MY 5TH YEAR

I just realized I haven’t written anything in a LONG time. I have decided it’s a lot harder to blog when you have a boyfriend whom you spend A LOT of time with. He is not home right now, and LOOK, I’m writing something. It also happens to be a special day for me. My five year anniversary.Photo by Jennifer Ward

It’s been five years since I’ve lived in California, in the same house, with the same roommate. This may very well be the longest relationship I’ve ever had. If I last one more year in this house and in  this state, I will have officially surpassed the amount of years I’ve lived in one place with my parents.

I can’t tell you how crazy-fast these five years have gone! Seriously, I feel like I STILL don’t know my way around. STILL feel like I just got here. But I definitely know the rules and regulations of the “actor’s life” now. Definitely know how actors’ unions work. Definitely know how agents work and managers, casting directors and producers and production companies, make up artists, prop masters, directors, 2nd assistant directors (although that one still boggles me), wardrobe, set designers, lighting designers, stunt coordinators, stunt performers, gaffers, riggers, dancers, choreographers, zombies, headshots, resumes, websites, photographers, and holy-crap-if-I’ve-missed-something-it’s-cause-I’m-stopping-here. I feel better about my career as an actress, although I haven’t been able to even touch indie films or the like. I do keep getting musicals. Which is ironic considering it’s something I’m trying to steer away from. But this year, I finally got in a Musical Theatre West show, which helped me get my Equity Membership Candidate card (EMC). Then I was cast as Rapunzel in Into The Woods with 3-D Theatricals. I had also done another show in Simi Valley playing Christine Colgate and covered for a soprano in a Bruce Kimmel show called Pure Imagination. Not bad, but still a starving actor. Actually it was all pretty awesome. But my bank account disappeared to dust. Being a non-union actor is VERY expensive. But we all gotta pay our dues somehow.

It’s been 5 years and people say if nothing happens in 5 years, then change careers. I don’t know if I can say that NOTHING has happened, but career-wise it’s been slow. Which is to be  expected, I know that. Growing up in a house full of artists, directors, and producers, I know how it ALL works. But that doesn’t change the feeling of uncertainty. If this is where I belong. And how long it will take before I know where I belong. Should there even be time limits? I’m almost thirty years old and where have I gone? Five years have all been crunched into one and all I see are the wrinkles on my face.

I think I’m happy still despite all the things I battle. I have a patient and caring boyfriend/bestfriend named Number 1 who is always making sure I’m still here. He now lives with me and my roommate, which is crazy for me because I always said I’d never move in with a “boyfriend” unless I was married to him. Somehow it just seemed normal. He has a daughter who says she wants to be an actress like me. I told her, “No you don’t….unless you’re crazy.” She always says, “You’re pretty silly,” and I always say, “You mean crazy,” and she laughs, “Yeah, silly AND crazy.” She is my little angel. And so is her father.

Well, I’m not giving up yet on my career as an actor. I’m trying out a long term relationship for the first time with a ten year old daughter in the mix and doing my hardest not to run from complete-panic. Number 1 says, “You always like to have your foot just one step out the door.” I shrug and say, “Well, it’s a race. Are you gonna beat me to the finish or am I gonna leave you in my dust?”

He is a patient man.

And I am a crazy girl.

With dreams of being left in space, alone on the Moon, or building a home on Mars. Knowing there is more out there than on this one little world we live in. Knowing there has to be.

This is why I’m an actor. So I can pretend…and keep on pretending.

I get to pretend again very soon. For an incredible story and play an incredible character. My biggest one yet. And I CAN’T WAIT! A good way start my fifth year.

 

Wait, what year is this?!?!

 

JJ-Abrams-Star-Wars-Episode-7

So I haven’t written a real blog in a long, loooong time. Perhaps it’s been because I’ve been busy. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been lonely. Or maybe my phone has taken more awesome precedence over my computer because it does pretty much anything. Or maybe I’ve just been distracted. Either way, it’s not a very good excuse for a blogger, which obviously makes me a bad blogger.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking, “Gee, maybe I should sit down and take some time to write something,” but could never actually get myself to the computer. I blame my phone for that. Bad, Galaxy S4, bad!

Oh! What’s that?! It’s almost New Year’s Eve? I didn’t even know Christmas came already… Obviously I haven’t been paying much attention this year. You know why?

STAR WARS!

THAT’S why.

You know what’s really bad for someone who has OCD and loves Star Wars a little too much? Announcing that Star Wars Episode VII, VIII, and IX are going to be made. This is not good for someone like me who has been fantasizing about VII, VIII, IX since I was 13. NOT GOOD!!!!

