Acting & Experiences, Entertainment, family, Life in General, men, New Novels, parenting, Theatre, writing

Who am I NOW?

As the evil disney queen in a book video a few months ago. It suits me.
As the evil disney queen in a book video a few months ago. It suits me, fantasy and literature.

Who am I now?

I haven’t been on my website for a week or so or posted anything new, and so I was surprised to see that I had 3000 hits in a single day hits a few days ago. This was, to quote Zoolander when his message machine tells him he has 12 hundred messages, “A little above average.” and I wondered why.

Sure, I have a new book out and “Invisible Ellen” is doing pretty nicely, but that couldn’t be it. And then I remembered that my girls told me my ex had done this show called “Celebrity Wife Swap,” and I thought, “Oh, it must have aired.” I knew about the show, but only because he and his wife had wanted the girls to be on it, which caused some friction, but my daughters had the sense and the backbone to refuse. Neither of my daughters are fans of ‘reality’ TV, and—though admittedly I’ve never watched CWS—that show seems…uh, let’s just say…not exactly creme of the crop, and they didn’t want to be associated with it. Bless their classy little hearts.

Now, I didn’t see the show, don’t ever intend to, so maybe it’s a steaming pile of art and I would be sorry to have missed it, but my instinct tells me no.  I have never once looked at either my ex’s or his wife’s websites and I definitely steer away from anything involving them in social media, (I know, I know, I’m writing this, but I’m trying to make a point!) I know I won’t like what I see, so why go looking for it? To be honest, I don’t really know them, and have only the barest of contact since he announced with a smug smile that he wouldn’t be contributing to college, then drove away in his Porsche. He tells a different story, no doubt in his public version of himself and has an image of himself to maintain, as many people do, but I deal with the reality, usually damage control, and that’s plenty. I do my best to disassociate from that whole, publicist-generated, artificial world version 2.0.

So it interests me that people would see that wife swap show and look me up. It’s a weird interconnected web out there. It feels remote to me and my everyday life. I think of how I’ve tried to focus my life away from that kind of negativity and on doing work that is worthwhile to me. That’s not to say I wouldn’t work on a show for the money if i really needed it, the key to avoiding that is to keep your cost of living down so that having to prostitute yourself is kept at a minimum. From someone who once starred in “Death Spa” that may seem a bit bogus, but hey, things have changed.

You see, at first you want the things that everyone else envies, I don’t know why, but that’s often what our society teaches is desirable. You want to be sexy, and famous, and beautiful and rich, and then you grow up and want to be valued for something real. Well, some of us do anyway, others get caught in the cycle. For me, after living by my looks modeling in New York and ending up a cocaine addict, which I beat myself at 22, I had to come to terms with the fact that being valued for what is on the outside is very, very lonely and untrue. Then I wanted to be famous, because that impresses people, right? But when I got a dose of that, It just felt just strange. When many people meet someone they’ve seen on TV or film immediately there is a veil, an artificial wall, that separates you because they think you are something you are not and, falsely, feel different from you. I hated that. You give up privacy and often even the ability to spend time in public with your family comfortably. I’ve had people put their kid in my lap while I was eating at a restaurant and start video taping. I love meeting new people, but that was just invasive, (especially since I was eating spinach). Now I have many wonderful friends, who I first met as ‘fans’, don’t get me wrong, but there is a difference between meeting people on an equal footing, and people wanting to document meeting you as a trophy for being on a show or in a movie that you don’t even think is very good.

That didn’t feel right to me. It’s lovely to have people like and respect your work, and name recognition as a novelist is important as well as for an actor, but when you have to constantly pretend to be what you’ve created, meaning some kind of public persona, it is, for all but a few, confusing to the point of soul-crushing. Egos get all out of whack. But I did love acting, the art of it, making an audience breath together or laugh as one, and since the film and TV roles of quality weren’t coming to me, I turned to theatre where I’ve done my best work, respected the writing and myself, and felt the joy of working with an artistic community that betters the many, instead of the few.

And writing has always been my first love. Though I’m proud of all of my books, I don’t think there’s any question that “Invisible Ellen” is the kind of book I’ve always wanted to write. Hopefully, it’s original, funny, heartwarming, and uplifting. Those are qualities I feel good about.

So, one day soon, maybe I’ll get thirty thousand hits on my website because my new book, “Emerging Ellen” is hitting the stores. I certainly hope so, but for me, that’s a different kind of attention, one I can spread around and share. Oh, and it would go a long way toward helping me pay for private school and college, which would be lovely, and for my charity as well. Meanwhile, I’ll drive my used Ford Escape Hybrid, give what I can, and laugh and love with my girls and my family, support my friends’ many endeavors and try to create something new and worth reading or watching.

