Tara Llewellyn: Create Your Own Way

TARA COFFEE

I met Tara, working on her new show “Under the Influence.” I knew right away that we should be friends and I wanted to pick her brain because she is a Connecticut native and Manhattan actress, writer, dresser, designer, and coffee lover! She has worked on a multitude of productions including Pretty Woman, Hadestown, and currently moonlights at Broadway’s Moulin Rouge in the wardrobe department. She was most recently seen in the developing musical #LoveStory, where she reprised the leading role of Zoe Tiller after originating the character at the NY Fringe Festival in 2015, in the U.S. regional premiere of The Body Guard at White Plains Performing Arts Center, and is currently in post-production for her pilot “Under the Influence,” which she wrote, produced, and starred in this fall! I took her to her very favorite neighborhood coffee spot, The Chipped Cup, where we officially met as it was our holding room on set for her show. How fitting, right? We sipped on pumpkin lattes and talked everything from wearing many hats to survival jobs to creating your own way. Get ready!

Drink of Choice: Autumn in a Cup with Oat milk from The Chipped Cup

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 TL: I just want to say, I love love LOVE what you’re doing.

AF: It’s very therapeutic…for both parties. From taking a look at the AMC feed you may be able to gauge or tell that I started it because I had nothing going on at the time. I was craving creativity and an outlet for connection. I believe each relationship is a form of networking and you lift each other up. Everyone’s story is important! And coffee is ESSENTIAL in our day as artists.

TL: It’s also such a common ground.

AF: Common Grounds.

TL: Literally…”Common Grounds.”

AF: Wait…! New show?

TL: There it is! I love it. It really is though. It’s a common meeting ground.

AF: It’s also a comforting ambiance! Regardless of the place, you’re going to sit and have conversation. I feel like it’s such a lost art! Coffee just feels different than meeting for drinks.

TL: Well- bars are also just not quiet any more…especially in New York. I need to be able to hear myself talk! What do you think? (gesturing to Annabelle’s PUMPKIN LATTE)

AF: I’m obsessed. I guess I should mention I ordered “Autumn in a Cup” because Tara recommended it and I recommend it now to everybody….

TL: It’s a really good alternative to the Pumpkin Spice. I’ve been coming here for five years now. They have always had a Pumpkin Spice latte. They used to do pumpkin ganache, it was so unbelievably good to the point that I couldn’t go to Starbucks to get it.

AF: Nothing could compare.

TL: What I love about this is that it’s not a ganache…

AF: It’s still a strong beverage.

TL: It has nutmeg, star anise, black pepper…and something else I forget! When a new manager came in he got rid of the pumpkin spice latte and wanted to create something new and I was kind of skeptical…but he is so lovely he let me try it and obviously it’s GREAT.

AF: You heard it hear folks…Tara she gave the approval. She gave that green light. They were like, “But does Tara like it? Because she’s going to be our number one customer for the rest of our life…” What is your drink of choice?

TL: I’m currently drinking an iced Autumn in a Cup WITH Oat Milk.

AF: Love Oat Milk.

TL: I almost exclusively drink Oat Milk. It’s such a good alternative to the non-dairy milks. It is also the most energy efficient…it uses the least amount of water.

AF: I actually reached out to Oatly to be brand ambassador…

TL: I love that. They’re great! I don’t think they knew how big they would be when they came to the U.S. Now that they’ve kind of found their stride, they’re making ice cream…

AF: They are a smart brand. SO… I always like to start by asking, what is your back-story?

TL: I’m from Connecticut! 203! I always loved performing growing up. I went to church and my church would do a huge Christmas musical every year so that’s where I sort of started.

AF: And you were the lead in all of the shows…

TL: Nope! Absolutely not! They would never cast me in any role! It was very bizarre. We always did a music camp over the summer with a show at the end and a show at Christmas time and I never played a lead. It was very sad. But it’s okay, it never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do! I kept trekkin’ along! I did all the school plays and I decided I wanted to go to school for theatre. I really wanted to move to the city when I graduated from high school. I think a lot of kids dream of that, and my mom really encouraged me to go to Western Connecticut State University because they were actually building a big theatre program and they were about to start breaking ground on a huge performing arts center when I was applying to schools. My mom was like, “Go here, do that” and I went kicking and screaming. I did NOT want to go. I wanted to move to New York. First I wanted to go to NYU, but it was way too expensive, and then I wanted to go to Marymount Manhattan, and it was also way too expensive, and my mom was like, “Go to West Conn…” I just didn’t like that idea because I’m from a town next door…

AF: Right – you wanted to go somewhere further away, explore, be somewhere new…

TL: Exactly. But, in hindsight, it was absolutely the best thing for me because I had actually never been away from home for too long and even with that twenty-minute drive, it was enough of a separation. I lived on campus. I had a life at school but was also close enough to home that I could see my family often. I’m so glad I did that because I’m super close to my family, so that was very nice. I only was a theatre major for a semester, transferred out of the department and ended up pursuing Music Education and then Psychology. I didn’t think there was going to be financial security in theatre and I think we all face that as actors.

AF: You’re smart for recognizing that!

TL: Well – I’m smart for recognizing that and then my fourth semester I turned right back around and went back into the Theatre program.

AF: “I don’t know what I want!”

TL: Exactly. I was studying Pyschology, and I had just seen the production that WestConn was putting on, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and I walked into my mom’s classroom, with a class full of students, sat behind her desk, started crying and said, “I just want to be a Theatre major.” And she said, “Okay. Do it. I’ve kind of been waiting for this….” I’m so lucky to have such an incredible support system.

AF: I forget that not everyone has that. My parents are also teachers! We have so much in common!

TL: I think when you have parents who are teachers, or if they’re not and they’re just naturally born teachers, you kind of have that logical side to you anyway; so I think that’s where I was going when I decided to pursue Music Education and possibly Psychology. I just knew I needed something that was going to be a good backup plan. Anyways, I ended up going back to the theatre program. It was the best move I ever made. What I love about West Conn and their theatre program, and I have to believe they still hold true to this – they really encourage their actors to be well-rounded; meaning they would like for their students to have some sort of design background and to also learn the technical side of theatre.

AF: So is that where dressing came in?

TL: Sort of! When I went back to the theatre program, it was Spring of 2011, I had missed auditions, and they told me I needed to fulfill hours for my costume class.  So I did costumes for a production of The Three Sisters, and when it was done, I remember looking at one of my friends dead in the face and saying, “I will never do costumes again for as long as I live. I hate costumes. I HATE them.”

AF: No. way.

TL: Yes.

AF: Isn’t it hilarious how we make these grand statements?

TL: I ended up taking a scenic painting class and I fell in love with it. I loved it so much. I’ve always loved painting and drawing and I just fell in love with it.

AF: You are an artist in all facets.

TL: I try to be! I ended up really taking a liking to that. I loved the idea of creating something out of nothing. I loved creating exposed brick…even though it wasn’t really exposed brick…that was really where the technical side of it started. I had always wanted to be an actor and performer. It settled the logical side of me that if I decided I didn’t want to become a performer, I also wanted to have something in my back pocket in case in the dead times…I could have something.  I should also say though that scenic painting is not high on the list of alternative careers. It’s hard. Being an artist of any kind if challenging!

AF: Well I’m sure when you’re an artist… it’s difficult being told the vision of someone else when you’re creative yourself and you have all the capabilities of doing your own thing but then having the restrictions of somebody telling me it has to be a certain way would be hard for me.

TL: I feel like we’re always going to face things like that…even when we are creating our own work…

AF: So true.

TL: So I moved to New York in January 2014, I was waiting tables and I absolutely hated it. I lasted a few weeks. I was at a bar with some of my college friends and I was talking with my friend Nicole, who worked at Sleep No More…I told her I needed a job that wasn’t serving and asked about any scenic painting jobs and she was like, “We don’t have any scenic painting jobs right now but I just got offered this dresser’s job and I’m not a dresser…” And I’m thinking, “I’m not a dresser,” and thinking back to that time in college I did costumes and how much I hated it. But I needed a job and said I would do it. I hated serving more! It was for the Off Broadway production of Heathers the Musical! I had a resume drenched in lies and gave it to this girl who was the wardrobe supervisor at the time and she hired me! I don’t know why…I got hired to work on the Off-Broadway Heathers production as a dresser, and about three days in, that girl who hired me got fired. So, I got to stay on, and they had this guy come in who was a Broadway supervisor and he kept me on. Heathers actually ended up launching me into a bunch of other shows like Songbird and Lonesome Traveler. It opened me up to so much. What was great about the job was that I could audition during the day, work at night, and stay acclimated, and keep my foot in the door. There were definitely dry spells where I would not audition because I was so comfy in this job. You kind of sink into it even though it’s not exactly what you want to be doing but you’re part of the industry and social circle…

AF: You’re needed somewhere. We just want to be needed!

TL: Absolutely. I had some touch-and-go moments where I wasn’t auditioning as much as I could have been. There were other times when I was really pounding the pavement! This whole dressing thing was really picking up. About two years later, Spring of 2016 I was in a really dead dry spell. I could not find work as a dresser, I was auditioning my tail off but also couldn’t find work. It was really tough because I thought about going home. I actually sat in this place and cried to my friend.

AF: That is SUCH a thing. That is such an artist moment.

TL: The discouragement…feeling like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I’m just trudging through. Why am I here? What is my purpose? I think we all go through these moments. It was dark. To think about actually packing up and going home was hard. I want to say a couple days later I got a Facebook message from John Furrow, who was the Broadway supervisor who I’d met on Heathers, and asked what I’d been up to.

AF: And this was a few days after you had your dark moment. Wow. That’s how it always happens. Ask and you shall receive.

TL: Things happen right as you’re about to give up. The universe goes, “Here’s why you shouldn’t give up.” So he messages me and says, “I’m getting people together for my next project.” I said, “What’s your next project?” He goes, “The Broadway Revival of Cats.”

AF: And you were like, “I could do that.” What a show to dress! Are you kidding me!?

TL: That was my introduction into the Broadway circuit. In a matter of months I had joined the union, moved into my own studio apartment, which I still live in today, working full time….

AF: Stability.

TL: I had insurance. I had set myself up for some success down the line. I just didn’t realize how important that would be. A couple months before Cats closed, I went through a really bad breakup at the end of 2017. We had been dating on and off for about 8 years. It was really tough. We were doing that long distance. He was never with me and I was never with him. That was really rattling. Simultaneously, the hair supervisor was also going through a breakup and so we got really close, and she ended up bringing me on to do Pretty Woman. It’s crazy the things that happen to us. Pretty Woman didn’t start until summer 2018 so between end of 2017 and the summer, I worked sporadically. I worked on Desperate Measures at New World Stages. I had a lot of fun! The production manager of Songbird brought me on for DM.

AF: Tara this unbelievable. Everything leads to something!

TL: Every connection you make is so important. You just never know the people that might introduce to the person that could change your life.

AF: Why a door closes… it’s almost as important as a door opening.

TL: I completely agree. It’s just as important. We need to have those lows to appreciate the highs. We need to remember where we came from to really appreciate where we are and to appreciate where we’re going to go and to also give us the reassurance that when we do have those dark moments, which will inevitably cycle back, we sign up to be artists, we sign up for those moments…. Having those low moments and continuing to revisit them will feel lighter than the first time because you’ll know that something better is coming eventually. But the first time you experience that… it’s truly so hard. That was one of the darkest times in my life. It didn’t even last that long. It was for a month of two…but I felt so defeated.

AF: After you experience that you’re able to identify when those lows are coming and what they are and it’s like, “Wait a minute, let me ride this for a minute and feel the feelings…I will get over this.”

TL: One of those for me was at the end of Cats and the beginning of 2018, feeling that silence. I felt like I was standing in an abyss. I had just lost a job and a relationship. I didn’t know which road to take. Eventually life will lead you down the right path.

AF: This is like a song. You are writing a song!

TL: We’re writing a song! We’re writing a show! So! At the beginning of 2018, I had gone through this breakup at the end of 2017, and we decided to stay friends, but in 2018 I realized he was dating somebody new. Not only was he dating somebody new, but this girl knew exactly who I was, and I found out about because I saw she was watching my Instagram stories. I had no idea who this girl was, and so I clicked on her profile and the first picture that came up was of her and him. It was so strange. It was like a punch in the stomach. I felt like we had made all this progress but then seeing that changed everything. We had made such a point of being honest with each other and then this… So I immediately called one of my friends and asked if she knew this girl and she said yes because she followed my friend ON my birthday. And she actually asked him who the girl was and he brushed it off. She had a feeling. She had been following me and watching my stories since my birthday. It was so creepy. A couple days later I was with my friend and he asked about [my ex-boyfriend] and I said it was all good until I found out he was dating somebody and he asks me to pull up a picture of her…and she had followed him too!

AF: She followed all of your friends… what point was she trying to make?

TL: I think she just wanted us to notice her! I was baffled by it. I felt uncomfortable because my social media was being watched! It became this whole weird game of cat and mouse on social media. It became so apparent how integrated social media is in our lives.

AF: Yes.

TL: We can use social media as a means of communicating, flirting, black mail…I told my mom about this and she pointed out that if social media didn’t exist, I wouldn’t feel this way. Eventually I’d find out, sure, but when she was growing up, they didn’t have to go through it like this…that stuck with me so deeply. And while simultaneously not knowing where to go artistically, and pounding the pavement, and trying to convince people I was right for their puzzle, and trying to sell myself with sixteen bars…I was so tired of it. I decided I wanted to start writing for myself and I wanted to write a show about social media and thus, “Under the Influence” was born. It took a minute. I started writing it and I was very passionate about it. And then I started working for Desperate Measures…and then I started working on Pretty Woman, and you know these all started to take off, but it sort of pushed this project to the back. I’m grateful that it did because it wasn’t nearly as flushed out as it would soon come to be. My friend Hailei Call, who I worked with at Cats and Pretty Woman, is just this incredible visionary and incredible hair and makeup artist, but she has such a beautiful mind; an artist in her own way…and we were getting dinner one night in February of this year and we were walking through Times Square and looking at all the posters for new TV shows and I said, “You know…I actually wrote a pilot.” She goes, “You did?!” and I started telling her about it and by the end of our conversation she was having Raven Symone visions of what it would look like.

