There’s one thing I’ve never been much good at, and that’s critiquing artistic works, writing reports on anything, analyzing thing, or in general doing any of those things you’d get graded on in school. Which is probably the main reason I ended up skipping college and heading straight to work in Los Angeles.
However, I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Dutch Girl, a book on Audrey Hepburn’s years in Holland during World War 2 by Robert Matzen (Hi, Robert!!!), and of course I have to say something about it here!
“When the elephants fight, the grass suffers…”
In general, I’m not a fan of books or films about war. However, following one person’s experiences during a time of conflict does capture my attention. I suppose it’s that connection you can more easily make with one human, versus trying to empathize with thousands of general experiences, or be interested in humans killing other humans en mass. The details make it relatable, and you’re rooting for that person to make it through. You’re learning about a real human experience, and not just being bombarded with names and dates and battles and death. I won’t be able to repeat back any names of generals or dates of battles, but I will remember what the people of Velp and Arnhem and so many other cities suffered when I walk their streets later this year… I will appreciate what these people had to go through, as innocent victims of war. We are all very lucky that Audrey made it through.
It was interesting to read in more detail what those years were like for young Audrey. It’s difficult to imagine having to live through these things, having your life disrupted and affected so much. Intellectually, I know that this is still happening to so many around the world. It’s easy to forget, when you’re in the middle of living your own pretty safe and standard life. It was heartbreaking to read about her uncles’ capture and killing. One of them kept a journal during his captivity, parts of which are shared in the book. He and his wife were so brave and strong… I doubt I would have been as courageous under the same circumstances. I would want to be. But I know myself and I would probably be the angry defiant prisoner! Who really knows… I hope never to find out.
This is definitely a book I’m going to be keeping on my shelf. Most other biographies are pretty similar in their content, but this one fills in so many years that are normally just glossed over. Years that made her who she was. I can absolutely recommend reading Dutch Girl. You can preorder it on Amazon and get it in April. You know you want to! 😉
Speaking of Dutch, I’ve started taking Dutch lessons from a teacher on iTalki.com, which is also where I found my French teacher. And once I get the hang of Dutch (hahahaha… oh my goodness it’s taken me ages for French, let’s see how this goes), I’m going to add in a little Italian before I reach Italy. I know I’m not going to reach any kind of fluency in the next year, I would be happy getting to A1 level. I’ve always wanted to be multilingual, but haven’t put enough effort into it. Thanks to Audrey though, I’m getting a little push off on the languages and dancing. Fortunately, I do have at least two Dutch friends I can practice a little with before I get to Holland. And three Dutch relatives that I haven’t seen in years but I’m sure they would be happy to hear from me!
I can’t wait to look back on 2019 and see all the new things I’ve learned, all the new people I’ve met, all the new adventures I’ve had….
Dancing was Audrey’s obsession from the minute she discovered it as a child. She didn’t have great aspirations to be an actress. No, she wanted to be a dancer and a choreographer. Funny the directions that life takes us.
My parents didn’t expose me to much as a child, nor did the school I attended. But in 5th or 6th grade I had a friend who was a ballerina, and when I saw her dance, I desperately wanted to do that too. It wasn’t just ballet. At her house we would watch music videos (I remember watching Thriller for the first time, there on her floor) and I wanted to do what they did. I wanted ballet, and jazz, and modern dance – whatever it was called, I wanted to do that. I looked up dance classes in the Yellow Pages and settled on one I was interested in. I don’t remember if I called them up or not (I was and always have been extremely anxious about making and receiving phone calls) but my goal was to get into dance class. I even kept a journal documenting everything I did to try to get my parents to let me take classes. Sadly…. they never agreed to it and I never took classes. I let my friend take the spotlight when we would choreograph something for the talent show, and I stood aside wishing I could dance, too.
