Faith! And a Review of Done to Death

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”

That quote is by Tony Robbins and I love it. I have been living in this zone over the last two weeks. You can have total faith but without the work it ain’t going to show up. Or as I love to say, “Uh, _______ is not going to knock on your door and say hi, I am ___________ and I am here to fulfill your __________.” It’s funnier when I do the scene for you.

It’s the truth though. I remember being upset for years about not having an emergency fund. I felt awful about myself and my situation…a complete failure who was going to end up in a tent community with my husband, my cat and my wedding china…and some plays. Then it hit me.  I never worked toward an emergency fund. That wasn’t a financial goal at that time. However, my career is in a different place from five years ago because I took massive, determined action to succeed.

Good QOD! How often do we say woe is me when really it is woe is me for not taking aggressive action.

In other news, I have the pleasure of doing the publicity and house managing for the Parkside Players. Done to Death by Fred Carmichael and directed by my pal, Natalie Jones. The plot is simple and the storyline easy to follow.  The characters are telling the audience what is going to happen and who did it. So, in a nutshell, and I ripped the description from the Sam French site, here’s the story: (add mysterious music) Once famous mystery writers involve the audience as they apply their individual methods to solving various murders. They include a couple who write sophisticated murders, a young author of the James Bond school, a retired writer of the hard hitting method and an aging queen of the logical murder.

This is such a fun show for only one reason! All the actors use multiple acting styles and are terrific.  Mark Dunn and Bridget Bannec are the classy couple who do things well, plot and drink. Great chemistry between the two. Richard Weyhausen plays a Raymond Chandler type writer who fancies himself better than Bram Stoker. His acting style ranges from silent movie star to tough guy. Then there’s Rosemary Innes who reminds me of Jessica Fletcher and who doesn’t want to be compared to Agatha what’s-her-name. Mike DeRosa makes his debut with the Parkside Players as an Robert Ludlumesque spy writer who is the most current of the writers. Bringing this group together is Mike Miller who is his usual wide-eyed insane character. Again, lots of fun especially since the writers end up acting in their own styles as well as their counterparts’.

There are two additional actors in this show who flawlessly play multiple roles. Johnny Young, Twelfth Night’s director, plays crazy way too well. It’s really refreshing seeing him onstage for a change. Laura Cetti, though, is the glue of this production. She plays at least 5 different roles in this play and transitions into each of them with ease and costume changes. I so enjoyed watching her. It’s tough to go into detail about their roles without giving away the story. Special kudos to Susan E. Young who plays the surly stage manager and Frank Gentile as a supporting character in one of the scenes.

So, if you aren’t on the beach this weekend, visit www.parksideplayers.com for info.

More to come on Imaginary by Nick Radu – my first producing gig without Black Henna – and Twelfth Night.

Seasons Change and So Do People

Do people change? I think so. I know I have. My grandmother-in-law said to my mother-in-law that I am a very happy person. I had to digest that compliment then ponder it and then accept it. 

I had to accept as true because it is true. I made a choice to start living a more zen existence because for too long everything in my life was high drama. After a while I just became so over it. The frenzied feeling that I used to thrive on now makes me very sick. Once upon a time I would use that to achieve goals. However, I am finding that I am able to make them in a more relaxed place.  I thought it was normal to be in chaos. All the shows I have worked on has had a level of draaaamaaa. Not my current show. There’s no room for it. I don’t want it.

Black Henna is in pre-production for our summer show, Twelfth Night. The process for this show is very different than the past. The old process entailed many meetings and discussions. We would rip everything to shreds then repaste it. It was all a big to do. This show has been very simple. My director, Johnny Young, and I have had simple exchanges regarding the show.  This is the concept, this is where we are performing, here’s the rehearsal schedule, auditions, casting, and scene.  Of course, there are issues rising up but we have been able to handle them without going into crisis mode.

Do you know why? Most things in life aren’t life or death. That was a big realization for me. Once I realized that and started being grateful, I felt a huge shift in everything. My mind, my body, my spirit. Do I still get crazy? Of course but it is more contained. No one is going to benefit from insane outburts. I have a saying: “If you have an insane outburst and no one is reacting or responding, then you look like a crazy person.”

