Thursday, February 27, 2014

Television without a net

I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm a background extra.  And, since I posted those lovely photographs of myself last night, you know what I look like. 

I invite you to join me in a colossal game of Where's Waldo (Raven-edition) on March 16th (and subsequently) by watching the premiere of NBC's new show Crisis.  I'll give you a big ole' hint:  I'm in the FBI. 

March 16th.  Crisis.  Do it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Closing the gap

Just a quickie post tonight, since I'm on set all day tomorrow and I still have a million things to do for the burlesque act that I'm debuting on Saturday at Stage 773. 

I spend a lot of time carefully curating my Facebook page.  My real-people Facebook page, that is.  My sparkly alter-ego takes care of herself, and she is free to say just about anything.  But, at the behest of my mother, I comb through pretty much everything on my personal page to make sure I'm presentable to the rest of the family.

And the more I think about it, the more I wonder... why bother?  The people who love and accept me are largely going to love and accept me, and the people who don't... well, they either never cared about the real me in the first place, or they just don't understand the world I choose to live in.  Neither of those things is a crime, both are kind of a shame, in my opinion. 

It just seems to me that the people who should be the most aware of how you present yourself and what you do with your life are your family.  Why should I curate a benign false life to please the people I see at Christmas, only to have to dance around the truth and tell lies to their faces about what I do when I actually do see them? 

Like, yeah.  I'm an unemployed bum, Grandma.  I work on film sets as an extra so that I can eat and keep a roof over my head.  If you play Where's Waldo, you might see me.  I take my clothes off in front of strangers in the name of artistic expression.  Being a Stage Manager doesn't really pay me anything, but somehow I still keep suckering myself into doing it.  I have no friends, but I'm only bitterly lonely every once in awhile.  I cannot stand being within arm's reach of 99% of the population, but I can name a whole handful of people whose shoulders I desperately ache to lean on, and none of those can ever, ever happen without consequence.  That's a whole other post for a whole other day. 

The point is, I've been quietly trying to close the gap between my perceived reality and my actual life for some time.  And it can be summed up in the change of my profile photo from this:
to this:
(courtesy of Warren Perlstein.  Facebook version contains less, erm... decolletage.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Theatre without a net: It's called respect

We all know I'm Stage Managing a show at present.  It is one of three shows that will be running in rep. for the month of March, and the only show that is not being called or run by the company's resident Stage Manager.

This is the second day of tech.  Today.  Today is the second day of tech.  Tomorrow is our first dress rehearsal.  As in: everything needs to be finished tonight.  I was told, TODAY, that the time we had scheduled for tech since December is actually an hour shorter than we had thought it was.

Which leaves me with a cumulative seven hours to tech a two hour show.  Seven hours, over two days, which includes a total of 2 hours of changeover time.

I did mention that I'm only getting paid $200 for this show, right?  When my going rate is usually around $500?  That I burned up my stipend in CTA fares within the first month of rehearsal, and am therefore actually losing about $200 to work this show?

Yeah.  For obvious reasons, I'm not even going to mention who I'm working with here.

WHEE:  SUBSTANTIAL EDIT TIME.  It looks like we were BOTH wrong.  My time for today was ultimately correct (meaning that extra hour is totally still there), but literally no one thought to tell me that they were talking about tomorrow until about seven emails in.  So... there's that, I guess. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

I sound like a dick in my cover letters

A few months ago, I was trolling the internet looking for my next gig, something to keep me going just a little longer, because I'm a freelance-everything, and that's pretty much just what you have to do with your life.  I was looking at Stage Management jobs, and I happened to come across a post for an off-night show which was... pretty much perfect for me, since I perform on Saturday nights.  I composed a cover letter for this job, and pretty much immediately thought I sounded like a self-important dick.  What the hell, I thought, and sent it anyway.  I got that job within the hour, no interview required. 

