Saturday, April 25, 2009


I shut my eyes, turn away, refuse to watch the ads for cosmetics.

The pills make me shout at the TV -- "What a lie!"

Don't want to mention by name but --
That pill that claims you're pain free on two- a-day ...
That one-a-day pills that give you all the nutrients your body needs ...
That sleep pill that "isn't habit forming" which is, of course, habit forming ...
That "miracle" pill --"just one will save your life ..."

The lose weight biz -- all those "have fun, just join and you can be one of those lovely, energetic. taut-bodied girl exercisers, dancing away in well rehearsed unison -- those step up, step down boxes -- the rotating pelvis bump and grind routines -- the machines PROVED by "clinical trials," PROVED by the handsome Hunk and the well-bunned Babe with their muscular perfect torsos, teaching you everything you need to know ...

Lies. Lies. Lies!

It's not much different -- no, it's the same as those never- scrub-your-toilet-anymore devices, the spray-away-germs-guaranteed liquids -- sort of like hamburger helper, cheese whiz, SUV's, Retinol wrinkle-erase creams ... so many things there are in ads that bring on E.I. -- The Expectation Infection.

Which is a fever, one that keeps you from doing what you yourself know you need to do for pain, for keeping in shape, keeping various household things relatively sanitary. What to do? Write e-mails, letters, phone whom? What does Em suggest?

Be wary. E. I. is seriously contagious. Best to close your eyes, and hum a tune when the ads lie.

Friday, April 24, 2009


When I'm mad at someone ... (I'm remembering a dancer who quit when we came back from a tour that was long hours on the road, sometimes sleeping in the car, waking to perform a morning show, as part of a college convocation series for its student body ... I'm remembering lousy accommodations, uninteresting food, slippery stages, small audiences, listing all the not good aspects of the tour to support the dancer who quit when we came back to the city) ... I want to say to him, to her (quitters happened more than once), go ahead and quit, but our tour, and the dancing that you did with me as your artistic director and "star" was the high point. Someday you will look back and understand, I was the high point.

Gee ... that sounds like apish pounding myself on the chest -- me? Em? The high point?

I was. The work they put in, the hard tour, the dancing as part of a small size company where each person emerged as an individual -- for any dancer age 20 to 30, who was a good-enough technician, with a nice looking face, a good body, who saw the ad in the magazine and came to my audition, who needed that job, wanted that job -- that dancer wasn't likely to get a job in a Broadway show chorus where you have to be handsomer, prettier, and more spectacularly endowed with technical facility. He or she would have ended up with much much less when they decided it was time to quit.

They might have been able to impress their parents and hometown friends who recognized the name of the show, and "Broadway" -- but having a chorus job isn't a high point. High point is a use of self, beyond what you envisioned as a kid, going further, beyond what you dreamed.

That tough tour, those exhausting tours were a long time ago. The guys and gals who quit (some talented, some not very talented) were all very attractive. I had a thing about hiring "attractive" dancers, masculine looking men, women who looked feminine, because they enhanced the choreography.

Those dancers are into other things now. Dancers rarely last longer than their late thirties. Muscles give out, spirit gives out, need for other things builds and builds.

They know, because they couldn't turn back the clock and go back to those days, that the high point was the stressful, hard-working, intense, real work of that tour. And me.

You? Me? (me spelled backward is em.) It's a highpoint for me to realize this. Yes, it was a high point, a completely totally full-out using of me, and only now, can I understand it and say it loud and clear.

Not just in room full of friends, and my guys.

In the privacy of paper on which I put words, that will be seen and read by you, whoever who you are, no matter who you are.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


What do I know about job hunting?

What I know I will never forget. It's hellish. Heavy-duty depressing. It's hauling yourself around, dressed ultra carefully, braced for answering questions, and presenting yourself in shaft of sunlight. It may be a dark day, but you bring the sunshine with you.

Hold on ... when did Em the dancer ever apply for a job?

I did, three times. First, an open chorus call. Awful, awful -- changing clothes in small backstage area crowded with a few hundred girls, wedging myself into one of the lines, getting onto the stage where an assistant is demonstrating what appears to be an impossibly tricky sequence of steps. Being eliminated, by someone saying "you, you, you ... thankyouuu.