AF: I just got chills again.

TL: I know right!?

AF: She was the person you needed to make it happen.

TL: Yeah.  We started plotting and planning and I knew this was going to be something. We started filming in October as you know…

AF: I was there! I was an influencer for a day!

TL: Oh yes. We started filming on October 18th, which ironically was exactly two years to the day my ex-boyfriend and I broke up…which inadvertently inspired the show because of his crazy girlfriend who had to insert herself into my life via social media. It just really instilled in me that has become so integrated into our lives…which it isn’t necessarily a bad thing…but I wanted to write a show about the ramifications about putting your life on the internet and what that can do and the relationships that we all have with social media and the insecurities it creates. The reality that not everything is as it seems and not everything we put online is always what’s happening…it’s not always a physical representation.

AF: Half the time it’s to make yourself feel better.

TL: Absolutely. It’s so affiliated with our self-esteem and self worth. I really wanted to talk about that.

AF: I think it’s brilliant. I honestly feel like there’s not enough of that out there. I think people are cautious about commenting on the reality that social media can be dangerous and toxic. We are all obviously addicted.

TL: We are all addicted in some capacity! Another thing that inspired it…not to constantly bring it back to my ex-boyfriend…but he would always say, “I keep myself so adjacent to social media.” Just because you’re not posting doesn’t mean you’re not constantly watching and observing.

AF: I think it might be worse to watch and not post. You’re keeping tabs!

TL: He was totally keeping tabs on me…and when we got back together, we weren’t even affiliated on social media. I wanted to tell him about my day in person.

AF: It’s such a thing now when people break up… should you still “follow” on socials? It gets so confusing!

TL: We read into all the social media tactics.

AF: It can be caddy.

TL: It can also be so ambiguous. We become so addicted to it that it can hinder relationships with people! Sitting down to have coffee with someone is how life should be. It’s created a stigma that if you want to post something…it needs to be curated. There is nothing wrong with taking a picture and posting it and feeling good about yourself. There’s such a stigma attached that sometimes I feel insecure posting wondering, “How is this going to go over…what time of day should I post?” So I wanted to create a show, to explore my own work.

AF: You wrote your own story. You allowed your voice to be heard through something you created instead of trying to fit into another narrative.

TL: There are so many wonderful women in this industry that it has become that much more challenging. It was so interesting being on the other side of the table in that regard because I was creating the mold and in watching submissions it was educational to find so many amazing women and artists that I wished I could create work for everyone!

AF: Okay so we’ve touched on your highs and lows…I want to know what your words of wisdom are. You’ve given a lot already but…

TL: Create your own way. Create your own way.

AF: The name of your first novella!

TL: I read Jenna Fisher’s book….

AF: Who also… played PAM. Full circle back to “The Office.”

TL: I’m also listening to The Office Ladies Podcast… which gives you a behind the scenes look into each episode and I listened to the first episode about the pilot the first day we started shooting MY pilot!

AF: That’s so serendipitous!

TL: It was so inspiring. I needed to remind myself that letting the work happen… is important. Sometimes you have to just let the work create itself. I had a lot of artistic voices coming at me for the pilot and it absolutely lent itself to the creation of the process but…

AF: At some point you have to trust your gut-

TL: Yes and trust the journey. I have a t-shirt that says “Create Your Own Way” but it shrunk in the wash… so I don’t wear it as often…

AF: It’s fine… we love a crop top!

TL: It’s a shirt I wear with pride. I really believe what it says!

AF: That’s what it’s all about.

TL: To wait around for something to happen for you… takes patience. It will happen a lot sooner if you write for yourself! There’s no shame in that! I remember feeling a little selfish as we were approaching the filming of the pilot and wondering, “Am I actually right for this? Should I have cast someone else in this and taken a step aside?” And the answer is always no. Even if the show goes on to be filmed by someone else with someone else, I can still know and own that I built the foundation for this character and as artists sometimes we need to have that in our back pocket. People do twenty-nine hour readings and then don’t go on to do the Broadway production. That doesn’t make them any less capable, it’s just being in the right place at the right time with the right people.

AF: It’s also allowing the work to continue to evolve. There are so many factors!

TL: I can’t tell you how many people have reached out to me since seeing what I’m doing… who are thanking me because it reminded them they are capable of doing it also! I never considered myself a writer, but this friend of mine who I met doing Grease told me on the subway that she wanted to take a step away from performing and get more into writing. You can’t limit yourself to be one thing. You have to explore the other facets of your artistry! If I were to say, “Just be an actor or performer,” when I arrived in the city, I would probably not be sitting here right now. I wouldn’t work where I work…

AF: You’ve created far more opportunities for yourself by being multi-faceted. That is NOT weakness- that is a super power.

TL: I used to think it was. I used to have so much shame in being a dresser. But there is no shame in that… if you’re well-rounded which is what WCSU taught me…because I wouldn’t be the person that I am today!

AF: Yes just look at you! You’re doing it all!

TL: Cheers to that!

AF: Cheers!

TL: It’s important to let yourself be inspired by other people. I hope by me doing this, it’s not only creating work for myself, but for other people, and to inspire others to create their own work. Because that’s how it happens!

AF: Well! You’ve inspired me.

TL: Thanks, queen.

Analisa Leaming: It’s a Balancing Act between “I Want This” & “I Don’t Need This”

analisa leaming

On our first ever SKYPE interview after a pretty large “coffee break,” I had the insane honor of chatting with, Analisa Leaming, the voice behind the incredibly popular podcast, A Balancing Act.  I started listening to this inspirational and uplifting podcast a few years ago shortly after starting my own blog and so it feels fitting to get to interview HER now. She is currently wearing Ribbons across America playing Irene Molloy in the First National Tour of Hello, Dolly! (hence the reason for our SKYPE interview). Before hitting the road you may have seen her on Broadway as Rosalie Mullins in School of Rock. Her other fun Broadway credits include: Hello, Dolly, The King and I, and On the Twentieth Century. In this interview we unpack her unconventional road to Broadway, s her balancing act, and that while this career IS hard, we can make it easier on ourselves by releasing the grippy-ness, and recognizing how we can show up in the world. Enjoy!

Drink of Choice: Fair Trade Organic (the good stuff) with a little half and half. 


AF: Okay voice recorder is ON! I’ve never done a Skype interview before, this is so exciting!

AL: Yeah!

AF: So how are you? How’s tour? (AL is currently appearing as Irene Molloy in the First National Tour of Hello Dolly).

AL: It’s good! We just started back up yesterday after two weeks off, so getting back into it but it’s good!

AF: Getting back into the groove! I see you’re drinking your coffee!

AL: Yessss, I had to! It’s actually my second cup which I don’t usually do but today is one of those days!

AF: Today is one of those days! I always start by asking…what is your coffee drink of choice?

AL: If I could drink coffee any way it would be organic, fair trade with a bit of half and half…the good stuff. However, right now I’m not drinking that! Have you heard of Four Sigmatic?

AF: Yes!

AL: Well that’s what I’m drinking these days because I had to cut back on caffeine… because your brain adjusts to the caffeine and then it doesn’t work the same way, so you need more to feel the same effect. I was noticing I wasn’t feeling well in the mornings so I was going to try and cut it out completely but then I thought what if I just cut it back and do Four Sigmatic since it’s half the amount of caffeine and it’s made such a difference! I’ve noticed such a difference in my energy in the mornings. I won’t go without my half and half though…

AF: That’s awesome and good to know! Well- I am just so grateful that you started your podcast A Balancing Act because it really did change my life and my perspective on theatre and the audition game and making it less of a game and more of a creative journey. It’s really cool to be talking to you right now because I know you’ve interviewed so many people and so I always start by asking, what is your backstory?

AL: Well I have to ask you because I was stalking you!- are you from Tennessee?!

AF: I went to school in Nashville at Belmont University!

AL: That’s so crazy! I saw you guys were just there!

AF: Yes! My husband wrote this amazing folk musical and we were workshopping it at Studio Tenn!

AL: Yes and that music is my life and so I saw that music video and was like, “This is so cool!”

AF: Wow, it’s such a small world!

AL: Yes! I’m from Murfreesboro, my family is in Nashville now.

AF: That is so ironic!

AL: Yes! My mom teaches at Vanderbilt. I think it’s kind of interesting and maybe you can relate to this… I had two main influences in high school and one was my choir director and he sent me home with a VHS of “Opera Great Performances” and he was like, “This is what you’re going to do one day.” I was fifteen at the time and was like, “What!?” My other influence was the voice teacher I switched to who was a Soprano at the Nashville Opera. I didn’t really have any influences from the Musical Theatre world, even though that was really what I wanted to do. I grew up listening to Julie Andrews! She’s my hero…!

AF: I love her. You sound like her!

AL: Thank you. That was the trajectory that the universe put me on and my voice teacher was like, “You cannot study Musical Theatre in college, you’ll ruin your voice” which is so the attitude opera singers have about Musical Theatre singers.  I went to University of Memphis for a short time, but I knew I needed a more competitive program that would push me so that’s how I found The Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and it was amazing. I am so grateful for the time I had there. I got incredible training, I was surrounded by these prodigies. Kids with perfect pitch from all over the world playing the violin like masters. I did Vocal Performance and studied Opera but I was the one in the practice rooms, covering the window of course so nobody would know it was me, trying to sing Last Five YearsLight in the Piazza, and Wicked….attempting to emulate those sounds because I had nobody to teach me how to make them! It was through the Lotte Lenya Competition that I got on to the Musical Theatre trajectory. Ted Sperling and Ted Chapin were both judges my senior year of college and that’s how I got to New York! I was going to get my Masters at CCM and I wrote to Ted Sperling and asked, “What do you think? I kind of what to just come to New York…” and he responded, “I think you would do very well if you came to New York, school will always be there…” and I said “OK.” I reached out to Ted Chapin, who is the head of the Rodgers and Hammerstein foundation, and was like “I see this audition for the Sound of Music tour in Asia…is it worth my time to go to New York for this?” and he was like, “Yes, I think so. Hold tight” and all of a sudden I had a callback for MARIA and so I HAD to go to New York for the callbacks and I ended up understudying Maria and playing Sister Sophia in the International tour of Sound of Music when I was twenty-two! That’s how I got to New York! It took me longer than I suspected or hoped it would to make it to Broadway which is the dream, which of course if you listen to my podcast you know that I am very adamant about how that is not the answer…it’s the journey!

AF: That is amazing. I didn’t realize a tour brought you to the city!

AL: Yes, I didn’t even come to New York! I actually moved to Nashville right after I graduated. I didn’t have the money to come to New York! I was waiting tables and I saw that audition and had no idea how it would even work. I was wondering, “Will I audition and fly home or will there be callbacks right away?” so Ted really made it happen for me and got me that callback. I flew to China by myself and I met up with the tour there. We rehearsed in Chung Nu, China. I met some great friends who I still have to this day! They had all graduated from NYU, or OCU, so they were talking about their “books” and I was like, “What book!?” That was my Musical Theatre education! They would tell me what songs to sing, I was their pet project! They were like, “You should sing this song, you should play this role, you’re going to do this…” I came to New York right after the tour, with money saved and immediately booked the Non-Union tour of Annie playing Grace Farrell. That was a bit of a wake up call. There is no union jurisdiction overseas so I was understudying a gal in her later twenties who had her Equity card, so actors were a bit more professional. When I went out on this tour it was all actors who were in their early twenties, fresh out of school, and not very professional. I am in no way talking down on all people who are Non-Equity by any means but it was just my experience and there was a lack of seriousness. I just have this insatiable drive, I always have and I have chilled out a lot since then but I didn’t understand why everyone wasn’t trying to make it the best every single show and I was like, “Where am I!?” When I got back to the city, I set that intention for myself to wait tables and made money and audition. I jumped into the Terry Scriber studio and did an acting intensive. I realized I have the singing training, I don’t have the acting training and that’s what I was most excited about. I spent most of my early twenties in New York taking tons of acting classes and honing that skill. I do think they choose the better actor of the singer…now I feel the actors would think the opposite but….

AF: I know! It’s the either or… what a cool journey! So then when did you conceive the idea for your podcast? What sparked something in you that was like, “these things need to be said, these things need to be heard…”? What happened in your trajectory that inspired that?

AL: That’s such a good question. There are two moments that I can remember to this day- it was quite a while ago. I was standing in line at a Non-Union audition and I was actually talking with some friends who I’d done a show with a couples years before and they were so miserable. I watched them put all their eggs in one basket because they saw some tour was happening and they wanted it so badly and they were obsessed. They would reach out to this person because they had some small connection from school and it didn’t go their way and it was as if the world was shattered. They were talking about it at this audition. I just had this knowing of, I don’t think it has to be this hard. I mean I know this career is filled with ups and downs but if we don’t find a way to manage our minds and souls then we are going to just stay miserable. That was the first moment. The second moment was at a conference in the middle of Manhattan with all these incredible thought leaders and spiritual teachers, Jeanine Roth and Debbie Ford and Byron Katie and it was hundreds of dollars but I was always so into that so I reached out and asked about scholarships and they said I could work in the bookshop for four hours over the weekend and then I could attend as many events as I wanted for free. So I did that and again I was just sitting there in all these incredible talks and I had that moment of wanting to create a space for artists to go. We don’t have a space for artists to go and connect in this way. I told a friend about this idea and he happened to be working at the Stella Adler Studio and he said, “I think this would really be in line with the director of Stella Adler, I’m going to talk to him about this idea.” I had the idea of it being called A Balancing Act or Egoless Actor always came up… but I felt people wouldn’t go with me on Egoless Actor because ‘of course we’re all going to have egos’ but the idea of striving towards it…

AF: Totally.

AL: So he came back to me and said they wanted to offer me a space on Sunday nights for two hours, for free if you want to come do this, and if it can be open to their students too. I agreed! So we met in New York for two years off and on, I would maybe take a week off for a show or for the holidays, but it was Sunday nights and it was free and I would lead guided meditations and bring in a new topic every week and it would just be a safe space. We always did a check in and people could share where they were or what people needed support on and then we’d have a topic. Maybe we’d do a goal setting, or a letting go, or a self-love exercise and just support each other. That’s how it all started!

AF: There’s so much behind the scenes. It’s so interesting. Because I see the finished product of the podcast and I’m like, “It’s been two years right?” But no…it’s been growing for so long!