I've been keeping it in my back pocket, for the times when I really want to be considered for something, and I've had some good opportunities crop up in the last few weeks that called for its modification and return to service.  Surprise, surprise, I got called to schedule an interview less than an hour after I sent it in. 

What I've discovered is something that isn't exactly new.  In fact, it's something that I totally already knew, once upon a time.  I must have forgotten it somewhere along the line of spending three years frying my brain cells out under someone else's fluorescent lighting.  Confidence makes you look competent. 

Confidence makes you look competent. 

I'm not saying that confidence alone is going to qualify you for a job you're not competent at, but it sure seems to go a long damn way.  I've spent so long apologizing for myself, apologizing for somehow managing to be good at Stage Management and writing and photography.  When you write it out, it doesn't seem to be so nonsensical, but in my brain, somehow being demure and apologizing for my abilities equaled being a humble and hardworking employee.  Someone who wouldn't be difficult to work with.  Someone who would just put their head down and do the job and not bitch about it. 

But, to employers, I'm guessing what that says is "I need handholding, because I cannot see how I can possibly manage this task on my own."  or "Ehh... I was mediocre at this, but I still want to keep trying."

Walking into a room, however, and announcing to the group that yes, I'm here, and yes, I'm fabulous... well, that either makes you look like an ignorant blowhard... or it makes you look like yes, you're here, and yes, you really are fantastic at what you do, and you don't need anyone else's validation or handholding to tell you that. 

Who knew?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Writing without a net: My fandoms

Ok, ok.  I'll be the first one to tell you that I *hate* the term "fandom".  I equate it with a community of people who, more often than not, post creepy paparazzi pictures of celebrities, bitch about famous people's spouses/kiddos, and generally obsess over crotch/ass shots of literally the most random people.  Seriously.  Go to Tumblr and type "emercrotch" in the search bar.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  (Also, full disclosure: I discovered that one by accident.  As much as I love Michael Emerson, five thousand gifs speculating about his junk really don't do it for me.)

That said, there really isn't another term sufficient to describe the worlds I inhabit when I write.  Or, in the case of Rammstein... I don't write at all, but I sure do love those sexy German boys.

In any case, I write a lot of fanfiction.  Mostly because I love to put people in petri dishes and poke them to see what they'll do.  Partly because I'm too lazy to flesh out a world of my own, with dozens if not hundreds of three-dimensional characters and compelling storylines.  (I did start writing a work of original fiction once, and it was actually pretty satisfying, but I was in an emotional trainwreck at the time, so who knows what would have come of it.)

To date: I've written stories for:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (yes, really.)
The Dark Knight
Star Trek (The reboot universe)
The Phantom of the Opera (I waited a LONG time to go down this road.  For obvious reasons.)
Person of Interest

...The first story I ever wrote was for Harry Potter.  I was 15 and it's actually where my name (Raven W. Catz) came from.  ...I also did start a Stargate SG-1/MacGyver crossover story that could have been really fucking phenomenal if I hadn't been 18 at the time.  My writing's improved substantially since 2004, I assure you.

None of them have ever been finished, although I did write Ornithology (the Person of Interest 'fic) a satisfying, episodic conclusion.  It continues after that point, but if I had chosen to, I could have ended it and it would have tied up quite nicely.

I write them for a lot of reasons, really.  Not just because I like torturing fictional people, and not just because I'm too lazy to create something of my own making.  I find other people's fanfiction to be sorely unsatisfying, if not for a very few exceptions.  (I have a few recommendations, should you be so inclined) Granted, I accept the fact that a lot of fanfiction is written by people like I was when I first started writing and archiving my work... 16-18, hormonal, experiencing that last great fictional love before reality takes hold.
To add to that, few people actually write the pairings I do (Full disclosure: these usually involve an original character of some sort.  I like canon too much to fuck around with too many people's lives at once).  Take Ben for instance.  There are almost 10 thousand LOST fanfics on  87 of them pair Ben with someone.  About 80 of them pair Ben with Juliet or Annie.  That leaves me 7.  I've read them.  They suck.

