Awesome Grants

A long time ago, my dad said something to me like: what sets the successful people apart is that they DO their ideas, they don't just have them.  That's a terrible paraphrase, but I've thought often about his point: we all have ideas about things we want to do, things someone should do, something it would be really cool to have in the world, but we usually stop there; it takes a lot more effort and commitment to keep going.

The Awesome Foundation has the potential to make the leap from having the idea to doing it just a bit easier.  I read about them in the NY Times last week.  A group of ten Trustees each put in $100/month and then award a $1000 grant each month to help fund an awesome project.  And it can be anything.

I was even more excited, when I visited their website, to discover that there are currently 80 chapters in 18 countries!  It's not just a NY thing!  And the projects that have been funded already are really cool - it's inspiring just to go poking around their website. 

I don't know what I may apply for a grant to do or make or accomplish, but next time I have a great idea, it's encouraging to know that the Awesome Foundation is out there to help make awesome ideas happen. 

What would you request a grant for?

Who will have the Last Laugh?!? (I'm not telling)

So, here's a cool thing: Two weeks ago (5/31) I spent a loooong day shooting a short film as part of the 48 hour film project.  My friend Matt Scott directed and it was absolutely the most fun I've had all year.  (Here's his winning entry from last year which also took him to Cannes this year!)

Less than a week later (6/6) the film screened in NYC. It was one of about a dozen short films in its screening package which was one of four packages - so roughly one in fifty.

Now the film has made it to the BEST OF screening this coming Thursday (6/19).  I had to miss the screening on the 6th, so I'm excited to go see the other "best of" shorts and celebrate with other members of the cast and crew.  Here's the cool movie poster they made:

Last Laugh Poster

Making stuff with great people is awesome.

But it's people . . . IT'S PEOPLE!!

You guys. Do you know that there is an actual product being sold called Soylent that is a food-replacement product that got its name from the same book that inspired the 1973 film Soylent Green named for the food-replacement product featured in the story? The real-life product just started shipping commercially this past May. If you're not agog and incredulous at this moment, I'm guessing it's because you're not familiar with the big reveal in the film:

What boggles my mind is that anyone thought giving the new product the same name, in light of these past associations, was a good idea. The current enterprise seems to be run by the company founder who developed the product and the initial production was crowd-funded so I guess there were no investors or outside marketing folks weighing in . . . ?

I have no particular agenda against the real Soylent (although I enjoy actual food too much to want to use it myself), I just can't get over what seems like a total denial of/obliviousness to the pop-cultural association with the name. To me it feels like naming your brand new bed and breakfast the Bates Motel.

What do you think? Can I get an "Amen?" Or do you think I'm being silly - that the pop-culture association is meaningless? What's your take on this particular branding issue? Leave a comment!

Highlight Reel

This weekend I . . .

  • Saw Wil Eno's The Realistic Joneses on Broadway (RECOMMEND!!).
  • Shot a short film as part of the 48 hour film fest (up 'till 4am! tired!) which screens this coming Friday (click link for details; I'm in Group A). The script was great. Everyone on the project was wonderful. I'm really excited about the film.
  • Went out to dinner with my husband and son (simply delightful).
  • Hung out with my brother, talking social media and making the hashtag symbol with our hands WAY too often.

Hope your weekend was also excellent.  What were your highlights?

Rick Moranis is my patron saint

Gretchen Rubin's blog first introduced me to the idea that I could choose/identify my own patron saints.  These people don't have to be actual saints (they probably aren't), but they do somehow speak to or inspire you in a personal and meaningful way.  It's kind of like "who are your influences?" but much better.  Gretchen's blog about it is here and mine is here.

