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December 20, 2006

Foreign Money

When I was six years old, my brother married my sister-in-law. I was the flower girl. My sister-in-law had been in my life since I was six months old and I had just assumed that she would join my brother in living at our house after they got married. I hadn't even considered that the two would go live elsewhere. I was cute and sweet like that.

When they returned from their honeymoon, they brought me foreign money. I had never seen it before. It had lovely colors, shapes, and textures. The bills were different sizes. There were holes in the coins. And there was such artistry in them! I treasured these pieces of foreign money. And a collector was born.


Quickly I learned that every other place in the world had money that was more beautiful than ours. And every time anyone I knew visited another place, their souvenir for me was whatever they had left over, when emptying their pockets (after exchanging the "big" money for American bills). I began to treasure this collection, because it was not only made up of money from places I would likely never visit, but of gifts brought to me by people I knew and loved. It wasn't like I went to a bank and exchanged money so that I could *have* a collection. I *had* a collection because people who loved me brought me back little bits here and there.


By the time I was an adult, this collection was pretty dang impressive. I actually bought one of those collectors' exchange rate books to find out what the money was worth. But putting coins into sleeves and labeling them, like collectors do, somehow took the fun out of it all. What I loved about my collection was taking it out and handling it, comparing the designs from different parts of the world. Nothing was "mint" except by accident, so what did I care if someone on eBay would pay top dollar for something that I happened to have? I never intended to collect something that was worth something... only something that was worth something to ME.


Cut to July 2006. I'm auditioning actors for Three Poems and a gorgeous young man comes in for the role in which we will cast, well, a most gorgeous young man. It was a fun day of casting, let's just say that (we had a lot of eye candy to enjoy). So, this young man comes in and says, between takes (we're going to exchange out his scene partner and do a little redirect, so there's some chitchat), "I was actually reading your book in Afghanistan last year." Huh?!? That's random. "You were? Um, how?" "I knew I wanted to be an actor and I was living in Norway, so I signed up for a term of service in Afghanistan that would then allow me to come to the US to pursue acting. I ordered your book from Amazon.com and had it with me while I served in Afghanistan. It was essential to my ability to put my plans together for coming here. And now here I am, auditioning for you!"


I was in a state of shock. I mean, sure, I GET that my book is "out there." I've had the thrill of walking past the largest bookstore in Manhattan and seeing my own book displayed in the window, facing millions of people who pass by every day. I've received the emails that say, "Your book changed my life," and "I'll thank you when I win my Oscar because I never would've thought I could do this career without you." But something about having this amazingly talented, naturally MEANT for acting kid in front of me, telling me that he had been in a few different continents in the past couple of years, all the while reading my book and planning for this moment... I don't know... it just felt like one of those WONDERFUL punches in the gut. The kind where you GET that there's a ripple in the water a world away, just because you toss in a pebble.


Sure, I remember the very first days of putting Self-Management for Actors together. I remember the binders upon binders of information on the foot of our bed in our apartment in the Hollywood Hills. Only the bedroom had air conditioning and I was on migraine watch. I had to stay cool and quiet... perfect environment for doing my book. But I was scared. What if SMFA *wasn't* really a book? What if it was just a bunch of ramblings from a kid actor who could never really cut it as an adult? What if it was all anecdotal and not at all practical to actors working today? What if--even worse--it was all wrong? I could actually MESS UP someone's career with this load of hooey.

Keith assured me it was GOOD information. My friends on the BackStage.com message boards assured me it was GOOD information. My mentor Judy Kerr assured me it was GOOD information. My friends at higher tiers in the industry assured me it was GOOD information. So, onward I went. Six weeks in my bedroom from start to finish... then the book was off to the printers. I couldn't believe it was done.

So, why am I thinking about all of this today? Well today I received a little package from Thor Knai, the talented (and, oh yeah, really gorgeous) actor who spoke with me about my book this summer. See, he's back in Norway right now and we had been sending comments back and forth on MySpace. I mentioned that I collect foreign money. He mentioned that he liked reading my books. We each sent packages across the world and here I am fondling my kroner bills and coins with glee. I hope he's enjoying Acting Qs as much!

Posted by bonnie at December 20, 2006 10:45 PM

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How cool!

I assume you have English money by now? ;-)

Posted by: Helen at December 21, 2006 11:06 AM

There is a copy of your book on my desk in our newsroom, if that counts?

Posted by: Cliff at December 22, 2006 3:05 AM

What wonderful thoughts you shared in Foreign Money. I have some and I love you so I plan to send it to you. You are beautiful, all over, inside and out. Thanks for beig you.

Posted by: charlie g at December 23, 2006 7:16 PM