Andrea & Ben Laxton: Sharing Success

ben and andrea

I met the Laxtons at a coffee shop that just opened right near their cozy apartment called, The Uptown Garrison. This coffee shop is destined to become the best new place to meet up with friends, drink strong coffee, and get work down. In our case, we had a very successful conversation about being a couple in the business over lattes. Andrea and Ben never cease to amaze me.

*Ideal cup of coffee:

BL: Pour Over.

AL: Almond Milk Latte

AF: What are you drinking right now?

BL: I went with a latte today, but usually I just go for some straight up pour over. At home if I want “coffee coffee,” I’ll grind some with our Aeropress, which is the best tour trick ever.

AL: It’s great for travel. So for any of your readers who are going on tour or are going to be on tour at some point…we are endorsing this product.

BL: You find a great coffee shop on tour and buy the bag of beans, and grind it yourself!

AF: On tour that’s what we would get most excited about! Finding cute coffee shops…

BL: That’s what I remember most about San Francisco…

AL: That’s what I remember most about San Diego!

BL: Going to Ritual… going to Four Barrel…

AF: How long were the sit-downs for Ghost?

AL: A week… some two-week.

BL: I think our longest was two and a half weeks.

AL: For Mormon he had an eleven-week sit-down!

AF: What do you prefer? Short or long sit-downs?

BL: It was nice getting to settle in. You know your neighborhood and then people were scattered all over the city so we got to visit other areas! We were all in Airbnbs.

AF: Amazing. Alright Andrea, what’s your ideal cup of coffee?

AL: Hmm… usually an Almond Milk Latte. Simple. We have an Espresso machine. We are huge coffee lovers. When we go on contracts I bring my travel size one with me.

AF: When it comes to coffee… I have no shame. So I’ve asked everybody on the blog this question but since you are our first couple on the blog I want you to ask each other this one… Ben, what are three words you would use to describe Andrea? It’s like the newlywed game!

BL: I would say…

AL: I know what he’s going to say.

BL: Passionate, driven, and bubbly. Bubbly’s not quite right though… Light-hearted, silly…

AL: Erratic?

BL: Full-spirited.

AF: Love it. Filled with spirit.

AL: My words for Ben would be…

BL: Let’s see if you get this right…

AL: We don’t know each other that well so this is hard…let me start rattling off a few and then I’ll pick the top three. Friendly, amicable, generous, passionate, talented, curious but not nosy…approaches life with a newness or freshness… Like… I would use the word bright-eyed but that has a negative connotation…

AF: Always seeing the best in people or situation…?

BL: Optimistic?

AL: Yes! Optimist. I guess we could go with friendly, talented, and optimistic. My dad used to call him “The gifted one.” And I’m like… “Dad I agree with you, but I’m your daughter…” I wasn’t that offended but I just thought, “Wow he must feel strongly about this…” and I was like, “I agree with you, dad.”

AF: Well you guys clearly know each other. Let’s talk your backstory- how you met, how you got to the city, what the city has looked like?

AL: Well we met before college even began.

BL: During orientation.

AL: We were at that orientation where they group you based on your major once you get there. He was running up the stairs at the basketball stadium and I was like, “Oh man, I don’t know if we’re going to be friends.”

BL: Too enthusiastic…

AL: He was so enthusiastic…in a beautiful way… but I think I was just weary and I didn’t understand that who he is, is one hundred percent authentic. I thought he was attention seeking… and so was I!

AF: We all were!

AL: And then we became fast friends. It didn’t take long. He was so talented and so inspiring that it made me proud to be going to Belmont. He always did that for me and he still does. I’ll see him perform today and I’m so proud that we came from the same program. We didn’t fall in love until Junior year…

BL: We were best friends…

AL: Nobody really knows the real story…. We were so close because there were only six of us in our class and it was always so platonic until it wasn’t… He was driving me home from a Halloween party and he was throwing French fries out the window and I opened the door… while the car was moving… so I was pulling all the stops.

