Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Case for a Flashdance Remake

Published 3/20/2018

I have very strong feelings about reboots and sequels and remakes and reimaginings and spinoffs and revivals. Most of the time I’m like “why, no more please and is this the best you can do?” Studios: “yes.”

Because there is a lack of material and no one is writing anything fresh (ahem, ahem) and how will original ideas perform overseas? Whatever. The last couple of years have gifted us an unsolicited glut of superhero movies AND a disappointing number of uninspired new properties. The excuses for not developing new material from talented, diverse writers are becoming increasingly invalid (see previous awards season.) There is also a wealth of new media avenues cropping up almost daily, giving fresh ideas a plethora of places to land. I give Movie Pass eighteen months before they’ve jumped into content creation.

But anyway, the remake of certain beloved films seems inevitable while the mere thought of others is sacrilegious. Robocop- obvious; The John Hughes catalogue- don’t you effing dare! There is a certain group of beloved 80s dance movies that have already been cursed by Hollywood’s creatively bankrupt hand: Dirty Dancing (what was that Havana Nights tomfoolery?), Fame and Footloose.  I watched the previous three reincarnations exactly once and under duress because HOW COULD THEY???? And why?  Why mess with gloriously cheesy, soft-focused, pop-filled 80s perfection? And during each of those pained viewings I said to myself “They'd better not touch Flashdance.”

Flashdance holds a special place in my heart for reasons that are too numerous to list. Though I'm neither a welder, exotic dancer nor professional ballerina, I get Alex. For years I fervently prayed to the movie gods to never allow my precious Flashdance to be mangled and misinterpreted by modern filmmakers because my formative years were so tied to this silly paean to dance-chievment. But one day I thought, weeellll… because one has to face facts. And after wrestling with myself- because thoughts about a Flashdance remake involved internal struggle- I realized that if there’s going to be a Flashdance revival, I should write it… and also star in it.

Hear me out; I have facts. When literary projects aren’t a high priority and not expected to perform particularly well, studios are more willing to farm them out to lesser-known writers. They pay them less, they market less and either they don’t really lose money, or the projects overperform. Execs are pleasantly surprised and everyone wins. Who better to rewrite an arguable classic than someone who lurves it and has watched it no less than 20 times? I came to this conclusion much as a delusional parent who decides their kids should drink in their home instead of elsewhere. But seriously, if anyone else brings Flashdance into the 21st  century and makes it all about Alex sending nudes to Nick Hurley on Snapchat, we are going to have a motherfucking problem!

As for me portraying the young weldress in this foolhardy venture, again, I have facts. When Jennifer Beals was cast she was relatively unknown and yet Flashdance did exceptionally well at the box office. She’s gone on to have a substantial career and really, I would do it just for the chance to relive the magic sweatshirt/bra scene. There’s also the matter of her appearance. I know we live in a world where trolls will boycott films because of racial alterations to characters in fictional universes, but being woke is cool now and if anyone still doesn’t know, Jennifer Beals is half black. Yes, she’s the definition of ethnically ambiguous, but she’s definitely mixed so casting someone who is obviously of color wouldn’t be a huge stretch.

“But wait,” someone is thinking, “we’ll need a really strong dancer to pull off this role.” No you won’t. See widely known history of Flashdance. Luckily for me, I’m a mildly talented dancer, a past and current ballet student, and I’m pretty, pretty good at picking up choreography. We might not need any petite men in wigs to double for me, but between my acceptable dancing ability and the magic of editing, I think we’ll make do. And if anyone needs more convincing of the authenticity I’d bring to this part, well, umm, I used to live in Pittsburgh and I can ride a bike. There. I think I’ve pretty much won my case. If we must recycle the perfectly preserved world of synth beats, Top Gun high fives and the Reagan administration, let it be done by someone who loves it dearly. That’s it. #whatafeeling

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I Sing the Body Electric

Published 2/13/2018

Invisible internet friends! I’ve missed you so. It’s been a while, okay almost two years since my last post. In that time the world has proceeded to fall apart and democracy is unraveling as we speak, but many other things have happened and I have so many thoughts!

First of all, we need to talk about The Greatest Showman.  I’m aware of the unexpected hysteria this movie has caused and I’m a lover of musicals so I finally watched it. So let’s pretend that P.T. Barnum was not a perpetrator of fraud, an animal abuser, a passer of biased birth control legislation, and a man who made his first fortune by renting a black woman who was a former slave and profiting off of her for years, and then profiting from her public autopsy when she died. Let’s just pretend all of that didn’t happen. Because America is an “escapism is better than facts” phase. 

