Saturday, March 31, 2012

179. Monologues 2012 REVEALED

"Fullfillment doesn't come from clearing hurdles others set for you; it comes from clearing those you set for yourself." - Robert S. Kaplan, "Reaching Your Potential" Harvard Business Review

I cannot BELIEVE this is the second-to-last post of the Acceptance Project!!!Whoooooo hoooooo! Almost DONE!

Now, in the interest of full-disclosure and transparency and getting over my own fear...I am posting videos of my four audition monologues and my a capella song for you to see. I've embedded them below.

Why has this taken sooooo long for me to get to posting these monologues? (Grad school auditions took place back in January, after all.)

I have one word for you:

"Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It is experienced as a force field emanating from a work-in-potential. It's a repelling force. It's negative. Its intention is to shove the creator away, distract him, sap his energy, incapacitate him. 
If Resistance wins, the work doesn't get written... 
Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves. We locate it in spouses, jobs, bosses, kids, distractions. "Peripheral opponents," as Pat Riley used to say when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers.
Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within."  
- Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Even though I KNEW in my gut that I HAD to post my monologues for you all to see...EVENTUALLY. I procrastinated it to the 11th hour (a.k.a. NOW...the second-to-last post.) And I'm procrastinating another thing for tomorrow's blog post too...So I'll probably be publishing that one at like 11:55pm on April 1st. ;-P

Anyhoo...RESISTANCE. Let's talk about that for a sec...

The one and only one thing that is coming between YOU and you moving in the direction of your dreams is...(sing with me now)...Reeeeeeesiiiiiiiiissstaaaaaaance!!!

What is keeping you from doing what you KNOW in your heart-of-hearts you are capable of doing????

Let's use ME as an example here...

Me = Queen of Resistance & Duchess of Rationalization

Here are some of the fantastical thoughts that went through my head as I considered the undertaking of posting my monologues publicly on the blog:

  1. I can't. I don't know how to upload video on to YouTube. I've never done it before.
  2. It's going to look stupid because I don't have a real camera. I just have my iPhone.
  3. I hate watching myself on camera. My acting is always waaaay too big. And I am going to look ridiculous.
  4. If I post this online, anyone will be able to view it...even potentially ~gasp~ casting professionals. What if they don't like my work and I get a reputation for being a "bad" actor?
  5. I don't have time. It's going to take FOREVER to figure out how to do this.
  6. I hate asking for help, but I'll never be able to figure this out on my own. Who would possibly agree to help me with this project? I can't PAY anyone to help me. They'd have to do it out of the goodness of their heart. I don't want to IMPOSE on anyone. 
  7. I'd have to shoot this after work one day and I'm going to be exhausted and the light might be all gone and shooting at night might be hard. I don't know what to expect since I've never done this before.

And here's what I told myself to be able to get all my resistant thoughts to SHUT UP...and let me do my WORK already:

  1. Even though I have never uploaded any video to YouTube before, I know TONS of people who do that alllll the time, so it really can't be that hard. If I allow my self enough time, I'm sure I can figure it out. And if I need help I can think of at least 3 people off-the-top-of-my-head that I could call to assist me. No problem.
  2. Even though I only have an iPhone to record with...that's FINE. It doesn't need to be super high quality. The purpose of me posting these videos is not to win cinematography awards, it is to RECORD a snapshot in time of where I am at with these monologues that I worked on this year. That's allllll. An iPhone is a perfectly adequate tool for this purpose.
  3. So what if your acting is too big? So what if you look ridiculous? Who cares? YOU ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS and so are these monologues. There are going to be moments in the pieces that you LOVE and are proud of...and things that you see that you'd like to improve. (DON'T LET THE PERFECT BE THE ENEMY OF THE GOOD! That's what I've been telling myself from day one of this blog.) Don't judge yourself! Get SOMETHING up there! You've shared soooooo much about this entire experience through your writing. Don't chicken-out now! Be courageous! Show your acting work! That's what this is all about, right? Some people will love it and some people with think it's total crap...That's okay. Either will have overcome your fear of showing your all it's flawed glory...AND THAT'S SUCCESS.
  4. As for casting folks...the ones that see it and don't like it...probably won't contact me. But there may be people that see it and think..."Hey, I've got a project that girl might be right for...Let me email her and give her a shot."  OR....If I get a lot of really negative feedback on it...I can always take it try again. It's a learning process...And I can get better at it...but only if I start somewhere.
  5. Time? Reaaaaally, Virginia? If you have time to watch Failure Club on Yahoo! Screen (my favorite show right now), then you have time to get on your computer and figure out how to make this YouTube uploading thing happen. Just start by logging-in to the website. Start there. The rest will happen naturally. Oh! And make an appointment on your calendar to shoot the video. If you don't schedule it into your ain't gonna happen.
  6. Get over your issue about ASKING FOR HELP!...You know you've got people in your life that would love to support you in this project and have the skills to easily make this happen. AND it'll be waaaaay more fun to collaborate with someone awesome on this project. Call MATT STEINER!  You just saw that he uploaded his CLOWN REEL onto his website. He could totally help you....AND HE DID!!!! (Thanks, Matt. You are the BEST. Thank you. These videos would NOT have happened without you. Had a BLAST working on this with you. So. Much. Fun.)
  7. Go for it. Work with what you've got...So you've got some lighting issues? Whatever. It's long as you're not in the dark, you're okay...So the sound is not so great. We can bump up the volume as best we can when we're editing...and we'll do the best we can...Get going NOW, because this blog is ending on April 1st and it's gotta get done!!!....So you've only gotten 4 hours of sleep on top of a loooooong week of uber-stress at work? Yeah. Boo-hoo Wilcox. There's never going to be a perfect circumstance. So take it from where you are at and that's a PERFECT place to start these monologues. Go with it. Use it. Use whatever energy you have...and go from there. That's all you can do.

Sooooo that was how I overcame my resistance to posting these monologues.

True story.

Now...without further ado...My audition monologues for Juilliard, NYU and Yale 2012...

The Foreigner by Larry Shue (Catherine)
Lives of the Great Waitresses by Nina Shengold (Melissa)
The Convent of Pleasure by Margaret Cavendish (Lady Happy)
Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare (Julia)

You can view these on my YouTube channel by CLICKING HERE.

I've also embedded them for you below...And my a capella song too.

Catherine from The Foreigner
Contemporary monologue that I did for NYU & Yale.

Melissa from Lives of the Great Waitresses
Contemporary monologue that I did for Juilliard.

Lady Happy from The Convent of Pleasure
Classical monologue that I did for NYU .

Julia from Two Gentlemen of Verona
Shakespeare monologue that I did for Yale and Juilliard.

"Make Someone Happy" by Comden/Green/Styne
A capella song that I sang for NYU and Juilliard.

Could I have done all this better? SURE. Yes. Definitely.

And I WILL DO time.

But what really matters is that I DID IT.

I'm sharing my process and getting my work out there...FINALLY.

Resistance be damned!!!!!!!!!!!!


“Keep working. Don’t turn anything down...Don’t get precious. You’re young, you’re learning. Keep working.” - Stephen Pressfield, Writing Wednesdays

Thursday, March 29, 2012

178. Q&A with Julie Alexandria (Self-Made Girl)

"A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life." - James Allen

When I started posting the "interview series," I had intended to complete interviews with three people that I admire and consider to be creating thriving careers in the BIZ, each are graduates of the MFA programs that I've been auditioning for:

All three of them were generous enough to sit down, answer all my prying questions and share their experiences for your and my edification and inspiration. THANKS GUYS!

However, it dawned on me about a week ago that I was not being very thorough in my representation of the NY experience for successful artists. For there are MANY thriving artists that I greatly admire in NY that DO NOT HAVE AN MFA.

So in the interest of giving a full spectrum of perspectives to the "interview series"...I asked my friend Julie Alexandria to share with us her experience and her unique perspective on the matter.