BL: She was flirting.

AL: I was flirting hard. And then one day we just started making out and then we fell in love…

BL: Yep.

AL: We fell in love really fast. I’ll quickly tell you about moving to New York. We did a quick contract together right after school… it was very challenging, we learned a lot, and it pushed us in a way we needed to be pushed in not getting things we wanted. It lit a fire under us. It kind of exposed us to how just because you’re the best person for the job doesn’t always mean you’re going to get the job… which is a really valuable lesson to learn. It was a true dose of the real world in a great way.

BL: And also coming from a college program that kind of has the same idea about what makes a good performance, or what makes a good performer, and going to a place that had a very different idea about that and learning what that meant and finding skills in other ways, it really opened us up and took us in a new direction… because when you move to New York you’re like, “Wait a minute… what was I being taught for four years?” I think that helped us prepare to learn and adapt on our own…

AF: Grow together…be together… outside of the Belmont bubble!

BL: Learning to support each other through some tough moments.

AL: We did have to work through early and I’m so grateful. It always reminds me of the The last Five Years when Jamie says, “I will not fail so you can be comfortable Kathy, I will not lose because you can’t win” and we had that moment when he was doing really well and was really revered and his performance was very valued and I didn’t feel the same way and I felt that the attention and the praise he was getting was taking away from my experience and I recognized it immediately and knew I had to figure it out or we were not gonna last. It was a beautiful opportunity to get to work through that before we got to New York. Living in New York is its’ own thing to figure out! So then after that we booked separate tours. He booked Catch me if you Can and I booked Beauty and the Beast. He proposed to me while I was on tour and then we had six months of Equity work lined up after that… but then we ended up booking Ghost together. We got married on a two-week layoff and then we had three more months of tour together and then we moved to New York on the heels of Ghost.

BL: We were sort of questioning whether to take it and we sat down and said, “Okay… we’re going to ask for two weeks. A week for our wedding and a week for our honeymoon…and if they can’t give that to us… then we won’t take it.” And they were like, “When’s your wedding? Well you have a layoff during that exact time…”

AL: It was amazing.

BL: We got to audition early for Ghost because it was the same team as Catch Me… They were having people on our layoff come to New York to audition for Ghost. And because I was staying behind to propose to Andrea… I reached out and told them how much I wanted to be considered and if I could send in a tape… and if Andrea could send one in too… And they loved her. They brought her in for an audition and they were like, “Ben we love your tape but you look a little young for this show so we’re not going to move forward with you…”

AL: But the story goes they were considering me for Molly but they were also considering me for a cover and I didn’t specify on my sheet that I’d be willing to be a cover and so they called me and asked and I decided to be honest and said, “I just got off tour and I was covering… I’m now with my husband and we have six months of Equity work lined up, I wouldn’t take it unless he can come with me… then I would cover. So they brought him in… and we booked it!

BL: Yep!

AF: People want people to be happy on tour.

AL: I’m so glad I was honest.

BL: We found out later that it was a mistake… they had made a first pairing down and they’d paired it all the way down and then decided to start over and they never opened everything back up again…

AL: The way that it happened was really amazing. So we did that and then moving to New York we had a bunch of money saved up and we’d just been living together on tour…

BL: Living together in tiny hotel rooms… so basically just like a New York apartment!

AL: So we thought… oh we’ll be fine. But the first three months were TOUGH.

BL: You don’t take the city into account… you don’t think about working, and auditions. When we moved Andrea went straight into rehearsals for the Chasing Rainbows reading.

AL: I turned Equity the next day… I got my card.

BL: So that kind of made up for me being a guy and her being a girl…!

