Casey to play Guildenstern in Hamlet Max at the Hollywood Fringe Fest!

Just in time for Shakespeare's 450th birthday, I have some exciting news: I have been cast to play Guildenstern in Hamlet Max at the Hollywood Fringe Fest this June!

Hamlet Max is a new adaptation of Hamlet set in post-apocalyptic Denmark. This unconventional setting gives director and star Jacob Sidney an opportunity to try new things and raise the stakes, while still maintain the integrity and power of the original story and text. I'm particularly excited about his casting choices, where a number of characters, including my own, will be gender bent. (Take that, Queen Elizabeth I!)

In addition to the role of Guildenstern, I will also be playing Marcellus, Second Player (Prologue, Player Queen, Lucianus), and Osric. To say I'm thrilled would be an understatement. After all my great theatre classes at Antaeus Academy, I am excited to launch my stage career and am so wonderfully happy that my first production will be an adaptation of Shakespeare. I am so grateful to the wonderful people at Antaeus for their support and tutelage, especially Armin Shimerman who has changed my life with his near-scientific method for approaching the rhetoric of Shakespeare, Rob Nagle for inspiring me and being my "trusty steed," and Ann Noble for her constant encouragement.

Please check out our IndieGoGo campaign to buy tickets, browse our special perks (including the option to have me read a sonnet on your voicemail!), or simply make a donation to help us fund this project. 

In hono(u)r of Shakespeare's 450th birthday...

This month marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. To mark this special occasion, my friend Brendan Bradley put together a wonderful challenge: to capture 450 monologues from the works of Shakespeare by April 23rd.

I am so pleased to participate and pay tribute to this amazing playwright who has left us with some of the deepest, cleverest plays that the world has ever known. As an actor, I don't always get a lot of lines or character development, so doing Shakespeare gives me great joy and satisfaction because he left us so much to play with in the text. The work of Shakespeare is a gift to humanity, so what better gift from we remaining humans than to continue performing it to hono(u)r its creator!

In addition to my own monologue from Henry IV Part 1, you can also see some brilliant monologues from a number of my friends including Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal, David Nett, Ashley Clements, Bradley himself, and many more!

Join us. Help us get 450 monologues on YouTube in time to celebrate the birth of The Bard! Click here for information on how to submit your own video monologue!

Happy birthday, Shakespeare! I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.

Houston, we've gone nuclear!

Let's do some science!

Let's do some science!

My episode of IRrelevant Astronomy for NASA finally came out this month and it's going nuclear! We've been featured on Wired, CNET, io9, Escapist, Kotaku, The Mary Sue and many many more. In fact, this afternoon I saw articles written in Spanish, Italian, and Russian. Thanks so much to everyone who Liked, shared, +1'd, and wrote about us!

I was so excited to get to work on this project with Ellen McLain, the amazing voice actress behind GLaDOS in the Portal series, even though I didn't get to meet her in person. And anyone who has followed me for a while knows how much I love Portal. Heck, my husband even proposed by making me a Portal Atari game!

I'm very grateful to writer/producer Tim Pyle for approaching me to work on this. I'm passionate about science and, after taking an astrophysics class in my final year of college taught by the lovely Victoria Kaspi, I was tempted to go back and change my degree entirely! It's an honor to (kinda) get to work for NASA and to help introduce our future world leaders to the majesty of science.

If you haven't already seen the video, check it out here. And, if you've got kids, show it to them too!

Wherein we discuss the Breaking Bad finale on Frame Rate

In case you missed me on TWiT's Frame Rate this week, you can catch it here! We discussed cord cutting solutions and the Breaking Bad finale. And, don't worry, we don't spoil any shows until the special Spoiler Zone segment at the 51 minute mark.

