Scene Prep #1

“When approaching a scene with a particularly complex character, try free-writing from the point-of-view of your character after reading your scene once, twice, and so forth. See who and what you discover outside the bounds of your scene.”

The only thing standing in the way of Queen is a King.

I served my time as wife and mother. So what if I wanted Queen all for myself. But like every opportunity for a woman, the first harbinger of any happening is in his wants. His greedy eyes and whispered words. His desperation. Is it depressing that my life has been navigated on the tides of a man’s desires? Is it embittering?

A poor woman I would be if I didn’t know how to bridle a man by his desires. They may be my prison, but they are his strings–in each jerking motion he lashes out precisely where I direct.

I am not made sexless, for I cannot be torn apart from the resentments that have become my gender. And he could not be a man–or perhaps could only be a man, and could not do a woman’s work.

Let them think I’m mad. In their eyes a woman is only a step away from madness anyways.

Let them think I’m dead. Wasted, lifeless and bereft. After all, what else could there possibly be for a woman with no hearth, no husband, no child, no beating breast?

Let them see my end, so I may be free to begin.


Behind-the-scenes of the birth of a film

Next small step for the budget, big step for the life experiences is working on the staged reading of a new script by Anthony W Johnson (founder of Ballet Magique and LaughingManOnFire Productions, if you don’t know him yet, you should!).

The script itself is a dark, stimulating thriller exposing the complicated history of the Eloise Mental Asylum.  Both a pioneer of music therapy and the ice-pick lobotomy, this palace of a mental institution targeted gender queer, homosexual, transgender, and hermaphroditic individuals to research and study. The film itself combines elements of drama, dance, music, and illusions.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t had to be this much of a triple-threat in film work ever! I’m excited to be part of what seems like a new genre of film.

For those who don’t know, actresses like me participating in the workshop stages of a new script will often not get invited on to the next levels. If this goes anywhere near as big as the support it as already garnered, they will be replacing me with someone who’s much more of an established name with a fanbase. However! It’s always exciting to see the creative process from a new angle, and there’s always the chance that you will get to grow with a project beyond what either you or the project dreamed possible.

Here’s to hoping we impress the producers and investors have as much as this project has impressed me!

I’ve been “pinned”!

Once again I’m taking baby steps, but at least I’m moving!

Thankfully, when I got the call from this super savvy female casting director that she wanted to “pin me” for the commercial I had auditioned for, it was not my first time hearing this term!  I had a couple established LA friends whom I plied for coffee and wisdom when I first moved out here who explained to me the ins and outs of the many stages of finally, actually booking something.

For the family members rooting for me, “booking” is when I actually get cast, get paid, and get put on a screen somewhere (even if it’s just a commercial that runs on Youtube before your video!).  That’s the beautiful dream.  But of course, you have to audition first, get called back if they like you, and then this little thing happens where you can get “pinned.” No, it’s not like a 50s love interest situation.

Essentially, when things move out here they move FAST and scheduling is crucial. A casting director doesn’t want to have a producer fall in love with you only to find out you booked something else in the week and a half it took to make the decision about you. So if they like you, they call you and “pin” you to let you know you’re in the finalist stack. Now it’s not up to the casting directors anymore, it’s up to the money people.  Maybe the casting director gave them a blond family option, brunette, short family, quirky family… and maybe which group you fit into isn’t the one the money people pick. Everything up to this point is skill and fit and confidence, but the last bit is all luck and what the producers want. So all that hullabaloo for nada.

Except! What being pinned means is that you were good enough to do the commercial. You walked into that room and the casting director saw someone they could trust, whom they thought was talented, and whom they liked. So really, you won. Every time you can do something like that is a time you make a fan out of someone who might hire you in the future. Every time you do that is a sign you’ll be able to do that again someday. That maybe an agent should want you because you’re good enough to book (they know as well as anyone the last bit is luck, they just want to know they can trust you with all the rest of it).

So just like Nala here, pin me once, pin me again 🙂

The Reviews are in! — Newsies at Phoenix Theatre had a long, sold-out run!

“It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a genuine, theatrical thrill. It’s where a regional production surpasses the enjoyment of either the Broadway show or the National Tour. It happened last year with Stray Cat Theatre’s American Idiot. It’s happened again, this time at Phoenix Theatre…Unless you’re already familiar with the score through repeated plays, the music tends to blend. And while they’re workable in the moment, none stand out, with the exception of Katherine’s humorous Sondheim inspired Watch What Happens, terrifically performed by Doering as her character voices her doubts regarding her writing abilities…It’s a large cast, all of whom from the youngest to the oldest deliver, but those you’ll remember the most include the above-mentioned Doering’s hugely likable Katherine, Rusty Ferracane’s Pulitzer, who with his graying wig and thick gray beard makes an impressive villain without overdoing the villainous snarls, Chanel Bragg’s vaudeville entertainer Medda Larkin (she tears the house down with her big number That’s Rich) and the show’s central character.”

