April 30, 2007
Wow! I just love love love the level of work I am constantly exposed to lately.
I had the honor of being a judge in the first ever Tisch Actors West Monologue Slam tonight.
Holy crap, that's some talented folk! Congratulations to Dahéli Hall on her well-deserved win (and bonus points to her, Cricket Leigh, and Ruthy Otero for not only rocking but for having written their own brilliant material--also brilliant, but not confirmed as authors of their monologues are Sabah El-Amin and Arnell Powell). Heck, Alison White rocked too... and so did Amelia Borella (also cool to see her manager Paul Trusik for the second time in just days). Wow. Just everyone rocked. How do I begin to lavish appropriate amounts of praise?
Big thanks to Victor Williams for hooking me up with the Tisch Actors West gang. I'm just so very pleased to have shared such a fun night with my girl Twinkie Byrd (who loves loves loves the bio I wrote for her), new best friend Paul Dinh-McCrillis, super witty Eriq La Salle, and simply yummy Seith Mann.
Bookend tonight with the meeting I had this morning with the director of the next couple of films I'm casting, and you just can't whip up a better day. Yup. I just love my job.
April 29, 2007
Our First Showcase (Some Photos)
So, we've put on our first showcase.
We did Self-Management for Actors in the park, to make sure everyone's marketing materials were up to snuff.
We had rehearsal at the illustrious director Richard Tatum's place.
Dress/Tech took days. (Okay. A dozen hours over the course of two days, but whatever. It felt like days. Many. Days.)
We bonded. Hardcore.
It's really hard to come out of "showcase brain" and get back to everything else (three columns due in a few hours, meetings about two feature films I'm casting in the next two days, a script to read and bid to write up for yet another film, plus the breakdown for the next showcase... er... when am I going to get this year's book written???), but I kind of don't want to stop basking in the afterglow of this amazing showcase experience. I ADORE THESE PEOPLE! Holy cow, it really works! You surround yourself with the best people you know and the world just feels like a better place, every moment.
Thank you to rockstar intern Julie, plus rockstars in training: Beau, Camille, and Jennie!
Biggest thanks of all to my partner, Eitan Loewenstein.
The Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase wouldn't exist without you, buddy.
Photos thanks to Eitan, Keith, Chris, Jennie, Amy, the actor backstage who grabbed Amy's camera, and whomever took that cute photo of Beau and Camille that I nabbed from her MySpace page. THANKS, y'all!
April 27, 2007
I love 'em.
I'll miss 'em.
I can't wait to work with 'em again and again.
I am so totally and completely blessed/lucky/loved/happy to have had such a great experience with the first ever Cricket Feet Showcase group.
And even though we took a vote on who is the most kissable in the showcase cast (way to instigate, Camille; way to win, Annie), I could kiss you ALL. I'm just so so so very happy to have had such an amazing experience.
What do you do when the bar is set so damn high? How can next time even come CLOSE to being this damn good?
I'm basking in the afterglow. Life, she is GOOD.
April 25, 2007
I've been feeling for weeks as though I may have quite possibly tapped into a "company" of actors, via this Cricket Feet Showcase thing.
For the most part, it's seriously a group of people I'd work with again and again and again. In a heartbeat. Period.
So, today, among the many, many, MANY emails from industry folks giving me feedback on the showcase was the suggestion that this might just be a COMPANY.
I just LOVE that idea.
I'm just freakin' grateful. What fun!
April 23, 2007
Ooh, hello ego. How ya feelin'? Ouch!
Okay, so I'm trying to format today's column and get it all linked up to stuff I reference and I head over to my recommended reading list for working actors at Amazon.com. Yes, I make no bones about the fact that each of my recommended reading lists exists to help promote my books. BFD.
So, while I'm grabbing the link that I need, I see this COMMENT on one of the stellar reviews received by Self-Management for Actors, wherein the commenter slams my reviewers (Eh?) for not sharing how they've specifically used anything from my book in their careers and then slams "the author/publisher" because we've "not seen fit to share any of the contents here on Amazon."
I guess I figure giving away as many copies of the book as we sell, plus writing a free weekly column for actors should be more than enough to get content-awareness up. And, beyond that, there's all of the free speaking engagements* in which I, well, engage.
Besides, have you READ the Conditions and Terms of Service Agreement for allowing the Amazon.com "Search Inside the Book" program to feature your work? YOU LOSE RIGHTS TO IT.
Believe me, I am not a stickler for clutching my copyright as if my life depended on it. (Some say I am far too loose with my personal stance on publication freedom, in fact.) So if *I* find the terms objectionable, you have to KNOW they're pretty freakin' invasive.
But whatever, that's not what got my hackles raised. I just saw this post and then noticed that there were more votes for "NO" on "This review was helpful" throughout the pages of reviews for Self-Management for Actors than had been there before.
