Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Makings Of A Showgirl

Being a professional performer comes with many advantages. You get to travel to places that would normally be out of reach. You get to make people happy, and forget about their problems. You get to sing and dance, and escape from your own life for a moment, and breath life into a character that are just words on a page without you. And... you get to act like an over the top showgirl from time to time.

I enjoy sweat pants. A lot. I would wear them to everything I possibly could if it were socially acceptable, but now that I am out of college and working in the real world I am learning that it is important to portray yourself as someone who actually owns clothes you shouldn't sleep in. I have been known to rarely ever wear makeup, my flip-flops are my shoes of choice, and I wear whatever is clean and makes me look skinny that day. Well. I am quickly discovering that this is not the ways of a showgirl.

Showgirls are these lovely creatures that can manipulate the costumes they are given, no matter how ridiculous they are and make them look fabulous on stage. Even the most over the top stage makeup looks stunning on them. They can wield their brushes and their paste like make up and the moment they waltz on the stage eyes go directly to them. Sequins, feathers, skimpy outfits and fake eyelashes are the staples of a showgirl's wardrobe... and I have come to the realization that as an up-and coming showgirl I must dive into this unknown world of glitz and glamour head first.

I received this wake up call when I went on as Tracy in Hairspray about 5 months ago. After my whirlwind costume fitting and running places and choreography, I went into the dressing room and began to "get ready." As I sat at my mirror, I glanced at the showgirl veterans around me and realized I was so out of my league. Of course, this was not my first professional show by any means, but in shows past we had either had make-up done for us, or it was a period piece and no make-up was used at all. Well, I quickly learned that both if these instances were a rarity and that I had to learn how to make my face stage ready, not just my voice... and I had about 5 minutes to engage in a crash course. I faked my way through getting the basics down, but when it came to my eyes and cheeks I was obviously lost. When I was asked where my fake lashes were, I just kind of shrugged, chiding myself for not having known that I should have them. I have been in the business for almost two years... how could I have overlooked false eyelashes! Thank goodness the costume shop had an extra pair... but then I had to put them on. When all of the other amazon goddesses (who really are lovely) left the room I went to my dear Negdra who played Motormouth Mabel and bashfully told her I had no idea what I was doing. She put those things on faster than I could hike up my tights. And that's when I realized... I am still a young grasshopper, and I have MUCH to learn.

With my new show coming around the bend, I have taken it upon myself to be more prepared. I can't really get away with not knowing how to do these things anymore, as I am very blessed and my resume is steadily growing. So with each paycheck I have been updating my wardrobe with more appropriate clothing (bargain shopping to the max for sure), frequenting the Mac store and purchasing stage makeup and practicing applying it once everyone else has gone to bed.. and last night, I tackled the false eyelashes.

I went to my local sally's to by the cheapest pair I could find as they would only be used for practice and went home to begin my lesson for the day. I watched several tutorials on youtube and once I felt that I could tackle the unknown, I tried to do it myself. Well the first try was horrid. I thought that they were at my lash line when in reality they were in the middle of my eyelid. I looked like a first time drag queen. So I tried again. While it was better that time, they wouldn't stay on, so the third time I just applied more glue so they would stay. Well I got glue happy I guess and that's when the horror ensued. I glued my eye shut. Utterly shut. It took me twenty minutes to pry my eye back open and get all the glue out of my natural lashes. And even then every time I blinked there was a delay when my eyes were supposed to open again. Needless to say I was discouraged. And scared. So I threw in the towel and thought I would try again another time. But several hours later I was frustrated enough to try again. Its false eyelashes for goodness sakes. I have gotten jobs in some of the best regional theatres without much help, and I couldn't apply my own lashes? It was time I looked the part I have been playing and hope to play for years to come. After many many more tries and careful amounts of glue I did it. I applied a now lifeless pair of false eyelashes on my lids. 3 times. And I am very proud of myself.

