Friday, June 29, 2012

So Right, She's Wong

I remember meeting Kristina Sheryl Wong at a street festival a few years ago. Her first words to me - "Are you on Friendster? Be my friend on Friendster!"

I was not on Friendster, but I was hooked on Kristina from that day forward. She's an actor, writer, and performance artist best known for her one-woman show Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I've never seen that show - mostly she performed it on tour - but I always admired her for being a unique, effervescent individual and doing her own thing in the Asian-American arts community.

Last night, I finally saw her perform at the opening night of her newest show, Going Green the Wong Way. Holy cow, you MUST SEE! A hilariously funny and touching look at her eco-journey through life and proof positive that this girl is a star.

The show was at the Bootleg Theater, situated in a part of LA I can honestly say I've never been to --

Clearly, I've been missing out on a hip hotspot for music, theater, and film. They have their own rules and warnings --

And several bars inside their awesome space, which was formerly a bra factory --

I arrived just before curtain, so I missed the distribution of shakers made from recycled materials. The audience shook them with gusto, later using them during one of many interactive portions of the show.

Like I said, the performance was incredible. At various points, Kristina dry humped a pile of plastic bags, rapped about how litterbugs are raping Mother Earth, and demonstrated how to use a Diva Cup.

And despite her brave and entertaining antics, the thread of the show was her genuine devotion to environmentalism and the spirit of her heart that drives her. It was beautiful.

I took a turn on the step and repeat with her after the show --

Going Green the Wong Way runs at the Bootleg Theater until July 22, after which she's taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Get your tickets now!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Criticism Party

I participated in a script reading last night --

I read four different characters, attempting to infuse unique personality into each. I even did a straight-up Daria impression for one of the characters. It was wicked fun.

Though really I was invited because I'm a writer and the hosts wanted to get as much feedback from other writers as possible. This was their first draft and they needed to deliver it to their producers soon.

Now, I've advocated live script readings for writers on this blog before - they're valuable tools for discovering plot holes, screwy dialogue, and a slew of other problems that you never would have found staring at the page.

But I really have to give these co-writers last night one more shout out for being BRAVE as heck.

Because basically, these guys threw a criticism party last night. They had friends over, we read their script, and then we tore it to pieces! Not enough stakes, flat characters, missed opportunities for comedy - the comments just kept coming.

And they took it like kings - jotting down every note with a nod and a smile. All this after they'd invited us into their home and fed us pizza and beer.

Seriously, kudos to you all you writers who host live readings and take in criticism. It's not easy to hear people judging your words, even if it makes you a better writer. You have my admiration.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Graphic Inspiration for Writers

Friends post these inspirational graphics on Facebook all the time. Here are some of the favorites I've grabbed --

And a good kick in the pants for your desktop background --

Not to be confused with words of wisdom from Conan --

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Single Asian Female Seeking Co-Star

I generally don't keep up with celebrity gossip, but on a recent airport layover, I flipped through several celeb magazines and discovered a trend --

Everyone is dating their co-star!

I suppose it's inevitable when you're spending hours and hours acting with and looking longingly into the eyes of your good-looking fake significant other.

The ridiculously happy evidence --

Emily Van Camp & Josh Bowman from Revenge - on-screen --

And off --

Emma Stone & Andrew Garfield from the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man - on-screen --

And off --

Lea Michele & Cory Monteith from Glee - on-screen --

And off --

And my favorite - Ginnifer Goodwin & Josh Dallas from Once Upon a Time - on-screen --

And off --

Guys, he's literally Prince Charming - how do you not fall in love with him?

The conclusion is clear - I NEED A CO-STAR! STAT!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Three Adjectives and Then Some

Back when I was prepping for my headshot shoot with Toshikophoto, she suggested an exercise for evaluating how people see me - email 20 friends and ask them to describe me in three adjectives.

I emailed about 100 friends.

Being the nerd that I am, I organized the 250+ adjectives I received into an Excel spreadsheet. The top responses were no surprise, given my penchant for playing doctors and nurses --

But a few friends took the time to write more than just three adjectives. This was my favorite response from a writer friend --
"Intellectual - Wounded - Resilient

I chose these because the first time we met and ever since, I have always been amazed and impressed by your intellect and matter of fact wit.

