I’m playing Christine in this hilarious, side-splitting musical. Don’t miss out!
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 career 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 Great 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 love the thrill of not knowing what will happen next.
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.
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.
Here is an article I wrote for the VC On Stage website:
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
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…
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.
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 only 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 Episode 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 landed 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.
A lot of changes have happened over the past months since I last wrote. A lot of mental changes and feelings and other things I can’t quite explain. At first, I thought maybe it was because I was feeling the “three-year itch” being an actress. I’ve gone into turbo mode. I am, for lack of a better word, throwing myself at people as if to say “HEY I’M ALIVE AND VERY TALENTED!!! LET ME PERFORM FOR YOU!!!” Then I thought it was because one of my most favorite movie series was being added on to and it switched on my “I don’t give a crap-fighting for what I want” mode. Star Wars was something I lived in since I was 13. Hell, I’ve even written my own stories to the series! Memorized every line of Luke’s. Wanted to be Luke, AND was in love with him. I even compare the guys I date to Luke Skywalker. THIS, alone, is proof of my obsessive compulsiveness. Or was it the fact that all my past girlfriends were married and having children, and I wasn’t. Or was it…simply…the feeling of the clock…ticking.
My birthday is in a few hours. There were many moments where I felt like I should write, but tonight felt like the right moment.
I have a dog sleeping in my bed right now. Tiny, white and cream colored, with long silk hair, and gentle eyes and a quiet demeanor. I rescued him yesterday. It seems like everyone was having babies…and I produced a dog. I named him Toby Lee Orion, aka (just) Toby. Yeah, so I wanted a little touch of sci-fi to the name, I couldn’t resist. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, though…I’ve never been a “small dog” person. I guess you could blame it on my whimming personality. But I feel there’s something else changing in me.
I mailed George Lucas a letter yesterday as well…AND Kathleen Kennedy AND J.J. Abrams AND Disney. I mailed them because I am THAT desperate to have a chance to audition for Star Wars, I’m starting to feel a little nuts. But I figured I have nothing to lose, because currently in the film world I am pretty close to nothing anyhow, so what better thing to do but send George Lucas and friends a “Hello, you don’t know me, but I love you!” letter…for those of you who don’t know me, the “I love you” part is completely satirical……so I say……
I also have a boyfriend that I can’t admit is a boyfriend because the term freaks me out SO much, I immediately turn off and don’t want him anymore. But as long as he stays in the friend zone, I want him. This may also prove I’ve gone officially nuts, but haven’t seen a professional yet… He’s my Number 1 and he’s my best friend. He’s also my intimate lover. But labels really sit sourly with me…to the point of an upset stomach…to the point of me running like there’s zombies after me. EXACTLY!
My mother asked me recently if my motivation as an actress has been spurred on because of the new Star Wars movies and I told her, “Yes.” As a child, I really wanted to be an astronaut. Truly, I still want to be one, but because my bad eyesight wouldn’t be able to make the cut AND when I was young I didn’t think of myself as smart enough, the dream of being in space was limited to just pretense. But an actor CAN travel space within the mind’s eye. So, yes, I know the new SW movies have become my main motivation in life. There’s nothing I want more. There really really is nothing!
For the first time, I’m taking workshops with casting directors that work for J.J. Abrams, sending out headshots and resumes to people I don’t think would ever even care to look at (that’s why I’ll be sending them out every month ) , buying my first dog that acts like a fabulous stress reliever, and pulling along a fantastic guy/person because I can’t seem to relax in a committed relationship.
So as a result, I have spent more money this year than I EVER have just to somehow make sense of things in my personal life and catch someone’s attention in the Star Wars world. And every bit of it has felt worth it. Because I know that if I don’t get a chance, at least I can say I didn’t try my all……in BOTH worlds.