Because that’s who I am now.

Who do you want to be? Go get ’em baby.


Shari, July 25th, 2014





Acting & Experiences, Life in General, New Novels, Theatre, writing

Want to Write Well? Learn to Write Badly!


Here’s a shot of me singing ‘Mein Herr’ in Cabaret a few years back. I know, I know, I didn’t write that. But, I did have to sing the part, and here’s the thing; I’m not a singer.

Sure, I can carry a tune, and have a ‘nice’ voice, but compared to those who work at it, I’m weak. So, I had to work my solar plexus/abdomen off to get myself up to belting-it-out level.

It took about eight weeks with a vocal coach and a minimum of an hour a day practice, not counting the actual rehearsal times, to get there. When I was asked to play this part, I auditioned for the music director, the dance choreographer, and the director. Acting? No problem. Dancing? Done enough with my ice skating to fake the lead, (it’s the chorus that really dances). Singing? Wasn’t quite so sure.

However, when the musical director, who was blind, said I could handle it, I agreed to take the part. And I’m so glad, it was one of the best theatre experiences I’ve ever had. One of the best overall acting experiences actually.

But I had to start with an average talent and work on it until I could hold the solos and bring down the house. It took weeks of cracking notes and perfecting technique, and if I had only been as good as my audition, the show would definitely not have been a hit, in fact, I would have let a lot of people down. There was pressure to be, not just good, but exceptional. A pressure that all to often, writers put on themselves too early on.

We don’t start off being perfect at anything in life, especially not when creating the first draft of a new book. You don’t know yet if the idea will be good, if you’ll be up to the challenge, if this is an idea that will flesh out into a full-bodied epic with pith and wisdom and sentences that make you weep. Most people, I’m guessing, begin a book with little more than a basic idea and go from there. If we expected our first draft to be the opening night performance, (i.e. finished novel) we’d be so terrified, we’d never even start.

So here’s my first advice, go ahead and suck. Be bad, let the typos and the spelling, and the over-writing and the rambling go. Get it down on paper, or at least, in a computer, then you can go back, work it, get advice, have an editor work with you. We do this in every other aspect of life, we learn as we go, we improve and we step up, it’s the same in writing.

Don’t forget, you’ve got the rehearsal to perfect it, to get better, to polish and fluff and fill. If you are afraid to put something down that isn’t good enough or might need to be thrown out, you won’t have the joy of writing, of the process. And if you don’t love the process, do something else.

I mean, look at it this way—you might not be Celine Dion, but does that mean you can’t belt out one of her classics in the car? Of course you can, and I’ll bet you sound good in there!!

So start that story, create those characters, dream up scenarios and whole other worlds, because it’s fun!! And if it isn’t quite right, change it, start over, twist and shape it into something you do love.

Just remember this, don’t do it the way you think it should be done, do it from your heart and use your own voice, because it’s all you truly have to offer.

I ain’t no Celine, but with a lot of sweat and more than a panic attack or two, I pulled off Sally Bowles, and loved the experience, even if I wasn’t good when I started.

So just write it down, get your idea out of your head and into some workable form. Your idea will evolve and improve, I promise. Your words will smooth out, and the discordant notes will strengthen as you work on them. Have the courage to cut and change when needed. In a month or two, or six, or twelve, each to their own tempo, you will have a finished work that you can hold up proudly and say, “I wrote this!”

And if nobody else likes it, so what! Nobody can predict that, but like singing in the shower, it’s still really fun!

Shari, November 13th, 2012

Acting & Experiences, Theatre

A Brief History of How to Cry.

ImageThere are scripts that aren’t good. There are days when we’re just a bit flat. There are times when even the best actor can’t ‘get into the moment.’ Sensory work for an actor means this; you spend a considerable amount of time locating and creating feelings that that, in a pinch, or when you are acting something badly written, you have a backup.

A sensory exercise might go like this. You are asked by the coach to bring in a picture of a relative who is gone. Someone you loved and knew. You pick your grandmother. You spend time looking at the picture and thinking about that person, the joy they brought you, the love that cannot be replaced, but mostly about specific memories. It is best to back these memories up with senses, that is what you are going for. Remember a specific time your grandmother was making cookies and you felt safe. How did it smell? Was it raining outside or sunny? Was there music playing or the dishwasher running? Was the Christmas tree up, did it sparkle with light? All of these things will bring the emotion of that moment into fullness in you. The sensation of feeling safe and loved can overwhelm you and fill you up, now, years after the event.