Over time, I have listened to and felt your writing, saw your tears and realized that this is an incredibly smart woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders and more than a little fear that she just might not be strong enough to succeed.

Thanks to the third adjective, you proved yourself wrong and you have been working, acting, and writing like crazy and have just blossomed like a phoenix.

Keep flying high my friend. I look forward to seeing more of you on all of my favorite shows and one day starring in one!"
From your lips, D - thanks so much for your beautiful words!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fictionless Friday: Beauty in the Eye of Hollywood

I am not beautiful.

Hold on – this isn’t a self-esteem thing. I’m talking about in my acting career.

I know I have a beautiful heart and spirit. Seriously, I can run beautiful on the inside circles around most human beings on the planet. And I love myself completely and wholly.

But I’m not beautiful. Not by Hollywood standards. Stunning, gorgeous, and breathtaking are not words used to describe my appearance by people who don’t know me personally. Cute, maybe. Pretty in an average kind of way.

Because if they’re casting an Asian-American woman to play Ryan Reynold’s love interest, my headshot is not going to make the cut next to these ladies –-

These ladies are beautiful - no doubt about it. And good for them!

I think about Louis CK’s comedy bit about being white --

My argument’s the same. I’m not saying that beautiful people are better, but being beautiful is clearly better – who could even argue? Beautiful actresses have more acting opportunities than I do. They get to play scream queens and objects of desire and they get to kiss the leading man.

But you know what? I’m totally okay with not being a beautiful actress, because I’ve found my niche for now – doctors, nurses, & reporters. I’m a smart-sounding actress – plenty of beautiful actresses can’t sound smart – that’s my biggest asset.

All this being said, let it be known that I fully plan on being seen as a beautiful actress someday. I will break out of my comfortable niche and do amazing acting work that will change the way people see me. The world will someday look past my nerdy exterior and see me as an object of desire.

I’ll even get to kiss the leading man. Someday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Hump Day Update: Summer Vacation Edition

Sorry for the lack of blogginess lately - I'm on summer vacation! Or at least that's what it feels like now that my writing fellowship applications are done. Time to relax and do nothing, right?

Ha, I wish. Since June 1st, I've been whipping through personal and professional errands that were piling up on my to-do list, like reading scripts for a short screenplay competition I'm judging and finally choosing my new headshots from Toshikophoto --

I've also been eating my way through long overdue coffee dates and lunches with friends and colleagues, including my awesome lawyer and this wacky lady --

And finally, setting new goals for my writing career - two more pilot scripts by the end of 2012! That's right, I'm taking a breath and heading right back into the fire. Pitches for my next script are due tomorrow and I'm ready to go!

Though it hasn't all been work, work, work this June - I've been taking in some great theater, including A Little Night Music at the East West Players --

Definitely worth seeing if you love Sondheim. Melody Butiu gave one of the most exquisite performances of "Send in the Clowns" I've ever seen - cried right through it!

Also went to a Dodgers game at half-price thanks to Goldstar. I love going to live baseball games!

How are you spending your summer vacation?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fearless Carrie Ann

I knew the name Carrie Ann Inaba way before Dancing with the Stars. As an aspiring dancer, I watched In Living Color every week just to see The Fly Girls. I would video tape their routines and learn the steps. (That’s what you have to do when there’s no dance school in your hometown.)

Obviously, Carrie Ann was my favorite Fly Girl. She was the best dancer and had the best hair. I was sure that someday I would audition for the Fly Girls and become her best friend. Yeah, that never happened.

At last night’s intimate Evening with Carrie Ann Inaba, sponsored by CAPE and Verizon, I learned that even though I never did become a Fly Girl or Carrie Ann’s best friend, we actually have a lot in common.

First and foremost, we both got into MIT! I enrolled and drank water from a firehose for four years. She went to Japan and became a pop star. Probably more fun than my 5.60 problem sets.