DAY! HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to me because I’m a MayDay baby
It was warm out, so I’d decided to eat my lunch out on the patio of our workplace. I ate ravenously, barely chewing before swallowing, inhaling more and more until my plate was nearly clean. One would think I had malnutrition. I probably was…being a “starving actor” ‘n all. I ate alone, a warm breeze flushing my cheeks. I enjoyed eating alone. It was peaceful and I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I could focus purely on my food. I could focus and think…
Think…think and thinking and thinking too much…
I wondered about my friend Pablo and why he liked Bobby, or Robert—or whatever—so much. Pablo was my best friend, but I couldn’t understand what he saw in him. Why he thought he was a really nice guy when he was a total ass. I thought about the time I asked Bobby to stay at work for me so I could go home early and he said “no, that he had to get home to his daughter.” Then when he was done with his shift, he ended up hanging out with Pablo at the bar with a couple of drunken girls. I was really mad about that. Angrier than usual. I shouldn’t have been. He wasn’t my husband. But there just HAD to be a reason why he was acting this way. It didn’t make any sense. Because he WAS a really nice guy. He wasn’t a jerk. But his actions just didn’t match up. And Pablo liked him, and so did a lot of people, so why was it I was seeing him as the bad guy? There just had to be a reason why he acted the way he did and it was going to drive me insane until I found out why!
“Hey, whatcha thinkin’?”
Speak of the devil…
“What’s up, Bobby,” I said, snapping into focus, and wiping any residual food-crumbs off the corners of my mouth. He was standing across from me, smiling his usual-annoying smile.
“Oh, I just saw you out here and wanted to say hi, but you looked deep in thought…” he said, smiling.
“Oh yeah, I do that,” I said, wiping my face again with my napkin. I could’ve sworn I felt leftover crumbs on my face still.
“Whatcha eating?” he asked, his fingers laced in front of him as he casually leaned against a chair.
“Um…” I glanced down at my plate…what did I eat? I was so hungry, I didn’t even pay attention. “I dunno, sliders?” I shrugged.
Bobby nodded. “They must’ve been good.”
“Yep.” My eyes flicked from my plate to Bobby and back again. “So, what’s up?”
He shrugged…and smiled again. “Just wanted to say hi.”
“Why don’t you act like a married man?” I blurted, as if the situation couldn’t be anymore uncomfortable for me and my “private” lunch.
He blinked and the smile went slightly crooked, but seemed to still hold on. And then his face relaxed, as if a sense of relief went through him. “Do you really wanna know?” he said.
“Um, yeah. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t.” Boy, I could such a bitch to him.
Bobby sighed and the smile was gone. Then he went into a story I would never forget. Out of respect for the sake of their own relationship’s privacy, I won’t divulge. But all you need to know is that the man went from beginning to end with a story about what happened between him and his wife. And because I could sense he was telling the truth (lies are easy to spot, trust me), the hate and anger I felt for him melted away. Those feelings were replaced with a sadness and a touch of guilt for hating him so much. I asked him why, if the two of them were so miserable, he or her didn’t ask for a divorce. He told me that he wouldn’t do it because he wanted the best for his daughter, but that the idea of divorce crossed his mind many times. He figured, being an incredibly patient man, he would try to wait it out until his daughter grew to be 18.
After a moment, he said, “Do you think I’m a bad person?” And he was serious, the look in his eyes glossing over.
“No,” I said. “I think you’re human.”
My insides warmed but in a very sad and guilty way. It felt like everything I thought I knew or assumed about Bobby was right and wrong at the same time. Bobby was trapped in a marriage where both people wanted to escape and neither knew how to do it right. From then on, I decided to make him a friend. Not a close friend, but in my circle of people who I knew needed somebody. I called it The Losers Club (because, frankly, I was one of the biggest losers).
“Thank you for telling me,” I said. “If you ever need a friend…” This time I smiled.
A month or so had passed since we had that talk on the patio. We were good friends at work, but nothing more. My sarcasm remained when talking with him, but we were more playful than we had been before.
One day, while the two of us worked at our computer stations, he looked at me with a particularly bright smile and said, “I’ve got some interesting news to tell you.”
“Oh yeah? What?” I said, smirking at him with my usual cockiness.
“I’m getting a divorce.”
