When I was a young girl, I dreamed of moving to Los Angeles and becoming a movie star. I was absolutely convinced that I was the next big thing, and I absolutely wanted to be on David Letterman by the time I was 21. I was talented and lucky enough to get selected to go to the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where I worked with some of the finest, keenest teachers and had some of the most challenging and most rewarding opportunities throughout college.
I worked anywhere from 3-5 jobs at a time during college, had four hour rehearsals five times a week, had anywhere from 18-24 class hours a quarter, and was living far, far away from everyone and everything I had known in Texas.
Conservatory life was hard. It wasn’t until after college that I really began appreciating and utilizing, recognizing and understanding all that I had learned about art and theatre and production in college, and since I basically started with NO knowledge of theatre (not even knowing what a monologue was when I used one to audition for CCM,) I was now utilizing EVERYTHING that I had learned. I auditioned in Cincinnati. I worked in Cincinnati. I booked a few commercials, did a community theatre show, and essentially acquainted myself with what life was like as a 22-year-old fresh out of college. It was all new.
Eventually I started working at a restaurant downtown as a server, and then eventually broke up with a boyfriend I had at the time. I met someone new, and in November of 2013, two months after we’d been dating, we decided to move to New York City (simply because it was cheaper to reach) in January.
When we arrived in New York we had $1000 dollars between the two of us. By the grace of friends, we slept on futons and air mattresses for five weeks, and finally landed a bedroom in a prime location with a roommate who didn’t care that there were two people in the next room that were splitting the rent two ways with him. We were in heaven.
This was the most exciting time of my life, ever. I had finally worked my way into a puzzle I had been craving my whole entire life to solve. I began meeting people, and eventually signed up to take a six-week Meisner workshop at the William Esper studio in Manhattan with Barbara Marchant.
Without a doubt, this course work changed my life. I worked with professional, adult creatives who brought energy, compassion, and kindness into the room (a very different experience from college life.) This teacher, who will forever remain a mentor and friend to me, told me it was okay to open up my heart and explore my mind, and taught me how to live high in the clouds I’d always dreamed of. I found confidence in my ideas, strength in my peers, and excelled amazingly with the artistic challenges the studio presented.
Nearly two years later, Philip, my partner and now-husband (wasn’t at the time,) got a job offer in Cincinnati, Ohio that I encouraged him to take. He had struggled with New York City in ways that I hadn’t, and I was tired of seeing him unhappy. I was tired of seeing him struggling and hurt. He let me know that he needed to leave in two weeks, so we promised each other we’d get him out the door and then figure out what was next. Philip told me the night he told me (we were out in a bar,) he excused himself to the restroom to cry because he realized I wouldn’t necessarily come with him.
Three months later, I realized I loved Philip more than I loved being without him in New York City, which was a gigantic shock to me since I had always considered New York City the great love of my life.
I moved to Cincinnati. Here, I struggled enormously. It’s very hard to go from living in a city rich and bursting with creative ideas to one that makes most of its money from other endeavors. Yes, Cincinnati does have a theatre scene, but whereas I was being picked up left and right for projects in New York – Cincinnati performers and other artists were not nearly as enthusiastic to work with me, with a few exceptions. I began by doing what I could, through my sadness and grieving for the friends, creative life, and creative opportunities I had said, “sayonora” to in New York. Additionally, I worked from home, had no car, and had a very controlling personality in charge of me at my day job which made managing even an enjoyable day-job increasingly harder. I drank too much, stopped exercising, and gained a lot of weight.
I met with people that I admired – Joshua Steele, Dan Britt, Richard Hess, Lynn Meyers, Ed Stern. I let them know I was in town, what the deal was, and they all gave me metaphorical pats on the backs and welcomed me back to town. This was immensely necessary and appreciated by me, who was taking every small amount of connection to a creative world possible. I planned my wedding (upcoming the following September,) and I tried to find ways to feel better. My relationship with my partner suffered enormously, although, interestingly I find our ability to work through these challenges has set us up to continue working together throughout our future (and therefore I appreciate the hard times we had.) I had two days on-set for a feature film, volunteered as an actor at the Irish Heritage Center, landed a lead performance in the 24-hour film festival (thank you, Chris,) and auditioned for all the professional theatres in town.
I eventually picked up a job as a bartender at a brewery as a way to meet new people, and got a new day job. Then a little bit of magic began to happen again. The beauty of day jobs is that your mind thinks about something else for a while. I began to get new ideas. Lots of them. Loads of them. So many, in fact, that I didn’t know what to do with them. So I quickly created an “Idea Template,” and began completing a template for each, new, good idea that I had, regardless of the medium. I believe creativity never leaves a creative person, and that each idea can have its day in the sun. By filling out “paperwork” on my ideas, I was allowing them to begin development, and then be filed safely away until the time was right.
TEXICAN was my first and favorite idea to complete an Idea Template. The play itself was a short piece that just popped into my brain from a series of political conversations I had and some real life all-out fights I was having with Philip. It was written as a short play, and over time I didn’t know what to do with it.
Then Amanda moved to town. Amanda Lopez-Kurtz is my sister-in-law, and pretty much the first person being back in town that I felt comfortable exploring and discussing art with. I sent her my script to read just so we can talk about it, and she loved it.
Fast forward many months. Amanda is the Executive Director at the Contemporary Dance Theatre of Cincinnati and asks me if I want to put TEXICAN as a short play in their new work – Performance and Time Art series and I say YES really fast and then figure out what the rest of it means. At this point, I realized that TEXICAN was one scene that was part of a larger story (that is yet to be written and is percolating,) but would stand alone as a scene or a short film, which are often intentionally vague. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of hiring an actor to play against me and rehearse for the PTA, then hell, I might as well use this as a safe place to workshop the script and eventually shoot it.
Then I started wondering what would be needed to make a short film. Since I’m a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, I can only be hired to work in SAG-professional film productions, something that is an amazing gift and also, unfortunately, a small curse for my professional life in Cincinnati (more on that some other time.) In order for me to hire myself to work on my own film, I needed a signatory that belonged to a business or production company that could sign a check to pay me to meet Union requirements.
So Turn West was born.
Since it was born, I have completely run wild and free with it. I have five current projects in development and am being given the opportunity to create production budgets across a number of mediums for performance. I’m bringing on a talented mind from Texas to assist with the film and the company, and have access to amazing talent from both Ohio and New York, as well as exciting, talented, professional actors. The current projects do not operate on a specific timeline as, again, I am managing my own bills and responsibilities by working a full time and also part-time job (which helps me pay off student loans and finance Turn West.) There are more things in the future, although not necessarily bigger. In the future I want to operate on a specific annual budget with timeline, but as my current projects are exceptionally diverse, require different commitments, and I am the only one driving the ship – I need to pay attention to what my needs are in order to accomplish everything that I want in a thorough way. I am patient and flexible to the process.
This blog is important. One of my biggest struggles moving from college to a professional performance realm is that I didn’t know how to ask people how they got where they were and did not understand the diversity and scope of different roles in the performing arts world (see earliest childhood dreams about being a movie star.) People don’t talk about this well in the industry, but of course, learning how one person accomplishes a task can help an individual accomplish their own. We are stronger by sharing, and I am sharing. You can follow the blog for updates on Turn West’s process and growth, as well as ideas and snippets into new ideas and completed projects. We will also be reviewing movies and film that we see, and appreciate your feedback as well.