This is how The Granted Actor started. About a year ago, I was running, literally, between two castings. (BTW: do you also find that when people say “literally” they usually mean “figuratively” as in “I literally tore his head off.” Really? That is not only an impressive show of strength to tear a human’s head off, but also, I think would end with you being in some sort of jail for the criminally insane.) But I digress. Because I WAS literally running, up 8th Avenue in New York, sweating because I was wearing my “casual mom” cardigan in 80 degree sun, with my sunglasses on my head to avoid the nose-marks that take a good 10 minutes to disappear, because I knew that if I got to my second casting in time, I’d be taken right in to slate and even “quirky mom” looks weird with two red dents on either side of her nose bridge……
WAIT…. I have to do a screech stop here and acknowledge something important: I am VERY VERY grateful for every casting opportunity I get. I am lucky that I have had some people believe in my ability to play moms, teachers and nurses. And even in 80 degrees, wearing a cardigan, I have fun on heavy audition days.
BUT, there was something that hit me that particular cardigan-wearing day……and this is going to sound pretty pretentious, but it’s the truth, and so judge me if you will, but it’s something I felt…. and that is: I’M AN ARTIST! I WAS MEANT TO CREATE! HOW IS RUNNING UP 8TH AVENUE BETWEEN CASTINGS CREATING ART?!
Oh boy, that is pretentious…. sorry. But it’s the start of this story, so I had to tell you that part.
(By the way, I was cast in neither commercial, but I did get a callback for one!)
Anyway, as I said, I had this moment of pretentious clarity on that day, that became more like an epiphany later on. After my two sweaty castings, I came home, turned on my laptop, and the email at the top of my inbox was from a local arts organization in my hometown. The email read: “APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE FOR 2010-2011 GRANTS.”
It hit me (figuratively) like a ton of bricks. Of course, I thought. I CAN create art and not go broke. I just need to get a grant! Just get a grant! Yes, that’s what I’ll do!
It was perhaps the last time in my life I can be called an ingenue. But I really believed that I could do it. If I had thought fully about the low success rate of grant applications in general, the fact that I had NEVER written a grant before, and the fact that I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I might have given up then. But I was so stoked from my 8th Avenue jog/email epiphany that I naively jumped right in. I made a list of projects that had been kicking around in my head for years. Then I started talking about them to others, weeding out ones that were impractical, vanity projects, too big, too small, and just not good. Until there was one… a children’s improv project that I helped develop while working in London. I thought it would be great to bring to rural schools in my hometown area in Northeastern Pennsylvania. A few weeks later, my grant application was sent, in triplicate, to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, along with letters of support from school officials, letters of intent from the other performers, resumes, pictures, and the grand finale, an DVD of a documentary containing an interview with me talking about how great improv is for kids. It couldn’t fail!
Or so I thought….
Months passed….four to be exact. And (literally) on the very day I finally gave up waiting, I got a call from my local arts council, telling me my grant application was successful. They were giving me much less then what I asked for ($1200 instead of $3000) but they were giving me money! To do my project! To hire other actors and myself! To get PAID to MAKE ART! My sweaty-cardigan-swathed shoulders couldn’t have stood up any prouder. I was a grant-supported artist!
Then came the hard part….come up with the rest of the money to do this project. Stay tuned for part 2!