AL: I think its what’s kept me going too. I’ve been on this search since I’ve been in New York. It’s my balancing act! I was really, really big on manifesting goals. I think there are seasons in life for that. I was in a very big season and everything I was writing down was happening. Obviously one of them I was writing down all the time was Broadway and then I booked my first Broadway show when I was twenty-five…and was so excited and then it got cancelled the day before rehearsals were supposed to start.

AF: You talk about this on your podcast.

AL: Yes, it’s what Sierra (Boggess) and I talk about on our episode because she was supposed to star in it and I was her going to understudy her….

AF: This was Rebecca?

AL: Yes. That really hit me hard. I needed to take a break. I took a break from ABA. I felt like I had nothing to give, I just needed to take care of myself and go within and that’s what I did. I always knew that ABA would come back in some way. I really, really want to go to colleges more because I wish I would have had these tools!

AF: Me too!

AL: I’m really passionate about that. But when I started doing The King and I, I replaced Betsy Morgan and she is a quilter, and when you’re a Standby you just hang out in the dressing room, especially once you know the role, and she said “you have to have a project!” And she was always making quilts in her dressing room and so I’m not a crafter but I was an avid podcast listener and I told her, “I think I’m going to start a podcast called A Balancing Act and that’s how it came back. My Season One, I know the sound is not great and I need to go back and fix it, but all those interviews take place in my little hole in the wall dressing room at Lincoln Center. Rebecca Luker came in my dressing room and we just chatted, no big deal…. And that’s how it started. From my three seasons that I’ve done now, I do generally take quite a big break in between because its very, very time consuming.

AF: OH yeah! Well you do all the editing….

AL: This last season I hired an editor…

AF: I can’t even find the will power to edit a voice over reel…what is garage band? I don’t have the patience! I can only imagine! That’s incredible. So in all of this what would you say has been a high and what has been a low?

AL: In my career the hardest thing to work through was…Rebecca. But in hindsight it was the biggest blessing. I like to say it’s one of my favorite failures because it’s through that that caused me to look deeply into the fact that it’s not these external things that bring us joy… true joy. That’s what we’re really seeking. Of course we have desires and pleasurable experiences but I think it’s so important to know those are temporary…anything external is temporary. I’m not saying don’t go after anything because it’s not going to bring you happiness because I think that’s a misconception of this work… have desires that’s how we move forward and evolve as a species, but how can we learn to just enjoy the journey and process? Doing the Non-Union tour and waiting tables in midtown….it’s all a gift. I’ve seen people get to Broadway, or get married, and have a kid… and it was that shiny penny and it’s awesome but its hard, that’s life. I just look at people who haven’t gotten the thing they want which is most of the time in our career, Broadway, and I see the angst. That’s the message that I want to share more than anything that that freedom to release the grippy-ness and that angst and that struggling artist thing. In some ways the low also brought the high.

AF: I know what you mean about the angst. There has to be a certain shift in our minds where we can let it go and just separate from the idea of “booking.” That’s when magic starts to happen. The desperation is gone. This is FUN. We’re artists, that’s why we are doing this. People forget that we started doing all of this to be creative, it’s a performance opportunity. It’s really frustrating on contracts when there are those people whining about that job. We are so lucky to be doing this regardless of the theatre, or caliber… how lucky are we!? Now to close…I always ask, what are your words to live by? You are the quoting queen, so I’m sure there are many!

AL: It’s that false understanding that something out there is going to make you feel whole and complete and like you did it and got there. I think what you said is true… there is a shift in our minds and we can disassociate from it all but it’s just as important to recognize we are human and we are going to feel that way sometimes. It doesn’t mean that I’ve not learned that lesson, I’m going to have that grippy-ness and I’m going to want that show so badly… it’s that balancing act- SORRY- between leaning into this “I want this” and “I don’t need it.” If we can find that difference between wanting and needing… of course I want everyone to like me, I want the whole cast to be like, “Oh Analisa I’m so glad she’s here!” and that helps me strive to be a better person but I don’t need anybody’s approval. I can find that within. I am worthy because I’m here and then I want to show up in the world in that way. Whenever we feel grip it’s that release, “I think I need this…but I don’t.”

AF: I feel like I just had a therapy session! Haha!

AL: I always feel like that when I talk with my friends! That’s just how I roll.

AF: That is so great. Well it’s so nice to meet you via Skype!

AL: Yes you too! Thank you for listening and being a supporter of the podcast. I think what you’re doing is so fun! I think it’s so great to have other things that you enjoy doing and that fill you up.

AF: Yes! Something that sparks joy that’s not necessarily performing…!

AL: Totally.

AF: Well with that- cheers and have a great day!

AL: Take care!

Ginna Claire Mason: Be a Good Human

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Ginna Claire and I met for a cappuccino and cold brew at Ground Central, located in the heart of midtown, adjacent to the Gershwin. It was cozy and intimate yet buzzing with fellow artists and collaborators . Broadway’s current Glinda (Wicked) with bouncy blonde hair and twinkling warm heart may just be my new favorite person. With her instant welcoming presence and Nashville, a summer at Post Playhouse and both being married in common, I felt like we’d known each other for years. GC (a fellow double namer) and I talked about how she grew up on the classics, tour life + how to stay grounded + find the familiar, how she told her parents at fourteen she would play Glinda one day, and the luxury she feels it is to be performing on Broadway and getting to go home to her husband each night.

Drink of Choice: Cappuccino

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AF: We have Ginna Claire on the blog! We are sitting very close. She’s gotta save the voice because she’s got a show tonight!

GC: Yes – cheers!

AF: Cheers, cheers, cheers. I’m glad that you’re a cheers person too.

GC: Any reason to celebrate…

AF: Always. So Ginna Claire…what is your coffee drink of choice?

GC: Cappuccino. I tried to drink black coffee for a long time and I didn’t really like it unless I added a bunch of milk and sugar and then I moved to a cappuccino because I was trying to eliminate sugar. I did Whole30…you know. What’s nice about the cappuccino is that you still get the espresso but the milk takes away the harshness of it. I will say though, I’ve graduated and I do drink black coffee now. It just took some getting used to!

AF: Amazing. So tell us your backstory…

GC: Well, I’m from just south of Nashville in Brentwood. I was raised on the musical theatre classics. The movies we watched in the Mason household were CatsAnnieGuys & Dolls, and Singin’ in the Rain and the first soundtracks I owned after Amy Grant were AnnieMy Fair Lady, and Annie Get Your Gun. Some of my earliest memories of loving musical theatre were before Google and I remember getting white copy paper and writing out the lyrics to “Can’t Get a Man with a Gun” because I must have thought that would serve me well. “I’m quick on the trigger with targets not much bigger than the pin point, I’m number one.” I did my first school show in first grade, auditioned for my first community theatre show in third grade and then got involved with Star Bright Children’s Theatre. My first community theatre show was Grease… you know, that show with lots of moral values. It was ages eight to eighteen so I was definitely in the ensemble. In fourth grade I saw my first Broadway show, which was Les Miserables, and I realized people do this for a living. In fifth grade I started doing more acting and drama camps, voice lessons, and dance classes. In seventh grade I saw Wicked when it first opened. I told my parents I was going to be Glinda on Broadway during intermission.

AF: You manifested that!!!!

GC: I sat in the fourth row and never really looked back after that… And then you start doing the college hunt. Freshman year of high school I was determined to go to NYU because I wanted to be in New York. For Christmas that year I only asked for NYU apparel… I didn’t even end up auditioning there, which is hilarious, but Elon was my first college audition and I fell head over heels in love with the campus and the faculty and their student life and I realized New York wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted that complete college experience, and I loved that Elon was a liberal arts university. I think that well-rounded people make well-rounded performers so…

AF: Yes, cheers to that!

GC: Cheers! So I went to Elon for four years under the leadership and guidance of my dream woman, Cathy McNeela, who was the head of the program and my voice teacher. I worked professionally every summer. I can’t believe Annabelle and I missed each other by one summer at Post Playhouse!

AF: That would have been the summer of dreams!

GC: I also worked at Flat Rock Playhouse and I guess that summer of my freshman year was my summer in Ohio at the University of Findlay and that was the summer I met my husband! That’s not necessarily a professional thing to point out but it was definitely an important life thing.

AF: That’s a milestone!

GC: He is my friend from college’s big brother.

AF: Had she ever talked about him?

GC: I didn’t know he existed! So to all the ladies out there…meet your dream sister in law first and then meet her brother!

AF: That is so awesome!

GC: Yes! So I got an agent through Elon. We bring managers and agents and casting directors to the school individually, so you get like ten chances! I came to New York with an agent and my first audition was actually for Wicked. It was to understudy Glinda on tour. I didn’t get it but this other girl got it and left her principal track in another show to be the understudy track of Glinda in the tour of Wicked so then the next thing I auditioned for was to replace her. That’s how I got the national tour of Flashdance the Musical.

AF: That’s so fun!

GC: Yes that was great, I did that for nine months, got my card… I was EMC before that from Flat Rock. I toured the country for nine months and near the end of that tour I started auditioning for Newsies.

AF: You’ve done so much touring! Welcome to New York.

GC: Soooo much touring… just interview my husband about that! While we were in rehearsals for Newsies the director Jeff Calhoun asked me to be part of another reading he was doing which was Duck Commander Musical.

AF: Is that still in development?

GC: Well I did the reading, and then a few months into Newsies they asked me to audition for the show because they were going to put it up in Vegas. So I sent in a self-tape like you do from your various hotel rooms and I got the part! I left Newsies to go do Duck Commander Musical. We rehearsed in New York and ran at the Rio hotel in Vegas. I kind of fell in love with Vegas!

AF: Really? I’ve never been!

GC: Oh my gosh! We have to go!

AF: Okay!

GC: Cheers! After Duck Commander Musical I had kind of been working consistently since school and then all of a sudden there was this lull…. Which was crazy-making. I think I auditioned for twenty shows during a five-month period. I got a few callbacks but nothing I was seriously interested in.

AF: It’s heartbreaking…

GC: Yes but then I got Wicked…!

AF: That is amazing. That goes to show how life works.

GC: What I forgot to tell you though is that while I was on Flashdance I sent in a video for Wicked and didn’t get a callback or anything. So this was my third time auditioning for it and then I didn’t get it, and then the girl they wanted couldn’t do it anymore, and I was in Nashville at the time visiting family. I was on the way to a dentist appointment and get a call from my agent and they’re like, “We need you on a Skype call in an hour with the music director.” So I cancel my appointment, go home, put a dress on, and am in my parents’ office singing “No One Mourns the Wicked” a cappella via Skype. I flew back from Nashville to audition for them one more time. Just a note for you and for anyone else who auditions for Wicked know the music backwards and forwards, because they had me sight-read something that wasn’t even in the audition packet… and they filmed me in the audition room doing something cold to send to the director. It was “Thank Goodness,” which is so fun to sing along to, but the counts are actually so difficult and specific. So just learn it now. But I got it! So I was the standby on Broadway for sixteen months. I went on twenty-six times so for five hundred shows. I mostly hung out backstage, working on my tax audits, making lots of new friends, drinking lots of coffee, and then I re-auditioned to go on tour as the role. That was my first time singing “Popular” for Stephen Schwartz. I got the tour, left a few weeks later and toured for twenty months as the role, which was fabulous. I was sad to go, which means it was a very good experience. My husband came to visit every week, which was amazing. And then they offered me the role on Broadway.

AF: So you didn’t have to re-audition… thank goodness!

GC: When I was on the road the whole creative team came out multiple times.

AF: They were like, “I guess she can do this…”

GC: From the time that I got the role I heard that they knew for ten months before they told me!

AF: Gotta keep you on your toes!

GC: I was just waiting and wondering if I’d ever get to do the role again… so it’s so amazing to have such a full circle moment. It’s just kind of terrifying until you sign the dotted line. All the way up until I was coming down in the bubble I couldn’t believe it.

AF: I feel like you really paid your Glinda dues!

GC: Doing the role on the road helped me learn how to take care of my body, voice, and figure out what I needed to do to sustain eight shows WHILE traveling! That was the hardest part. So now being back here, aside from the New Jersey transit, it feels like a total luxury because I have the joy of doing this dream job but at night I get to go home to my bed, my pillows, my husband, my fridge with my groceries, my gym, all the things that you are searching for in terms of familiarity on the road… now I have my home church, gym, and all the things that make up my home. We’re entering our third week now at Wicked and it’s sweet too because Jessica Vosk is the current Elphaba and we played opposite each other on tour for six months so it feels good coming back and doing it with her.

AF: So I always ask what is a high and what is a low thus far?

GC: It’s funny because people always say fall in love with auditioning; it’s your job! But I haven’t gotten there… and I don’t love auditioning. I am aware that it is very much a necessity of the career path but it’s something I don’t look forward to. It’s something you can get out of practice with. I think it’s most important to get into the room and be a full person. It’s really easy to be robotic and be what you think they want you to be when in reality they just want you to be a human. I love that the musical theatre world is so small so be kind to everyone. That would be my word of advice. Not for the sake of enhancing your career but for the sake of being a good person.

AF: It’s as simple as that.

GC: I loved being on the Newsies tour and so many of those people are my family. I made amazing relationships but at that point in my life I had basically been touring for over a year and I was still a newlywed and I remember on Newsies feeling really sad because I missed my husband and doing long distance at that point for four years was wearing me thin. That was definitely a low. My goal on the Wicked tour was to never stay in a hotel so I managed to stay in Airbnbs and with friends… I just needed a kitchen! A kitchen feels like home to me. Those relationships and friends were really special. A high was when I had my first planned Glinda performance I had about one hundred fifty people who came and they were all wearing pink boas. And then a couple weeks ago when I debuted as the role, having friends and family, and all my nearest and dearest and a post show toast at Azalea was amazing.

AF: I need to come see you!

GC: I did the role on tour with Mary Kate Morrisey for over a year and she is a sister, she is family, she is a forever person to me. There is something so bonding about these roles. This show specifically has the great music and the costumes and the big beautiful sets but I love that it’s this beautiful story of redemption and friendship. It’s a story I feel really proud to share.

AF: So what does the future hold?

GC: Probably a date with you at Vanguard with a large bottle of rosé! That’s definitely in the future.