We’re also pursuing many goals at the same time. I act, write television, write fiction, produce film and I’m still toying with the idea of writing a graphic novel. Carrie Ann hosts, acts, dances, produces television, produces Broadway, and plans to write her next script herself. We are multi-tasking goddesses!

But the big thing we share is a bright spirit and fierce drive that propels us past all obstacles and ever onward in our careers. Interviewer Wenda Fong lauded Carrie Ann for being so fearless in her career and life choices, and Carrie Ann bravely revealed that she does have fears – she just doesn’t let them get her down. She said it best – “It’s not about not having fears. It’s about facing them.” Amen, sister.

Another gem of wisdom from Carrie Ann about pursuing a showbiz career – “It’s not that difficult to succeed. There’s always a way. Figure it out. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you. It’s not easy, but it is simple.”

I love this woman even more now. Thanks for an inspiring evening, Carrie!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Five Things Actors Can Always Count On

#5 - There will be traffic on the way to the audition.

Especially in Los Angeles, so check SigAlert before you leave. Always leave earlier than you need to so you're not a stressball when you get to the audition. Hopefully they'll have magazines in the lobby to help you pass the time.

#4 - There will be someone in the waiting room who looks perfect for the role.

Don't fixate on them and psych yourself out before you even go in to audition! You are a talented, unique individual - the casting director will see that in the room. Keep your eyes on the prize. (Besides, that person is probably looking at you and thinking the same thing.)

#3 - You can always learn more about acting.

Is that MFA degree burning a chip into your shoulder? Get back into a class! Actors should always be developing new skills and keeping their technique fresh. If you don't want another acting class, try an improv class or a voice/movement class. A concert violinist practices every day - why shouldn't you?

#2 - Auditions and jobs will conflict with your vacation plans.

Murphy's Law, right? I once cancelled a trip to France for an opportunity that didn't even pan out - $1,000+ down the drain. But I've also turned down auditions because time with family is more important. You always try to make both work, but sometimes you just have to make a decision.

#1 - There will always be more opportunities!

There's always a feeling that each job could be your last, but there's always another audition, another job, another opportunity right around the corner. Because despite low ratings, dwindling audiences, and studio execs freaking out over falling box office numbers, the world will always be making movies, producing TV, and mounting plays and musicals. Give yourself a break if you don't get this one. There will be another. I promise.

What can you count on as an actor?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Storytelling Unites the World

Let me tell you something - storytelling events aren't just trendy happenings for writers and hipsters. Storytelling events bring people together.

Take my debut last night at WordSalad, a storytelling evening hosted by Lora Cain at The Talking Stick coffeehouse in Venice. After being booked for the show, I did the customary self-promotion - emails, Facebook invite, tweets and more tweets.

Last week, someone posted on Facebook that they wanted to go, but needed a ride because she was temporarily in a wheelchair. Someone else - a total stranger, mind you - offered to give her a ride home after the show if someone else could get her there. One of my awesome friends piped up and offered to pick her up. Problems solved because of storytelling! I love it!

I showed up at the Talking Stick early to set up my video camera and grab a snack to calm my nerves.

And then the people started showing up! A guy I haven't seen since my days volunteering at the Hand to Hand Feeding Project was the first to stroll up and surprise me --

Then one of my high school classmates who I haven't seen since graduation day walked in - cue me saying, "Oh my God!" a million times. She kept telling me I looked like a model - it was fantastic. (I looked really nerdy in high school.)

They were followed by my former boss at my last day job and more friends from The Writer's Junction and other groups around LA. I couldn't have thrown a better Me Party if I tried!

Then the stories began. The theme of the night was "Dad" and I told a story about my wonderful father, complete with visual aids --

And this was where the real magic happened. All of the stories were so different in style and subject, but united by the theme. And as an audience, we were all united by the simple truth that everyone has a story to tell that's worth hearing. The stories we share with each other brings us together and shows us that we're not that different from one another.

My cheapy imitation Flip video camera konked out, so there's no video of my story to share - but that's okay, because there's plenty more stories where that came from. Until the next storytelling event...