Monday, October 24, 2011

43. You Don’t Get To Choose Your Family… Or Do You?

“It is fortunate to be of high birth, but it is no less so to be of such character that people do not care to know whether you are or are not.” – Jean de la Bruyere, essayist and moralist (1645 – 1696)

Some of my favorite actors come from “acting” families or families that are “in the business.” How awesome is that? I mean, my parents are both working-class, non-actor, “normal” people. Booooring. 

I used to get so jealous of the Drew Barrymores and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world… How AMAZING to grow up in a family where being an actor was the norm. They have already established business connections in the industry to be able to get involved in high-quality projects working with really talented people and being able to get paid an actual living wage from your very first acting job? What a privileged way to be born into this world!?! 

But rather than being mad at God for inserting my soul into a non-acting family… I've decided that I’m glad that I was born a Wilcox and that I went through my own process to discover that I wanted to be an actor all on my own, not 'cause it was the easiest thing... but because it's the thing that I really feel called to do. 

I certainly didn’t decide to start acting because my parents pushed me into it. HA! In fact, my Mom was always so surprised that her daughter had this innate desire to want to get up in front of people and sing and dance and act. 

She was always supportive of me, but a little frightened for me too… That by putting myself out there that I might be made fun of or something… or realize that I was actually shy and slink back into my shell… LOL! I remember her getting so nervous for me at my performances as a kid. Sometimes she was more nervous than I was!

Anyway, after I got over the fact that I wasn’t born into an “acting” family… I began to discover at a young age that it is possible to create that sense of family for yourself by getting involved with a theatre company. That’s alllllways accessible. Non-profit theatres are always looking for volunteers! And ushering or working backstage or helping load-in/load-out sets are great ways to get involved, gain experience and get to feel like you’re playing a small part in the theatre family. I loved doing that kind of stuff growing up. So rewarding. And when auditions roll around, you already know everyone! You feel comfortable with them... they feel comfortable with you. You audition and... BAM!... You're cast! Awesomeness. You are in.

Cut to yesterday...

I attended a Juilliard “Spotlight” Session last night, which consisted of a campus tour, Q & A session with faculty and a ticket to see the 4th Year MFA students in All My Sons

This was my second campus tour, though this time it was lead by Lee Cioppa, Associate Dean of Admissions. Her enthusiasm for all disciplines at school was infectious. She joyfully lead us through some of the music and dance spaces, the library, performance spaces as well as the acting rooms. It was great just to get to walk through the halls again and feel comfortable in the building. Juilliard is an amazing place to be. 

Though, as James Houghton said, it’s just a building… Juilliard is really made up of people. I love that. It’s the PEOPLE that make Juilliard Juilliard. So as a student you get to help shape the program, just as the program is helping to shape you.

During the Q&A session I got to thinking… that this is a beautiful family of people up at the front of the room… a loving and nurturing family, all of them keeping the students’ best interests at heart. 

And the philosophy of service at the school, of the “Artist As Citizen,” inspires me to want to continue to persevere through the hardships and uncertainties of this crazy business-of-show in hopes that my art can actually be of service to others. Because isn’t helping people and bringing enjoyment to their lives just the best thing ever?  

I was sitting there, joyously taking in the moment and thinking to myself that THIS was the kind of show-business family I want to be born into. I’d rather be a part of this family than be a Barrymore any day of the week!

Then, I got to see All My Sons... Wowie WOW!!!  

Michael Curran-Dorsano gave one of the most moving performances I have seen onstage since I saw August: Osage County on Broadway. And that was my FAVORITE ever. 

Michael played Chris Keller, opposite veteran stage actor Harris Yullin, and he held his own every step of the way. There was no pretense to his portrayal of Chris. He skillfully maintained the style of the time with vocal choices and movement, while keeping an honest and open emotional life bubbling underneath the surface at all times. He totally made me believe that all of the given circumstances of the play were ACTUALLY happening to him. He was magnetic. 

I became so immersed in the storytelling that I started to forget that it was a PLAY. LOL! I felt like I was actually peeking over a fence into a neighbor’s yard and watching them fight and seeing their lives unraveling right before my eyes. I cannot tell you how unusual that experience is for me. I LOVED it! Thank you, Juilliard!

And, as I made my way back to the subway, I felt overwhelmed with JOY! Why?... 

Well, in this case, I didn’t have to leave it up to God or the fates or chance… as to who’s family my soul would be born into. In this case, I have a choice… I can choose to apply to be a part of this creative family… and hopefully, grow-up as an artist with a nurturing faculty as mentors... and sisters and brothers like Michael Curran-Dorsano to look up to and inspire me to continue in the process of becoming the kind of artist I hope to become... and the best part is... That process? It's already happening. It's happening right now.



“We need to approach [the world] with enthusiasm and anticipation of something wonderful instead of fear. We need to go back to the innocence of a child and face our future without being jaded about what is possible and what is not.” – Lena Stevens, The Power Path

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