The concept of emotional quotient or EQ comes up a lot in my interview with local resident and budding actress Diana Schiro. In order to be a great actress, one needs to be deeply in touch with their emotions and be able to jump into character and emote as that character would. It’s a difficult craft to master and something Schiro always wanted to do but was afraid to take the proverbial leap.
However on the cusp of turning 40, Schiro did and worked her way up from scoring spots in commercials for companies such as Polaroid and Kartrite Resorts to her latest role as Maya, a psychotherapist in the off-Broadway production of The Year of the Solar Eclipse which opens at the Wild Project, an East Village theater on December 3rd. Tickets are available at www.theyearofthesolareclipse.com The play follows three millennial females in a year of love lost, love found & self-discovery.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Schiro and hear her top ten tips on how she obtained her second act – from a suburban mom working part-time for a local real estate firm to auditioning in the city and ultimately landing on the off-Broadway stage.
1. Embrace your inner voice – Schiro recalls that from the time she was eight years old growing up in Long Island, she always wanted to be an actress and while she took acting classes in middle and high school, she felt that her insecurity when she was younger prevented her from truly following her passion. Nevertheless, she had this nagging voice in her head to follow her passion.
2. Be the best version of yourself – For Schiro, she always envied those in theater. She didn’t want her envy to turn into jealousy or resentment. “I always knew I had the capacity and emotional bandwidth to act” so she flipped her thought process and decided to turn those envious feelings into inspiration and motivation.
3. Be brave in the face of fear – According to Schiro, being brave isn’t the same as being fearless. She contends that she still has fears and is nervous about her upcoming performance. “When you are fearless, you take all kinds of risks” but for her, auditioning was something that was intentional and well thought out.
4. Maintain authenticity – Schiro who is a mom to 11-year old Sarina and nine year old Jared was always encouraging them to try new things but didn’t want to “have a personal narrative of I wish I had done this [acting]. I knew I had to do this in order to be an authentic parent.”
5. Utilize technology to your benefit – “There are resources for acting professionals that I knew about such as backstage.com, so I filled out a profile on them and checked out jobs everyday. I also created eco cast videos where instead of going for live call backs in the city, you can audition virtually with casting directors.”
6. Stay organized and prepare – For Schiro, this new lifestyle is a complete 180 for her family. She now commutes into the city for rehearsals in the afternoon, so staying organized is key. She blocks time on her calendar to look for new jobs and also spends time each day rewriting her lines. She prepares meals for the family in the morning and adheres to a rigorous exercise routine to maintain physical and mental strength.
7. Seek supportive family and friends who genuinely root for you. – Schiro credits both her husband Michael and her local CrossFit community and friends for unwavering support. “I’m totally overwhelmed by the support in the community. I surround myself with mentors and role models particularly in the fitness world and I lean on them to learn and grow.”
8. Continue learning and ask questions – The cast consists of 20 somethings with acting credentials so Schiro asked the director and playwright, Aileen Kyoko for additional guidance. “I said I am the least experienced here, what should I do or read to help me?”, she recalls. Schiro now is reading what she calls her acting bibles such as “How to Stop Acting.” Taking that first step to ask for help can be daunting but is worthwhile. She also takes private acting lessons with one of the show’s executive producers Mark St. Cyr to accommodate her busy schedule.
9. Follow a healthy lifestyle – Schiro is a certified health coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Fueling her body with the right foods is essential for her just like her workouts. Especially when making major life changes, exercise and nutrition shouldn’t fall by the wayside, says Schiro.
10. Make time, not excuses – Just like Schiro schedules Acting 2.0 on her calendar to study her lines and look for jobs after this play, it takes commitment to obtain a second act. Schiro didn’t want to live a “what if” life and to obtain a second act, you need dedication. With her determination and focus, she just might make it to the Great White Way.