F: Cheers to THAT.

GC: My husband and I put an offer down on a house so we’re waiting to hear back about that. It’s a new dream to put down roots in a community we really love and it’s exciting to think about our life there! My husband just changed careers last year so I’m excited for him. Other than that… good friends, good food, good wine… hopefully!

AF: Well thank you for meeting with me and sharing your heart.

Bradley McCaw: It’s Meant to be Challenging

braldeyI’ve followed Bradley’s composition journey from across the world and we decided it was time I picked his performer and composer brain! I stumbled upon his music for an original adaptation of A Little Princess about a year ago and fell hard! It was only fitting that he sent me these answers from spotty wifi service whilst on a cruise contract!


 

AF: I always have to ask… how do you drink your coffee?

BM: Normally I’m a long black with hot milk on the side guy but if I am feeling a little blue or REALLY want to enjoy my coffee I go with my first love… Cappuccino. I try not to drink too much milk but some days you just need it.

AF:  Delicious! So tell us, what is your backstory? How did you get into performing, composing, etc?

BM: Early on, I fell in love with 90’s, R&B, and American Hip Hop music. I didn’t hear much music growing up so at about thirteen I started writing songs that sounded like Boyz2Men and Babyface. They were… interesting. At twelve years old I told my mother I wanted to sing and she supported me from day one. As a single parent, my mother was tremendously supportive given we really didn’t have the means for me to attempt such a career… but here I am! She signed me up for piano lessons which only lasted a few months. I wanted to be creative and I wanted to try different things and not spend time studying the music of the past. It took me ten years to understand why scales are important! Now looking back at my early days I realize I was always exploring and imagining and creating. I discovered musical theatre in my teens and fell IN LOVE! I would sing Falsettos and Rent on the bus to school, singing along as Roger of course. In 2006 I got the chance to perform the role with the Queensland Premiere Cast, which is basically the first company in one of our states to perform the show. In 2010, someone heard my music from playing in rock groups… and they asked me to write a musical score! I had never considered it before but I gave it a shot and the show sold out, got a standing ovation and suddenly I had a new dream; writing musicals. Nine years later that story of being asked to write a musical is the plot of my show Becoming Bill which will have its world premiere production in Australia this August!

AF: That’s so exciting! Congratulations! Which of your pieces is your favorite and why?

BM: Typically it’s the piece I’ve just finished. The time we spend refining something, the purest example of realization of an idea – is something I find so exciting. I feel proud when I listen back. Sometimes I am excited by the lyric or the melody or just the accomplishment of not giving up! So that pride gives me a sense of satisfaction and I listen to the demo of that piece several times. Currently it is “Next Time” from Any Moment. That was a tough song to write. The melody was so delicate and pure, I couldn’t make the imagery or story work. I had to find a happy balance, which I eventually found and am really proud of until we do the next development and I’ll want to change it! My favorite score would be The Oasis. I feel it’s some of my most inspired compositions I’ve done to date.

AF: Who would you compare your style to? What composers do you look up to?

BM: In a nutshell I’d say the feeling of Jonathon Larson with a splice of theatrical rock and gospel from Jason Robert Brown, held together by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I am also greatly inspired by Adam Guettel, Marsha Norman and the entirety of She Loves Me!

AF: What are you working on right now?

BM: I’m close to launching Season One of a podcast about writing musicals called MAKING MUSICALS with Bradley McCaw. I had ten days in NYC and tried to uncover the mystery of what it takes to create a great musical. The idea is to document my journey to understand the form from talking to writers, producers, buskers on the street, to try to tangibly outline some things we can do around the world to make great musicals. It’s a terribly large and ambitious project and I’m so excited to share it. You can actually find an introduction online now – follow us wherever you get your podcasts!

AF: Is there a concert or reading coming to NYC any time soon?

BM: We’re talking about a possible concert for Little Princess currently, but nothing I can confirm or deny right now.  I’d love to start collaborating with U.S. based artists on a project that starts in NYC so if anyone reading is interested – or has an idea they feel I’d be right for – say hi! 🙂

AF: Where can people stay up to date with your current and upcoming works?

BM: My socials is @bradleyjmccaw

My website is bradleymccaw.com

AF: What are your words of wisdom?

BM: Something I’ve been reminding myself of lately is, it’s meant to be challenging. Don’t be put off by the journey and the resilience it takes to realize these projects. Enjoy the road to making the art.

AF: CHEERS!

BM: CHEERS!!

 

 

Maggie Bera: Take What Life Gives You and Go With it

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I met Maggie about a year ago when we kept bumping into each other on the audition grind. She was at almost every call I was at and we became fast friends and a support system in the typically manic holding rooms. On top of being a fierce performer, she has started an incredible blog and Podcast called Actor Aesthetic to inform aspiring actors and students about auditions and life as an actor in the city. I chose the adorable Optimistic Café in midtown to chat because Maggie is the ultimate optimist!
Drink of choice: Cold brew/iced coffee
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AF: So I see your drink of choice is an iced coffee even in the middle of winter!
MB: It has to be below 0 degrees for me to drink a hot coffee.

AF: We’re also still bundled. We are hardly out of our scarves and hats…So tell us about your life. Where are you from, when did you move to the city…give us a little taste of your background story.

MB: Jumping in! I’m actually from New Jersey.

AF: And you still live there, yeah?

MB: Still live in Jersey. I live in Central Jersey, which is like forty-five minutes from Penn Station by train. I drive in most days with my dad who works in the city. I save so much money that way! I either sleep in the car or have political debates with him at six o-clock in the morning! Sometimes he turns on the Broadway channel, because he’s obsessed with musical theatre now, naturally. His favorite show is Waitress. I grew up in New Jersey doing shows, community theatre, and my grandpa would take me and my younger sister in and out of the city for auditions. We had agents growing up, and I had no idea how cool it was at the time! I was just like, “Another audition!”

AF: That’s so great. So you’ve been doing this since you were very little…

MB: She and I both! She started when she was nine, I started when I was twelve. I eventually went to Texas State for my BFA in Musical Theatre. Once I came back to the city after finishing school, I hit the ground running again. I commute in from New Jersey every day!

AF: That is very admirable because I can hardly get myself out of bed and I LIVE in Manhattan! So what was the thing that sparked your interest in musical theatre? You’ve done it since you were little but what was an experience that you had that you were like, “I need to do this.”

MB: Well, what got me into performing in general…I was nine. My grandpa brought an ad from the newspaper to my parents…no joke. Also-pause–our queen is singing right now…

AF: (referencing the music playing in café) Is this “thank u, next”?!

MB: It is. Ariana Grande!

AF: This is your go-to song!

MB: It’s like they knew! Anyways, he shows this audition ad to us and oddly enough it’s to sing the National Anthem for a baseball team in New Jersey.
 
AF: That’s huge!

MB: Yes! So I go… it was in a mall. There were a hundred people auditioning and they chose ten people and I booked! For the next two years my parents would drive me around to auditions for different minor league baseball teams and eventually it led to singing for the Mets, the Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers at en years old. They dressed me up and I had sparkles in my hair and an American flag on my shirt… that’s what got me started! I think during that time I just loved getting in front of people. My parents eventually took me to an audition for Annie.

AF: Of COURSE.

MB: It’s always Annie!

AF: It’s how I discovered how I love to perform too!

MB: It always is! And that was that!

AF: The rest is history! So okay you went to Texas… how was that audition process?

MB: Crazy. It’s wild.

AF: Will you compare that audition process versus just pounding the pavement in the city?

MB: I’m stressed just thinking about it!

AF: How many schools did you apply to?

MB: I applied to 10-12 schools. Now it’s crazy because every single school is asking for a prescreen video…

AF: What? I don’t even know the process anymore…

MB: I auditioned in 2013 and I think that was one of the first years they started asking for videos in order to secure a slot to audition.

AF: Wait, you graduated a year ago…

MB: Yes!

AF: Oh my gosh, you’re so young! We still out here! I guess the college audition process has changed so much, and so has the casting scene in the city even since I’ve been here!

MB: Yes, it’s so competitive. And I recently watched my sister go through the process. She currently goes to Montclair [State]. My audition for Texas was by far my favorite one. They asked me to sing a pop song! They were like, “What’s your favorite kind of music to sing? Do you know any Beyoncé?” And I ended up singing “Take a Bow” but Rihannaand jammed out.

AF: I love how intentional they were in getting to know who you are. You ultimately always end up where you’re supposed to be! Okay, so I want to talk about your amazing brand that you’ve created for yourself… and I also have to say it was very on brand of me this morning to listen to a podcast that was talking about your brand and how if you want to do something, you need to decide and commit to just doing it. I feel like that’s how your blog Actor Aesthetic is and how it’s growing! You’ve reached so many people and informed so many students and I want to hear how it got started and everything…go for it!

MB: So it started my second semester Senior year at Texas State. I came into school with a lot of credits, so I was basically finished with my degree. But in order to keep my scholarship, I needed to be considered a full time student so I took some extra classes. I had always loved writing. I thought if I didn’t go to school for musical theatre I would go for journalism or political science. So when I was looking around for classes I found some online classes that I could take while at school. One was Digital and Online Media and one was History of Mass Media.

AF: Oh wow, so you took classes to better inform you about blogging while you were at school.

MB: I was never considering making a blog, really. I figured if I wanted to pursue something else in the city that’s wasn’t performing, maybe I could apply for some writing jobs. That was the goal at first. But my online media class required us to make a blog…for a grade!

AF: How serendipitous is that!

MB: I know, it’s crazy how it all happened. It was perfect. I had no clue how to do all of this. I just had my actor website and that was all I needed… so we went through the process of making a site, basic search engine optimization, keyword research. Basically, in order to get your site searchable and to the top there are certain ways that you can manipulate your articles. Putting keywords and making it super specific. It’s about making sure that the headline is super specific. We learned about branding and generally what we wanted our blog to be.

AF: That is invaluable information!

MB: I had wondered what I would make the blog about. It was around the time Trump had just been elected, and it was very heated. I was in Texas, so even though the area was pretty liberal…it was a very conservative state. That said, there were a lot of debates about gun control and just basic human rights arguments, and so I thought about doing a political blog! But then I realized that I could probably get myself into a lot of trouble…

AF: Yes. Anything can be misconstrued… 

MB: I started off writing for The Odyssey Online which is a site for people to write for who are in college. That’s where I started writing. I was writing sort of political-based things…

AF: I sense a trend… you love politics!

MB: I do love politics! But I realized I would get myself in some hot water if I wrote about that, so I chose to write about what I love to do… and so I created Actor Aesthetic. The name stuck! 

AF: I LOVE the alliteration. 

MB: Someone asked me how the name came about…and I literally said I like the words “actor” and “aesthetic”…(laughs) 

AF: It easily rolls off the tongue! So you start writing this blog…and then it sort of evolves into this huge thing where you’re coaching via Instagram and podcast. So when did it turn from fun to, “Oh wow, I have a lot of responsibility and I have a lot of followers!”? 

MB: I think a year into having it. Once I joined Equity, I started gaining a lot more information about how the business works and specifically how the union worked. I was coming across information that I wanted to tell others about, because it was stuff I wish I knew two years ago.

AF: So what kind of stuff are we missing in our education…? 

MB: A lot of the stuff you can look up online and on the Equity website has become way more user-friendly, but I would hear from word of mouth the difference between an EPA and an ECC. I didn’t know which I would get seen at faster.

AF: Yes! I had no clue about the lines…

MB: Yes, it stressed me out!

AF: Yes, and you don’t want to feel stupid or ask questions and look stupid. That’s why your blog is so brilliant, because people don’t have to ask those questions. You’re thoroughly informing them before they even hit the audition circuit. You’ve laid it out so well.

MB: I didn’t see anywhere else online where I could safely ask these questions. There was a lot of stuff I wish I knew. So I started growing my following on Instagram because I started doing Instagram live videos. That’s what really grew it! It put a face to the brand and the blog. I wasn’t reading somebody’s anonymous post. I was directly talking to someone who’s currently going through this. It became a community. I was having people ask me questions and then following up with more.

AF: That’s so cool. 

MB: So then randomly somebody asked me to do a podcast, and I thought, “Well, how do I do that!?” I’m still learning. 

AF: It’s so much! It’s so amazing. You really just listened to what the people want. And I feel like it fills you up! It’s a side hustle.

MB: I read the other day that this is very therapeutic for you. I one hundred percent agree. Yes, I am very passionate about it, but it just makes me feel so good afterwards.

AF: After every interview I transcribe, I feel so full. Rereading the tidbits of wisdom is so refreshing. So how did you start a podcast?

MB: I did a lot of research going in. I follow some comedians’ podcasts, but that was the extent of what I knew! I’m definitely not a comedian…

AF: Yes you are!

MB: (laughs) You can be whatever you want to be! Basically I went through a site. You have a hosting site. I have a nice microphone that serves me well. I hook it up to my computer and I record through GarageBand and then I just upload those episodes and I can go back in and tweak, add music…Once you’re done, then you share it as an iTunes MP3. I pay a minimal fee now that I’ve used all my free trials. Your first couple episodes have to be approved by iTunes!

AF: Who got that job!?

MB: I don’t know! But they basically just listen to make sure you’re not cursing, and it’s all appropriate. 

AF: I am so inspired. You are doing it! I wanted to pick your brain…so when it comes to auditions…I see you at every audition. What is something that keeps you grounded and focused in an audition room setting?

MB: As a person who’s still relatively new, I had to get my butt to everything because one audition can lead to another. You’re getting called in for one thing, you’re called in for something else. So as I was going to all these EPAs and ECCs, I always reminded myself that though I might not be right for this, it could lead to something else. 

AF: It’s an audition for something in the future!

MB: It’s important to get in front of those casting directors! I always had to remind myself of this. So at auditions I love meditation. When a room is jam-packed with people I need it. I listen to calming stuff, or listen to comedians. 

AF: If you’re out of practice, it’s impossible to shut down the voice of insecurity.

MB: There was nothing going on before Christmas break and when I would go in the room I was like, “What am I doing?”

AF: Yes. When there is less going on, we subconsciously put more pressure on said audition. 

MB: Auditioning is like a muscle. 

AF: What has been a high and what has been a low?

