Saturday, October 17, 2015

Beginning Anew

There's been a lot going on since June. I knew I was moving from Seattle to Austin, but making a public announcement had to come in waves, so it was hard for a while to write a public blog without talking about my plans. So I took a break.

Now that the move has officially happened let's get back on track!

I had a fantastic summer working at Mt. Baker Theatre doing their summer repertory season production of Other Desert Cities. I was reunited with one of my all time favorite directors, and had the opportunity to work with one of the most experienced and talented casts I had in some time. I enjoyed every emotionally charged moment of that show, and I can confidently say that I hope Brooke is a part I continue to play for the next 10 to 15 years.

After a 6 month contract performing and touring Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with Book-It Repertory Theatre, I really needed the adult content of Other Desert Cities and the actor challenge it presented. Not only is the show incredibly intimate with such a small cast and a one room set, but the theater decided to stage it in a black box setting, so the audience was all of one foot away from the actor playing space. It had been a long time since I felt as alive as I was this summer giving such beautiful and important writing a voice.

I also spent the summer being a tour guide, and for all my fellow actors reading this blog out there--if you haven't given it a shot you totally should! It was the most fun I've had doing a job outside of acting. Every day was a blast. I got to use my public speaking abilities, I got to entertain guests that paid me to entertain them, and I got to share great stories and food with strangers that became friends. Plus the company was amazing. I plan on being a tour guide many more times in my future.

I knew since around April or May that I would be touring this fall with The National Theatre for Children. I wasn't sure what to make of doing another tour at the time of me signing on, but I needed a job to get me out of Seattle for a while, and that was the ticket.

I started the tour about two weeks ago and I can say it's incredibly fun! It's always fulfilling to do theatre for children. But this show and this company are special because they do theatre with children. Our show is for middle schoolers and it's called The Conservation Crew, and we tour to schools in North and South Carolina to talk about energy conservation and why it's important for our changing world. What's unique is we get to use student volunteers and their suggestions to shape the show and make it a personal, memorable experience for them. And what's more, they all have the opportunity to receive their own energy conservation kit free of charge (donated by our sponsor Duke Energy) that's full of helpful appliances such as energy efficient shower heads, hot water gauges, LED nightlights, and CFL light bulbs.

Duke Energy also pays for a raffle, where schools can sign up to enter into a drawing that could win them $10,000.  Basically, I feel like I'm creating social change through an established institution that wants to make the world a better place. And I'm learning from a great business model that happens to respect actors!

I'm happy I've done a tour before, because now I know what to expect with a lot of the schools and the kids. My first touring experience was a difficult transition between main stage acting and a transient show. Now I have the knowledge to tackle issues as they arise, and the patience to deal with the craziness of a school day.

The best thing about this tour though is getting paid to travel longer distances. We have the opportunity to visit big cities, and historic small towns. My tour partner and I are a great match because we love antiquing and visiting huge museums! And stopping at cheese shops, because cheese is really important.

I know I'll be taking this time to really reevaluate myself and what I want and where I want to go in my career. And honestly, there are much much worse ways I could spend my time figuring it out. But I happen to have a gypsy soul and there isn't a thing I'd rather be doing right now. Here's to the next 6 weeks!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Honesty is the Best Policy

I've been sitting on some wonderful news for quite a few weeks now, waiting for the appropriate moment to share. Today I made the tough choice to put in my notice for my on again off again Seattle day job that I love. I put in my notice because it's official--I'm moving!

At the end of the month of June my year long plan will finally go into effect. I came back from Texas last summer starving for the opportunity to get out of dodge. I found it. And I've seized it.

I took my 6 month long contract with Book-It to tour the state in December, and as the show nears the end of its crazy long run, I'm proud to announce I will be moving to Bellingham, WA for the summer to perform a dream role of mine. Mt. Baker Theatre has invited me to play the role of Brook Wyeth in Other Desert Cities in their summer repertory season. I couldn't be more thrilled to be working with this fantastic company, and one of my all time favorite directors. Truly, it was perfect timing. I'm officially without a lease and will begin the adventure of being a traveling actor.

