On Thursday I met with one of my best friends at an adorable French coffee shop right in the heart of audition land; 36th and 8th. By Suzette has a clean, bright, and European aesthetic. The walls are lined with succulents, the chairs are bright red, and the baristas wear berets. It is the perfect shop for us to meet since Alie B. is basically New York City’s real life Eloise at the Plaza with her spunk and zest for life.
Born and raised in Birmingham, AL Alie B. moved to NYC just under three years ago to tackle this city. She has performed Off Broadway and all over the country, inspiring everybody she meets including me…on a regular basis.
*Ideal cup of coffee: “Black coffee with brown sugar. It takes a long time to settle but it’s better for you!”
ABG: I’m so excited that you’re doing this.
AF: I’m so excited to connect with friends old and new…everyone has something to offer! So one word that comes to mind when I think of you is JOY. But I want to know…what are three words you would use to describe yourself?
ABG: Spunky, resilient, and optimistic.
AF: Let’s go back to the beginning…what was your earliest memory in the theatre?
ABG: I was very lucky that my parents always supported me from a young age. In 5th and 6th grade I didn’t go to elementary school, I was a part of the Birmingham Childrens’ Theatre. We’d get our homework at 7 am and then go and sing all day!
AF: So now you’re living in the city… and writing your own show!
ABG.: You’re not gonna get roles created for you unless you create them for yourself you know? It allows you to show the world what you do instead of being put into a mold of showing the two things you do well… We’re bigger than any character and can bring so much more. At the end of the day it’s so nice to not keep any parts of yourself hidden.
AF: I’m so inspired by you. You’re constantly reinventing yourself as an artist and human.
ABG: I’m reading Artists Way right now and it talks about Crazy Makers and not only do we have them in our lives were really good at being them ourselves. I know that I can. You’re your own worst critic. I’m also cooking more…it helps me de-stress. You have to be so focused! I think it’s important for actors to have a lot of activities that require your full attention because…you don’t wanna burn the peppers! Reading it a second time around… it’s actually helping me write my show. I’ll use my morning pages to write memoirs! It’s fun having a writing goal. It’s very spiritual.
AF: What is your safe haven in the city?
ABG: In college we had the luxury of a ton of coffee shops to choose from and we just lived there…but that taught us to always find a place to hunker down…sort of “to be small.” We spend so much of our time being “on”…and I think it’s cool to go to small places and be a dot. I go at least once a week to City Bakery on 18th street and go upstairs where there’s a little corner booth and I can hang out there for hours.
AF: In my first blog post I talked about how a cup of coffee is a ritual and a routine. What are some rituals that you look forward to that gives you joy?
ABG: My essential oils. Every night I look forward to it. I love taking all my makeup off, lathering up with my essential oils, and then reading Artist Way.
AF: I compared theatre to a cup of coffee. It can be dark and can burn you… I feel you give off a consistently happy vibe. How do you conquer the darkness of the unknown?
ABG: I am a self-proclaimed cockeyed optimist…I’ve been taught that resilience is the only option. My parents always encouraged me to try things. This week I had a pity party day. I was having some sight related issues and brought that into my callback and assumed they cut me because of that place I was in. It’s a trap. I’d be lying if I told you that didn’t happen to me. The good news is that I was able to recognize it. I used to spin my thoughts. It’s all in our head. We’re human! Writing a lot has helped me get out of my head. One thing I’ve learned is what I need to ground myself. For me, it is Yoga, which connects me to God and connects me to prayer and spirituality. I do simple things to wake my senses up to where I am. Also…wine.
AF: So…most people wouldn’t know that you’re visually impaired. How has it worked against you and how has it worked in your favor?
