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Advice

New Year's Resolutions

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So this is the real new millennium. To celebrate, I asked a random group of West Coast actors to come up with a New Year's resolution or wish related to their acting. Here are their responses, ranging from the personal to the political. Maybe some of them will inspire you to come up with a few vows of your own.

Susannah Schulman, Southern Calif.:

As actors, we're so prone to self-torture and self-doubt, judging every little thing after we do it: "Oh, that was terrible, why did I do that?" So my resolution is that all of my work, in class or onstage, is going to be a no-torture zone. Some things might feel better than others, but nothing will be termed "bad." Everything is part of this fluid, learning, growing process. The things that feel good or bad are important, but nothing is bad.

In terms of auditioning, I resolve to not enter the audition process being what I think they want me to be but just being what I am. I discovered this recently at an audition when I was told it was most likely I wasn't going to get the part. So I went in thinking I've got nothing to lose. I went in as myself. I wasn't guessing what I thought they wanted to see. And I got the part—A Comedy of Errors at A Noise Within. The best part about it was I didn't have to replay the entire process to myself, analyzing, post-audition, every little word, every movement they [the auditors] made. Because everything I did was natural. So everything they did was responding to me naturally. In the past, auditions were this horrifying experience—who am I going be for this audition? What kind of actor would they like me to be? Then I'd try to be that person and feel fake and empty but also confused about how things went.

Joan Mankin, Bay Area:

I want to be in a film with Benicio Del Toro! I just saw the new Steven Soderbergh movie, Traffic, and he's the center, the soul of the movie, although he's not the protagonist. He's so honest and real. You see it in his eyes. He's caught in the middle of incredible corruption and lives in a dingy apartment in Tijuana, and you can't figure out how he has this incredible integrity. Like Russell Crowe in L.A. Confidential. Both actors took everything in and internalized it. It was a wonderful example for me. It made me realize there's something that gets lost when you're the lead. For me as a character actress it was a wonderful thing to see. It brought out the importance of the work you do and being true to your character, being there all the time. Actually, my resolution is, I want to be that good in really small parts. Del Toro's part wasn't small, but I want to be that good in the parts I play.

L. Peter Callender, Bay Area:

We just closed Oliver Mayer's Joe Louis Blues at Thick Description. When you work for a theatre like Thick Description, you don't make much money, and you do it for love. But my wish is that I could get paid adequately. I love doing those kinds of shows: well written, well acted, small house.

I'm doing Oresteia at Berkeley Rep [in the spring]; it's above Equity scale, it's in the new theatre, it's Greek tragedy, it's momentous, Tony Taccone's directing, that's great. But then to go to Thick House, this little 80-seat theatre, and just do a great story like Joe Louis Blues, with real people and real issues… If I could do five or eight shows a year like Joe Louis Blues, at small theatres, in front of 20 or 60 people…

When you get on the huge Geary stage [at American Conservatory Theater], you can fumble, you can fake something. But with 60 people, oh my God. You can't fake it in those small houses. That's when actors have to use their craft and technique to the fullest. Nothing against the huge theatres; I love working at Berkeley Rep, San José Rep, A.C.T. But to be able to do Joe Louis Blues for 60 people—that's super. I want to keep on supporting those theatres and be able to make a living doing that. But we can't. That's my New Year's wish.

Joanne Baron, Southern Calif.:

My New Year's resolution is to act with more joy and more simplicity and to nurture the creativity of those around me. If you can find a way to relax into the truth of yourself in the imaginary situation, there will be an effortlessness and a simplicity that will make you joyful. A lot of times a serious actor is serious, but there's a certain amount of fun that's necessary so you don't make it overly precious. You've got to have a playful nature to play pretend. I believe the result of the work being fun is that the work is easier.

Daniel Getzoff, Southern Calif.:

My resolution is to be OK with where I'm at, get off my back, be nicer to myself.

I'm nervous about sounding New Agey—but as actors we focus so much on our challenges, we're so used to: OK, I fucked that up, here are my problems, what do I have to do to grow? And we don't spend enough time in the realm of the positive. Even saying "the realm of the positive" sounds so cheesy. The negative stuff is so much easier and more accessible: "I should've done that better, why can't I be the kind of guy who goes to parties and gets deals, I fucked up." A lot of us are constantly waiting for other people to show us who we are and tell us what our problems are. We're not taught how to be kind of… Zen: I'm at where I'm at, and I'm going to work from that place. This is all within the realm of being OK with having that cheesy positivity thing. I'm from New Jersey; I tend to be cynical. But I think the good parts of California are starting to rub off on me.

Wanda McCaddon, Bay Area:

My resolutions are not very noble. My aim in 2001 is to pursue income where it lives—in voiceover and TV/industrials—like getting new headshots and producing a new, really professional, slick CD voice demo. I already scour the seasons of every Equity theatre each year for roles I could audition for—and as a mature woman, I think they are thin on the ground!

Robynn Rodriguez, Ashland:

I read a brilliant book this year, Jane Alexander's Command Performance, An Actress in the Theatre of Politics, about her struggle to head the NEA. As exciting and inspiring a book as it is, it is also deeply disturbing and frightening in the sense that as a collective, artists really have no power. We know this. The way Jane Alexander was treated—the people you would expect to be supportive who just were not. It was a reminder to me, and this is my resolution: One must be an activist. One must keep one's finger on the pulse of what's going on in Washington. Information is power. We need the facts in order to organize ourselves or at the very least keep the cards and letters to our congresspeople going. Keep talking about our work and why we do it, have an active voice. It also made me proud to be a regional theatre actor because I'm in the trenches, really.

Finally, there's L.A. actor Patrick Kerr's downright goofy vow, made while bowling: "To get up every day… and just kick ass, you know what I'm sayin'?"

Yes, we do. Happy New Year. BSW

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