I'm also pleased to announce that after the end of this show in August, I will be moving back to Texas! I've had to put it off 7 more months than originally planned, and I'm so grateful to finally be on my way back south.

But the real kicker here is that my year of hard work and planning has proved worth it. I applied for the UPTAs almost one year ago, attended almost 5 months ago, and now I'm happy to report that I have signed on to tour with the Minneapolis based National Theatre for Children for five weeks this fall! This is only the beginning of an exciting foray into the world of regional theatre.

I'm so happy I moved to Seattle on a whim almost 4 years ago. These have been the greatest growing years, and the family and community that I've found here has shaped the person and artist I've become. It's because of all these people that I finally felt ready to move forward. Seattle was always meant to be a layover for me. I'm glad it was my first stop on the crazy journey that is being a professional actor. And who knows what the South might inspire in me? The greatest adventure of all is not knowing what will happen next. I might know where I'm going, but I don't know who I'll meet or what they'll teach me.

I smell freedom in the air! My wanderlust has taken hold, and I'm ready for the next great adventure!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Life on the Road: Lessons to be learned from a Touring Artist

My tour of Washington included many murals.
I've been staying pretty busy with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I was cast in November, rehearsed all of January and opened in February. We started out with a few shows here and there but the pace has really picked up.

We left Seattle for the month of April to travel to Northern and Eastern Washington (and eventually a bit of Idaho)  on what Book-It calls an expansion tour. It was my first taste of life on the road as a job. We'd previously been making mostly day trips in the Seattle area, and a few over night trips on several of the islands. Now we were leaving home with our bags and not coming back for three weeks.

Three actors, one touring van, and a sizable set took off to see the state! I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Tour life agrees with me. Many of the schools we went to were full of children that had never seen a live production before, and several of them had booked tours with Book-It Rep in the past and were really looking forward to their one annual theatrical performance.

Children's Theatre is an incredibly rewarding experience in many ways, but I think my favorite is getting to introduce the performing arts to young creative minds. After every show (of which we did two a day) we held 'talk-backs' where the kids got to ask us questions. I had the lucky opportunity to run these talk backs and I got to facilitate the answering of all the questions.   Many of the children that hadn't seen theatre before were amazed at simple things like quick costume changes and remembering all the lines. Others wanted to know how long we'd been acting, how did we learn to do it, and was it too late to start?  My absolute favorite part was seeing kids faces light up when they fully understood that acting was our job, and that it could be their job too.

One great quote from a question and answer session came from a one building school house in a very rural part of Eastern Washington. There were about 40 kids in attendance and after the show a little girl (maybe first or second grade) asked me, "Why is the Queen of Heart's so mean?" I play the Queen in our production, and she can be a very intimidating character so I was prepared to field the question. "Do you ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed somedays?" I asked, like I usually do. "No," the little girl said--which totally stumped me. Then out of nowhere an older boy spoke up and very simply said, "It's just how she feels." To which the little girl nodded sagely. And we looked around and realized that everyone understood that explanation! So simple. So cute. And so wise.

We had several especially fun performances, one of which was a school of about 600 students who were celebrating facial hair day. We came out onstage, and I looked up to say my first line only to see 600 or so bearded and mustachioed children looking back at me (clearly having forgotten that they had all drawn on their faces in colored markers) expectantly. That was possibly the biggest challenge not to break I've faced.

I have to say that this tour has taught me a lot about the different kind of theatrical experiences you can have in your professional career.  Every show is different, and every company is different. But it's important to take lessons away from each production you do to help you on the winding path to success in this crazy business. Here are several lessons I learned:

Like getting a flat tire when you're supposed to perform in 30 minutes.
1. Doing a show without a stage manager is as fun as it is frustrating. We have no stage manager touring with us, which means that we're in charge of our own show. We run our tech, we make our own executive decisions about show adjustments, and we keep track of our own schedules. This can be very freeing, not having a person to answer to. However, I now know that I don't enjoy fixing my own props, sewing my torn costumes, or generally not having someone who is responsible for issues that arise. My 'mainstage' mentality has had to adjust to tour life quite a bit.