Now, you are on a set working with an actor you just met this morning, who is playing your sister and the scene calls for you to share a loving moment. You look at her, she’s a stranger and you feel nothing. But because you have done this specific work, you can take a moment, or prepare before time, to recall that sensory exercise and let the feelings you nurtured for your grandmother well up in you. And before you know it, a real, heartfelt smile is lighting up your face, and tender tears are in your eyes.

The same thing can work for fear, sadness, anger, etc. And it doesn’t have to be a huge, traumatic moment. In fact, better if it isn’t, those are hard to control and your body doesn’t like to feel bad, so it will shut the sensations down after a bit. For years my best recall sensory memory for anger was a time when I was maybe three and my mom took my tricycle for some reason. I recalled it, and remembered her standing on the back ledge, hands on the handlebars, scooting it along. My whole little body was filled with pure, three-year old fury, tense and vibrating, as I ran toward her screaming. I remember the grass and then the sidewalk under my shoes, the smell of honeysuckle in the south, and the sounds of the tricycle’s wheels on the cement. Even writing this now, makes me a bit tense with anger.

I will never forget, when in acting class, the coach worked up through our chosen emotion and then told us to improve from there. I looked at the actor across from me, balled up my fists and screamed, “Get off my tricycle!” There was a moment of stunned silence, and then we all dissolved into laughter.

It seems a silly thing, but it was a moment of pure, unadulterated emotion that I have been able to re-use. A note of caution— Never use something you cannot control. I once worked with a director who told me that he was filming a rape scene with an actress and she had really been raped as a young girl. She got so emotionally upset that he had to stop the filming and send her home. And he thought that was impressive. I was appalled, that is not acting, that is abusive. A director’s number one job is to protect the people who work for him. He failed that day.

I had someone ask me recently to talk about a film I did called, “Hot Child in the City.” It was a fun little thing, made, if I remember correctly, by HBO? during the whole music video craze thing. Now in that movie, I played a bitch record producer who is killed and her sister becomes her to solve the crime.

My work for that was more subtle and harder to narrow down. It was not one of the five emotions. I was raised to be nice to people. Never make them uncomfortable, be a good hostess, encourage people to talk about themselves, and I like living that way. But this character, Abby, I think it was, was not that. So, I had to find ways to think about what I was doing that would work for her. Anger doesn’t play for very long, and bitchiness is not an emotion. So, we go to replacement.

In one scene have to tell a recording artist that his music sucks. Not something Shari would do, but I might tell off someone who had promised me to fix my car, didn’t do it, took advantage of me and ripped me off. So, I look at Tony Alda, who is playing the artist, and imagine him as the slimy mechanic who put substandard parts in my car and charged me top dollar. Now I say the line, as though I’m telling him off. Low and behold, my voice drops, my face hardens and I get through the line with some genuine background.

Making movies and being other people is hard work. Not the glamorous, red-carpet images that most people see and think of. It’s getting up for a four a.m. call, sitting in makeup to look beat to hell for three hours. Waiting on set for ten or twelve hours before you are called on to produce raw emotion. being freezing cold or burning hot and trying to look completely comfortable.

Not soaps, I have three things to say about soaps—level floors, air conditioning, and secretaries. Easy peasy compared to swimming in freezing cold water in a cave, or dragging a body through a muddy rain storm. (I still have back problems from that one!)

It comes down to this. Be prepared, know your lines, be on time, and then…let go, be present, listen and most important…don’t act…react.

Of course you have to be ready before you can let go. Just like in life. Unless you can be okay without something, you will never really have it, it will have you.

For those of you who don’t act, but write. Next time, I’ll turn it around. I like to call it “Acting for the page.”

It’s the same process, but backwards.

Like so much in life. Good advice really, slow down, back up, take a look, leap.

Happy flying,

Shari 10-15-2012

Shakespeare, Theatre

Much Ado about Week Three.

Fabulous second weekend, we thought we had almost no reservations, then came out to very respectable houses. Turns out the message machine was not working correctly! whoops. Anywhoo, lots of laughs, it’s always great to have audiences who understand what we’re saying. I got a wonderful compliment when I commented on this to a visiting director, he said, “If they don’t understand the language, all they have to do it look at your face, and they’ll get it!!” So sweet. This weekend we’ll have two understudies in, always a bit of a roll of the dice, who knows what lines they’ll remember, and blocking? Well, we’ll just wander around the stage. Actually, both understudies are seasoned actors and will be great. I think Shakespeare will hold up with a different interpretation. I’m pretty sure it has before. Also, I started ‘tweeting.” Fun, but I think between this, FB, tweety thingy, etc, I’ll never actually write!! Okay, I’m lying, I can’t live without writing. Off to edit!! Image

Shakespeare, Theatre

And…we’re off!

