Friday, December 28, 2012


Family is a curious thing. You don’t get to choose yours; you are just born into it, for better or for worse.  The power of influence that family has over a person is so incredible because it literally shapes that person into who they are.

I had the good fortune of getting to spend my Christmas with my family in New York City, and boy did we have a good time.

TO begin with, they flew from waterloo to Chicago and then from Chicago to New York. Their plane was late leaving from waterloo so when they arrived in Chicago they literally had to sprint from one gate to the next, and they made it with just less than ten minutes to spare! But they made it to New York and arrived to their hotel right on time. It was surreal to see them all, because for 4 months now this city has been my home, and now my family was here to visit it for the first time.

Times Square!
And we hit the ground running! On the first day we visited Grand Central Station, Times Square, and Chinatown, and then that night they all came to see Restoration Comedy at The Flea (the show I have been working on for the past few weeks.) One thing I hadn’t planned for was teaching them how to use the subway, but I had my Dad download an app to his iPhone called Hopstop, which helped them find their way back to their hotel that night.

The next day we met in Times Square and proceeded to head down to West Village to meet Eugenia (a family friend from the Waterloo Community Theater). That was really fun because we got to experience a part of New York that Wasn’t chocked full of tourists.  After Lunch I had to go work a show, so my family and I parted ways. They stayed down in the west village for a bit more and then went and saw Mary Poppins the Musical, which I hear was fantastic, and I went to go work on ResCom.

Inside the MET Museum of Art

Christmas Eve Day. We spent the morning hanging out and wandering around The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was glorious because we got to spend time just hanging out and talking and catching up, surrounded by History and Art.  Afterwards, we found this little coffee shop near Penn station that was completely deserted on the upper floor, and we made it our home for pretty much the entire afternoon. While Mom and Kristen were shoe shopping, Michael, Dad, and I just hung out and chatted. Then we went and saw The Hobbit at 48fps in IMAX 3D. It was glorious, to say the least. After the movie we all caught up and headed back to Sunnyside for a relaxing evening together. By then everyone was super tired so we just ate the baked goods that Grandma Butler had sent me a few days ago, and fell asleep.

So tired they are sleeping on the subway.
Christmas Day. At 4:30 in the morning we received word from my Grandma Craven that Grandpa Craven had passed away at 1:30am. It was tough news, to say the least. Grandpa was an awesome dude who led an awesome life and created a great family. After serving in the Marines and fighting in the Korean War, he came back to Iowa and started his own Grocery Store/Laundromat. He was a hometown hero and lead that grocery story through many years of success and raised a family all while doing it. He loved camping, boating, television, and Rush Limbaugh. He was a great man and he will be missed.

So that is how we started our Christmas Day, but we pulled together as a family and made the best of the situation. We had a few things planned for the day, but we decided to just take it easy and do whatever we felt like doing. After I gave the family my awesome present to them, we bundled up and headed out. We had lunch at an awesome little place in Chinatown known as Vanessa’s Dumpling House. From there we toured around my neighborhood, which was busy as ever. Then we went up to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Tree. It was packed, to say the least, but we got to see the tree, and it was a cool sight indeed. Then we wandered up to Central Park and proceeded to have the most awesome Carriage Ride ever. The weather was perfect, the sky was clear, and it couldn't have been more magical.

They next two days just flew by. We did lots of fun things, but before you could say Merry Christmas we were carrying the bags to the taxi and saying our goodbyes. It all went by way too fast, and I miss them already.

Lets see….I usually try to end these posts with a moral or a closing thought…. I guess it would be this: Cherish the time you get with your family. While you don’t have much choice in who you get for a family, you do have a choice in how much time you get to love them. And before you know it, they are gone…

I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that

 keep the darkness at bay... small acts of kindness and love.

Friday, December 21, 2012

To Create

I write this blog as I sit backstage during the pre-show of Restoration Comedy.  It has been a crazy week, yet again, and time is flying past me at reckless speeds. Tomorrow my family arrives in New York for a Christmas that promises to be unlike any we have had before. So look for a blog post next week chocked full of stories and experiences! But onto more pressing matters…

Today was supposed to be the end of the world. According to the Mayan Calendar and its many modern day experts, the world was supposed to end today in some sort of fiery doom. 
Now is completely useless.
Like many “end of the world” prophecies, they were proven wrong by the steady, unrelenting, march of time. The world is still spinning, the people are still going, and the sun is still shining. It wont be long until someone else steps up and declares some near distant date the actual end of the world, as had been the trend since the beginning of time. If there is one, united, ideal that we as a human race have all agreed on, its that our time here will end. We are not infinite creatures, but beings confined to a finite existence. Woah, I am getting way to philosophical here. Anyways, my point is that because the world hasn’t ended and we are about to begin a new year, I think it is time to start thinking about the future.