MB: I could say a low…there have been a lot of really really close calls and then it’s hard to remember why you got close. After a week or two has passed and I get over the instant sadness about it, I realize it was actually a high! A definite high for me was when I booked my first show at the Fireside Theatre and was offered my Equity card with Phantom. That was always a goal for me to join the union once I finished school. It was a huge accomplishment and happened at just the right time. I got to understudy Christine! That process taught me a lot about work ethic and what does and doesn’t work for me.


AF: So what is a quote you live by?

MB: I worked behind the table briefly with Michael Cassara. I did this for a couple of years, and this is what I learned from that experience: the squeaky wheel always gets the grease. You’ve got to take what life gives you and go with it!

AF: Oh! I want to make a t-shirt of that! Actor Aesthetic merch?

MB: Yes! The story goes that I got so close to getting a job one summer…and didn’t get it. This was my junior year going into senior year and I was devastated. I didn’t have anything to do over the summer, so I messaged the head of my program at Texas State and told her I would love to shadow a casting director or agent. And it just so happened Michael was needing somebody to help him out for the open call for NYMF. I got to help him with that and then eventually he had me intern with him. It was mindblowing! If you ever get the opportunity to sit behind the table, do it!

AF: Tell us everything you learned and apply now…

MB: First of all, casting directors have a very difficult job. They are working nonstop, they need to know everything about the seasons they are casting for,  they have to be insanely organized… The biggest thing I learned from that experience is that theatre is so subjective. I watched actors come in and floor me with their talent only to find out after they left the room they just didn’t fit what the creative team was looking for. However, the actors who were more prepared were always the actors who did better in the room. It makes it easier for the creatives behind the table to imagine them in a role. In order to be the best performer in the room you better know the material like the back of your hand. You need to be able to take the adjustments from the director with ease. Preparation is the key to success. 

AF: That’s amazing. Everyone, go follow Maggie on Actor Aesthetic on Instagram and her podcast on Apple Music. She is a daily source of inspiration for me and it’ll be a great thing for you to listen to on your daily commute, wherever you are! Cheers. 

MB: CHEERS!

Meghan Glogower: We don’t need to be SO hungry. We can be fed other places.

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I met Meghan in college in 2010. When I moved to the city she became an even closer friend and source of support in this crazy business! She and her husband Scott, have poured a lot of love into Douglas’ upcoming folk musical Johnny and the Devil’s Box, so we’ve spent lots of time together lately. We even got to spend a whole week together in May when we workshopped the piece in Nashville. Most recently she was a part of the Johnny and the Devil’s Box in Concert at Rockwood music Hall! In addition to all the work she’s done on Johnny she keeps herself busy working as the Company Manager at ALMA NYC and FIT, being cat mama to Hudson and Ellis, taking class, and prepping for what’s next! We decided to meet up at her neighborhood coffee shop Manhattanville Coffee. It’s literally ON her block. The place was buzzing with creative juices, smells of delicious brews, and filled with warm, happy, caffeinated faces. It is officially my new favorite cafe and Meghan’s interview might be the most inspiring one we’ve had yet!

Drink of choice: Cappucino
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AF: We have Meghan Glogower on the blog today! I’m drinking an oat Milk Flat White and she’s drinking…

MG: An almond milk latte!

AF: Is that your drink of choice?

MG: Cappuccino is usually my drink of choice. But I’ve been convicted lately to drink less dairy. It’s just better for the environment!

AF: And we are in your neck of the woods at the most gorgeous coffee shop called Manhattanville Coffee. How often do you think you go here?

MG: Oh, far too often. At lease twice a week…especially since it’s on my way to the train!

AF: Wait… you guys gifted us that Espresso machine for our wedding. You’ve changed our lives! How can you not be friends with fellow coffee lovers? We like our coffee strongggggg.

MG: We also have that espresso machine. If I don’t feel like doing the French press I’ll just whip it up.

AF: I feel like I may be in the market for something quick… sometimes you just gotta put it in there! So- where do we even begin? What is your backstory? I feel like I know a lot about you but I want to know when you came to the city, what it’s looked like so far… give us the scoop!

MG: I grew up in central Florida in a town between Orlando and Tampa… about thirty minutes from Disney. I grew up dancing mostly in the dance studio world. I did dance competitions. I went to a performing arts high school. I majored in dance for the first three years but I always loved musical theatre. I always knew that’s kind of where I wanted to go with dance. I wanted to strengthen my technique because the arts school that I went to was very ballet-focused. I tried to be a “trina” for a second even though I’m definitely not! The more I did theatre, I did the all school musicals. I did community theatre… I realized I really wanted to focus on the musical theatre aspect of training. I had never really taken a voice lesson… I sang obviously in church and things..

AF: Wait, when was your first voice lesson?

MG: My first real lesson started my senior year of high school.

AF: What!

MG: I would take one here and there if I had an audition for a community theatre audition… but I didn’t know real technique.

AF: Who needs it!?

MG: So yeah I switched over… they were pretty gracious to let me do that. It was kind of a big to-do. People didn’t do that… But I realized that’s what I wanted to do and I recognized that I needed to work on monologues and acting and all the above… and musical theatre style. Then I went to Belmont University in Nashville, TN and there I really focused on singing and realized that’s really where I needed to focus because that’s something I hadn’t really done. Then I worked a couple summers between my years in college. I met my future husband at one of those… the good ole Mac-Haydn, the summer of 2011, right before my senior year!

AF: That is insane.

MG: Yeah. Creepy! We didn’t exclusively start dating until the following April. We had both recently gotten out of serious relationships. But I would go visit him on trips to New York that year so we were definitely in denial…

AF: Always good to take it slow… but y’all are married now so it’s fine!

MG: I moved to New York the August after graduating in 2012. I just celebrated six years! It feels like not a lot of time but it also feels like it’s been forever.

AF: So what’s been a high since moving here and a low? And what has helped you balance it all out?

MG: I think a high was working consistently after moving here. I was Non-Equity, had a few EMC points because of summer stock. Honestly that didn’t really make a difference for me because I wasn’t really going to EPAs. I was going to mostly dance ECCs or open calls. They hold those because they DO hire Non-Equity! That was nice and validating, being able to work regularly. I would go a couple months at a time between gigs. Then I did the Mamma Mia! National tour. It was a full year and I was a Swing! I learned seven tracks… and went on for all of them many, many times. We went international!

AF: That must have been amazing experience.

MG: Yeah, it was really cool… going to a different country for a month! People loved it, and we had supertitles so people could read it in Spanish. The show is fun! I never want to see it again.


AF: And every theatre is doing it…
 

MG: I’m not dying to do Mamma Mia! right now… but I met some incredible people on the tour. One of my best friends from tour was actually one of my bridesmaids! We instantly clicked. It was an unforgettable experience. Learning how to Swing a show was invaluable.AF: What are some tips you would give to somebody about to embark on a similar experience?

 

MG: Mamma Mia! was not the most difficult show to swing… it’s not like swinging Cats or Hamilton or something like that, so I would say think of it as looking at the show from a bird’s eye. It’s knowing every part of it and knowing where you fit into it… That was the best way for me to think about it. I had to look at it as a big picture so I knew where the missing piece was and that’s where I fit into it.AF: I feel like it takes a very special brain.

 

MG: It might! I don’t know if I could swing every show… but this was a great introduction for it because most of the choreography was the same for most of it.AF: I feel like having swing experience opens up doors for other tracks! And then after Mamma Mia! you did some other regional work…

 

MG: I worked at Fireside and then I did the Elf tour right after that… it was really great, I was traveling a lot, I like working a lot…AF: And who doesn’t love working!?

 

MG: I enjoy creating and I enjoy doing the hard work. I enjoy meeting people. So I got my Equity card the fall of 2015. I earned all fifty points after working and doing the hustle. I was working at Theatre by the Sea that summer which is the first theatre I ever worked at! I started as an intern there in 2010 and then got to back!AF: Full circle!

MG: I earned my fiftieth point with Young Frankenstein. Then that September when I got back, it was pretty difficult. I thought waiting in line for hours was difficult. That was not difficult… because people want to hire you when you’re Non-Equity. People are not as quick to hire you when you’re Equity… There are less jobs. I was still trying to get the same jobs I was working before and realized… they don’t want me anymore because I’m expensive. I chose to take my card because I wanted to be paid what I’m worth, wanted pension and a 401k and at some point qualifying for health insurance. My callbacks went from 85% of the time to maybe 15% of the time. That was such a blow to my self-esteem. What am I doing wrong? Is it my look? Is it my weight? Is it my headshot? What is it about me that they don’t want now…?

AF: It’s the hardest thing. Most of the time it has nothing to do with you.

MG: It still doesn’t change the fact that they’re not keeping you for whatever reason. So thankfully I got a job that summer and then I didn’t work after that for two years.

AF: But I will say… I noticed your life shifted in those two years.

MG: It was definitely a huge growing experience. Well one, I got married. So I was kind of out of commission for several auditions. I started learning that as I get older life takes priority. The business will always be there, life is more important. I have started prioritizing life experience over work and that has helped immensely. If something is big enough that I need to change my plans for life, I’ll consider that but most likely I’m going to choose life and exploring and adventure.

AF: That’s more rewarding!

MG: Absolutely! I’d rather spend the time to go on a trip with my husband, visit family, go to a friend’s wedding… do the things.

AF: That needs to be PREACHED! It’s so easy to get in that rut of “I need to work” and take anything…

MG: And you’ll burn out. And I did burn out! I burned out very easily because I was burning the candle at both ends. I was trying to do it all. I realized I could not do it all and I had to start prioritizing.

AF: So when did you have that realization? I feel like so many people can relate to this.

MG: It was definitely a process. After the [2016] election I got into a really bad place. I asked myself, “What am I doing? This feels so unimportant.” Musical theatre dance felt so unimportant. And when I would express this so many people would say, “Everyone needs art, everyone needs an escape.” And I knew that wasn’t the answer… it wasn’t helping. I wanted to feel like I was making a difference in this world and help people. I always say…. I’m empathetic to a fault sometimes. I feel too much. I see other people’s pain and put it on myself and I feel it’s my responsibility to change and fix. I knew that there were things I could be doing but wasn’t sure what they were for me! I went too far to that side where I was feeling wholly responsible for everything going in the world. It put me in a very, very dark place.

AF: And that was right around the time you got married…

MG: We got married less than a week after the election.

AF: I also think sometimes it’s difficult for people to recognize that there IS grieving that happens after the wedding is over.

MG: Yeah! We had a beautiful honeymoon and then we went and did the Women’s March in DC.

AF: Which is amazing.

MG: It was an incredible experience. So I really struggled with anxiety and depression. I finally got myself a therapist, which was a huge help. Through that I was able to look at the root of why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I was able to find the triggers… I was also thinking about longevity if this was not going to work out. At that point it had been a while since I’d booked anything. Nothing looked like it was on the horizon… what do I do? How do I fill my time? What is my purpose? I was getting burned out just going from audition to audition to dance class, which…everything felt so selfish. I didn’t know how to do anything that could contribute to the world with my art. I know everyone says “create your own work.” That phrase works for some people… not for everyone. I am not necessarily the creator. I am a helper and I like to support.

AF: You help put it into action!

MG: Yes! But I am not a creator type. And that’s okay. I don’t want to go choreograph something. I don’t want to do a one-woman show. And that’s okay. I think most of the time people say the solution is the just create your own work and that’s just not fair… to everyone.

AF: I really agree with that. It sort of undermines how much work it takes to go and do that.

MG: I started to look for things that I also liked to do. That took a while but I came to company managing. I like organization, helping, supporting… I applied for a position at FIT. I work for their dance company! I was introduced to that world through that. It’s a very nice, easy, low-key introduction into that! Then I was looking at Playbill and specifically looking at arts administration jobs and knew I wasn’t fully ready to transition. I looked at an internship at the Public but it was such a full time commitment and I wasn’t ready for that yet. So I stumbled across a posting for a non-profit dance company called ALMA NYC. They’re a philanthropic dance collective in the city and they seemed so on mission with what I wanted to do. They do volunteering around the city through art and they also raise money overseas.

AF: That seems like the perfect marriage of the two things you wanted to find…

MG: Yes! So I’ve been working with them for less than a year. It’s been another wonderful community of people that I love. I love our mission, I love where we’re moving forward to. I’ve loved getting to raise money for the Bethel school, the class that you took part of! I love getting to serve artists! That is our main issue… serving artists of New York who don’t have the love and support that they deserve. It’s like how can we help artists have a home and family to come to every week? How can we make sure that they are loved and nurtured and encouraged?

AF: That is the most beautiful statement, ever. I mean after taking that class with Jen Waldman through ALMA, I left feeling so inspired. And obviously a big part of that is because of Jen but also the environment that is set up because of ALMA NYC is so comfortable. It felt like therapy.

MG: We want to create a safe space for the artists. We have free class every Tuesday. Maybe you got cut from an audition, maybe you got seen and you did really well and you want to celebrate- we’ll meet you where you are!

AF: That’s such a cause that people need whether they know it or not.

MG: I know I needed that. I’ve loved getting to do that. Being able to focus on these other things has taken the weight of musical theatre off of my shoulders. I don’t put so much pressure on myself any more. I have other things that I’m doing and I also audition.

AF: That’s the key ingredient! To have something that you love that you’re passionate about that’s outside of musical theatre.

MG: I also love dancing, but the joy gets taken out of it sometimes because it’s a business.

AF: Self-promotion…

MG: I’m picky about which classes I take because I want it to feel like a class, not an audition.

AF: You’re so cool!!

MG: No I’m not!!

AF: Yes she is, she is, yes she is! Okay so not to turn the mood… but this is a very open blog. I wanted to pick your brain about that tour because I think it’s important to be candid about production teams.

MG: Oh Soul Doctor? The tour that never was? Haha

AF: It’s just so devastating when actors commit to productions and tours and set their life up for the next 7 months to a year and it all comes to a standstill. You’re excited for these new experiences, you’re going to travel, you’re building a community with these new friends in your cast… and the show abruptly closes or the tour is called off and all of that is taken away… walk us through your experience.