I know that clothes and makeup and lashes and sequins aren't what the business is all about, trust me if it were I would get very bored and be actually rather disgusted with it. But it is a part of it. And I want to be the very best that I can possibly be in everything I do, whether that's creating a character, or gluing on some lashes. Not to mention in kind of makes me feel pretty. This is the beginning of a legitimate showgirl in the making, and I can't wait to see where it takes me!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Star Is Born... I Guess...

New York City and Hollywood are the headliners of dreams for millions. As children, many of us grow up in small towns or just say we did because we all know the most fabulous success stories start humbly, and proclaim that we will make it to "the big city" one day and be stars. Daily we fed ourselves on the performances of the icons that shaped our world. Performers like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. We beg our families to buy us tap shoes or acting lessons instead of groceries, and if that doesn't work we find another way. Whether that's getting involved in the arts at school or bartering with teachers for lessons, we find a way to become the leading lady or man we are when we close our eyes at night. But the one way that never fails, is studying these stars that came before us, and just hoping that we absorb some of their sparkle.

Yes we can learn valuable lessons from Hollywood legends gone by, but how can we take advantage of the stars that shape our today? Well, let us take a look at the icons that have risen throughout the last few years.

Let us begin with the recording industry. Music is the soul of all inspiration and transcends words when we can no longer find them. One of today's greatest artists is Kim Kardasian. Her voice is pure and powerful, showcasing her perfect pitch. No need for auto tune here folks, because Kim's voice is one of the angel's. And her songs are so meaningful and genuine. In a sea of one hit wonders catering to a crowd that just wants to move on the dance floor, Kim has found meaning once again. She puts her soul in each syllable and her heart in each measure. I hope one day that I can be half the artist that she is.

Now we move on tho the Broadway Star. The Show Girl. The Triple Threat. These fierce singer actor dancers do it all, every night at 8 o'clock, and they bring the house down with every curtain call. Whether they are belting G's, twirling triples, or fiercely monologuing, they are giving you not only the best of the best, but the best of themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the very definition in human form of the Broadway Star... Ashley Simpson. In her stint as Roxy in the well know show Chicago, Ashley was all of this and more. Gone were the days of her lip syncing on live television... she actually had to sing live for the very first time! And did she ever. Her commitment is unprecedented as well. She put her life into the lead role of this iconic show for an entire 10 weeks. This is the longest run in the history of Broadway actors. She shined. She glimmered. She danced and didn't trip once. She belted, twirled, and acted so well that people actually couldn't stand it. Not only do I commend the industry for showcasing such talent, but I hope that I one day can parallel such a spotless and persistent run.

Next is the Movie Star. They grace not only the silver screen, but our news channels, radios, and even the checkout lines where we purchase our groceries. We envy them, and we pity them all at once. We long for their life of fortune and pity the invasion of their privacy. We look to them as role models on not just how to dress and how to behave, but how to view the world and to really prioritize what is important. Who better demonstrates spotless priorities and actual talent than Lindsay Lohan. I will forever look to her for not only what to wear when I go to court, but how to successfully shoplift, go through rehab, and still have my priorities right where they belong. To put my family first and make good movies. She has made such strides in groundbreaking movies such as The Parent Trap and Freaky Friday, and who could forget Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (which also spawned her hit single of the same name and catapulted her unforgettable album) and Mean Girls (Where she also have a spotless vocal performance)? These movies have moved me so deeply, that each time I watch them, I know that I am watching something special, and walk away from them deeply changed.

The last form of modern star I will touch on in the once Movie Star now T.V Icon. This is a very rare breed of actor. Most actors start on T.V then try and jump the gap to film, but this character decided that feature film was dead, and the sitcom was where the revolution lies. He conquered the small screen in a big way, and began to look for creative ways to continue his success. He was no longer satisfied with entering the homes of millions on one of the biggest networks on television as the highest paid actor in sitcom history. He craved more. By now you know I am talking about the great mogul Charlie Sheen. He decided to broaden his horizons by doing benders of cocaine, and keeping a harem of "goddesses" handy at all times to feed his creative process. So what if it lead to him getting fired? He can become his own brand by coining witty sayings and produce his own show from the comfort of his own home that gets just as good of ratings! So what if he is behind on child support? He can just adopt some of his goddesses and makes those his new kids. Clearly Charlie Sheen has the right idea on how to achieve stardom, because every network has aired a feature piece on him in the last month.