And that’s coming from someone that knows!

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The Parkside Players open this weekend with Done to Death directed by Natalie Jones!  Check out www.parksideplayers.com

The staged reading of Imaginary  written and directed by Nick Radu will be up next month. Stay tuned for more details.

 

 

Auditions and Other Life Lessons!

We held auditions for Twelfth Night last weekend and I am always astounded at the level of talent that exists. The best auditions were done by actors who chose monologues that most spoke to them. I have written and given advice on auditioning many times but this time I had a true aha moment. I realized that in addition to having a good headshot and a professional resume,  it is also important to prepare a monologue that speaks to you. At the end of the day, the audition process should not solely be about getting the part but also about doing your best.

One of the many lessons I learned in school and continue to apply is asking myself  have I done my best. Not only in acting or directing or producing, but in just about everything I do. If I know that I have done my best then I am mentally prepared for whatever follows. I also try to find the lesson. There is always something to gain from an experience. The moment I started doing that I find that I don’t get as crazy if things don’t go my way. That’s a big deal for me because I want everything to go my way,

So getting back to the audition process, here are my observations from last week’s auditions from the other side of the table:

  • The most interesting monologues were the most natural ones. We can see the passion in the your eyes and body if the monologue brings that for you.
  • If you are comfortable and in love with the monologue, it is easy for you to take direction and apply it when asked to do so.
  • It says a whole lot if you ask if we have a preference of monologue as it shows you are versatile and prepared. 

Here are my additional thoughts on the audition process as a whole. I have always said that you never know what goes on in a director’s head. I think it’s important to keep this in mind:

  • Don’t take it personal
  • Don’t think about the competition
  • Do your best work

And here is the information for Twelfth Night:

After a sudden summer squall, twin campers wind up on the wrong side of the lake and find themselves at Camp Illyria! After getting separated in the storm, Viola and Sebastian must contend with lovestruck Administrators and Athletic Coaches, vivacious Accountants, Kitchen Staff that has to be seen to be believed, and the surliest “Camp Cheer Counselor” they could possibly imagine, all the while trying to meet back up with each other, and get back to where they came from! Their twisted and madcap journey of fun and discovery takes place this summer in:

Brooklyn at McCarren Park on July 14th & The Waterfron on July 16th
Queens at the Forest Park Bandshell on July 15th
Manhattan at Cherry Hill in Central Park on July 20th and 21st
The Bronx in Van Cortlandt Park on July 22nd

20 Things I Learned from My Spring Vacation to Trinidad and Tobago

All I have to say is that this trip was more than a vacation but a spiritual awakening.

We had the best time truly appreciating the opposite of living in New York City. I love my city as mentioned in Rant II. However, I also love Trinidad.

So what else did I learn from my trip:

  1. You can go to the top of the mountain…twice.
  2. Dogs like to bark in unison a whole lot.
  3. Dogs also like to lay down in the middle of the road regardless of the time of day.
  4. Trinidad is a major melting pot of Indians, Chinese, Spanish, African, Indigenous, and European just to name a few.
  5. A dead poisonous snake is scary especially when you watch in horror as you cousin kills it with a cement block.
  6. We should never complain about the condition of our roadways.
  7. Chinese and KFC are popular fast food options.
  8. The East Indian Caribbean Museum offers the best history and articfacts of the South East Asians who arrived in Trinidad in 1845.
  9. If you visit your cousin’s temple and ashram deep in the forest, don’t wear a sleeveless dress and don’t forget your OFF!
  10. It is possible to see a mandhir (Hindu temple), a mosque, churches of Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian faiths and a Kingdom Hall within one mile.
  11. If you feed a chicken that doesn’t belong to you, it does.
  12. Going to the beach trumps everything.
  13. “Depression Ahead” has nothing to do with being sad or poor.
  14. It is simultaneously incredibly difficult and incredibly easy to miss the ferry from Tobago.
  15. CP time is real (that’s Caribbean People time)
  16. Not all holy men started that way.
  17. You can eat fruits off a tree without worry of pesticides.
  18. The 1.5 mile walk to school and the 1.5 mile walk back home is real. We did the walk my father did to school. I broke a sweat. 
  19. I come from strong stock and deep roots.
  20. Spending time with my dad is priceless.

