Back in December my mother retired and my sister and I threw a surprise retirement party for her shortly after Christmas. We had invited a lot of people but were unsure who would actually attend since it was just two days after Christmas. One of the people who we invited is a very close family friend named Deb, and her husband and daughter. I had really hoped they would come since I hadn't seen Deb in over 15 years. As she came through the door my heart stopped and my eyes filled with tears. If there were ever a moment in my life where I've seen someone who is so much a part of who I am and became emotionally overwhelmed-that was it.
Deb was my parent's close friend from our church. She was also my babysitter. Deb was awesome and she made everything so much fun-I'm not kidding either, she always knew how to have a good time. I remember being very young and hearing her sing in the church, seeing her bake in her kitchen, and going with her to her evening job cleaning one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (La Paloma). She would always turn that oven on and make us fresh food while she was cleaning. She took me to the movies (I still remember Care Bears), she took me to the pool, to the library, and we always had so much fun. She seemed so free spirited and laid back and always saw the best in people. When her husband Dale died of Leukemia we were all devastated. It brought us closer together, and I saw a woman keep her faith and her strength even in the midst of losing her husband. And then I saw her marry an amazing man, Lynn, who has been by her side ever since with their beautiful daughter Gabi.
Throughout the years we lost touch....life happened and I hadn't seen Deb in over 15 years. As I got older I realized how much of an influence she had on me. All of those fun car rides, seeing her sing, watching her cook, her zest for life, and her ability to laugh are all things that are very much with me to this day. I have a wild and crazy fun side that surprises people who don't know me very well--well this comes from Deb! She knew how to be naughty (and still does). It was so good to see her and her family. I wanted to tell her just how much she meant to me, which I did through tears. I wanted her to know how much apart of me she is.
I think we all can be grateful and thankful in this life to be touched and influence by people who truly love us. They influence our work and our lives in ways that are seen and unseen. I find people's influence in my life becomes more and more obvious to me the older I get. I'm so grateful to those who have influenced me in my life. Mr. Rogers summed it up best in his lifetime acceptance speech when he said:
"So many people have helped me to come here to this night. Some of you are here, some are far away and some are even in Heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. 10 seconds of silence."
Let's all take a moment now and think about those people who have influenced us and helped us to become who we are. You will find that your life is full of people who truly care about you and want the best for you.
My you all have a wonderful February!
Happy New Year!
About four months ago I joined a new yoga studio in my neighborhood here in NYC, when I decided I wanted to commit to exclusively doing yoga, at least for a few months to see how I felt with the consistent practice. I began practicing yoga when I was in graduate school and immediately loved it. I felt it was the "thing" for me. Because there were no studios in close proximity in grad school my practice was irregular, and in my mind I kept telling myself that one day I would practice daily. Well it only took me a few years to finally fulfill that promise to myself (geesh).
For years here in NY I tried to get into the gym circuit lifting weights, running on the tread mill, doing the elliptical, and taking a spin class on occasion. Nothing really stuck for me, and I never found consistency. In fact I found lifting weights to mostly be dull and boring and the thought of running on a tred mill just seemed silly. I felt disconnected from my body, and even though I had worked with a private trainer for many months I wasn't seeing results that were mind blowing. I would take the occasional yoga class and feel earth shattering change on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. My inner voice would scream "YOU NEED TO BE DOING THIS EVERY DAY!" And I would ignore that. I would look up articles about how yes yoga is good for you and can keep you lean but won't help with muscle definition, but then I would read an article that said just the opposite of that. What the hell? I decided to start listening to myself, my deep inner guide.
Finally I listened to my guide and have felt a huge difference in my life, as my almost daily life is filled with yoga (hot and regular). Since doing yoga I've noticed a great deal of emotional and physical transformation. I feel stronger on many levels, but mostly spiritually I am finding that my work on the mat relates entirely to my life off of the mat. It informs my life off the mat in so many ways. While I still have a little bit of body fat that I want to let go of (someday), I am feeling the transformation physically in a very organic way. mostly in releasing the desire to look like someone else and someone I am not.
As I was working on audition sides the other day I became frustrated because I fell into some old patterns and I realized something very important...my creative process is a PRACTICE just like yoga, and in fact my LIFE is a practice. Wow that gave me pause...you mean my creative process doesn't have to be PERFECT!? It doesn't have to set in stone? Nope! You mean I can have good days and bad days?
Some days in yoga practice my headstand is really good and in others I can barely get into it. That's just the way it goes sometimes, it's just like that with my creative work too. Some days it's just easier to go with it and to be vulnerable, and other days it takes a lot of work just to staple that resume to the head shot knowing that you have be open and honest in front of strangers yet again.
The practice of headstand has it's basic technique that's extremely important in doing headstand safely and properly. Without the proper technique the pose isn't going to work. The strength in your arms is extremely important, you can't put the weight on your head (even though it's called headstand). So I compare this with the practice of doing our creative work...we have our basic foundation and if we stay true to that (it takes great strength which builds up over time) we'll be ok. We gently lift one leg and then another and we get into the pose. Maybe we're feeling a little off one day and we can't get all the way up without feeling more fatigue than usual, while the next day we could get up easily and it feels great! The point is we do it and we try. It's ALWAYS going to be different. But the process is a PRACTICE.