I give you the stars we have catapulted to stardom in the last twenty years. Not only are they brimming with talent, but they are an inspiration and individuals that I strive to not only model my career after, but to shape my life like. These are the stars that the next generation of young dreamers have to look up to...

Am I the only one that thinks this is pathetic?
Disclosure: These are extreme cases, I am aware and look up to all of the professionals in the industry that are incredible at what they do. But you have to admit, this breed of star is becoming more frequent, and that is a trend that not only disappoints me, but scares me. I have my siblings that I love with all of my heart, and this is the last thing that I want them looking up to, and it's the last thing I want to model my career after.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saved By The Bell

Words are a freeing thing. At least for me they are. Especially when you can write them down. There is something about seeing exactly what you are thinking being typed out in front of you. It makes my thoughts real ya know? They may mean something to me, but they can't have any impact until I get them out of my head and into the world. That is certainly something I need to work on. Getting out of my own head. It's not only important to do for Courtney the actor, but its necessary for Courtney the person. I think the thing I need to wrap my head around and prioritize and maybe sift through better are the words of others. Which ones are important and which ones are true and which ones are necessary and which ones are meaningless? If you have the answer please... let me know. I'm tired of looking!

I am an analyzer, which I find rather amusing. For some absurd reason I must know everything about meaning and tone or I drive myself mad trying to figure it out. I become this obsessive little detective that isn't properly trained in the slightest and try and figure out what every little detail means. I not only drive myself crazy, but I become an annoyance to EVERYONE I can possibly get to talk to me about the situation. I become the energizer bunny. I don't quit. And the funny thing is, I have never, not once, figured any of it out.

I started this insane process tonight. I saw something in print that I didn't really care for that included me, and I began the ridiculous cycle of turning into Harriet the Spy. I whipped out my over sized magnifying glass ignoring the fact that I am an armature. I began to worry, fret, and even sweat over something that most likely (and always usually does when I go into this sort of tirade) means less than absolutely nothing. I then began phase two of blowing it WAY out of proportion. I began to see these words as another language and started interpreting them into what I think is universal English when really its the exclusive "Courtney is silly" speak. I began to postulate that something terrible had been unearthed about me and that somehow some intimate detail of my life had been discovered and that now this person could possibly hold the key to my undoing. Hi. My name is Courtney and I really hope that I am not the only one that does this. In the likely event that I am, I would like to take out the custom made shade of humiliation and color my entire being with it. If not, well. This sucks right?

So this went on for... well... too long. I ranted to a friend about it. Felt a touch better. Then, while sitting at my computer staring at my news feed on facebook... someone held a mirror up to my face. A piece of my past, made themselves apart of my today, and just at the right time. An old middle school friend of mine had found me on facebook... on of those friends you share secrets with and inside jokes with and just get to be a kid with. Well somehow she had heard about what I have been doing with my life and in the midst of her post to me she said "are you living those dreams you've always had?! I'm so happy and proud of you! You always were so talented!" Well... color me humbled. It wasn't what she said about me being talented or anything like that that brought me back to sanity... it was the fact that I looked at myself in the mirror she just held up to me, and I saw that I had placed myself back in middle school. Who cares if even the very worst possible scenario that I could think up IS true. I have had these dreams of mine for a very long time, that much is clear. They are the very first thing that are mentioned by a friend I haven't seen in YEARS. There have been scenes that actually played out that I made it through just fine, so why can't I get passed these imaginary ones? I need to take pride in the grown up that I am becoming, and leave my over sized magnifying glass to the next middle schooler that comes along. Words are such a freeing thing. They allow you to look at yourself in the mirror, hear the bell, pack up your bags and get back to life.