A couple of weeks ago, I turned on the radio to listen while I washed some dishes and I caught the middle of Jessie Thorn's interview with Rick Moranis.  As someone who spent what must amount to days - if not weeks - of my youth watching Spaceballs and Ghostbusters (and Ghostbusters 2) over and over and over (and over and over . . .), I've long been a big fan. Still, I hadn't realized that he'd actively taken himself out of "the business" in order to raise his kids after his wife died.  In the interview, (this part's around 20 minutes in) he says "Stuff happens to people every day and they make adjustments in their lives for all kinds of reasons.  There was nothing unusual about what happened or what I did . . ."  Later, when Jessie Thorn asks about his giving up being a creative person when he gave up his show biz career, his response is perfect: "I was the same person. I didn't change. I just shifted my focus."

Listening to him talk about the choices he made and living his life, writ large, as a Creative Person felt like talking to a mentor.  I worried so much when I got pregnant about what it would mean for my career - that any let-up in the pressure I was applying to my career in a constant attempt to move it forward spelled doom.  And as major life events have continued to unfold even after (and independent of) the birth of my son, I've continued to worry in a similar way about what my inability to give 100% effort to my career 100% of the time will mean.  Of course I don't know what it will mean and of course no one can know.  But it sounds like Rick Moranis wasn't afraid to do what he had to do - and what he wanted to do - and didn't apologize for making choices in line with his values.  I think he's a fine example and an excellent reminder for the rest of us not to let that death-grip-of-fear - "what will happen if I change or deviate?!" - dictate our behavior.

How about you? Have you ever been spontaneously mentored? What was your experience and how did it help you?

Adieu, Pierre

I've eulogized fish before. After his successful run in the New York production of Laika Dog In Space, cast member and goldfish Patrick McGoohan retired to a comfortable bowl in my apartment only to pass away quietly some months later.  He was honored with a short play in Too Much Light which ran for just one weekend. But this is not a eulogy, per se.

Pierre Le Poisson

I swear that Pierre was acting crazy yesterday.  He was staring right at me and frantically flapping around in the water, wriggling back and forth.  "Sorry, Pierre.  Here's some food."  But when I woke up this morning, he wasn't in his bowl.  Whether his suicide was intentional or not, he'd leaped out of his bowl and flip-flopped his way all the way to the window some 18 inches from his bowl.  He was folded over on himself and a bit dried up.  Still, when Pierre's predecessor, Maurice, pulled a similar stunt, although he was notoriously dried out - "his tail was like a potato chip" - my mom plopped him back into his bowl and he came back to life, fully recovered in about a day.  Maurice lived to be five years old.  We were, alas, not so lucky with Pierre who after a morning back in his bowl had still not un-folded.  Also, the whole situation really detracted from the pleasure of finally being able to actually sleep in a little this morning (7:30! woo hoo!).

As the saying goes: life throws curve balls.

As my toddler succinctly put it when asked to relate what had happened to Pierre: "the fish jumped out of the bowl and mama was sad."

NOT a quiz . . .

I can't believe what I'm about to type but . . . I saw something AWESOME on buzzfeed this weekend.  It's so awesome that I'm sending you to look at it right now.  Here it is: "33 Amazingly Useful Websites You Never Knew Existed." Don't get me wrong: I love knowing that as a New Yorker I should either live in Astoria or the Upper West Side, that I'm "Kevin" from Welcome to Nightvale, and "Willow" from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that Pharrell's hat and I are soul mates, and that really, I should go live in Paris.  I am mostly but not entirely kidding when I say "Hey.  That Buzzfeed really gets me."  But it's because buzzfeed is usually a source for useless fun, that I was that much more excited to see this EXCELLENT post full of websites I really didn't know existed.

Anyway, next time you're trying to kill ten minutes, click over and take a look.  You'll find so many cool things (10 Minute Mail, Camel Camel Camel, Mailbox finder) you won't even feel like you're procrastinating (even though you are).  And make sure to keep scrolling down for my long-time favorite: The Rasterbator which, over the years has allowed me, among other things, to create giant Warren Buffet heads as props for a play (click link to hear the song; see photo below) not to mention giant heads of my then-one-year-old which were officially decorations for his birthday party but which had the bonus effect of making him look like a baby-dictator whenever he sat in his highchair (photo missing! I'll try to find it and post it here).

Credit to Gary Belsky for posting the Buzzfeed article to his Facebook.  He's an intelligent and discerning fellow.

