I’d been a “Schrödinger’s cat” member of Stage 32 for the better part of the last four years.
“What does that even mean, Athina?” I hear you ask.
Lucky for you, dear reader, I am here to elaborate. Get yourself a cup of tea (and one for me as well - black, with a dash of milk - please and thank you!) and let’s get crackin’.
What I mean is, that “member” is a generous term. I’d been more of a passive, background, lurking in the dark Cat Woman sort of member. I had signed up for the newsletters, edited my bio, and would occasionally browse through the classes and job openings but I didn’t actually actively engage. Don’t get me wrong; it was consistently in my top 10 industry related To-Dos: “Network on Stage 32, reach out for collaborations, get your show-reel out there!”. Yet, “life” was always in the way and I seemingly never found the time and head-space to put in the effort I wanted in order to fully take advantage of the resources at hand.
It is all online, with members all around the world (I myself am based in Athens, Greece), and there is so much going on. Where should I start?
It felt heavy and far away.
Case in point, here is a screenshot of an email I sent to myself in February of 2018 with a reminder to check out one of the filmmaking guides available on the website. Yes, that reminder is still holding on tightly to my “To Do” folder like Mufasa to the cliff and I’ll be damned if in this alternate universe Mufasa doesn’t climb back up and finish everything he started. Big fan of completed tasks, Mufasa is.
(Screenshot from Athina’s emails. She looks at it and weeps.)
“Why were you procrastinating and shooting yourself in the foot, Athina?” I hear you silently questioning and loudly judging me while you sip your tea and think that tea is the best thing in the world.
Well, dear reader, firstly, I agree on that tea thing and also humbly accept your judgement, I’m only human, and secondly:
Because I could see Stage 32 really does have so much to offer and I wanted to put my very best foot forward and hit the ground running.
So instead, I ended up putting no feet forward because I subconsciously waited until I felt my feet were PERFECT and ready to be shown to the world. If only we had a penny for every time we avoided doing something we wanted to do because we felt we weren’t good enough for our own desires, right?
Then Covid happened.
And “life” went on pause. Or rather, someone dragged it out of the video slot with a pencil and now there’s tape string everywhere.
And theatres were shut and filming dates were indefinitely postponed.
Everything I was doing was on pause, so the desiring was all that was left.
And I was stuck at home making banana bread, receiving “project on-hold until further notice” emails, reading about cancelled movie premieres and show dates and feeling more and more helpless.
And my feet got restless. And then sad (no happy penguin dancing for me). And then angry.
And then, weirdly energized? Also still a little angry but let’s channel that for good. I’d run out of options in the pandemic-feelings-menu. The pendulum reached the other end and I had to do something in order to Not. Go. Nuts.
And then I got a newsletter for a monologue workshop to be led by Alysia Reiner back in February.
Erm. Hold your horses. That was “Fig” from Orange is the New Black. I LOVE THAT SHOW. I love to hate that character. Reiner’s Fig is so great at being awful with a dash of nurturing and OH MY that character development is something all actors hope to get to work with one day.
And I could sign up to a class with her? From the comfort of my own home? Live? (But with the option to re-watch, because Stage 32 is sexy like that). Without imploding my budget and turning to rice and lentils for the next month?
YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU!
And then I realized, Stage 32 is exactly what I needed to jump-start this lethargic loop of impending doom I was stuck in:
It is all online, with members all around the world, and there is so much going on. Where should I start?
It now feels approachable and logistically...easy!
Seriously, when was the last time something truly felt equal parts easy and rewarding in our industry this past year? For the life of me I cannot remember. The closest I can think of is making banana bread. Does that even count? Well, it is great with tea. Anyway, I digress.
All of the things that seemed like roadblocks, turned out to be blessings.
All of a sudden, I had a professional outlet shining at the end of the Gotthard Base Tunnel* that lockdown seems to be.
*The longest and deepest tunnel in the world; it’s in Switzerland. You’re welcome.
