Good Riddance, 2014

December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

This is my last blog post of the year!

I’m going on vacation after this week. I’m not going anywhere, I’m just going to take a break after a long, challenging and tiring year. I’m looking forward to working on this and maybe making some of these and actually reading the newspaper that comes every weekend and maybe a book.  Ambitious, I know.

As I mentioned rather recently, 2014 has not been especially good or kind to me but what really held me together and got me through (apart from my husband who is especially good and kind in general) was regularly putting focus on all of the good things in and about my life in spite of my difficulties: my husband (as mentioned), our kiddo, living in NYC, the privilege of pursuing artistic goals, cookies . . . you get the idea. So as I sign off ’till 2015, I want to do two things:

ONE – Shout out the good people

This year, just as the sh*t was hitting the fan, I started working with Roz Coleman. She has been an amazing coach and mentor as I continue to push forward with my goals as both an actor and a creator, and I’ve gotten so much out of working with her.  I can’t wait to dive back in in January.

The Signature Theater provided a season of outstanding productions.  I saw many (though not all) and was enriched by each and every one.

I also spent a lot of time around doctors and hospitals and I want to sing the praises of the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. The doctors and nurses I encountered there were excellent professionally and, in most cases, just lovely people. I kind of miss seeing them.

Finally, this fall/winter I had back surgery AND my brother broke his foot. We were both treated superlatively at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Shout-outs, also, to the Bank Street Book Store, The Studio School, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan and the Children’s Museum of ArtTrader Joe’s and AAA also had memorably upstanding moments this past year.

TWO – Remind us all to give.

There’s a lot going on in the world.  A lot of people are working really hard to make the world better.  The good news, is that you agree with a bunch of those hard-working people.  (You disagree with plenty of them too.)  I encourage you to  pick a cause you support or a group doing the work you wish you had the wherewithal to do yourself, and make a contribution. Even if it’s just a small amount, I find voting with one’s feet (where “feet” = dollars) both gratifying and fortifying.

I like the Musella Foundation, Newspapers In Education, The Southern Center for Human Rights, The New York Neo-Futurists, and Urban Pathways.  More generally, I like to support my favorite public radio station, local farms/healthy food programs, and often my alma mater gets a little something.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about who’s doing the work around race and racism that I want to support this year (leave a comment if you have suggestions).

My lists are by no means exhaustive, just a tip of the hat before I sign off for the year.  Who are your favorites from 2014?  Who did especially right by you in one way or another?  Let us know in the comments!

I hope you have a warm, healthy, safe and happy holiday season!  xo ee

Breaking Ground on Gemma & The Bear

December 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

This past weekend we began principal photography on my web series, Gemma & The Bear!  It was so exciting to finally arrive at the moment where the project crossed over from being completely theoretical to becoming a reality.  Our cast and crew were amazing – our challenge was to shoot ALL of the scenes that take place in an office in just one weekend (we’re filming all six episodes in our first season at once, according to location, to save time and money).  Not counting clean-up and set-up, I figure we filmed for about 28 hours between those two days.  I’m still exhausted, but it’s that great kind of good-feeling tired that you get from working really hard on exactly the thing you want to be working on . . . and feeling like the effort produced good results.

If you’d like a teeny peek, check out the new promo video our director cut from some of the weekend’s footage.

We’ve got two more days of filming coming up next Wednesday and Thursday so while I go work on pre-production of those, here are some photos of this past weekend.

Kevin ("The Bear"), Jack (A.C.), Kienan (Sound), Matt (Director), Jason (D.P.), and Debargo ("Tom") working on one of the first shots of Day 2

Kevin (“The Bear”), Jack (A.C.), Kienan (Sound), Matt (Director), Jason (D.P.), and Debargo (“Tom”) working on one of the first shots of Day 2

Debargo Sanyal as "Tom"

Debargo Sanyal as “Tom”

Me as "Gemma," while my brother (doing some background work for us), tries to get our attention.

Me as “Gemma,” while my brother (doing some background work for us), tries to get our attention.

Poster for G-Rap - the fictional client for whom Gemma's working on a big presentation - in their heyday as rappers (in the show, they've become entrepreneurs).

Poster for G-Rap – the fictional client for whom Gemma’s working on a big presentation – in their heyday as rappers (in the show, they’ve become entrepreneurs).

JC Montgomery and Brian Russell as G-Rap on set

JC Montgomery and Brian Russell as G-Rap on set

Natalie Kim as Gemma's boss, "Karen"

Natalie Kim as Gemma’s boss, “Karen”

We’re all so excited to share the show with you!  We have a very in-progress website where you can check for more info and updates: gemmaandthebear.com

Okay, White People. What Are We Gonna Do Here?