Why, you ask?

Because now I can’t think about anything else except being IN Star Wars VII, VIII, and IX. NOTHING ELSE BUT THAAAAAAAT!!! Oooooh it hurts…

So what did I do this entire year of 2013? Spent a lot of money on headshots and photo shoots with “Star Wars” in mind Christanna243_pp (533x800)

JediGirl

…Spent a lot of money on casting director workshops focusing on attending only the ones that had any connection to April Webster, whom I assumed was going to be the main casting director for the next three Star Wars installments. Sent a ton of headshots and cover letters to Webster. Handwrote two letters to J.J. Abrams asking to be allowed to audition, and if anyone knows me well, my handwriting sucks…also, handwriting sucks. Went running every single day (which is a good thing). Prayed to God (not that Star Wars was the only thing a prayed about, so that’s a good thing too). Wrote a short letter to Mark Hamill and George Lucas (which his assistant wrote a nice letter back to me so that was cool), and sent more headshots to Lawrence Kasden and Disney’s CEO just at the end of it all I could say to myself “I tried EVERYTHING…short of stalking.” Knowing I’m a nobody who’s only done theater and one TV episode and one short film, my chances of an audition are 100,000,000,000,000 to 1, which I would gladly yell “Never tell me the odds!” But…yeah…I had been very positive about it until fall came around and suddenly went into a depression over it. Which you would think would inspire me to write. Nope. I just slept my days away and worked at night. The closer production came for Star Wars VII, the more depressed I became. Reality really sucks sometimes. My problem is I’ve been living in the Star Wars universe since I was 13 years old and that is NOT an exaggeration. Read my short story, Stargirl, if you don’t believe me. Maybe this is one of those “learning” things. A “slap in the face from reality” type of deals. Like trying to get a guy to like you so much that you change yourself and he never ends up wanting you in the end. But I’m too stubborn to give up.

I have one last “trick” tucked under my sleeve which I won’t be able to release until later January, but I’m very excited about it!

So…as you can see 2013 has become all about Star Wars.

There was one point I was getting so upset about the rumors floating around the internet that my boyfriend banned me from IMDb. Wait, HOLD ON! I have a BOYFRIEND???

See, I didn’t even know that happened either. Actually we’ve been dating for about a year and half now, but I haven’t admitted that he’s my boyfriend until recently.564026_4385782776272_1969842581_n He’s a good sport about it.

Come to think of it, a lot of new things happened this year. I bought my first dog, became SAG-AFTRA eligible, did my first TV show called Blood Relatives, tobymy cat started losing weight finally, so those are the good things. The sad? It’s the first year I didn’t do a Cabrillo Music Theatre production since I moved out here four years ago. I auditioned A LOT for characters that were PERFECT for me, but didn’t get cast. I constantly got compared to Jennifer Lawrence which never made ANY sense to me except for the fact that our personalities are pretty much the same (although it’s an awesome compliment, so I guess this isn’t a bad thing). I can’t seem to poop like a normal person, so something is really messed up with my intestines. I got my first two cavities ever! I didn’t get to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with my parents for the first time also EVER, but, finally, DID get cast in Musical Theatre West’s production of The Music Man which was the first time within the four years that I’ve been auditioning for them that it’s ever happened, so that was cool. Also, I’m pretty sure my cat is slowly dying because he’s not eating normally and keeps throwing up, so that’s NOT cool.

I keep thinking 2013 has been the most unlucky year I’ve had. I’m more broke than ever, my obsession over Star Wars has actually become unhealthy for me, and every decision I’ve made has felt like the wrong one. I dread 2014 because I’m afraid of what might happen to my brain when they finally announce casting for Star Wars VII. I could just picture myself shutting down completely as if Star Wars was my one and only hope. On the other hand, maybe it’ll be good for me, like a guy I’ve been obsessing about finally getting married and so I can finally write him off.

My only bright light this year was Bobby and Toby. My little dog is actually the best little thing for my stress. And Bobby? Well, he’s the first guy I’ve ever been with that can handle me and he actually LIKES it, which is beyond my comprehension. He thinks we’ll get married…MY response? Good luck.

I’m terrible.

At least 2014 will start off nicely with me getting EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) points for the first time while working for Musical Theatre West. It’ll also be my fifth year in California. That’s usually considered a turning point for actors. If nothing happens in five years, move on to something else…so we shall see what 2014 means for me. At this point, I feel like everything I’ve worked for may end up being for naught. But that’s okay. Cause at least I tried my hardest, right? Oh man…why does Star Wars have to be so popular???? If it wasn’t so huge, I could actually have a chance to audition!!! See? My brain sucks right now. Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It. Star Wars is like a bad ex-boyfriend. The kind I’ll never get over. “You suck, Star Wars, but I still love you. Also, I hate you. Okay I’m done. NOT!”

