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A Canadian Immigrant’s Arranged Marriage with America

My relationship with the United States is like an arranged marriage. I didn’t choose to be here, and my love for this country grew with time. As I came to terms with my circumstances at a young age, I began to understand the American psyche over the years. But it took a long time. I came from a land of peace, gratitude, and snow. I went to a place full of anger, hatred, and pride. My defenses went up immediately. After 22 yrs, only since November 8th, 2016 had I truly began to understand why America is the way she is. And it took a protest to do it. Yes, this land is chaos. The people are crazy. The history is fascinating, tragic, and beautiful. But what America *could* be is marvelous. And, as a proud citizen of two countries, until they come for me, I will fight for her. #Resist

-Satu

I want to make art

 

I want to make art.

Feel the sun
Etch crimson blush
Crisp sea air dusting salt in my hair
Flicking, flittering, abandoning all despair

Unattached from fear
Doubt and rage. Years
Painting age on my face from
Love lost and one too many beers
Instead of one less paycheck
Tumbling all dominoes of balance
A delicate Jenga puzzle of bills
Income, and keeping my family safe from harm

I just want to live
Make art every minute, every second
Out of happiness, joy, and bliss
Capture things impossible to miss
Kissing my skin, like free-falling snow
Free and wild as nature intended
Fearing only the unknown
Instead of my own people.

©2016 Satu Runa
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photo by RonniDropBread

I am but one cipher in an army of millions.

Some things I have learned since yesterday (Stella Adler alumni may remember Ron Burrus’ daily question, “What have you been learning?”):
1. Labels can be effective.
I hate the idea of labeling yourself. As an actor, a mixed-race child, a citizen of two countries, among other things… I felt that “labels” were far too limiting and complicated for me. I want to be free from a catalogue of humanity. But labels united as a voice do matter. It’s not about me and my individualistic ideals. It’s about showing numbers. I am but one cipher in an army of millions.
 
2. Try talking to the opposition instead of ignoring them.
I have a trigger finger when it comes to unfollowing/blocking. Since watching “Arrival” (and reading Zack Stentz + William Stamey‘s posts) I have decided to listen. I will converse instead of mute. As an actor and a member of this society, it’s in my best interest to attempt to understand why someone behaves the way they do.
 
3. A movement can only be successful when the people have a common vision.

What I believe Occupy lacked, #UniteAgainstHate has gained. Whether it be a common leader like Gandhi or MLK, or a common enemy like T****- you must stand together in order to be effective.

 

may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great accompt,
On your imaginary forces work.

HENRY V, Prologue

 

Reading the above text (O for a Muse of Fire) that we had studied in drama school relentlessly, I take away from this speech the word “cipher. This word is meant to mean, in this context, that one actor on the stage shall represent 1 million soldiers that fought at Agincourt. The Chorus asks the audience to imagine that 1 actor is actually 1 million.
I am but one cipher. There are millions who are unseen that need to be heard. We performers, public speakers, activists shall be visible for you to be heard.

What have you been learning?

-Satu

henry-v-prologue

#UnitedAgainstHate March in Los Angeles 11/12/16

I had butterflies of equal parts fear and excitement. As soon as we surfaced, thousands of people had already gathered. I saw signs:

IMMIGRANT (arrow pointed down to a white woman holding the sign)
NOT MY PRESIDENT
THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK

So I knew it was going to be at least a good protest. No opposition in sight. Cops were helping to stop traffic. People stuck in their cars waved, honked, and cheered. The numbers were there. I felt a surge of love and an unmistakable, powerful energy.

Thousands gathered to watch. Brown-skinned men in construction and trucker hats, just showing up for work that day, saw thousands of people shouting loudly:

“SAY IT LOUD, SAY IT CLEAR: IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOME HERE!”

The brown-skinned men were crying. They were laughing. They were waving and smiling. They knew they were not alone.

“MY BODY, MY CHOICE/HER BODY, HER CHOICE”
“TRANS LIVES MATTER”
“BLACK LIVES MATTER”
“TINY HANDS CAN’T BUILD A WALL”
“HEY HEY! HO HO! DONALD TRUMP HAS GOT TO GO!”

Many see these protests as futile, that it’s “inevitable” and we must accept it. Something you may not know (unless you were there), in addition to rejecting Trump, this is a call to fight for the rights of *everyone*. When your rights are being attacked, nothing feels more empowering than the sheer volume of people making it very clear that they are willing to fight to protect you. That’s what this is about. Regardless of Trump, we will never ever stop fighting for everyone affected by the hatred from Trump’s supporters. And the world is watching.

So here is my advice, if you are feeling hurt and helpless: If you are able-bodied, stand with us. Join us.

While our actions may not change what happens on January 19th, what I learned was this: When a trans person watches the news and sees the marches, they will feel better. When a muslim person watches the news tonight, they will feel better. When an immigrant watches the news tonight, they will feel less afraid. What does this all mean?

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You have an ally in me, and all of those people you see on the news marching. Millions are with you. I hope you can sleep a little better tonight, and smile a little knowing that.

Satu
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The Onus and the Outrage

The Stage. The one place where you honestly, truthfully can be anything you want to be. People often transcend their upbringing, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, background, genetics, and physical attributes to form a self-image outside of what is expected of their kinfolk. People are by nature complex and varied. The profession of acting falls into this category just the same.

There is a dividing line between political correctness and creativity. Film and TV studios dictating who plays what role and what stories are told to target audiences. There are independent artists creating work not domineered by any studio or voice. Independent artists have the freedom to create anything, for any purpose. Studios, on the other hand, have a responsibility to reflect the public’s interest for two reasons: 1. To make money, and to a lesser extent: 2. To affect change for the greater good. The system isn’t perfect, but is slowly making strides in terms of representation behind and in front of the camera.