2. It's important to introduce children to live theatre not just so they can experience acting and storytelling, but also so they can learn audience etiquette. I'd never thought about what age children are when they learn how to be an audience member. Many students had to be told by the faculty that cheering was for sporting events and clapping was for when you enjoy something at the theatre. Other student audiences were so incredibly free with their laughter and vocal responses because they'd never been told they had to sit in silence respectfully--and that was a beautiful thing. Children's Theatre is definitely a lesson in audience engagement.

3. It's hard to be healthy on the road. Many hotels (surprisingly) don't have gyms or aren't in safe places to go for a run. Without a kitchen it can be difficult to make your own food, especially if you want it to be fresh food, not from a box. We were lucky enough to stay in a suite for a week that had a kitchen, but I know this isn't a normal accommodation for a touring actor.

4. SAVE. The whole point of touring is that you aren't paying for lodging, so you should be saving that rent money. If you're with a wonderful company who pays you per diem or a stipend for food you should be able to save most of that as well. Budget what you think you'll need for food before you leave. And get your fellow actors on the same page. My cast agreed to do mostly grocery shopping and very little eating out. I shopped before I left and barely bought anything while we were out. If you're smart about it, you can walk away with more money than you'd think. Also, just don't ever accept a touring job that doesn't pay for your food. That's cheap and you're worth more.

5. A positive attitude is a must in any professional work environment--but especially so in a small van or a shared hotel room. If you have something to vent about do it and then leave it behind. There's no room for an attitude.

6. Two shows a day for three weeks teaches you that water and a good warm up really are the most important tools an actor has at their disposal.

7. Take time to go out and enjoy your new surroundings. We visited parks, local hole in the wall restaurants, did some wine tasting, and even attended a guest lecture by Jared Diamond while on tour. The whole point of going on the road is to really experience all the places you're traveling too. That could mean walking in a corn field, checking out the mountain biking path, or going dancing at the nearest downtown hot spot. Take time away from the show to remember you like doing other things--you'll need the distance.

8. On the flip side of that, don't be afraid to stay in with your cast and watch Dirty Dancing and Boy Meets World. Relaxing is important too.

9. Do a tour. If you haven't done it and you think you'd like it--do it. And then get ready for all the other touring companies to call you and ask you to do theirs. They will because being a touring artist is a special skill. Not everyone enjoys it. Not everyone wants to be away from home for that long. But once you do one you can really set the bar for where your professional standards are. I lucked into a great one for my first touring gig. And I don't think I fully appreciated how great it was until I had other offers. You would be surprised at how many companies want you to travel 1,000+ miles a week for $300 or less. You'd be surprised at how many companies want to book you for an entire six months on the road with no vacation except your weekends. And you'd be surprised at how many give you pennies for a food stipend. Do your homework and be prepared to ask yourself some serious questions about what you think you'd enjoy. Not just what you can handle, but what you actually want to spend a significant amount of time putting yourself through.

10. Figure out the direction you want to take in your career. This is something I'm still juggling (obviously. And aren't we all?). Once you do Children's Theatre you have an in with a lot of companies. They'll see it on your resume and know that they can use you and your experience to help them get all that educational grant money they want. As they should! Educational theatre is incredibly important for the next generation of artists and theatre goers alike! But do you want a career of Children's Theatre? Do you want to tour for a significant amount of time? Do you think other companies looking for their next Shakespearean ingenue will skip over you for an audition because they see your last few credits are for kids? Do you want the money you can save by going on tour more than the opportunity to play a role that reviewers will write about even if you have to give 3/4 of your paycheck to your landlord for rent?  Really put your business hat on and realize that Children's Theatre and being a touring artist will open new doors for you--and it's your responsibility to keep all the doors you're interested in open.

It's been a crazy 4 1/2 months of theatre for me.  I've learned a lot. More than I think I usually do purely because this is the longest contract I've ever taken. By the end of this run I will have done 70+ performances of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. One more month to go!

