Tag Archives: acting

When Being Off Balance Is A Start

1 Feb

Last night while doing tree pose in yoga, the teacher suggested we toy with our balance by closing our eyes or swaying our arms. Tree pose, if you don’t know it, entails standing on one leg while the foot of the other is tucked above the standing leg’s knee, resting on the thigh. I find the pose relatively easy but as soon as I closed my eyes, it wasn’t. “They say one’s yoga practice begins the moment you feel off balance,” the teacher remarked.

I started laughing- not because the comment itself was funny but because it was so akin to what I’ve been experiencing lately. Normally, we think of being off balance as a sign of overload and stress, i.e. not good. In fact, a sense of balance is something people typically strive to create in their lives. But what if being off-balance was neither good nor bad but a sign of growth and expansion? A sign of taking on new forms and letting go of control? Obviously, we don’t want to be so off-balance that we teeter over and fall but is a little disequilibrium a thing to avoid?

Personally, I hate feeling out of control. I like structure. I like knowing what is going to happen. I like being in charge with a plan, Only life doesn’t work that way. Trying to make it so is exhausting and futile.

The teacher’s statement reminded me of my go to: “Confusion is a sign of learning.” However, for me, learning is productive so I’ll take a little confusion if I know I’m expanding my mind or learning a new skill. But do I really want to invite being off-balance for the hell of it? What “reward” will I get from being off balance? In my day-to-day life, won’t that drive me out of my mind?

Perhaps. Overload is overload and sometimes too much is too much. But I’m reminded that in acting, a similar phenomenon happens in terms of being off balance. There is often a point in rehearsal or filming when despite knowing your lines, your mind drops them. This happens when you’re so in the moment with a feeling or a connection to someone else that you get flustered. It’s a moment of being off balance; off kilter; not knowing what is going to happen that leaves you feeling completely vulnerable and like you’re falling off a cliff. Every director I’ve ever had has loved it when I drop my lines. “Keep going, keep going,” they’ll say. “What you’re doing is brilliant.” And I’ll think – actually, I’ll not think – I’ll keep going – feeling completely out of my skin in free fall and delight.

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So yes, I guess it’s okay to be off balance even if it feels completely weird and counter-intuitive. It might actually be spot on!

The tree can sway and still stay rooted. It’s a sign of being on the path.



Which Is More Stressful? Doing What You Love Or Not Doing What You Love?

29 Oct


I’m a firm believer that following one’s dreams is not only life giving- it’s a necessity. When we don’t pursue our hearts we run the risk of growing old, resentful and disconnected from our life force.

That said, chasing a passion extracts a cost.

There is never balance. It’s a constant juggling act.

I remember a loved one suggesting that I consider art a hobby and not aim for it as a career. Creating for the sake of creating should be reward enough.

At some point toying with passion isn’t enough though. At some point, if you are serious about yourself and what you have to offer, you become serious about it all. It’s not about whether or not you actually hit the big time; it’s about whether or not you actually swing at the bat.

The funny thing about pursuing a goal is that it requires a degree of relaxation too. Trying too hard stunts creativity and spontaneity, so you have to loosen the grip a little. But if you want to be in the game, you have to practice, sweat, get dirty and deal with stress and exhaustion. That’s just the way it goes. No one who is remotely successful achieved anything by wistfully dreaming about it. Creativity requires risk and action. It will throw you off kilter and plunge you into the unknown. Forget security. It will require last minute decisions, schedule changes, and sacrifices. It will mean that not all will understand or even support you. In fact, most won’t even care. And that’s okay. Because the only person who needs to care is you.

Because which is more stressful? Doing what you love or not doing what you love?

Most new mothers would never go back to the hospital and say, “Thank you. I’m returning my child. I miss eight hours sleep.” While they might dream about eight hours sleep and miss aspects of their previous lifestyles, most wouldn’t trade their children in for simplicity and convenience. That wouldn’t enter most new mothers’ minds beyond mere fantasy.

So which is more stressful? Doing what you love or not doing what you love? And who and what do you make sacrifices for?

Practice Creates Possibilities

15 Apr

As both an artist and psychotherapist, I have long been interested in the interplay between process and product. While we strive to create a consummate product, so much of life is about the process itself. My personal belief is that honoring and surrendering to the process creates the best outcome.

