An Unexpected Journey Started With Being a Cheerleader and Meeting A Giant…

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On Thursday,  I finally watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

It was so breathtaking! I loved the breadth of locations and the transitions from scene to scene.  While the character development was brief but adequate, I am hoping that the sequels will have more  info on the backstory of each of the charming characters.

I really wanted more of Radagan the Brown and his rabbit sleigh.  I WANT A RABBIT SLEIGH!!!! AND A HEDGEHOG!!!

I think the storytelling was well paced and the dialogue snappy.  The only complaint I have is the three trolls that stole the four horses.  I thought it went  a little too three stooges. And I know that this is a special effects heavy movie but I wish that it wasn’t so obviously digital at times.  Regardless of those little gripes, I really enjoyed watching this movie. It actually got me to think about the unexpected journey that I have taken this year. But first I have to give The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

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Four big ol’ smiling faces! Hooray!!

As I mentioned, the movie made me want to do two things.  First, it made me want to take an unexpected journey of my own.  It made me want to travel to somewhere, anywhere and see new things and meet new people.  I think that may be why I love to try new things.  I began thinking “shoot, I have almost a week off maybe I should try to take a trip somewhere.”  Then the reality that my car may not make it kicks in and squelches that idea.

The second thing that it made me think about was the journey that I’ve taken this year and where it has led me to thus far…

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At the beginning of the year, I got to be the MC for NotBlueAtAll.com‘s A Fatty Affair.  It was a blast.  I loved being a part of something that is encouraging and positive.  I loved it so much that I am gonna do it again come January! And you are all invited!  Its a self accepting event where there are no judgements, just each of us enjoying the beauty that is you as you are and empowering you to believe it.

Then,  feeling great from the Fatty Affair gig, I thought I would try my luck with an audition for San Jose Stage Company.  It was one of the few auditions that I really felt pretty good about an audition.  I believe I may be getting the hang of this.  YAY!!  I didn’t get in and I wasn’t expecting to since many of the people they use are Equity.

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Next, I was really focused on more dancing and I loved it.  I got to perform a piece choreographed by one my teachers, Daynee, in various incarnations.  At one point, I thought it was going to be  a solo since it started out as a quartet then went down to a trio with different people.  Then, we were asked to try it as a duet, but then we couldn’t nail down a rehearsal time, so it was nixed.  It was great to perform it during National Dance week in Santana Row and at Western Ballet’s dance show as well as Zohar’s own dance performance.

It was there that I met Walter Mayes for the first time.  Actually let me reword that.  I knew who he was and I’ve seen him before, and he kinda scared me.  You see, the first time that I was actually in the same room as him, he was physically throwing this little guy out of a house.  Imagine seeing this 7 foot man (if not that then very nearly) picking up this little 5 and a half foot guy and carrying him to the door.  He had this booming voice, and I thought to myself, “I am just gonna stand over here and stay out of his way.”  So when he came up to me after the dance concert, I didn’t know what to do.  He asked me to audition for Promises, Promises in the middle of the year.  I told him that I didn’t think I was going to and I gave him my reasons, but he insisted that I audition anyway.  Eventually I caved.  It would be a good learning experience to work with a new director.  Auditions came, I flubbed it and I secretly was hoping to be done with it.  But somehow, Walter offered me another shot during callbacks and I landed the role of Mr. Kirkeby.  So I had to wait until the end of the year to begin rehearsals (which are going on now).

While I was waiting for rehearsals to begin, I began to feel a little braver thanks to the conversation with Mr. Mayes.  So I auditioned for a brand spanking new musical about the buddha, but this time it was a woman.  I travelled to San Francisco and was there for a hot minute, and came back home with an appointment the next week for audition #2!  That was exciting.  Sadly, that was as far as I got in the process.  Not to worry, I didn’t fit any of the physical character breakdowns so I knew that it was ending soon.  But that little try helped me to see that auditioning wouldn’t kill me or maim me in any way, so my intense fears were completely pointless.

