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Meet Sidney Rubino

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sidney Rubino.

Sidney, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started acting when I was 8 years old. Ever since I was young, I was almost cripplingly shy, my Mom tried her hardest to get me out of my shell, introducing me to any extra-curricular she could think of but nothing really worked. I would rather spend my days making stories with my stuffed animals and have my eyes buried in a fantasy book. Even in family events I would run and hide because I didn’t recognize everyone in attendance. Then my Mom read a story about an actor that was in the Broadway show CATS. This actor stated that she was struggling in school and the one thing her doctor suggested was getting onto the stage. The actor and her mother heeded this advice and when this girl started taking acting, dancing, and singing lessons it like was a magic switch. Now, my Mom upon reading this immediately signed me up for an acting class, she thought this could be the solution to my consistent aversion towards people.

The first class was a timid introduction to what attending would be like. My mom and I walked up the stairs of the old church building to enter into a dilapidated room with a small stage. As my Mom and the instructor were talking, I sidled up to the stairs leading up to the proscenium. Before I realized what was happening, I was leaping all over in the spotlights. I couldn’t see my Mom or the instructor looking at me. But according to my Mom, I was glowing. She had never seen me so carefree and so at peace, especially in front of a stranger. I had found my home. And my outlet for all the crazy ideas, passion, and excitement bottled up inside me. That’s when I started my pursuit of happiness that is the world of acting.

Growing up in Western Maryland there weren’t many theaters or outlets for the arts. But my small town did its damndest to try. By the time I was ready to enter ninth grade my county had raised enough funds to open a small arts high school. If I auditioned and got in, I would be a part of the first full inaugural class to graduate from it. This was an opportunity I could not ignore. So, with my acting teacher at the time we put together an audition package that we were sure would get me in. I remember before my audition shaking in my boots, stage fright was a part of the nervousness that I had not kicked. But as I stood in front of the panel of adjudicators a calm washed over me as if I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be. The audition went off without a hitch and surely enough a few weeks later I received my letter of acceptance.
In school I realized where my passions truly lie. I entered as a musical theater major, taking multiple choral, music theory, and dance classes. But it soon dawned on me that where I truly excelled was in my acting studies. I was drawn to complex characters solving their problems in serious circumstances, and if we’re being completely honest, I wasn’t the best singer or dancer anyway. So senior year I transitioned to take more acting classes, which then brings me to college. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I had been acting practically my entire life, but was it time to put it aside and focus on a more “stable” career? It’s the battle that I’m pretty sure every actor has gone through at some point. I started touring colleges that didn’t even have acting programs. I was considering psychology, anthropology, sociology, and inside myself I could feel a pressure start to build. Something was wrong, very wrong. That’s when my teacher suggested a small conservatory program only an hour away from my home town. It was relatively unknown, but they were going through some curriculum and staff changes that were sure to put it on the map. My parents had already made it very clear that I wasn’t allowed to go to New York for college so this seemed like my best bet. The last minute and all on my own I prepared to audition for what would be the only Acting BFA program I applied to. The stakes were high. I wanted nothing else than to go to this school I could feel it in my bones. If I didn’t get in, I would have to attend a University for something that I realized I didn’t want to pursue. The only thing I wanted in life was to be an actor, it had been set out for me since I was young, and I couldn’t conceive of doing anything else. So, as I walked down the hall to the audition room, I felt the clacking of my heels echo in the pit of my stomach. This was it. This was going to decide what I was going to do for the rest of my life.

I don’t really remember my audition. The baseline was one of the professors correcting my Shakespeare monologue and another telling me to calm down and shake loose. At one point I completely forgot my lines in a genuine moment and just stared at them. After they dismissed me, I walked back down to the holding room broken. I felt like I flubbed it. I was told I would receive an acceptance or rejection letter in the mail within two weeks. Some of the upperclassmen that were moderating the area said some of them got a call within two days. So as the days passed and the weeks turned to months, I was losing hope. I was really going to have to go to a regular college with regular people and regular classes and live a regular life. Spiraling in doubt was something I had forgotten, but greeted me like an old friend. Then one day when my Dad came home from work and brought the mail in, he handed me a letter, it was from the college. He asked if I wanted to open it alone and I did so he, my mother, and my brother patiently waited outside the laundry room as I tore open the letter to reveal its contents. I barely got to “We are pleased to accept you into…” before I screamed and swung the door open to hug my family. It felt like my fate was sealed. I was really going to do this for the rest of my life.