Also, as an added bonus, there's a bidding segment at the end for the NSFW Winter Movie Draft! I'll be interested to see how much my movies make. Go buy Gravity tickets now! ;)

#GetSphero Giveaway

I teamed up with the folks at Sphero to make this video showing off Sphero 2.0 and its accessories, and wanted to tell you all that they're holding a giveaway! Share this link on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ with the hashtag #GetSphero and you'll be entered to win Sphero 2.0: http://bit.ly/1bAk83j

Also, just as a little bonus, here's a photo of my cat Wolfie playing with my first generation Sphero! He loves to chase Sphero around the house (especially under furniture). Good times. :)

WolfieSphero-640

How Theater Changed a Bullied Little Girl into a Queen

Caseys14thBirthday
Above: Blowing out the candles on my 14th birthday. It was a good year and a bad year.

I've never done theater before. I've seen my friends' high school plays, but I never even knew when auditions were held because I was too busy being a competitive synchronized swimmer, a bullied teen, and a depressed Kurt Cobain fan. I also had a wicked case of stage fright from the bullying, and I once tried out for a fashion show when I was 13 and, thanks to my signature spin-and-pose move, I never heard the end of it. So why would I ever go into theater?

Someone told me about a theater school last year and I bookmarked it for later because I didn't have any interest in theater at the time. I love acting, but I never saw myself working on the stage. That said, plant an idea in my head and it will most certainly grow.

And grow it most certainly did.

Over the past year, my brain generated a list of reasons why I should study theater:

  • A lot of casting directors I've talked to are looking for theater experience;
  • I've always wanted to play a queen, and I believe theater can help me develop the gravitas necessary for the role;
  • Many Star Trek TV actors studied Shakespeare, and I wonder if it helped them act through heavy special effects makeup;
  • I have a feeling studying Shakespeare will make TV and film scripts look like a walk in the park;
  • My voice is an instrument that I would like to further develop.

I realized that last point after I realized that I discipline my cat with a similar voice inflection as Cate Blanchett's "I too can command the winds, sir!" speech in Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

So, last week I auditioned for a class at the school.

And, let me tell you, it wasn't easy to audition for theater when you have no classical training.

So, in preparation I Google'd and Google'd and Google'd again.

I chose Titania's "These are the forgeries of jealousy" monologue from A Midsummer Night's Dream because I loved that play when I was 14 and I thought it would be an interesting character for me. Not only is she a queen, but she is also a fairy. And given my desire to someday act in the role of a strong alien female on a sci-fi project, I thought it was perfect.

I also chose that monologue because of my 8th grade English teacher.

Mrs. Isler could have been anywhere from 5'8" to 8'5". She was very thin and walked with a stiff, straight back. She lit candles in her class and read Shakespeare with such vigor and mystery that everyone in the class was convinced she was a witch. Her eyes were sharp daggers that would stab fear deep into the heart of any student who misbehaved in class, and I loved her for it.

Reading A Midsummer Night's Dream in her class exposed me to a wonderful, magical world that I was excited to escape to. So, when I was required to write a speech that year, I chose fairies as my subject. Mrs. Isler was delighted by my speech and submitted me to a provincial speech competition! I was terrified, so I looked down at my papers the whole time I did my speech, but I was touched that she believed in me.

That belief was a big deal to me because that year I was bullied so badly that my amazing mother had me transferred to a new school.

So, last week I chose the Titania monologue in Mrs. Isler's honor.

Since I didn't remember much about the play and hadn't done any theater before, I prepared harder than any exam I had taken in college. In the six days leading up to my audition, I memorized the monologue in segments, re-read the entire play, watched two movie adaptations (1996 and 1999), read a number of online study guides, and worked my ass off to figure out what it all meant and how I would portray it.

I also spent some time fretting over what accent is acceptable in American Shakespearean theater, how much one should move around in a monologue, and if you should mime your words to help the audience understand.

I spent a night on YouTube looking at (mostly high school) performances of the monologue and I learned a lot about what I didn't want to do. I saw some actors who obviously didn't know what they were talking about, so it showed in their performance, and I saw other actors who mimed the entire monologue to prove they knew what they were talking about. Neither of these types of performances was what I was going for.

