Why Actors Are Skinny

The week before opening night for Annie was a stressful and nearly discouraging one for me. I had never before cared so much about getting the role I was playing just right! The part of Grace Farrell was my project. In the past, I had played characters like “Guenevere” in Camelot and “Louisa” in The Fantasticks, but these women all had some sort of emotional fluctuation or quirkiness about them with personalities an actor could really mess around with.

But Grace was none of these. She was a straightforward business woman from the thirties, a woman with infinite patience and positivity. A real lady type. Strong, but delicate and demure. And never aggressive. And the LAST thing I wanted to do was make her boring!

Being a redheaded, Scottish AND Irish girl myself, it was very difficult to suppress my aggressive nature. And so it became a fabulous challenge, being that Grace was a role I had never tackled before in my career.

Opening night was only a few days away and I still wasn’t happy with my character portrayal. I was doing all I could, channeling Olivia DeHavilland, practicing my patience at The Restaurant (my bill paying job). My lines and songs were down solid, so that wasn’t the issue.

The real issue was that I was beginning to think I was a terrible actress. I lost my appetite and stopped eating. My stomach felt like it would erupt at any given moment. I was clinging to my confidence by a thread. Every night after dress rehearsal I went home in tears. And then, of course, I would get angry because I felt so pathetic. Because I had never reacted this way before. Even on opening night, as my wig was being placed on my head, I burst into tears (which was really stupid considering all the heavy makeup I had on).

As I paced alone in my dressing room, listening to the ensemble sing over the monitors, I rehearsed my lines in “Grace-speak.” I knew I had about ten minutes left before my entrance, all the while there was a pressure behind my eyes threatening to make me cry again.

Stupid, I thought, you’re being so stupid!

And then I recalled what my friend Noelle, who was also in the show playing Lily St. Regis, said to me earlier: “Just have fun and don’t care so much about what other people think of you. Just enjoy it!”

And then I remembered what my mother said: “Remember, in the whole scheme of things, it’s just a show.”

Tactics at making your anxiety go away. The funny thing was, I knew this all along, but I had gotten so caught up with the largeness of the production of Annie and its star talents that I actually let my nerves take over. Nervousness!! Something that Rowaders don’t usually feel. I guess there really IS a first time for everything…

So my ten minutes were up and I stepped out on stage to greet my scene partner Sally Struthers. It was all over from there on out…my anxiety, that is. Winking smile 

Anyway, one day someone said to me, “You are so skinny!”

“That’s because I haven’t eaten in a week,” I laughed.

“Why?” she said.

“Because I was freaking out.”

And so is the life of an actor…

 

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Grace

Year 2 is done, Year 3, here we go!

Driving to Simi Valley on September 10th, 2009.

Tomorrow marks my two year anniversary with California. And, boy, did it fly. The first year was filled with fun, friends, and my romance with the Terminator.The Terminator and I had two internships with a PR and management company. I also did two shows that year: the monologue show Sex, Relationships, and Sometimes Love by Joelle Arqueros and Cabrillo Music Theatre’s production of Cinderella. During my first year, I was still getting the handle of the Los Angeles freeway system (mainly their illogically random on and off ramps) and trying to make new friends seemed more difficult since I wasn’t in school. A fellow coworker at the time even had said, “You won’t make it one year here.” He was drunk when he’d said that, so I didn’t take him seriously. In any case, those kinds of comments only make me fight harder to prove they are wrong.

By the end of the first year, I felt in limbo. I’m a very impatient person and, because of this, I felt I hadn’t accomplished anything. I had to keep reminding myself that these things take time, that I can’t become successful within just ONE year. My relationship with the Terminator ended in the summer as well. He had been the only close friend I had made, so the loss brought me back to square one when concerning friendships.

anne, shaneen, and meAnd so I got to work. At the start of my second year, I ended up becoming very close with Anne from work. Shaneen, Alisha, and a few others became close as well. It was nice finally having some girlfriends.

The beginning of my second year, I also discovered I was not invincible to the dangers of dating, learning the lesson quickly never to get drunk alone with a guy you barely knew.

Then a week later, still fuming over my bad date, a few of my girlfriends made me go out to a lounge bar, Bogie’s, to lighten my spirits. Although, a bar filled with men was the last place I wanted to be. But that’s when I met Mr. Georgia, a producer for television. And so began a multitude of whimming adventures! My first private jet experience, my first Las Vegas high-life experience, the Magic Castle, the Getty Museum, Dom Perignon champagne. There was always something new to look forward to. Needless to say, I got swept.