In college there were many lessons to learn. I fell in love with Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, and Beckett; experienced student groups and creating our own art. It was an experience I would not trade for anything in the world, but something was missing. When I reached senior year, I had no idea where I was going post-graduation. In one of my coaching classes my professor asked what really made me happy, Acting, sure, but what else? Then I cast my mind back to what I truly loved as a kid and what still followed me to this day; Adventurous stories with strong heroines fighting for what was right, Old Fairytales with strong morals and crazy creatures, Sci-Fi overlords with kingdoms to save. These were the things I was missing in my life. And I realized I couldn’t achieve that through theater. Those were stories for the movies. So, I settled on my plan for Hollywood. Upon graduation I moved to Washington D.C. to get a few jobs under my belt and save up money before I moved to Los Angeles. I was there for 2 years before I made the big move.

July 1st 2019 I packed up a Uhaul and auto-trailer, hugged my family goodbye, and set off across the country to move to L.A. It was gorgeous coming across America. My roommates and I stopped in every major city we could before there were no major cities on our route and we experienced wide open desert under the stars. Driving into Los Angeles was surreal. Growing up on the East Coast you get a pretty romanticized vision of L.A. Everything is sunny and there’s palm trees everywhere, people are constantly on the beach, and stars walk on every corner (logically we know this isn’t entirely true, but it’s fun to dream about). Then we drive into the area I would call my home. The Valley. The Valley is a conglomerate of different neighborhoods trying to live up to the Hollywood ideal, but the beautiful thing about the Valley is that it doesn’t. Not in the slightest.  Every area is different, you have Sherman Oaks where relatively well to do families and higher income actors call their home and then you have the town over where I live, Van Nuys, which is a haven for lower income families and small delectable restaurants hidden in strip malls. That’s the thing about the Valley, everything is in a strip mall. I was expecting the move here to go off without a hitch. Rookie mistake, it’s L.A. As soon as we get into our brand-new apartment, we notice something wrong. There’s no hot water. The next day the power goes out, we aren’t even on the grid yet. So, after 4 days with spotty power and no hot water our landlord was forced to have us move into a hotel while the apartments were still getting set up. No big deal, it will only take a week… another rookie mistake believing your landlord will ever get anything done in a timely manner. Soon it was the next week, and the next week and the next week, and oh next month. We were living out of a hotel for two months, before our apartment was deemed move in ready. Now, as an actor this really ate into the time, I was expecting to hit the ground running as a newbie on the scene. I only booked a few gigs while we were living in the hotel, but one of them was probably the most influential on my career to date.

A colleague of mine from the East Coast had a friend in L.A. that was looking for extras with “LARP” gear (live action role playing) for a small union film. Now, I didn’t have LARP gear, but you bet your nerdy ass I had my Renaissance Fair leather armor, so I was cast immediately. Of course, on set, you have a considerable amount of downtime if you’re an extra, so everyone cast was chatting and getting to know each other, that’s when I met PJ. PJ is charismatic as hell so we became friends immediately and he mentioned he was working on building a world in the realm of Pathfinder (roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons) that he was planning on streaming on Twitch (online gaming streaming platform) sometime within the next year. My ears perked up immediately, I was dying to work on a project creatively especially one that incorporated any fantasy elements, so I offered to work on building the world with him. I think he was hesitant at first because we had just met, but I was persistent and eventually we had writing sessions every week. Within a few months we had built an extensive fantasy world that was ready for players. He assembled an eccentric team of actors that includes both of us and finally we were ready to get into the studio and get working. Then the pandemic happened. None of us were sure how long the shutdown would last so we put off streaming in hopes we could get into the studio sooner rather than later. But as the months drag on it became clear things would not get back to normal anytime soon. So, we decided to start streaming using ZOOM. Finally, after months of anticipation and hard work, Nat20 Productions presents “Edge of Legend”; Streaming on Twitch, Wednesdays at 8pm PST.