But then a magical thing happened. I came across this YouTube clip of Dame Helen Mirren performing the monologue in a 1981 TV movie adaptation that I had never heard of on this side of the pond. FINALLY someone was performing the scene as I had envisioned it... and then some! She surprised me with the actions she took vocally and emotionally in her performance, and she couldn't mime anything in the scene because she spent the whole time coddling the Indian boy in her arms. Genius.

After seeing Mirren's portrayal of Titania, I finally felt like I could pull this off. I'm nothing like her, but acting is about portraying a character in the unique way that only you can. So I felt confident that I could learn from her performance above all others and be the Titania I was born to be.

All that was left was my audition.

I got there an hour early out of paranoia and when it was my turn to go in I chose to go right into the monologue. I did the best I could while my hands shook uncontrollably from nerves. Things went well enough and the three teachers in the room seemed pretty impressed that I had never auditioned for theater before. I was a little bashful about it, but it was nice to hear.

And what happened next changed everything.

I had been told when I audited a class at the school that the auditions were a lot like the class; you do the scene and the teacher will redirect you to bring out your performance in the best way possible. So in the audition, one of the teachers had me get up on his shoulders and perform the scene again, this time on my "trusty steed." And, wow, what a difference! Suddenly, being on that stage atop what seemed to be my 6'5" horse, I felt power. And when I performed the scene I felt like a queen. At last.

It was like nothing I had ever experienced before and I was elated. For the first time since I can remember, I believed in myself.

I left the audition verklempt with joy, talked Rudy's ear off when I got home, and couldn't fall asleep because I was so excited about the future.

It was life changing.

All those years I spent being a bullied pessimist seemed to fade away. For the past week I've been completely optimistic about the future and believe in my potential as an actor. It's as if theater saw the chip on my shoulder and stripped it away. I've never been so happy, and all I could think about for the rest of the week was "you're exactly where you're supposed to be" - a quote from my friend Brea Grant's recent film Best Friends Forever.

And to top it all off? I've been accepted to the class.

Now if only I could tell Mrs. Isler...

I joined SAG-AFTRA!

SAG-Elfquest
Above: The ladies of ElfQuest: A Fan Imagining, the project that made me eligible to join the union. Photo courtesy of Robert Welkner.

This year I set three goals: join SAG-AFTRA; make a short film; and act in a cable or network TV show for the first time. Well, after years of working non-union and producing tons of my own work, I'm pleased to announce that I've taken the leap and joined the union!

For some actors it's a really easy decision, but as a producer and someone who often makes her own web series, I took some time to really familiarize myself with what it meant to join the union. When it comes down to it, I've made peace with the fact that anything I produce in the future will be a SAG-AFTRA production. It also helps that a lot of my friends in the web series community are now making union shows.

And now, as a member of the union I can move onto my dream jobs... I can finally audition for that sci-fi show you like, that superhero show you're looking forward to, and that video game sequel you're waiting to be announced! The possibilities are endless.

Wish me luck on breaking a leg! Or whatever the fancy union lingo is... ;)

"Young Hero Lass" theme by Yours Truly

The latest episode of action figure comedy web series Shelf Life is up and you might recognize a familiar voice! My amazing friends Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal (a.k.a. Hero Lass and Bug Boy) asked me if I would write and perform the "Young Hero Lass" theme, based on Josh A. Cagan and Kayla Cagan's lyrics, and how could I say no?

I had so much fun coming up with a sound for the theme. Initially I sent Yuri and Tara a jazzy 1950s jingle I had recorded a capella in my iPhone's Voice Memos, but with some feedback and my Fender Stratocaster I ended up making something more akin to a Hot Wheels commercial. Hell, I've even got a version that sounds completely punk rock!

I couldn't be happier about the way the episode turned out. Aside from my song, Amber Benson as Raggedy Ann is BRILLIANT, the writing is absolutely hilarious and excellently executed, and OMG Bug Boy is nekkid! Hope you enjoy it. :)

"Make me a sammich!" Week

Above: Casey McKinnon's Gamer Kit as photographed by birthday boy and gamer Rudy Jahchan

In addition to a kick-ass t-shirt, this year I gave my husband a "Gamer Kit" for his birthday. In the kit, pictured above, I included 1600 Microsoft Points to use on XBox Live, two bags of M&Ms (his personal favorite), and a Certificate of Sandwich that read as follows:

This certifies that RUDY JAHCHAN Has successfully aged one more year and that his beautiful wife will make him A SANDWICH Upon request any day during his Week of Gaming

That's right, I vowed to make him a sandwich whenever he said "Make me a sammich!"