But as usual, I'm enjoying this crazy theatrical life--and already looking ahead. I have some fun big announcements coming your way as soon as I'm clear to reveal all!

I can dunk in an elementary school gym!

The best BBQ in all of Eastern Washington is in the tiny town of Republic. GO THERE.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sweet Briar College closing and Why Women's Colleges Matter

Subtitle: How has attending a women's college helped me?

This is so important. Women's colleges matter. Today, as much as throughout history, women's colleges matter.

Sweet Briar College is closing their doors.

Why is this important? Who cares? There are thousands of colleges and universities in America; what does one less mean?

Sweet Briar College is one of the few women's colleges left in the country. Wikipedia  (forgive me for quoting wikipedia, but it was difficult to find a list) states there are approximately 48 women's colleges still functioning as women's only institutions of higher education. Other articles say there were as many as 230 in the last 50 years. Sweet Briar was founded in 1901, and has been challenging, accepting, and encouraging young women ever since. It has made many top ten lists. They are a small liberal arts school in Virginia with only 760 students enrolled in this academic year and every one of them is a woman who will lose a home.

This is important to me because I attended a women's college. I did, and so did hundreds of thousands of other women throughout history. At one time, of course, they were the only way for women to attend college. What's more, for every woman in America and beyond that is looking at colleges, I want women's college to be an option for them all.

I chose to attend Stephens College after a rigorous and thorough search across the country of the best fit for my formative young adult independent years. I never intended to go to a women's college. I had an older brother, and grew up playing with mostly boys. I had as many boy friends as girl friends, and I'd never considered the idea that I'd ever knowingly choose to spend a significant period of time away from my male counterparts.

I'd also never considered the lack of equality in my life, how hard I fought for success in comparison to men, or what it was to appreciate women and being a woman through the eyes of women only.

I worked exceptionally hard through high school, knowing that I wanted to leave my home state for college. I had a great GPA, a long list of extracurricular activities, and enough volunteer hours and awards to make almost any school I wanted look my way. This is true for many women. When I attended my state theatre festival and auditioned for over 50 schools I was surprised at how many showed an interest. But after a long day of meetings, and several weeks of visiting campuses and pouring over websites--there was only one place that felt like home. Stephens. It didn't hurt that their theatre program was ranked #2 in the country at the time.

I remember making excuses for the inevitable questions--Why are you going to a women's college? Why do those even exist anymore? There aren't any boys there? How will you find your husband? And of course--you're studying theatre?

I remember telling people that Stephens was ranked #2 in the country. That the class size was small and intimate. That I would get more one on one time with my professors. That they had accepted all my AP credits and I could skip a lot of required classes. That the campus was beautiful, and I could get to class within five minutes.  I remember saying "Well there are boys in the theatre department, of course." They were considered apprentices and not students.

The worst part is looking back and realizing that I knew I was making excuses. I hadn't yet reconciled myself to attending a college of only female students. But what I didn't realize was that I already knew deep down that Stephens was perfect for me. A women's college was perfect for me.

I had immediately felt wanted, respected, encouraged, and admired when I stepped onto campus. I had also felt the pressure of living up to a new set of standards and ideals. Not the kind you normally get when going to college--wake yourself up for class, try not to gain the freshman fifteen, higher education means all nighters and big lectures--get used to it. Instead I learned, along with the rest of my class, how to communicate with women, how to empower each other, how to look out for each other without depending on men, what it meant to depend on myself, and how to look at the world as if everything was in my grasp.

Because when a woman attends a women's college--that world is her's for those years. Every opportunity presented is only presented to women. Every experience is only experienced by women. And every opinion is validated by women. By sisters. And when she graduates she never learns to let that go. Women who graduate from women's colleges have a statistically high chance of succeeding in their chosen fields. Why? Because no one taught them to fail. A man was never given a position above them, and never took an opportunity from them. They have learned to believe in themself first and foremost. They have been taught that their opinion is important. And they have spent a significant amount of time in positions of power on their campus, giving them more experience than many women who attend co-educational institutions, and equal experience to many men.