You don't like that I'm not sharing content on Amazon.com so you go click NO on all of the review ratings buttons?
So, that was interesting. I finished tagging my column and turned it in (late--I'm so freakin' exhausted with all of the last-minute showcase-related stuff going on**) and then realized that, as I well know, getting "bad press" (which this SO isn't, in the grand scheme of things) comes with getting "good press" (which I get so so SO much more of--and from much bigger "sources" than anonymous comments on Internet book reviews). *snark*
And if I love the love I get, I have to love the hate I get... because it's all a part of the same machine. And I'm building an empire here. I gots more important stuff to do than waste energy on the stupid stuff.
* Spoke at a way cool bicoastal monologue/scene festival thingy yesterday with some major high-profile agents, managers, and CDs who laughed at me when I gave away books to all of the actors in the festival. The fellow CD said, "Honey, you're new so you don't know this. You're not supposed to give things to ACTORS. They're supposed to give YOU things." It was a hoot and a blast and I never knew I had a fan at BenderSpink. That's fucking rockstar cool.
** Had our preview performance yesterday morning before I went to the festival thingy and HOLY CRAP does this showcase ROCK! OMG! I am NOT kidding you! This thing is FUNNY and FAST and BRILLIANT. I love this cast SO MUCH!!!!!!! Oh, what a great week this is gonna be!
Now when do we get to have celebratory playtime? Huh? Cast party? Anyone? Oh wait... nap first. Zzzzzz.
April 21, 2007
What follows is a report from Erik about Uma's status (she's HOME), as well as a wonderful article from Erik's step-dad about Uma's journey. For those of you in Los Angeles, we will be dancing for Uma in our Cricket Feet Showcase curtain call on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Even if you're not with us in the audience, please hop up and dance for Uma each night!
Now... here's Erik's latest.
So, as you know, Uma is finally HOME! Which is so awesome and exciting. And she's starting to get back into normal, everyday, non-hospital things. Like, for instance, last night John charged up her cell phone and told Uma that she's going to be able to start using it soon (because she IS going to be able to start using it soon!) and then Uma noticed that she had a text message, so she eagerly checked it (it was a message from Aimie, sent on the day that Uma had her aneurysm), and then Uma saw that she had voicemail, so she checked those messages too--obviously, people haven't been calling her because she's been in the hospital, so most of the messages were along the lines of "this is your cell phone company and you need to pay your cell phone bill" but it was still pretty cool for her to check messages. She's not quite able to have phone conversations yet, but she's definitely close--I did a "practice" call with her, and she was able to respond to several of my "phone questions." It was exciting.
Anyway, I'm sending out this quick email because:
1. I know that Uma has not checked her email since she had her brain aneurysm.
2. John was talking to Uma about how they should check her email soon, because it seems like an activity she's ready to do.
3. I heard that hotmail deletes accounts if you don't log-on at least once a month, so I've been logging onto Uma's email account about once a week and deleting messages that are obviously spam (she's been getting lots of those "URGENT REQUEST" spam emails, from "bankers" in London who want you to help them cash a check from Africa, or whatever), and so I'm aware of what's waiting for her in her email box when she checks it, and there are about 200 emails in there. I would say that about 20 of them are personal emails from friends, while the vast majority of them are from mailing lists she's on.
4. I was thinking it would be nice for her to have some more REAL emails when she and John finally check her email account...soooo, if you're a friend of Uma and you want to send her a quick "welcome home" email, that would be awesome.
5. Her email address is nithipal AT hotmail.
And in case you don't read my blog, here's a recent update that my mom posted:
I JUST GOT THIS UPDATE FROM MY MOM:
How wonderful it is to be able to visit Uma at home instead of in the hospital. I had my first opportunity to hang out with her at home yesterday, and it was very special. Colleen was there when I arrived, and John was in his home music studio working. Colleen left and Uma and I got cozy in the bed to watch a DVD that I had brought--"Ever After." I was in the mood for a fairy tale, and Uma seemed to like the idea, too. So we watched the movie while John worked in the next room, and we took turns dozing since the plot was too familiar to keep us awake when we were both a little sleepy. As we watched, Uma had her right arm in the removable cast that she wears as much as possible as part of her therapy. It can get very uncomfortable for her, so it was great that she was able to keep it on for several hours.
After the movie, we talked--mostly about movies and TV shows, but also about other things. At one point, we talked about "Grey's Anatomy," and I asked her if she was going to watch the new episode that was on last night. She started to explain and couldn't get the words out and appeared very frustrated. John came in and started asking her questions. He has a way of helping her express herself that no one else can match. We figured out that she really wanted to watch Grey's, but also really didn't because she had missed several episodes and didn't want to watch them out of order. At one point in our conversation, she said, "I want to watch..." She often gets stuck after "I want" so it was good to see her forming a sentence.