Nothing but sadness: loosing the Incubator Arts Project

I performed at the Incubator Arts Project (which was called the Ontological Incubator at the time) for the first time as part of their Tiny Theater Festival back in 2005.  Rob Neill cast me in his piece; it was a great festival and a great experience. Rob, my husband, Carl, and I created a piece together for Tiny Theater the following year.  Awesome again.

In 2009, Rob, Carl, Jill Beckman and I created and performed Laika Dog In Space at the Incubator.  This past fall, after a Too Much Light performance, and audience member came up to me and said "You did that show Laika Dog In Space, right? That was one of the best things I've ever seen." I replied, "It's one of the best things I've ever made."

That's what the Incubator did.  It helped artists create superlatively great work.  No vision was too esoteric or singular, no message too full-throated or open-hearted. I found tremendous value in everything I saw there and always wished I could manage to see more.  Working there meant stepping into a highly functional (rare!) and highly enjoyable collaboration with the folks running the place, folks who always looked for ways to say yes to whatever it was you were asking for.  It may be my favorite space ever in which to create and perform theater  - I love that room, with its crazy support pole and it's metal steps to an ad-hoc balcony in the back corner, never mind that its square footage is of luxurious proportions.  Working there brought me in contact with so many other great artists in the community, I can't even begin to list them; so much imagination and talent and passion and the Incubator helped it all find its voice and an audience.

The Incubator Arts Project is leaving their space at St. Mark's Church, closing as of July 1 this year.  Their public statement is here.  The New York Times writes about the closing here.

While loss is constant and everywhere - a famous author passed away, an avalanche, a mudslide, an exploded building - we still have a few months to spend with this particular loved one.  Call it theater hospice.  Call it the eleventh hour.  Whether you've been to a performance at the Incubator Arts Project or not, make sure you go before you can't any more.  And then make sure you go support the art somewhere else.  It's what the Incubator would want.



Retail Therapy

I'm not a big shopper; I like to shop, there just isn't a lot of time these days. But this week I had not one, but TWO stand-out retail experiences. One. I found myself at the mall at 9pm the other night running a time-sensitive errand on behalf of someone else. I was looking for the Old Navy but first I was looking for a map so I could find the Old Navy. No map. So, with less than half an hour till the mall closed, I stopped some guy at a kiosk to ask where the Old Navy was. "There's no Old Navy in this mall." "Seriously?!" "Seriously." But then he gave me a face cream sample and a eye cream sample, so that was cool and I was about to be on my way when the subtle spiel began. I was tired. I was super hungry. I was vulnerable. He sat me down in a chair. He started to put some goop under my eyes. It was nice to sit down. The stuff felt good. The secret of the goop, he told me, is diamonds. There are ground diamonds in all of the products. "What?! That's insane! That doesn't even make sense!" He thought I was funny. I wasn't trying to be. He said something about how diamonds are the only material the body doesn't reject. Wha . . . ? I did not ask him if they're blood diamonds. That seemed a little too edgy for a mall kiosk. But maybe I should have because I needed to get out of there. Now he was exfoliating the back of my hand with facial cleanser. "Does it have the microbeads that are ruining the water supply?!" I asked. He didn't know what I was talking about, so I told him. He assured me no. What do the diamonds do to the water supply, I wondered. I told him I had to go. I had this errand to run. I had fifteen minutes left. "okay okay" he told me. He wanted me to have the product if i wanted it. If I would buy one set of products ($300), he'd give me the other set ($240).  It was a good value . . . if spending $300 on eye cream with diamonds in it makes any sense at all in the universe. I'm pretty sure it doesn't. A couple more back-and-forths and I managed to tear myself away.  We bid each other forlorn farewells.

Epilogue: I rocked out my errand at The Gap (where I also snagged a cute super-on-sale t-shirt) and Uniqulo in about 18 minutes (Uniqulo closed right before I paid).  And I still have the fancy diamond dust samples in my coat pocket. Win.

