----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: May 2005

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Well, perhaps I was too hasty in believing that my acting career was dead. No, I still never heard back from the people at the History Channel, but now, after weeks of hearing nothing from my agent, I’ve gotten two auditions.

The first was a voiceover audition for a company providing a service called “Dial-a-Rescue.” Essentially, if you’re trapped on a bad date or a boring meeting, you can call them to arrange a rescue time and they’ll come up with a scenario to get you out of there. The audition called for a peppy voice and a sleazy voice. I think I got peppy, but I guess I didn’t do so well with sleazy—I was supposed to be an old acquaintance who had made off with a lot of money. I didn’t book the job, but this was my first voiceover audition, so it was nice to get some practice.

Now, I’m booked for an audition for the Discovery Channel tomorrow. I am going out for “attractive woman at a town hall meeting,” which I think is better than the “tarp carrier” part I once auditioned for. But I won’t really be getting into the big time until my character has a name.

I’m going to try not to get so emotionally invested in this audition. After all, they’re probably seeing about 100 girls for a two-second part. I’m glad to be getting back out there, though. I think auditioning is really just a numbers game, so the more auditions I go on, the better chance I have of booking a part. Keep ’em coming!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Audition Timeline

While waiting to hear back after an audition, a whole mix of emotions come into play. It’s sort of like the seven stages of grief. Here’s what I experienced after my last audition.

Wednesday (immediately after audition): Feel relieved and happy at having given a good reading. Have a sense of pride over some of the director’s encouraging comments. “We’ll be making the decision sometime next week,” he said.

Thursday: Still feeling good as I recount the tale of my audition to friends and family members. Am buoyed by their reactions: nearly everyone agrees with me that it must have gone really well. This could be it! This could be my shot! It’s a lead role in a “dramatic reenactment” and will be shown on a well-respected cable channel! The pay is low, but who cares! It’s all about exposure, baby!

Friday: Slight concern. Have I jinxed myself by talking too much about the audition? Push negative thoughts out of my head.

Saturday: It’s a beautiful weekend and I’ve got nothing to worry about. Still feel fairly confident in my performance.

Sunday evening: Anticipation sets in. Maybe I’ll be hearing from the director soon!

Monday: Keep my cell phone near me at all times, but don’t really expect a call yet. It’s probably still too early in the week.

Tuesday: Open and close cell phone frequently just to be sure I don’t have any missed calls. Think back over audition. Feel certain I messed up. Didn’t I mispronounce a word or two? Did I look at the camera when I should have been interacting with the reader? Did I seem overeager? Not eager enough? Cynicism sets in. The director didn’t really like me—he just gives positive feedback to everyone. Try to remain positive and reassure myself that it is still early in the week.

Wednesday: Become increasingly jumpy every time cell phone rings. A dark sense of doubt sets in. The director said I was “physically right for the part,” so if I don’t get it, it must mean that he hated my acting! I am the worst actress ever! I’ll never get a part, ever! Why, why, why?

Thursday: Cannot stand the suspense any longer. Am tempted to call and ask if decision has been made yet, but worry that I will seem unprofessional by breaking the “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” rule. Besides, week’s not over yet! Brief moment of hope shines through as I consider that perhaps director is running behind schedule and no decisions have been made. I could still be in the running! As evening approaches, false hope fades. Doubts begin anew. Why? What’s wrong with me? Am I really the worst actress in the world? Will my career be snuffed out before it even begins? Will I ever even get another audition? What am I doing wrong?

Friday: Resignation sets in. I didn’t get it. I haven’t officially heard a “no,” but complete radio silence is never a good sign. I even sent an email to the address I was given for questions to see if a decision had been made yet, and I got no reponse at all. That seems a tiny bit rude. Why give out an email address if you're not going to respond to emails? Surely if they had really liked me, they wouldn’t have tortured me all week by not calling. I didn’t have what they were looking for. Depression sets in. Am doomed to live out my life working for a lowly publication of ill repute. Will never have fabulous lifestyle or critical success. Clearly, this is the end of the line for me. Cannot even hack it for a part in a low-budget series. Cry. Drink. Hope that another audition will someday come my way, but try to come to terms with the fact that it may never happen for me. Cry some more. Sleep.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

No News Is...?

