get up and leave, if you are a bratty teenager that clearly does not want to be there, if you get really intoxicated and try to climb up on to the stage, WE WILL KNOW. And we will probably make fun of you, and/or blog about it, later.

The Businesses:
While few of the businesses of the "golden age" remain in Cripple Creek, there are a few that have turned their heritage into touristy historic stops. A few of my favorites were the old jail museum, the train depot, and The Old Homestead. As members of the acting company, we were welcomed into these establishments with open arms. We toured the cells of the allegedly haunted old jail, we bounced along on the steam engine train as it took us up through the mountains and around the old mining sites, and we gawked at the rooms where the famous Pearl de Vere and her girls would accommodate their "gentleman callers" for $250 a night at a time when $3/day was considered good salary.
My FAVORITE museum wasn't actually in Cripple Creek. Just down the mountain, in Woodland Park, there is a Dinosaur Resource Center. My boyfriend took me to the museum on one of our first few dates. During one of our shows, he snuck into the girls' dressing room and filled my station with gummy bears. He put a plastic dinosaur in the middle with a gummy bear in its mouth and a note card that invited me to "that dinosaur place." While taking a tour, we were surprised to realize that not only was this a cool museum with huge fossils looming over us, it was an active paleontologist lab! The owners were still actively finding and casting molds of fossils they found on excursions, and many of the lab's castings can be found in museums all over the world, including the Museum of Natural History, here in NYC! If you every find yourself near that part of Colorado, I would definitely recommend a visit.

The Gold Mine:
Now that I think about it, the gold mine wasn't that exciting... just really big. There was gold back then, there is gold now. They've found new ways of busting up the mountain to get it. They promise to fix it when they're done.

The Donkeys:
I saved the donkeys for last because they are probably the most defining aspect of Cripple Creek as a quirky little town. The free-roaming herd of donkeys are descendants of the mining donkeys from the gold rush. This cluster of 12 asses have free reign of the city. They walk through town, stop in the middle of the road, relax in front yards of anyone who doesn't have a fence, and pose for pictures with tourists. The Two Mile High Club has been established in CC to take care of the donkeys: feeding them, boarding them in the snowy winter months, and taking them to the vet when they get sick. All of the shops in town have donkey treats for purchase, so these jack asses are pretty spoiled. The town even has a festival in the middle of the summer called Donkey Derby Days to celebrate them. The donkeys race down the mountain and into town where they are cheered and toasted. There are concerts on the main strip, vendors set up with merchandise and fair food, donkey rides, contests, and even a parade. It was something special...

Overall, I had an amazing time in Cripple Creek. The mountains were GORGEOUS, the company took great care of us, I worked with some phenomenal people, and I spent 5 glorious months doing what I love to do- performing. So, now, while I am thrilled to be back home in the city, I'm a little nostalgic and very thankful for the time I spent in the mountains.

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Odd Jobs, Episode 2: The Tea Party Princess

It is a lifelong dream of mine to be a Disney Princess.

Ok, stop. I can see you rolling your eyes. Hear me out...

I grew up on Disney movies. The princesses were my role models, besides my mother, of course... and really this obsession is her fault. If you know anything about my family, you know that we are a little manic when it comes to almost anything Disney. Erin and I had the movies, the barbie dolls, the costumes, the Beannie Babies, the sing along tracks, the coloring books, and many trips to the parks. So, it shouldn't surprise you that I actually traveled to Walt Disney World one summer and auditioned to be a Disney Princess. I can't give many details about the audition because, as the daughter of a WDW Cast Member, I understand the importance of keeping the magic alive and well-hidden, but I can tell you this: I didn't make the cut. I am two inches too tall to be a princess at Disney World.

Heart-breaking. I know.

Being the thick-skinned, rejection-taking performer that I am, I refused to let that stop me from realizing my true potential. One day, I WILL be the voice of an animated princess. (Did you hear that people? Let's make it happen.) Until that day, though, I will continue to spread princess cheer through the world in my own way.

I was babysitting today (because that's what actors do when they don't want to work in a restaurant yet) at my church for the women's morning bible study. There were six little girls prancing and jumping and throwing toys across the room. It was fine. Then, one precious little two-year old came up to me, handed me a wooden spoon, and said "Here Insy. This is your magic wand." OH SNAP! That poor kid had NO idea what she just unleashed! Within a matter of minutes, I had spun each girl around, Bippity-boppity-boo-ed a swirl of beautiful gowns, and turned the lunch bench into a fabulous golden (stretch) carriage. We galloped off to the ball and took turns showing one another our best princess curtsies, twirls, and dance moves. Eventually, the clock struck noon and we had to return to the church basement to see our mothers, but it was a magical morning, indeed.