Is there such a thing as perfect? And do we even want it? The quest for perfection can kill freedom, spontanity, and creativity. Great work often comes from exploratory failures. My acting teacher always says, “It’s your job to throw up. The editor will clean it up.” In essence, just let yourself be open to the flow happening – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My yoga teacher said a similar thing last night. “There is no perfect in yoga. That’s why we call it a practice. And the minute you think you have “it”, the moment will be gone. Then you open again to the not knowing, the fumbling, the tension, and the pushing. Then you find “it” again but for a moment. The beauty though is that the practice creates possibilities. Without a practice, everything shrinks. There are few possibilities.”

This comment really struck me because there are certain things I’ve been “practicng” all my life, one of which includes acting. Now all that practice is creating possibility. I wrote, produced, and starred in a short film and just acted in my first commercial. The film is being submitted to festivals and I am auditioning regularly for new projects. Step-by-step, or as Anne Lamott would say, “bird-by-bird.” Practice creates possibilities.


For those of you wondering about the break in these e-newsletters and my blog, I moved to Los Angeles in February and have been getting settled here while placing focus on acting and film production. In addition, I have continued teaching Mental Health First Aid instructor trainings and have maintained my private practice. I also set a firm intention to finally get my book published by 2017.

Yet I am reminded over and over again that we need to practice “being” in the midst of the doing and that ironically when we engage in that “practice” of rest and relaxation, many opportunities emerge from the resulting spaciousness. It’s a constant tension between being and doing, process and product, will and surrender. And it is our breath and spirit that sustains us through these explorations. It is always the journey that gets us to the eventual destination. Namaste.

My Happy Place

23 Sep


From the time I was a child, this was my happy place. It’s still my happy place. Anywhere that I can make art collaborating with others is where I find my life force. It’s where I find God. Art is where we transcend, celebrate, unite, and become.

Acting on the Edge

27 Dec

In acting class there is an exercise sometimes referred to as a “frozen reading.” Two actors are given a scene they haven’t set eyes on before and are instructed NOT to read it. Instead, they are told to look at each other. Only when they are locked onto each other’s eyes, can the person with the first line look down at the script. He or she is to read the line quickly, grab the words, and then deliver them while looking right back at the partner.

It’s super weird doing the exercise because it makes me feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I don’t know what is going to happen and that is precisely the point. It’s about being in the moment and about being relational. If I’m looking at my partner, I’m not thinking about how I’m going to deliver my next line. Instead I start to act on the edge, responding to what is unfolding in real time: my partner smiles, my partner twitches, we burst into a nervous giggle, a certain strange sexual chemistry unfolds, even though the script doesn’t indicate romance…. OR, the script’s words are about love, yet my partner stares coldly at me, and I in turn, deliver my line clipped….

The exercise is about letting go of preconceived notions and allowing the moment to unfold as it is meant to go down. For control freaks like me, this is the perfect metaphor for life. Can I let go and see what happens? Can I be open to new experiences? Can I love? Can I perform without a safety net? Can I invite possibility in?

Great art emerges from risking taking and generosity. It unfolds from NOT playing it safe but from acting on the edge.

Sure we all want a little security and consistency in life but what happens when those desires threaten to make us prematurely old? What happens when we abandon our childhood dreams and our heart’s desires? Children don’t think about how they might get hurt on the playground. Instead, they just dive in and play.

As we enter 2015, I want to act a little more on the edge. How about you?

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Word Becomes Flesh….

7 Feb

On March 28th, the film “Noah” opens. I would imagine the timing is strategic as Easter follows shortly afterwards on the calendar. Already some of the Christian world is up in arms claiming that it won’t be true to the Bible or biblical enough. That it will be too saturated with Hollywood’s penchant for violence and sex. Well, spoiler alert. The Bible has lots of violence and sex.

Personally, I’m thrilled as I think the Bible is rich with source material for epic cinema. Done well, it could have the power to illuminate as well as entertain. But cinema is a different medium than literature and the Bible is its own unique form of literature anyway, comprised of poetry, genealogies, historical accounts, narrative, parables and letters. Anytime a book is adapted to screen, it has to translate into the specifics of film making. To compare the two is like trying to find the similarities between apples and oranges.