I still have not heard anything back from my audition last week. I think that may be a bad sign, but I have not yet given up hope entirely. After all, the director just said they'd be making a decision "sometime next week" and the week isn't over yet. But a tiny part of me feels like if they had really, really liked me, they would have called me by now. I thought this would have been the perfect opportunity for me. All I can do now is hope that I'm still in the running.

The Sweet Taste of Childhood (Or, Whither the Candies of Yesteryear?)

In the halcyon days of my youth, one of life’s greatest pleasures involved riding my bike to the store for a treat. I lived next door to my best friend and whenever we were bored, we’d hop on our bikes and pedal to “The Square,” a shopping center that contained an independent drugstore (Bill’s Drugs) with a most alluring candy aisle.

Our pockets would jingle with dimes as we made our selections. The brightly-colored packages gleamed under the fluorescent lights and each sweet treat looked so enticing that it was hard to choose. Would it be Fun Dip? Lik-m-Stix? Tart n Tiny? Nerds? Runts? Rubble Rubble? Big League Chew? Sugar Babies? Jolly Ranchers? Pop Rocks? Blow Pops? Sweetarts? Pixy Stix?
Lisa liked Tiny Tarts, Jolly Ranchers and Sweetarts, but I was a big fan of Runts and Fun Dip. I also liked the blueberry-flavored Bubblicious. I think they still have it, but now it makes no pretensions to having blueberry flavor. It’s simply called Blue Wave.

As we got older and traded in our bikes with banana seats for 10-speeds, our tastes evolved somewhat. I got heavy into chocolate, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Junior Mints and Skor bars. But I have fond memories of many of the sugary sweets of my youth. Sadly, some of them are long gone, as is Bill’s Drugs (it’s now a Longs). What ever happened to those bits of gum that came in a tiny cardboard container and tasted like “Pink Lemonade”? You would open up the little spout and pour them directly into your mouth. And what about Tart n Tiny? They always reminded me of little pieces of pastel-colored chalk, but they tasted good (well, at least at the time). What ever happened to the giant Sweetarts that came three to a package? You would get yellow (lemon), green (lime) and pink (some sort of tangy berry). I would always save my lemon one for last. I still see Fun Dip once in awhile, but the dip flavors have changed. Now they change color in your mouth or something. But at least the dipping stix (pure sugar!) seem to be the same.

Even my beloved Runts have become harder and harder to find. Once in a while, I’d see the Chewy Runts on the shelf, but they were nothing like the good old Runts in the yellow and orange box. I started to get worried that maybe original Runts had been discontinued. They were awfully hard on the teeth, and I envisioned some lawsuit over a cracked tooth or a broken filling that forced Willie Wonka to abandon the original formula and stick with chewy. But a few days ago, I realized that the original Runts were still in existence. I found a big box of them at Target and I bought it. Much has remained the same. The bananas and strawberries are still my favorites and I still avoid the orange ones. But there are no-so-subtle changes, too. What are these new flavors, watermelon and blueberry? I want none of that! And were the Runts always so cloyingly sweet? I didn’t remember the harsh, faintly chemical aftertaste as a child, either. Still, it was reassuring to know that a tiny piece of my childhood is still out there, available for 99 cents, and just the thing to conjure up memories of long summer days where a ride to the store for a treat meant that all was right with the world.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Good Audition

Yesterday, I had a really positive auditioning experience. I don’t know if that means I’ll get the part, but I did get a little confidence boost.

It all started last week, when I saw casting announcement on Craigslist. So many of those are for amateur porn or nude modeling, but this one seemed to be legit. It was for a special based on real events that would run on the History Channel, and they were looking for a woman with a petite build who had dark hair in a pixie cut. Well, the posting had been up since Monday, and I didn’t submit my headshot until late Thursday night, so I figured I wouldn’t hear back for awhile because they were probably already inundated with submissions. But the next morning, I got a call saying they’d love to have me come in to audition. (Yes, I got this audition without the help of my agent.)

The great thing about this audition was that it was local and I was able to schedule it during my lunch break, so I didn’t arouse suspicion at work. On my way there, the guy who scheduled me called to make sure that I had the right directions and that I wasn’t lost. Based on what he said, it seems that the production company had had several people flake out. But not me! I was there on time.