Due to the fact that this Accepance Project Blog will be completed in 3 days, Julie and I didn't have time to sit down for a face-to-face interview. (This woman is craaaaazy busy!) But we don't let obstacles like..."there's-no-time" get in the way of the greater good! So I sent her some questions by email and she was awesome about responding super fast!!! I've included her answers below.

But enough from me...Let's get to Julie, already!

V: Hey, Julie! Where to begin? How about...Give us a little mini bio...Where are you from? Where did you attend undergrad? Where do you live now?

J: Hi, I'm Julie Alexandria. I'm a TV host and sports and entertainment reporter based in NY and LA. I was born in Queens, NY, and then grew up in Orange County, CA when my family moved us out there. I was really into the arts as a kid, and I was fortunate to attend a performing arts high school which was really the start of my artistic journey. I worked at local Equity theaters and at civic light operas, as well as performing in high school productions. I later attended Cal State Long Beach as a theater major.

V: Tell the readers how we know each other...

J: Virginia and I met performing in summer stock theater out in California. We played opposite each other in a production of "Honk!", and we bonded instantly.

Virginia & Julie circa 2003 (Summer Repertory Theatre - Santa Rosa, CA)
Sorry, Julie...I HAD TO...LOL! (She's going to KILL me for including this photo.)

J: Virginia was, and continues to be, a great friend. (Except when it comes to posting embarrassing photos on her blog...CLEARLY.) It was there that one of the directors told me "You're good. You should move to New York and make something of yourself." Four weeks later, I did just that.

V: Give a little overview of the kinds of jobs you are making your living doing currently...

J: I'm currently involved in several projects, including hosting a show about baseball for Bloomberg Sports, covering an interesting angle on entertainment reporting for a new show for Travel Channel, and keeping busy in the studio as a voice over artist. I'm also out as much as I can auditioning for new shows, commercials, and VO spots.

V: Who has been your greatest supporter/most influential mentor?

J: I draw a lot of support from my family. They were there to chauffeur me to rehearsals when I was a kid doing community theater, they sat through my "Experimental Theater" performances, and they flew across the country to see my shows in NYC. They have always encouraged me to keep going, to never give up, and to take risks. For that, I am forever grateful.

V: Have you have any negative motivators? (Ex. Naysayers...Back-biters...Your own limiting beliefs) How have you delt with people that don't support you in your dreams/goals?

J: Sure, there are lots of negative people in this world. People who try to bring you down, who plant doubts in your mind, or tell you that it's impossible to be successful in this business. To those people I say thank you. Thank you for making me try harder, and for strengthening my desire to succeed. Sometimes in this business, you are gonna meet some people who do not see you as the talent you think you are. And that's ok. The important thing is to try to take it in stride and not let it bring you down.

V: Strategies for success in NY: What was your expectation of the kind of work came here to do vs. what actually ended up happening? How do you feel about where you are at now as compared to what you used to think was possible?

J: I initially moved to New York with dreams of starring on Broadway. Acting was my thing -- especially Shakespeare. I expected to act off Broadway, perhaps tour a bit, and eventually break into the Broadway scene. But my career took a different path. After a few years I signed with an agency, and they started sending me out for auditions. I ended up booking my first hosting audition, and I really enjoyed the work. I still had a passion for the stage, but I figured, why fight it? I'm working and making money, and it just felt like the right path for me. (Check out her HOSTING REEL HERE.)

V: Have you ever considered grad school? Why did you decide not to take that path? Do you think an MFA gives one an advantage for a successful career in the arts?

J: I considered grad school, and I even went out to ACT to audition for them. I hadn't prepped with a coach, and I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I did a Neil Simon monologue (I know… I know… I was young, don't judge ;-) and surprisingly enough they asked me to stay for the group callback. I made it into the alternate pool, but I didn't end up attending the program. I sometimes think back on it and wonder what if, and perhaps someday I will go back and study that art that I adore.

Everyone has a different path, and I don't think an MFA is a requirement to be successful in this business. It can give you certain tools that can be helpful along the way, and it can definitely help with the networking side of things. Grad school gives you access to a large community of like-minded individuals, as well as access to agents, casting directors, producers, directors, writers and many others who can help a person along their journey. It really depends on the person, some people are better off learning on their own and making their own way, and others thrive in the more academic setting of an MFA program. Whatever the path, in the end it doesn't matter what name or letters are after your name, what really matters are those precious few moments in front of the director, producers, and casting director once you open the door to the audition room.

V: Share with us your best piece of advice about auditioning in NY/LA.

J: When it comes to auditioning I hear now more than ever, "Just be yourself". Maybe it's the success of YouTube, and reality TV, but the media is obsessed with the unpolished, the unique, and the real. In light of this, it's a good idea to highlight what makes you unique or different. Do you have a certain skill or aptitude, something that makes you stand out? When choosing an audition monologue pay close attention to your type. Ask yourself "Can I currently play this part?" or "What can I bring to this role?"

Most of my Hosting auditions usually have some cold reading component. I suggest taking a class on this if this is not your thing. It is common to also demonstrate improv skills - either alone or in a group. When it comes to a written script, I like to alter the copy and put my own spin on it. This can be risky, but if you are familiar with the subject, I say go for it. Otherwise, stick to the script. Half the battle is just getting in the room, the rest of it is what you actually DO in the room.

V: Care to weigh-in on the importance of networking?

J: Fact: It's a small industry. When you think of all of the big Hollywood and Broadway producers and directors, you know they had to start somewhere. Either as a PA working on the set of a movie, getting coffee for everyone, or maybe as an office temp pushing papers for the big wigs.

My point is -- Be nice to everyone. Today's PA's are tomorrows Producers. You never know when the assistant you are working with will be offered a bigger job, or in 5 years, that guy who was wrangling the extras on set, is now an associate producer. It never hurts to be nice, and never underestimate the power of learning a person's name.

As in any business its important to keep in touch with people you meet. Have a business card, and always keep them on hand. You never know who you might run into. I'm also a big fan of thank you cards/notes/emails after a meeting or audition.

(Side note from Virginia: I have sent thank you notes to the faculty at NYU & Yale every year that I've auditioned...and I even sent thank you notes to some of the faculty at Juilliard after attending the MFA Info Session. A well-written and heartfelt thank you note that says something unique and TRUE and personal...really shows that you care and you're willing to go-the-extra-mile. NOBODY sends hand-written notes anymore. So taking the time to do this can really set you apart from the crowd in ANY situation.)

V: How about social networking, any thoughts?

J: When it comes to social networking - anyone can see your page/profile/timeline; so regard it as such.

As far as Twitter is concerned I like to reference this quote from the awesome Ellen DeGeneres "Don't tweet anything that you wouldn't want plastered as the headline of your local paper" I'm paraphrasing, but it was something to that effect. I happen to love twitter, so follow me! @JulieAlexandria. Very often in hosting auditions I'm asked "How many Twitter followers do you have?" They wanna know what and who you bring to the table.

Social networking is a great way to build your community, share industry info, and keep in touch with other actors/artistic people. It's also important to have a website so that people can find you online -- it doesn't have to be overly fancy-schmancy, but it should have your basic information including contact info, head shot, resume, and reel.

V: Anything else you'd like to add?

J: Be fearless. There are no mistakes, only learning experiences.

I also want to say thank you, to you, Virginia, for your candidness, your honesty, your truth. For sharing something so dear to your heart. Thank you for showing us what it is to be a brave artist, and to be your true self. You have a bright future ahead, and no doubt will accomplish all you have set out to do.

Thank you, Julie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If there's any question in your mind that you might not be able to have a successful career if you don't go to a fancy grad school...or ANY grad school for that matter...I hope that reading about Julie's experience has helped inspire you to get moving and make things happen on your own.

Grad school is not the only way.

Make your own curriculum. Figure out the areas where you feel you need training to strengthen your craft and start practicing now.