Another time when I was trying to get her to repeat a sentence, John came in and counted with her to three and then she said it perfectly. The counting gives her time to prepare, and then she does much better. She is best able to form words and sentences when she watches the lips of the person she is talking to. At one point, she said the word "scenario." I wasn't sure what she was trying to say, but it's clear that she's working hard at it and the words are coming to her. They might not be the right words for what she is trying to say, but it is a start.
In response a look of frustration from Uma, John explained to her that he and everyone else can see that she is an intelligent woman and the same person she's always been--that she just needs to work at being able to once again express herself through words. The way he explains this is so loving, so patient, yet also gently demanding. He stops her when she is frustrated and looks into her eyes and offers reassurance that he understands her plight and will be there to help her through--but also reminds her that she has to work at it no matter how frustrated she gets.
Toward the end of my visit, Uma's friend, Lauren, arrived with a tray of cupcakes. I said goodbye to Uma and left feeling rested and grateful for the time I had spent with her. Uma will resume serious therapy next week, and she is getting some much-needed down time during her first week at home. John says they are sleeping well without all the interruptions and noises that invaded their privacy in the hospital. John is trying to get back to work while tending to all of Uma's needs and making arrangements for her therapy. I worry about him because the role of primary caregiver is so exhausting, even when you get back as much love as Uma gives. There is also the tremendous sense of responsibility for so many things, from making sure she eats well and gets the quality of care she needs to making sure the bills get paid. We need to help John keep his strength up so he can help Uma keep her strength up, because no one does that better than John. I think he will ask for help, but probably not as much as he should. He needs quiet time alone with Uma, and he needs time to be away from her to do his work and time to be away and restore himself by doing whatever helps him to re-energize. I say this to direct your prayers and positive thoughts toward the support that John and Uma need to get through this healing process so that she can be fully recuperated in every way. We have already seen what can be accomplished when so many people pull together in love and hope--Uma has come so far with that power behind her, and I know she will keep making progress every day because she is surrounded by so much love and support and is very determined to reclaim her independence.
And here's a column my step-dad wrote for The Daily Pilot:
THE BELL CURVE:
Courage and hope despite odds
By JOSEPH N. BELL
My dear friend Uma Nithipalan went home last Tuesday, 77 days after she got on a plane in Los Angeles to fly to New York and join her husband-to-be who was awaiting her there for a brief visit. Twice in those 77 days, the people who love her were told that Uma had only a 20% chance of ever making that trip home alive.
But medical opinion turned out to be no match for the wave of prayer and love that washed over her.
The love came from hundreds, maybe thousands, of friends of Uma who met her and followed her story in the blog of my stepson, Erik Patterson.
This cornucopia of hope and, finally, conviction grew daily, first among Uma's dear friends. But very quickly, they told their friends who told their friends who told other friends, all of whom seemed to find in the courage and determination of these three young people a reason to look--even if only for a few moments--beyond the horrors taking place in our world today to a crusade anchored in the certainty that a reservoir of goodness remains, with the power to bring about results that could be seen as miraculous.
Uma is a native Sri Lankan and a citizen of the world who graduated, with Erik, from Occidental College in Los Angeles eight years ago. Uma was Erik's closest friend then, and she has remained his closest friend ever since. And when Uma fell in love with John Ballinger last year, John became Erik's second-closest friend.
That's the way it was when Uma got on the plane to New York last Jan. 30 to celebrate the engagement ring John had given her at Christmas. John, who is a fine and versatile musician, was playing a gig in Manhattan with the troupe that took "Dancing with the Stars" on the road. It was a job he wanted badly and was enjoying immensely. And it paid him well enough to bring Uma to New York to share it at least briefly.
John was working when Uma arrived at his hotel, but she was waiting in his room when he finished and hurried to her side. And a few hours after that joyous meeting, before the morning light, this wonderfully healthy 27-year-old woman was in convulsions, writhing in pain, gasping for breath.
An ambulance rushed her to the nearest hospital where five precious hours went by before she was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and transferred to another hospital equipped and staffed to treat her.
Thus started the journey of these three remarkable people.
A few hours after John called him, Erik was on his way to New York. He had joined John at St. Vincent's Hospital when the first desolate news was delivered by the doctor heading the team that treated Uma. She was in an induced coma, he said, critically ill, with, at best, a 20% chance of surviving.
That's when the two men in her life, staggered at first by the news, decided that they simply would not allow it to happen. And from that moment until she went home last Tuesday, one or both of them were constantly at her side. And so were the prayers they pleaded for in the long, poignant emails and blogs they sent daily to the folks back home. Always factually straight. And always upbeat. "Here are the facts," they seemed to say, "but the reality is Uma's full recovery."
That's the way it was through the first three weeks.
One minor setback after another, somehow dealt with.