My jaw dropped…
THE COLDSHOULDER MOVE
As the months passed, I endured working with Robert, by being a bitch. I can’t explain why he brought this bitchy side out of me, but I wanted to make it clear that absolutely NO sign of attraction would sneak out onto my expression. He would walk pass me at work and say, “Hey, pretty lady.” I would sneer back. Every computer station I worked at, he would be there too, and if he said anything to me, I would ignore him. If he tried to jump into a conversation with me and another coworker, I would cut him off by saying, “Married men aren’t allowed to talk about this. Go away.” His response was always a smile and a little laugh, and he would CONTINUE talking with us anyway!
I hated him.
When we were on separate sides of the room, I would glance over in his direction and watch him work. He always had this intense look in his eyes whenever he worked on the computer and his lips pursed in concentration. He had full lips and long black eyelashes, black curly hair cut short, high cheekbones, skin the color of creamy coffee, and these subtle dimples that creased his cheeks anytime he smiled. I wanted to kiss those dimples.
Boy, I hated him!
One night, a bunch of us from work got together at a bar to celebrate an old manager’s visit home. It was hours upon hours of fun and drinks. LOTS of drinks. I had a total of about six vodka Red Bulls, which landed me in the arms of an innocent coworker. I suppose we made out for a couple of minutes, but I wouldn’t find out until the next morning at work.
“Everyone’s telling me that we made out,” I would say.
His young face would turn bright red. It always turned bright red when I talked to him.
“Is that true?” I would ask.
“Yes,” he would say.
“Oh…well, was it any good?” I would say.
“Yes, it was very sweet, actually,” he would say.
“Oh….well, I’m sorry, I was totally drunk. I didn’t mean to take advantage of you like that,” I would say.
“No, don’t be sorry. It was great,” he would say.
“I’m sorry anyway. It won’t ever happen again,” I would say. And it didn’t.
Back to the party at the bar, my massive drunk buzz was finally wearing off and I had returned to a more suitable buzz. Good timing too, because the next thing I heard was…
I turned around and saw Robert walk into the bar, a bright white smile spread across his face as he greeted everyone from work.
As he made his way closer to where I was, I called out, “Well look who’s here!”
He just smiled back and came towards me. But I moved away and took a seat at the bar top, realizing as I was sitting down, my drunkenness was still affecting my thought process so I deemed it wiser to stay away from Robert. Somehow he ended up hovering beside my chair anyway, almost like a protective shroud. The coworker I made out with was close by too. But I distracted myself with my girlfriends, all the while irritated AND smugly pleased that Robert was standing guard.
Soon enough, it was closing time and we were all making our way out of the bar. People were offering me rides home, but I wanted to go to Denny’s to sober up some more. Robert offered to take me and I took it.
As soon as we walked into the old-fashioned diner, my gut twisted in a warning. But I ignored it. We sat down at a table and I ordered coffee and chicken strips. Or rather he ordered them for me, which I thought was quite bizarre. Pssh, I guy ordering FOR me, the nerve…
It was just the two of us. We talked about musicals, history, my life as an actress, his life as a history major, details I would never remember because my head wouldn’t stop buzzing, and because I was too caught up with the fact that I was sitting alone with him thinking how wonderful it was and that I wanted so badly to reach out and touch his cheek, and that this was how it could be…if…
If what? You’re not married, my head would say. Then, but HE is, my other head would say.
We were leaned in very close at this point. I could feel his warm breath on my mouth, and then, before I knew what was happening…
“Well, are you done? Cause I need to get going,” he said.
I blinked and glanced down at my plate of food. Empty.
“Yeah, I’m done,” I said, and that warm feeling I felt inside my gut turned to an icy, numbing pain.
He drove me back to my car in silence, dropped me off and drove away without waiting for me to get inside my car. I remember it was freezing that night too and I only had on a thin jacket. I don’t know why that’s important, but I remember thinking to myself, as I watched his truck speed off, shivering, what an ass…a married ass.
Later, at work, I would ask him, “Why don’t you act like a married man?” But that’s for another story…