But before I go there,  I want to jump back to this week because I am officially done with my internship at the Lark. It is strange to think that the internship is over, because it has always been there for me since I moved here. Like an anchor, something I could depend on, something that would always be there. It was a sweet goodbye, because I had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing people, and also because it means it is time to go on to bigger and better things. Much like the philosophy of the Lark, its time to take the things I learned and apply them to my future.

And what a future! There are many exciting things coming up to look forward to in 2013! And as I sit here, backstage, before the show with Restoration Comedy, I am thinking about where I will be in a year from now. So I it is time to challenge myself, to push myself to get as much from 2013 as I can.

This past year has been amazing. In January I assisted in taking Clarke University's production of Pinter's The Caretaker show from Dubuque Iowa to Ames Iowa for the American College Theatre Festival. In May I graduated from Clarke with a BA in Theatre. Then, I spent my summer interning at The Grand Opera House working on Annie and Sweeny Todd, two similar plays about love, redemption, and the color red. In August I moved to New York, and here I am! I have stage managed a show here, assistant stage managed a show, interned, and held many and sundry odd jobs around the city. All in all it has been a good year.

I read a very compelling article on recently about the idea of creating versus consuming. What I took away from the article were many ideas that have begun to change the way I am looking at things. While consuming things like movies, books, tv shows, comic books, and theatre does make me feel happy, creating is 1000x times more fulfilling. As I look back on the 2012 I realize that the amount I have created versus the amount I have consumed is drastically out of balance because I spent most of my effort consuming things. My biggest goal for 2013 is to create and to seek out opportunities to use my creativity. So I am going to set a few goals, and I expect you all to hold me to them! Hopefully then, in a year, I can look back on this blog post and see if I have truly done what I have wanted to do. It’s easy to set goals at the beginning of the year, and then forget about them after a month, but it wont be so easy with all of you making sure I do them. My hope is twofold: that by sharing this list with hundreds of people that you can all make sure I achieve what I wanted to, and to also inspire you to do the same and make a list of your own! Make a list of goals that are specific, and then achieve them! Its simple :) Oh, and to make it really challenging, they should be goals  that cause you to create something, not to consume something. Going on a diet doesn’t count, and working out more doesn’t count, because you are consuming, not creating. If you want to have a good year, create something.

So here is my list:

1: Direct a play/musical
            It’s time to start right? I mean it is what I want to do with my LIFE. I spent 4 years in college with amazing talented theatre friends and I only directed one thing? Epic fail on my part. SO my first goal is to take some initiative and direct a play/musical.

2: Write a screenplay
            Its time to confess. Ever since starting this blog I have found that I actually enjoy writing. I have no clue if I am any good at it, but its fun. So, to further this newfound passion, I want to challenge myself to write a screenplay. I have a list of ideas for movies that I have been keeping since I was literally 12 years old and filming movies in the back yard with my brothers. I want to challenge myself to make one of these ideas into an actual screenplay. Then, when I do, I am going to share it with all of you devoted readers, and get your feedback on the pros and cons of the piece. Where it goes from there? Who knows? Maybe it gets turned into something, or maybe it sits on my hard drive…

3: Continue Blogging
            It’s time to get real. This blog has kind of become a staple in my life, and I don’t want that to change. I am happy that people are getting enjoyment out of keeping up with my adventures, so I want that to continue. If I forget to blog, please kindly yell at me. Thanks.

That’s all the goals I have right now, but I think they are good ones. Again, I encourage you all to make goals of your own! And make them a positive action of creation. Its easy to consume, but it takes guts to create. So take a risk and create something this next year! Until Next Time!