The expression, meant to belittle women by saying they are only useful in the kitchen, is often used by asshole sexist gamers. My husband is not an asshole, nor a sexist, so I guess that's why I thought it would be fun to give this to him as a gift. In fact, it has made him one of the most grateful men in the multiverse!

Before presenting him with his certificate, I stocked my fridge with a bunch of his favorite cold meats, cheese slices, lettuce, tomatoes, and a delicious artisan whole grain bread from the bakery section of our local grocery store. My mission was to "make him a sammich!" anytime he asked me this week (Monday-Friday) during his video game vacation. Of course, he never used the expression because he's too nice, but he certainly had a fun Week of Gaming where he finally played through Mass Effect 1 & 2; games he owned, but never had the time to play.

It's been a fun week and I'm proud of the sandwiches I've made. They were healthy and delicious, so I thought I would share photos and descriptions of them here, in case some of you feel like going and making your own sammiches. ;)

Day One: Roast Beef and Pepper Jack

Slices of roast beef, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and Dijon mustard on La Brea whole grain bread. Served with celery, baby carrots, and hummus for dipping.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseymckinnon/8614890128/in/photostream/

Day Two: Tuna Melt

Tuna salad with provolone cheese melted in the oven on broil, sliced tomatoes and lettuce on La Brea whole grain bread. I also suggest adding a dash of Miracle Whip as well for a little extra zing.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseymckinnon/8614908226/in/photostream/

Day Three: Pastrami

Hot pastrami and mustard on La Brea whole grain bread grilled panini-style!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseymckinnon/8617839060/in/photostream/

Day Four: Wait... what?!

Oops... no more homemade sammiches! We went to DisneyLand and got lazy for the rest of the week. :P

http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseymckinnon/8621573736/in/photostream/

There were a few more sandwiches I was planning to make if he asked me, but we ran out of bread and started eating out after DisneyLand. A few ideas I had up my sleeve: grilled cheese; egg salad; black pepper smoked turkey breast and provolone; and a grilled chicken sandwich made with the leftovers from Fajita Night.

I hope this post has given you some ideas for your gamer... especially if that gamer is yourself. ;)

Now it's time for me to go tell some 12 year old boys on XBox Live to make ME a sammich! Later, n00bs...

Debunking the Myth of Size Zero

McCallsPatternSize
Above: A McCall's pattern from 1961 shows the dimensions of dress sizes 10-20 that would be replaced by much smaller numbers today.

Hello, my name is Casey McKinnon and I'm a size 0. Heck, sometimes I'm even a size 00 as my body measurements are 32-23-33 and I'm 5'1". So, it goes without saying that when I hear people dissing my dress size, I get a little offended because it doesn't make any sense. How is it that I can fit perfectly in my mother's dresses from the 1960s, but the US fashion industry had to invent a size in the past ten years just to fit me?!

Recently I've seen a lot of photos being shared by my friends that affirm larger body images with slogans and quotes. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does become hurtful when they start making fun of smaller sizes as if they are "unhealthy." Sure, it would be rather unhealthy if you were 6' tall, but the average American woman is 5'4". With this in mind, I feel it's important for my fellow females to understand the history of sizes 00-0 and why they exist in our stores today.