Two. The next day, I was running a couple of errands which brought me near a j. crew. I had a very old return to make so I brought it in with me thinking I'd pop in and end up with some store credit.  But, no.  My return was so old that the sales lady, throwing me a bone, told me I could do an exchange for something else BUT I had to do it right then for whatever was in that store.  Suddenly, I was on some fashion-themed game show - The Price Is Right meets What Not To Wear's first day of shopping segment.  She told me how much credit I had and about all of the sales and deals and, with only about 15 minutes to spare (I'd planned for this to be a quick errand) I was off. It was super fun. I left with a sweatshirt, two long-sleeved t-shirts (my favorite kind), a cute stripey top for going out, three pairs of socks and a t-shirt for my little boy.  Bam! Success.

Lately, whenever I have gone shopping, it's been so stressful - trying to find the right thing for an audition or trying to find the object I'm picturing in my mind - and often unsuccessful.  It takes forever, and the lack of success is compounded by the time lost.  In contrast, these super-quick and rather successful episodes this past week have me wondering if shopping fast might not be a good approach, or at least a helpful goal/modification.  I wasn't shopping for anything serious so I wonder how well fast shopping would work for, say, a fancy dress or nice pair of trousers, but I think I may have stumbled onto something . . .

How do you shop?  Do you have a plan? Pieces you go in needing or wanting? Do you just wander and see what you like?  What's your strategy?

Duh, you guys.

I shouldn't need to tell you, but I nevertheless feel negligent not having already encouraged (nay, demanded!) you to go see Wil Eno's The Open House at Signature Theater. If you haven't seen Wil Eno's work, you are seriously missing out. I truly think his writing is nearly perfect all the time*. He does an amazing job of creating characters and stories that are simultaneously universal and nuanced. His writing is so precise. The Open House is about being part of a family and, in particular, a family with aging parents. In the NY Times, Isherwood quibbled with some of Eno's choices but I respectfully disagree. I think what he's created is pretty spot-on and pitch-perfect; not always comfortable but absolutely insightful in the way that I think the best theater tends to be. And it's funny! And it's closing at the end of March, so go already!

While we're at it, you should also not miss David Henry Hwang's Kung Fu, also at Signature. This show already feels like it should be on Broadway - so polished and tight and compelling and just really GOOD - you'll save yourself some money and be an extra-cool kid if you go see it now.

If you've seen The Open House or Kung Fu, let me know what you think in the comments below and/or tell me what's your current must-see theater?

*I actually think his writing is TOTALLY perfect but I'm afraid if I'm too enthusiastic, you'll find my recommendation less credible and I really want more people in the world (ALL the people in the world?!) to go see Wil Eno plays.


The night before last, I dreamed that my mom's doctor was my son's pediatrician. Then, in the middle of the dream, he turned out to be an Indian man and we had a lively discussion about Bollywood. Last night, I dreamed that a bunch of mean girls took all of the clothes I wear most regularly. Then they pretended they hadn't taken them from me and they went through each piece telling me how bad it would look on me because it was so unflattering.

There's been some pretty consuming stuff going on in my personal life - stuff I wouldn't blog about because this isn't the place and because it would mean violating other people's privacy. I'm hoping that things will ease up and I'll be able to return to a more "normal" life - which includes blogging - soon. In the meantime, I'm thinking about you all out there . . .

What have you been dreaming about lately? Post it in the comments!

Silver Linings

A year or two after my father died (that was back in 2003), I happened to be speaking with someone about grief - about my grief - and this person said "there is no silver lining.  It's just a loss."  At the time, hearing it and knowing how true it was, was such a relief.  I don't know what it is - something about trying to find meaning in terrible events, something about feeling like some kind of spoil-sport socially when there isn't a lesson learned or otherwise uplifting note at the end of a sad story - but the release from those (false) obligations was so soothing and comforting. These past few weeks there have been so many public losses - Amiri Baraka, Pete Seeger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sid Caesar and Harold Ramis are just some of the most public - and with each I find myself thinking "it's just a loss."  The world is a poorer place without these people in it.