MG: It was really, really difficult. I booked Soul Doctor in February after not working for two years. I was sooo excited. I couldn’t wait to work again. I was excited about the opportunity of travel. We were going to go to San Diego, L.A., and Israel… I was so thrilled. I loved the choreographer I was about to work with. My husband had just worked with her on another production. She was lovely. The cast was great. But overtime the red flags just kept getting larger and redder…AF: And when did those first happen?

 

MG: Honestly the first day… we had our Equity meeting and they told us they didn’t have our contracts yet for L.A. because they told us it would be a different contract because it was going to be a larger venue and so they were trying to secure more money…. And for the Israel leg of tour they didn’t have a producer on… and all of our ears kind of perked up like, “What? If?” They brushed it off very nonchalantly… and kept saying we would get health insurance and we all thought THAT was a given since it was a full Union production… so that was disconcerting. But what are you going to do? Not believe them? We had our San Diego signed… weeks kept going, we keep asking about L.A. and they said the dates kept changing, blaming it on Equity… They kept shifting the blame on everyone but themselves. It just became clear the whole thing was not being run well. There was a lot of deception. They told us that L.A. was cancelled, and Israel was coming up… and they never officially told us we were “not” going to Israel. The blame kept getting deflected. We were never actually told we were not continuing with the production.AF: That’s unbelievable. That was last summer?

 

MG: It was pretty traumatic… and it sounds dramatic to say that but…AF: Of course it was!

 

MG: I couldn’t step foot in an audition room for a month after we got back because it truly felt like the ground had been ripped from under me. It was just so strange being back when I had been told I was going to be employed through August…. So I just slowly reintroduced myself to the New York world.AF: But! You have good news!

 

MG: So in December I’ll be going to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta for Ever After.AF: That is ah-mazing!

MG: I’m really excited because I get to work with a choreographer that I worked with back in 2012 on Nutty Professor!

AF: Congratulations. If anybody deserves an amazing production and contract to be a part of… it’s you. We never know why people go through these roller coasters of experiences…

MG: You can’t ever really know why. I learned a lot. I grew from it immensely and made great friendships. Actually one of the girls I met on Soul Doctor, her sister was doing a Fringe show and asked me to audition for it and I got to do it – Yellow Wallpaper. It was so fulfilling. It was truly the most on-mission thing I could ever do. It’s a beautiful, feminist piece of art where I felt like I was really making a statement and making people think and question and just take a look!

AF: Challenge ideals.

MG: Yes! Challenge ideals! It happened right after the Kavanaugh hearings so that was like therapy, going to rehearsals for that.

AF: So on that note… what are some words you live by? Or what is a piece of advice you’d give to a young aspiring artist?

MG: I’d say, don’t compromise your ideas and your morals for a job.

AF: YES.

MG: If you don’t want to be doing a show or a piece of work that goes against everything in your being, you don’t have to do that. Or if you’re working for someone who makes you feel less than, you don’t have to work for them.

AF: We’re so hungry.

MG: You don’t have to be so hungry. You can be fed other places. You can feed your soul doing other things.

AF: And you’ve shown us how. You’ve laid down the groundwork.

MG: Another reason I’m so excited about Ever After is because it’s an all-female team… it’s the first time I’ll ever have gotten to do that!

AF: It’s just such a good movie and story!!

MG: I grew up watching the movie! She was such an inspiring lead character because she’s a strong female lead who made the male lead meet her where she was in terms of ideals, morals. She changed his mind. She never compromised.

AF: Danielle de Barbarac! This has been so great. I’m so glad I got to pick your beautiful brain. Cheers.

MG: It was so fun! Cheers!

Mike Rosengarten: Build Real Relationships

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I met Mike in 2013 when he and Douglas (my husband) did Lost Highway together at Flatrock Playhouse. We have remained friends for the last six years and even went to each other’s weddings! Mike has been working and gigging away in the city for years and is about to head back to Broadway with the newest and coolest musical, Be More Chill. I met with him in his neck of the woods on the Upper West Side… in his car! That’s right… I grabbed him a hot chocolate and myself a flat white from the coziest Birch Coffee and sat with him, his baby daughter, and dog Oscar during alternate side parking hours. To say it was an eventful and EXTRA adorable episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Babies and Dogs” is a gross understatement.


 

AF: Okay so we have Mike Rosengarten on the blog today!

MR: Hey, that’s me!

AF: We’re in his car on the Upper West Side with his baby and his dog.

MR: That’s right it’s office hours/wait for the street cleaners time.

AF: I have a coffee and Mike doesn’t drink coffee so he has a nice hot chocolate from Birch… which is so conveniently located.

MR: It’s amazing coffee!

AF: But you don’t like coffee…

MR: It’s not that I don’t like coffee I just don’t drink coffee. The real answer is that I never wanted to get addicted to caffeine. The last time I drank a whole cup of coffee I was laying on the couch with the shakes. It’s good because when I really need it, I get the actual caffeine effect as opposed to drinking it and not feeling anything. Also when I started out as performer in NYC, I didn’t want to be spending all my money on coffee!

AF: I definitely rely on coffee…

MR: That’s at least five bucks a day…so that does add up. But I do like coffee and I also really like hot chocolate.

AF: Well it’s cold enough to actually get a hot drink. Okay so Mike… I’ve known you since 2013, which I feel like it was like yesterday…

MR: Feels like it!

AF: What’s your back-story? What propelled you into performing and music? When did you move to the city? Tell us everything!

MR: I started playing guitar and doing musicals in eighth grade…probably to meet girls, honestly. I liked them both so much. I played guitar all the way through high school and then when I was a senior we did Pippin and I played the Leading Player.

AF: You did?!

MR: I did! I convinced the director to let me play guitar during “Simple Joys” and it was like an Elvis moment. That was the first time I combined the two and I was hooked.

AF: And now that’s all the rage!

MR: I know I can’t believe it! When I first got out of college in 2008 there were a bunch of actor/musician shows like the Johnny Cash show and the Buddy Holly show… but every audition you’d see the same 20-30 people…but now everyone plays an instrument. It’s changed so much in the last few years. Probably since Once.

AF: I think Once was a game-changer.

MR: I studied Musical Theatre in college, and they took the Music major and the Theatre major and made it sort of a double major. I got to be in the plays but also be in the Jazz band and the combos.

AF: That’s amazing. That makes you a well-rounded performer. So since moving to the city in 2008, what has your journey looked like?

MR: Well- I was living in Astoria. I got here and basically didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought I was going to be going to auditions and stuff… I was looking for a job and didn’t know what I was going to do. One day while walking through the park with my friend Marissa, we ran into her friend and I asked her, “What do you do for work?” and she said, “I’m an Operations Manager at Anthropologie.” I thought she said the Museum of Cultural Anthropology and I thought “Cool I was about two credits short of an Anthropology minor in college, can you get me an interview?” And she said, “Sure, here’s the address!” And so I went, I wore a suit, I get there… and it was Anthropologie the store. I went in there and interviewed and she asked, “So why do you want to work at Anthropology?” and I said, “I just need some new dresses for auditions… I hear you get a really good employee discount…” and she thought that was funny so I got the job! I worked there for two weeks before I booked a production of The Producers in Connecticut and that was the only non-performance job I’ve had in the city. It was actually pretty cool working there. It was the Rockefeller center location so I met all the NBC people. I met Conan, Hoda… Cathy Lee, Tina Fey came in one time… and also Sarah Palin. You remember how she went on a spending spree and there was a whole big scandal around it? She spent a ton of money at my store and I just so happened to be a greeter that day! I was like, “Hello Governor Palin” and she was like “Oh look at this place!”

AF: Oh my God that’s an amazing story.

MR: So yeah that was the first job I got. I got my EMC card doing Producers. I helped build the pigeon puppets. I’ve just always tried to do as many diverse things in the theatre as possible. I’ve always kind of had a way of finding extra things to do to make myself more valuable to each production.

AF: Well you make such a mark… you’re so good at maintaining friendships.

MR: Well that’s what it’s all about. That is literally everything. I’ve gotten 90% of the work I’ve done through friends and contacts… not through auditioning.

AF: Douglas got two jobs because of you!

MR: Douglas got those jobs because of himself…

AF: Well but you helped…

MR: I recommended him because he’s awesome. It’s all about making important relationships… especially in music. Everyone’s good…everyone at this level is really good. I feel like I don’t know anyone who’s not a good musician. If I know you… it’s probably because you’re awesome. If you’re a cool hang and person on top of that…

AF: That’s the cherry on top!

MR: The difference is if you’re cool and easy to work with… just be nice. Make good stuff and be good.

AF: It’s so simple. If you’re a good person it’s contagious and people want to rehire you!

MR: Well that’s what I love so much about Joe Iconis. He is the most genuine, loyal, awesome person. Everyone in his “family” are like a real family. They are all so good and so NICE. His “Christmas Extravaganza” that we do every year is my favorite show to do. It’s so fun.

AF: I need to come!

MR: Oh my gosh you would love it! There’s literally nobody involved with Joe Iconis that I don’t like. We did Be More Chill in New Jersey… and some of my closest friends are in the show. I’ve played as a sub on Broadway shows before, but I’ve never had my own chair! And for so many of us… this is our Broadway debut!

AF: It’s so exciting!

MR: Yeah! And we all get to do it together as this family of friends and people who love each other. And we love the show!

AF: That’s the best part of it all. You’re proud of it and excited for it.

MR: With a lot of show bands it’s just like a “gig” or “we’re just doing a show” and that’s fine but this is so different, special. I feel like the band feels a lot of ownership and connection to it. Most of us have been working on this show for several years.

AF: So what led you to Be More Chill?

MR: Well I could go way, way back… but I used to play at birthday parties for a company called Applause… It was on the Upper East Side and the guy playing keys was Rob Rockiki. We hung out, we had a good time and we both knew a guy named Dennis, (who is now the bass player on Be More Chill…) So we bonded over being friends with Dennis and long-story short he recommended me to Joe for his Christmas show… in 2010 and I’ve been playing in Joe’s band ever since!

AF: He’s so loyal!

MR: It just goes to show that any gig can lead to anything. I did this random birthday party… for one hundred bucks on the Upper East Side where I met Rob and then started playing with him and Joe. I did some shows for free, some for pay… but I just wanted to make good stuff with good people. I was playing with Joe for years and Be More Chill came up. He asked me to play in New Jersey and then we thought the show was dead after that run because it didn’t transfer to the city…that was 2015. It’s an amazing phenomenon. We got a lukewarm review in NJ, and the show was kind of done but we made this cast album… and two years later in 2016 these kids found the cast album online and it wet totally viral! It was streamed like one hundred-fifty million times and producers took note.

AF: So do you think that has a lot to do with social media?

MR: Oh definitely. I mean the show would not be happening if it wasn’t for young fans… teenagers really connect with it. I think it has themes everybody can relate to. If you are fifty years old there was probably a time when you were sad and in a bathroom by yourself.

AF: Questioning the meaning of life.

MR: My inlaws aren’t even big theatre people and they came and loved it. Everyone can connect with the idea of not knowing where you fit in. My mother-in-law listens to the cast album in her car constantly, and even read all the lyrics in the liner notes!

AF: Well I’m so excited to see it!

MR: I can’t wait for you to see it!

AF: When does it open and when do previews start?

MR: Rehearsals start in January and previews start in February. We open March 10th.

(In this next moment I express my joy with the baby about her dad being on Broadway!)

AF: BABY! YOUR DADDY’S GONNA BE ON BROADWAY! That’s so exciting!! So what else… what are your words of wisdom? Quotes? Some words that have helped you? What are some words of encouragement you might offer to somebody in this crazy industry?

MR: Be nice. Be the best performer but also be the best person. Be the nicest person. Make friends. Form real relationships. Connect with people on a deeper level. Talk about things other than theatre with people you work with. Don’t talk shop all the time. I don’t know if this is as important for an actor, but as a musician, but the hang after the show is almost more important than the actual show. Stay and make friends… not just to progress your career but because there are some really great people!

AF: And the camaraderie is so important!

MR: Meet everyone you can. Do every show. In the beginning especially… if you can afford to work for free do it. Definitely know your value but if you’re brand new to stuff and there’s something that’s going to expose you to the right person you just never know… when I first got to the city I had to sign up for auditions at 5 am… and it was a hustle! I think it’s really important to know who you are know and who you’re not. Not necessarily type…but shows you want to do and shows you connect with. If you’re doing some show to get your health weeks and you’re miserable… it might not be worth it. Don’t get me wrong, health weeks are important. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Be grateful for work. And Thank God I’m working” but if you’d be happier doing something else… do that.

AF: That’s a really good point. A lot of times in this industry you think success is defined by how many contracts you book and “I’m working and nobody else is” but ultimately it’s about the creative work. If it’s not going to allow you to be creative…

MR: Yeah… just be happy. I think it’s the most important thing.

AF: How has it been for you… I feel like you’re such a family man. You have a dog, you have a baby… how has that influenced your life as a performer?

MR: Getting married changed everything.

AF: Jen is the best!!!

MR: Jen IS the best. But specifically… I had never taken a vacation. Never. I would never take a vacation until I met my wife because if I’m out of the city for two weeks… how many gigs am I going to miss? How many phone calls am I going to miss? How many opportunities am I going to miss? Each gig leads to ten other gigs. I was super driven in that way and that helped to get me to where I am.  But having a partner, the entire responsibility of paying the rent and all the bills wasn’t just on me. I sometimes feel lucky that my wife is a civilian with a stable job and not an artist. It gives me a feeling of stability I don’t think I was ever really planning on feeling. Of course, I’m all about artist relationships too they’re incredible. Just look at you and Douglas! But the fact is… my wife said, “I really need to go on vacation this year” and I said, “I can’t do that…” and she said, “Yes… I have two weeks paid vacation… we’re going somewhere.” Once I got in the mindset to miss some things… it’s really actually okay.

AF: That allows you to prioritize.

MR: I also have really changed what I value. Before I got married and had a baby and a dog all I wanted to do was work and now I want to spend time with my wife, daughter, and Oscar! I miss them when I don’t see them. So… it’s good. The baby is six months and it’s been pretty great because I’m with her during the day and Jen’s with the baby at night. I have a list of people I can call to babysit when I need to work during the day… and so far I’ve been lucky! Managing the schedule with the baby has been challenging but fun.

AF: Getting married is the best.

MR: Do you think it’s different than it was before you got married? You guys were together for a long time.