It was a very low-key, mellow experience. I was greeted by the receptionist/camera operator and filled out some paperwork while I waited for the director. I only had to wait a few minutes, though—every other audition I’ve been on required a much longer wait. Right away, the director told me that I was “very physically right” for the part. Then I had to do some very cold reading (as in, he handed me the script and called “action”), but I didn’t mind because sometimes having the script in advance causes me to psych myself out. The director spent a long time with me and asked me to do things a couple of different ways. At one point, after asking me to take another approach, he said, “Oh, good. You can take direction. You’d be surprised at how many actors, when you ask them to do something differently, just turn around and do it exactly the same way.”

At the end of the reading, the director told me he was very interested in me for the role, and it is one of the lead roles. He won’t be making a final decision until next week, but he did go ahead and check my availability. He also told me again that I had the right look and even pulled out a color photo of the woman I’d be playing and said, “See? She even has your blue eyes.”

The part doesn’t pay much, unfortunately, which is probably why agents aren’t getting involved—their 10 percent would be mere tens of dollars. But for me, it would be great experience, and I’d get some good exposure from being on the History Channel. Still, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, because I’m sure I’m not the only actress they say who had the right physical characteristics. And of course, I don’t have too much experience and maybe my audition won’t come across as well once they look at the tape. But I really, really hope I get the part. Maybe I’ll be posting some very good news next week!

Musings on Pop Culture

Because my husband was gone last Thursday to Sunday, I had more time than usual to ponder events on various television shows and movies. Here, some thoughts.

The O.C.
Why, why, why won’t Marissa just tell Ryan that Trey attacked her? Clearly, Ryan has had some issues with his brother in the past, and the guy wound up in jail, for God’s sake. It’s not like Ryan needs to be protected from his brother’s shortcomings—he knows that Trey is no good, and he’s been quick to suspect him of all kinds of nefarious activities in the past. Could Marissa really be concerned that Ryan won’t believe her? Is she worried about retaliation from Trey? Or is she caught up in some kind of misguided “blame the victim” mentality, where she thinks that somehow Trey’s attack was her fault. Please don’t let it be the latter. I know it’s just a TV show, but I hoped that we, as a society, had advanced past scrutinizing the victim’s attire, conduct and past sexual history before determining that she was indeed victimized. I don’t want the O.C. to play into that whole idea! Perhaps we’ll get some closure on tonight’s season finale.

Also, Sandy sure picked a lousy way to tell Kirsten that her dad died. The woman has a drinking problem (and probably an eating disorder)! I always thought he was the sensitive type, but if he can just blurt out that her dad died, maybe he’s not so sensitive after all. I mean, shouldn’t he at least have sat her down on the couch, out of reach of any alcohol in the vicinity?

The Apprentice
Where did bitch Tana come from? I thought she was a sweet and somewhat naïve mom from Iowa, but she sure unleashed the fury (and a few f-bombs) last week. Did she really think she could rally her team members to do a good job by disparaging them? She seemed to think that being an executive means blaming everyone else for whatever goes wrong (hmmm…maybe she’s a better executive than I thought, considering the sorry state of corporate accountability these days). I know a lot of people think Kendra is too whiny, but I think that’s just the way her voice sounds. Poor girl…unless she takes some elocution lessons, there’s probably not much she can do about it. Besides, she’s been the most competent on every task. I don’t think there will be too much suspense during the finale.

I hung out with my parents on Saturday night and we went to see this “comedy.” Actually, parts of it were pretty funny, especially those involving Jane Fonda and Wanda Sykes. But Jennifer Lopez really grates on my nerves. She’s known as such a diva in real life, so I totally didn’t buy her as some hippie-dippy bohemian woman-child, walking dogs and temping for a living. Also, once she got engaged, it seemed like she almost gave up on her “career,” but maybe that was because she was too busy acting wounded from Jane Fonda’s slights. I personally think Jane was in the right, if only because La Lopez is so annoying. I think J.Lo is a little old to be appearing in a movie where she wears multiple sparkly butterfly barrettes in her hair, favors bubblegum-pink lipgloss and plays with her hair when she gets nervous, like when she’s going to meet her fiance’s mother for the first time. Perhaps Hilary Duff would have been better suited to the role.

