Saturday night is the culmination of several years of emotions wrapped up into thirty minutes of high energy entertainment with opening credits.
I've been performing my entire life. I remember being six, wearing roller-blades and putting on a two and a half hour play for my parents by the pool. I'm amazed they didn't drown me.
Mom and dad spent copious amounts of time in the profession before I was even born, so being the offspring of two people who were both enthusiasts of the arts, it's pretty understandable why I got the bug.
Mom was once a flamenco dancer and toured the west coast in a car filled with rowdy girls and castanets. As a young man, dad was an art student, turned trapeze artist, before he “broke” into the film business. Remember that 1975 Discount Tire Commercial where the little old lady hurls a tire through the store front window? That was actually my dad. The frail, hired actress couldn't exactly launch a wheel into the air, so they put my dad in a wig and a dress. It was one of his first crew jobs and the spot has become the longest running commercial in history. It even made the Guinness Book of Records.
So after their chance meeting at an Academy Awards party (see what I mean?)… I was born seven years later.
I grew up around a camera. My house was constantly filled with storyboards and equipment. My dad became a commercial director known for his command over wild animals. He shot and directed campaigns for companies like Sea World and The San Diego Zoo. Visiting him on set was a thrill. It smelled like sawdust and there was always some cool critter on the sound stage. Once, a baby orangutan sat on my lap and helped himself to my entire "Snapple."
During my adolescence, mom and dad seasoned the ups and downs of the film business. Being a servant to the craft is like dating the hottest guy in school. One day you love him and he loves you right back. He buys you beautiful gifts and brings you flowers… you feel popular and loved by everyone… and then....BAM! He dumps you without explanation or afterthought. Yes, this career is like being the girlfriend of a bipolar maniac. Which I've also experienced... and survived.
On my golden fifteenth birthday, much to the dismay of mom and dad, I told them I really wanted to be an actress. A professional actress. Who would need to live in Los Angeles. I had spent the last nine years doing community theater, school plays, radio voice-overs, local tv commercials and even a Broadway tour… but it wasn’t enough. They questioned the dream. What about Sarah Lawrence College? After endless hours of bargaining, we reached an agreement: one week of meetings and auditions in Hollywood during my fall break, and if it didn't go well, I would cut the begging and finish high school.
Come to find out, the "seven day plan" was their way of letting me navigate the treacherous waters of casting before making a life altering decision. They figured I would discover the difficulty of breaking into such a competitive field on my own and therefore change my mind free from their influence. A brilliant plan, had it not backfired with me booking my second audition… which completely caught me off guard, too.
My mom and I had to move to LA almost immediately. I spent my last day in high school reading "Seventeen" magazine through my entire Geometry Honors class just to spite my evil math teacher. I left right before finals, the best timing I've ever had.
Five years later, I've been a gunner in the same crusade… the tug of war between booking and not booking. I've gone on hundreds of auditions and spent countless hours in acting classes and coaching sessions. I've broken down sobbing during emotional monologues, which is embarrassing enough in itself without having to do it in a room filled with hot, young male actors.
I've made it to the "final callback" dozens of times... only to find I “wasn’t right for the part.” I lost roles to friends and watched a number of them advance into big movies and big careers.
In the acting realm, a final callback is usually referred to as "testing." How is it I can't escape that terrifying word four hundred miles away from my school? A test here is like a final that your entire career is riding on -- and I thought a two page essay on "Great Expectations" was daunting! Instead of a teacher in a bad cat sweater, you're being graded by twenty producers and executives armed with suits and cell phones, and all of them have to give you an A. Plus, out of the four or five girls taking this intense final exam, only one can pass.
I'd mostly failed all my tests thus far. It wasn't pretty. They're incredibly nerve-racking and they become more so as you get attached to the role. I received an audition for “Stella Malone, a feisty teenage girl who's best friends with a rock band.” Since "Almost Famous" is my favorite movie, I was intrigued by this role from the start. So imagine the extra pressure I experienced when, after making it through several callbacks, I was suddenly sharing the room with three undeniably charming and attractive boys in Nike sneakers. And the two girls I was testing against? Demi Lovato and Nicole Anderson.
I want you guys to know that playing the role of "Stella" holds so much more meaning to me than just "getting to work with the Jonas Brothers." Not that I don't have the utmost respect and love for my incredible co-stars, but this show means a lot to me personally.
This show is the denouement of a bittersweet series of events. Memories of saying good-bye to my dad, my childhood bedroom and my childhood dog who I couldn't bring with me. Memories of missing my prom and my football team winning state, not to mention a graduation ceremony with my class of life long friends. Saturday night will make me recall a time when I was "Dancer #5" in our school's production of "Fiddler on the Roof" while my crush slept in the front row and the deadbeat sophomores threw pennies at us. And an age when I wanted a speaking role in "Peter Pan" so badly that I was willing to buzz my hair to look like a boy, which resulted in relentless teasing from the other fifth graders.
It will summon up a few periods of time when self-doubt was unbearable and I questioned if I had made a mistake. Some old feelings of embarrassment when I wasn’t booking enough work and my Nana mailed me rent money in a card saying she still believed in me. And in return it will also call to mind the delight I felt when I was finally able to pay that loan back. I remember the day that California finally felt like home to me, I ditched the hotel I had been living in and signed a lease for an apartment. The first thing I went out and bought was a lime green floral toaster.
It has been an adventure, but as they say, “life's all about the journey, not the destination.” In no way is Saturday night a haven for me. It's just a really nice layover, a resting place that I'll be sharing on my comfy couch with my Mom, Dad, and Nana.
And possibly over a million other people. Oh crap. Here comes a new set of nerves.