What I’m about to say will border on heresy for some people, but listen: The Greatest Showman is just the 2017 equivalent of Newsies. THAT'S IT. It’s just freaking Newsies with a little more social commentary and a higher production value. So everyone can calm down. It’s a mediocre musical which manages to be both shallow and heavy-handed, tawdry and under baked. It is fun (I guess) and flashy, but art it is not. I agree with the critics. There. Talk amongst yourselves.

So anyway. The reason I fell off the blogging grid was that I’ve spent the last two years living out my dreams of attending the Fame high school. Alright, that might not be exactly true, but I have been studying at a world-renowned performing arts conservatory and my acting life has been completely transformed.  It hasn’t been easy or perfect, but it has been overwhelmingly positive. But there were blights. 

One such smear on my teenage dream occurred during the most recent play I was in. To say it was a doomed production would be an understatement. I questioned my career choices A LOT during our rehearsal process, and then… I had an epiphany. We were often encouraged to create character journals so that we could chart our growth and work through our roadblocks and inhibitions. What I’m sharing below is an excerpt from my character journal on the night of our final dress rehearsal, delineating said “aha moment.”  Asterisked names have been changed.

“ My mind is clear. All of my nervous energy is dissipating. I found, or forced the bubbliness I need to play Theresa- and the world is falling apart. In the last two weeks things have umm, devolved considerably. *Martha is indeed as bad or worse than I’ve been hearing. I honestly thought that people were exaggerating because the people I knew to be most vocal about her, well I’ve see their work in other classes. I thought she was being hard on them because they weren’t working. But this euphemistic ‘Martha is tough’ nonsense is misleading. *Todd is tough. *William is tough, in that they challenge us and push us to go deeper and get to the bottom of our characters. Martha is mean-spirited and bitter. She’s late, she pretends to snore in the middle of our scenes, she’s on Facebook and she yells about how shitty we are, how much of a burden this is and how her other cast was sooooo much better. But enough about that expletive expletive.

Yesterday after overhearing even more shit about what is being said of this production, I went to hide in the prop room, started listening to my ‘Theresa jams’ and my personal hype music, and I DECIDED that I was not going to let her bother me. Something clicked and the veil was lifted or something and I realized that I no longer care about her criticism or praise. I realized that I can trust my work. I know how to build a character. I know how to break down a script.

This place has such a culture of acting ‘for’ the teachers, but my career doesn’t live or die on the word of Martha or William or anyone. I know I’m good. And I do have size. As long as I do work that’s grounded and truthful, I’ve gotten what I need from this school. And tonight I was so free on stage. I was thinking in character. I was finding new things and I was having fun whilst being pissed at *Sanjay and Martha. This hellish clusterfuck of a play that I still sort of hope doesn’t happen has unbound me. I feel like Miles Teller at the end of Whiplash. Yes, JK Simmons was a monster, but he unearthed the best, raw talent. I wouldn’t suggest his methods or Martha’s, but the sordid events of this term have been… useful.  I’m an actor, bitches. I can do accents and I can cry in character. I can make out with people I personally find gross. I can have pathos and I can be deadpan.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow night, and if I had known what I was in for this term I would’ve quickly exited. But fucking Theresa and this silly play may have been exactly what I needed. This production has thrown almost every possible scenario at me and I’m like ‘wow, I can act through anything.’ “

So I was pretty deep in my feelings when I wrote that, but the confidence that I gained hasn’t dissolved. Unfortunately, by the time I had this revelation I’d already uninvited everyone because of the constant reassurance from Martha, our director, that the show would be horrible, the daily coupes and mutinies amongst our small cast, and my general malaise about the production. But we somehow had a decent run. Of all the time I’ve spent deepening my understanding of my craft, that excruciating play was somehow the most transformative.  It was worth the extended blogging hiatus. And even though I began 2018 listening to a mans-planation of how the #metoo movement is blown out of proportion and maybe sometimes actresses invite rape upon themselves (don’t get me started!), I am more convinced than ever that I am where I’m supposed to be.

Actors are my people and I sing the body electric and now imagine me walking away singing can’t nobody take my pride can’t nobody hold me down oh no I got to keep on movin… That is how I’m belatedly greeting this year. Deal with it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor... America

Published 11/11/2016

So that happened. America has voluntarily chosen a leader who is racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, an admitted perpetrator of sexual assault and a fraudulent and failed business man. Not only does he possess no political or military experience, he is rude, ill-informed, a documented liar and can rarely be called upon to construct a complete sentence. He makes up words- what the hell is “bigly?” He is a bully, and he has bad hair. But barring an impeachment for one of the many crimes he is currently awaiting trial, or a Hail Mary in the form of faithless voters in the electoral college, we will be stuck with him (and Pence and Putin) for the next four years. I’m going to start training for an actual Hunger Games now, because I feel it coming.

