Two Parts of Me Falling in Love
"I am going to be famous.”
If you ask my boyfriend, he’ll tell you that’s the first thing I ever said to him.
As if he walked up to me and said “Can I buy you a drink?” and I said “I’m going to be famous.”
It didn’t quite go down that way, but I’ll admit that like so many other actors I know, I have never been shy about spouting my ultimate goal. To be on the big screen. To win an Oscar. To have my own perfume.
It’s a weird ultimate goal to have considering my background.
I am a liberal by blood, meaning my dad is a non-profit attorney for Native Americans, my mom runs a Montessori school, and they both served in the Peace Corps. I grew up talking about how legalizing drugs in the United States would alleviate violence in Central and South America while my mom hosted dinners to help illegal immigrants work on their English. We traveled all over using the frequent flyer miles my dad accumulated from work trips to UN conferences and tribal meetings. It was often stressed in my household that a key to happiness is doing something for other people, and working in a profession that served the greater good.
So what was a poor hippie child to do after she caught the acting bug from a children’s theater performance of Aladdin at the age of 11?
I started a grass roots performance group that explored the stories of immigrants in America.
Oh wait, no I didn’t. I didn’t do that at all.
What I actually did was perform in such community theater favorites as Fiddler on The Roof, The King and I, and Oklahoma. And to be clear, I loved every second of it.
And I kept that part very separate from the part of me that joined my college debate team, took a job at a civil rights law firm, and argued about politics with all my high school friends’ Republican husbands. I say argued past tense like that because I still want to be invited over sometimes.
It’s embarrassing to admit this, but it didn’t actually occur to me until very recently that my desire to make crowds of people laugh and my desire to scream at every policy passed in Arizona in recent memory were not actually in conflict.
It happened during the Alcyone Festival in the summer of 2011 when I was cast in Fa$hion, A Love Story, written by The Lovely and Talented Coya Paz. For those of you who don’t know Coya, she specializes in ensemble-devised work that tends to be funny on the outside, with a rich social justicey filling. The show was kind of about what it means to be fashionable, but also kind of about inter-racial marriage, sweat shops, hipsters, and harem pants.
And all of the sudden, there I was. On stage, talking about things that I cared about with creative, smart people that came from further south than Roosevelt and further west than Logan Square. It was like two parts of me meeting and falling in love for the first time. It was awesome.
How simple is that? I mean, it should never have been a surprise to me that theater can be used as a platform to tear down stereotypes and build communities. It is after all the performing arts, and the arts have been used since forever to protest injustice and raise awareness.
I don’t know that I will ever stop practicing awards speeches with bottles of shampoo in the shower, or designing my red carpet look while flipping through Elle Magazine. But I like the idea that Halcyon puts forth: that a theater company can open up a city’s eyes to a whole world full of people, issues, and ideas.