Sunday, January 01, 2012

Knock Her Over with a Feather

I'm a happier man at the top of the run this year than I was last. 2011 started and ended well, but in the middle, the trail got rocky, not enough work, not enough confidence saved up from all-to-brief weeks of work for the long flat stretch of months during which all I seemed to do was ride the bus back and forth from NYC for auditions. And I seemed to grind my edges relentlessly on rocks in on camera acting classes in which I just couldn't seem to find the click; couldn't quite translate hard-earned stage skills into usable skills in the relentlessly-new-to-me and exotic terrain of episodic t.v. and film. It took a half dozen workshops and a wad of tuition money before, finally, I began to figure out how to get those smaller, less-used muscles to work.

But I stuck with it, and the new skills did finally begin to take, and the stage work grew more consistent, and my expectations for how it should all go have become better aligned with the realities of how things really are. By the time I got into late summer/early Autumn, I began to relax, enjoy what was I was doing at the moment, and looked ahead more eagerly than I had in months. Philadelphia finally felt more like home just as I was hitting the road for out-of-town gigs that would keep me mostly out of Philly for the next 18-36 months, depending on how it all goes. The New York Theater scene began to feel less alien. My own long-simmering writing projects began to feel more doable, and are now a way to balance my stage work, not least of all by giving me something to do when not on stage. My love life stabilized nicely. And, by now, I can say I'm the most genuinely content with myself in the world than I have... well, perhaps have ever been (my sister's reaction to that last statement was, "knock me over with a feather!")

So, as of now, 14 out of the next 19 months are booked, I get to travel a lot for both work and play (since I can keep my expenses ridiculously low by not paying any rent or mortgage, having given up on keeping an apartment until such time as I'm actually in one place long enough to use one,) I enjoy my colleagues and friends, and I'm in pretty good health. It's a good time....

And from it I hope to gain strength for the not-as-good times which will, of course, come 'round again. Life is nothing if not seasonal.*

*(which, by the way, is my answer to Bill Maher (whom we saw in concert at the Waikiki Shell on New Year's Eve, last night) when he asks: what is religion good for? What religions does well is help us gather ourselves for the cyclical seasons of our lives; spirituality, to me, is about sowing and reaping our spiritual harvests--harvests of both our individual and communal emotional lives. What religion does badly is... everything else. I'd like Maher to better understand the difference between Belief and Faith--the former is dangerous, the later, necessary.)


Cynthia McGean said...

Glad things are going so well for you. And I really like your comment on spirituality and faith. We too often throw the baby out with the bathwater on that score, and those of us on the left seem especially prone to that.

suzy vitello said...

Well said, Millstone. Keep the faith.

David Millstone said...

thank you, C and S.

I'm not clear why atheists deny the ineffable or the existential frustrations and limits of being a live (e.g., we can't be President of the U. S. and a rock star at the same time, we can't do magic, and we die), or the role of ritual and communal gathering in soothing our hurts or giving thanks for our astounding luck to be alive in the first place. Or why serious atheists make the simple error of not distinguishing between religious imagery and theology/philosophy: there's a big difference between The Man in the White Beard and a Prime Mover, for instance. I say all this as n almost-atheist myself.... just about all that stands between me and full-blown atheism is intellectual honesty... and, well, a smidgeon of hope....

Jay Paoloni said...

You seem to be a very active actor! Congratulations on your shows and gigs.
I had your same problem. I was trained as a theater actor for the first ten years of my career. Approaching camera acting was very, very difficult. Like you said, the muscles have to work much more subtly. In order to learn faster, I used to put a camera - or anything that looks like it - somewhere at face height. Then I act, trying to pretend it's a close-up, or a medium shot.
I must say it works. You become familiar with this way of acting because you re-create similar conditions to the ones on a movie set.
Very interesting post.

I am a professional actor from New York. I also have a blog where I write on acting and anything else related to it. I was looking for followers and ran into your blog.
I think you might be interested in what I write. If that is so, I'd be happy to have you as a follower, leaving comments and sharing some feedback whenever you have some.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jay Paoloni