Yeah, just like that.

In any case, Happy New Year and may you be the dream you wish to come true.

What’s my resolution for 2014? To let go of Star Wars…NOT!!! What’s yours?

The time is coming…

 

A lot of “starving” actors put a time limit on their pursuit of happiness, aka “making it.” I am one of those actors. The typical time limit is five years and if nothing happens within those years, you give up and move on to something else. Tomorrow will mark my four year anniversary with California which means I have one more year left to make my Me as Abigail Adams in the musical 1776, production 2012career as an actress a reality. And by “career” I mean “no other job but acting.”

It’s rather incredible how time has flown. Some days feel like I just got here. Other days feel like I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve been with the same roommate since and she and I have grown to be like sisters. I’ve gone through two major relationships, The Terminator and Mr. Georgia, before deciding that I don’t like being in relationships. I’ve become married to my career. I gained two awesome best friends, Pablo the GreatPablo and me and Number 1, the three of us making the three stooges. I’ve become a runner, a FIRST in my life, and I adopted my very first dog, Toby Lee Orion. I’ve been blessed immensely when I follow the signs, and faced with serious resistance when I ignore them. And as the months go by, the more I Number 1 and melove the thrill of not knowing what will happen next.Me and Toby hiking

Every year I say “a lot has happened,” but I feel like this past year A LOT really DID happen. Maybe it’s because I finally accomplished a handful of my goals that I had been pushing off the moment I moved here in 2009.

I FINALLY made myself get a California license, something I slacked on for years, finally got my very first passport, set up my very first website ChristannaRowader.com and my IMDb page, finally got fantastic headshots, landed my first TV role on Discovery ID, signed with Abstract Talent, an agency that actually KNOWS me, attended a handful of casting director workshops, got accepted into SAG-AFTRA, and made my first actor’s demo reel…to name a few things.Me on Discovery ID's Blood Relatives

I blame Star Wars Episode VII for my sudden burst of motivation. Ever since the news released in the fall of 2012, I haven’t stopped. All I can think about is my career. All I can think about is having just ONE audition for Star Wars. I’ve done everything I can to impress upon April Webster to call me in for a read, sans becoming a psycho stalker. And I won’t stop until all three movies release with or without me. Either way, at least I’ll know I tried EVERYTHING. If anything, Star Wars has jolted me into high gear.

I’ve also put myself in a happier place when concerning my “other job.” After having nightmare after nightmare about BJ’s Restaurant, I finally quit my six-ish year run working for the company as a server. I now work at a fine-dining location where “serving” is actually worth the effort.

But not all has been great. This has been the first year where I’ve auditioned for roles that were PERFECT for me—and by perfect, I mean to say that I WAS those characters—and STILL managed to not be cast. So, needless to say, this has been the most discouraging year as an actress. But, despite feeling hopelessness stalking at my door, I still believe everything happens for a reason. This past month has been the worst, though. On top of not landing any roles that I knew were meant for me, I had injured my leg running and can’t run off my stress and anger now. So I sit and wait and try to think good thoughts and pray that I can get through this and heal up faster. Number 1 said he believes “the fourth quarter” at the end of this year will be a great one for me, that something is coming. Of course, when he says that, all I think about is being in that galaxy far, far away.

Number 1 is probably the only thing left keeping me fighting for my dreams now. His faith in me somehow keeps me alive. And as much as I tell him I don’t want him, I don’t love him, I can’t be his, he’s still there. He’s the first man I’ve met that can tolerate me. A glutton for punishment, I say. But he chooses to carry my world when I no longer can.

The tides have turned in ways I don’t understand, but I’m ready.

Some acting is happening…

An Actor’s Nightmare

 

Here is an article I wrote for the VC On Stage website:

John Adams & Abigail Adams

One of my most favorite musicals I was blessed enough to perform in was the historically based 1776. I remember when I was prepping for auditions how closely related I felt to the character Abigail Adams. Although my peers said I was a perfect Martha Jefferson, I wanted Abigail. She was a woman of strength and compassion and independence. In a way, one could say she represented the soon-to-be country’s independence John Adams was fighting for.

By studying the character through historical accounts from a history major and the letters she wrote to her husband, memorizing songs and scenes from the show itself, I walked into the auditions as Abigail. And was lucky enough to convince the director, Nick DeGruccio, and musical director, Steven Applegate, to believe that I was too. So when my agent called to tell me I got the part, you can imagine how ecstatic I was.