But always there was the fear of stroke attacking her nearly defenseless body. If only she could get past that, they could all relax a little. And they almost had it made when stroke abused her body once again--and once again the doctors delivered the 20% lifeline of hope. And so the volume was turned up on the call for help, and the response was quick and sure. Uma fought off the grim predictions, resumed her recovery, and a little over a month ago was on her way back to rehab in Los Angeles.
That required a new miracle. Only an air ambulance could deliver her, and that cost more than $20,000. So Erik fired up his blog and told Uma's army the problem--and within four days more than enough money poured in to pay for the air ambulance. So now, after four weeks in a rehab facility, Uma is walking with a cane, communicating with beautiful smiles and nods and grimaces as she relearns speech a word at a time, expressing a range of emotions from frustration to joy, and flashing wonderful glimpses of the old Uma.
It's impossible to convey the almost lyrical flavor of the hope and love and determination in the reports that came from John and Erik every day since Uma was stricken. They could and should be edited into a fine and inspirational book. Here's just a taste from John, written when he went home for the first time in several months, after he and Uma returned to Los Angeles:
"I look around our house and see all the physical things that make up our life together--the little things like a receipt for a dinner we had, the new spice rack she bought while I was on tour, notes on the refrigerator, photographs that she put up on the wall, the Christmas tree she hadn't taken down and where she left her nightgown before flying off to New York.
"Her essence and personality seem very much to be there and intact. Her sense memory of me and trust in me seem to be just as present. But exactly where are her memories? Will she remember any lines from the play that won her an award from LA Weekly? Or how long it took her to breathe again after I asked her to marry me? And does it really matter? Maybe the essence of things is what I will lean on for a while.
"Her rehabilitation will take place for many years in some ways, but the bulk and the foundation of it will be done over the next four months to a year. So I'm asking again for your spiritual help for Uma. I really believe she has come this far due to the prayers and love sent her way by all of you. And she needs this again, just as much as before."
I was privileged to be among the people who love Uma and received the daily reports from her bedside.
A few days before she returned home, I visited her at the rehab center and reminded her of an inside joke we shared. And her eyes lighted up and met mine, and her smile was broad and understanding, and I thought of the final sentence in one of John's latest reports: "Tomorrow," he wrote, "is Easter, and Uma will rise up and walk."
April 19, 2007
Principal vs. Principle; Theatre vs. Theater
So, today was cool. I spoke for four hours at Rolling Hills Prep about writing, casting, and living a freelance lifestyle. It was awesome. The local media covered it.
More on that in a moment. First, the bigger issue. Principal vs. Principle and Theatre vs. Theater.
For once and for all...
When you're talking about your role in a project or the onset of filming your project, you mean "principal," as that's the only option that can *be* an adjective, and that's what you're listing on a resumé in the billing column: the type of role (principal, supporting, featured; recurring, guest-star, co-star); or in your blurb about starting the main part of your work.
In case you don't believe me, here's my backup:
principal is an adjective that means "main or primary"; principle is a noun that means "beliefs or morals."And more:
A principle is a basic or fundamental idea. The word principle is always used as a noun.
As an adjective, principal indicates that the noun it modifies is the most important thing in its class.
As for the theatre/theater debate, there's more grey area here. And part of what makes the English language so damn cool is that it is constantly evolving (and bastardizing itself at rates much faster than mutations in other languages, historically).
Meanwhile, here's my basic guideline, backed up:
Theatre: refers in general to the art of live performance. Also, the building in which live performance takes place. Theater: refers to the building in which movies are displayed.And more:
To go to the theater means to go to a movie while to go to the theatre means to attend a live performance.
Okay, why is this on my mind?
But in spending four hours talking about a writer's life, I realized a few things:
- It's weird to earn a living as a writer (probably as weird as it is to earn a living as an actor; it's so random, taste-based, and fickle). It's especially weird to earn a living as a writer for nearly a decade.
- Defining your voice is the only way to create a following as an artist. Yes, you can be a technical writer and do very well for yourself, financially. But to connect with a larger audience--and to be sought out for what you have to say--requires being authentic. Every time.
- Knowing the rules gives you room to break them. (During the talk, I split an infinitive and then commented on how I can totally do that, because it's a part of my writing style. The fact that I *know* I did it makes it okay. Sloppiness and personal style are two totally different things... and that makes the difference between a [non-pro] blogger and a writer [for hire].)
- Branding yourself is essential. You know when you read my work, you'll come across a "y'all" and a "damn" and an "eff." It's just the E in ME, communicating that way. You'll also get a no-BS take on just about anything. I have a lot of opinions. One student asked how to get hired to write with total personal freedom. I told him that the only way to do that is to write for free with total personal freedom, get known for that, and then say yes when someone else realizes there is money to gain from being in the "you" business. Hell... acting is exactly the same! Get yourself known everywhere as the YOU you are. When the hirers need THAT, you're gonna get the call.