AL: Ben sort of struggled and had to sit in that hallway of shame… I never had to struggle. I never had to wake up at three am and put my name on a list…

BL: And I’d be like, “Hey can I take my wife’s water bottle to her?” And they were like, “No. You’re gonna have to have her come to the hallway…” I had to text her that I had her water bottle and that they wouldn’t let me pass the rope…

AL: It’s so demeaning. So that was an interesting dynamic for the two of us…. But then I just ended up taking on too much work. And Ben…

BL: I got a little children’s show…

AL: I think what was hard about all of it was working, juggling all of it, and living in a small space, scheduling… and trying to figure out balance. Our relationship was the last thing that we gave attention to and we ended up figuring it out… But we had that and then we were supposed to go on Ghost international tour together and then Ben booked Mormon.

 BL: Three weeks before we were supposed to leave… !

AL: So then I go by myself, so we’re a part again, and I’m international… and so at times we were twelve hours a part, sixteen hours a part…

BL: Twelve was better than seven or nine…

AL: Yeah…

BL: ‘Cause then you’re starting and ending the days together…

AL: Communication was really hard. How old were we?

BL: We were twenty-six or twenty-seven…

AL: And you feel just kind of a shift… anywhere from twenty-six to twenty-nine…

AF: I feel it! It’s this weird in between… kind of waiting time…

AL: Things will happen but it’s that period of putting in the leg work and not really seeing the results yet and things in your personal life might be a little different. I had different feelings about who I was as a woman. I had different relationships and that whole time we were not together. And I remember coming back and telling him, “I feel like a totally different person now. I feel like a totally different person than who I was when I left.”

AF: So was that a huge adjustment then?

BL: It was pretty big.

AL: We had to do a lot of work. And that’s when we realized we needed to put each other first.

BL: Yeah.

AL: So right when I came back from China… I went to Flat Rock.

BL: And I was still on tour…

AL: And then I booked Elsa in Frozen in LA and he came and joined me. And then I decided I didn’t like LA and I booked Goodspeed, so we moved back to New York.

AF: Were you both contemplating living in LA?

AL: I thought about it…

BL: She was potentially going to be there for six months so I just thought, “Oh great… I’ll just go and live with her there.”

AL: As messed up as our trains are in New York… I missed them. I didn’t like driving around. The energy of New York energizes me, and for me LA didn’t stimulate or inspire me.

BL: It was hard for us to find forward motion. The pace is just different.

AF: It’s good to explore other cities… and Ben you found that with tour, too…

BL: Yeah I got to live in San Francisco for three months and it was great but I was ready to leave after the three months. I was ready for the next thing.

AF: You have to listen to that!

AL: I’m not in a place yet where I’m ready to settle…I think this is something I’m meant to do… for now.

AF: The opportunities in the city are endless… and that’s what keeps us coming back, right?

BL: If it’s not one thing it’s the next thing…

AL: I’m not driven all the time… if I’m not happy… I take a step back.

BL: That’s been key.

AL: I am just now getting back into auditions.

AF: On that note… how would you define success?

AL: That’s been key for my success in life. I define success as being able to wake up in the morning and be grateful and have joy for what I’ve built for myself in no matter where I’m at in my life. The ability to just to stop and enjoy where you’re at is success because things come and go; contracts come and go, Broadway will come and go…we’re going to have kids, we’re going to have so many adventures- but if you can stop and truly feel grateful I think that is ultimately my version of success.

AF: That’s amazing. Just shifting the perspective from “I want” and instead being filled with gratitude.

BL: It takes your power back because there’s so much that’s out of our control. But if you just wake up and are striving to be happy with what you have around you… whether that’s moving forward with the next thing or that’s just taking a step back and enjoying where you are…coming to the Uptown Garrison and enjoying a cup of coffee and being happy about it… you’re totally in control of that.

AL: Just being able to perform in the city is success.

AF: Ben, I’d love to pick your brain… success…Broadway. For me right now, Broadway feels like the top of success…so for someone who is currently on Broadway, what is your perspective on this topic?

