Monday, July 23, 2012

How I respond after Aurora?

Saturday 6:43 - Austin, TX
I thought about starting this off with: where to begin? I looked at that banality question turned patronizing statement typed on my screen and realized I knew exactly where to begin: with where I am....then work my way out.
Please do take note that the First Act, as it were, to this posting feels very insignificant and self-seeking to me at least. But I think it's needed to allow for the thorny Act 2 and the finale of Act 3 that will circle back to Act 1's purpose and ultimately answer the question that this post is titled. Hopefully. SO. "To begin"..I'm siting on set of a wonderful web series I'm quite thankful for. 2 weeks ago, as I stood on the side of a downtown Austin road, starring at my car in the middle of a 5 car pile up where 2 cars - including the one who hit me - fled the scene (middle of run-on sentence....see the bottom of this post), I was visibly upset about my first wreck, invisibly struggling to help the other people involved in the accident, all the while attempting to hide how sick I was about having to miss the audition I was en route to. See I don't like to be late. I don't like to opt out. I don't like to say no thank you and I really don't like missing auditions. Case and point: When I lived in New York a few years ago, I attended an open call for a Broadway show. Now, let's be clear here. There's no way I would have booked the show. And don't feel the need to console me about that. I wasn't GOING to the audition to book. I was going to do my absolute best in front of NYC casting directors. That's it. I knew/know I wasn't half as talented in those departments as the people in line with me. I remember glancing at their roughed-up-crumpled-rain-stained-is-that-applesauce? copies of On My Own and Forget About the Boy and then looking at my freshly-printed-hole-punched-in-a-binder copies of On My Own and Forget About the Boy...and suddenly my lack of experience was more daunting than the subway construction detours I'd just overcome. 

Saturday 10:49 - Austin, TX
I had gotten up at 4AM that morning to hold a spot and I simply walked out of line. I pretended to get a phone call..and walked away. I made myself work out for 4 hours that Saturday at a gym I was "auditing for a week" as an act of self-punishment because the anger I had towards myself for leaving an audition, liked in comparison to the anger I had towards MTA. So, when I made this career move I said: Never again Koehler. Never ever again will you walk away from an audition. 

Sometime between my wreck 2 weeks ago and sitting on set today, I recalled a story I heard back when GLEE first got picked up, about Lea Michele getting into a wreck near the FOX lot on her way to her studio test. She exchanged information, left her car to be towed and totaled, walked into the audition room literally picking glass from her hair, and apparently gave an audition that was Rachel Berry worthy. She wanted it (who wouldn't....?) and she fought for it. As my car was towed off of that downtown Austin street, and I was towed away by my guy, I started writing a note to the creative team I was suppose to be giving a Rachel Berry worthy audition, begging (hopefully not annoyingly) forgiveness and asking if I could submit a video audition. Anything to avoid "walking away from the line." Later that evening -- err rather quickly after I sent the email -- I was given a bit of direction on the sides and told that a submission would be fine. 
Audition video. Check
Callback. Check
Book the role the same night. Check
Fighting for something I truly love. Check

Saturday 13:04 - Austin, TX
Rewind to the beginning where I struggled to begin. Friday I had CNN, Fox News, ESPNews, any news channel on while I worked. Trying to find out stories of the victims involved in the Colorado theater shooting. I was of course troubled by the entire scene and what rubbed me the wrong way initially was how these innocent lives were taken in a place and watching something, that was suppose to send them out of reality for 2plus hours...and yet the senseless act of violence tainted movie theaters forever and brought a harsh, disturbing reality to the world. Someone I care very much about and who's opinion means a great deal to me stated the entire situation was too sad and cripplingly depressing. I agreed. I will say that the following contains a sad story of a victim, so I understand and respect you if your reading time with me ends here. No hard feelings. But I'll also say that this posting ends in a tale of passion and fire-in-a-belly, not NOT NOT a sad story.  

I kept seeing a young girls picture on the screen. She looked so familiar and I felt this growing anxiety billowing deep within, sputtering to place her. What were the odds that I'd know the one victim the police had been able to identify in a random shooting in a town I had never been to? I checked an article on CNN about this victim's blog and read her account of the shooting in Toronto in June where she narrowly missed a senseless act of violence in a mall food court when she suddenly "felt funny" and walked outside to get some fresh air. It wasn't indegestion from the burger she had just bought in the mall food court, it wasn't lightheadedness from being on the 2nd story of the mall. Jessica herself writes: "It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing." 