All of that is what makes what David Bar Katz did in the wake of his friend, Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, all the more extraordinary.  Mr. Katz, never spoke with the National Enquirer but was quoted by that publication as saying any number of terrible and terribly slanderous things.  Mr. Katz, with the help of his attorney, arranged a settlement with the National Enquirer that provides for an ongoing annual gift of $45,000 for an unproduced play.  Of course this doesn't justify Philip Seymour Hoffman's death; there's nothing makes his death "worth it."  Still, if anyone was going to try to make or find a silver lining, $45,000 annually to support the values and vision of the person the world lost is the best effort I've seen.

Read the full article about David Bar Katz and the National Enquirer here.

Children's Literature

I was sorry to miss posting this past Friday but I'm cooking up some good stuff - professionally and for the blog. So, in the meantime, I hope you are as amused as I by this excerpt from a book the kiddo picked out at the library yesterday:


Two things...

1. The drummer:


2. Both of the poems in the Feb 3, 2014 New Yorker (Putin ice skating whilst being judged by a panel of Putins) were really lovely. Please read them if/when you have the opportunity.

Have a great weekend!!

Friends In The Arts

Some weeks, there's a lot to talk about: great auditions, cool classes, breakthroughs, celebrity encounters. Other weeks are busy and productive and satisfying but not so scintillating in a blog. C'est la vie. Lucky for us all during less dramatic weeks such as this, I have a ton of talented and wonderful friends doing neat things out in the world: In NYC: The Fire This Time Festival, co-produced by my pal Kevin opened this week. My fabulous husband, Carl Riehl, did sound design for the 10-minute plays and for the festival's full-length production, Lord's Resistance.

In other parts of the U.S.: My awesome friend, Rob Neill, is on tour with Peter and the Starcatcher. They're in Michigan right now but they'll be visiting Washington, DC, Hartford, CT, and Providence, RI soon (and then more cities into June).

The Welcome to Nightvale crew, headed up by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink (with numerous wonderful others in close proximity) have live shows in California, Nevada and Arizona through the end of the month (and are, of course, available where the most popular podcasts can be found).

On The Internet: Miranda's wonderful web project, Friend Stories launched recently.

This weekend we'll be brunching with friends, attending our neighbor's 2nd birthday party, and having dinner guests with whom we will play Cards Against Humanity for the first time. What fun are you up to?

Louie broke TV

Chances are that you're aware of Louie C.K's TV show, Louie.  I think it's great. I came to the show late via Netflix and had, slowly but surely, with pleasure but not in a hurry, worked my way through all of the available episodes. So I was excited to start watching season three when it became available. My TV watching habits are this: I generally watch half an hour of television at 9:30 each week-day night with my husband (if we're both home) and maybe we watch an hour of TV (or a movie if we have time) on the weekend. We have a 22 month old child; watching TV is quasi-luxurious along the lines of eating a box of fancy chocolate (which we also do, but which is another post).

Anyway, in this context, we began watching season three and sometime about a week ago we got to Season 3, Episode 6: Barney/Never. Oh. My. God. Amazing. The only reason I can't go all the way and say that this is the best single episode of TV I've ever seen, is that it's tied with the Harry Belafonte episode of the Muppet Show. But I truly don't think any episode of TV is better - tied, maybe, but not better. I don't want to give all the good stuff away but: Robin Williams, strip club, bowls of meat, Louie doing an interview on drive-time radio, excessively "progressive" parenting and so much more. I can not stop thinking about the Barney/Never episode and the more I think about it, the more genius things I discover in it. This episode totally raises the TV-bar - like, now because I know how good TV can be, I'll enjoy all of the other TV 20% less.

Do us all a favor and watch it next time you have half an hour available for TV. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Here it is on Amazon but I'm sure you can find it on your favorite online-tv-viewing platform.

P.S. How about Louie in American Hustle?! I thought he rocked it. And have you seen him on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? I feel like he and Seinfeld have a weird rapport, but it's still a great one to watch.