Now, my husband is back, which is good, because as you can see, when he’s gone, I spend far too much time picking over the minutiae of pop culture. And unless I’m able to parlay it into a fabulously lucrative job writing for Entertainment Weekly, I’m sure I have better things to do with my time…like find a new job with less turmoil, upheaval and soap-opera-like characteristics. But that’s a whole other story.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

For Mom

My mom, my dad and one of my brothers spent the last week in Greece and were flying back today, so I did not get a chance to spend Mother's Day with my family. Still, I wanted to offer my mom a token of affection, so here is a tribute to her motherhood. It may be a little sappy, so for those of you who don't like "Hallmark" sentiments, you may want to skip this entry.

My first memories of my mom are of her caring for me and making everything better. Especially when I was younger, she and one of my aunts would work as a team. (I think my mom needed the help because my younger brother was such a handful. By the time my youngest brother showed up, I was old enough to take on some responsibilities.) Anyway, when I was about five years old, I was riding my bike around the cul-de-sac. I was very proud of my bike--it was pink with purple flowers and it had a white banana seat and basket. Unfortunately, I was overly impressed with my perceived biking skills, so I started pedaling around the circle with no hands. Of course, I crashed, and I got pretty banged up. I even knocked out my first loose tooth. My mom and my aunt heard my screams from inside the house and gathered me up to take stock. My mom cleaned up my bloody knee and scraped wrist, but I was hysterical about the fact that I had lost my first tooth, literally. So my mom continued to comfort me while my aunt scoured the asphalt for my tooth. She found it, and my mom put it in a handmade tooth fairy pillow. That night, the tooth fairy was quite generous with her payment, seeing as losing the tooth had been such a traumatic experience.

When I was eight or nine, I went away to horse camp for a week, and of course, I was homesick. But that night, when I unpacked my bag, I found a letter from my mom tucked in among my things. Reading her neat cursive writing on her personalized blue stationary, I felt instantly better. Whenever one of us kids went away on our own, my mom made sure to include a missive of love with our luggage. She also made sure to tell us that having children was the best thing she ever did in her life.

In fourth grade, my mom and my aunt helped me build a mission complete with flying buttresses for a school project. In fifth grade, they proofread my report about the narwhal. Even when I thought I was old enough to take care of myself, my mom stepped in whenever she thought I might need some help. She and my dad moved me back and forth from college every year, and they even flew out with me to help me furnish my studio apartment before I started grad school. We must have hit nearly every garage sale in Skokie and Evanston, but we got the place furnished in record time.

When I was 12, my mom had colon cancer, and after her surgery, I remember bringing her toast and Ensure on a tray to her bed. One day, she asked me to make her a grilled-cheese sandwich while she took a bath. I couldn't find any prewrapped Kraft slices, so I attempted to cut slices off a block of cheddar cheese. I hadn't yet learned the importance of cutting away from oneself, but after that experience, I would never again forget. I sliced into my index finger so deeply that I chipped the bone. I had to go the emergency room, but my mom was too weak to take me, so she had to call one of her friends to take me. I needed five stitches, and I think that's the only time my mom wasn't there with me to hold my hand.

Fourteen years later, when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, my mom was the one bringing me snacks on a tray. She had me drink a mug of green tea every night because she knew it contained powerful antioxidants. I probably should have been drinking the tea before I got cancer, but I appreciated the gesture. She let me squeeze her hand while I had a bone-marrow biopsy. (My dad does not handle medical procedures very well, so he had to sit in the waiting room, lest he faint.) She helped me pick out my wig and was happy to pay extra for the highlights I wanted woven in to make it look more like my real hair.

I hear so many horror stories about mothers and daughters who have enormous fights while attempting to plan a wedding together. I won't lie...we had our moments, especially when it came to picking the invitations. But for the most part, I valued her help. One friend told me that she went to a wedding where the mother of the bride decided to steal her daugher's spotlight by wearing a wedding dress herself. My mom asked me to help her pick out a mother of the bride dress, and when she finally found something she looked beautiful in (a long, wine-colored gown with a lovely, intricately beaded jacket), I had to reassure her that it wasn't "too much" and that she wouldn't take anything away from me by wearing such a fancy dress. I wanted her to look and feel her best!

Now, I live back in my old hometown, about three miles away from my parents. I suppose some daughters would feel smothered by such physical proximity, but my parents are totally respectful of me and my husband, and they never show up unannounced (although sometimes they do call us from the parking lot, asking if they can come up!). My mom will sometimes leave us plants in our garden--she's the best gardener I know--and she's always ready with advice, but only when asked.