Sheryl Leaves at 5:30 and So Do I!

I came across this article hanging on the bulletin board in my office cafekitchenluncharea: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg Leaves at 5:30. Should You?

I have always been a proponent of going to work and leaving at the end of the assigned work day. Granted there have been past jobs where I stayed late or worked through lunch. I did what I had to do to be a team player. However, I had a huge aha moment right before I transitioned to my current position. If I continued working like that and not setting boundaries, I was going to get sick and get burnt…again. It also didn’t allow me to have separation from work because I never ever fully decompressed when I left work. I think I spent a decade working and doing theater which totalled about 70 hours a week. It was nuts. Lots to be grateful for because I was able to learn and achieve some goals but exhausting.

When I started working at my current firm a little over a year ago, I vowed not to put myself in that position again. I vowed to take my lunch hour, find a way to be most efficient with my time, and know that when I left at 5:30, the work day was done. Fast forward to now, I am so glad that I made those decisions. I have come to realize that I have two careers and the two balance each other out: I need one to keep me from living in a cardboard box and to give me structure; I need the other to allow me to be creative and a free spirit.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about time and I now have realization about why we shouldn’t just focus on one thing at all times… we are unable to be grateful for what we have because we are stuck in the same place. I can honestly say that I have found the most gratitude in my life once I made these subtle adjustments.

Does that mean I don’t care about my job? Not at all. It just doesn’t define me.

And scene.

Rant II: What Do You Mean By What Am I?

I have been asked for as long as I can remember, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” So for my whole life I have had to take a moment to decipher the question or just answer the question. When asked what am I, I usually push the person to be clear. When asked where I’m from the answer is very automatic. I am from New York. Oh, but that’s not usually a good enough answer for the interviewer. “Oh, no, no! WHERE are you from?” Hmm. New York? That’s where I was born and raised. That’s what I identify myself  first. That’s so part of my DNA. I also follow it up with what they really want to know. What people are really asking me is, “What is your ethnicity?”

My answer is “Well, I’m Indian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.” That doesn’t satisfy them. So I tell them that my family is from Trinidad (where I’ll be in a week! Woot!). Well, why did I even say that! Because I have always always gotten this response, as recent as Friday…”But you don’t look Trinidadian!”

Oh my goodness. What does that even mean? What is it you want to know? Do I have to give you a lesson on the colonization and enslavement of the people of the Caribbean? Okay well, I’m not going to. Wiki Trinidad and Tobago and you’ll get a lesson or read The History of Trinidad and Tobago by Eric Williams.

I just find it irritating that I am questioned about my true self. Someone said to me the other day that I am passing as a Trini. Passing? Really. I am proud New Yorker who is fortunate to grow up in a city with diversity. I am also proud Trini who can tell you the history of the twin islands and promote its tourism (really, you should visit because it’s not as expensive as the other islands). I am also a proud descendant of the many cultures who make me who I am. I embrace my Catholic and Hindu upbringing. I enjoy Indian dancing and soca and merengue (and hip-hop and headbanging). I love that I can appreciate roti and curry chicken, arroz con gandules, and macaroni pie on one plate. I have a shalwar and those who know me know I love a scarf.

For the last decade I have now had to explain the McDonald portion of my name. That just brings a whole new set of confusing information to the person interested in me. A woman said to Ian and me that she never saw a couple like us. Really? We live in New York City. Interracial couples and families a go-go. We are both products of interracial couples. Just because Ian is caucasian doesn’t mean he doesn’t have roots. He is of Irish, Sicilian and German descent and all three of those cultures are proudly represented by him. His German grandmother’makes a kick ass stuffed cabbage, his Sicilian-German mother can cook just about anything and his Irish grandmother makes a wonderful plum pudding. People have told us to our faces that he isn’t really Irish because he was born here… *sigh* His Irish grandmother wouldn’t appreciate that.