ABG: Well I recently put it down in my special skills on my resume. The first thing says Legally Blind. Some casting offices know that I am visually impaired and we are on that level. Others that don’t have asked flat out, “What’s going on with your eyes?” That’s hard to be hit with right in the moment. But the worst is the people that recognize that something’s off and avoid asking. It’s like an elephant in the room. I am really open and would love to educate as many people as I can and explain that it’s not a hindrance for me. Representation has been hard for me because they see you and think that you have something but you’re in a big room and you can’t explain yourself. Some days you can notice it, some days you have no idea. It depends on things that are not in my control. But now that it’s on my resume I’m hoping people will ask. Yeah I do things differently…but I still give you a product. As a positive…my last director thought of my lack of vision as a superpower. It’s really cool to take the experience of seeing differently and bring it to characters that feel ostracized. Like for example…Carrie in Carrie, doesn’t have a vision problem but she does feel alone… It gives me a deeper insight to a character that wasn’t even written. You’re digging a little deeper into their brains.
AF: I think it’s amazing that you naturally gravitate towards characters that have this inner battle. How long do see yourself in NYC?
ABG: I have no plans to move. I see myself here. All I want to do is be in it. I want to have a show that is mine and create. Doing new works all year I realize I am most fulfilled when I am part of or creating new works. It’s that part of me that loves to write and create scenarios in my head. I’ll go to Columbus Circle sometimes and make up voices for people in my head. Creating a character gives that extra element of choices stemming from me rather than stage directions. It’s hard because yes there are roles that I want to play…but there are more roles that aren’t there yet.
AF: You have been doing original shows nonstop since you moved here…
ABG: Flight School, Dragons Love Tacos, Bastard Jones…
AF: What’s the biggest lesson you took away from a contract? Let’s talk about Bastard Jones.
ABG: I think as actors we have to make very conscious decisions on how we want to live because this industry will try to shake every corner of our foundation. I remember the first week of rehearsal I was so intimidated and then the second week I had to make the decision to believe I belong. One of my favorite quotes is, “Assume your Competence.” I was like, “Alie B., you have to assume that you are competent and you can do this!” I had to switch my focus and train my brain to do that. Once you make that choice you can’t not go for it.
AF: Because we both did a TWUSA tour what is one thing you took away that made you a stronger person?
ABG: That tour is where I learned my yoga practice was not an option. Rituals are KEY.
AF: How do you prepare for auditions/appointments?
ABG: I have to do something physical. I get up in the morning and run for 10 minutes and warm up my whole body for a little pick me up. It gets the gunk out of your throat and gets you in your body!
AF: I feel like the city is bringing out all new facets of Alie B!
ABG: In this city you don’t have to limit yourself! I’ll go take African dance…and the next day I’m like I need a neck brace! In the city you’re around creative people…it motivates you! For any artist or person…be around people that motivate you and share beliefs with you.
AF: How do you evaluate success and how has it changed since college?
ABG: I want to hug everyone in college and let them know that success in college is so small in the grand scheme of things. I viewed success as getting a role or a lead or getting summer stock jobs. I thought that was it. I was constantly feeling like I was scrambling. At the end of every day there was a bigger to-do list. And now I get in bed and light a candle and think, “Well I did everything in my power to make today great.” Success doesn’t even look the same here. “Confidence is quiet and insecurity is loud.” Some of my favorite actors are not blowing up social media. They keep their achievements to themselves.
AF: Yeah why do we feel compelled to post all of our accomplishments?
ABG: I’m not shaming anybody but I’m trying to reevaluate and not over share. Is success getting to create? Is success getting to wake up and sing? Or is success a credit? I don’t think it’s a tangible thing that you can ever quite grasp. Until you learn to be okay with where you are…you’ll miss a lot. Now that I’m here my senses are open and processing life in a different way because I have the space and time and my heart is in a different place.
AF: It’s easy to get caught up in comparison.
ABG: We need to remember “that journey is not mine.”
AF: I feel like I’m learning to accept and get excited about the unknown rather than fear it.
ABG: I can’t imagine not being in this field. I want to create right now…and that’s okay.