S7303320Then there were those tender moments that really swept me. The kind that made you feel like you never felt that way before. You know, the “oh my gosh, is this it?” feeling. I can honestly say I had never had that feeling before, so it definitely took me by surprise. This was also my first experience dating a man who already had had a previous married life and a child. My mother had always told, from experience, to not get involved with divorced men, that my life would be very hard and almost unbearable. But then again, my parents’ romance is the foundation to how I look at my own romance. Although they had a rough first 8 or 9 years, they have one of the happiest, most passionate and romantic marriages I’ve ever known. I want that.

Half way through my second year, I experienced the “in love” feeling. In the past, it used to be inconceivable to me. So, with much consult with my mother, I allowed myself to admit that I was in love with Mr. Georgia. I like to mark that moment in my personal history. It was so unreal, I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Then it was gone. Not the feeling, but the relationship. Timing, I suppose…Mr. Georgia did not feeling the same way…it could be a number of things. I don’t think I’ll ever get a straight answer, but it doesn’t really matter in the end. I’m just happy I got to experience that used-to-be enigma of a feeling. Also helps with my acting. Another experience I can add to my list.

From their, I suddenly became audition addicted. I was still healing from the loss of Mr. Georgia, but it lit a fire under me to find as many distractions I could grab. And what more of a perfect distraction is getting into a show. Not only would it keep me busy, but it’s a part of my career path!

That’s when I landed Funny Girl at the Downey Civic Light Opera.250371_10150195826572011_506872010_7113574_2689920_n I played a small role named Polly. It was a lot of fun, but was a hell of a drive. I experienced my first L. A. traffic too. Let me just say…agony.

At this time, I also reconnected with the Terminator. I had always wished we could be friends and hated that we never talked anymore. So I called him up, told him just that, and we are good friends to this day.

On a sadder note, my Papa passed away while I was in rehearsals for Funny Girl. The smartest man in the world had finally checked out. I still have a hard time realizing I will never see him again, as if he’s still waiting for me to come visit in Arizona.

Right after Funny Girl ended, I was cast in Cabrillo Music Theatre’s The Sound of Music. S7300236But before I went into rehearsals for that, I got signed up for singing in a concert, “Salute to Valor,” in Oahu, Hawaii. I had never been to Hawaii, so another whim could now be checked off my list.

After I returned from Hawaii, my schedule was full with work and rehearsals. I started losing my close relationships with Anne and my other girlfriends. Going from work to rehearsal in one day almost EVERY day made me ache for alone time. So I was on a hiatus from the parties and “girl time” hangs.

I was infected with the career virus.

It was all I could think about. When was the next audition? What songs do I need to have ready? New headshots, I needed new headshots! I had a system. Work, work out, rehearsal and/or audition, bed. I even switched to organic and natural foods. THAT was a huge switch for me!

As soon as The Sound of Music closed, I lined up two more auditions. Both I got callbacks for and both were seriously considering me to be apart of their shows. One was an Equity house, something I’ve been needing to get into. The other was Cabrillo again, but I was up for a lead role this time.

By the end of my second year, I finally got my first lead in a musical in California. Tomorrow marks the beginning of my third year, and I start rehearsals for the role of Grace Farrell in Annie. I feel incredibly blessed.

And as happy as I am with how busy I’m keeping myself on my career path, I am much more alone in it. My friendships with many people have faded in result of my busy schedule. What bewilders me more is that I actually LIKE being alone. This applies to romantic relationships as well. I’ve found them to be more stressful than they are worth, that they aren’t any fun, and they get in the way of my freedom. Being a girl who used to wish for a boyfriend every night until she finally got one at the young age of 21, after having three serious relationships, I definitely take my wishes back. By the end of my second year, I have discovered that I am NOT any good in relationships.

Currently…

Cause, well, who knows what the future has in store…

And with THAT said, considering all the incredible adventures I embarked on during my second year, I can’t WAIT to find out what my third year will be like! Romance, heartbreak, career success and career failure, earthquakes and tsunamis, the end of the world, who knows?…I expect it all! The adventures of being alive…

Being sick never hurt…

Except when auditions are around the corner. Being an actress/singer, getting a cold is one of the worst things that can happen to you. Getting to auditions and booking a role is hard enough without coughing up pieces of your lungs or having your nose run like Niagara Falls.