Second audition, we girls changed into our nifty tight outfits, and were told to walk in a circle -- a huge circle on stage, so one waited with one's smile till your part of the circle was downstage, and then smiled a scintillating smile.

That was enough for me. I told myself NEVER again. I earned a small but almost breakeven living, from teaching (GI's, kiddies and fat ladies) what I myself was learning each day in the two classes a day that I took.

Three years later, when I was one-half of a dance team who'd been written up in the Herald Tribune and NY Times, I went to an audition wearing a double set of falsies and performed a ten second solo I'd worked on -- sang the lyrics -- "A GOOD GIRL, A NEVER WOULD GIRL, THATS WHAT FELLAS THINK OF ME..." doing my split kicks, jumps, and turns with sexy wiggles.

And left. Did not wait for thankyouuu. All I remember is those horrible falsies, yanking them out in the dark hall before I opened the backstage door and exited.

A few years later, I was able to collect unemployment insurance, because I was on my own payroll, correctly honestly receiving a salary from my corporation, having paid into the unemployment fund. Standing in that line isn't fun. But my knowledge of how it makes an artist feel, is from my guys, the two actors in my family, JC and JD.

JC, when a show closes, always gets a glum feeling that he will never work again. I know the look -- I call it Actoritis. I know the symptoms -- sleepiness, doing errands, grounding an electrical connection, caulking a loose tile, looking for household things to repair, even though in a minute the phone will ring, and JC will be working on another show.

His father's Actoritis infected JD. He's been an actor or more than 15 years, in New York, and L.A., in theater, films, TV, and voice-overs, doing countless auditions, taking classes in auditioning. His Actoritis never really goes away. JD's a realist. Even at the party on opening night, he's quietly aware that the blossoming love he's feeling for other members of the cast will bring him pain, have him mourning in a few months .

You have to have been in a show to understand. You fully totally, belong to the family that the cast becomes. You're married to them and the lines in the play, the blocking, the routines that the show requires.

Then ... like a guillotine ... the show closes. You're unemployed. Alone. Fixing leaky faucets.

You, out in the world of regular ordinary salaried jobs -- you know how hard it is to hunt for a job, get a right job, a job with a future, a way to grow, rise, earn more and expand.

Actors are always temps. Even in a hit show, you're a temp. The star is a temp. Even if you get TV series -- the series comes to an end. And you have to start again, with the hunt, the outfits, resumes, the smile, the selling of yourself in the sunshine that you manufacture

All this is to say, the actor temp would still be my choice if I had to choose again. It's my life, I own me.

It's the actor's life, an actor OWNS himself.

No permanent job is freedom. Working in the arts is freedom. Job hunting goes with being an artist. That's why so many try it for awhile. Why we, JC, JD and I, will never give it up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


"Should I break up with him? My parents don't approve. Mom says I'm limiting myself. Dad thinks he's a dropout because he's not planning to go to college. I really love him. I think about him all the time."

(DK said she's seventeen.)

"I'm going to be working part time helping a florist this summer, before I go to college in the fall. He's 20, a trainer, two nights a week, and all day Sundays. He loves to play tournament squash, loves to cook."

DK, the answer is in the question. You wouldn't be asking if you didn't already know the answer.

You said, "I think about him all the time." Think about YOU, and your plans, DK. If what your parents think is echoing louder than your thoughts about what's next for you, then he is limiting you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


In the morning, we need the weather news. Outside our windows, it's grey tall buildings. Then, the latest news -- last night's drama, an accident, a murder, death, divorce -- we're already involved, interested , because it isn't us, it's them.

Our kings and our queens -- the sports heros, politicos, songsters, rappers, top of the chart talent -- perfect diversion from disasters, floods, fires, bombs, disease, the starving, the abused, the homeless.

No point in trying to go on with this list, you know what it is. Murder death disaster news wouldn't exist if our need for it didn't exist.

Why does it?

Why is our hunger for it, our need for it growing?

Is it our already over-crowded world, the doomful predictions based on history that move us, hurry us faster toward more, worse, worser, and beyond worst?

Will my turning it off, tuning it out make any difference? Except make me feel a very tiny bit safer, in the cocoon of house/home, America. NY where we're more or less safely monied, tucked into familiar everything.