There is an awareness happening now in regards to when non-trans actors portray trans characters. Prior to this, there was a movement shining a spotlight on white actors portraying characters of color. Both movements have serious validity. Conversely, as an actor who started and trained in theater- while theater is an entirely different medium (of which still suffers the same non-inclusiveness as rampant in film and TV casting practices)- an actor can play any part they can believably portray to an audience. While a variety of voices need to be heard and portrayed, the onus for inclusivity in media is on the studios. The onus for hearing more voices is on all of us.

These two opposing forces (inclusivity vs creativity) enter a complex battle arena. I believe in the freedom of the artist. I also believe that studios and production houses have a responsibility to be inclusive. I believe that the actor has trained to become anything they have the power to imagine. The profession would be entirely tedious if we were limited to only playing ourselves- otherwise, why do it? It would be one long scripted reality show, and no one wants that. The magic is in the transformation.

It’s about the human condition as portrayed by the person who has spent their entire life training and educating themselves on how to live in another person’s shoes. Trust the experts. I’ve read from certain non-actors that believe if an actor shares the same background as the character, somehow they will deliver a finer performance. I couldn’t stress more that the best performances most often come from those who are the farthest removed from the character they are portraying. Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth. The mask is more powerful than you can imagine. The mask will set you free. The mask is vital to the honest performance. The mask is everything.

the actor by Picasso

The Actor, Picasso

-Satu

First Seven Jobs

That “#firstsevenjobs” hashtag thing got me reminiscing.
Hot Topic at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was my first paying job at $5.15/hour. It was the first expansion to malls outside of San Francisco. 3/4 of my paycheck always went back into the store. People make fun of Hot Topic for being cheesy but back then it was one of the coolest jobs in town, like working at a record store (we sold records too). We even had fans who would bring us cool things like cake, rock prints, albums, artwork. Everyone looked cool. Bands whose merch we sold came in to visit when they were on tour. We played whatever music we wanted and would always get a shipload of fresh records that came out that Tuesday. I learned a lot about music through this job, some records I still listen to today with as much passion as the first time. Sometimes I’ll walk by and instantly get hit with that unmistakeable smell of incense, scented candles, and cheap glitter body spray. It was awesome, especially once I got a raise to $5.50/hour 🙂

My First Seven Jobs (A Fantastic Exercise in Perspective)

sales associate, Hot Topic
sales associate, Party City
sales associate, campus bookstore
music columnist/concert & album reviewer, The Seahawk (UNCW)
intern, then set + office P.A., Fuse TV
secretary, Tin Pan Alley Studios
assistant, Sheryl Crow + W Management

What are yours?

-Satu

Film Courage Performance, General Anguish, and a “True Calling”

We had a ridiculously good time at Film Courage’s night of readings and monologues as a “Tribute to the Sunset Strip.” I was the only one who actually performed a monologue (I wrote in homage to Dio and Lemmy). Everyone else read from a favorite book about rock n roll, or read a passage from a personal diary. Nice to connect with fellow metalheads and music lovers who all also happen to be actors.

I got a chance to workshop a character that I’m working on that may or may not be part of a TV series I’m developing. More on this later as it becomes declassified! See video of my performance here (it was REALLY fun!):

It’s been tough to keep your head up these days with all of the shocking news day after day. The only way to survive it is to push through it and stay busy. Stay WOKE, but stay busy. As an artist, I wrestle day to day with how I can help without being trite and obvious with my work. A documentary, a narrative feature, a powerful dramatic short, or a comedy bringing light and humor to the dire situation we may be in. In these circumstances I always come back to music.

I feel like I have multiple “true callings.” If I ever feel lost, I move into another medium, and my blood starts pumping again. In high school, the first college I requested a pamphlet from was Berkeley College of Music. It wasn’t a firm “no” from the parents, but it didn’t seem possible, so I played it safe and went to UNCW for Communication Studies. Great experience, but I always wonder where I would be today if I had followed through with my lifelong passion. After several A&R people handed me business cards early on, I’m confident that I would have made it as a singer, but I changed direction in the middle of the pursuit towards acting. Acting has been an uphill battle since the beginning. Not actually acting itself (it’s a thrill), but being successful at it has been the biggest struggle of my life. It’s gotten to a place where the chase is too draining in every aspect, so I find myself somewhat reluctantly surging towards another path, which also feels quite right. I may not get what I want in the end, but all I really want is to perform on a regular basis and not die of starvation doing it (anymore). So the path remains clear: I’m focusing on directing for the rest of the journey. It’s very odd, but I know in my heart that I have a better chance directing than acting, as it’s far more hands on and proactive. I will work as hard as I can, stock away survival money, and play music to appease my heart and soul. If acting wants me back in (as it always finds a way to pull you back in), I will follow. But not at the expense of my creative spirit, and fridge.

Certain events this year involving acting opportunities have driven me farther away from a desire to aggressively seek out acting work at this level. I’m happy to create my own, but I’m stepping away from the “chase” to feed the artist in me, and the stomach. It’s a big decision to make, and as soon as I made the decision to step away from chasing acting work (not acting itself, mind you- I will never say no to a solid part), of course, I got the call to come back to set for a short stint. It was semi-fulfilling, but in the end, far too much trouble for the small payoff it truly was. I’m happy to pay my bills as an actor for the first time in a few years, but it’s certainly not enough.

[The monologue I did for Film Courage for FREE was ultimately 1000x more satisfying, so I have to keep that in mind and keep doing that kind of stuff].

I shall go forth seeking out more fulfilling work, and in turn, my other callings shout loud and clear. Every time I see a film. Every time I hear a great song. I’m there.

x

Satu

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Satu Runa, photo by Joao Carlos