Well, if you didn’t have it figured out, I’m one of those “creative types” who lives in L.A. “chasing the dream”. This is my new website and blog, which I’m slowly trying to figure out. The home page is, by default, a listing of all my online writings, which are generally (if I say so myself) witty, relatively R-rated, yet usually insightful observations on what it is to be a 20-something starving artist woman in this city. The rest of the site offers the usual actorly fare of resume, headshots, and all sorts of footage celebrating my glory.
I have come to consider myself mostly a comedienne-writer, because I write all the time, and I like saying funny things, writing funny songs, and making funny videos. Also because it seems a more marketable angle. (As I’ve said, “Angst doesn’t sell cereal.”)
I have lots of unmarketable angles as well, however. I grew up loving opera, and know how to sing it (I have a clear soprano voice that could make you WEEP), and I got a certificate in creative writing for poetry in undergrad… and who on Earth gives a crap about poetry OR opera these days? Moreover, who in America goes to live theatre these days? And here in these “uncommercial” artsy things you find my roots. As you can see in the four-shot banner, my origins are of the THEATRE (yes, all caps, and -re). In college, I was all about The Empty Space and Artaudian Theatre of Cruelty, being edgy and in-yo-face, challenging the audience to feel, breaking down that fourth wall, getting all intense and not shying away from that which makes one uncomfortable. I writhed on the floor happily, shred away vocal chords and got a track record of most rape roles played in student productions (had a ratio of about 2:3.) To name a few, I was Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Lavinia in Titus Andronicus, and Lucie in Sartre’s Men Without Shadows (a god-awful play no one remembers nor would ever want to, but totally had yet another rape role for my roster.) I interned over the summer at Theater Freiburg in the Black Forest of Germany, where I was in edgy-Euro theatre heaven… operas were staged on sets of garbage, with mermaids wearing cat eye contact lenses, and Shakespeare’s comedies were all altered to end depressingly. Oh, Germany!
So I decided that I would join the international community of edgy theatre artists, and bring some of this invigorating style back to the States with my like-mindedly starry-eyed college colleagues. And studying my craft with the Russian masters of the theatre through a program with the American Repertory Theatre (which was, at that time, heavily featuring edgy Euro directors: dreamy!) seemed like an ideal match. So directly after getting my BA in Comp Lit from Princeton in 2005, I embarked on a crazy 2-year journey to getting my MFA in Acting from the ART/MXAT Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. (If you look in the earliest archives, the end of my training is when my blogging began.)
Training was great, and it was just lovely to be entirely immersed in my craft, but of course I was still young and an eternal student, very knowledgeable in the ways of grades, but not so much in the life sector. So when it came time for life to start happening, it did not turn out as edgy, barrier-breaking and creatively fulfilling as I might have hoped. But that’s just because life is what you make of it, and I didn’t yet know how to make a life I was happy with.
You can traverse the tragic path of my disillusionment through the archives, all the way to the present day, where I seem to have figured out something. Maybe. Sort of. At any rate, I’m happy with whatever this unedgy yet entertaining current life is, and while I am perhaps more “commercially viable”, I like to still think that I am in touch with my craft, just with a stronger emphasis on joie de vivre. People don’t want to be made to feel sad all the time, and edgy Euro theatre is a downer. I don’t mean that escapism is where it’s at either… I still like to challenge my audience, I just prefer to do it in a subtle way, after making them comfortable and entertained. You’re laughing, you’re happy then suddenly– BOOM! Nikki just laid down some TRUTH on ya! So, yeah, that’s my “aesthetic” these days.
I also was a fan of theatre because of the collaborative aspect, so I spend a lot of time trying to make stuff with other people. Making stuff is what it’s all about. Most recently, this has manifested in song collaborations (using that poetry and opera for some lyrics and singing). And of course, I love that longform improv for some insta-theatre.
I often felt like L.A. made being creative an uphill battle, but I’m finally finding my people and finding my stride. And hopefully, I’ll find that I start getting some paid work, too. Now that’s really living the dream…