Cut to my early 20’s. I was working hard when I first arrived in L.A. Night and day, weekends, everything. I was background on so many shows and films that I couldn’t even name them all for you (but I did keep a journal of each one, with time worked and amount paid – to make sure they paid me, and so that I could tell my parents where to look for me on TV!). After my stand-in gig on Buffy, I took a break and went on unemployment. It was at that time I began taking ballet classes, three times a week, at the Westside School of Ballet. Part of my inspiration at that time was actually Audrey. I had seen the 2000 TV biopic about her life and thought, she deserves better. So I started writing something of my own. I spent a LOT of time on it, and decided that if I wanted to play Audrey myself, I would have to start those dance classes. So I did. At some point I even joined the adult pointe class (where my teacher would make fun of my “skinny fat” and I would try hard to suck it in). I continued there off and on for several years, and then tried out a couple schools in Paris, when I moved there. Life got in the way and I stopped for a long time, until I moved to Pasadena recently, and found a place nearby and decided to start it up again. I thought I would like to once again join the pointe class, but felt I had to build up strength and re-learn a lot. My attendance was inconsistent, but with my renewed determination to play Audrey, the real possibility of this dream coming true… I’ve recommitted. And yesterday, for the first time in about a decade – I put those pointe shoes back on.
It wasn’t bad! I had to stuff some extra tissues in there at one point, and definitely was worn out around the 50 minute point, but I survived and did almost all of the exercises. I decided when I came home to order some new toe protectors, however, since mine were old and sticking together. So I hopped onto Amazon (and by the way, if you go to smile.amazon.com you can choose a charity that your purchases can benefit. I contribute to the Malala Fund, personally) and ordered some more. Then decided to get even more serious and ordered this thing:
And a stretching strap, to help me with those splits (which I still can’t do). It’s unlikely that I would get to the level of skill Audrey had by the time she was dancing in London revues, but I’m going to work as hard as I can. I’ve even started looking up dance classes across Europe, for the road trip I might be taking over the summer. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that classes are cheaper practically EVERYwhere – why on earth am I in L.A.?! I struggled to find a class costing less than $20 here, the one I’m in now is $16 (with discounts if you buy a pass for 5 or 10 classes). It adds up.
Anyway! I’ll be headed to the barre 2-3 times a week (and in between, I’ve got my ballroom dancing, salsa, and belly dancing, because I love ALL dance!!!) and now I’ll be dancing en pointe. It’s about time. It’s amazing how wonderful dancing makes me feel. I think when you neglect an activity you love for long enough, you forget how fulfilling it is. I actually feel the same about acting, because I go so long in between actual roles with character development and lines that I think to myself, “why am I pursuing this? The pursuing is miserable, I’m not happy.” And then when I get to act, I’m reminded of what it is I’m pursuing. Anyway, that’s another conversation all together! I just wanted to share my dance accomplishment today. I’m very proud to have survived my first pointe class in ages. The pain I’m feeling today makes me very, very happy.
I’m not perfect. Heck, there are reminders every day of how imperfect I am. And even though I know that I’m not such a bad person, that I’m actually probably in the category of “good people,” I seem to have such huge insecurities that they subconsciously sabotage me. I’m calling you out, subconscious.
So back in December, I scheduled the first 2 of 3 dialect coaching lessons, because my coach is very busy and was booked up until January 7. He’s located in London, so I was very careful to figure out the time differences and I put the first lesson in my calendar. For some reason, I did not enter the second lesson, and I’m sure you see where this is going. These lessons cost about €75 each, and I’d also paid for 2 hours of research time for him to analyze her accent. I made it to the first lesson on time, bright and early at 8am on a Monday morning. But for some reason, starting some time before this day… I had it in my mind hat my next lesson was around the same time the following Monday. 7 or 8 AM, couldn’t remember exactly so I figured I would check earlier in the morning since I would be up for another webinar (on Forex, boring, I know, but I’ve never been able to count on acting to pay the bills) at 6AM. I’d left my friend’s house early the day before telling him I had to spend more time that evening preparing for my lesson, and get to bed early so I could wake up early. Which I did.
