Apr
03

My Story

I wrote my first blog post and sent it off to Lisa to read. A few minutes later my phone rang and Lisa said: “Barbara, you’re amazing, tell your story instead!” I realized what I had written was very little about myself. She wanted me to share my story with all of you.  How could I say no?  So here goes:

From the age of 7, I had always wanted to be an actress.  I could be someone different,  I didn’t like where I was – in a household where Polish was spoken and I was looked upon in the world as a foreigner.  I also wanted to make a difference in the world.  You see my mother spent a year at the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp during the war and as a child I wanted to save mymother.  I wanted to make sure that such atrocities never happened again. 

At the end of the war, the Red Cross had taken my mother to Eskilstuna Sweden, where she met my father (also Polish) and where I was born.

I was five when I arrived in Canada and remember being taunted with the phrase,  dirty DP (Displaced Person) on my way to school and feeling that same way in school.  We lived in a “Polish Roman Catholic” community  in Toronto.  We spoke Polish at home.  A home which my father ran with an iron Polish fist.  It took a long time to feel I belonged on this side of the Ocean.

My father didn’t want me to go to college.  He figured I didn’t need college.  After all I was a girld and would get married, have children and my husband would take care of me.  Why waste the money?  I finished high school with emphasis on secretarial skills, handed him the diploma and started preparing myself for college.  I wanted to be an “educated actor” so I ended you graduating with an Honors B.F.A. in Theatre: Theory and Analysis.  I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this interest in theory was an important part of me.  At the same time I took acting classes in the evening at the Theatre Academy in town .  I didn’t know it but I was preparing myself for my present life. 

But still, this didn’t seem to be enough, so I auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.  I had always dreamed of living in New York.  I was accepted and spent two of the most wonderful years of my life acting non-stop, dedicating myself to my work.  I ended up with the Jehlingher Award for Best Actress when I graduated.  And off I went to act.  I loved New York, I loved acting but I was missing something and then I met the most wonderful man, my husband. 

I still had Joan of Arc living within me and still do to this day except today I’m paying more attention to this part of me that needs to be fulfilled – not the burning at the stake thing -okay.

After doing some theatre (Off Broadway is wonderful), soaps (Susan Lucci is about 5 feet tall and will never take her heels off, or so she says) and commercials. 

I was  unhappy since Joan wasn’t being taken care of, so I co-founded a theatre company dealing with women’s issues and ended up acting, directing and producing.  I was happy.  But it wasn’t enough.  I wanted to make more of a difference.

After having a child we moved to Portland Oregon where my husband’s father lives (actually he lives in the Columbia Gorge).  I knew that I was not going to be doing my love, theatre, because I had decided to be home with my son.  So after getting an agent, I ended up working in made for TV movies (Jane Seymour is uppity and has no bootey), commercials, voice overs, infomercials, and any series that came into town and occasionally the staged reading.  At the same time, I remembered my partner at the Women’s Production Company, Victoria Sullivan (poet and playwright) had said how good I was with the actors .  So I decided to teach acting. 

I was afraid I couldn’t do it but I read everything I had missed reading about  in college and realizied I knew more than I thought and set up shop. 

I taught one night a week and my husband took care of our son. That was 18 years ago.  I found out I was spectacular at it and that I loved researching new techniques to bring into class and I was delighted that I could make a difference in people’s lives.  I kept being told that it changed their lives, not just as actors, but as people. This took a long time to sink in.  Eventually, I realized I had been give a gift I and I never knew I had it.  I now have a waiting list for actors who want to get into my class. 

And because it wasn’t enough,  I snuck in some directing.  I was afraid I couldn’t do it well, but I went ahead anyway because it pulled at me. Teen actors interviewed immigrant teenagers and told their stories, learning that art is not about them but about the story that needs to be told.  I was the creative director and coordinator.  It toured high schools and ran at a theatre.  The same was done with holocaust survivors in Portland.  The response to both was amazing and I felt momentarily fulfilled.  Directing Tangoing with Tornadoes <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IG5QeFH9DYk.about domestic abuse, which is now a one-woman show set up to tour throughought the world helped to further fulfill my JA (Joan of Arc) needs.

I wanted to help more people and make more money so I thought since it  took me no time to change people’s monologue from ho hum to amazing with just a few suggestions, I could do that with civilians, maybe. 

I was afraid I couldn’t do it.  I read everything I could about public speaking and found out I knew more than I thought and decided it would be public speaking with acting skills.

It’s been five years since I’ve started that venture and I’m am so thrilled with the work I do.  It’s so much more than coaching people in public speaking.  It’s part life coaching, part confidence building, part speech writing, and all a joy.  I have many travelling companions I coach allowing me to introduce them to many new doors.  Doors they didn’t know existed in their lives.  Rooms they get to create and attach to new houses.  Lawyers, CEOs, authors, small business owner, life coaches, others speakers, doctors, professors, artists and more come into my life on a regular basis expanding my horizons as a person and as a coach. And it’s growing.  I’m getting calls from all over the US and on top of that the speaking engagements are rolling in. But it’s not enough.

I want to create an organization of artists from all over the world who dedicate themselves to changing the world.  We would meet to discuss what each year’s theme would be and then carefully orchestratre the release of work dealing with that one topic all over the world.  The press would get involved because of the constant one theme arising in works of art.  Attention would be paid on a level it had not been before.  A depth of understanding would capture people’s desire to follow up and get involved with specific organizations to further take care of that problem.  The next year another theme would be worked on.  The first theme I want to work on is children and there are many topics to work on within that one theme.  I guess I need the rest of the artists to contribute there ideas.   Eventually every top writer, filmmaker, dancer, singer, juggler, creators of all kind would get on the band wagon. 

Of course to make all this work I need George Clooney’s house at Lake Como as headquarters. I mean after all –  he owes me.  I did a movie with George just before he started on ER.  It was called Without Warning: Terror in the Towers.  I know George isn’t too proud of it because it’s never mentioned in his bios.  I came up to him on the set and I said, “You’re Peter Gallalgher, aren’t you?”  And he straighted me out.  Told me he was George Clooney.  George who?  I just know that he had decided not to do ER at that time and that evening went back to his hotel room and called his agent and said, “Damit, I’ve changed my mind.  I’ll do ER. I’m tired of not being recognized.” And the rest, as they say, is history.  So George you owe me one.  How about  opening up your home as our headquarters?

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