” Emilie Doering is appropriately feisty and spunky as Katherine, the headstrong reporter out to prove herself, and, like Gish, has a beautiful singing voice and a natural and strong delivery.”

“What a local triumph!…Outstanding contributions come from Rusty Ferracane who is masterful as Pulitzer, and  Emilie Doering who is a feisty Katherine, Pulitzer’s daughter but a supporter of the newsies.”

Christmas is coming… ready your church repertoire!

Every singer knows what time of year it is—

First comes the high Holy days, then everything goes crazy from there! Time to brush on traditional and jazzy Christmas repertoire and be willing to sacrifice most Thursdays and Sundays and holidays to the performance gods!  But what incredible experiences to raise your voices with others in some glorious music (not to mention what good sight singing practice!)

In honor of the season, I’m sharing my early morning cough cough master class performance of Sandi Patty’s “O Holy Night” arrangement. This is one of those songs I’ve sung every year for Christmas with my mother, though I must admit, I didn’t start singing this version until more recently!

It’s been polished since that first public rendition, and hopefully ready for the season!

Next up — Iphigenia in Aulis!

For perhaps the first time in my life someone called ME asking if I was interested in an opportunity! And to think I almost hung up thinking it was a robocall! (Thank god for the understanding and kindness of the woman on the line).

In September, I will be understudying all the female chorus roles in Court Theatre’s production of Iphigenia in Aulisat the Getty Villa. They needed someone who’s a quick-learner and an excellent singer, and I’m happy to earn that reputation every chance I get!  So unfortunately, this is not a job you’ll be able to see me in (hopefully at least!), but this is a job I couldn’t be more excited to do.

If you don’t about the Court Theatre is an equity house in Chicago associated with the university there that brings new life to classics (my favorite!) and champions incredible works in the African American canon. I believe they mounted the world premiere of the play adaption “Native Son” which recently swept Arizona in Stray Cat Theatre’s production. The point is, this is exactly the kind of theatre I want to be doing and I couldn’t be more excited to get started.


New headshots, who dis?

After a whirlwind month with the incredible Angels Vocal Arts program, and a much needed south-of-the-border escape, I came back to LA ready to hit the pavement, which started with new headshots.  By sheer psychic ability, an old director and mentor of mine (who runs the Megaw Actors Studio in AZ for all my peeps back home!) that I was corresponding with mentioned she knew some excellent photographers in LA who also act on stage and screen, run their own businesses, and sing. So that’s how I came to find Mary Ann Halpin and Joe Croyle.

This woman actually took the time to get to know me, to find out what I needed in this next package of headshots (which was a lot considering I was trying to tackle some new looks for print “realism” shots and traditional opera glamour!), and to explore a variety of characters and emotions. Each new look was a new playlist, and if you know a musician you know what music does to our body language! I found characters and sides of me I had long forgotten, or didn’t even know I had! In starting the long process of reviewing the photos and exploring my favorites, I found in photo I looked nearly 16, and another, I almost thought I could pull-off a youthful 30-something…  There was an earthy woman, a vulnerable woman, a pull-no-punches business woman, and (perhaps most importantly) a diva.

If you have to have new headshots done, never miss the chance to rediscover yourself. In some pictures, my mother and grandmother and aunt all found the crinkly-smiling girl I once was. In others, I found the musical artist I wish to become.  I enjoyed each different style and genre, but it was when Joan Sutherland played in the background and I stood tall and proud imaging myself walking onto the stage of my dreams that I think I took some of the best pictures I’ve ever taken in my life. If you’ve ever doubted which industry or path you’re taking, have a camera stare you in the eye and see what you might not be able to see for yourself. It might just tell you exactly what you need to hear.

Evening(s) of Opera!

Next up! A night of opera scenes. If you’re not sure if you like opera or not, this is PERFECT for you. ‘Cause it’s just the highlights. It’s great scene after great scene from some of the most famous and beautiful operas to grace the stage, performed by amazingly talented emerging artists–local and international. And if you use discount code AVA9452 it’s more affordable than a popcorn and movie night!

I will be performing the roles of Adina from L’Elisir d’Amore, Maria from West Side Story, and Donna Elvira from Don Giovanni in some of their iconic scenes with a chamber orchestra! Most of my scenes perform on Saturday night, at 7:30 at the Westerbeck Recital Hall in Pasadena. It’s kind of a dream come true.

So if you want to see a little night opera, and get an idea of all the cheating, kissing, hair pulling, slapping, drinking, and serenading that happens at the Opera–this is your show!

