Giving Up Your Truth to the Character
Life@GWN with Clio Contogenis.
Twice a month or so, we invite Girls Write Now community members to sit down, (mostly virtually) with a list of questions. What do we mean when we say community? In the words of GWN champion Jane Lauder,
“Girls Write Now is about supporting and mentoring young women and gender expansive youth who are passionate about writing…but it is also about beginning your career journey and beginning to understand the transformative power of the written word.”
Welcome to Life@GWN
Actor, writer, and storyteller Clio Contongenis is New York City since day one. A self described cat mother, bibliophile, and occasional gremlin, her credits include mentee alum of the Girls Write Now program now known as Writing 360. Although she finished the program in 2010, she will forever be one of us. Why? We’ll let her tell you, in her own words…
"I loved my time at Girls Write Now. Working with professional female writers was part of what gave me the confidence to pursue a career in the arts myself. I’m so honored that a piece I wrote all those years ago had an effect on someone now, and I want to do whatever I can to help this program continue to make such an important impact on young girls’ lives.
I am now a working actor. The most exciting part of my job is embodying different characters and affecting an audience with the story I’m telling. Philip Pullman, one of my favorite authors, once said something I love: “Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all.”
I love being a part of an art that continually tries to remind us of our humanity. Of course it’s challenging to keep my work fresh and immediate, and acting can often be very painful, but I’d say the challenges are well worth the reward. My 10-year-old self would be thrilled with what I do now!
Growing up, it’s always difficult to believe you’ll “make it” as an artist (“making it" for me is having a sustainable, realistic career doing what you love), but I don’t think there’s any other career that would have made little Clio happy.
The best advice I’ve ever received is to risk, embrace, and learn from failure. I hope I’ve been able to pass it on. While my “only-human” self does wallow in my mistakes for a while after making them, when inevitably the world does not come to an end, I remind myself that mistakes are a part of life, and that I’m only stronger for having made them and lived through them. I try to figure out what went wrong, and learn from it.
The best compliment I ever received was actually in a recent email from an old college professor of mine. He said: “You have a way of giving up your truth to the character that is both self-sacrificing and self-affirming in the most thrilling proportions, creating a new life.”
I’ve always been an obsessive reader, and it remains one of my favorite hobbies— if “hobby” is the right term for a lifelong passion. I’m also a bit of a baseball fanatic, which I got into after spending too much downtime with a good friend of mine while working on a play. I help to run an alternative theater program for public high school students, and as one of the adult artists, I try to encourage them to risk making fools of themselves, and to help them see that it is through that brave, joyful exploration that they'll discover new dimensions of themselves.
FUN FACT: I have never believed in ghosts, but I’m starting to think my cats are pretty good at making contact with them, so I may be changing what I believe. I don’t think I’d be afraid of them, though. If they are around, I guess they must just be trying to hold on to a little bit of what it’s like to be alive, and I certainly can’t blame them for that.
If you belong to the Girls Write Now community and have a story to share, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
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