YOU are the creator of your own experience. YOU can create the kind of successful career you've always dreamed of...You don't have to wait for a silly acceptance letter to TELL you that you can. Give yourself the permission to GO FOR IT! And be open to the opportunities and helpers that will come your way.One thing will lead to another...lead to another...lead to another...and as long as you keep on the path and moving in the direction of building what you want...and don't give up (even when all the obstacles seem soooooo overwhelming that it just seems like total insanity to continue)...DON'T GIVE UP... and don't be attached to HOW you're going to get there...but just know/trust/believe/imagine that you WILL get there...that you ARE there...and enjoy the journey along the way... and be grateful for the mistakes as well as the triumphs...because those are the things that help refine you and make you awesomer. Don't be afraid. You are awesome already. True story.

Anyway, anyway, anyway...blah, blah, blah...Enough of my soap-boxing!

Get off your computer and go DO IT!


P.S. OMG! Two more posts and the project is DONE! WHEW!!!!!...If I paid myself by the hour for this project I'd be rollin' in the dough! LOL!...As it is...I will take my payment in good karma. That's got a better rate of return than cash anyway. ;-)

P.P.S. Follow me on Twitter! @viavirginia ... Julie's inspired me to want to tweet more. :-P

P.P.P.S. Check out Julie's latest Verizon commercial!...Loooooooove it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

177. Non-Fear

"We practice [mindfulness] in order to have the capacity to deal with desire, to smile with desire, so that we may be free from it." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity

Yesterday was an emotional roller-coaster ride. I was informed that there is still a chance that I may be accepted to NYU Grad Acting in the fall. (If you missed yesterday's post. You can read all about it HERE.)

Up until yesterday, I had totally let go of the idea that it was even a REMOTE possibility that I was still under serious consideration at NYU. I mean, they didn't even ask me to go to the callback weekend. (Not that I could have attended anyway, since I had to be in San Diego that weekend for work.) NYU put me on the "wait-list" with 250 other people. So...that didn't sound promising.

And then BAM! Phone call from Janet Zarish. "Virginia, we'd like you to be one of two alternates for this year's class."

Yeah. Sure. Okay. AWESOME!

Very thrilling.

Sooooooo naturally....yesterday my head was spinning around from the new given circumstances of my life.

What's going to happen?

How should I be feeling about all of this?... Happy?... Scared?

I mean...WHAT IF I GET IN?





Then...I had an AWESOME REALIZATION this afternoon.

Even though "acceptance" is sooooooo close I can almost taste it...

I am NOT AFRAID of not getting accepted to NYU.

I am also NOT AFRAID of getting accepted to NYU.

I. Am. Not. Afraid.


And that makes me HAPPY!

I know that I am perfectly happy with either outcome. TRULY.

That's an incredibly wonderful and liberating feeling.

I'm happy with living in the mystery for a while. It's kind of FUN, actually...The not-knowing-what-the-heck-is-going-to-happen.

"Fear distorts our lives and makes us miserable. We cling to objects and people, like a drowning person clinging to a floating log. By practicing nonattachment and sharing this wisdom with others, we give the gift of non-fear. Everything is impermanent. This moment passes. That person walks away. [YOU DON'T GET ACCEPTED TO GRAD SCHOOL.] Happiness is still possible." - Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity

Happiness is allllllllways possible!

F#%k fear.

Surprise people...surprise yourself...PRACTICE NON-FEAR.

External circumstances will never bring true joy. Joy comes from within. So choose to be happy NOW.

"True love is generated from within. With true love, you feel complete in yourself; you don't need something from outside. True love is like the sun, shining with its own light, and offering that light to everyone."  - Thich Nhat Hanh, Fidelity

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

176. NYU: Alternate Universe

"If it is just financial security you crave, that can be achieved at any level. If it is recognition you desire, learn to give that to yourself. If it is for the joy of doing your profession...then keep working at it, being confident that you will have plenty of opportunities to practice your trade as you rise through the ranks." - Peter Pamela Rose

"Riches come, if they come at all, in response to definite demands, based upon the application of definite principles, and not by chance or luck." - Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich

Yesterday was a day. It's a lot to wrap my brain around and I'm still processing it all...And in the interest of transparency...I'll share some of it with you.

At work yesterday, the HR department had a financial planning advisor come in and meet with each employee individually to talk about the company savings plan and investing for retirement.

(Yes, I know it's Madison Avenue...And it's an office job...And it's not what I've DREAMED of doing...It's not ACTING. But I consider myself EXTREMELY fortunate because I do work for one of the greatest companies in the world. They take care of their employees like NO OTHER. They're constantly surpassing my expectations in that respect. I am blessed. Without the financial support of this day-job, I never would have been able to have the time/energy/wherewithall to invest in this blog.)

So, anyway...I've got my appointment with this financial advisor. And we're sitting in front of his laptop and he's got my personal retirement savings plan account up on his screen. And he says, "So if you keep doing exactly what you're doing now...and if you were to stay with this company until you were 65...and you kept investing 9% of your pay...with the company's matching ya da, ya da and this and that...Would you like to see how much money you'll have in the bank come retirement?"

And he clicks this "CALCULATE" button on the screen. And the little chart starts to populate and a number pops up at the bottom of the screen.


I don't remember exactly what the number was...But that was the ballpark.

That would be TWO MILLION DOLLARS, folks.


Here's some context: In the house I grew up in...I'd be lucky to have TWO DOLLARS in my pocket...TWENTY DOLLARS felt like RICHES. me...the idea...that I, Virginia, could EVER actually have TWO MILLION DOLLARS in the bank is TOTALLY INSANE.

My brain can hardly accept this as real. It's gotta be fake right? That's a fake number. LOL!

Nope. Real. I could actually (someday) have a two million dollar retirement fund. Easy.

One catch though...

All I'd have to do to be assured a comfy retirement nest-egg of two million stay right where I am for the next 35 years. 

"Perhaps the hardest linear process to let go of is the accounting part of the mind that links the amount of money you have in the bank to what is possible. Get rid of this limiting process, be practical but don't base your goals and commitments on something as powerless as money. Practice seeing money as an energy and play with increasing that energy instead of counting dollars." - Lena Stevens, The Power Path

I like my job okay....but it's not what I want to do with my LIFE. And it's waaaaaay overwhelming to even consider staying in it for the next 35 years...because I really, really, really, really want to be an actor.

But here I am...looking at my two million dollars number. And my commitment to my calling is being very blatantly tested.

I am asking myself...What do you REALLY value, Virginia? What is REALLY your priority?

How much do you actually want to be an actor for a living? Is there a dollar amount that you'd be willing to trade in for your dreams? If being a professional actor meant you had to give up two million dollars, would you still do it?

This is a real dilemma. It's real risk. It's personal. It's not fake. This is my actual life...not a hypothetical situation.

DO I REALLY WANT TO BE A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR if I can retire with two million dollars by being an office monkey?


Ugggggh....I could be happy having acting be my hobby, right? I mean...two million dollars is a lot of money...(rationalization, rationalization)...Think of all the good I could do with two million dollars...(my brain is f r e a k i n g o u t)

Huh. Um. Errr...Cannot deal with this right now psychologically...

And well... I guess I don't really have to think about that right now anyway...(thank goodness!)...'cause it's not like I got accepted into grad school this year. So I can just put off having to consider choosing a two million dollar pay-off vs. having the life of an actor. Whew!!!

Cut to:
Later on that day...

I am sitting at my computer working on the blog (Jeremy Rishe Interview Part Three)...and my phone rings.

212 number that I don't recognize.

I answer.

"Hello? This is Virginia."

"Hi Virginia. This is Janet Zarish from NYU. How are you?"

(My brain....WTF? What is happening right now?)

V: "Hi Janet. I'm great. How are you?"

J: "Oh, I'm good... You must be wondering why I'm calling. Just wanted to let you know that we've already selected everyone for our MFA class for this year..."