I feel so lucky to have such a wonderfully close relationship with my mom. I don't know what I'd do without her. So Mom, thanks for everything. I love you.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Looks Divide

So, my darling husband and I were having a very glam night out at the local Chevy's (hey, we had a long week and we needed margaritas and we were too tired to drive into the city and be fabulous) when it hit me that there is an ever-deepening divide between the way that celebrities look and the way the rest of the world looks. Here's what I'm wondering: Will the regular people stage a great uprising against the overly-good-looking celebs, or will the regular people just blithely go about their way, oblivious to the fact that they are genetically lacking?

I just think it's odd that as the rest of America gets fatter and fatter, our celebrities get thinner and blonder and tanner. But I suppose that the more privileged classes have always looked a little better than the regular folks. For instance, the rich were soft and plump because they could afford to have plenty to eat, while the lower classes were skinny and stringy because they had to do hard labor and had no money for extra food. The rich maintained a complexion of pallor because they did not have to do any manual labor under the hot sun. Of course, later on, the rich got tan because they could afford to spend time lolling about in the sun while the more lowly among us slaved away in offices. Also, they could afford to jet off to Aruba for a long weekend in the middle of winter.

So, maybe the obnoxiously good-looking and well-toned celebs are simply par for the course. And maybe we all need that fantasy element in our lives. But sometimes, when I leaf through Entertainment Weekly or watch The O.C., I feel like my looks are woefully inadequate. And then I go out to Chevy's, and I feel like I'm not quite so badly off after all. I start to cheer up and think, "Well, of course Mischa Barton looks fabulous. Looking great is her job, and she has professional help." What do you think? Are celebs setting an impossible standard of beauty, or are regular people becoming ever more slovenly? Or am I just impossibly shallow for even thinking about such trivial issues? (Hey, I'm trying to be an actress--it's practically a law that I be insecure about my looks.)

P.S.--My husband asked me not to write that we went to Chevy's. He thinks it makes us sound like white trash. Whatever...he certainly enjoyed his grande margarita!

Monday, May 02, 2005

More Bizarro Craigslist

Craigslist has been an unceasing font of amusement for me lately! And, dear readers, I want to share that amusement with you. Yes, I'm unselfish like that.

This latest Craiglist post is far too long and complex for me to reproduce here, so please visit the creative gigs section and read it for yourselves. You won't be disappointed. Here's the gist of it: a bunch of geeks are looking for someone who can come up with a snappy name for their domicile. Why? Well, as they say themselves, "because we're geeks, that's why, and we like to name things. That way we know what domain to get for the house servers." Oooh-kay. Sure. That's perfectly reasonable. They then offer a bulleted list of requirements, complete with footnotes! Your reward, should you come up with the winning apartment name? Baked goods, an invitation to the housewarming party and $5 U.S. cash money. But hey, that actually works out to a decent per-word rate.

Here's what I don't get: How is it that these people can come up with a post that, when printed out, takes up two full pages, but they can't come up with two or three words to name their apartment? Clearly, they have a strong command of the English language. The post is spelled and punctuated correctly, which is more than I can say for much of the writing that has come across my desk from so-called professional writers. The posters are creative and have enough of a sense of humor to come up with lines like, "The contest begins immediately and ends when either we receive a submission we all like or we give up hope and faith in humanity. If redundancy becomes a problem, I will post rejected submissions here and/or set up a website with a database that will filter the mail and do so for me automatically." Oh. Well, maybe that last part wasn't supposed to be funny, but it was funny to me. (And according to AP style, it really should be "Web site," but perhaps they're using their own house style. Just an aside.)

Maybe they can't come up with a name because they are computer geeks, not word nerds. There is a difference, you know. Computer geeks care about domain names and programming languages. Word nerds, like me, care about AP style and whether "life cycle" should be one word or two. (It's two words, my executive editor be damned!) I know I'm not a geek because I have no idea what the "hoopy frood" to which these posters refer is. That's okay. (Yeah, yeah, AP says it should be OK.) I'm happier being a word nerd.

But I digress. This post just proves my point about Craigslist. In its depth, you can find just about anything you're looking for. And even some things you're not.