Mailing list

Recently, I got a really great and inspiring e-mail from my college friend Miranda.  Miranda is generally pretty great and inspiring.  She's a writer with two novels already published and a third about to come out.  Entertainment Weekly recently named her one of their 14 Rising Stars to Watch in 2014 (it's about time, I say!) and she's got a very cool and exciting web project about to launch as well.  Anyway, about a week ago, I got this e-mail from her that basically said "hello friend who used to be on my mailing list. I'm going to send out a mailing list again. Would you like to be on it?" And it was so gentile and genuine and of course I wanted to be on it! (You should too! Go here and sign up!) Then, a day or two later, I got a great e-mail update from my friend Kevin (who really needs to keep up the updates because he always has so much great stuff going on) and THAT was so great because of course I want to know what Kevin is up to!

And that was the one-two punch - Miranda! Kevin! Bam! - that inspired me to dust off my own mailing list (which has not seen action in at least a couple of years).  Last year, in spite of some pretty significant obstacles, I had a GREAT year and, in retrospect, I wish I'd been letting people know what I was up to and where they could see me or how they could cheer me on.

Several years ago, not too long after Miranda's first book had come out, she and I and a few others were gathered at the apartment of a mutual friend.  Miranda was talking about how a number of her peers had treated her shabbily - clearly jealous of her early success.  On the one hand, Miranda understood because she's smart and we all know that feeling - that "I want that!" bitterness - but on the other hand she was a bit baffled.  She said "if it's good for one of us, it's good for all of us."  She was talking about how the success of one in the group contributes towards the success of the group as a whole, and I've thought of her words often since.

Anyway, if you'd like to be on MY mailing list you can sign up by clicking here.  If all goes really well for me, you can expect an e-mail every 4-6 weeks, so I promise it won't be overwhelming.  Have your own mailing list?  Post a link in the comments.  We can all follow along and celebrate each others successes!

Happy New Year!

Oh hello, 2014! Delighted to see you. 2013 was the best of times and the worst of times. It was equal parts laughter and tears, overcoming and being overwhelmed, success and . . . not success. Most of the negatives stemmed from a major challenge in my personal life that had me dropping everything short of basic survival (and parenting) for May, June, July and August. So, although when I look back at the list of goals I made for myself at the start of 2013, there are plenty I didn't achieve, I still feel really good about what happened in my career in 2013. Here are the highlights:

  • I got paid for acting things a LOT more than I had in a long time which was AWESOME!
  • I recorded my first audio book which was a long-time dream I thought was too far off to even aspire to. It was such a great experience and I'm hoping to do many more in the coming year.
  • I had a great run with the New York Neo-Futurists. After more than two years away from the company, it was great to be back and feel simultaneously new and fresh and established and comfortable. You kind of wish you could go back to EVERY job (at least every job you liked or cared about) and try again for a few weeks with hindsight.
  • I got great new headshots.
  • I got my reel together and up on my website.
  • I did selective-but-effective professional development that taught me a lot.
  • Voice overs and industrial videos and short films . . . I've set my goals in the more parent-friendly non-theater realm for the moment and it was great to find work there (and feel I did it well!)

I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions, except for my annual "drink more water" (some year I'll actually do it), but I do have some plans and goals for 2014.

In the personal housekeeping department, I'm very exited to return to regular exercise for the first time since before my (21 month old) son was born. I'm similarly pumped to clean out my closet - clean it WAY out - and then refill it only slightly with clothes that serve my goals as they are now. Finally, maybe because I didn't really get a break over the holidays, I'm excited to be a little less up-tight and give myself a little more time for things that I enjoy. Just a little.

Professionally, the plan is to continue to pursue my VO and on-camera goals: representation, more auditions, more bookings (more fun and more money!) and MORE AUDIO BOOKS! The silver lining of needing to cease and desist career-related activities this past Spring/Summer is that there's plenty of work to do, already itemized in last year's "goals/actionable items" document. So . . . here I go!

Hope your year is off to a great start. Leave a comment with one of YOUR goals for the coming year.