Whah-whah.... :-(

J: "But every year we also select up to four alternates.... These are actors that we LOVE and that we'd like to be able to fit into the class, the case anyone in the currently accepted class decides that they cannot attend the program after all....This year we've selected two alternates. We'd like you to be one of them. Would that be something you'd be interested in?"


V: "Me? Interested? Sure!!! So...wait a minute...Let me get this straight...If someone drops out before classes begin,'d call me and I'd be accepted into the program as an alternate? And this isn't the 200-people-alternate-list, right?...There's only two of us?"

J: "Yes."

V: (Gulp)..."Does that ever actually happen? Do people actually drop out after being accepted to NYU Grad Acting?"

J: "It certainly doesn't happen every year, but it does occasionally. So there's a chance, but there's really no guarantee...because all the students have already accepted their offers and have committed themselves to the program.... But you never know... Life happens, plans change, people sometimes decide to move in a different direction. We've even had people drop out the day before class begins."

(Oh dear lord...I'd hope to have at least two weeks notice.)

V: "I see...Well, I guess it's really up to the Universe now, isn't it? I mean, if I'm meant to be in the program then a spot will open up for me, I suppose...And if not...Well, I just want to go on the record saying that I love the program and I think what you guys do changes actors lives and I support it whole-heartedly...And I will continue to support the program whether it works out for me this year or not."

J: "Awwww...And that shows what a sweet person you are, Virginia."

V: "Thanks, Janet...I really mean it."

J: "I know you do. That's why we love you."

V: "Well, thanks for calling. You've got my number. If you need me, you know where to find me. Please feel free to call any time!"

J: "Thank you. And if I don't get to talk with you soon...I want to personally wish you a wonderful year full of creative growth."

V: "Thank you, Janet!!! That's so kind of you. Thank you so much for calling . I'm really honored to be an alternate. Thank you so much. Bye."

J: "Bye, Virginia."


OMG. WTF. What is my life right now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????

"Acknowledge that there is much more going on at a greater level than what you can track in your mind. Be at peace, don't worry, trust your committed intentions, and don't believe everything you see or hear, especially when it has been determined by another's calculations of the rational mind. Everyone will be trying to make sense of what they can't make sense of." - Lena Stevens, The Power Path

Wait a minute.

Wait a minute.


Remember earlier...My unanswered question...."How much do you actually want to be an actor for a living? If being a professional actor meant you had to give up two million dollars, would you still do it?"...

Oh my.

Guess I am going to have to think about that one after all.

"Beware of the mind trying to convince you that you have it as good as it gets, or that it is too hard at this point to make changes, or that you cannot afford it, or that you do not have the power or energy or wisdom to accomplish it on your own. Thank your mind for sharing, don't give in, and follow your intuition." - Lena Stevens, The Power Path

Happy to have a dilemma though.

I know it'll all work out the way it's supposed to...I am sooooooo not in control of any of this...CLEARLY.

All I can do wait for my story to unfold.


"Whenever something doesn't work out the way you thought it would, instead of thinking that something went wrong, see it as something that went unexpectedly well, but for reasons that are not yet apparent. Everything plays in your favor." - Mike Dooley, Tut's Universe

Monday, March 26, 2012

175. Interview with Jeremy Rishe (NYU) - Part Three (We Are All Hypocrites)

More...mOrE...MORE on NYU Grad Acting, getting feedback from the universe, and the ultimate First World Problem: HYPOCRISY.

This post is a continuation of the fantabulous interview that was conducted at Park Ave Plaza, NYC on February 3, 2012.

The one...the only...Jeremy Rishe.

Jeremy: There was one time in the movement class [at NYU] when we went on and on for like 15 minutes, and finally the teacher was like, "I’m just going to stop you because this is clearly not going anywhere." Because we couldn’t agree on anything.

And I really think having those experiences of bumping heads, being too polite, not being polite enough, saying no,...failing and not failing. It really led me to a place where I feel very confident that I know how to collaborate. And I think that’s the key to doing something very interesting...collaborating.

I’m not confident enough to sit down, write something, give it to a bunch of people and say, this is what it is going to be, and it’s going to be awesome because I wrote it. This is not how I work. Some do that work that way, but I know that if I’m with the right group of people, it’s going to be good.

So I think it’s really about finding the right group of people and learning how to collaborate. And I really think NYU taught what it is to collaborate. It sharpened my creative intuition in a way. I know the type of people that I want to collaborate with. There are people that have no artistic aesthetic, or their sense of what is quality is very different than mine. And I just don’t want to work with those people. They may go off and do something with their group of friends that is awesome, but it’s not what I want to do.

So I do feel, yes, that I actually have a skill set that has trained me to find the right people, to know how to work with them, know how to create something that is at least interesting to us, and that’s kind of all you’ve got to do to win, I think, is create something that you want to be a part of and you want to see.

And if other people want to see it – I have no control over whether they want to see it. I’d like to think if I know that I’m doing something I know if it is good or not, and maybe I’m fooling myself. So, yes, I know it sounds arrogant, maybe, to say, yes, I do feel like I could create something that is good. Whether anybody else thinks it’s good or chooses to watch it is up to them. But for my aesthetic, yes.

Virginia: But I think it’s great because... what I’m getting from what you’re saying – correct me if I’m wrong – is that you’re coming from a position of power in creating your own work and going, "You know what? Hey I have a point of view, and this is what I want to show."

Jeremy: It’s not an egoic, "Yes, I know"...It’s a self – what’s the word?

Virginia: It’s a self-knowing.

Jeremy: Self-knowing.

Virginia: You know yourself well enough to know what you do well. And you don’t have to do everything well, but these are the things YOU DO WELL and that you enjoy doing.

Jeremy: Yes.

Virginia: I feel like a lot of times as actors, we spend a lot of time figuring out what other people want us to be rather than thinking about who WE WANT TO BE for the world.

Jeremy: I feel empowered enough to say, "This is who I am, take me or leave me." You know?

Virginia: Yes. Yes.

Jeremy: Which I think you have to be as an artist. You have to be like, "You like it or you don’t.... Fuck it. I don’t give a shit. I’m doing it for me anyway."

Virginia: Something else I want to talk about is...diversifying your career. On your website, I saw on your resume that you’ve done T.V. and film and obviously you love theatre, now you’re doing this web series, ... you also do voiceover too. How important do you think that it is as an actor nowadays to be able to do all that stuff?

Jeremy: I think that’s kind of what it is to be an actor. I mean, acting, at the end of the day, to me, is just pretending to be something you’re not. And whatever form that takes, that’s the form it takes. It’s weird 'cause in the last three years, the more I empower myself, the more I realize what I really want to do – at the heart of it – I really want to refine my craft as an actor INTO INFINITY.

There was this thing in Newsweek. It talked about how to be smart...whatever. And it talked about if you always read the New York Times, or read the Wall Street Journal, you know...It listed of all these -- like telling you if you play video games it’s good for blah, blah, blah. Do this or that. Blog. Learn a second language. Play an instrument. All these things. One of the things it said was... master something.

Master one thing.

You know, you could do all this other shit...but find one thing that you’re going to MASTER. You know, it could be, law. So I’m like, "Oh, I’m doing most of these things"...minus – I need to get Rosetta Stone....But yes, I think all these things, they’re like little sandboxes, little tools for the actor like, you know, practicing voiceover stuff, doing a play, working in front of a camera. Which is no different, in my opinion, whether it’s the web or T.V. You know, a camera is a camera is a camera. The size of the screen might change. Whether it’s sitting around reading Shakespeare with your friends, It’s doing anything, anything you can, just to like keep refining that muscle.

It’s a craft. It’s like building a house. It’s a skill like anything else. You know, if you want to know how to juggle, you’re going to have to practice how to juggle. If you want to build houses, you’re going to have to study engineering and physics and practice building. You’re probably going to want to get a hammer and a nail and some wood and practice building stuff.