When it comes to body image, one of the most popular tropes in the world is the myth of Marilyn Monroe's dress size. It is famously said that 'Marilyn Monroe wore a size 16 dress." This may have been true in the 1950s and 1960s, but not by today's standards. If you've ever tried to purchase a vintage dress, you'll know that the sizes are completely different from modern sizes. In 2009, British journalist Sara Buys had the opportunity to try on Marilyn's dresses and had this to say about her size:

Contrary to received wisdom, she was not a voluptuous size 16 – quite the opposite. While she was undeniably voluptuous – in possession of an ample bosom and a bottom that would look at home gyrating in a J-Lo video – for most of the early part of her career, she was a size 8 and even in her plumper stages, was no more than a 10. I can tell you this from experience because a few weeks ago, I tried to try on her clothes.

In fact, Monroe's waist size was 22-23 inches. The same, if not smaller, size as me! So how can this be? Thanks to a little thing called vanity sizing.

Also referred to as size inflation, vanity sizing refers to the fact that the US fashion industry inflated the size of their garments to deal with the expanding population of consumers. As America grew outwards, so did the clothes... yet the numbers remained the same. In this New York Times article, journalist Stephanie Clifford has done some really interesting research and has this to say about my 32" bust size:

A woman with a 32-inch bust would have worn a Size 14 in Sears’s 1937 catalog. By 1967, she would have worn an 8 [...] Today, she would wear a zero.

So why exactly would the US fashion industry succumb so overwhelmingly to vanity sizing?

The CDC reports that the percentage of adults with obesity has been growing since 1980. Last year they reported that, in 2009–2010, 35.7% of U.S. adults were obese. Given that number doesn't even include overweight individuals, it just proves how large a demographic we're looking at. It's no wonder that the fashion industry felt the need to adapt and cater to their growing clientele.

Eventually, however, the industry would learn a very potent lesson: you can increase the size of clothes all you want, but you'll end up screwing over the petite ladies that still exist in the US!

No matter what your size, it's always difficult to find the right fit for your body type. In my case, being petite before the invention of sizes 0 and 00 meant shopping in the juniors' section and dressing like a teenager. It also meant that I couldn't for the life of me find a store that sold business suits in my size! I was over the moon when I finally took a trip to Vancouver and discovered a magical land called Aritzia... a store that had business suits that were TOO SMALL for me! They carried sizes as small as 000 and XXXS, and their clientele included many beautiful petite Asian ladies that I would not consider "unhealthy" in any way.

Sadly, some stores that carry such small sizes get flack. Last year it was revealed that Zara has had some difficulty in the US because its sizes were "too small" for Americans. Ironically, everything I try on at Zara is still too big for me. :/

The key in today's world is to find the stores that are right for you and your body shape. We're all different and we needn't get upset and blame opposing body types just because our clothes don't fit right. "Normal" and "healthy" come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it might be hard for us to find the right clothes, but it's equally as hard on the merchants to decide how many sizes of a garment they need to make to have optimal sales. Sure, it's frustrating not to find your size in every store, but that's what seamstresses are for. And to bring it back to Marilyn Monroe; if she were alive today, she would probably have to buy a larger dress size and take it in at the waist because, again, we're all unique and she had a bangin' hourglass figure!

When it all comes down to it, I love and respect my fellow ladies at any size... as long as they love Star Trek. ;)

McKinnon takes on MacFarlane taking on the Oscars

There's a lot of people ragging on Seth MacFarlane today after hosting the 2013 Oscars, so I felt the need to write about my personal opinion. I don't have a lot of time, so I'll keep this short, include bullet points, won't be linking to sources and may have typos. First off, I'm not a huge Family Guy fan because I find the violence against women jokes deplorable. That said, I think MacFarlane and the team behind last night's Oscars did a magnificent job of not only hosting the show and staying classy, but also updating it for the next generation. The production included small touches that constantly uplifted the industry, while playing to the audience as film fans.

Some of my favorite touches:

  • Trading in hot models handing out the awards for international film students was a brilliant way to honor the next generation of filmmakers;
  • The comedic addition of the Jaws theme to "play them off" was a killer move, and I loved it;
  • The not-so-subtle reminders of blockbuster film stars that didn't get nominated was absolutely hilarious and honest. Blockbusters are a huge part of the economy and need to be recognized;
  • The Von Trapp Family Singers bit tickled my entire being. I'm insulted by anyone criticizing that sketch today;
  • A dance number with Seth MacFarlane, Joseph Gordon Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe? I giggled like an adorable little Japanese schoolgirl.

