“Am I my resume?” : Living life wholeheartedly as an actor

BWALPHA copyAnother wonderful and insightful blog from our monthly contributor Jessica Latshaw!

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I care very much about health. I am lucky; my parents put me in ballet when I was eight years old, introducing me to a way of life that both challenged me physically and fulfilled me emotionally. Soon, one didn’t come easily without the other. It’s still that way, and I have them to thank for it.
And though I am not sure the world needs one more article or blog post about the recent tragic passing of the great Robin Williams, his death is indicative of the fact that our health is not comprised solely of how we look, the numbers that appear when we step on the scale, the amount of accolades we have garnered, or how fast we can run.
Our health is the sum value of every single part of us. It’s what wholehearted living is all about: your body, mind, and spirit working towards the same goals. There is chaos and unbalance in our lives whenever one part of us–whether it’s physical, emotional/mental, or spiritual–betrays the goals we have and the values we nurture.
Many years ago, a good friend of mine reached out to me sobbing in the middle of the night. Being the genius and sensitive discerner that I am, I asked what was wrong.
“Are you hurt?”
She shook her head and kept crying.
“Is your family okay?”
She nodded this time, sobbing even harder.
Finally, she started talking and I pieced together what had brought her to this place. She has core values. She loves these values. She believes they are the right way to live and she has always strived to uphold them. Until recently, when she started betraying these values and shame set in. She still believed the values, and yet she was acting in a way that said she didn’t.
And subsequently life became chaotic.
images-1This is not a matter of being good or bad, though, see? This is a matter of living wholeheartedly. Of living in balance. Being in sync with yourself. Meaning every part of you is in agreement and moving in the same direction. It’s a healthy picture of a person. It’s what’s available to each of us.

 

Another part of wholehearted living is community. Reaching out. My friend talked to me that night for as long as she needed. I loved her; I listened. By the end of that conversation, something changed. Not because she or I were able to actually erase the past or snap our fingers and give her an immediate solution, but because she is loved and knew it and sometime between finding her crumpled in the corner of a hotel room–more tears than dignity–and taking deep, trembling breaths before standing up and declaring that now she was at peace enough to sleep, at least–the fact that she is loved became the bottom line.

images-2All this to say, it is very important to surround ourselves with people who care more about who we are than what we do. The pressure is real. To make money, to get the job, to fill your resume, to get the girl, to look good, to be good, to have a thousand things to say when people ask you that inevitable question: “So, what do you do?”
When is the last time someone asked you who you are?
If you crossed off the list of external things people can readily see when they look at you (an accountant, a performer, an instructor, etc), could you answer?
I remember in grade school, getting the assignment to write an essay on who I am. I was young enough to write out the whole thing in pencil, the letters big and awkwardly printed across lined paper. At that point, I had no job, earned no money, and had an unfortunate haircut that was a byproduct of allowing my brother to play barber with me one day. After he cut my bangs in a perfect diagonal line, my mom simply cut them all off (who needs the hassle of going to a salon when you have a perfectly good pair of scissors at home, anyway?), creating a short–albeit still tragically uneven–fringe on the top of my already too big forehead.

Good times, guys; good times.

images-3But I had a lot to say about who I am. I wrote about loving my family, loving animals, and drawing, too. I didn’t know it, but I was writing about the connection to both people and creativity, which has turned out to be the two greatest needs in my life when it comes to feeling fulfilled and alive. I had a sense of self then, and it had nothing to do with what the world would call success.
You don’t need me to tell you that life can be hard. From time to time, people who have heard about some darker nights that I have walked through will reach out to me and ask how they get through their own dark night. I always tell them to surround themselves with kind, safe people who love them more than they need them. To be purposeful about hanging out with those who they never feel a need to impress. To let your personal life be vastly different from an interview or an audition. To realize that life is more than a facebook status in which a new job is announced; that it’s made up of pictures. All kinds of pictures–many that we would never post on Instagram.

This is not a DOWN WITH SOCIAL MEDIA! post (I am a fan of social media, actually–Instagram, especially, because FILTERS!). This is me telling you that you are way more than what you do and until you realize this, life will always be precarious, rising and falling with the awards, jobs, and notice you do or do not receive from others.

Live wholeheartedly. Be at one with yourself, your values, your goals. Create for yourself a community where you are loved for who you are, period. And from that place, you will end up doing so very much; you will end up impressing the world, whether you ever meant to or not, because a healthy, loved, balanced and wholehearted person is a breathtaking, beautiful sight, indeed.

img-26Jessica Latshaw is a monthly contributor to The Broadway Warm-Up Blog.  For more info on Jessica check out: www.jessicalatshawofficial.com

 

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I Lost Control and Then I Found Something Better

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Check out this awesome and hysterical blog from Monthly Guest Blogger Jessica Latshaw about the benefits of losing control!

