I'm backstage shellacking dog shit 30 minutes before opening night of a play called A Dog's House. I'm trying to finesse a mixture of peanut butter and Hershey's syrup into perfect poop piles while constantly finger-poking it to check if the shellac is hardening. I look at my best girlfriend of 15 years and we burst into laughter. How did we get here?
Nine years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from New York City. My roots are in Long Island. I hated sunshine and shorts and sand (still do). I was the worst driver ever, and my family feared for me and for the other drivers sharing the road with me (still do). But I got it in my head that, in L.A., I might waitress less and act more. That, and my girls from drama school, my Ride or Dies, were slowly but surely moving to California. Together.
My friends and I have been through some SHIT. Painful breakups; being flat-ass broke; changing jobs a million times; changing apartments a million times; deaths and funerals and weddings and bachelorette weekends; all the ups and downs that go along with growing up. It's their phone calls that I'll take in the middle of the night along with my immediate family's.
We met in 2000 in New York, where we rolled around on the floor and made theatre at NYU. We studied abroad together at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and took London by storm (in our minds, at least). We might as well have been royalty the way we took over the secret downstairs dance floor at our local club-pub, O-Bar. We drank, met British men, and danced our asses off. (Side note: When we dance we go hard — it's full-blown interpretive dance mixed with the Butterfly and Footloose .)
There's Stefy; she's smart, opinionated, strong, loyal as hell, and her laugh is instant medicine. There's Laila, fierce, intense, and moves like a cat. LayLay runs into life like it's a huge wave coming at her head. There's Sarah Utterback, whom we call Slutterback, which is ridiculous and I don't think she likes it anymore. Sorry, Slutterback! She is spiritual, deep, and artistic, and her air guitar is one of life's greatest joys. And then there's Amy; I call her Wifey. She's spastic and quick-witted. We talk very fast and very loud and finish each other's sentences.
This is how we ended up in L.A. en masse: one of us got a job at a restaurant in Hollywood, then hooked up the rest of us with jobs at the same restaurant. It was all coming together. As we took power-lunch orders from the most successful people in the biz, we complained, gossiped, daydreamed, and took turns saying, What the fuck are we doing with our lives? Why are we in Hollywood? What-the-what are these web series people are making? We didn't own a camera or know how to use one; all we knew was how to make cheap, guerilla-style theatre. And that's when it hit us. Lets do a PLAY! In L.A.! A town where TV and movies thrive and hardly anyone gives a rat's ass about theatre! The perfect plan.
Our first play was fucking terrible. It was 30 minutes. Which, let's be honest, is more of a one-act than a full-length play. It was about random people on a subway. Telling subway stories in L.A.: again, perfect plan. But we loved doing it. Every second of it. It gave us a reason to get up in the morning (other than waitressing brunch). We felt empowered, and for the first time, we weren't waiting for the phone to ring. We didn't have time to. And we were together.