"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Monday, July 23, 2012

Last Night

Last night, I went back to the restaurant I hadn't taken a shift for in over 6 months. We needed the money, so on the black pants, the black non-skid work shoes, the black apron. On the tie. On the serving tray.

I slipped into it pretty easily enough. But at my second table, I couldn't remember if it was 202 or 22. The customer asked what I thought of a particular wine that not only did we not have the last time I worked there, but I had no idea how to spell the dang thing, which meant that finding it in the computer was also going to be a challenge.

I look behind me and I'd been quadruple sat. And why was everyone taking their sweet, sweet time hemming and hawing at the menu when I need to put these dang orders in?!

People started getting angry, I still didn't know 2 table numbers and then, right when I was about to put in the 6 tables worth of orders, the guy's spaghetti on table 3 fell to the floor. So now I had to go to the kitchen to replace it and clean it up. Worst of all, I overheard one of my coworkers, standing against the bar, not helping, say, "Why didn't she clean it up first?" Why don't you clean it up first?!  It's YOUR table!!!

And then I woke up.


Several years ago, on a walk in our neighborhood, my husband who was only my boyfriend at the time, said that he wanted to get to the point where he could make me stop waiting tables. "Er... I wouldn't 'make' you stop, I would just want you to have that optio--" "No!" I said, "Make me stop! That is the sexiest thing anyone has ever said to me!"

And we got to that point. I have not waited on a single table since April of 2011. It's been over a year.

Now I write and produce and act in an interactive monthly show my friends and I created. I'm telecommuting a job that I really enjoy from the comforts of my own home. I get to be creative and I have freedom to dash off to auditions without the fear of having to find someone to cover my shift. Without the fear of getting to my shift late. Without the fear of having to tell my agent, sorry, no one can cover me so I can't go to that casting.

I don't have the constant back pain, the hurt feet, the sleep at 3am, wake up at noon problems. I don't have cheap customers on a date they can't afford. I don't have happy hour shifts where my tips are cut in half. I don't have to say, "Sorry, I'm working this weekend," to people who want to invite me to parties or events.

I do miss some aspects, though. I take pride in my work, and I was a waitress for a very long time. And if you want to find some really cool, fun, incredibly creative people? Go to a restaurant and talk to the serving and bartending staff. I met My Lady of Awesome when she was a food runner at the restaurant I served at. She brought in her guy later to host, and I met my husband for the first time at the pizza rail in that same restaurant. (Thank you Universe for bringing my three major loves to me at UNIVERSAL CITY!)

I miss the tables of 40 year old beer drinking, just off work men. I loved them. They could take my sarcasm - they loved me for it! And would always request my sections and tip huge.

I miss the jokes and improv'ing with the tables.

I miss having a community of people who had similar dreams and goals and also knew this job was a means to an end, but still did it with integrity and pride.

But I do not miss the rest of it.

I had, for the most part, a great time doing it. I made a lot of friends I'm still in contact with today. I liked knowing a menu inside and out and making suggestions or alterations to an item so that it made a table happy.

And if you yourself are waiting tables too, be good at it. Be really, really good at it. Because those truly are life skills that will help you get anything you need later in any type of career or business. But also know this: It will end. There is an end. But you have to know that no matter what, show business is a cruel mistress. She could make you come back to the black apron, the black tie, the black tray....

I still have my non-skid black work shoes in the corner of my closet.

But thank god the times I'm in a restaurant now are because I'm there to relax and eat.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Professional Jealousy

"Hey Lira,

An actor friend recently pointed me in your direction, and I'm glad he did! Your blog is helpful and encouraging, and I got a lot out of your posts regarding how to use Actors Access more effectively.  I shake my fist at those pages of tiny thumbnails!! 

Anyway, would you be interested in writing a post about how you deal with professional jealousy? I'd love to read your take on it.

Btw, I'm jumping back into acting after a 2 year hiatus, so I recently started a blog as well to chronicle my thoughts and experiences. You can see it at if you're interested!


HeyVanessa! Thanks for reading! I too shake my fist at those pages and pages and pages of tiny thumbnails!

Okay, professional jealousy is a really tough subject to talk about without making me sound like an enlightened asshole. I think a lot of being okay with where you are in your career is due to understanding the business, rationalizing, and maturity.

Also, being a middle child helps. We look at both sides of everything. :)

Anyways, when a friend of mine had a huge audition for a big role in a film, (and this happened just this last week) I am not jealous. I'm just not. I'm rooting for her. I've seen this poor girl struggle just as much as I have, if not more, and I want her to book this. I want her to get this part. I want the CDs to bring her in for everything.

I've had a friend shoot a pilot. I wanted it to be picked up. It wasn't, and I think I was more sad about it than she was.

I have a friend who is producing a ton of stuff, made a few films with star names in them, is making a few more - and pioneering the next wave of the future (seriously. she's a genius.) and I'm so proud of her.

First, you have to understand the business. When CD's have a lead for a pilot they need to cast, who's a young 20something, any ethnicity actress, they are going to call in those with a major resume. Someone who has a resume with series regular, huge guest star, and recurring credits. Someone who they know well. Someone who is probably already a name.