So I was fast asleep when my teacher Skyped me and texted me around 11:45PM wondering where I was. Because it was 7:45AM for HIM… and time for our lesson. When I woke up and looked at my phone at 5:45AM, this is the first thing I saw, and the air was just sucked from my chest. I panicked. I texted and emailed and couldn’t pay any attention during the webinar. I was texting a friend in London, freaking out. And for about 3 hours I was just a mess. Had this been a French lesson for which I pay $10 or so, I wouldn’t have been so distraught. But this was a lesson I couldn’t make up right away, and couldn’t really afford to pay for again. I had been trying so hard to save money, and to make more money (hence, the Forex webinar)… I’d already been going through my belongings and listing things on eBay, and was so thrilled just a few days before, when an old French magazine with Audrey on the cover fetched $87. And now I’d just blown it. Not only had I wasted a large sum of money, but I missed a lesson that was really very important to me. This role means a lot to me, and all I had to do was double check the time before I went to bed on Sunday. I was just SO certain that it was the next morning, and I don’t really know why. I’m usually very good with appointments. I think I’ve only missed one or two others in my entire life (and I’m older than you think I am!)
I was crying and kicking myself, and my friend tried to assure me that surely my teacher would understand and take pity and wouldn’t charge me for it… I stayed in this state for 3 hours before hearing back from my teacher, who no, did not take pity, and would not excuse my mistake.
I knew it wasn’t a good idea to stay in a foul mood all day, I know things can just snowball if you do that, but I was miserable. I hid under the covers for another 3 hours until I knew I had to get up and go to another appointment. This one has nothing to do with Audrey, but you might find it amusing anyway, so let’s take a detour.
I’d received a call a few days earlier from a guy who just introduced himself as Josh. From his message, I couldn’t tell if we had already met, or not. He didn’t introduce himself or anything. He was interested in casting me in a short film he had written and wanted to meet to read the script. So that’s what I thought we were doing. It was raining that day, and he arrived at the café in Burbank a few minutes before me. He texted to say he was there and outside. I soon parked, got out my umbrella, and found him. Turns out the place was all outdoors, and basically closed (Also, I didn’t recognize Josh at all). Not quite sure why he couldn’t have said that before I got wet, but OK. I followed him in my car to another shopping area, where he turned in and then led me into a Chinese restaurant. “I’m guessing they won’t serve coffee here…” I said. We sat and for at least 20 minutes he talked about the character, and also made sure to mention that he was the best writer in Los Angeles. Seriously. Then he suggested going elsewhere. Which I agreed to, because the smell of Chinese food was getting to me and we obviously weren’t going to order anything, so why be rude to the owners?
We drove again, and ended up in a bright bakery with high ceilings and pretty cakes. I ordered a late and a tiny tira misu. He didn’t get anything, nor offer to get mine. He continued on about the character and script and finally took it out of his bag to ask me to read “just the first line.” Which was 3 words long, two of which were profane. Fine, OK. I did. Then I asked, “is there a reason why the script isn’t formatted…?” “Oh, it’s still rough” etc etc… So I asked “When do you think it will be ready for me to actually read?” “Oh, it’s ready now! It’s done! We could shoot it today if you’re ready, even.” And that’s when I knew that he didn’t know what he was doing, for sure. I apologized and said I’ve learned from past mistakes and had to insist on reading the script and seeing some of his previous work, and the work of his DP (if there was one), before committing to the project. He then started getting extra-weird, saying he doesn’t give his work to people who might not like it, why would he do that? “Well, not everybody is going to like everything…” I said, staring out the window at the women waiting for the bus and wondering if I should just get up and excuse myself. “That’s not even an original thought, you probably heard that somewhere,” he said. “Yeah,” I replied. “Because it’s something everybody knows. It’s not original, it’s common sense.” Who is this man, who thinks he’s a genius and is afraid of people not liking his writing to such an extent that he would behave this way?? Then he started getting aggravated and said that it wasn’t just up to me to accept the role, he had to want me in the role too, and now he’s thinking I’m just not right for the part… then he packs up his bag and gets up, saying “you’re not right, there’s something wrong with you,” as he heads towards the door. To which I reply, in between sips of my latte, “something’s wrong with you!” I sat for a moment digesting this whole event, before packing myself up and heading home.