BL: For me, success was having my parents there, and having Andrea there at the show. It’s a show that I’d been doing on tour so my first night I was just thinking about the little differences in blocking and stuff. I wasn’t really nervous. Opening night on Broadway didn’t feel overwhelmingly, incredibly special and wonderful, which is probably a bummer for a lot of people to hear, sorry! But then looking out and seeing my parents in the audience… I thought about all the sacrifices they’d made. My mom driving two hours once, sometimes twice a month to Chicago for voice lessons when we moved to Illinois… them getting to see that, that made it feel like success. There are certain things where it makes it easier, to be in the “government show”, knock on wood…

AL: It does make it easier to pay our mortgage, go on trips, take vacations…

BL: That’s the exciting thing for me. It’s allowed us to really settle and make a life. That’s why it feels like success. I’m really going to be able to do this and focus on my family.

AF: Laying that foundation for the future!

AL: Money’s not as tight so it allows us to be a little more fancy-free. It allows me to not feel obligated to babysit every single day. I work because I want to work…

BL: Driven, nailed it!

AL: It is so important to make your partner’s success feel like your success too. It is pinnacle. I think that has been the most valuable thing to sustain our marriage. It’s like when he goes on for Elder Price on that Broadway stage, I’ll probably feel even prouder than him. I think I will have more joy than if I was bowing as a lead on Broadway. His success brings me a lot of joy.

BL: Thank you baby that’s really nice.

AF: On that note, what is the biggest benefit of having a partner in this business and what is the hardest part about it?

BL: I think the best part is the grounding force. Based on our definition of what success was… it’s about looking at your life. So having a concrete person and concrete animal for that matter really helps you take a step back and realize what’s important. And then stupid practical stuff… this morning Andrea was able to sleep for an extra five minutes because I stapled her headshot and resume together while she did her makeup. Time management!

AL: The biggest benefit to having a partner in the business is that we can talk about stuff for hours and hours and hours and it’s not so totally annoying. We have so much we can relate on. We have the same training, we went to the same school… so we can talk about a performance, music theory… We also tend to think similarly. I want to know what it would look like through my eyes and he’s the closest thing. It’s cool. So when he came to Ghost I asked and he said, “Okay… here’s what was great… you don’t have to worry about this…” and I’d be like, “This is what I was doing in this part… are you getting that?” And he’d be like, “Yes, I’m getting that.” I just trust him and trust his eyes and ears so it’s very beneficial. The benefit is the support in every sense of it. Of course you have that emotional support…but actual advice you get from the person is invaluable. I don’t trust anyone as much as I trust Ben.

BL: We kind of worked through the biggest pitfall of being with someone in the business, which is allowing their success to feel like your failure. And Andrea has a great way of putting this and says, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to dim your light for my light to shine.” It’s really cool.

AL: It happens in relationships all the time. You shouldn’t have to dim your light.

BL: It’s funny because even if it feels like competition… it really doesn’t come down to that at all. They either wanted this person or that person… it’s not that that person is better. It could be any arbitrary thing.

AL: Success is being happy in the interim. Live your life. Enjoy your life!

BL: When you’re enjoying life and enjoying other aspects of life… then you can walk into the audition room and not care!

AL: Yeah like… “Let me just do some good work… and then leave!”

BL: Don’t dim your light.

AF: Okay- last question… what are your words to live by?

AL: Listen to yourself, have faith in yourself… it’s all about self-actualization. Figuring out my unique perspective on the world and to cherish myself, cherish my relationship with Ben… if you have that sorted out… then you can apply what you’ve worked for.

BL: Everyone’s path is completely different. For some people it helps to look around at others if that inspires you. I try to let it inspire me or move me in a certain direction. But don’t get caught up on when they achieved what. The industry is going to go through so many different things. I’m very fortunate right now because it was just my time to be in Mormon. I graduated the same year Mormon opened! So yeah… use others to inspire you but know that everyone’s path is different.

AL: That’s beautiful, babe!

AF: You guys are beautiful. Cheers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s