Where is the nightmare? Just wait…

To read more, please click the link: An Actor’s Nightmare: VC On Stage

The Actor’s Check List

 

I was running through the neighborhood. It was my daily run. Something I did to push out all my anxiety and frustration. As any actor can tell you, pursuing an acting career is one hell of a discouraging journey. But it can also be incredibly gratifying. Checking off on your check list is one of them.

This summer I had laid out many specific goals in order to have a possible chance to audition for the upcoming Star Wars film. I’d attended casting director workshops, many of whom had even the smallest connection to J.J. Abrams. I finally created my first actor’s website, and now have only a few more checkmarks left. One of them was creating my first actor’s reel, which I’m still waiting on doing. Another was my admittance letter to SAG-AFTRA actor’s union, something that would make my profession as an actor much more legitimate. And then, if all went well, I could have a better chance at an audition for Star Wars VII.

I had submitted a proof of eligibility form, but didn’t hear from SAG-AFTRA for over a month. So I called and discovered I had submitted the wrong for to the wrong place. Go figure. That’s typical of me. I never got accepted into the Tisch school of NYU because I didn’t complete the entire application. I’ve learned to always call because of this mistake. I submitted the correct form to the correct location, but still waited anxiously. I had read plenty of forums on how long people wait for SAG to get back to them. I was expecting to wait 6 months. But I was hoping that because of the joining of the two unions, SAG and AFTRA, things would be different.

And so I ran. Ran to get it out of my system, to feel stronger, to exhale out my anger and inhale new hope. I ran past the mail lady driving through our neighborhood and pushed the thought of “mail” out of my mind. I slowed down when two horses nearly bolted from the sight of me going by. I ran up the steep hill, feeling the beating sun sucking the sweat from me, passed through the hillside path, and came out on the other side of the neighborhood, back to my home street. And there was the mail lady again and the two horses I’d frightened.

Maybe there was mail for me this time. This was my daily regiment. Hoping I had a special envelope waiting for me. I felt 18 again, waiting to be accepted into something I wanted desperately. I waved to the mail lady and ran straight home to our box, opened it up and grabbed a large envelope that was reminiscent of what I mailed out. “James Riva” it said. One of my roommates. As per usual, not for me.

I collected the rest of the mail in disappointment, beads of sweat finally able to run down my face without the sun taking it from me, and pretty much accepting I’d have to find another way to get into the union. I walked in the door, enjoying the coolness of the house and sorted out our mail. SAG-AFTRA for James. SAG-AFTRA for Heather. SAG-AFTRA for Heather again. One more for James. Another one for Heather. Another one for Christanna—

Wait—what?! Oh God! I clutched the envelope like a baby and, like anyone, I was apprehensive about opening it, as if the letter would kindly say, “no.”

And then, of course, I ripped it open…

As you can imagine, I pretty much did laps around the house, bellowing at the top of my lungs.

It’s more than an incredible feeling when you can check something off the list of things to accomplish. It rejuvenates you, encourages you to keep going and fight for what you want. Even the smallest things, like this letter, can boost a person’s life to a whole-nother incredible level.

And this was a BIG checkmark for me. That’s one wall down, just a few more to go…

Being an unknown actress…

 

When asked about how life as an actress in California was going so far, this is what I said:

“Perseverance is paying off, but I still remain the "starving actor" at the moment. I’ve been to many callbacks for commercials and theatrical shows, but no snags on the commercials as of yet. That’s okay though, I’m focusing on feature film. That’s where my heart lies, in the thick of storytelling where reality and adventure collide.

I have two agents, one for theater and one for film/commercial/print and such. Steven, my theater agent, is super cool and dry-humored. He thinks I’m a goof, I’m sure. Jan and Terry, my film/commercial agents, are pretty energetic enough for me.

But I do most of the work and find a lot of auditions on my own, which is how it is here. Except for the film industry. But I’ve been attending many casting director workshops as of late and that helps. Right now is hiatus time, so auditions are few and far between, but I’m hoping when August comes around, things will get slammed for me. My main goal is to get an audition for the new Star Wars film (which I’m sure you’re gonna laugh at me about—who doesn’t) so I’ve been focusing most of my efforts in searching out THAT particular casting director.

I don’t really like most musicals lately. I find them annoying and less realistic. My favorite one was 1776, but that was perhaps because it felt like I was doing a movie on stage with John Williams scoring. It felt so real and true. No breaking out into song and dance for no reason, which I can’t stand. But maybe it’s because I’m at a stage in my life where I’m sick of it and want more than anything to tell a story that can really impact people all over the world. I’m sure when I’m older, I’ll revert back to wanting to do stage or musicals. But for now, film is all I want.”

