French Postcard PhotoShoot with Rachel Stephens

Boudoir Photography. Not something I ever thought I’d be modeling for… especially in a studio classroom setting and streaming live on the internet. But I did, and it was a pretty amazing experience.

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Let’s just stop for a second and point out that I never thought I’d be modeling, period… for a whole host of practical, logistical, and (honestly) self-deprecatory reasons. But the opportunities have presented themselves a few times now, and there’s some more scheduled for this month! So… who am I to walk past the open doors to new ways to build characters and worlds?

First of all, I initially responded to a casting notice from CreativeLive for a pin-up model to model for a workshop with the fabulous Rachel Stephens Photography. Pin-ups are a whole different thing –in my mind, at least–from boudoir. They’re sassy, they’re not trying to be sexy– they’re cute and a little naughty with a wink.

So I gathered all my personal and borrowed potential pin-up gear– polka dot bikini, cute little red tennis skirt, and an awesome vintage one-piece swimsuit. But then I mentioned to the producer of the shoot that a French postcard look could also be fun. Game changed. The producers, the photographer, and I all loved the idea, I created a pinterest board full of French postcard images for inspiration and posing ideas (Warning: Several on the board are slightly NSFW, with implied and actual nudity), and on the day of the shoot we chose the corset and peignoir look.

Here’s what I love about the images I found: For the most part, there are props, it’s a set scene. The women are mostly doing something. That’s what I like about pin-ups too. And yes, as the husband pointed out, that’s part of how they got around classing it as pornography at the time. But still–I like the scene. Reading a book or writing a letter. Fixing a car sometimes. At the dressing table putting on make-up or pulling on a stocking (so many of these are shots of actresses and dancers “backstage”). They are more direct than the 1940s & ’50s style pin-ups; they let you know they are being interrupted.

Here are some of the ones Rachel pulled as poses we could do with her available set pieces and lighting:

FrnchPstCrdInspireAnd here’s how some of ours turned out. Of course, allowances need to be made for furniture, modern costuming, and the fact that this was never intended to be a fully authentic vintage shoot, but rather boudoir photography inspired by that look…. and I think we got the spirit of it!

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French Post Card, by Rachel Stephens Photography

This whole process took a lot of nerves on my part, I don’t mind telling you. To submit in the first place, to pick out the clothing options, to walk into a studio in thigh highs with my skivvies on display, to pose in front of people, to have video cameras floating all around the room, and the decision of whether to even post these photos anywhere– here on this blog or on facebook… it was all nerve racking.

But I’m so glad I did it. I decided early on to make it a useful thing. To make it an acting exercise– more practice getting comfortable in front of a camera and working with technical aspects like light and frame. To make it a character exercise, to just be someone who is confident and sultry and leaning into those uncomfortable poses. To be the women in those old pictures who stared down the cameras, holding forever while the photographer got it just right.

I also decided to make peace for the day with my parts I know are not perfect (all of them), and the parts that I am always hyper-sensitive about. Rachel’s philosophy of boudoir photos–and a large theme of this workshop– is to create images that highlight, but don’t hide the features of the women in her pictures. I heard her say over and over to other models and to me, “You’re going to look amazing. You’re going to look like you.” And that was really affecting to hear from someone I just met.

And frankly, I was really surprised by these photos. I had no idea how long my legs and neck could look (5’2″doesn’t go very far in the leg department). Apparently I must tilt my head in all my photos, because I had no idea that’s what my face looks like head-on.

I honestly had no idea I could look like this particular incarnation, that I could send out this kind of vibe. That I do look like this… with a little help from great lighting and a fabulous make-up artist, but still… it’s a realization that gives me a lot to think about, in terms of how I present myself, and what kinds of acting parts “make sense.” It’s great to feel sexy, sure, but more importantly… it makes me feel versatile. It makes me feel brave.

Lastly, here’s my favorite one.

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French Postcard, by Rachel Stephens Photography

Rachel pulled out all the stops, and did some awesome editing magic that mimics the look of the old tin-type processing used in the early 1900s. Check out the faint imprint of writing, and the stamp that would be used on the reverse side!

I love it. It looks amazing, and it looks like me.