Normally, something like this might have been just amusing, but in my mood, it was one more sign that I should leave L.A. for good. The universe was laughing at me, sending me crazy people rather than actual work. It’s never been confined to L.A., and I knew it. The project I had once agreed to act in without reading a script or seeing the director’s work was a French man in Paris, years ago. Taught me that lesson. But I had come back here hoping to get decent representation and a few impressive things for my résumé that I could bring back to Europe, and in nearly 2 years, I had failed. And the only person calling me up about a role was this crazy person.
I was not seeing the positive side of life on Monday. I managed to get myself to ballet class that evening, but found myself struggling with combinations that were a bit beyond what I could easily do (I finally decided to start attending a more intermediate level class recently, which has been challenging). I know one must practice practice practice, and that’s what I’m there for, but I was so down on myself for not being able to do anything right that day. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I forced myself to dance even when I had no clue what I was doing. The feeling of failure was heavy that day, but I made it through to Tuesday.
Somehow I had attracted this. This failure, this sabotage… I am still trying to figure out how. The biggest goal in my life has ben simply to act, to create beautiful, thoughtful, magnificent films (ideally set pre-1960 and based on true stories) and somehow I’ve sabotaged myself the entire way. In my 20’s, I was so quiet and introverted that I didn’t understand the value of networking, and missed numerous chances to connect with people who could have potentially helped me. In my 30’s, I started focusing on that, but then now had no clue where to meet these people. I didn’t have access to the same successful crowd I had been exposed to as part of my previous relationship. Life has felt like one of those films where the protagonist is in a hallway of doors, opening each one in search of someone, while the person they’re seeking is zig-zagging between doors right behind them when their back is turned.
I need to get clever and stop the self-sabotage somehow, especially if I’m going to be successful in this current goal. I’m aware that something inside of me is afraid of success. But what to do about it? That’s what I need to work out…
Last night there was a seance at our house. It was something my flatmate arranged a few weeks back with a few friends and I hadn’t initially intended to take part, but in the end, curiosity won out and I joined in. I don’t think I can say a lot about it, because it was being filmed for a project, but I want to share a little of it, since it involves Audrey. Maybe you don’t believe in this sort of thing and this will sound silly. I have to say I do believe in he spiritual realm, I’ve heard too many stories from people I trust. However of course I’m skeptical about things I don’t directly experience, or things that have other possible explanations. Until I have a real experience of my own, I can’t fully trust everything a psychic tells me. But I don’t disbelieve it. I take it with a grain of salt, I suppose you would say. Here is what happened, in any case!
We sat around the table, in the dark, only candlelight to illuminate our faces and the objects in front of us. We tried a Ouija board occasionally but nobody wanted to spell anything. However the Paratek app on someone’s phone was quite active. I don’t know how to explain this app, but somehow spirits are supposed to be able to manipulate a dictionary in it to pick out words or short phrases. Sometimes the words were pretty appropriately timed, and other times the words seemed out of place and random. Looking online later, it seemed certain numbers, words, and phrases were frequently reported between a lot of users. I’m wondering what the word list is and how it really works. It could just be a random word generator and we could just be searching for meaning in the words that come up. Or energy could really be manipulating it – but whose energy? Could have been our own. Questions, questions…
When it came my turn to ask if there was anybody I’d like to be in touch with, I couldn’t choose just one person and of course have a whole list. But I started with my dog, Meily. I wanted to know that she was OK, and that she didn’t think I had abandoned her. For those of you who don’t know, for the past 13 years I was a Yorkie momma. While I was in Paris in October, she passed away at home, one day before her birthday. I felt so terribly guilty, because it was the last thing I wanted to happen. I wanted to be there for her. The psychic said she was OK, that she would help me pick out and train (haha, Meily, did you learn something since you’ve been gone?!) my next dog when I’m ready, and that she wanted to go this way. She didn’t want me to be there when she passed. Too bad, dog, I DID want to be there for you.