Damn. It's just so simple. Do what you do. Do it well. Do it on principle or do it as a principal; do it in a theatre or on a screen at a theater. People will learn that's your YOU and they'll show up to pay for it again and again.
April 15, 2007
Big Time = No Time
So, since my last blog entry, I learned that two more films I've cast made it into festivals; attended a screening of three short films that I cast; hired the director for the next Cricket Feet Casting Actors Showcase; set a meeting with the director of the next two features I'm casting; agreed to speak at three more industry events before month's end; wrote two weeks' columns (but had no time to promote 'em); promoted the showcase like mad; and put out the call for comedy writers (to amazingly overwhelming response).
And tomorrow, the outstanding Broken Windows team hits the set. I really really really really really want to do a set visit. Such a phenomenal crew. Such a gorgeous cast. Hope I can work it out. Just the same, I wish y'all SO MUCH success and joy!
(Gosh, I don't even have time to post links or images in this blog entry. I just couldn't imagine going a week or more without a post, so here 'tis. MISS Y'ALL! More updates when I can make 'em.)
April 13, 2007
12 of 12 for April 2007
Woo hoo! Always one of my favorite days... it's 12 of 12 time! And I was especially thrilled about this month's 12 because of all the cool stuffs going on. Some of it actually made it to camera. ;)
If it's your first time to 12 of 12, then visit awesome Chad's blog for the low-down. And, by the way, if it's your first time... where the hell ya been? Be sure to post your link at Chad's blog so that your 12 is shared with the world, as it should be.
2:53am: Leftovers from El Cholo, a big glass of milk, and TiVo'd America's Next Top Model. Life, she is good.
4:11am: I've just finished watching the TiVo'd Work Out and I'm crying over Doug. That's all.
7:27am: Archie has decided to kill his sister Salema. *sigh* Kids.
7:33am: Syncing the BlackBerry (Hmm... I still haven't named it. That's odd.) and stamping the postcards. Did more than I thought I would. Damn, I have a big industry mailing list.
1:45pm: Up from a four-hour nap, it's time to check the emails....
3:44pm: Keith driving me to my interview for the Industry RSVP web show. Had every intention of photographing me on set... lights, camera, the whole deal... but...
4:53pm: ...totally forgot the camera was in my purse. But it was open the whole time, so the batteries ran out. Bonus, eh? Anyway, it was a blast spending time with Seth, A'da, Ileane, Gary, Bob, and the rest of the crew as always. I'll post the interview when it's available.
5:15pm: This is why Ileane wants to go shopping with me. Cool purse, cool patchy jeans, cool bracelet, cool BlackBerry case. Hee! Says she loves my hair too, but you can't buy that, baby. ;)
7:20pm BONUS PIC! We've arrived at SAG Foundation for my casting workshop. Jesse agrees to be in the photo only if she can face the other way. Rufino has been renamed Rufiyes, because Keith thinks it will help his love life. This is the bonus pic b/c I had to get a photo that used the word assigned by the Random Word Generator, and mine was TURNAROUND. Funny thing is, it wasn't until AFTER the photo was taken that I realized it would be a great bonus pic. I honestly had no idea how I was going to work TURNAROUND into my 12 of 12. Way to go, Jesse. You rule! Aren't we the cutest?
8:30pm: Assigning scenes to the actors at the advanced SAG Foundation CAP event. So much fun!
10:30pm: SAG Foundation CAP is now over, and Beautiful X and I are going over her new headshot options. Love this chick! So very cool.
11pm: We decide to stay late and Keith launches into "The Luckiest Man in the World" story for Mary and Rufiyes. We laughed, we cried, we embraced. Love these people!
Such a fucking awesome day. I just love my life. It's too dang cool.
April 11, 2007
Tomorrow is 12 of 12!
Charge up your camera. Get ready. :)
Per Rockstar Chad, our bonus pic this month is as follows:
Bonus picture is based on a random word generator. CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK! Whatever word comes up, your 13th (bonus if you choose it) picture can be a literal or interpretive take on that word.
April 8, 2007
"I could eat about a million and a half of these."
Wasn't that a line from Forrest Gump? About his box of chocolates or somesuch?
I've found mine. It's pumpkin tortellini from Planet Raw.
Now, this isn't news--seeing as I raved about it (and the whole experience, really) when Shon and Jodi took me to lunch there last year--but lately I've become full-on addicted to these things. I could eat them non-stop.
And the best part of everything at Planet Raw is that *nothing* can make me "get glutened" in that place. Nothing. It's a very liberating feeling to know you're "eating safe," even when you didn't oversee food prep or whatever.