Say what you will about Hillary, but the truth is that had she been a man, emails or no emails, her competence, poise, knowledge of foreign policy, relationships both foreign and domestic and the fact that she’s just a boss would have landed her in the White House. There should have been absolutely no question.

And yet, here we are. The beginning of my day on Tuesday was vastly different from the way it ended. I was the eighth person in line at my polling place at 6:45 in the morning. When I got to the booth I took a moment, and then I cast my vote. I voted for a woman who was more than capable of being the leader of the free world and it was one of the more empowering moments in my life. I didn’t have much time to revel in my elation though, because I had to rush across town for an audition, which was followed by one of the best writing meetings of my time in LA. When people begin to take you seriously it is a weighty thing. I couldn’t help but feel that I, like America, was on the precipice of something new and inspiring and unprecedented.

Boy, was I right about the unprecedented part. Cut several hours ahead to my friend and I watching in shocked horror when the electoral map projected that our girl had lost Pennsylvania. Betrayed by the state of my birth!  Wednesday was hard. Wednesday was nearly impossible. I wandered around in a fugue state, hoping I had dreamt it all, praying for a do-over, waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out of the bushes proclaiming that he’d punked us all. But Ashton never came.

In the few days since this travesty of democracy has transpired, I realized that I felt a more crushing sense of grief and disorientation than I did after September 11th. Because this betrayal was internal. Or was it? As the incidents of violence and aggression towards women and minorities have increased (with many of the perpetrators citing the president-elect as inspiration) I’ve been forced to remind myself that  as a black woman, America was never meant for me to thrive in. 200 years ago I would have been free labor, an object to rape or three-fifths of a person- hooray Manifest Destiny! I shouldn’t have been shocked that a solid half of the country chose a candidate based on his platform of isolationism and white supremacy. I wanted to believe that we were better than that.

So then there are the questions. Will he be impeached? Will the electoral college step up on December 19th and vote with the majority of the people? Should I, as a Californian vote for secession in 2018 so that the golden state can become an autonomous republic?  As I ponder all of these things, I try to force myself to breathe, to continue living, to continue pursuing my art. Actors, writers, dancers, artists- now more than ever we have a responsibility not just to entertain, but to hold up a mirror to society and tell the truth. It is crucial that we be as thought provoking and illuminating as we are fanciful. I try to remind myself of this. I try to remind myself that I am a person of faith.

I’m not often overt about this, as I hope that people can glean from my actions that I'm attempting to live a godly life. I try to be kind and generous, I try not to cut people off in traffic too often, and I try (and usually fail) not to talk shit about people. I am not perfect, but I believe that God is gracious and full of love, and that he is patient with me and with all of us. I bring this up because in the wake of this election I have seen several of my dear friends and the casual Facebook ranter proclaiming, and rightfully so, that the large number of people who claim to be evangelical Christians who voted for Trump are partly to blame for his path to the White House. I have seen the pain and confusion and disillusionment of people who are perplexed and repulsed by people representing a religion of love, who have in turn voted for hatred and exclusion.

My dear gay friends, and fellow people of color, please know that what you’re seeing is not Christianity and it is not the love of Christ. Also, I love you guys, and I will never push you aside. The fact that swaths of the country are misrepresenting God and hiding their hate behind religion hurts my heart. Please, please know that I for one don’t feel that way.  As I read the reports of LGBTQ people being attacked and Muslim women being threatened and having their hijabs ripped from their heads, I had an immediate visceral reaction. I was nauseous and near tears because I’m a human being. I would argue that my humanity is the most godlike part of me if I am indeed made in his image, and that anyone who thinks otherwise needs some serious introspection at the very least.

I realize that white rural voters and Latino voters and staunch Republicans and people who didn't vote are largely responsible for the election results, but I feel that Christians had a responsibility this year and failed. I am tired of hearing from those who didn’t vote, or threw away their vote for a third party candidate on principal that “God is in control.” That may be so, but as people who live in the world, it is wildly irresponsible and grossly negligent to carelessly abstain from the democratic process which we’re a part of. 

Refusing to do anything and saying that God will take care of it is tantamount to refusing to study for a test and then praying for the answers. You’re going to fail your test! In this case, you may lose your healthcare or see someone you care about deported or forced into conversion therapy. It’s not okay! Nor is it okay to have voted for Trump in spite of his many glaring deficiencies because you think that he will protect your values. First of all, he is NOT going to do the things he said or benefit the people who voted for him. But secondly, no one’s reproductive health is your business. It’s just not. If you don’t believe in abortions, don’t have one. But don’t be a proponent for the defunding of Planned Parenthood because they do far more than perform abortions, and even if that was all they did, your feelings about what other people do with their uterus is no reason to plunge the country into turmoil for four years and possibly beyond.