AF: I already sort of felt like we were married but having a covenant and when you’re bound to someone it’s just a different sense of security.

MR: You guys were never single in the city…

AF: Nope! We came together.

MR: That’s amazing you came with a support system.

AF: Yes, it really is! So is there anything else?

MR: The main thing is… everyone’s career is going to be different. Everyone’s path is going to be different. I didn’t realize I would be playing as much music as I am but I am so happy to be doing it. Doing stuff with the Playbillies is amazing.

AF: That’s so amazing.. it’s something you just created!

MR: I can’t wait for everyone to be back in town to do more stuff!

AF: I want you to do all the shows…

MR: Robber Bridegroom was such a great experience, having Douglas and Matt… we started this band (The Playbillies) just because we wanted something to do between shows on Saturdays. The three of us together was a special thing and once we added Sam… it really got good. Matt is so good at music. And Douglas is the actual bluegrass part. And I feel like I add the humor to the tone of the group. Plus, how many Bluegrass bands are there that only play covers of Broadway showtunes (Check them out at www.theplaybillies.com and on instagram @theplaybillies).

AF: I also feel like you are the initiator and get things rolling!

MR: It’s really hard to manage if everyone’s not super into it because everyone’s so busy!

AF: But it attests to the fact that everyone feels the same way about it!

MR: I just really love those guys! I love hanging out with them. We were all at each other’s weddings… we have a super special bond!

AF: Well I’m so glad you were free to chat a little on this blog and I could cuddle your sweet baby! Cheers.

MR: Yeah! Cheers.

Theo Silverman & Piper Clurman: We’re all Special, but we all need to Work Harder

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I met up with the two youngest actors we’ve had on the blog, Piper Clurman and Theo Silverman at Joe and the Juice. I’ve known Piper for one whole year, taking Piper around the city and helping her with her auditions. She and Theo have been friends since birth! Theo has been in the hit musical School of Rock for 15 months, launching their First National Tour and is now in the Broadway cast. The two recently began their own fashion blog called Lilysuki Style. They are two of the most mature eleven year olds I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. They shared with me what it’s like growing up in the city, their favorite things to do, their go-to fall fashion items, and their big dreams!

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 AF: So what did you guys get? It’s not coffee!

TS: I got the Power Drink smoothie. It has strawberry, banana and milk and it tastes really good!

PC: And I got the Iron Man.

AF: Okay and what’s in that?

PC: Strawberry, kiwi, apple, and ginger.

AF: And you girls are obviously too young to drink coffee…

PC: I like it sometimes though.

TS: I don’t.

PC: I think I’ll like iced coffee.

AF: Well cheers! I got a Flat White. So when you go to the coffee shop what is usually the drink that you get? I ask everybody this!

TS: So when I go to Starbucks, for my Fall drink I get a hot Pumpkin Spice Latte.

AF: That has coffee in it!

TS: Yeah…but it tastes good to me! For a Frappuccino I usually get a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with caramel drizzled on it.

AF: That sounds so good.

PC: For a tea I get Strawberry Refresher with Passion Tea blended. And for a hot drink I get a Pumpkin Spice Latte. For Frappuccino I get something on the secret menu. It’s a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with a pump of peppermint and chocolate chips.

AF: Wow you girls know all the secrets!

Both: We have the app!

AF: Okay- so everybody get the app! Okay so I want to know what it’s like to grow up in New York City. How do you think living in the city has helped shape who you are today? Who wants to start?

TS: I’ll start. So I’ve lived in Manhattan, New York my whole life. I’ve lived on the East side, and right now I’m living on the West side. I love living in New York because there’s always something new to explore that you can go and see. There are some really cool museums and restaurants and I love to explore! Even though I’ve lived here my whole life there are still so many things that I haven’t seen and want to see so much! Even today… there are still so many things I want to see but I can’t tonight because I’m seeing King Kong.

AF: You’re seeing King Kong!?

TS: Haha yeah!

AF: Such a city girl! Okay Piper, your turn.

PS: Like Theo said… there’s always something to explore. I think that’s so fun because in other places there isn’t as much to do! I’ve gotten to experience city life and country life because we have a beach house we go to on the weekends. I should probably mention Theo is NOT a country person. My mom had to carry her across the grass at my beach house. It was wet and we just threw her into the pool!

AF: That’s hysterical! So let’s talk about theatre. When did you guys discover that you love to perform?

PC: Together! We did Applause at three years old!

AF: Are you serious? That’s how you guys met each other?

PC: Our moms knew each other before we were born and were best friends, and so then we took Applause class and it was really fun!

TS: I got into theatre because I did a production of Annie Jr. with Thommie Rhetter and Laura Luc. I was in the ensemble and that’s when I decided I liked theatre. Then I got a manager and an agent who are both great!

AF: How old were you when you got your representation?

TS: I was about seven and then I got my first professional audition and that was for Ivanka in Once. I had two auditions and then I got it! I auditioned for School of Rock and I kept auditioning for the Broadway show and then they called me in for the tour and then I was cast as Katie, the bass player, and then from the tour they took me to Broadway to be a Swing and I LOVE it.

AF: You love being a swing?! How is it? How much notice do you get before each role?

TS: Well yesterday I was on for Summer, one of the leads! Usually I know an hour before the show! Say I did Summer yesterday and had to put me in for Marcy today… I would know an hour prior. I’ve only had one put-in ever!

AF: Well that’s amazing! Okay so Piper… I know your journey because I’ve taken you to so many auditions but tell us what it’s looked like so far!

PC: Okay so- when I was six I did Marymount Drama Camp and I did Peter Pan and I was one of the little fairies/ensemble. The next year I was in Aladdin  and I was Jasmine! Then I did Annie and I was an orphan. Then I did Aladdin again and was Princess Jasmine again!! And I started acting classes. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to play Junie B. Jones.  Right before I went to camp last spring I did a workshop with my acting coach Denise Simon and agents were invited. I wasn’t sure if I would be signed but an agent from Zuri called me back and now they’re my agency!

AF: Amazing!!! So what does a typical day in the city look like for you?

TS: For me it’s kind of like Groundhogs Day! I wake up, have breakfast, go to school, come back from school, do homework, go to the show, come home, go to bed…then the next day repeat!

AF: Same thing over and over!

PC: All of my after school activities during the week have to do with theatre. I have singing on Fridays, an audition will pop up here and there, and I have hip-hop and tap as well!

AF: So what are some of your dream roles??

TS: For me, I’d love to be in Once again but I’d want to play Girl.

PC: When I was younger I was obsessed with Matilda. I would also want to be one of the girls in Wicked. I love that show! I never get sick of that music.

TS: I was six when I saw it for the first time.

AF: You’ve got to see it again! So as young, aspiring actresses in the city… what are some quotes you like to apply to every day life, or what are some words of wisdom that maybe your parents have engrained in you?

TS: Never give up and keep pushing yourself. Our assistant producer of School of Rock always says, “You’re not special. Work harder.” We are all special but we all have to work harder if we want to get better.

PC: If you don’t get something, it doesn’t mean you’re not good it just means you have to keep trying. If you start off perfect there’s no way to get better.

AF: Right- if you start at the top…how can you grow? There’s no wiggle room to improve and get better. Who are some people you really look up to in Theatre or someone in this generation you think stands for something valuable.

TS: I look up to Tori Kelly and Stevie Wonder. I think it’s so cool that he’s blind and plays the piano…

AF: He defied odds!

PC: Sia. I think it’s so cool that she keeps her integrity and is true to her image. She stands up for herself.

AF: She’s very strong.

PC: And Demi Lovato. Her voice is amazing.

AF: Yes. Okay so now I want to talk about Lilysuki Style! Now that we’ve talked theatre… let’s talk about why you wanted to start Lilysuki and how that happened and what you talk about on your blog!

TS: Piper and I always kind of wanted to do a Fashion or a Beauty blog and then it kind of fell into place where our parents were like… “If you really want to do this, we will help you!” One day Piper came over to my apartment and we did a little photo-shoot and we were dressing in different styles of clothes. We dressed in hippie styles, rock-star, country… and then we got our Instagram account. It took a long time! September fourth was our official launch!

AF: Wow that sounds so official!

TS: Then after we had the photo-shoot we waited a little while to post our first post. The first day we posted, we got a bunch of followers! A couple of really cool fashion sites asked us if thy could send us…

PC: Yeah like four or five contacted us to see if they could send us accessories and clothing for us to wear and post!

AF: That’s so cool they want to sponsor you guys!

PC: Yeah it’s all sort of fallen into place!

AF: So who makes the posts, who decides what goes online?

TS: Mostly my mom.

PC: Yeah both of our moms work on it. My mom sends the post to Theo’s mom to approve.

TS: And then my mom writes the caption.

PC: My mom goes with us to all the places and takes all the photos.

AF: So where do you see Lilysuki going?

TS: Well we’re probably not going to be doing this when we’re twenty!

AF: It’s fun for you guys right now! Would you potentially want to do fashion when you’re older?

PC: Maybe! Both of our moms are in fashion… they’ve known each other since they were twenty-five years old! I could see my sister Charlie being into fashion. I think I could but I prefer performing. I’ve been singing since I was little.

AF: Sometimes you don’t choose what you want to do… it chooses you, right? Like you guys are so young but it’s pretty clear that you guys both love performing and find a lot of joy from it. You feel fulfilled when you’re in class or rehearsal… so Lilysuki is a good project to have on the side. I think you guys are SUPER fashionable! I think it’s a great idea. So, Lilysuki, can you tell me where to get the best sweaters, coats, and booties for Fall?

TS: I get most of mine at Zara and for boots… Zara and Doc Martins.

PC: Get all your shoes at Zara and Steve Madden! H & M also has some great things.

AF: I love H & M. So your top recommendations are Zara, H & M, and Forever 21.

TS: Amazon Fashion too!

PC: Forever21 has really cute plaid skirts right now!

TS: Jennifer Miller has amazing jewelry.

AF: Well I dressed up for you guys today because I knew you would talk fashion! Go and see Theo in School of Rock through January 20th and it’s just a matter of time before you see Piper in a TV show! Cheers.

 

 

Kelly Marie Kesler: Just Keep Going

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Kelly and I met our Sophomore year at Wilton High School and pretty much became instant friends and confidants within a month of knowing one another. From high school shows to college phone chats to pounding the pavement in the city TOGETHER, she is a pillar of wisdom and calm and is destined for great things. I know we will all see her in her own TV series one day! She suggested we meet at an adorable coffee spot near her apartment on the Upper East Side, Hutch and Waldo and I am officially obsessed. We sat inside, surrounded by plants, exposed brick walls, and an open wall so we could still feel the summer sunshine. There also just so happened to be the cutest puppy laying near our table to make things even more perfect.

Drink of Choice: Hazelnut Coffee


AF: We have Kelly Marie Kesler on the blog today at Hutch & Waldo…which is HOW close to your apartment?

KK: Like a block…

AF: I would live here!

KK: The funny story about this place is that I walked right past it when I was going to my Laundromat…which is right down the street and I said to myself, “Oh my gosh Annabelle would love this place…with all the plants.”

AF: It is absolutely my aesthetic.

KK: It is Instagram worthy!

AF: So what did you get to drink?

KK: I got a cold brew with almond milk.

AF: And how is it?

KK: It’s very creamy.

AF: I got an iced coffee with OAT MILK because apparently that’s in now?

KK: We’re so trendy.

AF: What is your drink of choice usually?

KK: It depends on the season. I have to have my coffee every morning.

AF: Have you always been a coffee person? When did this start?

KK: It all started when my parents got a Keurig. It was after college… I became addicted. It was so easy! Now I have my own mini Keurig and I pop in a Hazelnut pod. That’s my go-to. Usually black. But I have to have my pumpkin spice latte in the fall or in the winter I love peppermint mochas. You are the one that got me into those!

AF: I am!?

KK: Yes because I think one of the first times I ever had coffee was with you! We were in Wilton in the Starbucks. I think you were getting some crème brulee thing and I got the peppermint mocha and that was my first coffee!

AF: Well cheers! I’m glad I was there for your first coffee experience! Wait is your Keurig in your bedroom? I feel like that would be the dream to just get out of bed and press a little button.

KK: No… it’s in my kitchen.

AF: I guess it’s good incentive to get out of bed haha. I love coffee in bed.

KK: Rob and I have gotten to this point where he knows I am a little grumpy before my coffee… and he’s an early riser so he’ll bring coffee back for me. It’s a little treat.

AF: I used to be a morning person…I don’t know what happened but somewhere along the road I decided I cannot do anything until I have my coffee in the morning and he’s learned that and brings it in to me. We’re so lucky! So… tell us how you got the city, where you’re from, how you discovered your love for performing… the whole back-story!

KK: I was very shy as a child except for when I was on stage. For example in church choir… one time apparently I pushed my way to the front at age four. I wouldn’t talk to anyone but I loved to perform and I was a little ham. In middle school I started really getting into it. Being on stage was a great way to be myself and play different characters. It stuck with me through high school and I continued to study theatre in college. Growing up in Connecticut we were so close to New York City, the path just kind of became something I knew was attainable!

AF: And our theatre program was so good. That facility was incredible…

KK: I didn’t fully appreciate that until I got to college and was like, “Oh one of my high school performances was better than some of our college productions…”

AF: Our shows were so beautiful.

KK: And the kids were so talented and loved performing.

AF: Everybody put in 100%.

KK: The whole community embraced it. It was definitely awesome. It was a great place for us to grow up and to hone our craft!

AF: Kelly played Fiona in Brigadoon in our high school and was brilliant. That Scottish accent was so good.

KK: I don’t think I could do it today! It was hard!

AF: So when did you move to NYC?

KK: 2015! I graduated in 2014, then lived in Boston, and then moved here!

AF: And tell us what you did in Boston that year post college?

KK: I did a few short films while I was there because I wanted to start a reel so I did that! I mostly worked and saved up money for that year.

AF: That was nice… you got to hang with your parents and then you jumped into the acting company NYC…

KK: Yeah I studied at T. Schreiber Studio and Theatre Conservatory for their one-year program. I thought that was really great because after college I wasn’t sure if I was ready to move to New York. Getting more conservatory style and intensive acting training was good for me. I also gained a little family through that conservatory.