Women's college taught me more about myself than I ever knew before--and most of it I didn't realize until after I graduated and was reintroduced to co-educational society. I spoke more confidently, I knew my goals and ideals, I made plans for my own personal happiness in my future. I interacted differently with romantic partners. I was more assertive about my expectations, and could more easily see and feel things that made me uncomfortable. I learned, in a way I had never fully understood before, the different ways that many women allow themselves to be put down. And more importantly, I felt I knew how to communicate compassionately and effectively with them and teach them what I had learned.

Women's college did make me a feminist. A word I had never associated with before. And a word that means and has always meant the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. I shied away from it for a few years until I realized that doing so was going backwards on everything my education taught me about how to be a strong, independent, brave, bold, thoughtful, passionate, and deserving woman.

And all of this is to say that Sweet Briar College closing is a sad and unfortunate event. It is not just women's colleges that are struggling at this time, in this economy. It is the small private institutions all over. But the reason that this closing is of such tantamount importance is that it takes away one more option from women who might never know how positive an experience attending such a school can be.  These young women who will be unable to finish their degrees at this institution will be looking for a new home. I hope every one of them finds as good a fit as the first one they found. And I encourage them all to look at Stephens College, and any other women's college out there. 

A women's education was the best education I could have given myself. Every excuse I made to people was true, and those were reasons I attended. But I took away even more reasons to encourage other young women to attend. Every woman having to leave Sweet Briar, I'm certain, has a similar story. They are leaving behind their sisters and their family. But they are stronger than many, and are prepared to make bold choices. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Unified Professional Theatre Auditions--Or the best weekend ever

 I did it. I flew across the country after months of planning, arrived in Memphis, TN for the first time ever, and successfully (and within the allotted time limit) completed my first UPTA audition.

I've heard a lot about the UPTAs over the years. Especially when I was in school, it was lauded as one of the best auditions to go to, over the NETC or SETC. Originally I believed that was because it was much closer to my midwest college, but after much research I learned it was because of many other factors.

I never did attend any regional auditions in college. I had plans to move to a market and build a resume. And I, truthfully, probably didn't trust my audition 'package' to get me anywhere. Now, a few years later I can say that waiting paid off. Here's what I learned from my UPTA audition:

1. The UPTAs are the most highly attended, and most difficult to get into of the larger regional theatre auditions. They also boast that they are the largest regional theatre audition in the country, with the most companies attending to offer paid year round work.

2. The reason it is the 'hardest' to get into is because of their new policy for 'qualifying'. If I had gone when in school, I would have needed an instructor approval and would have been on my merry way. Now, there's a highly selective screening process for pre-professionals, which (luckily for me) gives first dibs on attending to Equity and EMC candidates. Though, there were a ton of soon to be graduates there!

3. It pays to be a singer. But we all already knew that. For those of us that aren't singers (or as is the case with many of us, choose not to be interested in performing musical theatre though we may have the capability) there is much less opportunity for you here. Out of the 85 companies attending UPTAs this year, 30 were also casting non-singers. There was ONE group of non-singers on my day of auditions, and when I got on stage to audition there were approximately 15 auditors left in the audience. Though 30 companies had signed on to watch us, many of them either did not stay for my afternoon, or had called back so many singers who can act that they didn't feel the need to stay and watch us--actors who don't sing.

Beale Street
4. If you aren't a singer, most people don't care that you do Shakespeare. And they don't want you to do Shakespeare. (For the record, I didn't do Shakespeare, I chose a Restoration Comedy. Though I did whip out a Shakespeare monologue for a callback--always know multiple pieces! But I digress.) The majority of the companies staying for the non-singers were for touring children's theatre. Yes, I love children and doing theatre for them. Yes, I would prefer my resume read credits that don't all come from a beloved child's bedtime story book. However, there happen to be some really cool children's theatre companies out there doing great works of literature, or who choose to do children's theatre on a more sophisticated level. Basically--

5. I learned a lot about the different styles of children's theatre. Any profitable, long running theatre company has an educational component. Meaning--everyone does children's theatre. And most of all--it's important to do children's theatre. Because, let's face it, we can't be in this business just for ourselves, and if you are then at least think about your future in this business. There won't be one if we can't help the little tikes see how important it is to support our art. They're going to be making money some day, you know? Also, it's just a great communication and coping tool. I could write endlessly about why I think theatre for young audiences is important though.

