As actors, we are in constant struggle with staying true to ourselves all the while trying to put forth what'll get us the job. Particularly while I was in the early stages of training for a professional career in theatre, I was told that I would never be successful if I remained and presented myself the way I felt comfortable. (At that point in my life I was donning women's clothing, jewelry and even high heels, but never went as far as to identify as a woman. It threw people for a loop.) And even though I clearly hadn't figured myself out yet, I knew deep down that I couldn't do what I was so passionate for and NOT be true to myself.
So eventually, I transitioned and left the 'biz'. I became a social worker for a while and believed that no one would ever hire a transgender actress; that I'd never work in the industry again. (This was nearly a decade ago, pre - OITNB and TransParent.) It was a really difficult pill to swallow but much in my life was rapidly changing and I figured this was part of leaving my old self behind. It wasn't until I received an email from a friend who was then on NBC/Universal's Outsourced, informing me that the producers were looking for someone to play a hijra. My heart sank and I felt the excitement I had missed for so many years away from the industry. My mind began the fight of debating whether or not I had made the right decision to leave in the first place. Do people want to hire a transgender actress? I barely made a living wage as a cis-gender male actor; do I really think I can make a sustainable living being a transgender actress?
I ultimately booked the gig, made my debut as the first South Asian transwoman on network tv, and most importantly, returned to the business that I so deeply love.
Last night I opened a big show. For those of you who follow my blog or know me personally, you know how excited I've been for this project. Little did I know how much Opening Night would mean to me. It is only in the aftermath of a fabulous opening night party spent with people equally as passionate about what we do that I fully understand what it means to define my own success while being true to myself. It is an incredible feeling to look back at your career and to say, "I've gotten to be a part of so many great projects, play so many dream roles (from King Tut to Princess Aouda); how could I not think of myself of successful?"
New Years is all about resolutions. We make them just so we can eventually break them, right? The few I made at the beginning of 2014 were simple: see more theater and go to every audition I can. So I worked my butt off and made my own success. And even though this year was filled with not so fun, not so good things as well, I still, somehow, managed to follow all my resolutions till the last day of 2014. (Pat yourself on the back, Aneesh; you go, girl.) I made it to 31 auditions and saw 24 productions. Meh, I can so do much better this year.
So, in the upcoming year, I plan to maintain my previous goals and add to that: physical exercise (I mean who doesn't make a resolution to be in better shape every New Years Eve?), make more time to see friends and family (none of this 'haven't seen you in weeks/months/years' bullsh*t anymore), and expand on my career exponentially. This year I plan to produce again and I also hope to add another directing credit to my name. Lastly, as something really close to my heart, I hope to get my webseries produced. (The time for #girlslikeus is now. Plus feedback from readings has been really good, so why not! Curious?...)
It's amazing to see how many mutuals friends I have with people that Facebook suggest I add. I have had the immense pleasure of meeting so many new people this past year; 96 new faces to be exact. (Whether that's a testament to my naturally sweet and friendly demeanor [really?] or proof that the Seattle Freeze may be a myth, who knows.) But I can now say I have friends! Yay! (Unless y'all are being secretly paid.... wait...is that what's been really happening?...)
In conclusion, I am taking a new friend's challenge and listing every show I've seen in 2014. If I learned anything from compiling this list, it's that I simply MUST see more theatre in 2015. [Shows I was a part of have an asterisk (*). Shows I've seen multiple times are indicated by a number.]