The problem I find I encounter again and again is this:  Writer X likes Character Y (we'll simplify this and just use Ben.  Less letters.)  But Writer X likes Ben because she's 18, hormonal, and baffled by her attraction to someone who is simultaneously 50 years old and the villain.  (Ben's not the villain, but we're going for simple here, dammit.)  She's kind of put off by his personality (and probably his face, too, but that's really just a defense mechanism because she doesn't want her mother to tease her about crushing on someone so damn weird looking.  Oh god, now Megan's projecting again.), but she REALLY wants the satisfying conclusion of carting him off (kicking and screaming) to marry her OC (who looks JUST LIKE HER, and maybe somehow fell through a poster of Hawaii... Or can see the future.  I've read stories just like this, I swear to god.), so she sort of takes his face and pastes it on... basically a tree stump, because people are totally interchangable.  Ben becomes indistinguishable from Jack, Jack from Horace, Horace from Richard.  And somehow Kate and Claire and Juliet disappear or become heinous bitches who are all secretly in love with Ben, because EVERYONE is secretly in love with Ben... right?  Even Tom.  (Jesus Christ, Megan.)

(For the record, this is pretty much what I imagine these people are doing to my poor Ben.  He's had enough of this already in canon, they don't need to do it to his personality.)

The assumption that people and personalities are so mutable and interchangable INFURIATES me.  It shouldn't.  It's a naive assumption made by a kid.  I probably made the same assumptions once.  Except I don't think I did.  And I certainly never assumed that I'd get to The Island by tearing my way through the ads for Hawaii in the red line stations this winter.

I will concede one thing though.  I am guilty of a hefty amount of self-insertion in my own writing.  It's not that I need my characters to look JUST LIKE ME (although Katherine Corvis does, in fact, look just like me), it's that writing about bumbling, clumsy, extremely intelligent, awkward, defensive women who just happen to be in a variety of creative professions comes pretty naturally to a bumbling, clumsy, extremely intelligent, awkward, defensive woman who just happens to work in a variety of creative professions. 

I will very likely post segments of my writing here from time to time.  But until that happens, please visit me here to check out my stories. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Painted into corners

One of the reasons I want to write a blog is to help people who feel like I do.  I'm guessing I'm not the only one who finds myself in a lifestyle like mine.  And I'm also willing to bet there are hundreds of people out there who will know exactly what I'm talking about, but are too afraid of pulling the trigger, too afraid of the What-if's and the hopes and the self-reliance.  And, I'll go even further to say that there are probably even hundreds more than THAT who could read this and go "oh my god.  This is EXACTLY what that vague sense of discontent feels like." 

I'm going to tell you my origin story, as it were.  My reason for being here, 27, unemployed, broke, freelance-everything.  It's a little triggery for sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide.  Consider yourself warned. 

I entered the workforce at 18, which is... a little late.  I didn't work in high school, but instead waited until I graduated, since I was privileged enough to have understanding parents who were totally onboard with the belief that school and homework and theater were enough for one person to contend with.  I worked for a few summers/holidays (through college, actually) at a grocery store, ping-ponging between being a barista, stockboy, fruit-basket-construction-artist (shut up), bakery assistant... you name it.  It was retail, it was mostly full time, and I spent every moment of it with a notebook and pen in my apron pocket, counting down minutes until it was time for me to go home and be free.  I thought that the vague sense of dread I felt every time I got in the car to go to work was something everyone felt.  (Maybe it is.  I haven't really been able to definitively determine that yet.) 

I quit working there after college, because, after months of being followed out to my car on breaks and at the end of the day by one of the numerous undocumented back-of-house employees, I was cornered in the stockroom and narrowly escaped being assaulted.  I wrote a statement "for the police" (it was never submitted to the police), and they determined that I was too much of a problem-child to be asked to return the following summer.  So I shopped my perky little behind across town to their direct competitor, who offered me a better position, better pay, and generally much nicer conditions. 