I’ve often wondered in the last couple days if somehow I karmically brought this upon myself. I’ve recently been musing that my life seems to be slipping by so quickly- where did this year go? How is it already March? How can summer already be over? OMG Thanksgiving is in two weeks! Well, I suspect that the next four years will creep by at a snail’s pace. But slow or not, the world will keep on turning. A friend told me that an older white woman saw her removing the Hillary sticker from her car while she was at a gas station on Wednesday. She walked over to her and shared that she felt as devastated about the election results as she did the day JFK was assassinated. But she lived through it. We will all get through this. 

I think it’s perfectly fine and healthy to take a day or a week and gather yourself because if you're like me, you are mourning and wildly vacillating between all five stages of grief. But once you’ve cleared your head, get organized, follow your dreams, be civically responsible and be kind, VOTE IN THE PRIMARIES… and maybe apply for Canadian citizenship. Just in case.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Big Words with Lyds: Volume 2

Published 7/12/2016

If you couldn't tell from this video, I really, really care about your vocabulary guys. I'm just gonna leave this here... because knowledge is power and stuff.

Prescient (adj.): Having knowledge of events before they occur, prophetic

Avuncular (adj.): Of or relating to an uncle

Asperity (n.): Harshness of tone or manner

Insouciant (adj.): Showing a lack of concern, indifferent

Demure (adj.): Reserved, modest, shy, coy

Acrimonious (adj.): Angry and bitter, scathing

BIG words turn me on...

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Published 7/7/16

This is where I would usually give a disclaimer of sorts, letting you know that my blog is usually not political, that I am not angry, (except this one time) and that here you will find only humorous anecdotes or videos about my missteps and trials as I scratch and claw my way up in Hollywood. I have hesitated to write about “touchy” racial issues because let’s face it, no one wants to be “that” black person. No one wants to find themselves in the sticky position of trying to make sense of the world we live in and wondering if you should give up driving all together, while a well-meaning white person is pontificating about reverse racism and non-existent white privilege.

But today I can’t do that. I have zero fucks to give about people who are annoyed when they hear that “black lives matter.” Guess what? Black people are tired of having to say that we do. We’re tired of being hashtags and quickly forgotten statistics. The week isn’t even over and already Alton Sterling has been murdered, Philando Castile has been murdered and this morning an as yet unidentified black man was found hanging in Piedmont Park in Atlanta. The police want to rule it as a suicide, even though members of the KKK were passing out flyers in the area the night before.  Also, how do you hang yourself from a tree?

I am honestly more afraid of police than actual criminals, terrorists, natural disasters and the Zika virus. I hate making sweeping generalizations of any group but I can’t un-see these images in the news. I can’t un-experience all of the negative interactions I’ve had with police and other white people in my own life. I’m incapable of feeling a sense of ease when my father or brother are travelling, because you can die for having a broken taillight. You can die for being in the wrong place, even if it’s your own car or your home.

I’m not an advocate of violence or extremism, but it’s clear that diplomacy isn't working. Something serious has to happen because systematic slaughter is not acceptable. And slaughter is what it is. If anyone else shoots someone armed or otherwise, it’s called a murder. Saying “police shooting” is too polite. It’s too sanitary, and implies that it is justifiable.

All lives matter- Orlando lives, Newtown lives, Boston lives, 9/11 lives- they all matter, but none of those horrific incidents change the fact that black people, particularly men are being arbitrarily targeted and killed. I tried to make sense of the extreme silliness of racism earlier today and I simply couldn’t do it. It would be just as logical to hate short people or gingers or people who are colorblind. Ridiculous, right?  You would think that in the twenty-first century, the descendants of people who were kidnapped, forced to build an infrastructure that they largely are barred from benefitting from through systematic disenfranchisement that includes the denial of loans, being refused jobs, housing discrimination and otherwise being discouraged from building wealth, would at least not be used for target practice by a government-protected institution that hides behind a badge.

I don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to be bitter, but I sit here writing this with tears in my eyes, wondering what the next logical step is. Being “woke” on Twitter is not enough. Wearing t-shirts is not enough. Being a generation of hashtags and bitcoins and all manner of ethereal currency is cute and all, but something needs to be done.  I would say that “I literally can’t even” with this current situation, but you know who actually can’t even? All the people of color who have been victims of police brutality.  It has to stop. I’m tired of being tired. Enough is enough.