I am an artist but I cannot draw. My television storyboards in college were all stick figures. So, why in the world would I decide to create a comic book?
What I can do is draw from my history, life, and my imagination. My mom was a fine artist in the 1970’s. Her specialty was colorful, abstract watercolors and splatter paintings. They were beautiful, deep, and free explorations into the emotion that lies beneath mundane objects, landscapes, or not so still, life. Throw it all up against the wall and see what sticks. That part I inherited. Actor, video producer, voice artist, screenwriter, comic book writer/ producer. Eventually something will stick.
“My loneliness hung in the air like the thick moist fog clinging to my skin. It was raining cats and dogs and my pussy was wet.”
When I was a kid I wanted to be the hero of those noir films. I wanted to be that strong, charismatic detective that could paint words with his mind and seduce a beautiful woman at the same time. This character of course was always a man, hence my life long conundrum and endlessly annoying blogs about my gender identity and sexuality.
Fortunately for me, comic book folk are surprisingly helpful and accessible as compared to Hollywood gatekeepers. A few casual connections and a couple of Facebook group posts and I was able to find a talented artist within my budget. One of the reasons, I decided to do a comic book was that it is cheaper to produce than a quality television pilot would be to showcase this colorful, humorous, yet shadowy world.
Why can’t we have a salt and pepper, shaved headed, butch lesbian play a sexy, detective, leading role? Why is that so hard for producers and casting directors to imagine?
Donna’s nemesis is Santa Monica, a mysterious Beverly Hills prescription drug dealer, a slippery, sophisticated, sexy, and deliciously evil adversary with a throaty laugh that keeps turning up like a, “persistent, vaginal itch.”
My nemesis is my doubt and insecurity. It was hard enough for me to embrace my own gray hair. Will the world accept a butch, dyke (and yes, I use that word on purpose) Donna Manicotti? Will they accept me for who I am? Does it even matter? Will Donna find love again? Will I? The journey continues… Entertainment is art. Love is art. Life is art. And art is my life.
I still can’t draw but I will continue to throw my paint against the wall and I am quite content to watch the drips.
My life and my art are often indistinguishable, waxing and waning like the phases of the moon. On January 1, 2017, I shaved my head. I shaved my head and I filmed it.
I cut into my hair and I cut into my life. I felt a need to dissect, to slice, to sever, to cut myself into pieces, mix them up, and then hopefully sew them back together again.
The word, “dichotomy,” basically means, to cut in two. It is made up of the Greek root, “Di” or “Dich” meaning two and “Tomy” meaning to cut into.
The first definition of the word, dichotomy, according to Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dichotomy
1: a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities – the Dichotomy between theory and practice; also: the process or practice of making such a division – Dichotomy of the population into two opposed classes.
The fourth definition is very similar to the first:
4: something with seemingly contradictory qualities
-it’s a Dichotomy, this opulent Ritz-style luxury in a place that fronts on a boat harbor
—Jean T. Barrett
Human nature or nurture loves to divide things into dichotomies, black or white, pink or blue, good or bad, positive or negative, gay or straight, masculine or feminine. Our whole universe is powered by polarities. The gravity, magnetism, the tides, and the phases of the moon. Conflict appears to be inherently natural.
Feminine and masculine have been taken over by society to mean dresses or pants, make-up or not, weak or strong, soft or hard, emotional or stoic, long hair or short hair. In reality we are all made up of feminine and masculine genes, hormones, and DNA that come in as many variations as there are people on this earth. We use labels to define who we are and yet at the same time our differences can divide us. If we could get away from our human need for separation, perhaps we could realize we are all the same within our individual dichotomies and really are part of one loving and peaceful universe.
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
We wants it, we needs it. Must have the femininity. They stole it from us, sneaky little lesbianses.
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
No, no not lesbianses.
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
They will make you butch. They will make you shave your head. They will laugh at you.
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
Lesbianses are my friends.
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
You don’t have any friends. Nobody likes you.
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
I’m not listening. I’m not listening.
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
You’re a girl. You love pink. You love dresses.
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
GOLLUM lets out an Evil LAUGH
JANE AS GOOD SMEAGOL
I hate you. I hate you.
JANE AS EVIL GOLLUM
Where would you be without your femininity? I saved us. It was me. We got more auditions because of me.
