Well, it's been too long since I wrote my last Acting Room post, and I'm sorry friends! The reason? I've been too busy ACTING!
As many of you know, I write this blog since I've taught acting for years in LA, and produced and directed several films. I also was an actress all through my 20s in LA. What many of you may NOT know is that I'm now 45, and have spent the last 20 years helping others to act, but not acting so much myself. I was in many commercials all through my late 20s, but haven't been in a proper big play/theatrical production, since grad school.
The reason? Well, the LA theatrical/play scene is pretty much limited to stars performing at the Mark Taper Forum, or smaller 99 seat theatres that often are precast, and that don't pay. And as the rent in LA is often around $1500/month, it was hard for me to be in a play and work a full time day-job and keep my rent paid. So I taught, and I produced films, and I worked retail, and I taught some more - and I helped my husband act, and helped my brother and friends make their movies, and inspired my students, and wrote scripts, and sometimes I'd be in an indie film for a few days of shooting, or a commercial for a one day shoot. But every time I'd audition for a play (and I did this lots just to do it!) I'd get cast - but then I'd be told that rehearsals were daily, and I'd think, "but then I'd have to quit my day job!" and I never could do both...
Sorry for the long story. Okay - so here's the scoop.
I also want to tell everyone else some of the other truths of my life. Life just gets in the way of our dreams to act, does it not? Well, in the last 10 years, I've also tried to get and stay pregnant. I've had 3 miscarriages in the last 5 years. During this time, my darling father Dr. Larry Tretbar, a Kansas City surgeon, was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver - and he was very very sick for these last ten years. My husband Ozzy and I had to move back to Kansas City from LA about 3 separate times (we still have a storage unit in LA, thinking we'll go back). And finally then, my dad passed away 3 years ago. We came back for good about 4 years ago. Ozzy got a job in Chicago, I continued to work on indie films, try to get and stay pregnant, Chicago job didn't work out, we moved back to Kansas City. And now we are here. We have no kids, but we have our health, and our love for each other. I feel very lucky and very blessed.
To make a long story longer - all the sickness, hardship, loss of babies and father, loss of jobs, moving, led me into an up and down depression, and an up and down weight spiral. Over this same decade, I slowly gained 80 pounds. But I always held my chin up, continued to work, write, be happy, have strong faith, and write my blog, and continued just to be happy with what I did have - which is an incredible husband, family, and ultimately, my creative sparks, my love of other people, my faith, and my sense of humor!
Here's all this good news - and I tell you ALL of this because I've had SO many moms and dads and acting friends on this site who are over 40, who want to get back into acting, writing me for advice. And there is very good news. You can do it. I always give my advice open and frankly, but I have also been slowly trying to listen to my own advice. And that question lurking in the back of my own mind was and is always: "Am I still and actress? Do I ever really want to act again myself? Was I just tired of the whole LA scene, or was it something more? Am I more a director now than an actress? Was I ever, actually, any good?" All those niggling questions you ask yourself very quietly, in the middle of the night, when you're thinking deeper thoughts than you know you should, and you don't really want to admit to yourself that if the timing was right, just right, you really really MIGHT want to act again. But all the "What ifs"...right?
Here is my success story - and I'm taking it one day at a time, not thinking too far in advance, and trying to be gentle with myself.
Last year, my husband started making a bit more money, but still not enough for me to quit my job, so I got a job at Nordstrom - and being a bit of a fatty at the time (sounds bad, but I'm just joking!) I got a job selling clothes in the Plus size, Encore Department. I also, very secretly, started going to Jenny Craig. Well, over an entire year, I was on my feet for up to 8 hours a day, moving my body more than I'd moved it in years. I was also eating smaller portion sizes and weighing in weekly. I loved my friends and clients at my job, and even became a personal fashion stylist there, working privately with clients all over the store. Actors are great salesmen, as we all know. While in the Encore (plus) department, I loved being able to help women who were not rail thin feel good about themselves too. I've always been a larger woman, am tall and broad shouldered, and could carry my weight, but it had always been an issue for me in acting, and the times I DID get lots of work in LA, I also had to work out all the time and really watch my weight. But I was quite thin through my 20s too. It's just a reality for women in this industry, and it's terrible, but it's also the truth. So anyway...I went on Jenny Craig... and darling friends, I am now almost 85 pounds thinner! I have gone from a size 20 to a size 8! I had always been about a size 10-12 through my LA acting days, but like I said, due to the hormones and all from my trying to get and stay pregnant, I just ballooned up. I wasn't working out. I was pretty much a slug. I even went on anti-depressents for awhile to help with my grief, and they really don't help when it comes to appetite! haha! My favorite thing to do was sit in bed and eat an entire big bag of cheese Doritos. And my darling husband didn't mind. He just supported me to be however I needed to be.