 

That pretty much sums it up. Only become an actor if that really IS all you can do. OR if you have super-duper tough skin and have an unrelenting “never give up” sense of attitude. OR if you were born into it and roles come easier to you. OR if you seem to be surrounded by luck ALL THE TIME. OR if you marry rich and you have a ton of free time and you’re bored and you can do as many auditions as you want without worrying about your “other job” getting in the way and needing the money to support your livelihood because you don’t have a “job” because you married rich and you’re bored. THEN you can be an actor any time you want.

…I would love to marry rich…

Lol, I crack myself.

All for one audition…

Those of you who know me know how obsessed I am with Star Wars and have been since I was 13. I can’t tell you what it felt like when news came out about George Lucas selling Lucasfilm to Disney and Disney upstarting Star Wars VII, VIII, and IX, how I received message upon message from people telling me this news while I was at work, and how my heart froze over when I read it for myself the moment I got home. I couldn’t believe it. For years, I would dream about those movies being made, but thought to myself it could Luke looking off at twin sunsonly happen if Lucas would let go of the series and allow other creative artists to take over. And like THAT would ever happen!

So when it actually did in 2012, I nearly choked. I REALLY couldn’t believe it. After I recovered from my own mental shock, I was giddy with excitement. I followed all the news about Disney searching for the right director, all the while I kept hoping it would be J.J. Abrams. He was my first choice; Joss Whedon was my second. When the new Star Trek film had been released in 2009, I said to my best friend Mat that if ever “in some alternate universe” Lucas would let go of the Star Wars series, J.J. should be the one to direct the last three films. So when I had heard that Abrams initially turned down directing J.J. AbramsEpisode VII, I cried out, “Why?!?!” Then, out of nowhere, I turned to God and prayed, “Please make him change his mind, PLEASE!” And so when Abrams actually DID change his decision, I thought wryly to myself, “I wonder if prayer works on my OWN career…”

But I didn’t pray for myself at the start. I’ve never been very good at prayer in general. Something about praying about one’s own career felt more like a waste of a prayer, as if God really did exist (which I believe he does), He would say to me, “So you wanna be one of the main characters in Star Wars, but you don’t wanna ask for world peace…typical human.” Instead, I began wishing upon matching numbers like 11:11 and random shooting stars, all of which when I think about it now feels like a waste of a wish. It’s not like 11:11 is gonna give a crap about whether or not I get into Star Wars. 11:11 cares more about getting to 11:12. And those shooting stars? Well, they burned off before they even got a chance to hear my wish.

As the months went by, my obsession grew stronger and it was all I could do to not lose hope. I know I’m a “no body” actress that came out to California late in her career, coming from a state I where used to say that “if there was a bright center in the world, Arizona would be the farthest from it.” But on the positive side, I grew up my whole life in theater and I am no stranger to the creative arts. When I moved out to California, I Episode "Buzz Kill" in Blood Relativeslanded two leading roles in musicals within two years and also landed my first leading role in a television show called Blood Relatives on Discovery ID within the third year.

And I’ve only been out here for three years! This is why I’m severely discouraged about having the chance to audition for Star Wars. I just landed my very first tv spot this year, there’s NO WAY I would even be considered for an audition for a major feature film. It’s not like I don’t have an agent; I have two. But they can only do so much. I, myself, have submitted as many headshots, resumes and cover letters to production companies, casting directors, and directors knowing very well that my mail will most likely be thrown out or disregarded. I’ve attended casting director workshops solely for the networking purposes of getting myself out there. And I’m quite sure I annoyed my agents enough by bugging them to keep a look out for Star Wars audition breakdowns.

Yes, I’ve gone INSANE. There’s never been anything I’ve ever wanted this badly in my entire life. Except for being an astronaut, but the reality of not being able to pass the eye exam was discouragement enough for me to not even try. This time, however, I’m trying harder than I thought myself capable, sans looking like a complete psycho. Because really, when you think about, I have nothing to lose. Truly nothing to lose by driving the casting directors and production companies crazy with all my mail…And it’s all for ONE audition. One chance to prove that I’m right for the character, right for the epic story of a universe far, far away. And then if I’m STILL not what they’re looking for, that’s life. But at least I can I say “I tried.” Or “did” because…really…there is no try.

Yes…I am a nerd. I can’t help it.

So I’ve gone back to praying to God about leading me in the right direction to have a chance to audition, hoping against all hope that it won’t be considered selfish or a waste of a prayer. Because at this point, I’ve done all I can. At this point, I need all the help I can get.

Binary suns...in a galaxy far far away