It's one thing for people to talk about an artistic process, just like a yoga practice...but the action of all of that says so much more. The action of an artistic process is often hard to articulate because it's so personal. Just like a yoga practice...it's easy to articulate that you went to class (an audition or whatever)--but what's happening beneath that. Usually in yoga class the mind is running...your breathing...sometimes the mind goes all over the place, and sometimes you set an intention...how do you make that intention work throughout your practice? It's the same with the artistic process..but my point is that we should all just embrace the beautiful mystery as a PRACTICE. Maybe your practice in your process is a safe personal space you create in your home to create and play...maybe you light candles and practice your sides in the dark, or maybe your practice is in a hot bath where you can really relax and say your lines freely and authentically.
Feel that relief leave you when you allow yourself to stop trying to be so fucking perfect! The beauty of practice is we can fall over and over again, the trick is showing up and getting right back up as soon as you fall.
Let's make 2016 a year of gentle practice in every aspect of our lives. I don't know about you, but I think the world could use some more gentleness.
Peace, love, and be in touch!
I'm thrilled to invite you to a special production of "It's A Wonderful Life" that I will be starring in.
Beginning this Friday December 4th at 8 PM for FIVE performances I will be George Bailey in Variations Theatre Group's Radio Production of this iconic holiday story at The Chain Theatre.
An exciting and enchanting take on the timeless Christmas and American classic with live sound effects and music. Starring Justin Randolph* as George Bailey and Leigh Anne West* as Mary. Also featuring Nick Fondulis* Clint Carter, Sebastian Gutierrez, Patrick Pizzoloruzzo*, Alexandra Rose Kopko and Jacklyn Collier*.
(These actors are appearing courtesy of Actors Equity Association)
Only 5 performances!
December 4 @ 8pm
December 6 @ 3pm
December 9 @ 8pm
December 13 @ 3pm
December 18 @ 8pm
It's a Wonderful Life appears as part of Variations Theatre Group's First Frost Festival. To purchase tickets and to get theatre location information, please visit www.variationstheatregroup.com
I hope you can make it out for this great heart warming kick into the holiday season!
Please note due to a change in venue Justin's spotlight on August 31st as been postponed. A new date will be available soon.
Two more performances LEFT Off-Broadway in My Big Gay Italian Wedding!
Saturday August 15th at 8 PM
Saturday August 22nd at 8 PM
ST. Lukes Theatre on 46th between 8th and 9th Ave.
Tickets can be purchased at www.telecharge.com
August 31st at 6:30 PM SPOTLIGHT at Polly''s Follies at ROOM 53 in NYC
Into the Woods Performances are:
Monday July 6 at 7:30 PM
Tuesday July 7 at 7:30 PM
Wednesday July 8 at 2 PM and 7:30 PM
Thursday July 9 at 7:30 PM
Friday July 10 at 7:30 PM
Saturday July 11 at 2 PM and 7:30 PM
Ticket and Information at: http://www.cpspotsdam.org/productions2015.html
Justin is thrilled to be stepping into the role of Gregorio Off-Broadway in MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING at The St. Lukes Theatre in NYC .
Tickets can be purchased at www.telecharge.com
Performance Dates w/Justin are: Saturday July 18, August 8, 15, 22, & 29th!
Hope to see you there!
Thrilled to announce I'll be playing Cinderella's Prince and the Wolf in Sondheim's Into the Woods with CPS in Potsdam, NY! I worked there a few years ago doing Beauty and the Beast and had a tremendous experience so I'm really looking forward to going back and playing one of my favorite roles of all time!
I'll post the dates soon!
I recently have had a slew of different auditions and callbacks, which has been great after a rather long
period of what has felt like a lengthy dry spell this winter. Sometimes just getting that email or call from my agent is enough to spark the “yes I’m still an actor” in me after I have periods of time when I wonder if I’ll ever work again, or even get the opportunity TO work again. The times when I get to audition and go back into the room in callbacks remind me that I’m still in the game-which is great. I had a series of callbacks for something recently that I was very excited about. The heart ache and disappointment of realizing after going so many rounds into something that you probably didn't book it just plain old sucks. The doubt creeps in immediately. Am I not good enough? Did I do something wrong? Should I have read the scene differently? Do they think I’m fat? Why am I still doing this? Do I really have to keep experiencing this tide of happiness and emptiness?