My evil character venomously screams out the word “Dyke” as if it is the worst insult on the planet. Most people know the term to refer to a lesbian, often in a derogatory fashion, or a dike (American spelling) that refers to a ditch or bank, “to control or confine water.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dike
I often get the question, “Why didn’t you spell the title of the film, “DYKEotomy?” I considered it because I love some good word play but I really didn’t want to exclude most of the population by focusing with a lesbian lens. All human beings feel the dichotomy of trying to fit into the categories that society uses to divide us. We are constantly forced into separate groups from the time we are children. It is no wonder racism, gender discrimination, homophobia, and sexual abuse are so prevalent in this country.
The second definition of dichotomy was a bit of a surprise to me:
2: the phase of the moon or an inferior planet in which half its disk appears illuminated.
Dark shards of hair fall slowly into the white sink.
She shaves another line.
Jane continues to run the clippers through her hair.
More and more hair drops as she runs her hand over her buzzed head.
She stares long and hard into the mirror.
Her eyes slowly tear up with regret.
Sure, this regret was written in the script but at the same time, I was experiencing these feelings in real time. Not only was I shaving my head on-camera but I was looking directly into the camera as if it was a mirror. I could not see what I was doing. There was a lot of apprehension attached to this decision. How we define ourselves sexually and socially can be fraught with struggle, insecurity, and fear of regret.
Pulling it together, Jane fishes in a drawer and pulls out some mascara and begins applying it.
The brush slips marking her upper and lower lids black.
Frustrated she draws black lines all over her face.
Realizing how ridiculous she looks her mood begins to lighten as she makes faces in the mirror.
She rubs her head and GROWLS.
She scrunches up her face and hunches her shoulders.
Finally, we get to the third definition of dichotomy:
3: a: BIFURCATION; especially: repeated bifurcation (as of a plant’s stem)
b: a system of branching in which the main axis forks repeatedly into two branches.
c: branching of an ancestral line into two equal diverging branches.
I stare deeply into my eyes in the mirror. Time to shave my head again. Every four days to maintain a good buzz. It is kind of like a rebirth, a reflection. Collect the pieces and sew them back together again. Every time I question my choice it reaffirms my path.
Dichotomy premiered at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs and NewFest in New York City. Two of the best LGBTQ festivals in the world. It is a film that can apply to anyone and everyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin or unable to conform to societal expectations. I would like to see Dichotomy get into some “straight” or mainstream festivals and become more accessible through worldwide distribution. I would like to see my feature script, I.D. made into a movie and I would like to continue to promote the representation of butch lesbians in mainstream media. I want people to see themselves reflected in my mirror. How you express yourself personally, sexually, or socially does not make you more masculine or feminine it just makes you more human.
I look at my daily calendar and notice there are little symbols that indicate the phase of the moon every month underneath the day of the year. I never noticed that before.
First off, I did not misspell the title. It will all make sense in the end. I promise.
I need to learn how to wait. And wait consciously, without denying my feelings and without driving myself crazy. How to just be. I need WAIT Training.
I do not just need WAIT Training for my career. I am still, almost pathetically, waiting for love. For that special someone who jumps off the page and down my pants and actually lives in Los Angeles. I just put my profile back up on the dating site after a year hiatus. If and when I actually find a potential match, there is the waiting to meet, waiting to see what they actually look like, waiting for the next date, waiting to see where it goes, or waiting for it to end.
Our lives are full of waiting. We spend endless hours in line waiting for food, waiting for entertainment, waiting to buy things, waiting to get things or ourselves fixed, and of course, waiting in the dreaded L.A. traffic. Waiting to die and waiting to live. Waiting is part of life and death. It is what we signed up for.
So how do I make it all stop? Kind of an odd conundrum. I want to find a way to stop the immobility. Maybe one way to stop waiting is to be completely present in the moment because then there is nothing to wait for. Whatever I am waiting for only exists in the future. My frustration comes from looking at my past and feeling like I should have accomplished more or done this or that. The missing link is obviously internal. So yeah, I’ve done the self- help route and therapy and Eastern philosophy and A Course in Miracles, blah, blah, blah. I know I should be embracing the NOW, living in the moment, forgetting about the past and future, and manifesting blah, blah, blah. And it is all right and true, and I get it. But why is it so darn hard to do? And then I get mad at myself for thinking that it is hard, because I should be thinking it is easy, if I really want it to happen. But I have to actually believe that and not just say it, blah, blah, blah.