 "Do the math: How much of your time is spent consuming things other people made (TV, music, video games, websites) versus making your own? Only one of those adds to your value as a human being."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5 Wisdoms for the Auditioning Actor

He is just asking to get high-fived
I commute to work by bike. When I am not weaving in and out of traffic, I am typically dodging peoples who think they are not peoples and are walking in the bike lane. This can be rather stressful, especially coupled with the air I am breathing which is probably somewhere around 20% oxygen,75% Car exhaust, and 5% shattered dreams. So while biking to work I am compelled to find some-sort of enjoyment out of it.. and I have, and it is good. I high-five people who are hailing cabs. There is nothing more hilarious then the look on peoples face of pure surprise to get randomly high-fived by some deranged (me) bike rider speeding past them. Its these little joy's that get me through the day :)

So when brain-storming what to blog about this week, I thought it would be fun to do another installment of "Wisdoms" for future wanna-be New Yorker's. But I couldn't think of anything. So instead I am going to draw off of my three week of audition monitoring at Actors Equity and create some wisdom's for actors, but really these ideas can carry over into any profession or life trade, so even if you are not an actor, read on! Also, as a disclaimer, this is not a venting blog post. I love my job and I love the people I get to meet. I simply want to impart some advice to help all you actors be better you's.

5 Wisdoms for the Auditioning Actor

Be ready for the audition before the audition.

As Scar would say, Be Prepared. One thing I have noticed is that some actors arrive at the audition location with all their audition materials in their bags, but not much of it assembled. A lot of the audition locations are kind enough to provide scissors and staplers for actors to get their head-shot and resume put together, but is this something you want to be doing right before the audition? And what if the building out of staples? Take a few minuets before you leave your apartment, and get all your stuff put together so that when you arrive, you can focus entirely on preparing for the audition. That being said....

Know what you are auditioning for.

I worked an audition recently, and while I will keep everything anonymous to cover my own butt, I will say that the audition company was looking for 3 characters specifically:  2 young African American boys age 10, and one older African American male age 30. Of the 92 or so that auditioned that day I would say 80 of them were Caucasian males and females. Odd right? Sure, it might be good to get in the room and be seen so that the casting director will remember you. But do you really want to be remembered as the girl who auditioned to play an African American Boy? Or be known as the dude who obviously did not read the casting description? I don't know, maybe you do, but whatever you do....

Do everything with confidence.

You can tell right away when someone is not confident in themselves. It is painfully obvious and sometimes you just want to go up and hug them, but you can't because that would be weird. Regardless, as you audition you have to act as if you are the most put together person in the world, because being confident inspires confidence. Its reciprocal. Look it up. When a casting director sees that you are sure of yourself, it literally makes them sure of your abilities and sometimes it can even gloss over your mistakes. Be yourself and be confident because you are a good person, and a talented person, and you deserve to be recognized. So take that into consideration and above all else....

Be happy dammit.

Believe it or not, some people are mean jerks at the auditions. Let me put this as simply as I can: NO ONE LIKE A MEAN JERK. Also, yes life sucks and is super depressing sometimes, believe me I know all too well, but don't let that carry over into your audition! When someone sees you for the very first time and see that you are depressed, they think that is an acting choice or maybe even a personality trait and will resist choosing you to be in their production. And unless you are auditioning for a Eugine O'Neil play, there is no reason to be sad and depressed for an audition! Check it at the door. Be Happy. One of the truest and most depressing quotes I know is thus: "Laugh and the world Laugh's with you, Cry and you cry alone." I love it because it is so bittersweetly true. No one likes a negative Nancy. The majority of people don't care about me, Joey Stamp, and what a depressing week I have had. (but some people DO care and when you find them cling on to them for dear life because how often are you going to find someone who gives a damn about you! But I digress...) And to conclude...

Have fun and be fun

Auditioning is a painful, long, and stressful process. It taxes the mind by having to learn so many songs and monologues, and it taxes the soul by having to be rejected so many times. Yes, you will be rejected. A lot. Even Kristen Chenoweth got rejected at auditions at one point. Keep going. You will meet a lot of people at these auditions, and when you do, engage them in meaningful conversation! Have fun with them, get to know them, get to know everyone. Be a fun person and people will gravitate to you. Feed off of that positive energy and let it fuel the rest of your day. The same audition I worked at where all the white people were auditioning for all the black people roles was one of the best memories I have in New York so far because of how much fun it was at the auditon just getting to talk to people and joke around and hangout all day with other theater minds. Life will present you with many opportunities, don't let them pass you by...

Well there you have it. 5 Wisdoms for all you all. And like I said, while these are geared towards auditioning actors, they can be applied to real life. Seriously. Just go back and re-read the blog post and replace the word "actor" with "human being" and the word "audition" with "life experience" and it practically fits in any situation. Until Next Time!