In all honesty, there were only two parts of the show I wasn't really impressed with; the Bond tribute, and the ode to Musicals. My reasoning:

  • Bond music tribute: I was surprised how they wasted time with the intro montage, which was way too heavy on VFX and managed not to credit any of the composers. At first I thought they weren't crediting anyone because it was mostly John Barry (RIP), but then they played "Live and Let Die" by Paul and Linda McCartney with no mention of their names either. I also thought that Shirley Bassey was amazing, but felt like they could have done a lot more with her and the idea that this is a tribute to 50 years of Bond music. What were Nancy Sinatra, Tom Jones, and Duran Duran doing last night? Wouldn't it have been great if they did a montage of the greatest themes, with the montage video playing in the background and ended the tribute with a grand finale of Adele's Skyfall performance? Not a great use of time.
  • Musical tribute: This was an even worse use of time than the Bond tribute. They felt the need to show loooong intros of every film and then FINALLY went into a performance from that film. I felt this could have been easily condensed with MUCH shorter intros and shorter versions of the songs, or even a creative weaving of the songs from the different musicals leading up to Les Misérables. Again, it just needed to be tighter.

All in all I think they did a fantastic job making an entertaining award show that got away from the stagnant old self-gratifying white guy Oscars of the past. This is exactly what the industry needed and MacFarlane did a wonderful job. It pleased me as a film buff and it touched me as someone working in the industry.

End transmission.

Moderating the 3rd H+ Google+ Hangout

In case you missed it earlier today, I had the pleasure of moderating the 3rd Google+ Hangout for Warner Brothers' hit sci-fi web series H+: The Digital Series. I had a chance to interview cast members Hannah Herzsprung (Manta), Alexis Denisof (Conall), David Rogers (Kenneth), Caitriona Balfe (Breanna) and Samuel Vauramo (Topi). There are a few spoilers, so if you haven't already checked out the series, be sure to start watching here.

A Christmas present from me to you: "Santa is an Atheist"

Happy holidays, everyone! I made you a present... It's an atheist Christmas song!

The idea for Santa is an Atheist came naturally as an atheist who enjoys the "spirit" of Christmas, but I almost didn't release a song at all because I didn't think I had enough time to make it! Thanks to my friend Celeste Wolfe for encouraging me to do it, and to so many amazing friends supporting me along the way, it's out in time!

I want to thank Derek Miller for saying yes to appearing as Santa in the video. When I closed my eyes to imagine a music video, he was the only one I could envision playing Santa. And he was amazing. At one point, when we were filming the close up of him thinking and calculating, I didn't want to yell "cut!" because his performance was so continually surprising and new! He's a truly talented actor, and I highly suggest you check him out in The Wedding Band on TBS and Opening Night: The Improvised Musical.

I also want to thank Raya Yarbrough who made the song amazing! I sent her an a capella version I recorded one day in my iPhone Voice Memos and she loved it, which encouraged me to move forward with the project. I then recorded a rough version in GarageBand, sent her the demo and she re-created the whole thing with a new improved bass track, percussion, and added jazzy piano! She's a true maestro. Be sure to buy her album and check out her latest work North of Sunset, West of Vine where she recounts tales of her youth in Hollywood leading into amazing songs that will blow you away.

And more thanks also go to Andrew Seely, who acted as my much needed DP on the music video shoot, Nick Holmes, who photographed the amazing cover photo, and to a number of people who helped by giving me advice, encouragement, and resources: Cathy Baron, Tara Brown, Rudy Jahchan, Bear McCreary, and Taryn Southern. I love and appreciate you all.

As for what's next? It's easy. If enough people show interest (i.e. Buy the single on iTunes and Google Play or make the YouTube video go viral), I plan to make an entire atheist Christmas album next year. So, if you want that to happen... please let me know with your actions; watch it, rate it, share it, buy it. ;)

Buy it on iTunes!
Buy it on Google Play