I Lost Control and Then I Found Something Better

I think good things happen not only when we lose control (because, really, when do we ever have total control?), but the best things happen when we lose our dearly held–albeit delusional–idea of our control over anything other than what exists between the crown of our heads and the soles of our feet.
How’s that for a first sentence? If it’s not long enough for you, I can work on it.

april25babies_ellafitzgeraldSomebody told me a story about Ella Fitzgerald. I cannot tell you if this is entirely true, because I was not there, but this is what I heard. When Ella went to the studio to record, her producer made her sing a song over and over again-to the point of exhaustion, even. It wasn’t until then that someone would finally hit record. The truth comes out when you’re too tired to pretend anymore. And there’s nothing so interesting as the raw, unguarded truth, was the point of the story, I believe.
(Tell that to someone who is belting, and they may very well prefer clarity of tone and pitch over interesting, but still.)

I work for a company called Fly Wheel Sports, teaching indoor stadium cycling to people who have big goals and the motivation to match. Oftentimes clients will tell me they perform better when they are exhausted and walk into a class with not nearly as much expectation on themselves because of it. They are shocked. But I wonder if it has something to do with the pressure being off and a sense of control being lost. I wonder if better things happen as a result of those two factors.

images-9One of my best auditions came out of some of the worst circumstances. First of all, I was late. Not just I-am-not-there-to-sit-in-a-split-in-the-holding-room-with-headphones-on-an-hour-before-they-call-me late. I mean, I literally was not there when the audition started. The casting director called me, “Where are you?” she asked, concerned.
“On the train–it’s delayed and I will be there as soon as humanly possible.”
I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing I could do about the train being delayed and the fact that I was still on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel while my competitors were dancing for the director I wanted to hire me.

Finally, I arrived. I heard the music, but I couldn’t help it–I HAD to go to the bathroom. Yep, my belly was not feeling so well and it chose that moment to decide to move things around inside.

I was already late–what’s a little bit later? I decided.

Then I got my period.
(I am sorry, but that is a part of this story, and to leave it out would be an injustice to the art of story telling.)

So I did what was necessary (the art of story telling sometimes demands certain details be left out, too, you know), and finally walked into the audition room. I threw my heels on and without so much as a stretch, started doing whatever the choreography demanded of me.
Somewhere between my train getting delayed, getting sick in the bathroom, and getting my period, I decided to let myself off the hook in terms of HAVING TO GET THIS JOB. I decided I have no control over most things–and what I do have control over, well, I can only do my best.

They made a cut and told me to please come back and sing when they call my name.
So I went back to the bathroom and composed myself.

Which is when I saw it.

The thing about getting your period is that you use certain tools to keep yourself clean.

The thing about being a dancer is that you sometimes wear a leotard and just fishnet tights to auditions.

The thing about those certain tools is that they tend to have strings.

The thing about fishnets is that they tend to have holes.

I noticed with horror that a string was actually threaded through my fishnet tights and sticking out the other side in a most unseemly and untoward manner.
In short: I was mortified.

While hiding the embarrassing evidence of my femininity, I couldn’t help but laugh over the whole situation. Late. Sick. Unexpected time of the month. And then my tampon string literally threaded through my fishnet tights and out the other side–all this while I am doing high kicks just a few feet in front of the whole production team.

let_it_go_by_impala99-d740xws.pngI tuck the string away and walk back into the room. I sing. Then I read a monologue. I realize that I don’t have a say over whether or not I get the job, but, man, at least I am very alive and at least I am doing my best and life is more fun when the pressure is off, anyway. Plus, there is a part of me that is standing back, analyzing the situation, and realizing that this will make a good story.

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I finally finish and start the journey back home. Which is when I get a call from the casting company.
“You got the job!” they say, “You’re our Kristine in A Chorus Line–either here in New York, or the 1st National–whichever opens up first. But the production team wants you.”
I thank them. I can’t help but smile, laugh, and cry a little. The role of Kristine is a somewhat neurotic and quirky role; if they saw the tampon string, it only helped my case.

But the point is, there is a freedom that comes with realizing that none of us are in total control. That we all just do our best in the moment. We take whatever we can grab within our very finite reach and we make something. Dear God, we hope that something is good. We really hope that something makes money. But it’s what we do, over and over again, and the more we do it, the more we realize it is imperfect, hardly ever according to plan, and sometimes even better than we could have imagined.