Angels Vocal Art – Emerging Artists

July is a slow month in LA–so why not hit the training hard?  I’m diving head first into an young artist program with the Angels Vocal Art program.  Every morning, we’re attacking Commedia del Arte techniques and characters (I have to admit, my favorite is Pantalone, even though I’ll never get to play him…) and each other, in extensive stage combat training.  Followed by endless coachings and rehearsals…. I don’t think I’ve gone to sleep before 11 PM so far this week!  Digging into Adina and Fauré’s art songs and really getting into diction and natural cadence for recit (while still keeping with all the appoggiaturas and the like!).

I would really love for you all to the see the final product of what a lot of creative brains connecting the dots between music, history, classic stories, hair pulling, archetypes and symbols, and language can do!  And even better, I can get you a discount 😉  We have an Impressions and Expressions concert of art song solos and ensemble pieces if you prefer the edgier side of classical music–short and sweet and intense.  And then of course, we have two opera scenes concert nights where we perform highlights from favorite operas! Fully staged, with an orchestra. I will be performing Adina from L’Elisir d’amore and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (I know, you’re thinking ‘what the fach?’ but it’s just for the famous “Sola in Buio Loco” sextet), and Maria from West Side Story.

You can purchase tickets here for the art songs on July 19th, or the Opera Scenes concert on 28th and 29th.  Tickets are really affordable, only $25 for adults, $15 for students, and LESS if you use AVA9452 when you purchase tickets.

I have to admit, I’m psyched about what product we’re about to put on.  Even just speaking through the Don Giovanni sextet with these amazing singers was invigorating! And my L’Elisir d’Amore duette with a young tenor named Eric is the first time I’ve ever had to worry about a tenor out singing me!  His voice has power, and sitting in a practice room with him as he plunked out our chords and we practiced our harmonies was one of those rare moments of real musical collaboration–with as much listening happening as performing!  So please come on by if you are in the LA area because I’d love to see you! And share what my voice is becoming 😉

“There is no try” — Yoda

So this is gonna be a reflective post, rather that an update post.  But I’ve been getting a lot of the same advice across the board recently–singing lessons, Meisner classes, from my mother… all variations of the Nike trademark “just do it.”  Sometimes even “stop trying so hard!”  Which, I’ll admit, to my over-achiever brain, blows my mind. How can you do something without trying?

But you know what, damn it, they had a point. When I think about “doing my best” vs. “trying to be my best,” there’s a subtle but major difference between the two. Failure.

There is no way to fail at doing my best.  Whatever I do, however well I do it, that was the best I could do at that moment in time in that situation.  Just by doing something, just by completing the action, I succeeded.  The quality with which I completed the action is another, related story, but not the point.  Now, exceptions might include self-sabotaging habits and choices, but lets assume for the most part you are a healthy, sane-ish person who wants to do well.  By focusing on the action and not the outcome, I usually get a much better outcome! And am a much happier person in the meanwhile.

But with trying, you introduce the option of failure. If you try to do something, you can either succeed or fail.  You bring failing into the picture, sometimes even (if you’re like me) fixate on it. Some study somewhere on the internet shows if you say “don’t look!” to someone, all their brain really hears is “look” with the filter of “don’t” applied in a delayed manner later (I read it somewhere, don’t quote me on it).  The pressure, and the focus, is now on the outcome, not the process, which usually decreases the quality of the outcome and your enjoyment of the process.

If you’re a singer, you know pushing and tension = bad singing and openness and vocal freedom = good singing.  When I “try” to sing something right, I usually end up pushing, over-focusing on every little thing internally, my voice becomes strident. Sometimes nothing is technically “wrong” with my performance, it’s just not as pleasant for the audience.  When I just “do” it, my brain is style hyper-actively trying to do everything I’ve learned to do about quality singing, but I’m not focusing on that part. It still happens, but I’m counterbalancing it with being in my moment and being proud of myself for just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  The same thing happens with my acting when I’m “trying” to nail it; only instead of my voice, I’m pushing my emotions (in your FACE audience!) instead of just letting them happen.

So for me (that’s a big catch! if these words don’t have these connotations for you, then none of this applies!), just doing something makes me focus on the action, the process, and more importantly allows me to subconsciously define success as having completed an action that was meaningful and important to me.  Trying something makes me focus on right vs. wrong, mistake and failure vs. success and achievement, pushing to make the one happen and avoid the other.  You know what they say, you subconsciously bring things into your life when you obsess over them. So when I bring the fear of failure into my life, I’m actually bringing failure with it, spending my mental and emotional energy on it.

But if these words don’t subconsciously mean the same things to you, or come with the same emotional baggage, then your words will be different. The phrase you whisper to yourself when you’re nervous and you need to center will be different. This is no prescription for how to “think right.” It’s just my way of admitting I’m ready to let go of the “trying” crutch that I’ve held onto for so long.

So I owe you one mom, and mentors, and shoe commercials and tiny green fictional characters–the less I try, the more I succeed.  Not because I work any less hard, but because I stop worrying about failing and start worrying about doing.