Feeling bolder, I auditioned for the national tour of Green Day’s American Idiot.  It was just like any other audition.  I wasn’t sure what to expect and I think I was building it up way too much in my head. I didn’t screw it up, but I don’t think I was flawless either.  hahahahaha.  Live and learn, right? Again, I was a face your fear situation and I walked away the winner of that battle.  Then the audition well, dried up for a month or two.  So I was twiddling about with nothing but my 9-5 to keep me busy.

One day in my inbox, I got a notice for Santa Clara Players, a company I have never worked with. I considered auditioning, but I never heard of the show, nor did I like the title of it.  So I trashed it and paid it no mind. Things continued like normal until the day of auditions.  I did all my usual errands and went to visit my family.  Then on the way home, I was literally on my street, I decided to give it a shot.  I first got lost trying to find this place but once I did I couldn’t turn back.  So I walked in completely cold and performed a monologue I’ve had in my back pocket since high school but stopped using.  It got me my first leading man gig!  Of course he was like the 4th important character, but finally I had this type of role.  I cannot tell you how much of a booster that was.

During the middle of the rehearsals, I got an email from a friend to participate in a read though of his scripts so he can tweak and adjust them and address any questions that could possibly come up.  I have a draft of the post that was supposed to go up, but I didn’t finish it.  I will work on that tonight!  That was the first time I’ve ever been invited to give input on a script that’s just been written. I mean I’ve done it for AMT when I worked there, but that was because I didn’t have anything else to do.  Someone asked me, as an actor, to do this, so I was shocked.

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So as I am performing in Nana’s Naughty Knickers, rehearsals begin for Promises, Promises.  I didn’t know what to expect when I got there so I kind of kept quiet and watched the people for the first week.  Now having gotten to know many of them, I have to say, they are a fabulous bunch of people. Some I’ve worked with before, and some I am meeting for the first time.  But all are so helpful and friendly. Then to make the process even more painless, the staff is awesome.   Mr. Mayes is such a positive and detail oriented director that it makes you want to work that much harder for him. Lee Ann Payne our choreographer has made some adorable numbers, hard as all get out, but adorable.  Dan and Anita who handle the music and vocals respectively are so helpful.  This staff has been described as the “dream team” and I have to admit they may be right.  I am having a lot of fun so far and I can’t wait til this show gets put on it’s feet at the end of January.  You can purchase tickets HERE!  So get’em cuz we may just sell out! Screw that, we WILL sell out!

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Then a few weeks ago, there were auditions for Sugar.  I knew the movie Some Like It Hot which the show is based off of.  I really wanted to participate in this show and I wanted to keep this momentum of getting to auditions and not freaking out, so I gave it a shot.  Since I couldn’t possibly rehearse for two shows at the same time, I thought my chances were slim to none. I thought my song was good, the tempo was slower than I would have liked. The reading went fabulously, I felt, especially since they were laughing a lot.  So I got a call back for the two leads and a character that tap dances to his death.  The callback felt a bit rough, but I tried a ton of stuff even if it didn’t make sense, I wanted to push and not play it safe.  We must’ve read about 6 times a piece with different partners then switching the roles. Every single time, I tried new stuff.  I tried not to repeat what the other guys were doing, and I had to hope that it worked.  Then I was told that since I was going to be missing the first three weeks of rehearsal, the director really had to think hard about the ramifications of offering me one of these main roles.

AND I GOT IT!!!!

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So come the new year, I will be rehearsing two shows at the same time!! Gah!! I already began working on Sugar and the script is so funny and I feel so blessed and grateful that the director trusts me enough to do this.  But to be safe I have an understudy, Ian Douglas, who is a great performer.  Talk about pressure!!

So I look forward to seeing where this newly found “bravery” takes me.  Its time to plan for next year. And I am planning bigger and hopefully better!!

Onward and upward, my friends!!  I hope that you too take a look back on your 2012 and see the unexpected journey you have taken.  Have things turned out as you hoped?  Have you learned something new about yourself? Leave a message below.