"Can anybody find me Somebody to love?"

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Incredible Generosity

The street below my apartment.
It has been one heck of a week here in NYC. The show I am working on, Restoration Comedy, has gone into previews, work has been picking up at Actors Equity, The Lark continues to be a great place to internship, and I moved myself to Chinatown from Sunnyside completely by bike and utter determination.  So I am officially living in my new apartment, which is an absolutely amazing place. I live above a Vietnamese Cuisine restaurant and an Asian Grocery Store. There are open fish and fruit markets on my block, some great Chinese food restaurants  and even a bubble tea cafe! Things couldn't get any better than this right? Wrong. One more amazing thing happened this week that has literally sent me over the edge with joy.

This story is a perfect example of how work is found and connections are made.

My Father was visiting family member Uncle Dave (or Buddha as he likes to be called) and brought up the topic of me living in New York. Buddha then told my Dad that I had to meet a photographer friend of his who lives and works in New York City. My Dad emailed me this photographers information, and I decided that I would try and meet him to seek out the advice from a working photographer in New York City, since photography is a career path I am considering. Well I come to find out that the photographer is non other than Andrew Moore, a published and internationally recognized photographer.( I was a little nervous to go meet him, to say the least.  

So I went and met him at his studio, and after he insisted on buying me lunch, I proceeded to have one of the most amazing conversations with Andrew. He asked me where I came from, and where I wanted to go to. I had given him some very general, non-committal, answers of "I maybe want to do photography, or maybe theater,  maybe film, probably direct." Then Andrew gave me a very welcomed wake up call. He told me his story about how he has always wanted to be a photographer, and that he struggled in New York for many years, but continually took steps to be a photographer. He said that one of the dangers of this city is that it can pull you in many directions and sometimes take you down a path away from what you ultimately want to do, because of the large amount of opportunities. This really opened my eyes and made me realize that with my goals, I was being way to general, and because of that I was potentially leaving myself open to going down wrong career paths. This idea rocked-my-world, in a very good way. 

We continued with our conversation and, as I was processing all this, I did confide in him that I really do want to be a director. It has always been what I wanted to be, though I haven't always been taking active steps towards it. Then he decided to help me. Andrew said that he once took a class because he was supposed to direct, and wanted to have a good knowledge of what to do as a director. He hasn't directed in many years, but this class was one of the most memorable experience of his life. He told me that if I wanted to, he could help me get interviewed to be in this class. The teacher of this class is none other that Wynn Handman. (

To give you an idea of Wynn Handman, here are a few actors he has trained: Alec Baldwin, James Caan, Kathleen Chalfant, Chris Cooper, Michael Douglas, Sandy Duncan, Mia Farrow, Christopher George, Richard Gere, Joel Grey, Frank Langella, John Leguizamo, Susan Lucci, Burt Reynolds, Tony Roberts, Anna Deveare Smith, Mira Sorvino, Christopher Walken, Denzel Washington and Joanne Woodward.

After serving in World War II, Wynn moved back to New York and studied under the up and coming acting teacher Sanford Meisner, and was his personal assistant for 5 years. He then started teaching his own acting classes, and has been teaching for over 60 years and there are still long lines of actors auditioning to get into this man's class. 

Andrew thought it would be great for me to observe this class as a director because the techniques that Wynn uses translate directly into directorial skills of working with actors. To have the chance to be interviewed for this class was incredible, so I told Andrew that yes, I would love to go in and interview. 

Two days ago I met Wynn's Assistant for a first round interview, and passed. Yesterday I met Wynn himself for a one on one interview to see if I would be a good fit. Today I am glad to tell you all that I am ACCEPTED into Wynn's Class!!!!!

I had an amazing interview with this man. The best part was when he asked me what my favorite plays were. I told him The Merchant of Venice was my favorite play and he quoted, word for word, a monologue from it. We then discussed Pinter's The Caretaker, Beckett's Waiting for Gadot, and how Shakespeare summed up both of these plays in Macbeth's "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow..." speech. It was literally one of the moving 10-minute discussions of my life. If the class is anything like that discussion, it is going to be amazing.

And that's been my week. Take note people, connections are what decide if you make it or break it. So I owe a big thanks to Buddha who helped me meet Andrew, and big thanks to Andrew who, through incredible generosity, bought me lunch and is now the reason I am taking this class with Wynn. And who knows where I'll go from there... Until Next Time!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)