That was probably the only day job I can classify as having "enjoyed", but I still felt trapped while I was there.  Part of it was probably growing pains, since I was in the process of moving to Chicago for most of that year. 

I moved to Chicago and proceeded to cycle through 5 jobs in 5 years (which includes a cumulative year of unemployment at this point, full disclosure).  All of them hallmarked by the vague sense of dread which would eventually blossom into full-blown daily panic attacks, usually between months 3 and 6... if I even lasted that long.  I'm talking about crying-in-the-car, contemplating-suicide-to-get-out-of-it terror.  My dad got biweekly calls at work with me sobbing on the phone... usually from work... usually during work hours. 

I was afraid of leaving.  I was afraid of quitting ANOTHER job, because the economy sucks and you're supposed to be grateful to even HAVE a job.  But I wasn't grateful.  I was terrified of being yelled at by my bosses (even though I was a productive, quiet, well-behaved employee), I was exhausted by the schedule, I was falling asleep on my commute, and I was racking up thousands of dollars in debt because I would get home and I couldn't bear to do anything more strenuous than order a pizza and climb directly into bed.  Literally.  I've lived probably about three years of my life either sitting in my car, a rolling office chair, or my bed with no more transit time between them then it took to climb the stairs. 

To contrast this, the time I've spent unemployed included weekly 12-mile walks across the city.  Cooking for myself (and Kenneth) on at least a weekly basis.  5-hour binges of editing photos while watching MacGyver.  Travel to Boston.  I haven't had a single panic attack since I quit my last job.  I haven't had a major depressive episode since a month or two after I quit.  I haven't held THAT bottle of pills in my hand, the ones I know could kill me in 20 minutes if I swallowed them all, and thought about what would happen if I did, in so long I can't barely remember. 

The trade-off is that I don't have a steady income.  The unemployment extension that Kenneth keeps telling me is definitely going to get renewed is failing over and over again in the Senate, and this is month 2 of $500 or less income.  I live on food stamps, I maxed out my credit card in just under a year, my parents pay my health insurance, car insurance, and cell phone bill.  I'm basically a failure at being an adult.  But... so is everyone in my generation.  That's what happens when you're set up as a patsy, set up to fail. 

My point is... if you feel like I do... it's damn difficult.  But I'm making the choice for mental health and a life on my own terms.  Because, even when I'm staring down the barrel of completely running out of money, of moving back to my parents house with nothing but the clothes on my back, I remember that sitting for 40 hours under someone else's flourescent lights made me want to die.  Made me physically and mentally sick.  And I really don't have a choice at all, if you think about it that way. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bonus post time!

God love Nongshim's kimchi ramen noodles.  The best food stamps can buy. 

Jesus Christ, I'm so sick of being poor.

I should be working

Today, the 18th of February, I am making my 5th post of the year.  Last year, I only managed 5 posts in total.  Which... is a little sad, really. 

I should be working and, you know, actually earning the pittance I'm currently scraping together in my life as a freelance-everything, but instead, I'm going to tell you a little bit about what I envision this place to be on its way to becoming. 

This is my blog.  And right now, it's kind of a disorganized mess.  I do have a dedicated blog just for my photography endeavors, which you can find here.  You'll find all the information about the photos I take and the adventures I embark upon in the process over there.  You'll probably eventually find some of that here too, if we're honest.

I want this place to become an aggregation of the multiple artistic things I do, (photography, burlesque, theater, modeling, acting, sewing, writing... the list goes on) as well as a resource for other people who believe the only way they can exist is if they're making something.  Living on the edge of a knife.  Living without a net.

I want it to be a place where I can show off, where I can vent, where I can archive my work, and where I can share the numerous teachable moments I've had the fortune (or misfortune) to stumble across in my experience of living off the grid as a Freelance-Everything.

And I want to invite you to share the journey with me.  