Virginia: So how do you deal with it when you’re not good at it? You know, obviously when you first started you weren't so sure...Maybe it's your first time in the voiceover booth and you’ve got the headphones on and it’s weird to hear your own voice. And then suddenly you’re at an audition and you’ve got the copy and you’re like, "Whoa, I’m trying to pretend like maybe I know this better than I actually do --"

Jeremy: You just said it right there. How do you deal with it? You pretend. You pretend like you know exactly what you’re doing and you just keep doing it. 'Cause acting is just pretending, and I think the key is just to keep doing it. Like really just to KEEP DOING IT. And who cares if you’re in the booth and you’re like, "This sounds like shit."  Someone’s going to say something. They’re not going to say, "You sound like shit."  They’re going to give you a note to make you sound better or they’re not. I don’t know. They may or may not.

But just by virtue of doing it, you’re going to start getting feedback from the universe. And it’s not necessarily going to be feedback like someone’s instructing you... “All right you need to underline these.” However, you figure out how to do it.

The feedback will start to come. And feedback will come in really weird places just by doing it. Like it will come from your head because you look at that bar and you’re like... "Ugh, I need to be smooth like the metal."...Or a friend is going to say something to someone else, or you’re going to hear a conversation on the subway, and you’re going to be like “That’s exactly what I needed to hear about voiceover work!” or whatever it is. You know?

Virginia: Yeah.

Jeremy: Because something someone once said to me,....I went into a voiceover audition -- it’s like my first one – I’ve auditioned for like three voiceover things in my life. And I’d actually put together my own little voiceover demo. And I was always like voiceover, voiceover, and everyone’s like well, try, but it’s a really small community. So I went in for this book on tape, and something the woman said was that it's a misconception that people say you have to talk really intimate. But actually it’s more like theatre. Like the more animated you are with your body, the better it’s going to be. I’m very monotone so I want to be more like [makes a large gesture] so your mom doesn’t have to get bored listening to my monotone voice. [laughs]

So last week, a friend of mine who directed a film that I was in – same thing – I didn’t have to audition. He was just like, “Let’s make a movie!”....We were doing ADR work which is when you have to rerecord the dialogue cause it was scratchy. And that’s kind of like doing voiceover work only you’re voicing over your voice to your face.  'Cause more often than not I’d say something and they’d be like “louder, louder.” 'Cause when you’re trying to be louder, you’re going to be more animated. Whereas if you’re trying to match to the image on the screen, it’s going to sound flat. The reality is... in the moment you’re actually allowing yourself to be very expressive.

Although, there’s this weird thing in T.V. and in film now. I think it happens more on T.V. where everybody mumbles and everybody talks real quiet. I’m like, "You don’t need that."  'Cause if you watch older movies, watch old actors who we think are great like... I’m talking about people from like the70s, like Al Pacino. Oh, my God, who’s the guy – who’s in The Apartment? Jack Lemmon. Watch those great actors. They might as well be on a stage. They’re not dumbing it down for the camera. My point is that there is something about acting that’s a little bit larger than life no matter what the context is....Even if it's in front of a camera or just your're on a stage, obviously.

Virginia: So you feel like the tools that you’ve learned at NYU helped you to be able to translate your acting into any medium?

Jeremy: Yeah, I do. And I think there’s just...confidence, sheer confidence. That’s a big thing. It really boosted my confidence... Somewhere in my mind, I walk into any audition in any room in any reading, part of me is like, you fuckers have no idea what I know. Whether that’s true or not –

Virginia: Right. Well, you spent three years --

Jeremy: -- three years in acting bootcamp.

Virginia: Intense. Yes. I must say, after going to the alumni talkbacks at NYU that first year [2010] where we met, that confidence of everybody up on the stage even though everybody was at different points in their career -- certainly some people had different showcase experiences so on and so forth. But everybody was super confident in the fact that they had something to give, something to contribute to the industry, and they were completely unapologetic about it. And I feel like a lot of students in the room who were there looking to further their training, were inspired by that very thing. Whether they maybe caught it or not, it’s like, "Oh, my gosh, these NYU actors look like they know what they’re doing. And man, I want to know what I’m doing, too!"

That was something that really shows the strength of the training there. Confidence. Everybody comes out of there being like, “Fuck yeah, give me your script. I’ll take it to the Oscars for you.”

Jeremy: Yeah, absolutely.

Virginia: Also, on a side note, which is your favorite First World Problem webisode? Obviously, you’ve got a million, but what's your current fave?

Jeremy: My current fave. Well, we shot one we call The Party, but it’s not out yet.


Jeremy:  I also like the Meetup: Citizens For Compromise playlist [sneak peak...only available through Apr 3!]...It gets really political, and that’s kind of what we want to do...We want to get a little political.

We want to like take the veil off the idiocy of our country right now... And personally, I think we make our characters look like complete morons.

Virginia: You mean you’re not REALLY complete morons? [laughs]

Jeremy: We’re trying to take on the whole political establishment...not just liberals, not just conservatives. To me, it feels like these characters are liberal-minded people, and so, here they know, bashing Republicans; but at the same time, if people are looking at it the way I look at it, then they’re listening to these idiot liberals who are total morons and sounding like assholes....So, you know, that’s why I like that one.

Virginia: I feel like you guys are really good at exposing hypocrisy. You don't TELL people about it, you SHOW it.

Jeremy: That’s good. I like that. We’re taking on a lot of hypocrisy. We end up going into slavery. It wasn’t even planned that we went that way, but – it ends on a slavery note....and the same idea: hypocrisy. People trying to do one thing but then actually doing another.

Virginia: When you guys are filming a webisode, do you start with a script or an outline? 'Cause it seems to be very improvisational from what I’ve watched, but I can't quite tell.

Jeremy: We started with a bunch of short scripts that were kind of like – they weren’t sketches...they were very brief snippets that were dealing with this issue of hypocrisy, I guess you could say. And then from there, we kind of put down the scripts, and our brains started to work more towards connecting story line dots combined with this feeling of “we’re all fucking hypocrites.” ... Wake up world. Wake up America.

I think it’s uniquely a first world problem that we’re all actually hypocrites. We say one thing, and then we go home and we’re like funneling all our money through Chase even though we’re like, “Down with the banks!”

Virginia: Our actions are not following our values.

Jeremy: Right. And so...the thread of it is trying to connect the storyline dots. "Okay, so these characters meet this way. These characters are going to get divorced. These characters are going to court." And then the dialogue is all improvised, and we riff a lot. There’s a few things a few times where we script things...There were very specific plot points where we would give people a script and say, “All right, say something like this, but make it your own.” It’s kind of a mix. But the majority of it is improvisation around a very solid idea of what we want to say and of what event needs to occur to connect this episode to another one, if that makes any sense at all.

Virginia: Yes. It does.

Jeremy: It makes sense to me.

Virginia: Yikes! We’re running out of time... Let me just ask one more grad school related question... What do you think is the best reason to go to a master’s program and what you think is the worst reason?

Jeremy: I think the best reason to get your master’s degree in acting is because you have to be an actor. Something in you is telling you that YOU HAVE TO DO THIS and there’s no other choice...combined with wanting to be a good person. Because I think that’s really at the heart of actor training.

I think the heart of any art form is about opening yourself up to humanity and embracing the world. And I think that’s kind of the same thing. It’s on you and on the program.

Are you going to go to a place that is not only going to help you become a better actor, but also help you to become a good person and to be ready to represent humanity as you see it? And I think if that’s your calling, then you should do that.

I think the worst reason to go would be – I don’t know – I think the worst reason to go would be because – because someone else told you SHOULD. That would be the worst. What a waste of money and time! “You should go to grad school."  "But I don’t want to, but they said I should." You know?

Virginia: Yes. That’s a great answer. 'Cause I feel like that’s very common. ...Time is up. Wow. Thank you, sir, for meeting with me, sharing your experiences and speaking so freely about your work.