My fear of waiting is not really rational. It is almost instinctual. A self- protection mechanism to soften the blow of disappointment. I actually have a lot to be thankful for. This year I booked a nice part on a major television show, Dr. Ken, and I actually had a scene with over 5 lines. I love my new manager and have been getting some great auditions and feeling confident. I am in the midst of researching and writing a love story about my gay uncle and his husband who have been together for 65 years. My uncle John was a singer, a tailor, and a war hero. He was married to a woman when he met Richard at Julliard in NYC in 1950. It was love at first site. They sang opera, taught singing together, started a vocal foundation and coached Broadway stars. They raised a son who became an actor and eventually tore the family apart with homophobia and scientology. A true story of endless love, humor, music, tragedy, and faith. For me, it has already been an inspirational, moving, and personal journey.
Or I need more sex. Look at me, making it sound like I’m actually having sex.
There is definitely a sexual component to WEIGHT training. The push, the build, and the pay off. My favorite part of sex is the tease. The give and take. That moment right before the thing I want is taken away is the most intense and powerful. The wanting and the yearning can be pleasing in itself. Especially if I am focused and concentrated and allow myself to feel it without fear of loss. In that instant I am in the abyss, the waiting, and yet the anticipation is intoxicating. The energy in that second right before the actual orgasm is, for lack of a better word, orgasmic. That payoff lives in every waiting moment. It is happening right now, constantly, and in complete nothingness. Maybe if I just give in and embrace it. Feel the spark hidden in the waiting where desire and gratification meet in the present moment. Then just maybe, that energy, in that positive space, will find a new home, where my heart, mind, and spirit can become one. Where motion is free to enter my life and I am free and ready to accept it.
Oh and Miss Casting Director, can you please just give me that audition, so I can blissfully experience the joyful, orgasmic, intensity of waiting to get the part, waiting to shoot the pilot, waiting for it to get picked up, waiting for the contract, and waiting for the money to rain down and wash me with love.
The tips of my reaching fingers delicately pluck her plump, firm berries releasing her ready, ripe fruit into my gentle, moist palm.
Yup, Hot for Mother Nature!
I press my body into her wet leaves saturated from a warm summer rain. I gingerly caress her glistening jeweled clusters until she lets go, dripping sweet black juice onto my skin as her hard nails claw at my back.
Hot for Mother Nature!
With earthly passion and strength she lunges towards me. Her form is cut with rippling, rock hard striations. My hands search her smooth pathways, lingering on the soft cracks and wise crevices teaming with life. Her grounding magnetism leaves me shuttering with ecstasy.
Hot for Mother Nature!
Her undulating waves crash with a deep moan. She tastes of salt and smells of sunshine. She breathes in light and exhales love. Her whispers titillate my ears and spray down my spine. Her beauty fondles my heart and transforms my soul.
Hot for Mother Nature!
She slides her cold fingers under an unsuspecting belt inserting a hot magnet of our lesbian kiss. The bass pulses through my chest as the sun beats down on my shoulder as my heart explodes with the colors of the magnetic unity of the Gay Pride Festival.
So now here we are at the West Hollywood Gay Pride Festival with 95% of the film shot. We are handing out refrigerator magnets on the staircase landing of a packed PYT, the pride lesbian club of choice, of our Black Tar Road poster. We are hoping the magnet with our hot lesbian kiss will get us a few more likes on our Facebook page. The magnets were my idea and on the spot, Amber, came up with the inspiration of inserting them into the unsuspecting lesbian cleavage, pocket, or pants. They loved it.
Once Amber and I learned to stop taking things personally, we were able to stop fighting and start focusing our attitudes in a positive direction. We have begun to understand and accept that we think differently and have come to realize that our differences are actually an asset. Opposites do attract if you allow each other to be their own person. Our good intensions have started magnetically attracting people to our film production. We found directors and crew to donate their time and people to donate amazing locations. Due to our hardships we were forced to adapt and create a better film.
I am feeling that gay pride, that camaraderie, and that love that unites every one of us. The magnetic flow is unstoppable on this long Black Tar Road paved with good intentions.
I recently finished performing the role of Olga in a world premier translation of Anton Chekhov’s classic play, Three Sisters, set in Russia during Perestroika in the 1980’s, adapted and directed by Pavel Cerny. Cerny re-imagined the role of Olga, typically played as the spinster sister, as a lesbian, trapped in small town Siberia longing to escape to the freedom of liberal Moscow. Olga is the strength and matriarch of the family, comforting her two sisters through their romantic ups and downs, sacrificing her own chance at love for their happiness. My challenge was suggesting “lesbian” without stereotyping and staying true to those beautiful feminine emotional sections as Chekhov originally wrote them.
Just before rehearsals began for Three Sisters Or Perestroika, I played the role of Heather, a down on her luck, truck stop prostitute, in the independent feature film, Lot Lizard. Truckers use the term, “lot lizard” to describe the ladies of the night that skulk around the rest stop parking lots offering sex for money. Heather, a former beauty queen, trapped in a dysfunctional desert town gets involved in a drug deal gone bad and becomes a speed queen and a lot lizard indebted to her abusive drug dealer with a god complex. Like a lizard with a hard shell and a soft center, Heather falls for Charlie, a female, drifter junkie who gives her the strength to find hope and love in a world of darkness.
As I do a Shoulder Stand, I think, “What is the next step?” I hold my Tree Pose and wonder, “How long can I last?” I attempt another Half Moon and I think, “How will I ever achieve balance?” and ”How do I link the center of my mind with the center of my body?” I retreat into Child’s pose and surrender into Corpse pose. “When do I give up if it isn’t working?” When I first started doing Yoga a few years ago I could barely touch my toes. Now I can literally kiss my knees. It may not sound like much but to me it is huge. I am more flexible now than I was in High School. My strength and flexibility have increased dramatically.
I open my body into the Lotus position to fill myself with the beauty of breath. How do I cast myself in my own life? My ex-girlfriend said I changed after I started filming Lot Lizard. Maybe I did? Or maybe that character allowed me to connect with that feminine part of myself which has always been there. Every character I play becomes a new exploration into the unknown. Every day I must take another step forward whether it is in improving the flexibility and strength of my body or my acting and writing career. The progress is slow and the dynamics are constantly changing and growing along with my characters, auditions, and relationships. The harder the pose the more I am challenged and my body learns to adapt. The darker the character the more I stretch and grow. The harder the audition the more I improve. The more heart breaking the relationship, the more I learn. The journey can be frightening, disconcerting, and devastating. Yet also fascinating, ecstatic, and enlightening. As I succeed and fail simultaneously from one audition to the next and one relationship to the next I persevere and continue to connect the puzzle pieces to cultivate the softness and the strength to progress on to the next step of the path. By opening my heart and building the muscles to support myself I can power through the bad times and glide effortlessly forward into the sunlight of happiness.
A final Sun Salutation and I am ready to face the world. Every role I play in fantasy or reality, every audition, every thing I write, and every relationship brings me closer to that balance between career, love and myself. Those are my three sisters. I navigate the three-sided triangle balancing on the tip. Between action and inaction there is only breath. Just breathe.
His carefully controlled fist slices through the air just missing my face as his solid elbow connects with a deafening thud under my chin, snapping my jaw up and sideways, as my teeth and tongue collide and become one. I fall slowly as if in a dream until I smack the cold, hard stage of reality. Fake blood oozes from my mouth between the sharp edges and fragments of broken teeth floating in my mouth. The theater audience has no idea that this fight has become all too real.
On March 8th, 2010, in the middle of a choreographed stage fight during a performance of the play, Slaughter City by Naomi Wallace, at the Son of Semele Ensemble Theater in Los Angeles, I chipped my four top front teeth. Stabbing reality and the colorful haze of the imaginary world blended as I stumbled through the long scene and into the next before I could make my exit stage right. The show must go on. And life goes on. The almost spiritual connection I have with this play had suddenly taken a deeper turn and literally altered my body forever.
