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2014

Wow, we're already nearly two months into the New Year, and I haven't updated my blog. I've been waiting for a "theme" to inspire me so that I have some framework within which I can sneak in my laundry list of what I've been up to. I usually do this to distract you into thinking this is some regular blog, although that's probably useless. I would not recommend "acting career" as a "lifestyle," so this is most certainly not one of those lifestyle blogs.

But I can't wait any longer! I try and bombard you with my happenings once a month, and I've already failed. Theme?? What theme? Valentine's Day? I did that last year. President's Day? Tax Season? Believe it or not, I did write about that last year. I guess the theme of this post is the Un-Theme. Which is very "February" if you ask me. "Un-Theme's" a much better theme than the flu, which I have right now…so, you're welcome!

This year's been kind to me so far! I made it to the top 20 contestants of ABC's "Make Me A Star" competition, which was unexpected and cool. Would've been cooler to win (I know, I know), but still cool to be acknowledged and know that my tapes were watched and appreciated. It was an open contest with submissions from all over the country, and it was definitely exciting to chat with ABC's lawyers and shoot another scene within a tight timeframe for the next round! In similar news, a short film script that I wrote and am hoping to produce (and act in, obviously!) made it to the top 10% of submissions to an (actually legit/reputable) screenplay competition. They haven't announced the next round yet, but like the other contest, it's just nice to know that my script was read and acknowledged. Again, it would be cool to win. A gal can dream...

I've booked and shot two different commercials, which should be airing soon (fingers crossed)! I actually auditioned for both spots on the same day. Something good was going on that day for me, that's for sure. Here are some snaps from the shoots:
 


Other than that, I'm proud to report that I'm back ON the wagon. The acting class wagon, that is. I fell off quite a few months ago, and I'm oh-so-glad to be back. Just makes me feel like an actor…you know? That's important.

Wow, not having a theme makes this kind of sound braggy and weird. I'm sorry. Wait - my New Year's Resolution was to apologize less. So…better luck next month? Maybe a St. Patrick's Day theme?

Maybe my mom will leave a comment with a suggestion for next month's theme!!

Themeless,
Gilli

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Santa Slayer

Last December, I performed a scene I wrote for the Actor's Key Holiday Showcase. It marked my first experience performing something I had written, and it was a pretty good time…you can take a trip down memory-blog-lane and revisit my post about it from last year HERE. My talented-actress-friend Jenny Robinson acted in the scene with me, and the amazing Carmen Aiello directed us. 'Twas an all-around success.

A year later comes another milestone - the first time I've put something I've written on tape, like, professionally. I met director Joab Carlos on set for a commercial early last year, and he told me about a production company he's launching called JJ Film & Photography. He was looking for content to shoot, and I had a lot of content without anyone to shoot it. So, the stars were aligned that day, or at the very least, Mercury wasn't in retrograde. We kept in touch all year, and the first result of our chance encounter is the scene from last year's showcase, on tape, right in time for Christmas. That's right: I'm gifting you with five minutes and nine seconds of holiday joy, right here, right now. You're welcome!

Thanks for watching that just now! I hope you liked it. Or, at least finished watching it so that we could garner some more views. We're ready to go viral.

All kidding aside, pulling this project together quickly and effectively was quite a feat and learning experience for me. I had never been in charge of so much on a shoot and I just want to give all of the producers I've ever met, especially ones on low/no-budget little passion/silly projects like this one, virtual snaps. You guys are amazing. I don't know how you do it (seriously though, I don't, as evidenced by how I kind of had no idea what I was doing while I was doing it yet still did it somehow). I was pretty floored by the generosity of the crew for showing up and working so hard, by the Actor's Key West for trusting me and renting us their space, by my parents who decorated our set using the childhood objects and artwork we picked out to use together and who of course provided craft service, by my synagogue's preschool for lending me little toddler chairs, and of course by Jenny and Joab and his wife Jessica for making this all possible! It's pretty insane how much work goes into even just a small, fun, little holiday sketch like this one.

Now that I've made my Oscar speech, check out some pictures from the shoot. Oh, and Happy Holidays!!!
 


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Story Magic

Sometimes you need a reminder of why are doing what you are doing. Feel me? Sometimes when you've been doing more "business" than "show," you forget what you loved about show business in the first place. I got a more than healthy dose of reminder yesterday at my school's "Big Show." But let me backtrack so you understand what a Big Show is.