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone in the industry. It’s particularly posed some problems personally in the financial department. Since I didn’t have a survival job before this and I didn’t make enough money “on the books” to qualify for independent contractor unemployment, I have no source of income; which is anxiety inducing as the months go by and I see my savings dwindle and dwindle. I haven’t found a solution to that yet, but I have found a cure for the creative drought that was plaguing my mind. One thing that struck me with all of this down time were the parents that would have to now constantly entertain their kids at home. Then I saw this call online for Cosplayers to read stories to children. I had an idea for a little bit to create an original character that would do… something online and interact with people; and now I felt like I had a calling. I pulled a book of fairytales off my shelf, fastened an old looking book cover, donned one of my fantastical looking headpieces and there she was: Sidney of Hightower. My intention was to read classic fairytales to children on YouTube every Tuesday at 8am and engage with them on the morals that were taught, but recently it has come to my attention that my audience ranges from friends’ mothers, to dogs, to neighbors and I couldn’t be more grateful. It proves to me now more than ever that a good story is universal and it doesn’t matter what age you are; If you want to listen to a fairytale go head. Every time I read, I also discover topics that I hadn’t thought of before or moments that make me cry or laugh. During a time, such as this it has become more imperative that storytellers find any way possible to connect with people, because there is nothing more stress relieving, thought provoking, and life changing, than a good story.

Has it been a smooth road?
I have been financially struggling, especially since the Pandemic. Finding a job to support myself has proven difficult, but I am doing my best to financially support myself solely on my acting career.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Three things:

1. I am an actor and I love finding strong female characters and bringing them to life. The most ideal characters for me are in the realm of fantasy so elves, fairies, demons, witches, etc.

2. I am a writer/creator who helped build a Table Top RPG fantasy world that Nat20 Productions is currently using in our Pathfinder 2E campaign on Twitch. I am going to play a character in this world and bring every episode to life with my friends and colleagues. This project is extremely important to me because we wanted to make sure to create an inclusive world of all genders, colors, and creeds for our audience to enjoy. Our goal was to facilitate a space as accepting as possible so everyone could find a character, god, or creature to connect and relate to. Our hope is to bring people together through TTRPG’s and eventually inspire others to play in this world we have created.

3. I am a storyteller and my original character Sidney of Hightower reads fairytales every Tuesday at 8am on YouTube. This project is important to me because it offers an escape for people who enjoy fairytales and need some time to engage with someone genuine and kind.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
In my opinion Los Angeles is the only place to have an acting career in film. The one thing that acts in L.A.’s detriment is how expensive it is. The expense of living in and of itself is enough of a deterrent (a “gatekeeping”) to prevent people from lower income areas from moving here. One way LA has been able to circumvent that are artists communities. In my opinion artists communities are very helpful for people that are just moving out here and need a place to stay. They’re still expensive and sometimes have a lack of privacy, but it’s better than nothing. I think having more of these where they interview possible tenants before moving in, provide artists with tangible resources, and offer applicable scholarships; would improve the accessibility of the city. The scholarship in particular, would assist the artists most concerned with monetary survival and would allow them to focus on their art. In this way Los Angeles could become a safe haven for new artists instead of a survivors gamble.

I have recently discovered an organization called Everyone In LA (powered by United Way) who focuses on battling the housing and homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. Their first agenda is to create affordable housing! If you would like to find more information on their plans and how to help I have posted a link to their website below:
https://everyoneinla.org/

For YouTube or Twitch you don’t need to be in L.A. That’s the beauty of the internet, you can be anywhere in the world and still make a huge impact, even if you have a crappy microphone and camera as long as you are moving forward and improving people can excuse poor quality. As long as your content is golden that’s what matters. You have to pour your heart and soul into everything you put out there, if not then what’s the point?

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Paige Compton

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