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Theater without a net

Among the myriad things I've been doing with my life since jumping off the deep end, one of the things I really never thought I'd come back to, if we're being honest, is Stage Management.  I busted my ass in school to even be recognized as capable of Stage Managing, I worked quite successfully in the theater my first few years in Chicago, but the cost of trying to balance running a show with working a full-time day job was just too much for me.  I walked away from it for about a year, and then, somehow, managed to allow myself to be talked into doing *just one more* show. 

Now that I'm not working a full-time day job, I find I'm able to be a much more effective stage manager. 

The show I'm working on at present is Love and Understanding and is part of Redtwist Theatre's More Red series.  You can find information about it at Redtwist's website.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy V-day

Spend some time with your honey if you have one.  Spend some time with yourself if you don't.  Everyone needs a little love sometimes, and self-care and lovin' can be some of the best.  Eat some chocolate, drink some tea, relax and spend some mindful time with yourself. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Writing without a net

One of the few things I am exceptionally disciplined about is writing.  Unlike pretty much everything else, I get up and write when I'm sick, when I'm depressed, when I'm so busy with other things my head might explode.  I drabble on the train, I journal in coffeeshops, I slip quotes and soundbytes in between rehearsal reports and line notes. 

The kicker, of course, is that writing really is the last thing I do purely for the joy of it.  I don't write to make money.  I don't receive monetary compensation of any kind for the vast majority of the work I do. 

Like this place, a lot of it is journalling.  Mental check-ins.  Some of it is focused on organizing and crystallizing my purpose for the day, week, month, what-have-you.  And... A lot of it is fanfiction. 

Judge away.  I'll wait. 

Unfortunately for you, dear readers few and far-between, the stuff I write is good.  It's... GOOD.  I write fanfiction to lay the smackdown on other stories, to proverbially 'show them how it's done'.  Well... That's not WHY I write them.  I write them because I have crushes on Ben Linus and MacGyver and the only satisfaction I can get is to weave my own little proxy into their universe.  But it's no secret that writing is the one skill I possess that has been honed and shaped by years of gradual practice.  Somehow, impatient, perfectionist Megan (Raven?) allowed a hobby to survive that was, in the beginning, just as rough and awful and blatantly self-insertient and sensationalist as everyone else, and slowly weeded out the awful bits and polished in a sense of style. 

One of the things I plan on doing with this little blog is making regular updates that involve segments of my fanfiction.  Barf, I know.  If you're not a fan of MacGyver, or LOST, or Person of Interest, or Star Trek... too bad.  Feel free to skip 'em.  But they'll probably be a weekly thing, aggregated under "writing without a net"

So get used to it.  First up will be the oldest story I dare share with a public audience.  Between Two Fires.  The first story I ever began writing, put down, walked away for literally years, came back, picked up, dusted off, and realized I could still work with. That's what you get to look forward to.

What have you been up to NOW, Raven Gemini?

It's been a while.  Sometimes I'm good at keeping things up... sometimes I really let things go by the wayside. 
I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while now, Flying Without A Net, wherein I can chronicle my various artsy/crafty endeavours, bitch about being a creative professional ("professional"), and generally offer advice to others, like myself, who have chosen to leap off the cliff of uncertainty into the blue beyond of creative funemployment.

Speaking of creative funemployment, you all really have no idea what I've been up to the better part of this past year.  Well... If you happen to follow my photoblog over at, you certainly do, but. 

Where I left off here, I was frustrated with my life at Provision.  Well... I left Provision.  I left last June, in fact, and have been unemployed ever since.  I exist as a cobbled-together mass of unemployment checks, photography gigs, days on set as an extra, burlesque performances, and occasional stints as Model, Stage Manager, and proprietor of my very own Etsy shop.  And... I'd like to have a place where I can talk about all those things.  So before I go off and pay for hosting or some nonsense like that... Maybe we'll dig this old thing out of the grave, and we'll see where it goes.