I next asked about Marieke, my ex’s daughter who died in 2006 of an epileptic seizure in the bathtub. She got a visual of her holding her hands out to the sky, gazing up. She saw butterflies and lizards… I’ll have to interpret that one. I would have liked more of a conversation, but I think we got sidetracked by something on that app.
Thirdly, and hesitantly, I asked about Audrey. I know asking for famous people, people you have no relation to, isn’t always productive (she told us her story of Elvis, who only appeared when she unknowingly was speaking with a member of his family), and it also feels a bit silly. But what the heck.
I asked Audrey if she approved of the new series being planned, and through two dowsing rods, she said yes. Most of her communication came through the rods being held by the psychic. The psychic said Audrey was hanging back from the table, and seemed a bit hesitant. She mentioned something about her hair, that there was something Audrey felt self-conscious about when it came to her hair, and something about her thumbs, but I didn’t know what that could have been in reference to. We asked her a few more questions with the Ouija board, but the indicator didn’t move. The board wasn’t popular with the spirits that night! I was feeling so… I don’t know the correct word to use… presumptuous? Well, definitely awkward, but I finally asked the question I was curious to ask – if she would be happy if I were to play her in that series. I was fumbling with my hands and staring down at the Ouija board, so when the psychic laughed with a definite “yes!” in reply, I looked up and saw that she had the rods again, and that apparently they had crossed quite forcefully to indicate her answer. Then they turned to point at me, and now I’m going to have difficulty describing things! The one in her left hand held steady and the one in the right hand waved back and forth. She explained something about how each rod indicates something different (I hope it’s on film, because I didn’t quite understand). She laughed and said it looked like Audrey liked my energy.
Audrey indicated through the rods that she communicates (or had at least tried) with her children, but that they weren’t aware of the ways in which she tried to communicate with them. I felt a little sad over that one.
I have a feeling there are spirits trying to communicate with all of us, and most of us are so blind to it that we will never hear them… I know I tend to overthink, and that prevents me from being open to experiences… I keep trying to work on that. I’m too analytical, and I get wrapped up in the physical world. I don’t spend enough time in meditation or in nature, listening. I admire those who are so open, spiritually.
Well, if we can trust the spirit that was chatting with us tonight, she said she would be helping me to win the role. I don’t know how, but I’ll take all the help I can get, and if it truly was Audrey, I couldn’t ask for anybody better to be on my side! I felt silly asking for her at the table, and I feel silly writing about it, but you know, it’s kind of part of this whole journey, and it’s an interesting little story, so here we are. I just used a bunch of commas there, how many am I allowed in a sentence? ha!
After everyone had left, I got comfortable with some pasta and tea and sat down to watch Green Mansions, which I hadn’t seen in years and years. A sweet friend found it online for me and downloaded it. I found it interesting in one scene where Anthony’s character compares Audrey’s Rima to a hummingbird, because I’d recently received the same observation from someone. Fragile but strong, I believe he explained. I have to say, I enjoyed the movie. Oh, it’s not the greatest of her films, but I loved seeing such a different setting. I loved the tropical forest, and to think most of that was in a soundstage in Los Angeles! I’m so envious. What fun! And to have a little deer to take home, as well. Who else gets to do things like that?! That’s what I always loved about the idea of acting… just getting to experience all sorts of things most people wouldn’t in their normal lives. I haven’t gotten to have that amazing luck yet in my professional life, but that’s why I try to make my real life as adventurous as I can! The difference is that actors get paid for their adventures, while I’m paying for mine. ha! Green Mansions reminded me of my favourite little swimming hole in Panama… it’s one of my favourite spots on earth. No deer there, just snakes and howler monkeys! Well, crossing my fingers and toes that I’ll get to play Audrey playing Rima and have my own “deer” little friend for a brief moment in time. 🙂
Well I woke up bright and early this morning (well, it wasn’t so bright, actually!) for my first session with my dialect coach via Skype. He’s based in England, and several hours ahead so 7am was the only real reasonable time he had available for me. He’s in high demand! I was a bit relieved that his camera wasn’t working today, so he couldn’t see me propped up in bed with a barely smoothed over bouffant left over from yesterday and my ratty blue sweatshirt (hey, it’s been cold here!). I considered filming a few minutes of the lesson to share with you, but I look terrible and throughout the hour I became aware of how many funny faces I would pull (glad he couldn’t see me either!) when I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. I guess you’d probably get a laugh out of it. Maybe next week. We’ll see. 🙂
So I was thrilled to have a professional ear analyzing Audrey’s speech and helping me to break it down. Especially a British ear, because he’s familiar with British speech patterns that I’m not, and can also notice Americanized pronunciations that I might overlook.