Rachel Stephens Photography
Full creativeLIVE workshop
Rachel’s extra vintage postcard effects tutorial

Mermaid Heart

I’ve noted it here before. In the late winter, in between seasons, just-before Spring… I get restless. I become not dissatisfied, but ambitious for things I can’t see yet. I get to reaching for new or different or refocused projects or practices or just states of being who I am trying to be. March is the main culprit. February is increasingly to blame.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, or a warning, or any negative indicator of anything not perfect in my life…. the restless just is. It’s a push. It’s a call.

I found out years ago that the husband gets it, which is a relief and a deep comforting assurance of being known. And I am learning more and more each year how blessed I am to have friends who note this yearly shift, take it in stride, and encourage me to lean in, to let the restless lead me on new adventures, small or grand, within and outside myself.

From my beautiful friend family this year, I got this art print as a gift. There is possibility for enormous change right now… the specific one in question did not occur, but the world is still wide open for me over the next few months. Anyhow, they found this, and thought of me, and gave it to me, and I burst into tears to be so well seen by people I love. And now I have it in my home as a reminder of possibility and the blessing in my current surroundings.

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From The Story People.

Bright Side (or “Goodbye, Lali?!?”)

Finding the bright side of a car wreck. (I’m ok.)

I was in a car wreck today and likely totaled Lali, my beautiful little blue hatchback. I’m ok. We won’t dwell on whose fault it was, because as the cop said, in that straightforward cop way as he eyed my crunched hood melded into the other car’s rear bumper, “It’s pretty obvious what happened.”

laliwreck1Earlier today, I was having a rather prophetic chat with my work buddy (at least as far as this post is concerned). I’ve been having a high-stress couple of days, for good and bad reasons, personal and professional, and we were talking about taking stock of the good things about the various stressors. “Just try to argue with a smile on your face. It can’t be done.” Muscle memory and it’s stubbornly positive effects on mood, and all that. Fake it till you make it philosophy, y’know?

Anyhow. Then I wrecked my car. So here, I am, forcing the smile while I tally up the good things about possibly totaling my car. Most of them are sincere. Some of them are a stretch. But I am grateful. I am. I am.

Things for which to be Grateful After Wrecking your Car

The air bag didn’t leave any bruises on my nose or chest after it deployed, just immediate shortness of breath, some lasting sore spots, and a little redness. When the airbag deployed, it only broke one of the strands of my double-strand vintage bead necklace passed on from my mom (a gift from her high school graduation), and a large number of the beads turned up in my bra later. The air bag deployed.

laliwreck3My feet are not even externally bruised and from where the front of my car crunched in on them as I slammed on my brakes 3 seconds too late. They are only a little sore now, several hours later.

I didn’t inhale too much smoke, and the splattered, rivulets of red stuff on the pavement was only radiator fluid.

I hit a beautiful 2 yr old Porsche, which then hit a brand new Audi. Go big or go home. The woman in the Porsche, who was already wearing a full-leg metal brace on her left leg, aaaagh– was not not further injured. There were no passengers and no one was hurt.

I did not have my daughter in the car. LittleBird was with her daycare provider who loves her and was happy to keep her till we got there.

Due to a last-minute scheduling change, the husband was in Seattle and got to me in under 30 minutes.

Everyone else got to drive away from the scene and I got a tow truck driver with very nice roadside manner, who was both really good with a crow bar and immediately, sympathetically snide for the driver of a lowly, admittedly disty, commuter hatchback smacking into a Porsche and an Audi.

If you have to wreck your car, directly across the street from your place of work is a good place. You can call the aforementioned work buddy to come talk you out of the trees while you’re crying all over everything and waiting for the husband. A couple of your other co-workers will see it out the windows, directly facing the accident spot, likely saving you the trouble of telling everyone why you’re in late and sore the next day.

Today was one of the rare days I put my computer bag in the cargo back of the car, rather than the front floor seat, which got crunched in. The infernal machine starts and everything. The can of soda in my purse that WAS on the floor in the front seat just got really banged up and didn’t explode, so yay, ginger ale.

The insurance claims woman and the rental car guy both had amazingly comforting voices.

If I had to total a car, at least it was the one we just paid off a few months back. (sob)

The clasps on that old car seat were really tricky and probably just needed to be replaced wholesale. Plus, I needed to completely clean out my car anyhow, and now I don’t have to take it in to get the squeaky brake fixed or the 100,000 mile service.

The hot water didn’t run out in the shower, and I only have a few sore and shallow indents from the seat-belt across my stomach.