♩♫♪ Don’t Wanna Be An American Idiot…♬♪♩♪

“One Nation Controlled By The Media”

How are you planning to spend your 4th of July? I am going to return to the Orpheum Theatre and watch American Idiot one more time!

I remember back in the day seeing my first Green Day video (I don’t listen to the radio much) and thinking “what in the world is going on here?”  This was creepy visually, but the song is so catchy, I couldn’t change the channel. The masks that the patients wear are just *shudders*…

 I liked the music and have enjoyed watching them try out new sounds over the years.  I think any artist that doesn’t is not growing.  So when I heard there was a musical coming out featuring songs from their American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums, I thought this should be interesting…*raised eyebrows*

When I heard the original cast recording of American Idiot, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the same as hearing the actual band playing.  So I gave it a “its pretty good” on the How Much Do I Like This Show judgement. But then I didn’t bother to listen to it again until maybe the beginning of this year.

I was cycling through my ipod music one day and two songs from AI (Green Day version) came on.  I hardly ever get to hear Green Day when I do this.  Then the next day, I read in an email that AI was coming back to the Bay Area.  So I decided to give it another go.   The difference on this listen was that I chose not to distract myself with anything, except knitting.  I fully focused on hearing and feeling the story.

And something struck me.

This was so much better than I originally thought.  Of course it isn’t going to be the same as the band playing because it was it’s own entity.  I should have acknowledged this from the beginning and stupidly I didn’t.

Everyone has had that moment in life where they’ve felt lost or wanted something better but not sure what.  The main characters in this story are living that out in their various ways.  I think what threw me for a loop on that first listen is that some of the voices sound the same if you aren’t really paying attention.  So it didn’t quite sink in that it’s three male characters that are having this “crisis” not just one.  Oh, I think I should also note that I don’t really like to read the liner notes.  I feel that a really good musical will stand on it’s own through the songs and not need explaining.

Then when I watched the show a few weeks ago, I loved it.  The energy on that stage is amazing!  The set reminded me a little of “Rent” in regards of how little there is on stage and the variety of uses each thing has.  The band is fantastic and it’s fun to be able to see them rock out on stage as well.  The cast is incredible! To have to name everyone that was great in the show would be simply to look at the program.  I do have to make a special mention though.  I saw two understudies and they were both outstanding, so when I learned that on the next visit I would be seeing the other cast members, I thought “how much better can they be than what I just saw?”  But during the little after party, the understudies (Jarran Muse and Vince Oddo) swore that the people who will be playing St. Jimmy and Favorite Son are absolutely amazing.

I think the highlight songs in the show are “Holiday” “Favorite Son” “The Waiting” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”  For “Holiday”, it is all about the exuberant excitement of new destinations and adventures that one seeks when they set out on a new path.  The energy just fills the theatre and pulls the audience into the fun.  In “Favorite Son” the character is what makes that number and Vince Oddo had such a commanding stage presence that dancing girls were barely noticeable in their colorful dancewear.  The choreography in “The Waiting” and “Wake Me Up…” was so beautiful that I got choked up watching it.  It wasn’t that the dance itself was technically highly difficult, it was more that it was perfectly able to portray the cold harshness of the military in the first and the disorientation and loss in the latter.

I cannot wait to return to SF tonight and watch the show one more time.  I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to our country than to see a show that wants us to question “What am I doing?” and “Where am I going?”  Both similar simple questions but not so simple to answer.

And in that spirit, I’d love to challenge you, AMERICA!

What are WE doing? I see us being divided by classism, racism and inequality.

Where are WE going?  I see us allowing ourselves to be further and further divided.

How do WE fix this?

P.S. Just for good measure…

Melissa Etheridge takes on Green Day

February 1st marked the debut of Melissa Etheridge taking the Broadway stage as the character St. Jimmy in Green Day’s immensely popular American Idiot!  It’s a one week engagement, but judging from the look on her face during the video, I have my fingers crossed that she will be back for another go round in the future.  Billy Joe Armstrong returns to the role on February 10.

Just wanted to share this little video with you!

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