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But no, it never really involves us being in control of the situation.
And maybe that’s when the truth comes out; which, as someone told me, is way more interesting than a carefully composed lie, anyway.

img-26Jessica Latshaw is a monthly blog contributor to The Broadway Warm-Up blog. For more information on Jessica go to: www.jessicalatshawofficial.com

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www.broadwaywarmup.com

The Broadway Warm-Up: A Completely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up that can be completed in under 30 minutes Now available on DVD!

Why The Caged Bird SHOULD Sing

BWALPHA copyOk folks, it is with absolute joy and pleasure that we introduce our next guest blogger, the super cool, multitalented, glorious, ultra-creative…

(and incidentally a Broadway Warm-Up Cast Member)…

 

                                                       Jessica Latshaw!img-26

You can go to Jessica’s website www.jessicalatshawofficial.com to find out about all of the awesome things she does as a musician,writer,actor and dancer. But now, check out the first installment of her monthly blog:

Why the Caged Bird SHOULD Sing

508c4a1e-fa59-49f8-9ed0-c41c69c93285I have a friend who cut herself. She told me about it one night in the same tone of voice my ex used when he finally admitted he loved someone else: helpless to change. I listened to her tell me the story about how the pain she felt inside–something that threatened to swallow her whole–became manageable when tangible. She’d watch spots of bright red blood prove Newton’s law of gravity as it trickled down her legs, finding the fact that she was actually controlling the pain (this time) comforting.

And different.

And sometimes when you’re hurting a lot, different is the only thing you’re going for.

images-1That night, in a hotel room that blended in with all the rest during a non-equity bus and truck tour, I listened to my friend and tried to understand. I didn’t yet know of a pain that could feel like that. I didn’t yet know that something could hurt inside so strongly that you’d want to change everything, including yourself. Whether it was for the better or the worse didn’t matter, if you could just change the pain, then there was some relief.

Fast forward to me coming home from a dream job: the 1st National Tour of A Chorus Line.

(that's me all the way on the right)

(that’s me all the way on the right)

To him telling me that he loved her; that he’d never loved me at all. To me losing myself to a story that went wildly off track. To me moving back home to rural Pennsylvania when I was supposed to be in New York City, auditioning and landing jobs with the rest of my friends. To my parents constantly reminding me to eat and doing it only because I’ve always been a good daughter; I’ve always done what I was told.

It was a hard time, guys, but that’s not all it was: it was also a beautiful time.

It is the first time I learned about art as a way of survival. It is the first time I realized that I could be a shape-shifter, changing the shape of my pain into something I liked a lot better via stories, songs, dance, essays, sketches–anything that became tangible and then, yes, manageable. It is when I finally stopped looking around for inspiration (it was hard to find in those days, anyway) and started to look within.

I grew up with brothers who played video games. I mostly ignored them (the games, not the brothers), but I did enjoy Sonic the Hedgehog. When Sonic swam under water, he held his breath, living from air bubble to air bubble. Sometimes Sonic needed to find another air bubble in a matter of seconds in order to survive, and when this happened, the score turned minor and dramatic, driving home the point that you are either gonna find your air bubble or die trying.

AirbubbleThere were nights when I hurt so much inside, that, emotionally, at least, my own score turned minor and dramatic. My own air bubble was writing music, prose, dancing, playing the piano, or just singing whatever came to mind in the moment. My pain changed in those moments; it wasn’t simply different, it was beautiful. It was positive. It was better than I’d been before. It was like removing a bandaid from some terrible wound, only to find not only the absence of a scar, but skin that is softer, younger, more even, more vibrant than you’d ever thought possible.

A few years later, my friend told me she’s doing better, that she hasn’t cut herself in a long time. I’m glad. Adding pain to pain is never the enduring solution. But adding a voice to your pain is. It is, I believe, the artist’s responsibility to voice how you feel– through whatever medium it is you choose. We do this again and again and again. We do it until the voice grows silent, and we have nothing left to say. Which is probably a Sunday night and by Tuesday we wake up no longer empty; it is the great mystery and miracle of pouring oneself out until there is no longer one more word to write, no longer one more note to sing. It seems we cannot out give the gift that was given to us; by sharing it, we only emphasize its hold on us. We are the opposite of peddlers selling snake oil; we give away for a dollar amount what cannot be bought or sold–we give away pieces of ourselves that are gained in tears and days and moments of connectedness and visceral feeling that are as valuable as they are ephemeral.

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This is what I have learned in my pain. And I am not special–no more so than any one of us, I mean. We all live through seasons; we all experience the same range of emotions. We are all called to observe life. To feel it deeply. And then to give it a voice.

Jessica Latshaw is a monthly contributor to:

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The Broadway Warm-Up: A Completely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up that can be completed in under 30 minutes. Be Warm!

www.broadwaywarmup.com