Oh, and another new favorite thing--which our rockstar El Cholo waitress recommended last week when I wistfully spoke about my love for the (seasonal) green corn tamales that "aren't ready" yet--is the shrimp tamale with an amazingly decadent sauce THAT HAS NO GLUTEN in it, either. Holy hell, that food is the YUMMMMMMM (and, even it is only available as a "special" certain nights of the week).
I could eat that non-stop too.
So, apparently one of the side-effects to this detox tea crap is MAJOR hungries. This did *not* happen with the other brand of detox tea (during which I ate nothing but soup and juices and teas and pickled ginger for two weeks). I was not at all ravenous. And now I am. Totally. And my head hurts.
Maybe this tea works better? Stronger? Faster? Eh... whatevs. I just really really really really really want to eat another hundred pumpkin tortellini and/or a pound or ten of shrimp tamale in cream sauce.
Damn. Cravings are WEIRD.
(No, I'm NOT pregnant. Get your minds out of the gutter, people. That's gross.)
Ooh... maybe soup is a good idea. With a ginger electrolyte smoothie. Yes. Let's have that.
April 6, 2007
So, this was fun.
Tuesday night, I spoke to a group of kids from my old acting studio, Atlanta Workshop Players. Every year, they come out to LA and I do a little thing with them. It's always a blast. This year, rockstar manager April Mills joined me. Last year, it was superstar manager Kathy Colorado and megastar agent Robin Spitzer. Excellent stuff. Always.
Well, this year, one of the kids did a monologue for us and, in reviewing his resumé, I noticed he attends North Springs High School (my alma mater; which had no drama club when I started there... but it sure as hell did by the time I left... and now it's a Performing Arts Magnet School, if that tells you anything). So, in my very Bonnie-like way, I commented on many elements of the young actor's work, and then said,
Three or four kids in the room jumped up and began singing the North Springs Spartans' fight song. They were THRILLED that "someone famous that they'd met in Hollywood" went to North Springs. I was beyond amused by this statement, and I proceeded to list the famous people *I* loved knowing went there, before/during my time there: John Schneider, musical gods Richie Robinson, Jeff Sullivan, Jeff Pinkus (all three of whom were in my math class), and of course my cousin Faith Salie.
Very funny to the adults in the room. The kids rolled their eyes, like kids are supposed to do.
Okay, so cut to another scene a bit later. It's brilliantly funny. I ask the kid what it's from and he says, "Oh, it's really old. It's from something called 'Kids in the Hall.'" (And he says this as if this "Kids in the Hall" thing and the Spanish Inquisition happened around the same time.) Again... I remember being 15 and thinking that way about stuff.
But it's what came after that was most brilliant.
"Well, you know," he says (off my reaction, which is getting laughs by the bellyful all around the room), "I think there was a lot of funny stuff from your era. Like 'Welcome Back Kotter,' for example."
One of the adults in the room (who was one of MY coaches when *I* was a kid at AWP camp) says, "That's from MY generation. Not Bonnie's!"
And the kid says, "Well, you know what I mean. Like the old 'Mork & Mindy' days."
I finally scream (through laughter), "STOP DIGGING THIS DITCH!!!"
By now, we're all in tears laughing.
It was just really funny.
So, anyway, I'm thinking tonight about how I'm the White Oprah (or, Whoprah, as I like to say) and how I have my Steadman and my Gayle and all of my kids. And today, one of the "kids" in the showcase (during our IM-based conference about his type and resumé format, etc.) asked if I miss acting.
"Nah," I said. "I get to perform weekly, pretty much. I get up in front of a group of people and I talk and crack jokes. They listen and they laugh and they take notes and then they all come up to me after and get my autograph (in books) and it's all very much like being an actor, except I don't have to pay union dues or audition. I just show up and do my thing. And I love it."
And I do.
And then I get these amazing emails from people I've never met who say they've been reading my words forEVER (which is, at most, since 2000, when I started writing for Back Stage West, unless they were reading my "Don't Get Me Started" or "It's Like This" or "Girls of Grace" columns before that) and that I've somehow changed their lives for the better... that they never would've "done this" if not for something I've written.
And the "done this" is simple. LIVE THEIR DREAMS.
I don't know. It seems so easy to say that no one should need to hear from someone else that it's okay to do that... but hell, maybe there is something to the fact that crazy dreams feel more validated when someone is writing about going for it (and doing so with passion and smarts and accountability and authenticity). And just like some kids went back to Atlanta feeling like, "Wow. I can make it, even though I come from this little place... because Bonnie Gillespie came from this school and look at her," maybe it's not even the stuff that we DO, but that what we DO... we do big.
In case that's what matters, that's what I'm doing. Living big. And I'm loving it, loving it, loving it.
(And yes, to those of you who have written to me about how much my life is about to change, I know. I see it. I feel it coming. And I guess that's why I keep stopping every now and then to write it all down. I don't want to forget how any of this felt. No more than I want to forget how it felt to write up the first Drama Club Steering Committee raison d'être with David Salie in the '80s. You know... back before fire was discovered.)