Jeremy: Thank you.

Virginia: I am done with you. [laughs.]

Jeremy: I feel so privileged that you asked me to be a part of this.


<End of Recording>

(Awwww....Seeeeriously, Jeremy...It is I who am privileged to get to have an excuse to sit down and ask you allllll the questions I want to....all in the name of my blog! Whah ha ha ha ha!!!!...Cannot wait to see more First World Problem...exposing the hypocrisy of America...Stan and Annie style.)


P.S. Now here's a monologue for you... I can tooooootally relate to his First World Problem...Only, instead of that whole bit about the "restaurant"...insert the words "get me into f-ing grad school already."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

174. Interview with Jeremy Rishe (NYU) - Part Two (First World Problem)

This post is a continuation of the quuuuuuality interview that was conducted at Park Ave Plaza, NYC on February 3, 2012. (Thank you to Dorothy Wilcox for transcribing!)

Missed yesterday's post? Click HERE to read PART ONE.

Back to Jeremy and talking about creating his own work and  NYU Grad Acting  and just "doing it"...

Jeremy: About two or three years ago, me and three other friends decided to utilize this thing called Studio Tisch, which, again, goes in on the philosophy of NYU Grad Acting -- make your own work. It’s basically a place to showcase your stuff in the summer when the rehearsal studios and the theatres on the fifth floor at NYU are not being used. And so we decided to do August Strindberg's Creditors , and it was very empowering. I was like, “Oh, great! We did a play. We didn’t have to worry about getting cast, but we just did this great piece of classical theatre.”

And then the following winter I had an idea for a script...So I called a friend of mine who’s a filmmaker, and I said, "Here’s my idea." I said, "Let’s write a script, but let’s do it through improv. And whatever we come up with, that’s what it is. If those people want to do the project once it’s ready, awesome. If they’re not available, great. You know, we’ll ask our friends to be in it." So we started working on that, and we used, again, Studio Tisch  time to workshop that.

And then I had the idea to do a Studio Tisch Caberet, so I ended up producing that. And I started to realize,... Oh, I have all this creative energy as a producer that is just as satisfying as an actor. And actually, I can produce myself into stuff. And...

Virginia: And hire your friends!

Jeremy: And hire my friends! Exactly! Without having to make them audition....And then this last summer, (again with Studio Tisch) we produced a musical that a friend of ours wrote. Produced that. Did the Cabaret again.

But I think the biggest thing, the thing that I’m most proud of that seems to have the most momentum because it’s entirely us, and we’re actually following through on it, is this web series you mentioned, First World Problem.

Jeremy: What’s been awesome about that is... we have this awesome friend Cameron, who has a camera. And he’s very, very skilled with a camera. And the three of us, me, Stacey [Linnartz], and Cameron Bossert, basically, we decided... let’s do something.

We wanted to do something together. We didn’t know what – actually that’s not true. Stacey had the idea for the First World Problem, but it wasn’t even called  First World Problem . She said, “You guys want to do a web series?” “And I don’t know what I want it to be, but I want it to be really realistic and edgy.”

And then Cameron and I were out, he saw me in a play -- which I got cast the usual lines, and it was very satisfying -- So actually, if I hadn’t gotten cast in that play, Cameron may have not come that night. We may have not gotten that drink where we’re joking around, and he’s like, “Ah, it’s like a first world problem.” We’re like... maybe that should be what we do with Stacey! And I think we asked Cameron if he’d be willing to film it and be our director. We had some dinky little camera. But Cameron's like, “Yeah, I’ll even bring my camera over.” And he’s got a really nice camera, so we’re like “awesome.” 

...Anyway, it’s almost a year later since we started filming these episodes. And the three of us realize we have like a really strong creative vibe...that I think is going to stretch beyond this First World Problem.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Playwright, Poet, & Novelist. 1749-1832)

Jeremy: But the fact that we have the drive – and I think like we each bring a different gift to the thing that I think makes it intriguing, and we have follow-through. We’re actually shooting stuff. It’s getting edited. We put it up there.

We shot a movie with these same characters in December. We're submitting it to Tribeca....Cameron is doing all the editing. But it’s extremely satisfying.

The part about it that is like frustrating is like, you know, we’re not making money on it yet. Whereas when someone hires you – and this isn’t always the case -- usually when someone hires you , there’s some kind of pay because someone else is worrying about the money. In our case, it’s like, "Where do we find the money? How do we get the money to come to us?"

Virginia: Right.

Jeremy: But I think we’re in a very good time on the planet earth where as a creative team, there are ways to get money, and there are ways to get attention that didn’t even exist 8 years ago or 5 years ago.

Virginia: I’m intrigued to learn more about the origins of First World Problem. Other than Studio Tisch, how do you feel that your training and experience and the community at NYU has helped you in being able to realize this dream?

Jeremy: What’s funny is... I actually think NYU – personally I felt like it got me more ready for this kind of work than they did for auditioning. Cause there was an audition class but it’s very hard to mimic the reality of auditioning. It’s really hard to mimic that in school the way it is in the business.... I don’t know why. I guess cause–

Virginia: Psychologically you know that it’s not real?

Jeremy: Right... But it’s easy to train people to create their own work...So what was your question again?

Virginia: How did your training at NYU help to support the web series that you’re doing now?

Jeremy: What I’m doing now? Well, I mean, I guess – I was just talking about this last night with Stacey...Well, I was sort of pondering...

NYU was a big commitment. It’s three years, a lot of money, and sometimes I’d wonder, I’m like, "Did I really get anything out of that or was I just like looking for bragging rights just to say I went to NYU?"

I teach part time to support this creative habit which has yet to be a source of income. I hope it will. Did I just get a master’s so I could teach to support this habit? But I was thinking to myself, cause now that I’m doing some teaching, when you’re teaching theatre, what you’re doing is having someone else doing all the work, and you can look at it and give your opinion about it. And we’re realizing like all this power we gave to our teachers of like, “Did you like what I did?” kind of BS because they’re not going to be DOING anything. You know? You’re doing all the work and they’re just giving you their opinion because they are -- I want to call them -- they’re an expert. Whatever that means. They’re an experienced artist.

Virginia: Right. They’ve seen a lot of work.

Jeremy: So they're giving you their experienced artistic opinion, right. And they see a lot of young people come through and do the same bullshit. And when they see something that is not the same bullshit, they’re like, "Oh, that was you. That was something that only YOU, I think, could do."  You know?... And still it’s just their opinion.

Virginia: Right.

Jeremy: And with Stacey, I was just sort of pondering... What’s the use of that experience then? And I think that IS the use of that experience.

You’re going to learn what you’re going to learn whether you go to grad school or not, I think. I think that’s kind of how life is.

Especially as an actor, it’s all about just doing it. And grad school is all about just doing it. And you’re in a place where you have nothing to do but the thing you want to do. Whereas if you’re out in the world, then you’re going to juggle. But if I didn’t go to grad school, I’d be playing the same game...

And so what I think NYU did is... it was just three years to focus on the thing, "Is this what I want to be doing?" And sort of get "the nasty bits" out in an environment where it doesn’t matter that the nasty bits are being explored. What I mean by “nasty bits” is -- Boring, boring, boring. This is stupid. Your idea is going nowhere.

Virginia: So that that never ever happens to you now?

Jeremy: Um, you know what? This is what we were talking about...No, it doesn’t!... And it’s not because suddenly I’m like this amazing person, but it’s because I realize what it takes to collaborate. It’s doesn’t mean that everyone is going to like what we've come up with, but –

Here’s what we were talking about – 'Cause when you’re in school, the teacher says, "All right, go create – You have all week. So when I see you next, you’re going to have done your assignment: The Tree Grows By The Sidewalk. All right? That’s the thing you’re going to create."  And everyone’s like, "The Tree Grows By The Sidewalk ? That's the assignment?...All right, see you in a week."