I almost never went to my Annie audition because of my cold. But I decided testing out my ability to sing well while being under the weather would be a fun personal challenge. I love challenges. So I sang with a slightly melted Halls cough drop in my mouth, cherry flavored—yum, and thankfully got called back for the role of Lily St. Regis and one of the Boylan sisters. The role of Lily called for a nasally singer, and nasally was definitely working out for me that day.

The day of the callback, I managed to kill the sickness, but the cough, as coughs do, stuck around in my lungs like an insatiable itch. So, mouth full of cherry flavored cough drops, I sang for Lily, danced for Lily, and cold-read for Lily. Then I had to stay around to sing for one of the Boylan sisters and do another round of dancing for ensemble. I ended up staying at the callback for about five hours. Near the end of the night, the director sent everybody home but me and one other girl. We were both going for Lily. We knew each other from working in another show together, and I was well aware of how talented she was. Gorgeous and talented.

I have to interject a random thought here. In a tight battle of auditioning, my brain usually starts wandering off in other directions in order to keep my nerves down. So I’ll admit, while the girl and I were sitting anxiously in the hallway waiting to be called into the rehearsal room to learn a song we didn’t know, I was thinking about guys. That’s right. Guys I really like. And there’s not that many…so my brain really was tempted to distract me into daydream mode.

And then the director finally called us back in to sing again. This would be our third time singing. We both sang the best we could with how unfamiliar we were to the song. Later the director asked me to come back the next night to read for Grace Farrell.

Grace Farrell?! I thought. I didn’t even think I had even the slightest chance for that role. When viewing the audition breakdown, I knew they were looking to cast an Equity actress in the part, so I completely disregarded auditioning for Grace at all.

The next night, I showed up and sat with all the other Grace potentials. It was one of those moments where we were all sizing each other up. Each one looked very different, but very specific. Beautiful women and all apart of the union, and all of which have played many a leading role with major theater companies. Being new to California, I hadn’t had the chance to up my role credits as of yet. I have played leading roles in the past, just not in California. A couple of the actresses discovered my non-union status and eyed me curiously.

So I started thinking of guys again…all the while attempting to keep my itching cough at bay.

The director brought us in, we sang, we read and we waited. Then the director let everybody go, but asked me to stick around for a while longer. That’s when my gut flipped over. When the director asks you to stay, usually that’s a really good sign. But you can’t ever know in this business. Everything is so unpredictable, you can’t EVER assume anything.

The last few minutes of the night were spent with me reading with the only other man there reading for Oliver Warbucks. It was just the two of us. Then we were let go as well, with unanswered questions. We were told we’d hear by Friday, and I couldn’t wait!

Friday came and I got a voice mail from the director saying that he didn’t want me dangling, but that he just wanted me to know that they do want me in the show, just can’t figure out what role to offer me. That was tough to hear. Not a yes, not a no. An “I don’t know.” I can’t STAND “I don’t knows.” Those answers eat away at me until I start scratching my skin off. Every day after that, I waited by the phone like I was waiting to hear from a guy I really liked after a great first date and that he said he’d call me soon, BUT HE DIDN’T!!!!

Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. Auditioning is just like dating. Stressful.

I counted the days and started to think I didn’t make the cut. I was also seeing people on Facebook announcing their roles in Annie, one of them being the actress who was with me on the first night of callbacks. She landed Lily, which she would be amazing at! But it really started making me feel very discouraged. So I began planning for future auditions and a possible showcase that I had to register soon for. It wasn’t until the fourth day did I finally get the call.

“Hello, Christanna?” the director said.

“Hi, how are you?” I said.

“Good. Sorry this has taken so long. We had a lot of things to work with. But listen, we’d like you to play Grace.”

“Are you serious?” That was my first response. I couldn’t help it.

“Uh, yes. I am.”

Then an explosion of yeses and absolutelies tumbled from my mouth as I paced the living room in my underwear (because I was in the midst of changing clothes when I got the call and now didn’t have the mental ability to continue dressing…). I’m pretty sure I blasted the director’s ears off as well.

And there you go. It’s almost been two years since I moved to California, I’ve done four shows, and I’ve finally booked my first lead here.

I guess I should be sick more often…

Eh, maybe not.

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