He had four pages of notes to go over, of which we covered about three and will finish up next week.
He asked me to pull up a photo of Audrey to look at during the lesson as inspiration, and I chose this one:
A good, easy one to recreate, actually. Should put that on the “to do” list!
Anywho, we spent a whole hour going over his notes and practicing pronunciation. She has quite an interesting accent. He also had noticed that it changed slightly over time. That’s fascinating to me, and something I hadn’t noticed. If I get the role, I want to keep that in mind and hopefully work with him on each period of her life to get the accent right.
My homework this week is to choose a couple 2-4 minute audios of her speaking (interviews or acting – I think I’ll choose at least one of each) to work on verbatim, to prepare as I would a scene or monologue for a scene study class. Then we will go over them and work on improving them in our next session. I’ve gathered a few already from YouTube that I sent to him for the initial research, so I will probably choose a few from there, but if you can recall a good monologue from any of her films you want to suggest to me, please do! I know there are a few in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but perhaps some from her other films? This week I’m going to be rewatching some that I haven’t seen in ages – like Green Mansions and Secret People! What a busy, Audrey-filled week!
Pretty funny, right? While so many people set their New Year’s resolution to stop smoking, mine is to start! Herbal, of course. My family used to be in the tobacco industry about a hundred years ago, and because they all smoked back then, I got to see the results. My grandma didn’t seem too affected, she died around 80 years old. But my grandpa died when I was a child, and all I really remember was the tracheotomy, the tube in his throat, the oxygen tubes in his nose… he was always seated in his chair in the living room. I was never tempted to start smoking tobacco.
This is a temporary resolution. Just enough to look like I know what I’m doing, to play a role, and then most likely never to pick up another herbal cigarette again!
I made a video of me smoking my second cigarette (I could lie and say it was my first, but I won’t!), so I could get some feedback on how to properly smoke, from all you smokers out there. I’m lacking an ashtray at the moment so I’m a bit of a mess. I’ll get it together eventually!!
I’ve been using the word “goal” a lot, lately, but for some reason the word “intention” came to mind just now and I started thinking about that practice of setting intentions. I admit, I’m not in the habit of doing it, but I should start! I have a few affirmations stuck to my bathroom mirror, but I think I need one specific to this goal. Something like,
I am a capable, talented, and prepared actor, and I take joy in the preparation for this role!
I don’t know, I’m not very good at this… Maybe…
I am right for this role, I am prepared for this role, and I am grateful for this role.
I could use your suggestions on this, affirmations were never my strong point and I can’t find any pre-written ones for actors online! ha!
In addition to thinking about intentions today, I also made a YouTube video about this project. I will be making more videos, since so much of this is about making progress with speech patterns, mannerisms, habits, etc. This one just goes over what I mentioned in my last post, but I wanted to keep the YouTube audience in the loop. 🙂
My name is Kendal Brenneman, and I believe in dreaming big. In 2020, filming is to begin on a series based on the life of Audrey Hepburn. In 2019, my goal is to become the perfect candidate for the role.
And yes, I’m wearing a pair of Audrey’s shoes. ;-)