AF: And you’ve collaborated with a bunch of them!

KK: We’re still all really close for the most part which is very rare. I’ve done plenty of other programs and usually people after a while drift a part so the fact that we’re all still so close is so great! We all hold each other accountable.

AF: Yes! So then you also did UCB. You’re such a good example of somebody who really got rooted in the city. You moved here and you never stopped educating yourself.

KK: I felt like I needed more. When I moved here I was still such a little baby and still didn’t really know what I was doing. I wanted to be sure I had a showcase because I didn’t get that with my college program. I wanted to take more business classes to know how to market myself. It’s something I’m still learning. There’s so much to learn!

AF: You have to be in the city to figure a lot of it out.

KK: A lot of the things I learned… it takes a little while for it all to sink in.

AF: So what are you working on now? What’s a typical day?

KK: I have been doing more video audition submissions. I am transitioning more into TV/FLM… I love theatre but my niche is more commercial. I also do dog walking. That’s pretty much it!

AF: And so how are you fulfilling yourself creatively? You’ve talked about how you’ve wanted to start a web-series… how is that going?

KK: It’s still more of an idea! I realize it is just a lot of work. That’s still there but it’s on the back-burner. It’s going to happen at some point but I want to start with small projects and build up from there. I want to make sure it looks good! I just finished an original sketch comedy video and that might turn into a series! (Go check it out here). I just had an idea and met these two guys from “More Smoke Comedy” and I teamed up with them and it was the most fun. We were cracking up on set. I hope to do more stuff with them! It’s all about collaboration.

AF: You and the boys!

KK: It’s just the start!

AF: Well starting anywhere is key! People will say, “Wow…she created it.”

KK: Right- it means you are doing something.

AF: That’s amazing. Well I always ask people what has been a high and a low living in the city? What’s something that has fed your inspiration or what’s something that’s been really hard to overcome?

KK: I think a high has definitely been having motivated friends in the city. Like you for example! My other friends they’re always doing something, auditioning, creating… I’m definitely more of a laid back type so it’s a struggle for me to really be motivated. I have a few weeks where I’m super productive and then I’ll get into periods where I kind of drop off a bit That’s probably where my low points come through. I realize, “Wait a second… I haven’t done anything for my career this week…” Those periods are times I’m battling with. It’s definitely getting better. I’m able to notice. I would get down on myself for not being as proactive and get mad at myself and that doesn’t help!

AF: It’s so easy to have those ruts and get into a game of comparison. Some days you need to take those days to chill! You can burn out!

KK: With our career it’s not like other jobs where you have a pile of work and you do it and then you’re done… it can be as little or as much as you want and it never stops! Finding the balance has been difficult! Sometimes when I am really motivated I can recognize I’ve done a lot and know I can take a break and then in periods when I’m out of it I comment on it and realize that tomorrow is a fresh chapter.

AF: How do we find that middle ground? I think most people are still searching for that. The city is so extreme and we imitate those extremes. I think you are doing great!

KK: It’s hard to put yourself out there. If there’s anything I’ve learned… you HAVE to do that.

AF: You have to just throw the fear aside.

KK: Yep. “Here I am.”

AF: It’s scary. It’s hard to feel like you’re never going to be good enough.

KK: It happens to all of us. There’s so much rejection and everyone’s trying to do it. Trying to feel special is challenging. We are human beings. We have off days. We’re going to be this or that. You’re dealing with the human body.

AF: And one person’s opinion in the room! That one person has the power to give you a job or not give you a job. It’s about finding the confidence in yourself and still continuing to put yourself out there! I always ask… what are your words of wisdom or what’s a quote that has been encouraging to you lately?

KK: Just keep going. That’s where I am right now. Just keep going. It’s easy to let things get you down… but if you keep going and pursuing what you want to do eventually you’ll get there.

AF: Well that’s exactly what I needed to hear. You’re such a calm presence. You’re destined for great, great things. Cheers.

KK: CHEERS!

 

Becca Lee: Stay in Your Own Lane

becca lee

Becca Lee and I had never met prior to our coffee chat! We decided to meet at the Starbucks she grabs her fix from between rehearsals for the Broadway bound The Prom. I had been following Becca’s hilarious antics on her former Instagram @unemployedactress and thought she was so funny and enjoyed her take on this crazy career and all that goes with it! Read up below on how she booked The Prom, the long journey to Broadway, and how she stays grounded… with coffee in hand of course.

Drink of Choice: Hot Coffee with Coconut Oil and Coconut Milk


 

AF: We have Becca Lee on the blog today! So what are you drinking right now?

BL: I wasn’t going to get this…I was going to get a hot coffee but it’s so hot in here I got a Venti Iced Coffee with Coconut Milk, no sugar.

AF: Is that your drink of choice?

BL: In the summer yes. I’m trying to be environmentally sound right now without a straw right now.

AF: I should follow your lead!

BL: Honestly I’m only doig it because you’re here… I wouldn’t be doing it.

AF: Gotta look good for Actor Meets Coffee! I think it’s great Starbucks is trying to be more environmentally conscious. So what is your usual coffee routine in the morning?

BL: It’s boring and simple. I have a Keurig at home, I put in my little pod, coconut milk, coconut oil… that’s it.

AF: Ooooh coconut oil.

BL: Yeah. It’s a good fat for you. It gives you energy.

AF: So Becca tell us your backstory.

BL: I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana. I always knew I wanted to come to New York. At first I went to Marymount Manhattan College. I wanted to be in the city… I hated it. It was not a real quote on quote “college experience” so I transferred to Rutgers in New Jersey because I wanted a school with a football team and all that… and I was still close to the city so yeah! My first professional job was dancing for the New York Nicks. It wasn’t theatre at all. It was really cool and fun and I thought to myself, “This is going to be my door to getting on to Broadway…” It was nothing like that! It was good… it was a good experience. It was really scary at the time. I was eighteen… the youngest one on the team. There were all these fierce New York City women that had cool lives and I didn’t talk to anybody the whole year!

AF: Why!?

BL: Because I’m a little shy in big groups… So then I did Rutgers dance team after that. So then fast-forward from dance team at Rutgers we did America’s Best Dance Team on MTV and once again I’m thinking, “This is my big break!” Randy Jackson was the one who ran the show and I was thinking about recording a demo, giving it to him, and then I’d be the next Danity Kane. And I actually did that. I mean nothing came from that but…

AF: But you did that. You were confident enough in your skill-set that you thought he should take notice.

BL: Yeah! Our group didn’t make it that far… it’s okay! It was kind of embarrassing… but it’s fine.

AF: You were featured on TV?

BL: We were on three episodes yeah. It was quite an experience. Then after that I started auditioning for musicals.

AF: So getting on that audition circuit started for you when?

BL: Eight years ago. In my opinion it’s been a long journey… I thought things would have happened a lot faster.

AF: It has to be the right time and the right place. So eight years… do you live in the city now?

BL: I still live in New Jersey! I kind of feel like I’m from there! The first professional job I booked was a national tour with a show that Todrick Hall created and choreographed called, Cinderella Rock. We were supposed to tour all around everywhere. It did not tour. We were stuck in Texas for several months. And I knew then and there I wanted to be Equity because I never wanted to be stuck in that situation again. It was very crazy. But I love Todrick. He’s a creative genius and I’m so thankful I got to work with him.

AF: There’s just no control in this business… except for being the best that you can be. And creating side hustles!

BL: Yes- which I wish I did earlier.

AF: Now I want to talk about what your time in the city has looked like outside of theatre… when did your whole video series start? (LOOK UP @beccaleebackstage on IG. Hilarious).

BL: Okay so what happened was I’d been doing The Prom since 2015 with the first lab… and we did an out of town run in Atlanta in 2016 in the summer. We were told originally the show was going to come to Broadway much sooner than now. I knew there was still time… at least seven months so I needed some way to creatively fulfill myself in that time. It was a little bit of a trick to people because I knew I had a job coming up but I called it “Unemployed Actress” anyway because there’s still so many silly things to be said about auditions. So anyway- I started it in February of 2017 and then I was told that Prom was never happening. Like never, ever, ever, ever… It was supposed to open last summer and then it kept getting pushed back. It appeared it was not happening and since I’d put all my eggs in this one basket since 2015 I wanted to quit.

AF: I feel like a lot of people have stories like that…

BL: I was so devastated because I really thought this was it… It’s the lesson everyone learns. So many out of town shows that people think and hope will come to Broadway never make it… You can’t ever think it’s going to work out until you’re on the stage on opening night. And then a year ago… last September I was sitting on my couch. I was depressed for real. My agent called and said, “I have some good news…” and I said, “What?”… I wasn’t even auditioning. She goes, “You have an offer for Prom on Broadway” and I go, “I thought it wasn’t happening?”

AF: How many months was it from the time they told you it wasn’t happening to this phone call…?

BL: Four months.

AF: That must have been shocking.

BL: I was bawling. I called my mom and she asked if I was in the hospital. The point is… the “Unemployed Actress” videos turned in to be more real than I anticipated because for those four months I was like, “Oh sh*t…I really am unemployed forever.” There was nothing coming up.

AF: Better to laugh at this crazy career.

BL: It cheered me up. I selfishly was doing it for myself. The lives that we’ve chosen are crazy! It actually is funny what we do.

AF: Oh my gosh all your videos about self-tapes… they are so great. I think it’s brilliant. That’s all so real but also encouraging. The fact that you were with the project since 2015 and then ready to give up and then it came back around! Okay so the marquee is…

BL: Going up today!

AF: What time!?

BL: I walked by it before we came here and it’s going up now!

AF: Do you need to be over there??

BL: No! There’s still trucks and things so you can’ really see it all. It’s just one of those things… You imagine things happening- all the small details. I was excited about getting my wig fitting.

AF: Take advantage of every single moment! You don’t know when the next opportunity will come around like that.

BL: Exactly. You just never know. I have this day I’m going to appreciate everything all that it has and the marquee is going up and that’s amazing! I didn’t know it was going up until yesterday!

AF: Okay- so after coffee we’re going to go and take a picture of you in front with coffee in hand. Can you recall your audition story for The Prom?

BL: Oh yeah. My audition story is a little different from the other people involved because Casey Nicholaw, who is amazing, and who I will be forever grateful for, he is known for running auditions knowing who he wants, and casting them after he sees them once or twice. So most of the ensemble members that I’m with… that was their story. Me? No. I had to go in seven times. I don’t know what that says about me. It was very long. I went to an ECC on a Friday. I remember that morning I was so tired, but I just knew I had to go to this one. There were a million people there obviously. The next day we had to go to Telsey and sing. And then I danced again for Casey. Then they kept having me back. There’s two girls in the ensemble who have a few extra lines and they were having me read for the nicer girl and then they realized I should be the meaner one. After the seventh time I actually had to cancel my trip to Vegas. I had booked my first ever trip to Vegas and they told me I had a final callback that morning. So obviously I went. And that morning something literally came over me and I said “I am going in to get this right now.” It was weird.

AF: I just got chills!

BL: I’ve had so many final callback sad stories… another one I didn’t get, another one I didn’t get… so I went in and then I flew to Vegas right after which was perfect.

AF: They always say…book a trip and you’ll book work.

BL: It’s true. I don’t know why but it does happen… So yeah it was a Monday and I was with my mom on her birthday in Vegas and my phone starts ringing, it’s my agent… and she’s like, “You booked Prom!” and I’m crying in the middle of the casino because I cry over everything. Even back then I knew it was going to be my Broadway debut.

AF: Four years in the making.

BL: I’ll never forget that.

AF: How sweet that you were with your mom. So here you are… you’ve had your wig fitting, you’ve seen your costumes, the marquee is going up! If you were to pitch the show… what would you say? What’s it about? What’s your favorite part?

BL: Okay, my favorite part about it… before I tell you the whole thing… is that it has a great message. I’ve obviously seen the show so many times but I cry watching it every time from backstage. I’m from Indiana weirdly enough and the lead girl Emma wants to take her girlfriend to the Prom and the town says no because they’re very small-minded. They are not into anything that is “different.” There are these four Broadway stars in New York- another part of the story and they’re not happy with their careers and they need to do something with their lives so they find this story about Prom in Indiana and they decide to go save the day and make a difference. It’s so heartfelt and hilarious. There are a bunch of fun songs and the dancing is really great too! I hope people come and see what it is before it opens.

AF: When do you begin Previews?

BL: They start in October and we have a long Preview period. October 23rd-November 14th, which is a bit longer. We’ll be rehearsing and then doing the show… every day!

AF: Exhausting but so exhilarating. Changes every day I’m sure…

BL: Yeah. We’ve done the show for so long I’m curious to see how much will be changing- that will certainly be interesting!

AF: So you’re also getting married…planning your wedding… how’s that AND prepping for your Broadway debut?

BL: It’s actually timed out perfectly because I’m getting all the big stuff out of the way now. I’m getting married in April so I still have time!

AF: Okay now I always ask… what are your words of wisdom? What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring performer… somebody who feels like they want to quit…?

BL: It’s hard for me to pick one! I think everything is a bit cliché but things that are simple are really important. This career has led me to be more spiritual. If you see my Instagram I’m always talking about inspirational podcasts, quotes, or books, and because you just got to remember to take a deep breath. If one day you don’t want to go to an audition, and you want to do something else that makes you happy and fulfills you creatively do that instead. Find other things that make you happy outside of acting. For years I didn’t do that and I was miserable.

AF: What’s your go-to podcast?

BL: I love The Universe Has Your Back and Oprah’s “Super Soul Conversations” Podcast, “The Almost 30” Podcast, and Analisa Leming’s “A Balancing Act” Podcast.

AF: What is your take on social media and comparison and how do you rise above that?

BL: I started unfollowing anyone who would post something that made me feel bad about myself. It’s probably stemming from my own insecurities but even if I like the person I don’t want to look at things that make me feel bad. And comparison in terms of success… you just have to tell yourself to stay in your own lane. I think that’s a constant battle where you just have to own where you are. It’s easier for me to say now because I have The Prom but thank goodness it took this long because it’s the right timing for me!

AF: Yes and you’ve got some good life experience under your belt! Well you are so lovely and wonderful and I feel like we’re old friends.

BL: Yes me too! Thank you for having me!

becca leeAF: Cheers to your almost Broadway debut!