Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection & Get it Going

"I do not want to die until I have faithfully made the most of my talent and cultivated the seed that was placed in me, until the last small twig has grown."
- Kathe Kollwitz

Please excuse my absence from this blog. I do not have a note from my parents or from my doctor. But I think that my excuse is as good as that: I've been in a play. Well, I've been in a few plays the past couple of months. Needless to say, it has been taking up most of my time (and sanity... in a good way!).

Speaking of acting, you know, it's not easy doing that... acting, I mean. It's hard enough when you're in college and you're doing a crazy uncomfortable scene and you have an acting teacher yelling "step dance! STEP DANCE!" during your scene. It's even harder when you live in a city that isn't New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Of course, I'm sure living in those cities is challenging enough, and presents other challenges that I'm not even aware of, but what's challenging about living here is that there isn't as much professional work to be done. There are three, maybe four major theatre companies in town, and if you don't get cast in a show with them then it's up to you to piece together work here and there. 

What's even harder about that is when you're 5'1", not exactly skinny (something I'm working to change), and 23 years old but look 15. Somehow, there's something about that that just doesn't scream "ingenue!" or "Lady Macbeth!" It can be frustrating, it can be gut-wrenching, but it can also be breathtaking. There's nothing like that moment onstage when you're doing a scene with another actor and you're both completely, 100% invested. I've never done drugs, but I would imagine that it's a lot like that. It's what I breathe for, walk for, live for. Without it, I don't think I'd be able to speak. It is, hands down, the love of my life - and I would walk across the Sahara Desert to perform if that's what it took.

So what do you do when you have the drive, the passion, but no acting job?

What an act of providence that at this point in my life I would pick up Kathy Griffin's Official Book Club Selection. I have always loved Kathy for her honesty. I think that the most important thing about being an artist is being as honest as you can in whatever arena you choose. Not only is Kathy honest about the people around her, which is fantastic and deliciously SCANDALOUS! (exclamation point!), but when things happen in her personal life, she is honest and forthcoming about those, too. She doesn't just talk about celebrities in her book. She talks about her past - dark moments in her past. She talks about love, her losses, her embarrassments, her heartbreaks. She isn't afraid to be honest about herself.

What I didn't realize until reading her book is that Kathy is also a PRO. She has studied her craft, she has worked hard, and she never stops working hard. She attended the LEE STRASBERG INSTITUTE. Yes, the Lee Strasberg that reinvented "the method" and taught Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, and Marlon Brando. Yes, the Lee Strasberg that every serious actor has studied. She also studied with the Groundlings, the Olympics of comedy, and was a cast member there for a long time.

But this is the part that really hooked me. Kathy is a short gal, like myself. Not Brooke Shields. She doesn't scream "ingenue!" or "Lady Macbeth!" but she is EXTREMELY passionate about what she does. She knows that she's the Rhoda, not the Mary. What's more, she doesn't WANT to be the Mary (but who would prefer to be Mary when RHODA'S around? If you would, I don't think we can be friends). So what did she do when Lorne Michaels wouldn't give her a job on SNL? Or when she couldn't get the roles that she wanted? Or when audiences didn't know how to respond to her particular brand of comedy?

She blazed her own path.

She, along with Janeane Garofalo and some others, started a weekly comedy act called "Hot Cup of Talk." They brought a timer onstage, set it to 15 minutes, and when the timer buzzed your act was done and it was time for the next person to come onstage. You could perform whatever material you wanted  for 15 minutes, but you couldn't go over your time and you could never repeat the same material twice (NEVER - not even months or years later).

Soon, audiences started taking notice. This was the gig - the gig she created herself - that got her noticed. She knew what her strengths and weaknesses were, and when she didn't see an available avenue in the entertainment industry she MADE ONE! Not necessarily for "fame," but because she had drive, energy, and the desire to work. People couldn't deny or ignore her talent, because she found the venue that suited it best instead of pretending to be something or someone else.

Kathy made people see that being different was an advantage.

Kathy, you are my hero. 

I will always believe that hard work, creativity, passion, commitment, and intelligence are the most important qualities in an artist. I respect artists who own those qualities, and Kathy is one of them. 

AND I believe that when you are passionate about what you do, you will find a way to do it regardless of the opportunities presented to you. That is success - finding a way to do what moves you.

So stop sitting around, waiting for someone to hand you your dream job! Assess your strengths and weaknesses. What can you do to better yourself? What can you do to make yourself stronger? It's time to take things into your own very capable hands and show the world your beautiful uniqueness. 

1 comment:

  1. Ok, I've been debating buying this book, but now I most definitely will. So glad to hear that you like it and that Kathy deserves all the adoration we have for her!


Related Posts with Thumbnails