They are going to bring in actors who have been acting since they were babies. Actors whose parents started them down this path with the understanding that if they got their child an agent, their baby could be doing Huggies and Gerber commercials and making all their college tuition money themselves. And hey, if the kid hates it by the time they're aware of what's happening, they'll stop. Simple, easy, and a ton of money to be made.

I aint gonna lie. If I have a baby, I'm doing the same.

So already, if you were born and raised in LA, your chances are already a million times better than even the hot girl's who just graduated from Yale Drama School.

They're going to call in people with a ton of experience already under the belt. Millions of dollars are resting on the lead, and she needs to be able to deliver the goods. If you understand the business, it helps you understand that you are at the bottom. And it's okay. Everyone has their own climb.

Rationalizing is a wonderful tool. What does your friend have, that you do not? Have they been constantly hustling for the last ten straight years? Do they do stand up? Did they intern at an agency? Did they assist a casting director? Are they constantly making their own projects and promoting them? Did you do any of that? Maybe your friend has earned everything they're now getting.

And finally, maturity, which is really going deep inside yourself and trying to pick out what being jealous means.

Jealousy is an emotion that is rooted in fear. Are you scared you won't ever get the things your friends have? Are you scared you won't ever find success here? Are you scared this will never pan out?

Get rid of all that - fully commit to being in this town and working hard for 10 years before seeing any of it pay off. Understand that being scared is okay: We're ALL EFFING TERRIFIED! This could seriously never work out for any of us.

And if you're scared of that, look deep within yourself again and see what else you love and are drawn to that would involve you being creative and helping people.

Not being a working actress isn't the be all end all. You're far too amazing and talented to just be one thing.

Be a hyphenate. Be an actress-artist. Be an actress-blogger. (I enjoy it!) Be an actress-creator.


Create, create, create.

It's hard to be jealous of other people when you fully enjoy and love everything you do.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

An Attitude Adjustment

Charlotte emailed me the other day and I'm going to dissect a few things that stand out.

Charlotte, we don't know each other so I want you to know, I am giving you this advice with nothing but love. It might not sound like it, but I want you to succeed. In order for that to happen, however, you have to look at what you've done and see that you already are succeeding. We just need to give you a little bit an attitude adjustment.

Let's take a look here:

Alright well i guess i should begin with letting you know im 16 and unfortunately stationed in Birmingham , AL (every theatre kids nightmare).  
I don't know why you feel the need to trash the city you live in. Birmingham has plenty of history and tons of things to do. Opening with that turns me off and makes me wary because you're coming to me for advice from a place of deep ungratefulness for the life you currently have. That makes me think that if you don't like my advice, you're going to discount everything I've said and all the time and effort I've put into my advice for you. You will then blame me for your unhappiness. That's a lot of pressure!  
anyways with things to think about like my future all i want to do it act, sing, and dance. ive trained in ballet, hip hop, and tap for 12 years. I take singing lessons from The Amy Murphy studio (mixed belt soprano)and I also take acting lessons. 
Did you take all your classes in Birmingham? Would you have not had those opportunities if you lived elsewhere? Do you understand why someone could be taken aback from your attitude?
All i want to do in life is theatre and/or musical theatre obviously im interested in broadway and actual movies, but being realistic realize college is necessary. what would you reccomened as top schools for musical theatre or theatre? do you know of any less known places? prefered locations are cali or new york tho anywhere would b alright. also I read some of this on your blog but what is your view on the American musical dramatic academy.. it sounds almost to good to be true.

I cannot tell you my recommendations for musical theatre or theatre schools because a school that I would consider to be excellent for me, might not fit your needs. You need to do your own research and contact the schools you're interested in to learn about their curricula and requirements.  You've been studying the performing arts for over a decade - any school would be lucky to have you - but you need to also believe that you would be lucky to have the school you eventually get accepted into. Your email to me, with a distasteful opening and multiple spelling and grammatical errors, as well as an admittance to only skimming an article about a subject I already covered, leads me to believe that although you are showing me that acting and dancing is your life and you are 100% committed to performing onstage, you are also lazy when it comes to anything you have to do offstage.

As a musical theatre school grad, YOU are going to have to be in charge of your career. YOU are going to have to learn how to brand, promote, and sell yourself. You might get cast in every production your college produces. You might never know what it's like to not have your name on the cast list. But then, once you're out of school, and you're competing in the real world where there are thousands of girls just as pretty, just as talented, and just as amazing, the only thing that will separate you is your attitude and work ethic. Now, at 16, YOU are going to have to make sure that the incredibly talented actress and dancer you want to become, is a smart, articulate, and humble actress and dancer now. You are going to have a fan base; you probably already have one, and you need to remember that the only way to keep them, and to grow them, is to always thank them for continuing to support you. Without fans to come and watch you dance, sing, and act, you have no one to perform for, and are therefore not a performer.

Being an actress, and especially being a struggling one, is incredibly hard work. I hope you never have to find that out. I hope that it is all very easy for you and I know all of your fans and friends and family hope the same. But only for as long as you're kind, respectful, hard working, and thankful.

Thanks for reading, Charlotte, and I wish you the best of luck in your college search.