But that does not mean the endeavor isn’t worthwhile. On the contrary. There is much to be gleaned from taking characters and themes from the Bible and allowing the Word to become flesh. By doing so, we are able to play with the text, explore it and apply it to our own lives. Is this a form of eisegesis instead of exegesis? Perhaps. But aren’t we always bringing our own experiences and perspectives into interpretation anyway?

I remember exploring Genesis stories in a psychodramatic fashion with seniors in an orthodox Jewish nursing home in New York. At first there was some some resistance for deconstructing the text in such a fashion. Then there was great enthusiasm. And do you know what the common reflection was after exploring the Noah story in this way? That the rainbow at the end, which serves as a sign of God’s covenant with the earth, for them represented symbolic hope that the Holocaust would never again occur…. Yes, our own lives impact how we see the world around us.

In the last year, I have been exploring characters from the Bible by acting a few pieces from a collection of monologues found in Lady Parts: Biblical Women and the Vagina Monologues. I’ve been performing the character of Jael and the Woman Caught in Adultery.

The Woman Caught in Adultery, written by Lisa Nichols Hickman is a beautiful piece clearly reflecting redemption themes and also a woman’s burgeoning awareness of her innate worth separate from her sexuality. The story is only found in the Gospel of John and some claim it was included only for specific theological illustration.

The story of Jael is found in Judges. Most don’t know it. She kills a Canaanite warrior, Sisera with a tent peg and is lauded as a heroine of Israel. This strong interpretation by Emily Havelka is quite subversive. When given the chance to actually speak, the imaginary Jael says she didn’t kill Sisera for Yahweh or Israel. She did it to save herself from being raped. Is this true to the Bible? Well, no. But is it feasible. YES. Right after the mention of Jael’s victory is the Song of Deborah. In it, there is mention of Sisera’s mother who would be eagerly waiting for her son to return. She says, “Are they (her son and the men), not finding and dividing the spoil? – A girl or two for every man…” (Judges 5:30). Personally, I find it disgusting that a mother would talk so nonchalantly about other women being raped by soldiers but this was the reality. And indeed, near the end of Judges, a concubine is brutally gang raped and left for dead because, “all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” “And they raped my concubine until she died. Then I took my concubine and cut her into pieces…” Judges 20:6.

These things don’t mean so much until you actually hear from the people they concern the most in the story.

The Courage To Deconstruct

10 Dec

Confession: All my life I’ve wanted to be perfect despite the fact that this reflects an utterly delusional desire. The reality is, no one is. We’re all f’d up to some degree. As if to drive this point home, I saw a photo on FB yesterday summarizing the main points of a lecture on enlightenment. The notes read:


1) I am fine
2) I am not fine because other people are so f’d up
3) I’m f’d up, ok, and I’m burdening others. I’m so sorry.
4) We are all f’ed up, in a beautiful human way, which is why life is always a bit disturbing.

And yes, the grand poobah who theorized all of this has a PhD from Yale.

So what do we do when we nonetheless remain in the delusional desire to be perfect?

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I personally read The Velveteen Rabbit. The book is about a brand new stuffed bunny that longs to become real after hearing that toys loved by their owners eventually become so.

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One day, the rabbit’s owner becomes quite sick so the boy’s nanny gives him the stuffed bunny for comfort. The bunny then gets the honor of sleeping with the little boy throughout his illness. The animal gets rolled on and squished and eventually becomes quite shabby. Yet by the story’s end, the bunny becomes real.

The ultimate irony in all of this is that in order to be real, we have to be willing to get messed up. And the more authentic we are, the more we are loved. Go figure. Why then are thousands wasting their money on botox?

For some of us, every time we risk being real and out there, it feels like we’re deconstructing because perhaps at some point, being accepted was a matter of life and death. If we didn’t measure up somehow, love was denied. But the only way to be real is to allow ourselves to deconstruct over and over for there is always death in transformation.

Years ago I had an acting teacher tell me that I would never be a professional actor because I was too afraid to fail. And that the only way to get over this barrier was to truly not care and say f-it.

Well, personally, I think the only way out of this dilemma is to realize that one has innate worth in all the imperfection and decomposing of self, body, ego, etc. For me personally, I only experience that freedom when I turn my eyes to God and feel his beloved gaze. It is then that I realize, I AM REAL. And I am made in the image of God. More important than being perfect, I AM LOVED.

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