December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Okay.  Here’s what’s tricky: I’m pretty sure that I’m one of the last people who has any authority to speak on issues of race and/or racism in our country.  I am not a person of color.  I am not a scholar on this issue.  I am not an activist in this realm.  Historically, for these reasons, I’ve kept my (literal and figurative) mouth shut and if you’re mad at me already, please just don’t read any further.

I’m trying to figure out how to do better.  What can I do EVERY DAY to stop racism in our country?  That’s what I want to figure out.  That’s the question I keep coming back to.  I think a lot of nice, liberal, white folks like myself think that if we’re not perpetrating racist acts, then what else can we do?  First, I wonder how accurate we are in our assessment of our non-participation in racism and then, I think passively not contributing to the problem might not be enough anymore since the problem isn’t resolving itself.  I think we need an action plan – things we can and will do to stop racism every day.

So, here’s my first draft of an action plan for myself:

1. “M.O.M.S.” or “TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY”

My dad used to say this thing: “MOMS: Mind Open, Mouth Shut,” and then he’d continue, “Mouth Open, Mind Shut” and kind of smile and nod like “see what I did there?”  And in High School, my best friend (who is a black woman) talked about how, after a while, the assumption that the burden is on black people to educate whites about black history and racism and all the in-between issues in the black community gets really tedious and tiresome and feels, frankly, unfair.

Yeah, white people, it isn’t our “fault” that we were born white, but who cares?! Don’t we all have a responsibility to contribute towards a healthy and just society?

A friend recently shared this article with me written by a Vassar professor about his experiences of racism in and around the Vassar campus.  The article is well written and an excellent and upsetting read.  It stung all the more because I went to Vassar.  I remember how bad it was racially; I’m really sad to hear how that has continued.

I’d like to see us all reading more articles like this (not that I want more reasons for these articles – no way!).  I’d like to see us taking more responsibility for understanding experiences outside of ours.  I’d like us to practice not assuming that we know. We don’t know.  We’ll never really know, because we’re white.  But we could do a lot better at trying to understand.  (Here’s an excellent Story Corps piece in a related vein. It is powerful and worthwhile.)

2. SPEAK UP . . . TO OTHER WHITE PEOPLE

A friend just posted on Facebook that he overheard three different sets of tourists refer to peaceful protests about the Eric Garner case as “riots.”  I wonder if the time hasn’t come for us all to be braver and speak up when we hear things like that.  It’s so hard! What if those people yell at you? What if they’re crazy? What difference can our speaking up make anyway?  Well . . .

A. I think we need to do some thinking about what we might say in these situations so that we can say it in the way that’s most likely to be heard.  (My vote: calmly, and in a way that conveys bewilderment at their crazy statement as opposed to any kind of anger, attack or criticism – not that we don’t feel those things, just that conveying them in that moment, I think, is unhelpful.)  I appreciated this post about how to speak and argue about Ferguson, less for its content and more for the example it sets.  What if we all left the house armed with the ability to persuasively speak against a variety of racist events we might see every day?  And then spoke up accordingly?

B. Very recently, the issue sweeping the (social) media was harassment of women, specifically cat-calling on the street.  One of the strategies that was widely encouraged was that guys who don’t agree with this behavior speak up to the men perpetrating it.  I think the same strategy could make a difference here.  (Almost) No one wants to be called a racist – explicitly or implicitly – and while speaking up in the moment might not be satisfying to us, we don’t know how it might affect that person’s behavior in the future.  Let’s just question it instead of letting it slide.

I know this feels scary (and I’m not advocating crazy-risk-taking) but, if you read the news, I think being black probably involves lots of moments day-to-day that feel scary, so maybe we could step it up in the bravery department, white folks.

3. SPEAK UP – PART TWO

As I said at the top, I’m waaaaaayyyyy down on the list of people you want to read or listen to about racism.  The problem is, white people don’t like to talk about racism; we’re all afraid, if we speak up, we’ll BE racist or SEEM racist.  But then the onus is put back on the black community to talk about the issue and the whole issue itself gets siloed . . . which lets white people keep avoiding it.  No good.

We have to do our homework – so that we’re trying our hardest NOT to be idiots when we talk about race (and we have to take our lumps when we blow it, and learn from that, like I might after I post this blog) – but then I think we have to start talking about it.  We have to own our part of this issue (hint: it’s a BIG part, like, pretty much the whole thing) so that we can change.  WE NEED TO CHANGE.  WE need to DO BETTER.

SO, I AM INVITING YOU TO SPEAK UP TO ME (and not just if you’re white). Am I on the right track?  Am I way off?  Do you have different or better ideas?  What’s your action plan against racism?  Leave a comment.  We’re not going to solve this here on my blog but I want to do better and if you’re reading this and you feel the same, maybe we can help each other with that.

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