Since October, I've been mentoring with the The Young Storytellers Foundation. Long story short, this amazing program connects 5th graders with mentors (actors, writers, executives) in the industry who help them learn the art of storytelling and writing. Each student creates a 5 to 7 page screenplay by the end of the program, culminating in a Big Show. Professional actors donate their time to first "audition" for the kids (i.e. hilariously present their talents to them in the hopes that they will be "cast" in one of the screenplays) and then perform the screenplays for a live audience of elementary school students.

YSF rolls out a red carpet for the kids where they can take a bow in front of their peers and teachers, gives them VIP passes to wear around their necks, and has each student and their mentor sit up front while their show is being performed. The result is nothing short of magical. If you know me, you know my aversion to schmaltzy actor feelings. To constantly hash tagging about how amazing everything is, even when it's not the reality of the situation or just a guise for a #humblebrag. But yesterday, during the Big Show, I was actually feeling these amazing feelings; they just weren't for me or my own performance. I was feeling them for my 5th grade mentee and all of her buddies whom we had been working with over the semester. I just loved watching my mentee witness her own words that she had written come to life. It was magic. See for yourself:
 

A friend of mine is on the board of YSF and invited me to several events over the past couple years. I loved hearing what the program was all about and meeting other people who were involved and watching famous, hilarious actors perform some of the best screenplays that students have written, but I didn't make the leap into mentoring until this year. I had this weird idea that because I don't make that much money, I couldn't possibly spare my time to volunteer. Looking back, I really don't get why/how I could rationally think that. As an actor, writer, and tutor, I have the luxury of a flexible schedule. So yes, I am available to spend an hour and a half once a week playing with stories. And guess what, Gilli: rich people volunteer, sure, but not-rich people can volunteer too! What a concept. I'm glad I clued myself in. And did I mention that a couple of my talented actor friends showed up in the middle of the day and donated their time to perform for the kids? Well, they did, and my mentee chose one of them to play the lead role in her screenplay!

I think I get why people who volunteer do it all the time. It's addicting. It's magic.
 

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Five-Seven-Five

James Franco just wrote a semi-fictional book about acting, and in it, he has a cycle of poems dedicated to River Phoenix. In honor of this, here are some ridiculous actress Haikus for you to enjoy on this gray day.

Time frames and windows
Too early, late, or in-between
Made it just in time!

In the waiting room
Not nervous, no, not at all
Stop comparing yourself

It's pilot season
It's episodic season
Where did the year go?

Watching TV
All the time, all the time
What? It's my homework

Just book something, please
Credits and tape and reels
Make it all worth it

#Blessed, #lucky, #grateful
Maybe you just earned it
It's hard work, not luck

Opportunity
Meets preparedness is all
Luck is only that

Smoke bump, wardrobe bump
Overtime is golden time
Dues dues dues dues dues

Inconsequential
Just talking about myself
Selfish but needed

Hit your mark and slate
Here we go, off to pretend
For a nice moment

Where is my book deal
For real, when's it happening
I'm ready to go

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In Memoriam

Last Monday was my Birthday. Less than two days after I turned 25, my grandmother in Israel died. It is truly the end of an era for me. Before last week, I was in another age demographic for television viewers. I couldn't rent a car without a high insurance rate, my early twenties were still happening, and my favorite lady in the Middle East (and the world, really) was still alive, though not well.

I can't help but feel how fortuitous the intersection of these two life events are. A chapter has closed but another one is beginning, and this next part of my life will be rich with the memories and moments I shared with my Safta (Hebrew for "grandma") throughout years zero to 25.  How lucky am I to have known her that long?!

Some of you may know that my "side job" as an actress is academic tutoring. I tutor students in all kinds of subjects, but my favorite thing to tutor is writing. I always tell my students that no matter how hard it is to start, when they sit down to write, something unexpected and even therapeutic may come out to surprise and delight them (and then me, as the reader). I also ask them to simply tell me stories - not to worry about tying up their essay ending neatly with a bow. So I guess I'm trying to do that right now. There is no moral to the story of why I'm sad about my Safta passing away or how much she's taught me. Because all of that is a given: there is no way that I could have not been changed and inspired by knowing and being loved by my grandma, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and the bravest person I've ever met. For now, I just wanted to write down some things I want to remember about her, because by writing them down, I get to relive them and smile.

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When I was little, my grandpa would take out his dentures at the lunch table (lunch used to be the big meal of the day in Israel) and show me his hilarious, gummy smile behind Safta's back. I would laugh hysterically, and he would put them back in his mouth just in time before she turned around. Sometimes she would catch him, toothless, and yell at him in Yiddish for being gross.

Safta had a funny relationship with animals and creatures. She was FEARLESS when it came to bugs and insects, especially cockroaches. One time late at night, a giant, long-legged, Israeli cockroach decided to perk itself on my toiletry bag in the bathroom. I freaked, of course, and woke up my mom and sister for help. They were even more terrified than I was. We decided to wake up Safta, who slowly trudged out of her room in her nightgown, using her walker. She killed that little sh*t with her slipper with one carefully-aimed smack, and went back to sleep. On the other hand, Safta HATED rodents. Hated them with a passion. When I was four, I showed her a little wooden mouse toy I had and she almost fainted. And even though she thought they were unsanitary, she let me buy baby chicks at the pet store to keep me company all summer long when I was three, four, and five years old. I kept them in a cardboard box in the living room by the window, and they would chirp nonstop and poop all over the newspaper at the bottom of the box. Safta kept her apartment beyond spotless, so this was probably very difficult for her to watch. And then there were the stray cats. My sister and I used to sneak downstairs with leftover cottage cheese and food to feed them. Safta used to allocate food specifically for us to give to them, but warn us never to give them any of her good, usable food. More recently, Safta would Facetime with me and I would show her my three little dogs. She laughed at how many I had, and even though she never had her own dog (too dirty!) she would say hi to them and wave to them and ask how they were doing regularly. She also told me which one she thought was the cutest (Stella).

When Safta was still up and cooking and baking all the time, she used to call me within a week of when I would arrive in Israel for a visit and take my baking order. I could request homemade cheesecake, rugelach,  cookies, or whatever else I wanted, and it would be waiting for me in the fridge when I arrived. But if I didn't finish eating it, she would guilt me into eating it until it was all gone.

When I was a kid, Safta would take me to the supermarket down the street at the beginning of my visit to Israel and let me stock up on all of my favorite Israeli snacks. But again, if I didn't finish eating them, she would guilt me into eating everything until it was all gone:). As we both got older, she would give me money to go to the store alone or with my sister to buy whatever treats we wanted. I did this when I was there in August, and got extremely nauseous from eating an enormous bag of Bisli.

Safta always lit Yahrzeit candles for every single family member of hers and my grandpa's who died in the Holocaust, on the exact day that they died, every year. She never forgot to. Who is going to do that now???

Speaking of Safta's impeccable memory, she remembered everyone important's Birthday. Including my boyfriend's and all of her great-grandaughters'. She would recite them to me by heart over the phone. She knew it was my Birthday on Monday, even right before she died.

Safta loved a good deal. She knew where to buy everything at the best price, and still looked over every receipt to make sure no one was trying to swindle an old lady. When I visited her over Chanukah about six years ago, we went to buy jelly donuts at the bakery down the street. The guy at the counter mis-read her the deal about 2-for-one prices that she knew they had going on, and she ripped him a new one right then and there until he gave her a bunch for the correct price. But at the same time, Safta was the most generous person in the world. She gave the best gifts because she would simply allow me to buy whatever it was that I wanted most at the moment. She also understood the saying "you can't take it with you." Over the last couple of years, she made it a regular habit of giving her worldly possessions away. When my boyfriend and I visited her last year, our carry-ons were full of newspaper-wrapped teacups and bowls that she wanted us to have.

Safta loved movies and good stories. I used to watch tella novellas with her or old episodes of American soap operas or later on, Israeli TV shows. She would talk to the screen or explain what was going on to me in her own words. In August, I saw that Orange is the New Black was coming to Israeli primetime. I told her how much I loved that show, so she said she'd give it a try, even though it was on late at night. My mom, sister, and I watched the pilot episode with her, and she loved it. She continued watching it on her own over the next couple of weeks after we left.