April 5, 2007
I just have to say that I am SO GLAD to have these updates. This has been such an amazing journey and I am so constantly inspired by Uma's progress and the extreme levels of love in her life. Awesome stuff. Truly awe-inspiring.
Hello everyone...here are the latest Uma updates...from my mom and from John...much love to all of you...xo, erik
UPDATE FROM MY MOM:
I spent a few very special hours with Uma today, and it was wonderful to walk in and see such an enormous difference in her since my last visit a week ago. I know she is very frustrated with what must seem like incredibly slow progress to her, but the fact is, she is making dramatic steps forward. When I arrived, she was heartily eating a very boring meal of pureed food. Even though the food wasn't exciting, it must be thrilling to be getting back the capability of eating rather than having liquids poured into you through a stomach tube. And she will probably begin eating solid foods this week, so please visualize her swallowing with no problem and convincing the doctor that the stomach tube can be removed.
I shared a guilty pleasure with Uma today--watching soaps. I got a big smile when I teased her about getting me hooked on soaps. It is so easy to get caught up in the problems of those beautiful people on the screen. They are so beautiful that you can't help but enjoy their suffering. For Uma right now, just watching is part of getting back a sense of normalcy in her life, because she has long been a soap fan. We enjoyed a relaxing hour of TV before the occupational therapist arrived. One of the big focuses today was trying to help Uma strengthen her right arm. She got very frustrated when she was unable to move it, but then the therapist explained that just leaning on her right hand would help strengthen her muscles--that this is a beginning, and many patients in her condition have recovered the use of their arm. Uma seemed to be reassured by that. Her therapy also included a bit of cleaning in the kitchen, and she did a great job scrubbing the countertop. The occupational therapist works on helping Uma function in many practical everyday ways that will help her to be independent when she leaves the hospital. Uma seems to be responding to this therapy very well--a sign of how eager she must be to get home.
Next she spent an hour with the speech therapist, who had her counting and working on pronouncing words. The therapist explained that Uma is probably not able to understand complex sentences right now, but does grasp key words. So we can learn to emphasize the main idea of a sentence and keep it short when we speak to her. She does seem to understand a great deal of what is being said to her. She is also gradually finding more words to express herself, but the inability to put her thoughts into words is probably her biggest frustration right now.
John is keeping a detailed diary of her day-to-day activities and visitors are adding their messages to this journal. It's becoming a beautiful record of her recovery, and it's very helpful when the nurses come in and ask questions about Uma's activities. One nurse today said she's never seen a patient with so many visitors. And all the therapists comment on how incredible John is. He certainly has their attention--they know he's closely monitoring everything that happens, or doesn't happen, and I'm sure that's making a difference in her care.
In the midst of all of the hard work Uma is going through, and all the frustration, there is that beautiful smile. Her sense of humor is very much intact, and what a joy it is to see her face light up when something amuses her. That, more than anything, tells me she is farther along than we can even see. Each day is filled with small steps forward that will all add up to big steps down the line. It is a privilege to be a part of Uma's journey. I so admire her courage.
[a note from Erik: When Uma's finally able to use the internet again and she starts reading these updates, she is going to be so pissed that my mom outed her as a soap lover. But then again, I don't think she was ever very good at keeping that info in the closet. So maybe she won't be pissed. Either way, it'll be exciting that she's on the internet away, snooping and such, so I'm cool with her being pissed about the whole "out as a soap lover" thing.] [Also, while we're on the subject of loving soaps, I'll come out of the closet too and admit that Uma got me hooked on One Life to Live. Ohhhh the travails of Todd, Blaire, and Star will never be boring, no matter how many times Todd betrays Blaire and Blaire takes him back again.] [If you're also a closet soap lover--god, that phrase makes it sound like you like soaps that clean closets, not secret lovers of soap operas--anyway--if you're also a secret lover of soap operas, then take comfort in the fact that you're in good company, and next time you watch your soaps, visualize Uma curled up on her couch at home, fully recovered, enjoying those ABC soaps completely openly.]