This adventure, however, was not the inspiration for Odd Jobs, Episode 2. No, no dear friends. We go back a bit further for the truly odd job...

I was hired to host tea parties at a place called Tea Party Castle in Birmingham, Alabama while I was in school. We would host private birthday parties for little girls and their friends. It was really pretty amazing. Upon arrival, the whole party would be greeted by castle maidens, helped into one of hundreds of formal dresses, serenaded with princess songs, adorned with glitter, jewelry, and a new hairstyle, and lined up for a picture. That was all before they even met the princess! After being invited into the Princess Lilly's (that was me!) dining hall, the girls would have princess training, a fashion show, etiquette lessons, a parade, tea and cakes, and a dance party. Oh, and somewhere in there the birthday girl would open presents, and the princess would sing... a lot.

Once the parties actually started, I LOVED being a princess, but boy, getting to that point was a royal pain. I would wake up early on a Saturday morning, attack my hair with hairspray, put it up in hot rollers, climb into my royal carriage (a silver Pontiac Vibe) and drive an hour through my kingdom to my castle. While I was climbing into pantaloons, hoop skirts, and a sequined dress, the owner was pulling the rollers out of my hair and pinning my crunchy curls into a hideous fairy-tale up-do - complete with a massive glitter butterfly. Yes, it was just as epic as you are imagining. After my look was completed, I would join my maidens upstairs in the dining hall to set up the plates, tea cups, food trays, sound system, lights, tea, and candles. It ain't easy being royal... After the party, we would do a quick turn around and set up for #2. Somehow, the second party was always the one with the girl who wanted to be a dragon instead of a princess or the kid who was allergic to the glitter we had just dumped on her head. At the end of the day we would wash all of the dishes, clean up the piles of wrapping paper on the stage, return to our peasant clothing, and say our goodnights. It was all great fun, until that one time I almost missed the bus for my sorority formal because an evil stepmother was causing problems... But that's another story in itself.

So there you have it, folks. I've been a princess before, and I intend to be one again some day. Was it the climax of my acting career? Thank heavens, no, but I certainly learned a lot and I'm thankful for the opportunity. And one day, there will be a chapter in my memoir entitled Two Inches Too Tall to be a Princess. Keep an eye out for that one...

And until next time...

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Next Episode: Caught in the Middle: Dilemmas of an Office Temp


Monday, February 3, 2014

Odd Jobs, Episode 1: The Afro-Beat Dance Call


I'm not sure if I've told you this story or not. It's hard to express the details of a story like this without facial expressions and hand gestures. I'm a big fan of facial expressions and hand gestures.

But, here goes nothing. 

During my first year in New York, I had the privilege of working alongside Arnold Mungioli as an intern and then a Casting Assistant at Mungioli Theatricals. I cannot even begin to explain how much I learned about the business and about being an artist during my time there. Each casting session was like a masterclass in audition etiquette, and every day in the office gave me insight into the business world of this industry. I collected a handful of really wonderful stories, but there are a few I will never ever forget.

We were working with Bill T Jones and his creative team to cast the second national tour of FELA! For those of you who don't know, FELA! is the story of Fela Kuti, the father of AfroBeat music. And for those of you who don't know what AfroBeat is, according to Knitting Factory Records, "Fela contended that AfroBeat was a modern form of danceable, African classical music with an urgent message for the planet’s denizens. Created out of a cross-breeding of Funk, Jazz, Salsa and Calypso with Juju, Highlife and African percussive patterns, it was to him a political weapon."
The musical is a fast paced, heart pounding, eye-opening show that relies heavily on dance and music to tell the story of Fela and his followers. For auditions, in addition to agent appointments, EPA’s, and larger offer negotiations, we scheduled and advertised a dance call. The breakdown specified that we were looking for African American men an women with experience in African and Modern dance. I spent weeks contacting every dance studio in the tri-state area and posting the audition information on every website I could find. We were trying to reach a very specific type of performer, and we wanted the creative team to be pleased with the turnout.

The audition was listed as an ECC (Equity Chorus Call), meaning that members of the actor’s union would be seen first, and if there was time, we would see individuals who aren’t affiliated with a union. For Equity auditions, Actor’s Equity provides an Equity Monitor, or someone to keep everyone organized in the holding room. If all equity members have been seen, the monitor isn’t required to stay for the rest of the call.

I was sitting in the audition room with the creative team when our assigned equity monitor came in to give us the plan for the morning. She had two groups of equity dancers lined up, and asked if I would be willing to monitor after that. I agreed quickly, having monitored many times, and thinking that it would be a slow trickle of dancers in and out through the morning. I was worried that we were only going to see a few groups of dancers and that I had failed miserably in my attempts to advertise the audition. After the equity groups were seen, I went into the hallway to organize the few non-equity girls that I assumed were waiting outside.  As I walked into the holding room, I was swarmed by more than two hundred gorgeous ethnic women with face paint and African headdresses. TWO HUNDRED dancers.