Opening night! I spent most of the two hours, I got to the theatre early, before the show fixing peoples costumes, (why can’t twenty-somethings handle a needle and thread? Who wants to be that helpless?), setting props and, finally getting myself dressed and ready. I didn’t have time to be nervous. Until our stage manager, Ashley, called ‘places’. Now, here’s how it works. She calls dance call about thirty minutes before the show, we all go on stage and run through the dance, we wander off. She calls warm up about twenty before, we go on stage, squeeze hands, do a shake up, wander off. She calls ten minutes, “Thank you ten,” choruses from the gang. She calls five, “Thank you five.” She calls, “Places,” That means the audience is in the house and it’s time to get to our opening positions. Mine, is waiting in the main entrance. 

So that’s when the nerves hit me. I’m standing in the dark, able to see the faces of the audience on both sides, I’m not really concerned about knowing my lines or acting, but things happen, lines slip away, from you or a critical cue from a cast mate. I notice that there are not one, but two women in the house who auditioned for my part, that’s always fun, looking out at someone with their arms crossed staring hatefully up at you. 


But I take a deep breath, plant my feet and step forward, “I pray you sir,” I mostly shout over the air conditioning and fans, “Is Senior Montanto returned from the wars or no?” And we’re off!!  I make it through the first scene, grateful for the rehearsal that keeps me from seizing up, and then, it all calms down. By the time I’m trading quips with Benedick, we’re all good. Nice house that night, but an audience of smilers rather than laughers, it happens. We do get laughs, but now what we expect. Peeking, unprofessionally, out from backstage however, I see broad smiles of enjoyment and amusement on most of the faces, that’s good too. On Sunday, my nephews, 8 and 10 are in the house, and I’m so preoccupied with entertaining them, that I go cartoon, which is probably real close to what the Bard was going for with this one. 

So, now to  settle into the next five weeks, and get back to writing!! I’ve just had an edit in on a new book, so I’m off to try to please a single editor instead of a full house. I’ll start a blog on that one, for anyone who is interested!  

Excuse me, it’s my cue for the second scene. I enter, “How tartly that gentleman looks. I never can see him but I am heart burned an hour after!” I see you out there, wink wink. 

Acting & Experiences, Theatre

One to Go

Dress rehearsal tonight! Its all going well, though there are still the blips where your cue just won’t stick in your head. The hardest ones are when you have to have the other actor’s line to set yours up, especially Beatrice, who has whole scenes that are nothing but puns on what the other character’s say. For instance, “She is too curst.” To which I reply, “Too curst is more than curst.” Kind of hard to say that line without the cue. this cast is pretty reasonable, we don’t have any divas in the bunch, so the usual tempers flaring, snipes, and emotional breakdowns have been at a minimum. I’m grateful, there’s enough drama on stage! It’s also a big cast, so the dressing room is a bit crowded. It’s always interesting to me how a group of normally ‘randy’ young actors can behave so well while everybody strips to their underthings in change after change. It’s like…Europe. We did have one fun moment last night where an actress missed her cue and the actors on stage stood there ad-libbing things like, “Where be Hero?” “Oh sweet Hero, where art thou?” Pretty funny, actually, to everyone but the director, who was not amused. 

Acting & Experiences, Shakespeare, Theatre

3 To Get Ready.

We’re down to the wire, only three rehearsals left until we open on Saturday. We’ve had air-conditioning problems at the theatre, during one of our hottest weeks of the summer, so it’s been ‘hell’ week in more ways than one. The AC should be fixed today, I hope so. Aside from trying to project lines over four noisy fans, let’s just say kissing someone drenched in sweat isn’t optimal. Oh, it might work if you’re in love with an Olympic athlete and you like that sort of thing. I’m reminded of a girlfriend who referred to her exercise-crazed boyfriend during an Atlanta summer as a ‘big ol’ slip and slide,’ but on stage? Well, I’m just glad Benedick is my husband. In the meantime, costumes tear, lines flee from your head when they are needed most, and we have to remember not to ad-lib things like, “Waz up?” or, “Sweet rags,” when called upon to be background on stage during the masked ball. The worst thing last night was the director getting a little personal about the Hero-Claudio kiss, which I though was a bit rude and overwrought. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be chaste and all that, but come on, they’re both young, gorgeous, and you get bored doing these scenes over and over. Personally, I’m all for it. Plus, Claudio is one of those handsome young devils with a body fat ratio of .00023 so he doesn’t sweat as much as my hubby, who has a hundred or so pounds on the young squire.