After I studied abroad in Moscow during the Fall of my junior year of college, I visited Safta on my way back to school in New York. Safta didn't speak a word of English, but she spoke many languages over the course of her lifetime: mainly Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, and Russian. Her caretaker at the time was Russian, and the two of them would chat nonstop while no one else in my family could understand what they were saying. When I arrived from Russia, Safta was so proud that I could understand and speak a little bit with the two of them. And, even though we thought they had been gossiping and talking about juicy stuff in Russian, I can vouch that all they talked about was food. Whether something was good, bad, too salty, too hot, etc.

Two years ago, I hadn't come to Israel for three years: the longest I had ever gone without visiting. When I told Safta I wanted to come visit, she paid for my plane ticket and I made the trip with my boyfriend, who had never been to Israel. She welcomed him into her tiny apartment and communicated with him even though they didn't speak the same language. And she practiced saying his name for weeks, trying to pronounce the letter "J," since there isn't that phonation in Hebrew. Until the very end, she would ask how he was doing and talk about him each time I spoke with her on the phone.

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I could go on and on. These are just a few things that came to mind immediately. Overall, what I felt from Safta was that she really loved me for me; not for my talents or accomplishments or anything peripheral. Sure, she cared about those things, but in Israel, I am always asked what I feel like are the most questions about my life from my family: Are you healthy? Pretty happy? Spending time with people you like? Having fun?

What's interesting is that not much will be different in my day to day life, because aside from the time I spend physically in Israel, I am always missing my grandma from far away in America. I'm used to that. So I guess I will just continue to miss her, every day. Her attention to detail. Her hilarious ways of doing simple tasks. Her love of food. Her weekly phone calls and Facetimes. The sound of her transistor radio at maximum volume while she was napping.

It's the end of an era.

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The New York/Los Angeles Dialectic

As an actor, where you live is supes important. Wanna do theatre? You must live in New York, or perhaps Chicago before you move to New York. Or London if you're fancy. More into Film/TV/Commercial? Then obviously Los Angeles, or a smaller market to get started in first like Austin or Atlanta or somewheres in Canad-ia if you've got citizenship (or Australia for those descendants-of-good-looking-prisoners-who-generations-later-are-now-gorgeous-foreigners). But let's be honest. It's always been a New York versus Los Angeles decision, amiright? Not even just for actors, but for many of us hopeful millennials in all different career fields.

Some of my closest friends from college came to visit LA this past week from New York, and I was so pleased to see them react positively to their surroundings, and at the same time engage in a much-needed dose of New York-style witty/real conversation (which included the word "dialectic" which I had not heard/used since college). It was heartwarming to have my favorite New Yorkers love LA, because as a rare mythical creature who actually grew up in Los Angeles, I've had to defend my hometown many times while I was putting down roots in New York. Typical conversations might go like this:

Ext. Ivy League Campus Grassy Quad or Int. Ivy League First Year Dorm Room

Any Given East Coaster Who May Or May Not Be Pretentious: You're from LA? I HATE LA.

Me: Oh really? 

AGECWMOMNBP: Yeah. It's awful. It's the worst.

Me: Have you ever been there?

AGECWMOMNBP: Yeah. I accompanied my mom on a business conference trip to Anaheim when I was seven.

Fade Out.

What makes me even more of a unicorn/rarity is that I actually enjoy both cities. And I know what I'm talking about, you guys. I was born in New York but grew up in LA, and I spent my formative years going to college in New York. So at one point I was bicoastal - I had a dorm room in Manhattan and a bedroom in my parents' house on the Westside of Los Angeles. So clearly, I am an EXPERT.

Which is why all of these Buzzfeed/Thought Catalog type lists showing how different the two cities are and usually prizing one over the other are so disconcerting to me. Why, I ask, would two cities on the complete opposite sides of the contiguous United States (I'm sorry, the fancy New Yorker in me wanted to use the word "contiguous") nearly 3,000 miles apart have any cultural, social, atmospheric, geographical, or transportational (that's not a word; the unpretentious Angeleno in me made it up!) differences whatsoever?? It is just outlandish and completely crazy to think that these two cities would be different in any way, shape, or form, since they are both Metropolitan cities in America. Come on now! So, without further adieu, I present to you a response list proving how similar or arguably identical New York and Los Angeles truly are, framed in the context of what people my age might say or have said:

 

  • New York is so expensive! The rent in LA is so much cheaper! But have you ever thought about the expense of having a car??? The car payments, gas, insurance, upkeep, and times when you get a flat tire/have to dip into your nonexistent emergency fund?
  • There is so much traffic in LA. And the subway is so comfy and spacious during rush hour and the G Train always comes on time, right?
  • I love to read during my commute on the subway in NYC. PODCASTS, bitches! They're the only reason I still get in my car. Thank god for Ira Glass.
  • LA is so beautiful! And New York is really hideous. Especially during Christmastime at Rockefeller or in Sheep's Meadow during the first days of Spring. Ew.
  • Every famous person in LA is the offspring of an already-famous-person. You have to know people! This is completely untrue in New York. Unless you're on the show "Girls." Or you're Patti Smith. I've considered signing into a auditions as "Gilli Apatow." What? I'm his niece twice removed (can you remove nieces?).
  • There's nothing like New York Pizza! Or a Los Angeles burrito. Never-have-I-ever eaten Mexican food in New York without getting sick, or eaten pizza in LA that's remotely as good as a slice from NYC.
  • People are so much smarter in New York. We have smart people here. They just write for TV Shows instead of working on Wall Street. 
  • LA is a "city where the only cultural advantage is that I can make a right turn on a red light" - Woody Allen in Annie Hall. I hate to argue with Woody Allen, but we've got culture in LA! I listen to KCRW while making rights-on-reds all the time and I feel super informed while doing it.  But I will say that Angelenos never ever claim to be more cultured than New Yorkers.
  • LA is so fake! An East Coast transplant may think this when first having moved to LA and trying to make plans with a native. It's merely semantics - just like midwesterners might say "pop" instead of "soda," Angelenos say "let's do lunch!" instead of "bye!" It's endearing!


I could go on and on, but you get the idea! Aside from some minor, microscopic differences, New York and Los Angeles are basically interchangeable. I've boiled it down into this very simple venn diagram, for the visual learners out there:

 

 

Basically, "New York versus Los Angeles" is a very important conversation that we need to keep having. Let's keep talking about it, in an open dialogue, and let's keep saying that one city is better than the other.

I'll leave you with these wise words, if you're thinking of making the move from one to the other: "Wherever you go, there you are."
 

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The Actor's Key Showcase: International Edition

Hebrew is my first language. As a baby, my first words were "ma ze?" Hebrew for "what's that?" (I know, such a smart way to learn other words, right?).  I learned to read and write Hebrew at about the same age as I learned to read and write English, thanks to a special Hebrew school for Israeli-American kiddos that my parents schlepped me to twice a week. My mom proudly marked on my public school registration forms that English was not my first language...and I had to take an ESL test in 6th grade to prove to the Los Angeles Unified School District that I was proficient in English alongside some peers who were not too proficient...

I guess it was all worth it. Besides all of the usual benefits of being bilingual, lately, my Israeli side has played quite a role in my career prospects. I've auditioned for some projects in Hebrew and even for some roles that require an Israeli accent. I must say, I have a newfound respect for foreign actors who have to worry about learning material in another language on a daily basis (in addition to all of the other things we worry about before an audition). Even though it's my first language, it's not the language I'm used to auditioning with! With so much American television content coming from Israel these days (um, Homeland!!) it's a skill I've been working to use more and more, professionally speaking.

This Monday and Tuesday, I'll be doing just that! I'll be performing in the Actor’s Key 2013 Spring Showcase: the International Edition. This 75-minute piece directed by Carmen Aiello aims to showcase diversity in culture by featuring scenes in foreign languages and English. I will be performing a scene in Hebrew (and its English translation!) with my talented friend Rosie Moss.

All of the information can be found HERE and you can watch a promo video for the showcase HERE

If you're in LA, please come watch! I mean, look how attractive and international-looking our cast is:

Hope to see you there!

And in case you missed it, you can watch the latest episode of How Men Become Dogs HERE (I'm shooting the next installment tomorrow with a very exciting special guest star...details later!).

SHABBAT SHALOM EVERYBODY!

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Comparison: The Silent Killer

Hey Party People.

As I recover from my holiday weekend, I'm feeling like I need to address this topic that is constantly burdening me...and I have a feeling some of you can relate. If, in the last 24 hours, you scrolled through your Instagram feed and felt in some way inadequate about your Memorial Day BBQ/plans/or lack thereof - i.e., looked at other people's pics of FUN and were like, why aren't I having this much fun right now?! Why didn't I think to serve sparkling lemonade in adorable mason jars at MY barbeque? Why don't I have a normal adult person job that lets me actually enjoy a three-day-weekend? And so forth - then I'm talking to you (and also am here to remind you that Memorial Day is meant to be about honoring those who have served our country - yes! - so don't feel bad if your plans weren't spectacularly manic and pixie and dreamgirlish). Well, I'm not really talking to you, but with you. Because this is the type of internal monologue that I know I have had and that is really difficult to avoid in this day and age of tweeting/liking/stalking/posting/pinning et. al.

I know I'm not the first to touch on this subject. It's kind of been beaten to death already but I'm still searching and pining for answers. When it comes to the evilest thing I can do to myself - unnecessary COMPARISON - I feel hopeless. Most of my trusted friends would advise me to simply unplug. Indeed, we are all in awe of that person who is way too cool for social media. I applaud him/her for his/her bravery. Often not having a Facebook profile sends as strong a message as having one. To me, it says, "I am way too busy living life to take part in this menial behavior," and that's awesome. But I also think they're missing out sometimes. I know I would miss staying in touch with my family and friends in Israel and elsewhere overseas if I deactivated my Mark Zuckerberg creation. And beyond that, since I am an actress, I really cannot afford to not have some kind of online presence, and I imagine that is true for many other careers as well. I rely on twitter and Facebook and YouTube to circulate content that I'm acting/singing in. To keep in touch with contacts. To approach new contacts. To invite friends, family, and industry professionals to live performances. To provide anyone interested in hiring/working with me with an easy way to politely stalk me. It goes on and on. Not all Hollywood professionals are linked in, so to speak, but many are. So unplugging is not a viable solution for me.

So far, the only answer I've come up with to help me not slide down the slippery comparison slope and die a slow death by comparison is to compare myself only to...myself. It's great to compare yourself to others when it helps...but when all it does is hurt you...not so helpful. Day to day, I may not feel particularly satisfied with my current success. But when I compare it to where I was a year ago, the picture gets a little brighter....usually. And sometimes, a lot brighter. This time last year I wasn't even in the union. What?! What was I even thinking?! I was probably thinking, "look at that other person who is in the union. Why aren't I in the union yet?!" If all else fails, I just compare myself to my grandmother and where she was at my age. You know what she was busy doing while she was my age? Surviving the Holocaust. Yeah. So shut up, Gilli. Your life is not that bad. It's fabulous. And people worked pretty hard to stay alive so that in turn, you could have the privilege of being alive, so really, show this comparison bullshit who's boss. YOU.

Wow, sorry, that got a little dramatic.

I'm happy to report that even though I do maintain the occasional social media profile, that I have been busy living life lately and haven't had that much time to necessarily document and hashtag all of it online, which is refreshing. But I think it's high time to share some of it!

Here's a VIDEO my friend Stephen and I made, featuring an original bluegrass-y song that he and his buddy wrote. We've been rehearsing together a lot over the past six months and have our first full set coming up at the end of June! I got to sing with him at a really fun gig last Saturday night as well.

Next up, I've updated my REEL a bit. Check it out if you're bored!

I've also been working on a really great webseries and EPISODE 6 which I'm in premiered today! Woohoo! Watch it. Share it. Comment on it. You know what to do. And get ready for Episode 7.

I've also been rocking it out in acting class with Mary Lou Belli for the last three months, and have met some amazingly talented people along the way. As the self-appointed "Avail Princess," I've been on avail for many exciting projects and though I didn't book them, I'm feeling myself inch closer and closer to booking some good stuff. Finally, I'll be performing in the Actor's Key International Showcase later in the month with my friend Rosie. We will be doing a wonderful Woody Allen scene - get this - first in Hebrew, then in English. Like the Holiday Showcase I performed in last December, the amazing Carmen Aiello will be directing. Cool. I think A-Year-Ago-Gilli would be very impressed with Right-Now-Gilli. She might even try to compare herself to her. At least that's what I tell myself.

Okay. Unplugging now.

Gilli

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