UPDATE FROM JOHN:
i honestly can't remember the last time i wrote or the
last time i was home. i've been staying at the
hospital over night and, since uma is now becoming
what they call a "fall risk", I've been finding it
difficult to go home.
the work she is doing is really good. she is improving
everyday in every area. today i watched her walk on a
treadmill with help from the therapists - but not very
much help at all. and then she walked back from the
physical therapy gym to her room - about 50 yards -
with her cane and a small brace on her right leg.
she has been eating orally since friday and had had
her tracheostomy "blocked" since monday evening. it
looks good for her to have the feeding tube taken off
late this week and possibly even the trach.
one of the problems with having been around there so
much is that i have, in effect, 'trained' the nurses
to rely on me to do all the transfers to the bathroom,
much of the maintenance of her airway, feeding, and
monitoring her. the other problem is that i'm now
needing to get away to work occasionally and also just
to get away. erik has been great, as usual, in helping
to get me some help during the weekdays and weekends
so that i can leave. but i have a specific request -
monday, april 9th i need to do a job that will take me
away from the hospital from about 3:30pm to 7:30 pm.
is there anyone who can come by then to make sure she
doesn't try to walk away (don't laugh - that's what is
meant by 'fall risk'.....she sometimes just tries to
get up from bed or her wheelchair and walk!)
also- along the lines of specific request - we're
looking now for world class speech and physical
therapists to augment the out-patient program she'll
be on. these specialists can be in the form of
private, in -home workers, or in the form of another
facility here in southern california. what we need
are recommendations from people who've had some direct
or even indirect connection to neurological or
post-stroke rehabilitation. the reason we're looking
for this is that the county system will only give us
so much per day and per patient on these crucial
issues and uma can accelerate much faster in these
areas even now. the work she is doing now is truly
great but we want to let her rebuild herself with no
limits if at all possible. please let me know and i
thank you in advance.
she is very clearly "in" her body - that is ....uma
exists much as she was before. the problem is that her
words don't work. she has aphasia. they are very, very
slowly coming back but the problem is that she still
has an expectation of using language....her
intelligence remains but her words are, for the most
part, gone. each day she seems to be able to follow
more of a conversation and more commands from staff
but she, as yet, can't SAY what she wants at all.
(except for 'i want pizza' which i taught her to say
when my sister sent one to the room. she tasted a bit
of it. funny how that phrase stuck with her so easily)
she can become really frustrated by this...to the
point of tears and real agitation. she can read quite
a bit and organize sentences via reading comprehension
but this has not yet translated into the spoken word
other parts of her mind seems to work very well.
sometimes something happens with us that is truly
funny - not like a joke or funny sound or accent or
sight gag but just an everyday occurrence .....putting
your arm through the wrong sleeve of a shirt etc. and
she laughs....no cues, no words. two days ago we
played the card game 'war' with the recreational
therapist. basically each player draws a card and who
ever has the highest face value takes the hand. uma
presented as someone with no problems at all. the only
sticking point was when there was a six and a nine
drawn in the same hand......she took a bit to
distinguish the two.
she had a cast on her right arm to reduce spasticity
and this now off. that thing weighed almost as much as
she did! and they've begun again with electrical
stimulation for that arm.
i just keep on it and keep pushing with all the
respect i can. we all get along very well with all the
staff and nurses. pretty soon there isn't going to be
anything for the nurses to do for her anymore. but the
discharge date is somewhat flexible - if she is doing
very well, they might keep her an extra week.
i saw the results of the follow-up ct scan yesterday.
her ventricles are smaller and look more like
ventricle are supposed to now.....sort of butterfly
shaped. they will most likely improve still. she looks
to have had a lessening of swelling and infarction but
these things did take place. techinically, after the
aneurysm, she suffered a stroke.
her character and stamina are amazing given what she
has been through. she really is the strongest person i
know. the challenges ahead for her are monumental. to
hear that she can now walk a bit, or eat some, or talk
some is very encouraging. to see it first hand each
day tells a story of many, many months and even years
before she is done working on this injury. every day
is huge - there's just no way around it. each day is
so large in every possible way for both of us. this is
the highest level of living i've ever experienced and
it can be grueling. it requires a level of stamina i
didn't think existed in me but, somehow, it's there.
i'm just thinking now of how many prayers there have
been from all those different people, many we don't
even know......it helps me to view this, as my father
said to try and do, as a gift. it's hard, believe me,
but i think this is the right path to take. how we
respond to these situations is the key to it all i
i thank you all, in advance, for praying for her mind,
her spirit and her body to heal (a moment of bravery
coming....) COMPLETELY!. keep hoping and loving.
ALSO FROM JOHN:
forgot to mention the following links again. the first
is erik's blog spot - very nice. lots of pictures and
good perspective on all of this. the second is a place
where you can actually buy a t-shirt or other item
that has different versions of 'team uma' or 'i love
uma' etc. on it. that sight was set up by our friend
michal braun - very nice indeed. (profits go to the
fund for her now and future rehab!)
There's a photo album of all of Uma's hospital photos at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theumafund/
And if you want to buy crafts made with love for Uma (all proceeds go to fund Uma's rehab):
April 4, 2007
"Hey, Bon! Y U No Mo' Bloggy?"
Because I'm so FREAKIN' busy, y'all! Seriously! WOW. Producing a showcase is some WORK.
But I'm seriously happy. But mainly busy.
And happy. Mainly happy. And seriously busy.
Yeah. All that.