Saturday 18:38 - Austin, TX

Sadly...incredibly sadly, Jessica's family knows, Jessica's friends know, heck the entire country knows the exact feeling she felt on that day she considers a day that changed her forever. She and 11 other victims are missing from our crazy world and a similar panicky feeling is in millions of people's chests. Physically they are missing. But in no other way are they missing. Their stories are ringing out. Their lives are being told. Their vibrance is being felt. Their stories are changing how our country's media covers horrific events like this one. Focusing on victims -- not suspects. 

Sunday 19:02 - Austin, TX

After seeing Jessica's picture all day and reading tons of articles, my heart breaking with each amazing story of her passion for sports and positive-no-nonsense attitude, I realized the connection. A friend of mine posted pictures on Facebook last year of a trip to Michigan University with a friend who was an avid Wolverine fan and had eyes full of vibrance. I recalled the pictures when they were posted because of those vibrant eyes, but had seen them incongruously recently. The avid Wolverine fan? Jessica Redfield (Ghawi). I checked and double checked seeing if this was in fact the connection only to my discontent levels rising and rising. Jessica's brother is a firefighter in my hometown of 25,000 people. Jordan appeared with Anderson Cooper the evening after the shootings and has kept his blog updated sometimes hourly with encouraging news about Jessica's movie-going-buddy that night who is expected to recover...or comments about asking a Secret Service Agent 'how President Obama was doing on time' while he sat with each victim's family in Colorado. The agent responded "Time is not an issue here..."  

I didn't know Jessica.  I never had the chance to meet Jessica. But reading through months of her Twitter handle, reading countless articles by her colleagues literally across state and sport lines....I feel like I know her. I feel like we'd have hit it off or at least awkwardly fallen or tripped together. Jessica and I shared a love of the Oxford comma which alone, is worthy of a secret handshake in my opinion. 

She wrote and lived the idea of chasing -- fighting -- for what you were passionate about. Her desire for knowledge about the sportscasting business seemed second to none if not utterly admirable. She wrote on her blog after the Toronto shootings "I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breath our last breath." I can't answer why senseless violence happened. I can't begin to understand the pain that families are going through. I can't help but get emotional thinking about how Jessica survived one shooting, only to be lost in another shooting a short month later. Was it so the world could read her words and learn about the fight in Jessica's belly? I can't tell you why this particular victim's story has rocked my core while there are thousands of stories needing to be told from thousands of other senseless acts of violence. 

Sunday 23:56 - Austin, TX 
I can say that her blog posting is out there. People are paying attention to her drive and applying her mentality and work ethic to their own lives. We all have probably said we live by the idea that today could be our last day, but are we really living it in such a way? What does that even mean? 

What better way to honor someone than to live as they strived to? 

I know I know. That was many many words. Some redundant, some misplaced, some rhetorical. But thank you for trucking through my ramblings over the course of 2 days on a set that I chased to get to. It may be insignificant to fight for something like an acting career. But after the events in Colorado last week...I would argue that nothing is insignificant. And if you need reminding of that. Call me. I'll convince you of the idea. There is no peanut-size when it comes to passions and talents. Jessica's talent and passions did not pass on with her last Friday morning. My thoughts and prayers are with the Ghawi family as well as the other victim's surrounding families as they continue to lead the charge with the theme of: Victim's stories are important; not the suspect's name.

***FOOTNOTE: Jessica's blog was titled "A Run On of Thoughts," so a collection of run on sentences in my post seems....fitting.***


Rebecca Phillips said...

Love you, kid. Your words are spot on. Love the, 'Dying to Live' mantra. Beats the heck out of 'Living to Die.' And Jessica, much like Rachel Scott, will live on in our hearts, and in our conscious. When good people lose thier lives at the hand of terrible people, we are given the gift of the good's knowledge, wisdom and spirit. That will live on for eternity. When good people take away the bad, what have we learned? What gift are we given then? My heart goes out to Jessica's family and her closest friends. But, from what I see, Jessica will go on being loved- forever.

Ivy Koehler said...

Couldn't agree more with what your thoughts. So thought-provoking and important. Love ya Flips.

Rebecca Phillips said...

Love you, too!