And you’re sitting there looking at five other people. You’re like, "The Tree Grows By The Sidewalk ? What the fuck?!"  And... everybody has an idea. And sometimes you’re in a group where no one is listening to anyone else’s idea. They’re only focusing on their idea. Or everyone is saying "yes" too much, cause everyone is trying to accommodate everybody. Or everyone’s afraid to say, "That’s a really stupid idea. Why don’t we do this instead?" You know.

Virginia: Yeah.

Jeremy: And you spend like three years like that...I look back now and I’m like, "Why was it so hard to go away and do  The Tree Grows By The Sidewalk  or whatever?"

If someone said to me, go create Land of the Rocks in a week, I’d be like, "Awesome, let’s go."  We’d probably create a really awesome Land of the Rocks . Some people might like it; some people might not, but it would be US. It would be COOL. It would be INVENTIVE. It wouldn’t be like the teacher’s sitting there saying, "What the fuck did you do for a week? This is the worst. This is boring."

Virginia: Right.

Jeremy: Seriously – there was one time in the movement class when we went on for like 15 minutes, and finally the teacher was like, I’m just going to stop you because this is clearly not going anywhere...

(OOOOOOh, but it is going somewhere!!!! More Jeremy tomorrow. We'll talk about collaboration and pretending-to-be-something-you're-not and building confidence and reasons to go for your MFA annnnnnnd more First World Problem! Whew!!!)


P.S. Check out some of my FAVES below...  (Subscribe to the First World Problem YouTube Channel by CLICKING HERE. )

A major First World Problem...Subway train etiquette.

And how about...Unemployment?

Or perhaps the power struggle to prove that Yesterday is not a Beatles song? Watch out! This may threaten to destroy the foundations of your entire relationship.

Or maybe it's time to have "the talk" with your significant other?  

Or you're having trouble dealing with migraines?

Or are you consuming too much corn syrup?


Saturday, March 24, 2012

173. Interview with Jeremy Rishe (NYU) - Part One

Ladies and gents...I'd like to introduce to you an illustrious alumni of NYU Grad Acting....Mr. Jeremy Rishe... Yaaaay! 

(Applause. Applause. Applause.) 

I met Jeremy at the NYU Callback Weekend in 2010 at the alumni talkback session. He's a very charismatic fellow and made a lasting impression on me. We became Facebook friends and I've cyber-stalked him ever since. (Not at all creepy.) I've had the privilege of attending a couple of projects in the city that he's co-produced and performed in. And now he's got an EPIC AWESOME webseries that is brilllllliant -- First World Problem. I love it because it's a lot like my blog. It's a bunch of short, seemingly unrelated glimpses of life...all seen through a particular point of view...posted every week. But when it's all weaved together...It's this epic story...following Stan (Jeremy Rishe) and Annie (Stacey Linnartz) and their relationship. They are soooo fantastically unaware of their dysfunction. It's totally addicting. Anyhoo...More on that below...Annnnnnd tons of inside info on Jeremy's experience as a student at NYU Grad Acting!

(This interview was served up at Park Ave Plaza, NYC on February 3, 2012...and lovingly transcribed by my mom, Dorothy Wilcox...Thanks MOM!)

Let's begin...

Virginia: Okay, so introduce yourself. Tell me your name, where you’re from originally, where you went to undergrad, and where you went to grad school.

Jeremy: Well, my name is Jeremy Rishe. You want me to spell that or, no? I think you’ve got it.

Virginia: R-i-s-h-e?

Jeremy: Nice. I grew up in Utah. I was born in Utah. I went to the University of Utah for undergrad, and then for grad school, I went to NYU.

Virginia: And what did you study in undergrad?

Jeremy: I studied acting. There was a program in Utah called the Actor Training Program. ATP was the – is it an acronym? Is that what that is? That was what they called it. “You’re in the ATP!” That was like the big thing for the theatre department. “Oh, ATP!” “ATP person!”

Virginia: So was it "extra special cool" to be a part of ATP?

Jeremy: I guess it was – you know how theatre programs are. In the little, self-sustaining – what’s the right words? I don’t know, in the small bubble of the theatre building, it was like the cool thing to be. ‘Cause it was a program you had to audition for. They accepted, I think, at most... like 20 people in each class. It was a lot of work. It was basically like a conservatory in the middle of a liberal arts college. That's how they sold it to people. If you were just going to a conservatory, you'd only be doing acting, music, art, whatever the conservatory is for...but’re going to have that PLUS a little arts degree you’re going to have to worry about. So that’s actually a lawwwwt of work.

Virginia: But it gave you a very well-rounded education, it sounds like.

Jeremy: I guess so, yeah. Yeah, I mean liked the liberal arts side of it...Stacey [Linnartz] often corrects me on this... ‘cause I’ll say, “Man, I wish I’d studied something other than theatre for undergrad. But I’m saying that from the position I’m in now, whereas if I hadn’t studied theatre in undergrad, I may or I may not be as confident and in the position that I am now, you know, artistically with my acting. Who knows? I may not have the confidence. The training that I got there probably led me here and without it I wouldn’t be where I'm at today. And in some ways actually, you can give yourself a really good liberal arts education in today’s world without having to go to college if you know where to look on the internet.

Virginia: Ha! We always have the internet.

Jeremy: Yeah. So all the things that I didn’t get a formal degree in during college, I can actually educate myself in now. Well...maybe not to the extent that I could if I’d studied, say, like astronomy.

Virginia: So after you were done with undergrad...did you take time off?

Jeremy: No...I went straight through. I was like I’m not going to waste any time. I’m going to get all this school stuff done.

Virginia: So where did you apply when you were applying for master’s programs?

Jeremy: The better question is where didn’t I apply...I’m like a little anal. I was like, okay, I’m going to cover all my bases, and I’m going to make sure that when I jump off the ledge and have, hopefully, a pillow to land on. So I applied for Yale, NYU, Julliard, ACT...

Virginia: Those were your top choices?

Jeremy: Sure. And then I had a bunch of back-ups, you know, like the Denver Center. I don’t know if they even have an MFA anymore.

Virginia: It’s done.

Jeremy: It’s done, so I auditioned for them. There was, at the time, the DC Shakes had an MFA, but it was primarily for educators and for like older people. It was run by Michael Kahn [formerly of Julliard]. And he actually joked. He goes, “What, are you auditioning for everything?” ‘Cause he was running both auditions at DC Shakes and Juilliard, and he was like, “We’re looking for older people who want to go into teaching Shakespeare." I was like, whatever. I want to do some anyway....So there was that and then – oh, my God, I feel like there was another one – ART.

Virginia: Which is Harvard, right?

Jeremy: Harvard. And that’s not even an MFA. You don’t even get an actual degree. And in my opinion, you’ve wasted your time....I don’t know, I guess if you’re going to go study somewhere, you might as well get a degree. You might as well be able to at least teach....‘Cause if you’re spending two years at ART, regardless of how good the training is, and you’re in dire straits, you know.

Virginia: Yeah, you want to be able to have as many options as you can?

Jeremy: Right. That’s kind of the point of going to grad school for acting in my opinion, one of the points. So it was like eight schools that I auditioned for.

Virginia: So of all the schools that you applied to, which ones did you actually get accepted?

Jeremy: All of them, actually.

Virginia: You got accepted to ALL OF THEM?

Jeremy: I got accepted to all of them.

Virginia: And what made you decide NYU? You got accepted to Juillard and Yale?

Jeremy: Yes. Juilliard and Yale. ACT put me on the waitlist and then called me a week later ‘cause somebody dropped out. I remember at that point I had already decided I was going to NYU. Why NYU? I don’t know. When I was in high school, something in me was like, I’m going to go to NYU for acting school. I had no reason.