This happened to be the same night I got to babysit a very cuddly, therapeutically warm and sleepy puppy and Kanarie brought me the magic of vanishing scent Bengay, for tomorrow when I’ll need it but don’t want to smell like an old man.

The car did the job I bought it to do 7 years ago, to take me safely all over the place and handle me in case of accidents. She crumpled around me, rather than crumpling me, and cars–even my darling Lali-monster– are just things, and I will get over the adrenaline soreness and the loss, and we are all ok.

As she pulled away in the gritty grasp of the tow truck, Lali smiled at me. The lop-sided fighter’s grin. “Who takes care of you?” she seemed to cough through her smashed in grill. “I take care of you, babe.  You go on now. I got this.”

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Room Enough

You can be happy for another’s joy while grieving your own losses.

I say this for myself. Because it bears repeating, and we all need to take time to state our beliefs. If for no other reason than reminding ourselves why–and that we do–believe them.

I believe you can be happy for another’s joy while grieving your own losses.

I also say it for many people I know, to remind them of their own bravery (What else do you call confronting the fear of what you don’t have with a square hit to the jaw? To place your empty want in the direct path of a fully acknowledged, undodged, invited blow, slam-packed full of abundance that is not yours? To tilt your chin away from that huge hole of nothing, to look past yourself to those you love who have wanted and waited, to dance for their wish fulfilled?).

Be happy. Grieve.

The heart is big enough for both extremes, and designed with articulated apartments to handle it all. We are given separate spaces, enough to hold others within us, enough to steady the tremble while we dance.

Why do you suppose chambers but to allow sanctioned, barest minimal intermingling of joy and grief, or anger and relief? There are door sills that stumble entry, shades shut tight, curtains between when needed. But it’s all there. Contained. One beating muscle that makes us.

Musical Post-Mortem

While they are still fresh, I wanted to jot down some end-of-show thoughts after the Stardust Christmas Blizzard. (And possibly concoct a brilliant title for a new all-singing crime show.)

Best vocal mix to combat dry-mouth: Hot water, pineapple juice, and –if you’re feeling it—a light hit of spiced rum.

My skin and hair need a break—no make-up for as long as I can stand it (excluding mascara, naturally) and no teasing, spraying, or heat-styling for my poor hair whatsoever, nada, none, period!

“Mele Kalikimaka” is still my favorite non-religious Christmas song! I’m not even jealous I didn’t get to sing it… was just happy to hear it every night from backstage.

When I grinned like an idiot through “Rock Around the Clock,” and when I laughed out loud and interrupted my own singing at the same place every night in “Jailhouse Rock,” it was real. It was genuinely felt, and I had so much fun. Every stinking time.

It was also real when I cried at the same place on all but about 6 nights in the whole run. Sometimes you are in exactly the place you need to be to deal with your own life.

This was possibly the best-natured cast I’ve had the pleasure to work with. To a man, they were positive, considerate, dependable, drama-free, and just up for playing. It’s such a gift to just fully enjoy the people you will live with for such a long run.

I can’t say how wonderful it was to have LittleBird come to a couple rehearsals with me, and then be able to sit in the audience and see me “make believe” on a grand scale. I grew up in the back of poetry readings, and though I would never have been able to define it as a kid, I know now that being in the places your parents love is so valuable. You see what is important to them, you see them at their best and most vulnerable, at their most carefree, working hard, and enjoying the work. You see the people they choose to surround themselves with, and you learn how to listen and react, and communicate with adults.

I maintain: Dancing in shows is always the best fitness program for me… especially when I spend so much time in the car to get to the show that I have no time for working out. This go-round, I lost 5 pounds, just dancing in the 2nd act. (Even though it took me an unreasonably long amount of time to get the timing right on this ONE dance move, that was of-course captured on film. Sigh.)

It’s so good to have that moment where you realize exactly what your role is in the show. Not the named character, “Ellen,” or even the basic descriptor, “the former cast-member who returns to the club unexpectedly and in need of help.” I mean to know exactly WHY you are there, for the other characters, and for the audience. For me, in this show, it was my mission to provide weighty, emotional ballast. We joked about my having some “Debbie Downer lines” in the midst of all the feel-good merriment… but that’s what needed to happen, to remind the audience that these are real people with real problems, to give them someone to worry about and rejoice with when it turns out alright.