So, here I am, telling you, sharing with you I should say, my story. The weight issue is a very big deal for me alone, even without the good news that I decided to see if I could act again. I am healthy, in better shape than I've been since I was about 30, and feeling wonderful about my life. This is the funny thing, and I don't mind admitting it to all of you, because I know you've all been through this kind of thing before too. The second I lost the weight, I thought, "I want to audition, NOW!" It wasn't even a question. It was like, "How can I act again?!" It's like I woke up not having gone through the last 15 years of my life, and just thought, "I am an actress, so why am I not acting?" It was kind of embarrassing actually. I thought, "Was I hiding behind my weight? Was I really just feeling too heavy to audition? What was going on?" I know it was so much more than that. Like I said: money problems, fertility problems, health/weight issues, a dying father, issues of living in LA, being sick of the whole LA scene, enjoying teaching and helping others... all of those things played a part in my not acting. But I find it so funny too that the other thing was time. I have to admit that during this same time, my husband realized I wasn't making as much money at Nordstrom for the hours I was working as I should have, and he said, "honey, why don't you quit your job? We can get by for now." Well - lovely man, I did just that. I quit my job, and three days later, I auditioned for a play in Kansas City. Is that hilarious or what? I think it is.
I will write more posts about being in this play in the future, because I re-learned so much about what I think is great or bad, or interesting about acting, like my love of Method acting, and real moment-to-moment work, and about doing "less" and all - but suffice to say: I had the best last few months I've had in years. I auditioned for "A Streetcar Named Desire" and I thought I would maybe be cast as Blanche, due to my age. But no... I ended up getting cast as Stella! The play was in a community theatre outside of Kansas City, called City Theatre of Independence (you can look up their website through this link and see more pictures of me on the Past Performance section!) But while it was only community theatre, it was outstanding, and the man playing Stanley was like me, he'd also lived in LA for years, was a professional actor who'd moved back to KC to be near family, and the director had lived and worked in both LA and New York. So the play was quite good. Since the play closed, I've had about 5 auditions, and 5 call backs. While I haven't booked anything else yet (I'm waiting to hear about a MAJOR part with a very good professional theatre!)...I am still having a blast. I am grateful for all my training, but more importantly, I'm just very proud of myself for even having the courage to think about acting again. Learning new audition monologues. Putting to practice all that I've taught others for so long. And realizing that I still am an actress, always WAS an actress, and always will BE an actress to the day I die. And one more thing: I am talented.
I say I am talented very cautiously. It's so hard to say that, isn't it? But I think we all need to say this about ourselves more often. We know when we are good, deep inside ourselves - that place that doesn't want to sound too braggy or bold - but we KNOW. Well, you can say it about yourself. You are talented. Your gift is an important one, that you need to share with the world. One audience member came up to me after the play and was sobbing. Seriously sobbing. She said, "You just took me on such a journey, and I wasn't expecting it. I can not get out of it. I can not thank you enough. I'd seen the movie, never saw this play staged, and I had no idea how beautiful it was, how beautiful you are." If you can affect one person like that, then you are doing the right thing. You have talent. And you are exactly where you need to be.
Here's to getting back on stage, in whatever format it may be: even if it's just getting back on the treadmill, or back to eating better, or back to just looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, "I love you. You are talented."
Keep on acting, and thanks for all your love and support through the years. I'll be thinking about some reflections on my performance, and the ups and downs of theatre, because of course, there were many.
All my love - Kirsten