I picked up the unofficial list and began reading names like Ade Chike, Ndeye, Malaiyka, Rasaan, and Uyouata.  I could just fell them laughing at me as I tried to pronounce the names on the paper I was holding. I was corrected many, many times. It didn't help much.

We survived. The dancers were all seen that day, and we ended up with a fabulous cast. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a home that promoted cultural awareness, but my eyes were opened that day to a world of deeply rooted, passionate, artistic expression. I saw so much pride in heritage and tradition, and the whole experience felt less like an audition than communal dance party. The creative team was thrilled with the turnout, and even though I had to apologize countless times for botching names, everyone seemed satisfied at the end of the day… except maybe the studio workers… we took up a lot of space… Two Hundred dancers all trying to stretch at the same time can be a little overwhelming – especially when you add tribal facepaint.

Episode 2: The Tea Party Princess

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Friday, January 31, 2014

Introduction to the new blog series: Odd Jobs


I meet a lot of people. I’m social. I’m an extrovert. It happens.
Inevitably, within a few short moments of meeting someone new, I am asked the question, “So, what do you do?”

I have almost come to dread this question because after answering “Oh I’m an actor,” I generally get one of two responses:

1    1) Don’t you mean “actRESS”
Or 
2         2) So what do you REALLY do?”

Both of these responses used to frustrate me. I would get defensive and make negative snap judgments about the ignorant or condescending persona of my new associate.

My answer for question #1 is simple: If you want to call me an actress, that’s fine. However, on my tax form and any occupational paperwork I fill out, the box available for me to select is “actor,” and nothing else. It is a gender neutral job title. You wouldn’t call a female physician a Doctress. You would call a woman who travels to space an Astronautette.  Now, I’m no a raging feminist, so if you call me an actress, I won’t be offended; however, if you try to correct me when I tell you what I do for a living, I will secretly roll my eyes at you while giving you a sweet southern smile.

Moving on.

My answer for question #2 is a bit more complicated, so I’ve decided to write a blog series about it. For a long time, it made me angry that people didn’t think I could make a living as an actor. After some time in New York City, I’ve realized there’s more truth in this question than people often realize. While I am primarily a performer pursuing my dreams, I have put on many different hats in the past few years to keep my bank account from crashing between gigs.

I was told a few weeks ago that 75% of an actor’s career is spent in auditions.  I believe it. We spend hours, and days, and months, and years in holding rooms and audition rooms, and we spend approximately the same amount of time taking classes, doing research, and preparing for those auditions. The difficult truth is that we don’t get paid for any of those hours. Booking a gig is great, and getting paid to act, sing, and dance is amazing, but unfortunately hopping from gig to gig to gig with no holes is rare, and you never know how long those holes can be, so an actor has to be prepared. We have to eat, dangit.

I have a lot of friends who wait tables or work in food service. This is a pretty typical survival job for an actor. It typically provides a flexible schedule, an engaging environment, and coworkers who understand the situation. I, however, have never actually worked in the restaurant world. My musical theater training provided me with a plethora of helpful life skills that I have utilized in many different ways, and in many different jobs in recent years, many of which make for fun stories. Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing my experiences with those of you who are curious enough to actually read my blog.

I present to you, Odd Jobs: An Eclectic Collection of Workplace Stories.

Tune in next time for Episode 1: The Afro-beat Dance Call.

Grace be with you,
Lindsey Shea

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Open Letter to "The Grinch"

Dear Mr. President,

I know you're on vacation, and I really hope it's great, but you cancelled my awesome healthcare plan even though you promised I would have another year to work things out, so now I'm trying to sign up for your "Affordable Health Care" so I don't have to pay the insane price that you suggested for an "appropriate and comparable" plan. Again, I know you're on vacation, and that's great, but so am I, and I'm tired of being on hold. If you can't fix your website, at least hire enough people to field the calls that are coming in asking for help. At this point, I don't believe "your call is important to us" any more than I believe "You can keep your healthcare."
Maybe I'm irresponsible for waiting until the last minute, but I was worried about all of the security gaps and website issues that have been in the news continuously since the October launch. Maybe I'm naive for thinking that you wouldn't actually take away insurance from a satisfied, paying citizen. According to the current news reports, I wasn't the only one under that impression, and according to social media, I don't seem to be the only person having issues (now or over the past few months) with the website and phone service.
Also, making the deadline Christmas Eve kind of makes you look like The Grinch, both to me and to the poor people who have to clean up this mess... Just sayin'.
So, since I must be an irresponsible, chronic procrastinator instead of a valued member of these United States of America, I am going to hang up and go wrap the last few presents.

Merry Christmas,
Lindsey