I knew one guy who was in the ATP at the University of Utah, he was an actor who I admired. I was in high school and he was in college. He was only a couple years older than me. He was a very good actor, and somehow I had heard that he’d gone to NYU, but he didn’t actually finish. He left after the first semester ‘cause he wasn’t enjoying himself and he came back to Utah to just live life. I don’t think he’s acting any more. But I don’t know, just that story – like hearing that – being in high school and hearing this thing about this guy who went to NYU and then decided it wasn’t for him – I don’t know.

With the word "NYU," something in me was like, “I’m going to go to NYU for acting.” I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t know anything about any of this…The faculty who are supposedly like, you know, world famous acting teachers in the English speaking world and all this and that. I knew nothing about actor training, nothing, I just knew that I wanted to be an actor, that actors moved to New York or L.A., and something in me was like “NYU.” So it was kind of like, that’s the top of my list, and the other places – like Juilliard, I auditioned for Juilliard really just to see if I could get in. That was such like a numbers game. I was like, I just want to see if I can actually do it....I just wanted to be able to say like I did it, I got in.

Virginia: Check it off the list?

Jeremy: Yeah, and Yale, it’s because...NYU, Juilliard and Yale are kind of the big three – it’s what everybody’s striving for.

Virginia: Right.

Jeremy: And ACT because it’s the west coast version of those. But NYU just "on a gut" felt right.

Virginia: So what three words would you say best describe the universal qualities that are true of all NYU grad actors?

Jeremy: Hmm? The universal qualities that are true of all NYU grad actors... (thinking)

Virginia: It’s a very diverse group.

Jeremy: Have you interviewed any other NYU folks?

Virginia: No, you’re my NYU guy. I’ve interviewed other guys from Juilliard [Daniel Talbott] and Yale [Bryce Pinkham].

Jeremy: Well, we’re better than Juilliard. We’re better than Yale. And we’re better than everybody – no. I’m joking. On the record that was a joke. The three things that make NYU actors stand out?...Well, I don’t know. I think the biggest thing is it’s hard to put a stamp on an NYU actor. The heart of that program is about encouraging people to be entirely who they are, fuck the consequences. I mean, that’s minus the second half. That little quote was my own. But I think that’s really the heart of the training -- I mean if you can call that training -- you’ve got to be YOU regardless of what anybody else might say or think or whatever.

I think the second thing – and then it goes with that – therefore it’s hard to stamp an NYU person because just they are who they are. I remember when I was in school, you know, directors, casting people, they come and they talk and they say their spiel about what it’s like in the business. And they always say, "Now, one thing I love about NYU people is whenever I see a show or see somebody, I’m like, “Who is that actor?” I always look at the playbill and inevitably it always says NYU grad acting. And there’s always something about it that I can’t quite pin down. There’s like an energy. There’s like an “Arrhhh,” you know?" And I think that relates to what I’m saying. Because when you encourage someone to just be who they are, it’s like what you said about – your blog – when you’re laying out your heart, it’s very intriguing.

When you encourage a fire to grow, the moth is drawn to the flame. That’s what I’m saying.

I think the second thing is, the other big philosophy they have is that – whatever this means – people who go through that program, they want them to feel like they’re director proof. Meaning like a director can’t fuck with me. Because there’s a lot of idiots out there who are either ill-intentioned or good-intentioned who say stupid things or try to beat people down for whatever reason or they don’t know how to talk to an actor. And it’s really important and I think a big part of their philosophy is to be able to work with anybody regardless of whether or not they know what they’re doing. You’ll be able to translate whatever they’re saying or not saying and sort of make it work for you which again goes back to the number one reason. And then number three – I don’t know. The number three that makes NYU NYU – (thinking)

Virginia: How about the fearlessness? The risk-taking?

Jeremy: Yeah, I think you’re right. So much of our time at NYU is all about making your own work. That’s like probably – I don’t know – I’m probably blowing this out of proportion, but that’s probably like a good 60% of your training is spent like in games class or like in a movement class or in...there’s a literature – there’s a clown – you know, there’s a thing called actor’s space – whatever name the teacher’s give them. Fundamentally they’re all about you and your peers going away, creating something, and then you bring it into the class, and then you get critiqued on it. And really the only class in my recollection that had anything to do with prepared material was scene study.

There’s voice, and there are classes about breathing and this and that. But when it comes to performance, I would say more time was spent on – or it may be equal. If not equal, then more time was spent on encouraging people just to get comfortable making their own work. And I think that relates to what you just said. What was the word you just used?

Virginia: Risk-taking.

Jeremy: Risk-taking. Yeah, because to me that is what being an actor is all about. Like this idea of... "I get my sides, I audition, I read, the casting director decides to show me to the director and then the director shows me to producer and then someone signs the line that says "her” or "him.""That’s like very new. That’s very Twentieth Century. That way of getting work didn’t really exist, I don’t think, until the industrial age, and the American machine put a sort of emphasis on making money. Don't get me wrong. Money’s awesome. Even Shakespeare tried to make money.

Virginia: We actors become a consumer product.

Jeremy: Yes. And it becomes about "who do I think LOOKS like this part?" And then you have five people who could very well play it, but one of them happens to look like the version that the director thinks it should be. It’s totally arbitrary. Whereas, for the four thousand years that theatre existed in western lineage before that, it was the people who were acting in the plays were also writing them and producing them and directing them and they were also the shareholders of the companies, you know, all the way back to Greek times. Sophocles, all those guys were actors. Shakespeare was an actor. The commedia performers were writers and actors. The performers in medieval drama were writing the things that they were doing. Even Stanislavski was an actor and a director. The idea of, you know, someone doing JUST the writing and another person doing JUST the acting is very mid-Nineteenth Century on. You know what I’m saying?

Virginia: Yes, absolutely. And you’ve done a lot of both kinds of work. You know, work juuuuust as an actor where you've gotten cast by route of the "traditional" process...auditioning and being approved by the director and the producer and so on and so forth. I'm sure you’ve had plenty of that experience. But you also have your own production company which is called --

Jeremy: Conniption FitZ Productions. Which goes back to a high school thing.

Virginia: And you’ve got your web series called --

Jeremy: First World Problem.

Virginia: So you’ve had the experience of creating your own work in the real world. And I want to focus on how you feel as an artist working on someone else's project versus creating your own work.

Jeremy: Well, it’s kind of funny because I think in our day and age we’re so conditioned as actors that this is how it is...People are like, “There’s got to be a better way to make theatre, to give actors work.” And everyone’s like, “Well, if you find a better way, tell me.” That’s like the common answer that you get from casting people and directors...And people say, “This is the way it is. You’ve got to accept it.” I’m like, "No, not really. It’s not the way it was."...You know, there are better ways. We did them as human beings for thousands of years prior to now.

But I have to admit...there is a part of me that does get off on being "chosen," you know?  Getting a role – someone to be like “I chose you for this role.” It kind of makes you feel like, “Oh, I was chosen!”

Virginia: “I won the lottery!”

Jeremy: “I won the lottery!” Right. Everyone likes to win something. That’s kind of the feeling that comes with that. It’s nice to be wanted, and I love doing work like that. And I still audition for work like that. But I was getting to a point in me where I was getting a little desperate, and my work was not as good as it could be or should be because I was focusing so much on “Am I going to get chosen for the part?”

And I always wanted to make my own work. And I kind of did before, you know, this Conniption Fitz thing. We used to mess around in high school, and we jokingly call ourselves the Conniption Fitz, and as an adult, I’m like "Now I’m actually going to call that my company. Why not?"

Virginia: Why not, indeed!

(More Jeremy tomorrow! Isn't it nice to have something to look forward to?)



P.S. Check out Jeremy's latest creative-lust-child...First World Problem...Subscribe to the YouTube channel by CLICKING HERE...annnnnd if you'll get to view a super-exclusive full-length episode! I've seen it and it's awkwardtastic hilarity!!! And's a little preview of the upcoming feature-length to disturb your senses: