What’s in a Name?!
1. MOVING TO GREENPOINT – WILLIAMSBURG
Today is the day, my good friends. I move – from the Upper East Side (New York’s quiet, family oriented, wealthy, primarily Jewish neighborhood wherein I have found solice in my Bikram Yoga studio/friends, my local vegan salad/sandwich/juice shop, and my Starbucks’ baristas who consistently ask me for my number, give me a discount, and know how to make a gal feel special and loved – also where I have miserably shared a studio with a veritable dipshit) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn! Listed as #5 in The New York Times on April 12, 2010 as one of the top 50 “Most Livable Neighborhoods,” in New York, Greenpoint is up and coming as a trendy place for young professionals and artists who are perhaps too poor for the more expensive East Village or Williamsburg real estate but too “scene” to move North to Wash. Heights, Harlem, or even the Bronx.
“…But Greg Pitts, 53, a ceramics instructor who moved to Greenpoint four
years ago, said he loved the working-class Polish character of the
neighborhood and had wearied of the noisy weekend stampedes of the
young, drunk and club-bound.
“It’s New York, so I guess I shouldn’t be complaining…”
The one thing that wont change will be the smells. The Upper East Side smells of urine. Why? Well, in addition to the homeless people who sleep on every street corner in every neighborhood in New York City, there is an abundant population of small, peppy dogs that adorn my blessed block. It always smells of urine. And, on days when I feel sluggish and just want to wear some oversized slouchy pants that drag ever-so-slightly on the ground below, it makes for a fun little ‘human frogger’ adventure, dodging sliding pools of yellow as the run downhill towards the street wondering if I can pass them before they trickle onto my pant legs and pass safely to my secured destination. More times that not, I win. As for “Little Poland” (my beloved Greenpoint):
“The wind turned, and a pungent blast of something chemical — nail polish
remover? — wafted by. “The smells are bad; you know, they worry me,”
said Ms. Aiuto, as Isaiah ran a few circles on the grass. “I guess a lot
of places in New York are not going to be great for your health.”
Moving in New York (er, moving in Brooklyn) is actually quite a lot easier than I had anticipated. I don’t have a lot of things but having a bed makes it very difficult. If you just have clothes, books, pots and pans (as a typical studio dweller or minimalist may only require), you can move slowly, over the course of days, via the trains, buses, and cabs – if you have the cash. I, however, have a bed. Its small, its a twin. If I weren’t so broke all the time, I’d just leave it or sell it and buy a new one at the Sleepy’s on my block in Greenpoint. Alas, this is my situation. So I give you two words of wisdom:
1) Man with a Van
Man with a Van is cheap and dependable. They are the best deal you can find if you need MOVERS (people to pack your things, carry them, load and unload, etc). I don’t need that – I took boxes from work and am a phenomenal packer if I do say so myself. But they have been recommended to me on more than one occasion. There are Men with Vans all over the country actually so just do a google search and call around. You should be good to go. In my situation, however, the BEST deal is UHAUL. To rent a 10 foot truck for a whole day is only $20. That is, to clarify, IF you pick up and drop off the truck in Brooklyn. Reboot the search and find a pick-up location in the City and the rate becomes $89/day. And, again, we are reminded as to why I 1) have to work four jobs to live here and 2) am moving to Greenpoint! You get the van/truck/whatever you’ve rented for as many hours as you specify and then you pay for miles (either $.99 or $1.79 depending on size of rental) at the end of the day. If you’re moving within the city or between the boroughs, this means not so many miles and a very very very reasonable moving deal. Its an incredible tip!
Upon moving, we discover many things need to be changed: cable, electric, billing address, address change in general, and maybe even your stage name? Oh wait… that’s just ME! Which leads me to my next order of business:
2. NAME CHANGES IN THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY (often referred to as “the STAGE NAME”)
It’s official. Your New York City contributor is no longer the oft mispronounced Emily Schmidt-Beuchat. From this time forward, I will be Emily Beuchat (and considering even Emily Beauchat). Your comments on this subject matter are GREATLY encouraged and appreciated.
But why this “sudden” change? Why this drop of a Schmidt? Where will the Schmidt go? Will it go peacefully?
According to our favorite resource these days, Wikipedia: “A performer will often take a stage name because his/her real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell, or because it has been used by another notable individual or because it projects an undesired image. Sometimes a performer adopts a name that is unusual or outlandish to attract attention. Other performers use a stage name in order to retain anonymity. The equivalent concept among writers is called a nom de plume or pen name, while the term ring name is used in professional wrestling.”
My fight name, if I were to quit acting all together and really pursue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some moxie/chutzpah and a smile, was and will always be “Emily Schmidt BOOM-shaka-laka” (and my song to enter the ring would be the theme song to JAWS… or Black Cat by Janet Jackson). But these are just thoughts I have late at night…
The stage name is a much more serious consideration. And quite controversial. With family names, especially with names less American sounding, it becomes a big question as to whether or not you are “selling out” to fit a certain type or mold in this industry. Let’s face it, the industry is rarely, if not never, going to come to you. Don’t be a sell out but also don’t give them hurdles to reach you. This being said, its completely a personal call whether or not someone changes his or her name for the sake of their career. I have chosen because of various conversations with my mother (the hippie/giver of the “Schmidt” and the hyphen to both my sister and myself) and her reasons are this:
- Schmidt-Beuchat is too complicated to say, spell, and remember. You need to have something that makes an impression (which this name does) but not because its too overwhelming. People remember my name but not as what it is but that it was long and interesting sounding. Contacting me, I can only imagine, has become a task in email rerouting hell.
- Schmidt-Beuchat sounds like a married name. The number one question I get at auditions is, “is this your married name?” So not only am I there, fragile in my auditioning state but I am in addition saddened and reminded of my state of alone-ness in this world as a strong, single lady.
- Beuchat is French and it means Beautiful Cat (Beu from Beau for handsome (m) and Chat for Cat (m)). Schmidt is German and makes me sound like a Nazi. And, according to my mother, in this industry filled with many powerful people of all backgrounds, it is not good to ever be associated with the Nazis.
Other reasons to change ones name, according to Wikipedia, are:
- To disguise a family connection (as in the case of Nicolas Cage who sought to hide his relation to the Coppola’s or Emilio Estevez who chose not to take his father’s professional name, Sheen).
- Guild and association rules: SAG, British Equity, and others have strict rules on having no duplicate names (often actors change their names simply by choosing one that isnt already being used professionally). For example, Michael J. Fox has his lovely J because Michael Fox was already a member of SAG. Or Terry O’Quinn (JOHN MOTHER F*ING LOCKE) is actually Terry Quinn but that name, too, is already in use.
- Involuntary Name Changes: sometimes agents choose for you… This is not something I would advise. I think, and this is just me, if you are going to change your name, do it out of necessity (association rules) or because YOU have chosen to. Don’t let your agent or someone TELL you that you wont succeed without it. If they’re blaming your NAME as the sole reason to your not being an A-list star, you may want to reconsider working with this person. This will only be the first of their long list of excuses.
- Ethnicity!!! or changing a name to disguise one’s heritage. Take Freddie Mercury, born “Farrokh Bulsara” to Parsi parents. At one time, Jews in Hollywood were encouraged to anglicize their names to avoid discrimination, and still happens today. In an extreme example, Margarita Carmen Cansino (an American Spanish actress) underwent electrology to change her hairline to more “Northern European appearance,” and renamed herself Rita Hayworth. … more on this controversy later…
- Ease of use – the AEA (actors equity association) advises performers to select a name that is easy for others to pronounce, spell, and remember.
- “Some performers while playing great attention to their skills and abilities give little thought to the difference that a well-thought-out name can make to their career. Often it is only after the realization that a poorly chosen name results in an undesired impression that a person or group decides on a different name.”
- Relevance to image – (more specific to the music world) – take for example; Sting, Slash, Sid Vicious, Necrobutcher, Rob Zombie, LADY GAGA – who is actually a complete character on stage and in her musical career than she is from her typical, personal self! Every member of the punk band The Ramones took the pseudonymous “Ramone” surname as part of their collective stage persona. And Norma Jeane Baker changed her name to the far more glamorous-sounding Marilyn Monroe.
- Euphony and ease of remembrance – pretty straight forward…
So, peacefully, my mother and I will bade my Schmidt farewell.
In further conversations with my boss at Theatre Communications Group / American Theatre Magazine (for which I am now the official/temporary PR person – funny how things unfold), Teresa Eyring commented that Emily Beuchat has a ring to it. Its very French. Americans love French things because we assume that there is always an element of culture there that we can never truly possess. Furthermore, she suggested I even change the spelling back to the original pre-americanized “Beauchat.”
This is a suggestion that I like… but I haven’t quite made up my mind about it. Beuchat is still very difficult to say and changing it to Beauchat would definitely clear up some pronunciation confusion. However, then I will really have CHANGED my name. And this leads me to more of the “controversy” in this subject;
How much of yourself are you willing to change in order to reach your dreams in this field?
Be careful how much of yourself you change in order to fit a mold or type. Often, the best and most successful actors are their own type or are already a certain niche. Let yourself fill a void rather than try to squeeze into an over crowded section of the industry. Your greatest talents and your uniqueness are your assets. However, in the case of Rita Hayworth, her alterations worked in her favor. SO, my only TRUE and sincere advice can be, again, to do it for you and not to let someone require it of you. Same goes for breast implants, any sort of facial plastic surgery, and other ventures with you which you may feel uncomfortable (porn and prostitution).
As far as stage names are concerned, think of it in this manner: the industry refers to them as “professional names.” If you separate the issue and look at it as “for use in a professional capacity” then the name change becomes less personal. Less controversial. Less offensive to your parents, friends, heritage (maybe).
To my friends, family, and landlords, I will continue to be the sweet, hyphenated, Emily Schmidt-Beuchat from Boulder, CO.
To my colleagues, casting directors, audiences, and THRONGS of adoring fans, I will now be Emily Beuchat (… BeAuchat pending).
(comments on this specific post are greatly encouraged and appreciated)
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