So I took the class, absorbed everything Reiner said (and was lucky enough to also workshop the class monologue with her one-on-one which is a whole different dance party) and I left the class (OK, fine, clicked out of the webinar window) feeling energized and inspired, yet… not overwhelmed! Oh boy did that feel good. I felt that I had done something that day, had the chance to stretch my acting muscles, and I had put pen on paper and had notes to prove it (to others, but also mainly myself). Reiner delves into this in the workshop so if you, like me, face “what am I doing with my lifeeee” days, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
A heartbeat later, I signed up for a pitching workshop with Netflix Director of Creative Talent Investment (woah), Christopher Mack. Are you ready? Stage 32 offered that for FREE. Sexy, I told you.
25,763 professionals from around the world came together and we got to listen to Mack talk to us about the very essentials of a pitch document, series structure, tone, and a little bit of Aristotle which I personally always enjoy.
I don’t know about you but when debating whether to take part in something that may develop me, as a professional, a person, a banana bread baker, a part of me always feels that annoying tickling sensation of “what if you take part and realize you are So. Far. Behind?” and that feeling is the worst, and also, objectively, total chicken nuggets: enticing and definitely not healthy or nutritious but also low-key addictive. How can literally taking a step forward in your desired direction be a bad thing? How can the cat be in the box and not be at the same time?
“What do you mean by all this, Athina?” I hear you ask again, while you look at your now empty cup of tea.
What I mean is, Stage 32 got me and my idle feet out of the box.
Stage 32 + Netflix Present: Television Pitch Workshop (2021) / Christopher Mack, Amanda Toney, Richard Botto
It provides us with an international platform full of creatives, a means to connect and collaborate, opportunities to learn - which is something I genuinely missed this last year.
If you are feeling restless and your feet seem like cement blocks keeping you frozen in lockdown, Stage 32 is your friend.
The classes are right there. Personally, I am taking a class on accent work next, but no matter your discipline, headspace, or budget; be it a single class on getting Camera/Grip work or a 4 week intensive on distribution and financing, the Education page has something for you.
The networking opportunities are right there. Or even, forget “networking” in the academic, dry, career-ladder sense of the word from times past. I mean it in the human, accessible, welcoming-a-dialogue-with-a-kindred-mind sort of way. I don’t know about you, but I feel like the last year has made us on the whole more welcoming of each other, even from a mask-covered distance. More keen for genuine contact and exchange of ideas, suggestions, and invitations to work together.
Our industry is fluid, jumping from one project to another is what we call consistency, facing new people and adapting into new teams and making it work is what we know. And the last year has robbed us of that.
A year ago, I felt that reaching out to a professional I’d never met to say “Hey, I saw your showreel, here is mine, let’s collaborate” was a soulless and fruitless way of developing in any way. The way to do it was in person, on set, on stage.
After a year of lockdown, though? I have reshaped the entire way I approach approaching people and I am sure I am not alone in this, and I believe Stage 32 is an excellent example of that regardless of the pandemic: a group of like-minded people who want to develop, to learn, to be human and make some art.
Stage 32 lets you do that in a click. From the comfort of your own home. Within the means of your e-wallet. And the team behind the project is ON IT. You’re not on your own, on the platform or in the industry - and isn’t that just lovely at a time when we miss our industry the most?
Instead of debating whether Schrödinger’s cat exists or not, how about we choose that it does and then free it from the pandemic-lockdown cultural crisis box we’re all in, and let it roam around a little bit?
After all, as Flint Lockwood says in ‘Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’: “You can’t run away from your own feet!”.
So, have them do something instead. I’ll join you, if you want company.
I’ll even bring some tea.
Athina Kefalopoulou is an actress, producer, and comedian.
A 3rd Culture Kid raised in Greece (Athens), Russia (Moscow) and Norway (Oslo), Athina then studied Sociology at the University of Edinburgh.
In 2019 Athina founded the Athens English Comedy Club, the first, and only, purely English comedy club in Greece; where she is currently based.
Headshot photo credit: Dimitri Doukoglou
Connect with Athina:
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