As an out, lesbian actress, this role was an enticing opportunity to indulge my butch side along with the acting challenge of passing as a man through most of the play, as well as, an opportunity to further explore my personal sexual androgynous freedom. Cod dresses as a man not only to work in the slaughterhouse but because that is how she feels most comfortable. “Working like a man I feel more like a gal, know what I mean?” she says to her female lover after her secret is revealed.
During the course of the play, Cod, falls in love with, Maggot, a female worker, who believes Cod is a man. Cod is like an indentured servant forced to repeat her role as the spark of the worker capitalist conflict because of a promise made between Cod’s mother, a textile worker who died in a factory fire, and his nemesis, Sausage Man, who diabolically grinds up bodies with his sausage grinder throughout history. As conflict increases so does Cod’s temperature and she can literally burn something with the touch of her hand, including the love of her life: “If I touch what I desire, I’ll destroy it. Just one touch and toast.”
Now, throughout this play I have been ridiculously accident-prone. I have various cuts, bumps, and bruises from the fight, chains, and knives, and almost caught the stage and myself on fire, and of course, the final blow that knocked my teeth out. For the love of theatre, what’s next? And this is an Equity (stage actors union) waiver play that I am not getting paid for. The good news however is that the union requires insurance for just this kind of thing. Go union!
So what is the universe trying to tell me? There are way too many coincidences coming together with this play to ignore. As much as I have bounced in and out of relationships, I have bounced in and out of my acting career, never being fully committed to either, out of fear of failure. I have recently identified feelings of inadequacy in both areas and it is coming to a head now with my new relationship and this play and it is time to change before I lose far more than my teeth. Dreams about losing one’s teeth are traditionally associated with such things as insecurity, helplessness, issues with self-image, and transitions in life. Perhaps I needed to get my teeth knocked out to drill it into my skull that I need to focus and be committed to my acting career and my love life and that they can co-exist together. As a lesbian I need to believe that my loving sexual relationship with a woman is just as strong as a heterosexual one. My girlfriend is one of the few people in my life who gets my creativity, my career choice, and me. I need to be willing to lose a small part of myself to let her in completely. I need to believe I am a talented actress and I deserve to be paid and be successful. Sometimes it is the negative experiences that lead us to the positive ones. Positive and negative, yin and yang, are intrinsically linked as are conflict and change.
If I am going to change, I need to have faith in myself, be comfortable with who I am, and be focused and committed to the belief that I can and deserve to be successful in my art and in love. Due to time and financial constraints, my girlfriend and I won’t be able to see each other for another few months but when she does finally make it over here, I will greet her with a huge smile with my new set of teeth and we will embraces change together. Our love will give us the strength to push through doubt and fear and change history forever. To quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.”
I am alive. I am alone. I am one. I am many. I am freedom. I am powerful. I am awkward. I am self-conscious. I am androgynous. I am art. I am sexy. I am naked.
Being an introspective actor, I have battled with the concept of how best to get exposure. What is my image? My brand? What is marketable? I am an androgynous, shorthaired, pants wearing, low-voiced lesbian. For years I was in denial and dated men, grew my hair out, raised my voice, and tried to become more feminine in an attempt to be what “they” wanted. As a result, I wasted lots of time getting in and out of the closet and getting in and out of acting. It took me a while to figure out that I would never be successful without first embracing who I am. My agent has finally figured out that I get called in to audition when the post reads: androgynous, butch, lesbian, or cop; and I love it. I did a small role recently on the ABC Family show, 10 Things I Hate About You and created quite an uproar on Facebook when I posted, “nothing like having “butch lesbian” taped to your trailer.” The angry, pitchfork carrying, Facebook throng thought someone had scrawled the obscenity across my door like a Nazi swastika. “Butch Lesbian” was the name of the character and I was proud to be identified as such. Maybe being all that you can be isn’t about being everything but about being who you are.
I’ve just been cast in a new competition reality show. Kind of an America’s Next Top Model but for actors. The idea is to launch the career of an actor in Hollywood while highlighting the realities and problems with methods traditionally used by the powers that be of Hollywood entertainment.
Just go to the website (link no longer available) and register on the right hand side to vote. Put in my #220 in the form provided. It’s easy and you can always remove yourself from the email list if you don’t want to receive email updates. Thanks. This is a new website so much more blogs, pictures, and videos to come…