What does all this mean -- am I complaining or bragging, because we're here and all that is there ... not surrounding me, really quite nicely, quite far far away.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Someone, when I was studying dance with Carmelita Maracci in California, put pins, slender straight pins in my brassiere.

I didn't put it on, didn't get hurt, but it was chilling.

Something like what happened to me when the dance company, (my first job as a dancer) told Charles that if he didn't fire me, they we quitting.

... It was more than chilling ...

Charles called me into the studio. Everyone was assembled. Each of them had a complaint S. said: She's rude, and aggressive."

... I'd worn her rehearsal skirt ... it was hanging with all the others, I didn't know it was reserved ...

B. said: "We think she's the one who's been stealing."

Personal things quite often disappeared from the bags and purses that dancers left on the seat, during class. A watch, some bracelets, coins. B. mentioned a silver hair clip.

... She'd shared her sandwich with me, given me half of a bar of candy, lent me a dime for a phone call yesterday, which I hadn't paid back. I didn't have much money, but I certainly wasn't a thief ...

P. and her husband, J. complained about my bitten nails, about me bragging, about the slave girl solo which Charles had given me. They said: "She's too wild. The way she's doing it, It's not dancing, It's hokey, melodramatic."

Everyone found something awful to say. Ten dancers. They were united: I was immoral, pushy, a show off, thief, liar, an unprofessional untalented dancer.

I wanted to run away and never come back, I didn't want to show up for the next day's rehearsal. I desperately wanted to quit. It was my first job paying job as a dancer. I'd told my parents, I'd already borrowed a suitcase.

A week later, I was on tour with the company . Nobody wanted to room with me. Single rooms in the hotels were very costly. I got the names of cheaper places, from desk clerks, and stayed in tourist homes. Sat by myself on the bus. Dined by myself on groceries that I bought at local supermarkets. Did my warmups, always in a corner. But, I still had my solo.

I know their names and have followed their careers -- their marriages, teaching assignments, in various schools and colleges, two of them went on to choreograph on Broadway and TV, minor shows you've never heard of. Their dreams, Broadway and TV things we had talked about as friends, sharing cokes and coffee, did not come true.

Not one of them came close to achieving what I've achieved. I made it. They didn't.

Wait a minute, why am I writing this ... ? Because I can't e-mail the bad guys? Because I don't feel revengeful -- because I'm feeling a tinge of sadness, that's vanishing like smoke and becoming plain regular breathable air?

I see that posting this is my way of forgiving them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


You write a paragraph, mm ... it feels right ... interesting ... you write more and know as the words come out that you're expressing a thought, a feeling, an observation, a secret, an idea that surprises you because you weren't aware of it being there.

Where? In you, in your collection of what ... old ideas, new impressions, random vagaries, happenstances? A smile you got, a twinge of regret, a remembrance of moment you wanted to forget? You draw upon yourself, go further, signal your fingers to tap a key, keys, spell out a sentence.

Mm ... you go on because you like the feeling, enjoy discovering, digging, digging deeper and picking up what you've found, encapsulating it. You are concentrated, even if you are interrupted you return to the mine shaft and dig in again. Dig further.

The page isn't full, but it's getting fuller, and you don't want to stop, not yet, maybe in minute, I'll re-read, no, I'll have a cup of coffee, come back and read what I've written.

Read to whom? You don't really feel like re-reading what has just been born -- you know what's there. It's still too familiar.

I'll type it out, I say the words, hear the words, I'll be reading it out loud to myself when I read it to JC. Yes! I'll read it to him!

S T o P.
I'll put it in an e-mail, to Fran? To JD? Maybe Sue? N o...
s t O P!!
T h i n k, JUST think about what's on the page.

You can't, not when it's just emerged. Experience tells you that it doesn't mean what you think it means, until the words sit, and the feeling cools, calms, fades, flattens out.

I have learned to use my dancer's will power: don't show what you've written; don't read aloud what you've written; don't send it in an e-mail, and get someone else's reaction, approval, disapproval, minor comments, major suggestions.

Shut up. Keep quiet, do what you're feeling to do with what you have written from you own fire ... Use it, fix it, rewrite it, throw it out, build it up, do whatever ... from your own fire.