Yes I’ve been in that wicked place this week (ugh). The place of questioning everything that I do. I used to never allow myself to go there-I would push all of those negative thoughts and feelings away, desperately afraid to give into them. Well fuck that, I want to experience all of these parts of my experience. Allowing myself to question my career and my choices has been scary to me because the questioning causes me to become vulnerable. V-U-L-N-E-R-A-B-L-E is something I have NOT been comfortable being, which seems crazy since I’m an actor. For the love of God we HAVE to be vulnerable, otherwise our work is complete shit. The best artists ARE vulnerable and they embrace the fear of being vulnerable. WHY are we afraid of our vulnerability? WHY are we afraid to question our choices and to live our experiences (negative and positive) fully? Why are we afraid to admit that we’re wildly disappointed to not book a big gig?
When we admit our truth it puts us in a position where we feel exposed, like someone is sitting across from us and laughing at our pain. We feel unworthy to feel upset over something so mundane because after all there’s poverty in the world, terrorism, and things of greater importance so surely we’re being selfish. In the age of positive thinking (which I’m ALL about positive thinking) we feel guilty for thinking negative thoughts, God forbid we actually feel them. We are tortured (or maybe I’m alone in this) by the reality that negative is a part of our experience, and we just don’t want it and we certainly don’t want to give into it. I’m learning that vulnerability and true acceptance of the Universe and what is contained within it means an acceptance of the light and the dark. The positive and the negative exist within us and human our experience, and they certainly won’t be going away anytime soon (life isn't perfect). How about we try to recognize that the negative thoughts show up for a reason, as do the positive. There’s a reason I had a mental meltdown this week over the realization that I probably didn't book a role I really wanted-and what made it worse in the beginning was that I was desperately trying to push the experience I was feeling away. I was angry at myself for feeling the way I was feeling, I was mad that I allowed myself to go there. Well now that’s just crazy isn’t it? I’m human-it’s how I was feeling. So what happened when I FINALLY allowed myself to experience the pain I was feeling?
Freedom married to vulnerability. I realized how fragile I actually was and how I had ignored that side of myself. I wasn't protecting myself by pushing away the painful thoughts all of these years-I was actually hurting myself. I was hurting myself because I wasn't allowing myself to fully explore my vulnerability. I was cutting myself off from feeling the negative, which put me in an even worse position because I no longer was able to examine all of the questions and thoughts that the pain brought up for me. The silliness of the whole “I’ll never work again” thing really is a real thought that entered my mind, and my allowing myself to finally work with that thought-I was able to find out where that came from and acknowledge the deep insecurity within myself that seems to be the fertile soil for the seeds of insecurity that sprout throughout my life. Examining my truthful thoughts is teaching me a powerful lesson and giving me a much needed evolution and release.
Because I allowed myself to feel the vulnerable negativity didn't mean that I was attracting more of that. It meant that I was allowed the storm clouds to come in and do their thing knowing eventually they will pass over. I’m now in a more empowered place than I was five days ago, so many questions have been answered and I feel relief having given into my vulnerability. Why am I hiding my fullest expression of myself? The expression isn't just happy and smooth sailing all of the time!
I’m not afraid to admit the fact that rather than seeking out adventure in my life I've resorted to “comfort.” The biggest risk in my life that I took was deciding one day after Grad school that I would move to NYC. It was the only thing that made sense. And yes it was very frightening…but I did it and I survived. I've landed on this island and have settled for a level of comfort within myself that doesn't honor my deepest self. Allowing myself to feel my recent surge of feelings in their fullness has allowed me to learn that my deep inner self is crying out for change and crying out for more risk and more vulnerability. Within that vulnerability and risk comes action and choice. That action and those choices lead us to the next thing and onto the next and even further. The vulnerability allows us to fully be ourselves and to fully honor our experience with integrity. The frustration accumulations when we don’t honor our experience with the integrity of knowing we are here to experience life in its fullest, and that includes ups and downs and everything in between.
I’m learning to take risks and to live a life of integrity. I plan to continue to honor all parts of myself, even the parts I don’t always want to visit. Recently I was feeling like I was coming down with something, I felt tired and completely drained every day. I normally would push my way through the feeling and try to come out of the other end like a marathon runner. I decided I needed to listen to my body. I forced myself to plan a day of rest, a day when I would sleep late and do nothing but lay in bed watching movies and sleep. I honored that fully-yes it was difficult but I did it. I slept and recharged my batteries and I immediately felt better the next day. Had I not honored what my physical body and experience was telling me (no matter how I judged it) I probably would have been in bed the entire week sick. Part of me didn't want to honor it because it felt weak and vulnerable to admit that I needed to just rest. Who cares? Once I surrendered to that vulnerability and listened to it I was able to lean into it and allow the experience of surrender to carry me through. And I came out the other end much stronger for it.
So here we go—from now on I’m listening to those feelings good or bad and without judgement. I’m going to float along the cloud of whatever is and happily take risks and experience the gains and the losses. It’s time to stop being so careful.
I hope you do the same.
Peace and love always
In my opinion these are some amazing moments in film and television that show truthful and brilliant acting. I come back to these for inspiration always...
Once upon a time actors had the opportunity to cultivate their artistic process and craft...I love this interview with Sharon Tate-it captures the end of the golden era where training and cultivation of your process was more important than being famous....