Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at Tiffanys

Audrey Hepburn: Breakfast at TiffanysLast week I wrote about some of my actor friends and how they have crafted their careers. We learned that for some, the dream of Hollywood stardom is still compelling and that for others, simply making some money as an actor is all they could desire. This week let’s hear about some of my actress friends and choices they have made about their art, craft and career.


Terry started out as a dancer, but it was always a hobby for her. She received a masters degree in physics and went on to spend many years in acoustical engineering, dancing strictly for pleasure. When she got pregnant, she stopped dancing, and that hiatus became permanent.  When Terry’s kids were going into junior high, she used her after-work time to explore other performing venues; thus, she was almost 40 when she took her first acting class. There was something about it that immediately appealed to her. I think for Terry, the attraction was being the center of attention. Others have different callings, but Terry likes to be the star.

Terry and I met in a solo performance workshop where she was writing a short piece to be performed at her synagogue. We became good friends after a coffee chat where we bitched and griped about the workshop teacher. Truth: Terry bitched and I laughed. I loved that teacher and remain friends with her; Terry was convinced (in that paranoid way that many actors have) that the teacher was out to get her.

After that class, Terry had the bug. She took tons of classes (and does so constantly) and auditioned for every stage play and independent film in Seattle. She joined corporate training groups that use actors to portray scenarios at conferences and trainings; she worked as a clown at parties; finally, she got an agent and got work in commercials that were shot in Seattle or Portland. When Hollywood films came to town, Terry auditioned for the small roles that are filled with local actors.

Seattle’s a relatively small market for actors, but Terry has limited herself to local work because she wants to be home every day for her children. She won’t travel more than two hours to audition so that she can get home every evening. She’s happy with that decision. She works as an actor all the time; she writes and produces her own films; and she does all this while working 9 to 5. Without going to LA, Terry has worked in over 70 films.


Drelle is another Seattle actress who started late in life. Drelle was in her mid-30s before she started working in local amateur theater. Due to the emotional demands of a crumbling marriage, Drelle couldn’t focus on her acting work until she divorced; then, boom! she started ferociously pursuing a career as an actor.

Drelle is a great martial artist and once her head was clear, she had as much work in independent film as she could handle. She was willing to travel anywhere for auditions. Finding the indie film blond ass-kicker roles didn’t pay as much as she wanted, so she got into event promotion. This is an okay job for young actors with good bikini bodies. You walk around with a beer can hat or you show up in nightclub clothes at an opening or you pose with products at trade shows. Drelle earned enough money doing this work that she was able to move to LA and not worry about having a day job, although she can only afford a crummy apartment in a crap part of town.

Now in LA, Drelle is pursuing her dream of breaking into the big time. Because in Los Angeles, there are so many mid-40s blond actresses with martial arts skills, she doesn’t get as much work as she got in Seattle. She’s still doing a lot of low-paying indie films, and she still does trade shows. But now that she’s in LA, she also has opportunities to audition for U5s in television and has gotten quite a few of them. You won’t recognize her: she’s Nurse #3 or Mean Social Worker; but she is extremely happy about being a working actor, and her dreams are still grand — and possibly still in reach.

Peppermint Toothpaste

Yuppers, that’s her stage name. Pep was born Karenna to mentally ill parents in Nashville. And there’s no better grounding for being a comic than having mentally ill parents.

Karenna is an all-around performing artist. She plays the violin and piano; she writes and performs stand-up, and she works in dinner theater in Nashville. As Peppermint Toothpaste, she does her own shows several times per month, and also films them for YouTube so she can perhaps be discovered. As Karenna, she’s still in college pursuing a doctorate in astrophysics.  This lovely, talented gal has yet a third persona: as Belinda Laceheart she writes corny Victorian romance.

Karenna/Peppermint has no desire to move to any city where the cost of living is ridiculous; she is happy living with roommates out in the country 20 miles from town. Do I think Karenna will ever pursue the big-time in LA? No, I don’t. She is a fragile personality, and I think the insanity of that life would destroy her creative spirit.

Next week: more behind the scenes from my actor-friends lives? Or shall I go back to indie film funding? Let me know in the comments.

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Michelle Shyman is an actor, comic, screenwriter, filmmaker, corporate video producer and film journalist. She's appeared in 35 films and stage plays and has won regional acting awards. One of her screenplays placed in American Gem Screenplay Competition and Script Nurse Screenplay Competition, and she's produced or assistant-produced a number of independent films, three of which won festival awards. Michelle executive-directed the Lake2Sound Youth Film Festival and serves as a judge for several student film festivals nationwide. She coaches actors, teaches directors how to work with actors, and presents seminars on directing actors. She’s a former Board member of Women in Film Seattle chapter. Michelle also consults on product strategy for entertainment startups. In addition to her Reel Life With Jane column, Michelle writes “Balancing Act,” a weekly column for Reel Grok, named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s top sites for working filmmakers. Follow her on Twitter @michelleshy.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    This is really interesting and shows what the actual big timers might have thought when they first got the callback for their first big movie. Thanks for sharing this,


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