Went through 4 pairs of nylons, 2 bright red shellac manicures, 1 full can of hair spray, 2 hair nets, 2 pairs of insoles, 1 small bottle of spiced rum, lots of cayenne pepper-laced “magic potion,” and God only knows how many blonde hairpins.

I was ready to send the show off in style. The long run went by so quickly, for all the reasons stated above, but I am ready to have my evenings back with my family, get back to the band, and start working on other projects again. This was a rough run, with overlap from the Husband’s last show, and a truly astoundingly complicated web of childcare to get through it. But it was needed. It had been too long, and I’m so thankful my family saw it as a needed thing and just made it work.

It’s so good to be reminded, again, always, that live theatre refreshes and invigorates me for what comes next.

*All pictures but the obvious hair-selfie by Harlequin Productions.

Adieu, 2013. It’s been grand!

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! I’m on my way to the closing performance of The Stardust Christmas Blizzard —a long-running Christmas musical that’s kept me running and off the blog for a bit— but I wanted to take a minute for a little wrap up of 2013. And because I am deciding (just now this minute) that it’s likely bad luck to dwell on the frustrations and disappointments of the past year (particularly when you’re not in the mood to analyze and pull out the constructive lessons learned), I am only doing a “highlights reel” of the year.

In 2013…

It wasn’t till I started this list, and the good things kept coming, that I fully realized what a great year it’s been. There have been frustrations and disappointments, of course.. but they have been far, far out-weighed by the good. In addition to a lot of really wonderful time with my family and friends, I can look at this list and see proof of forward motion, of goals met or —more importantly— actively in progress.

Firmly entered my 30′s (coming up on 32 in a month!)

Stayed at the same job all year (what?!?)

Emceed a large-scale community arts showcase and hosted monthly poetry nights

Paid off my car

Moved into a house after 8 years in apartments (with a yard!)

Traveled to Miami with my best friend

Filmed 3 shorts and 1 industrial

Had my first big-screen, movie theatre premier for the SIFF Fly Films

Had my first co-feature poetry reading

Attended 3 poetry workshops

Wrote more poems than I realized, some of them not bad

Gigged a little and played a lot with the Band

Took LittleBird to her first baseball game

Supported some amazing friends in their creative professional endeavors, was subsequently awed by their professionalism, passion, positivity and inevitable success

Graduated from temp to employee with my consulting company (hello, health benefits!)

Celebrated 5 years of marriage

Sent poetry out and thrilled to the ensuing rejection letters

Published in a chapbook of women poets

Traveled to a resort in Playa del Carmen Mexico with the husband

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Restarted my blog, albeit sporadically, after a year+ absence

Buried (at sea) the first pet goldfish

Went to all but one opening night of the husband’s 4 shows

Hosted brunches and dinners and even one big party (not easy before in previous apartments)

Attended 2 acting/audition workshops and found regular groups that stretch my actor muscles

Lost a good deal of the remaining baby weight (who knew I’d like running?)

Bought a new car to make payments on

Pulled together the home office for my 2 work-at-home days a week

Posed for 2 photo shoots with a fabulous Make-Up Artist and Photographer

Entered the world of preschool show and tell and birthday treats (so much fun baking!)

Went to my 10 year college reunion and grand opening of the gorgeously redesigned theatre (my home away from dorm)

Survived toilet training a preschooler (just barely!)

Made a Halloween costume for LittleBird

Went back to blonde after 7 years as a brunette

Took LittleBird to see her first 2 full-length, live theatre shows (one was mine!)

Helped throw a baby shower for my big sister

Had a real Christmas tree for the first time since I left my parent’s house

Got back on stage after nearly two years in a Christmas musical

…annnnd now it’s time to close it out!

Here’s to all that lies in wait for 2014!

Solstice Poems: Susan Cooper’s “The Shortest Day”

I grew up in love with Susan Cooper’s books (The Dark Is Rising sequence!). A few year’s back, I was so pleased to find a poem of hers on these beautiful cards for sale at a Revels show… I sent them out to appreciative friends, but kept one to take out for this time of year. For added fun, you can even hear Ms. Cooper read it for you. Happy (almost) Solstice, and Welcome Yule!

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Here’s another version, a little easier to read in the image perhaps. Both are for sale at the Revels site.

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