I know that I am stuck with this until I die. I just want to be accepted for me and not pigeon-holed by my ethnicity. Not fitting in feels awful by itself. When you add the snarky and, at most times, insensitive question, it feels like I am not who I thought I am. Granted that lasts a moment but  still. Stop being obtuse.

And no, we are not going to have children for the sake of seeing what they would look like! Yes, I have gotten that question too. That’s another blog.

I want to take a DNA test so I can find out my percentages. I know that I am made up of more than what I listed and I love that.

My name is Malini Singh McDonald. I am a tough New Yorker with Trinidadian sass. Two snaps and a whine.

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!®

This is my thought from the universe today. As you know, I live by this and many of my thoughts and dreams have come true. Here’s one of my favorites:

In 1997, Ian and I met during a production of Cyrano de Bergerac. We were young actors who just wanted to do theatre. We connected on the idea of doing Shakespeare in the parks just for the sake of the art. Every day we looked out our window at the square sitting on the edge of Forest Park and wondered if it will ever come to fruition. So fast forward to 2010 when synergy brought together like-minded artists and our dream came true. Much Ado About Nothing was performed in 5 parks in 5 boroughs. It took 13 years but we never let go of the idea. We do not plan to as we are bringing Twelfth Night to the masses this summer. 

Thoughts do become things. Think it. Believe it. Write it down. RIGHT NOW!

Black Henna is currently accepting headshots and resumes for consideration.

 

Twelfth Night, Estrogenius and Death!

I’m not sure how today got away from me. I am officially in pre-production for a show and a festival!

Today, I finalized that email for our upcoming auditions of Twelfth Night I have already been receiving emails with great interest about auditions so that always makes me feel good.

I am also the Marketing Director for this year’s Estrogenius Festival with Manhattan Theatre Source. Some of you may remember me gushing about the amazing experience I had directing one of their plays last fall. I want to do a good job and learn as I go. Yesterday we interviewed candidates for a few internships.  I am thrilled to be a part of this project.

But wait! There’s more! Before Twelfth Night and Estrogenius, there is one more show. This one is Done to Death with the Parkside Players. My role in that one is House Manager Extraordinaire with a dash of Publicity.

Stay tuned as the next couple of months will be a blur but in a good way.

Oh and can you believe Ian and I scheduled vacation in the midst of this?!

Time’s A-Ticking

I was Upstate New York this past weekend and in one word it was lovely. It was just the right amount of time for me to reset myself like an alarm clock. What is the right amount of time to reset? I am not sure. It depends on the situation. Sometimes it’s a day, sometimes a few days, sometime a year. I never actually spent a full year resetting myself. I have dreamt of disappearing for a while and emerging fresh and new. However, I realized this past week, that time really is relative.

I had two separate conversations on the same topic. For one person, a year had gone by and it seemed like yesterday. We all had that feeling. Oh my god, where did a year go??? Yet, in the other conversation, the same year felt like an eternity ago. Was that a year ago???  Then I started thinking about where I was a year ago. I was transitioning out of my old job into my new one, being a matron-of-honor, consulting with my mentor about my theater career. Then I thought about now. And where I am now.  I am still at my new job which is far from new (because a year has flown by), an aunt excited for two nephews’ first birthdays, and in pre-production for a few shows this year.

Time is always on my mind to the point of it ruling my life. I have been setting goals with timelines since I was 14. I can give myself a goal with a timeline in no…time.  The pros of setting a deadline is that I have achieved many of my dreams within the designated time frame (received my degrees, created my theater company, got my Broadway credit). The cons though is that I feel like I am always chasing… time.  So when a desire doesn’t happen right when I want it to, I start to feel anxiety. Then I remind myself that everything happens in it’s own…time.

This week I want you to pick two goals for yourself and set a deadline for them. Remember it’s not the destination but the journey.

Here’s two of my favorite songs about time:

Anthrax’s Time:

Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time: