Entertainment, ice skating, italian men, kids, Life in General

My Many Talents.

 

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Oh, where to begin, when there are so many things at which I excel. I mean I don’t want to brag, but even a quick list would include such rarified skills as—loosing my keys, burning toast, saying the wrong thing at the right time, falling down, smacking into doors when I’m running with my reading glasses on, rendering myself legally blind and my familiar home nothing but a vibrating blur. Really the list goes on and on, I am truly, deeply, wonderously gifted at fucking up.

What can I say? I’m just blessed.

If they gave trophies for misplacing things, I’d need to build a room onto my house to keep them all. I’d have shelves full of little gold cups, one for each of the many times I locked my keys in the trunk. (I’d like to thank the Academy and triple A!) At both ends would be two big-ass gold figurines posed with both hands clutching an empty head which I would have received for those two, (yes two,) times I dropped my keys three miles back on a hike where I had stopped to do some stretches. (I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my agent, my lawyer, and my cat, Yaki!) But in pride of place would be a magnificent championship crystal bowl presented to me when I broke my key off in the ignition while I was driving, effectively rendering the car un-steerable. That last one would be engraved, “We thought it couldn’t be done.”

One of my best honed talents is finding the one single thing in any store, anywhere, in any country, that does not have a price on it. It can be at the Safeway in Sunland or the Vatican gift shop in Rome. Not only will I be drawn like a lemming to that one and only tag-less item among thousands, I will also find that there is a long line of people waiting to pay behind me who can be super annoyed when the checker picks up that intercom and announces to the general public—each and every one in a hurry—‘price check on four!’ I feel my face redden as I turn and smile weakly at the harassed mother next in line trying to contain three screaming toddlers. Behind her is the bank teller with five minutes to get back to his window holding nothing but a redbull and a pack of sushi. Rounding out the line nicely are four or five firefighters with a full cart of groceries wondering whether to ditch and run as their radios scream dispatches to emergencies. They look horrified, and these brave men and women don’t scare easily. Don’t I feel special.

The checker might as well have announced, “Stupid blonde with no consideration for anyone else with an unmarked item, aisle four!” if the glaring and snorting of the people around me is any indication. It’s usually at this time that I say something feeble to clear the static resentment from two dozen angry shoppers clinging thickly to me like dryer lint. I say, oh something like, “Don’t worry, it won’t take long to run my fifty-seven badly printed coupons and clear an out-of-state check. I’ll be out of your way in a half-hour or so.”

People seldom laugh, but at least it gives them the chance to see that things could get worse. I could have asked for a bulk discount.

At this point I always offer to simply not purchase the item, but this, apparently, is unacceptable in a country where the customer always comes first. I picked out that organic eggplant and damn it, they are going to sell it to me! There’s no turning back now baby! Never mind that three alarm fire at the day care center, the firemen can wait while some teenage-bagger with all the enthusiasm and perkiness of a dirt worm takes a round about, lingering saunter to the produce section to check the price, pausing to text a few friends while ordering a soy chai latte at the Starbuck’s counter before shuffling back to register four. By this time, I am watching carefully for other produce, specifically ripe tomatoes traveling through space in the general direction of my head.

“Really, please,” I whisper furiously, keeping my back tightly against the gum racks so no one can stick a plastic utensil from paper goods in it. “Just ring up the total without the eggplant, I don’t need it.” The desperate mom’s eyes cut to the checker, silently pleading with her to cut my lifeline, let the bitch go for the survival of the species, but to no avail. We can wait, the checker has decided, she doesn’t get off until five and she’s union, why should we be allowed to go on our merry way? There’s a profit at stake here! She will send me home with that purple vegetable, or I can damn well sleep on a cot in the frozen foods section until managers are notified, corporate offices are contacted, and a price per pound is fully negotiated with China or whatever scary place our food comes from these days.

So, there’s that. Another special skill I have perfected is leaving a sprinkler or a hose running. All night. Okay, it’s bad enough to waste all that water in a drought, but when the water for your home comes from a well, and there is a limited amount that can be pumped up into the holding tank per day, it’s a sliver more inconvenient. Once that tank is empty, it’s three days until it’s filled again. And during that time, we conserve like we have one canteen left to cross Death Valley. We don’t take proper showers, just quick rinses. We don’t wash clothes, or run the dishwasher. Dishes are cleaned with water bought by the gallon from a machine in front of Rite Aid, and there’s nothing much to do except sit around watching the lawn turn from golden brown to easy-lite kindling.

And falling, I’m really good at that. Part of this special talent is from my ice-skating days were I would fall countless times learning a new double jump or some other physical feat that humans aren’t supposed to do until eventually, on my six hundred and seventeenth try, I find myself still upright, moving backwards on one blade with a feeling of surprise. “I did it. Well, that wasn’t so hard,” my brain would say to my bruised butt and hips. “Those oven mitt-sized black, blue, yellow and green marks will go away in a few weeks. Of course, now it’s time to start learning the triple jump. I comfort myself by believing the lie that I look better in Technicolor.

One time in particular, at a big competition in Lake Placid, New York was super fun. Sometimes, when the seating of rinks are filled with twenty thousand people or so, the space warms up more than it should and the ice gets soft, leaving areas a few feet wide that are actually pools of melted ice water maybe a half inch deep. When you hit these at full speed, your blade sticks, your skate brakes hard, but your body, which was moving along so nicely,  enjoying the breeze, keeps right on going.

So I’m at the end of my routine, which is the equivalent of running a mile with tricks thrown in, and, breathing hard, I pick up speed for my big last jump. I turn, launch myself up and off, fly gracefully spinning through the air, land perfectly for one magnificent moment. Then my skate hits that soft patch and I fall flat on my back, sliding through the puddle, drenching my back with ice water that takes my breath away. The cold makes me sit up fast with both legs stuck straight out in front of me, I’m still sliding and turning, making little waves and ripples as I slide through the frigid pond, feeling the wet soak up through my outfit and tights, . It’s the end, you know, that part where I do a really fast spin and then strike a final pose and wait for the applause. But when the music crescendos in a furious conclusion, I’m on my ass, still sliding, still soaking wet, so I just threw my arms out and did the pose there in the frigid little swamp with the water lapping around my thighs and calves.

And twenty thousand people did applaud, but they laughed a lot louder.

And that’s the day I learned that I’m good at a few things I didn’t even have to work that hard on. I learned that being embarrassed doesn’t kill you. You don’t die. You wake up the next day and move on, slink back to the grocery store seeking unmarked items, spend three hours searching for your keys, and then trip over a single stair in Venice Italy, sprawling face first onto a palazzo filled with gracious, beautifully dressed Italians enjoying coffees and wine.

Those people have really nice shoes.

Go fall down, be silly, play the fool.Make ’em laugh.  It takes the pressure off of everyone else for a few minutes at least.

 

And that’s something worth being good at.

 

Shari, June 28th, 2016.

art, beauty, creative inspiration, Life in General

Overflowing.

There are times in your life when beauty shines undeniably around you, and there are times when you find it in something as simple as moss between stones. And then there are the times it flows up, spilling out of your very self, as though you become one with the magnificence of the world and humanity all around you. For me, that happens most often in Venice. I cannot tell you how many times a spongy joy has saturated my heart, rising up until tears have filled my eyes in the last three weeks. Everyday I have been inspired to work with a fervor that seldom comes this many sunrises in a row. And I have three more weeks to go.

The bounty of creativity and art here are impossible to deny, and why would you want to? I gaze at art in a museum or a church and feel ecstasy. I stand on the edge of the fondemente and from the soles of my feet, the silver blue of the Adriatic ebbs into me. I take a spill in a square, and the kind people rush to help me. I do not know the Italian word for ice skating, so I cannot explain to them that after years of training 8 hours a day, falling is a familiar feeling for me, but I smile and wipe my hands and tell them how kind they are,and how grateful I am for their concern, but it is nothing. I am laughing, “Niente, niente.” My tripping has given me their kindness as a gift.

Joy pervades everything here for me. A simple stroll through the ancient streets, the singing greetings of ‘Buon Giorno!’ from the shop keepers we’ve come to know, or even strangers, ring like the bells of the Cathedrals that are all around us. Time after time the simple awareness of where I am now mists the world around me as my chest is saturated with  love of the moment. A Madonna painted by Giacomo Bellini is so drenched in color and beauty I cannot speak for the brilliance of how much it moves me.

And here is what I have to say about that. When beauty brings you to tears—weep, sob, let the tears flow with all the love and connection of which we are capable, and that is infinite. It is not only here that I feel this, it is more a state of mind, it’s just that here, in this ancient place still so full of life and passion, those exposures are closer to the surface, more available, and more constant.

We choose what to see and do in life. Often, we choose what to feel about it. With every word you put out, every smile or scowl you give to another, you plant a seed.

Will you grow a flower? A vine? A magnificent oak? Or something dark and poisonous.

There is beauty in darkness too, I do not deny that. But it’s up to you to nurture your own soul, to know that the stars are still there even on the cloudiest midnight. It’s all there for you, embrace it, let it go, weep for the perfect bliss that is in it.

Take it in, and give it back.

Shari, February 3, 2016. Venice Italy.

 

 

 

 

Life in General

Laughter in Hallowed Places.

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Walking through the sea in St. Marks Square.

 

A special month is engraved now in my heart and mind. Every month is special, of course, but the blessings of time in this city have once again charmed and enthralled me.

I leave with so many wonderful memories of time with my daughter and husband, too many to try to share or write down, I wish I could, but those are mine, and you shall make your own.

Venice itself is a priceless museum, a moment in time, evolving and frozen, the people here have exuded their class and enthusiasm like some invisible atmosphere, their love of life and sense of wonder are contagious, and Joseph and I are, as always, infected, saturated with the germs of life and laughter.

I have fabulous pictures, of course, but one thing I will always remember, and the suggestion of which will produce waves of sense memory, are the smells. Yes, sometimes Venice smells of the sea, of tides, of moisture, of mossy damp, but as you walk, ah, as you walk.

We exit our apartment and the warmth of radiated heat interspersed in the moist air of the marble stairwell greets us. We open the huge wooden doors onto the street and the canal and the bakeries with their yeasty love assault us. The wind brings us hints of the sea and the marsh, inviting, secret scents. We cross a stone bridge, listening to the chatter of joy and the calls of greeting and pass a tiny shop in a narrow brick alleyway, where everyday, all day, they bake fresh pizza rustico. This is not the delicious thin version so often served here, but thick, bread-like slabs smeared in sauce and cheeses and every delicious accompaniment you can imagine.

As we pass it we move on to the square, hitting the open avenue where each evening the locals ‘promenade.’ Many a twilight found us seated at a café table with an aperitif in hand, a bowl of salty, crisp and thin, homemade potato chips at our fingertips, watching the ebbing tapestry of life. Children on scooters and rollerblades, friends calling out enthusiastic “Ciao!”s and every version of intense conversation moving or still in the constant flow of people, conversations that take more than just words to participate in, they take punctuation of hands, rolls of eyes, symphonies of syllables and intonation.

And nearby, they serve hot chocolate, not hot chocolate like we do, thin as water, but thick, melted chocolate with fresh cream, dense as snow, laid over the top with a spoon. This is a treat so rich it must be served not on a plate, but in a mug.

And on it goes. The smell of rich sauces cooking on every other corner as the locals prepare their dinners of the richest ingredients bought daily from stalls on the street. Ripe tomatoes, basil grown in pots, never dried, sweet peppers, onions pulled from the earth yesterday, meats from a tiny butcher, who sells only what is best, from cows contentedly grazing only days before.  Preservatives are scoffed at, as is pasteurization or freezing, and the result is not only taste, but health. It was hard, when we visited the cemetery, to find a grave of someone less than 80. I think that should tell us something.

As for the treasures of Venice, the art, the architecture, the city itself, these things are remarkable, irreplaceable, and indelibly printed in our hearts.

But it’s the simple things that I remember the most. So I will leave this city with this story.

We were visiting the Scuola de Rocco. One of the most famous and magnificent buildings here, the entire interior is decorated by gigantic painting by Tintoretto, carved wood walls and seating for the great members of that great Union that are works of art in themselves. On the top floor is a room filled with their religious relicts, goblets, crosses, grails, each of them wrought of gold and silver and priceless jewels. Many of them are so ornate that they required years of an artisans’ life to complete. A guard sits sentry at all times. One of these objects could feed a village for a year, and that doesn’t take into account the artistry and skill of their beauty. 

We were not alone as we walked through this room. A young father was holding his daughter, she was probably between 2 and 3. As they went from stunning treasure to priceless work of art, I heard her childish voice ask, “What’s that Daddy?”

The father was English, and with typical patience and grace, he answered, “That’s the fire extinguisher, darling.”

And the sound of my laughter in the hallowed, hushed room rang out so that the long dead craftsmen must have stirred in their heaven and smiled down at us.

Sometimes, it’s the treasures, and sometimes, it’s the thing you wouldn’t usually notice that you carry with you.

I take home the scents and the weather and the laughter of Venice. If you ask me why I chose to turn down that narrow passageway, with no idea where it would lead me, I will answer you, “Because the wind invited me.”

 

Ciao, Venezia, a la prossima volta.

 

Shari March 18th, 2013. 

Life in General

Gorillas in the Mists of Venice

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A view of the filming from the bridge.
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And what I see when I’m ‘alone.’

What’s that? There in the fog? Look closely, that way, in the near distance, a movement, a murmur, the wildlife stirs.

Oh, that’s us. We’re shooting a film here sans the rest of our crew. The whole big scene, assistants, grips, FX team, assistant directors, catering, etc, will all be hunkered down for a few weeks of intense group participation back in LA, and that will be tons of fun, no doubt, but today is a very different animal.

Because for this segment of the film, probably the first three minutes, it’s just me, the director, and the director of photography. It’s a raw way of working, but let me tell you, it has its definite advantages.

First, as an actress. Yes, I’m doing my own makeup and hair, and keeping track of my own wardrobe, not very well, by the way, I won’t look as pretty or be as well lit, but that’s okay, this film isn’t a vanity piece, and on the other hand I don’t have a team of people in my face picking and fussing at me with spray cans, lint rollers and brushes right up until the director says action, which, when you are doing a scene where you are beginning to see the devil in your real life, helps I think.

So much of acting is about just being able to be alone in a crowd. Being capable of not seeing what is right in front of your eyes, but instead what you imagine and mentally produce. The more I think about it, the two most valuable qualities to have as an actor are probably a fantastic fantasy life, and emotional detachment.

Here’s an example. I’m shooting a scene in my hotel room in Venice, it’s a very intimate phone conversation with my estranged husband, (played by the fabulous Eric Etebari, who will shoot his part much later back in LA) I don’t have him giving me the lines, and the director is busy, so I have to just memorize my part, and ‘hear’ his lines in my head. Meanwhile, the DP is constantly checking the focus on the camera because the camera is panning and moving in as the scene continues.

Do you have any idea how hard it is not to look at someone moving suddenly in your eye-line? To stay fixed in a tense, emotional moment when someone is waving a hand a foot from the camera? The combination of ‘forgetting everything’ and ‘being in the moment’ is a dichotomy that is extremely unnatural.

But, hey, that’s what I do.

A huge part of being a good actress means being technically good. By that I mean that you know what the framing is on the camera and visualize how to best fill it, you match your hand and head movements so that the editor can cut between the master and the close up. You make sure you are in your light, even if that means a fraction of an inch turn of your head. You are careful not make any unnecessary sound that might mess up the audio. You sit into the shot and place your face in the exact inch that means you will be in focus. You pause when a boat in the canal outside sounds it’s horn and then repeat the line so that it is ‘clean.’ All in a days work.

Now add to that, shooting in a city packed with tourists with nothing to do but try to see what’s going on, and locals who try to get in the picture. It’s hysterical really. We got to the point where we would set up the camera facing the wrong direction. The Italians, always on the phone, would find a place to settle themselves directly in the shot, then, when they were ensconced, at the last minute we would swing around and I would move to the other side so that we could get the shot even amidst the indigenous flora and fauna.

And there you have it, Gorilla filmmakers in the mists of Venice.

And if I must say, we got some amazing footage. Atmosphere and emotion and history that we could never have achieved back in good ol’ Hollywood.

So for you actors out there, my message today is “be flexible.” Don’t expect everyone to be completely silent and still and cater to you. It won’t happen, not even on the biggest sets. Other people have jobs to do too, and you need to respect them as well. When the sound guy lowers the boom to six inches over your head to catch your whisper, don’t look at it, and don’t even think about it. Yes, you will see the grip angle the reflector card as you step in to your close up, yes you will see the first AD cue the extras to walk behind you. But you must stay in your own dream.

Forget them all, and remember everything. Be in the moment emotionally yet intellectually perform a thousand tiny physical tasks. That’s my advice for today. Whether you are shooting with two people on a busy street, or a crew of hundreds on a sound stage.

You will never be alone, but we must believe that you are.

Meanwhile, back in the jungles of Italy, in between shots, I smile at everyone, help the elderly man down the stairs of the bridge when our camera is blocking the railing, listen to the bells of the cathedrals tolling in their fullness, and remind myself again how lucky I am.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Shari Venice, Italy, March 10th 2013.

Life in General

Cities of Lace and Glass.

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The colorful island of Burano, where the world’s most beautiful lace is still made by hand.

 

 

Though I have visited both islands many times, today was the first time I’ve visited the museums on Murano and Burano, two unique places that share the lagoon surrounding Venice.

On Murano, which has produced some of the world’s most fabulous glass, the Museo de Vetri, (glass) works in chronological order. The first room holds glass from the ancient Romans. I was immediately arrested by a large, thin, clear vessel, maybe twenty four inches high, bulbous and tinted with clear blue marbling, which read on the small card, “dal I secolo.”

From the first century.

That’s a year that doesn’t even have a one in front of it, our century has a twenty begins with a twenty.  

That’s a piece of glass twenty centuries old, my friends. Twenty times one hundred years, this delicate, hand-blown piece of glass has survived, intact. Our country is two centuries old, this fragile, graceful pitcher has survived ten times as long as the United States of America, which we think of as so solid, so superior, so unbreakable.

Later, on Burano, we saw lace as old as five hundred years, incredibly intricate, woven of silk-thin fiber into patterns of birds and flowers, angels and demons, saints and martyrs. Still, in the light from a window, old women sit and work, twisting fibers so frail into art with infinite patience that will soon be beyond the skill of those who will come after them.

I was stunned by the honor of standing witness to these precious things. Speechless that these objects, so seemingly fragile and delicate, crafted by hands and eyes that died so many generations ago, could still be seen by my living eyes today, things you thought too frail to imagine surviving even a lifetime, have persevered for millennia.

Yet, sometimes it’s the way of the world. That which we consider the most fragile is in fact, stronger than we know, capable of weathering the most inconceivable tests of time.

Just like life. For often the most delicate of things are the most enduring—love, innocence, hope, these things continue in spite of all the cruelty, bullying, the crushing blows dealt by ignorance and violence, brutality and indifference.

A lasting relationship is not so different from that lace, it is woven of so many threads, every smile, wink, every individual glance of compassion representing one of those threads. Sometimes, when handled by the unskilled or the unknowing, they grow tangled, knotted and gnarled beyond repair, but sometimes with care, attention, and infinite patience, they can be unsnarled, and still other times even the mistakes can make a beautiful pattern, a new, yet enduring one.

And our years on this planet are not so different from that glass. How long we have is as uncertain as the strength of that melted sand, shaped in fire, and molded by intent.

As for the glass, and the lace, they will one day crumble, be crushed or dissolved. The cities that treasure them will be drowned, the world will change, life will evolve or pass out of existence.  That too is not so different from us, we are after all, all part of the great evolution. We shall die, turn to dust, be forgotten, everything passes, people, buildings, countries, even stars burn out.

But maybe, just maybe, those threads of connection, those reflections of real emotion will endure, spinning a lace of fineness in a universe of unimaginable grandeur, sparkling with the reflections of all that was good.

A museum of us, of our lives, of every tender moment in humanity and of all that was good in the universe.

A Museum of Eternity.

At least, I hope so. Perhaps, if we knit the thought together and put it under glass, it will be so. 

Shari, February 28, 2013

Life in General

The Incredible Beauty of Age.

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My husband Joseph and I were on the Grand Canal in Venice watching the palazzos slide by and I commented that it would have been remarkable to have seen it in it’s youth, when the buildings were covered in frescos and mosaics of gold and brilliant color glinted in the sunlight.

And he smiled gently and said, “It’s remarkably beautiful now.”

He’s right of course. Spending time in a different culture is beneficial in so many ways, the food, the history, the art, the language, all of these fill me with a sense of hugeness, and of the rapid passage of time. The diversity and unfamiliarity offer a sense of perspective that what we value in one small part of the world can often be incidental, or even distasteful, in another. This is important to realize and crucial to remember.

Even the faces here are different. One thing I noticed right away was the handsomeness of the elderly, especially the couples. There is a distinct difference in what is considered valuable here, and as a result, I have not once seen a woman who has destroyed her identity with plastic surgery.

People age here, and they do it gracefully. It would appear that they spend their lives living, experiencing what life has to offer with relish. What a wonderful reminder for me at 52, I have always preferred looking my age to looking desperate to be younger, it has always made me sad to see the artificiality that our society so often deems attractive. Of course, I live in Los Angeles, the city of surfaces. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself, for goodness sake, wax that hair or have that mole removed, or maybe get a small tuck if something bothers you. Many of the older women here in Venice wear subtle makeup and dress exquisitely.  They look their age, and their best. I have several friends back in the states who have had ‘work’ done that makes them looks as though they just had a restful vacation. That’s not what I’m talking about, I’m referring to abusing the knife until the individuality is lost. In my humble opinion, it does not improve their appearance, only neuters it.

I’m not judging other’s choices or actions, to each their own. I color the gray out of my hair, because it isn’t flattering to my skin, but I’m looking forward to it arriving at a tone I can leave. I use creams and lotions and in a few years I may have my loosening jaw tightened, not because I want to look younger, but because I think being jowly makes me look mean, and if there is a way I want to look, it is kind.

The wrinkles can stay, I don’t mind them. In fact, I not only like them, I earned them. And for anyone to tell me that the results of the laughter and suffering in my life, the wind on my face as I walked in nature’s beauty or the storms I have braved for adventure, have made me ugly, shows that it is not my skin that is unattractive, but their superficial insecurity. I would not trade those experiences for any amount of beauty. 

How frustrating it must be to feel that you should look decades younger than you are. How positively awful to judge yourself by what someone shallow enough to place your value there would think, or for that matter, what anyone but you would think. And shame on anyone who judges only the outside, they are missing all that is important. 

I have, as they say in Italian, five decades, in a blink I will have six, and if I’m lucky, seven and then even maybe, eight.

And I want to look beautiful—and eighty. I want my eyes to shine as the crinkles radiate from them and my smile to deepen my laugh lines until the story of my extraordinary life is written on my face. No one but me will have my unique memories, will have seen and felt the experiences I have had. That is precious to me.

They have a saying here in Italy, “If you are fortunate, you will get old” It doesn’t matter what you do to try to hide it, you will age. Why not appreciate the value and beauty of that? When did we forget to honor age and the passage of years? To see it as something magnificent in itself? 

I will look at this ancient city and see the crumbling walls and the fading frescoes and listen to the secrets that they whisper and see the magnificence that stands, more graceful and vibrant for the time that has brushed them, and I will feel overwhelmed with life, with death, with the beauty of centuries, of ages, past and present.

Venerable Venice, it is always the same for me, I am awed. And the millennium that have passed over and through it make me smile with my heart.

We are not so different, after all. I will grow old, and I’m content with that. And I know that my husband will never look at me and say, how beautiful I was, wishing that he could see me then, he will smile softly at my old face and say, “You are amazingly beautiful now.”

And he will mean it.

Amore da Venezia

Shari, February 24, 2013

Life in General

Return to Venice

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How lovely to be back in our favorite city, and for a month. I have been many times, and I still get lost.

Just like life, you think you know now how to handle mistakes, rude people, even the psychopaths you deal with regularly, yet each time, you find yourself thrown off and disoriented when faced with the twisting paths of territory that is, not necessarily unfamiliar, not even unexpected, but somehow still surprising. You can know that a city is twisted, that a person is unreasonable, that a reaction is absurd, but they are what they are.

And yet, along the way, we find beauty, affection, and real connection and you draw enough strength from those to suffer the random insanity. On this adventure we are staying in an apartment on the top floor of a 16th century palazzo. I find that amazing. To be in a place that was built for a single family over 400 years ago. The view from every window is remarkable, historic, and awe inspiring. And I feel so honored to have this opportunity.

A large part of my heritage is Italian, and the food, the laughter, the passion—and the aggressive driving—are in my blood. They might not have cars in Venice, but on the way into the city on the water taxi, our driver was on a mission to beat out the other boats, my daughter, whose humor always warms my heart, turned to me and said dryly, “He drives like an Italian.”

Which he was. Which I am, though tempered with a good portion of British blue blood. We have been here only one full day and already we have connected with so many good people. There are no elevators here, of course. And our apartment is on the fourth floor, many wide marble steps, interspersed with magnificent mosaics on landings, mark our pathway home. An older gentleman occupies the only other top floor apartment and we arrived home as he was bringing his groceries up. Not having known he was going all the way up, when he arrived after us, I said, in italian, “I’m sorry, I should have helped you.” Then joked, “Troppi scale!” which means, “There are too many stairs!”

He looked at me with a bright eye and a yellow toothed smile and said with a laugh. “Troppi anni!”

Too many years.

Ah, the heart of the Italians. To have spent your life in a city of ancient and immortal beauty.

And an inimitable sense of humor, a love of laughter and life.

You cannot have too many years.

Con amori da Venzia,

Shari, February 18, 2013

Acting & Experiences, Entertainment, Life in General

Venice, the Return.

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I’ve had several people ask me recently what I’m doing with acting. So here’s my update and a little insight into preparing for a role.
I’ve taken almost a decade off of film and television acting so that I could spend time raising my girls. You have to understand that you’re either in it, or you’re not. Agents, casting directors, etc, just won’t deal with part time. There are too many other people available. I’ve done plenty of theatre and writing in those years, in fact, I’ve worked harder than when I was ‘acting’ for a living. But now that Calee is older and Creason is off to college, I’m set to do a project that won’t take me away from my younger daughter, rather, I’ll take her with me!
Last year, my husband made and sold a film titled, “Redemption.” If you’re interested, you can check it out at redemption-movie.com It is a post civil war drama about a wealthy southern family that lost everything and comes to California to rebuild their lives. It’s beautiful, moving, and won many awards. It’s also been a lovely calling card toward doing our next project.

So now, for something completely different. We will start shooting, “Scream at the Devil” in February in Venice, Italy. We will take Calee with us, get her a tutor and she will assist in the filming. Then it’s back to L.A. where we will complete the shooting.

The story is of a woman, (little ol’ me) who has dealt with serious psychological problems. She and her husband go to Venice for a second honeymoon, and while they are visiting a very ancient cathedral she picks up something that is older and darker than anything in their known world. Or did she?

The movie continues as a slow decent into hysterical insanity, or is she really sane and the presence she feels is truly malevolent?

Preparing for this kind of role, requires accessing levels of emotion freely that one would normally shut down. I realize I’ve already been noting moments of fear in my life and checking in on how they register in my body, my voice, and my feelings. It’s almost like subconscious homework. Being able to reach down and yank out the insanity that lurks there in all of us, is something I’ve done before, for films and theatre. Think, “Lady Macbeth.” That took some digging. But here’s what happens. At first, it’s frightening, you don’t want to go to that dark and scary place, then you access it a little and learn to build on it, react from that place, it informs you, and at some point, while you are simultaneously wailing and laughing and seeing snakes under wallpaper, some small voice in you says, “This is fun!!” And then you can walk away from it when you’re done. Let it slide off.

Now this film is going to be a full month of ‘going there’ And I’m looking forward to it this time. The more gritty and dramatic the script reads, as Joseph rewrites, the more excited I get. Give me something I can really sink my teeth into!!

The other aspect of playing crazy is how you display it. Good acting is a combination of real sensory work, (feeling it) and technical finesse., (if you can’t see the camera, the camera can’t see you. Where’s my light source? How much of me is in the shot? Did I match the arm movements in the close up to the master shot of the room?) You can do all the ‘feeling’ you want to, but if you’ve covered your face with your hands and crawled into a closet, it won’t be on the film. Unless, of course, there’s a camera in the closet, then… go for it!!

One of the most difficult things about preparing for a role is knowing where the character starts. I’m a fairly resilient creature, people think of me as strong and reliable. This woman, is not. She is coming from a weaker, more abused place. So I have to create a history for her up until the exact moment that first scene starts. I’ll write more about this later, because it’s a whole process that really works for me. I write pages and pages about the childhood, teens, etc, specific events, so that I create a character who would behave and react like the woman I am portraying.

Fun stuff!! And best of all, I’ll be spending time in my favorite city in the world, Calee will eat pasta and proscutto until she pops, and we will learn history and architecture, and art and culture.

Now, I might be crazy, but I think it’s a win-win.

Even if I do have to loose my mind to get there.

Salute e felicita a tutti, Shari. 10-8-2012