Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why I Self Produce

As a part of my theater company's 2016 Fundraising Initiative I was asked to write little blog post to help our patrons get to know our members. We were given a little challenge: To start, The Seeing Place asked each of its members 3 questions which they could answer via text or video:

1) What is your hometown?
2) What is your dream role?
3) When was the last time you contributed to a campaign and how did it make you feel?

They then asked is to craft a little blog post about what brought us to The Seeing Place and why it means so much to us. I thought you might enjoy learning a bit about my love for the company!



"WHY I SELF-PRODUCE" BY ERIN CRONICAN

When I was younger I never had any aspirations of being a director or a producer. I was an actor - there was no way I’d overwhelm my life with other things. It was, “Be an actor” or nothing at all.

The last few years in my hometown of San Diego I worked for an amazing organization called the Actors Alliance, a non-profit that helps actors have all of the resources they needed to be professional artists in San Diego. One of our projects was our actor-driven Festival of Short Plays, which would allow actors to sit into the producer’s seat and have a chance to create work for themselves. What was so amazing about co-producing this event is that each year I was able to feel the pulse of the community and curate content that a) our audiences would appreciate and b) would inspire our artists. And all of the sudden a day job which once simply supported my efforts as an actor became a training ground for what would be a life-altering jump into the abyss as a Managing Director of The Seeing Place.

Erin Cronican
(headshots with new hair coming!)
I’ll be honest - when Brandon approached me in 2009 and said, “Hey, I’m starting a theater company, and you’re going to start it with me,” I said no. I’d known Brandon for years, from back in our mutual hometown of San Diego where he worked with me in my final year producing the Festival. I assumed that all he wanted was my producing acumen rather than my skills as an actor, and I wasn’t having any of that! But he wore me down with a promise that we were going to do something different. Actors who led the company would have choices. They would have a voice, an opportunity to have a real say in the art they created. And how can you turn down a promise like that?

So many people describe productions that actors self produce as “vanity projects” and I find that term so disheartening. Where is that distinction when a writer produces their work, or when a director finds a script they love and have a vision to bring it to life? I think that what “vanity project” actually refers to is when someone creates something for their own good or use with no regard for their audience. People fear that actors only want to perform because they like to show off or want personal accolades. But thinking that way does actors a great disservice, and we at The Seeing Place are fighting to return the name of ACTOR to their rightful place as Living Historian - a position that, in the past, held great reverence. Actors are the conduit that allows an audience to see themselves and learn something about the world around them.

A thank you Erin received from Judy Shepard
of the Matthew Shepard Foundation
What is most inspiring to me about being an actor who produces is that I don’t just have a voice in the roles I play - I also have a voice in the organizations we partner with, the audiences I help to develop, and the issues that I’m burning to shed light on. When we did THE LARAMIE PROJECT (2014) I got to dream big about how I wanted to make a real impact, and we were able to partner with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, Tectonic Theater Project (who wrote TLP with Moises Kaufman) and multiple other organizations who put humanity over hate. When we did A LIE OF THE MIND I was able to coordinate talkbacks on traumatic brain injuries and violence against women, and our dramaturgy sessions help educate our cast about the very real issues surrounding abuse that is passed down through families. Can you imagine how inspiring it is to be able to make a difference not only on stage in bringing a human being to life, but also off stage with our audiences and our members where the real difference is made?

So when you donate to The Seeing Place, you do more than give us money so that we can act. You are funding a company that teaches its members how to give back to society. You’re enabling our producing staff to mentor dozens of actors to be conscientious self-producers, the way I was mentored back in San Diego. And best of all, you’re a partner in creating art that makes a real difference for its community, which means you’re an artist, too. 


Learn more about Erin at www.erincronican.com

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To help create new work with Erin and The Seeing Place by contributing to our campaign, visit www.TheSeeingPlaceTheater.com


Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I'm A Survivor

I have been sitting here staring at the title I just wrote for this post, having the hardest time knowing where to start. I have just finished active treatment for breast cancer, and now I’m in what they call the phase of “survivorship.”


I looked up the work “Survivor” in the dictionary, and here is what it said:

• a person who survives, especially a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died. Example: ”the sole survivor of the massacre"

• the remainder of a group of people or things. Example: ”a survivor from last year's team"

• a person who copes well with difficulties in their life. Example: ”she is a born survivor"

And this is what people have been saying to me when I’ve told them that I’m done with treatment:
“You’re cancer free!”
“You’re done!”
“You’re better now!”
And that makes sense, given the definition listed above. But Survivorship means something different in the cancer world. According to the National Cancer Institute, here is the definition:
“In cancer, survivorship focuses on the health and life of a person with cancer post treatment until the end of life. It covers the physical, psychosocial, and economic issues of cancer, beyond the diagnosis and treatment phases. Survivorship includes issues related to the ability to get health care and follow-up treatment, late effects of treatment, second cancers, and quality of life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also considered part of the survivorship experience.”
So when someone asks me if I’m planning a party to celebrate "the end of cancer" I almost don’t know what to do.

Because I’m not done. I will never be done with cancer. For the next 5 years I will be going through an inordinate amount of tests to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. (I wrote at length here about the prognosis for my kind of cancer recurring.) And thereafter will always been someone who almost lost her life, and that changes you. Will I be fine? Yes. Am I better? I don't know. I'm pretty sure that if given the option I would have never wanted to get cancer, no matter how much of a silver lining I fight to see.

But I do feel an immense sense of accomplishment. As of Saturday, March 19, I am completely done with active best cancer treatment. I stare at myself in the mirror and marvel at how resilient my body has been through this whole process: 2 biopsies, 2 surgeries, 16 rounds of the most intense chemo they could throw at me, and 33 rounds of radiation. I have had more scans and needles sticks than I care to count, and my body has withstood these invasions with aplomb. I didn't know I was so strong, and I am in awe of my body and truly honor it in a way I didn't know possible.

The one thing that did not survive, so to speak, was my long blonde hair which I had worked ravenously to save. For the past 5 months I’ve been in a pretty deep depression about the loss of my hair, covering my naked head with hats and a wig. When I lost my hair I lost my sense of self. I no longer knew who I was - and hated who I saw in the mirror. I was at war with myself daily, and here was no end in sight.

But this week, to commemorate the end of treatment, I bucked up my courage and took my scrawny, newly grown locks to the hair salon, where I spent several hours creating a whole new look with my stylist. I have never in my life had short hair, and it was time to face the fact that I can't ignore it anymore. Hiding will not make the problem go away. It's time to embrace it, and find out who I am now.

And it’s as if I’ve been reborn - perhaps not the way I had envisioned, but no phoenix rises from the ashes in the same form they were before the fire. And within one day, I have fallen in love with myself once again.

I'm back. 

So, without further ado... The New Normal:

Twiggy...eat your heart out!

And yes, if you look closely enough you’ll see that I gave myself a bit of naughty color - a big stripe of purple to bring life back to my being:

I'm a little bit rock and roll...

So...What’s next for me?

Well, as the definition says above, my focus for the next 5 years is survivorship. I have to take care of this body, but I also now know how precious life is so I will do everything I can to squeeze every last of goodness out of it. I will continue to create with my amazing theater company, I will continue to love and support my friends, and I will try to leave the planet and humanity a little bit better each day. I’m commit to expressing all of myself and not holding back, letting go of the small anxieties, and learning everything I can about the world we live in. No sticking my head in the sand. No running away when things get tough. LIVING.

I look forward to keeping you on this journey with me. Please leave a comment so I know you were here!

Erin :)

PS: I have a bunch of “retrospective” posts that I will be sharing about some of my inner thoughts as I’ve gone through treatment. I’m going through my personal diaries to pull some of the better excerpts, and will share them soon.


Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Performing Howard Ashman

A couple of weeks ago I had the amazing honor of singing in the cabaret event, “Gone Too Soon: A Tribute to Howard Ashman” at the Metropolitan Room in NYC.

It is always so wonderful being able to sing with some of my favorite performers, including Adam Shapiro and Janice Hall. But as the concert date approached, I realized that the event was fulfilling a long held dream I had forgotten I had: offering my own interpretation of Howard Ashman’s amazing lyrics.

The event's host, Adam Shapiro, reached out to me and said that each singer would get to perform two songs, and though I could choose anything I wanted he hoped that I would be willing to sing, “Part of Your World.” I was so thrilled and said yes immediately, and then made my own special request - would he be willing to join me for the duet, “Suddenly Seymour” (a long held favorite of mine)? He agreed, and my challenge was set.

The performance was scheduled for January 19, exactly two weeks after my last round of chemotherapy. Unfortunately, I had caught a severe chest cold during the holidays which my poor, compromised immune system could not fight off, and it was lingering well into January. I started to worry if I would be able to perform fully. I laid low and did all of the things singers do to preserve their voices - limited my talking, upped my intake of water and local organic raw honey, steamed until my asthma got the best of me, practically freebased slippery elm and licorice root, and packed in all of the antioxidants I could muster. The day of the show arrived, and I was (thankfully) in full voice and ready to perform.

When I got to the venue for sound check something hit me. I had been spending all of my time worrying about my body being able to perform that I forgot the magnitude of what I was about to do. My god - I was about to sing two classic Howard Ashman songs at his tribute! I immediately started tearing up, and nostalgia set in. I was transported back to my childhood when the renaissance of Disney began to take hold, with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. I was transformed into my childhood self who wore out her little record player, then cassette recorder, then CD player with the full gamut of Disney albums. With those deep memories came the dreams and hopes present in any child whose whole life is ahead of them. It’s not a cliche - I truly felt like a kid again.

But there was a somber air to the performance as well. Howard Ashman died 25 years ago from complications from AIDS. The tribute was not only a celebration of his music but also of his life, which was snuffed out too quickly. And I sat there throughout the concert realizing, “My god. I also have a life threatening illness, just as indiscriminate as HIV. Will my life be snuffed out too early, too?” It brought to the surface so many fears, and I ached for what Howard and his friends & family must have experienced.

In the end, I was left with how lucky I was to be able to share my personal expression with so many people that evening. How art is the great connector that transcends all of the barriers that tear a community apart. It made me even more determined to continue to make art happen, even if conventional wisdom says I should be laying low.

I didn't get any photos or recording of this event, but I have performed & recorded a version of "Part of Your World" in the past (with a surprise comedy bit added.) Check out the video, with the incomparable Cris O'Bryon on piano. 



As always, thank you for your support. If you're looking for ways to help, you can check out this blog post with my wish list, which is making all the difference in the world. 

Erin :)



Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit http://www.erincronican.com.


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