6. But I also learned about some awesome companies that are interested in hiring me for not just children's theatre. Which is what I really wanted to happen at these auditions. The best of both worlds. I'm just so happy and excited about this.

7. Yes it does suck when the Texas Shakespeare Festival stays for every group but mine.

8. This is perhaps the most important lesson: your resume is just as important as your audition. Yes there were so many college kids attending. Yes, they do get called back. But regardless of how great your audition is--what you've done so far, how experienced you are in certain areas is what makes companies look at you seriously. I have Shakespeare, I have Sarah Ruhl, I have classical literature adaptations, new works, fringe festivals, and experience as a teaching artist. This experience above all else, is, I think, what resulted in a lot of my callbacks. But I like to think it was my audition...

9. I am young in the world of theatre. My resume is longer than some, shorter than others. I have known credits, and unknown credits. But what I do know is that I know people from very few places. I need to make more connections out in the theatre world to continue to work the way I want to--which is outside of one market. I want to travel, and I want to see what theatre is like everywhere. I want to know how different companies run their business, and what it's like to work on a beach as opposed to in a barn. I want to see what builds successful relationships with a community and most importantly I want to learn how to replicate all those things when the time comes.
Best BBQ I've had outside of Texas!

10. These auditions made me look at my market in a new light. I was able to compare my pay scale here to the pay scale that other companies were offering me. It's interesting how much people think your time and your work is worth. And far more interesting how much you think your time and your work is worth. And there's the other side of that coin which is just about how much they can afford to pay you and other actors on their business model.

11. I recommend the UPTAs to anybody looking to do contract based work, who wants to build their resume, or who is tired of living in one place. Hey, most everybody offers free housing! It definitely makes you look at the world of theatre differently.

If you have any questions about the UPTAs, my experience with them, or want to share how you felt about your own experience there, please leave a comment below!

And enjoy some sight-seeing pictures!

I found this written on an old building on the same street where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

National Civil Rights Museum

Rosa Parks

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pride and Prejudice: A Holiday Extravaganza

During Horse Girls I started rehearsals for Pride and Prejudice. This was to be the 4th iteration directed by the original director and adapter -- who is British. So really, we had the best insight!  The actress who played Elizabeth was reprising her role for the third time, and the actors playing Mr. and Mrs. Bennet were performing the show for the second time. The entire cast was the most experienced cast I've worked with to date and it was a delight and a lesson every day of rehearsal.

We were performing the Christmas/Holiday show for Book-It Repertory Theatre's 25th season. We ended up selling out the entire run after our second week, and added a performance because of popularity. This was the longest running show I've performed, to date. It came in at just over 30 performances.

I had such a great time playing a character I've never had the opportunity to play. I love classic work, I love dialect work, and I love character roles. Most of my time in Seattle I've spent playing 'leading ladies' or 'ingenues'. This is the gift I've been given by Seattle, because this city has yet to type cast me. This time, I was being given the opportunity to play the slightly dour, very inquisitive, uniquely insensitive, and incomparably competent Mary Bennet.

I read 12 books onstage every night. By the end of the run I had read the history of Japan, the history of Jesus Christ, the history of World War II, the collected short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, several tales from the 1001 Arabian Nights, The Story of The 47 Ronin, two encyclopedias full of random pages about numerous subjects, several presidential addresses, and all about the inventions of Thomas Edison.  I also got some great arm muscles from miming piano playing every night.

Mostly, I was reminded of the lessons I'd only recently learned during Frankenstein.  And I learned some new ones too.

1. Performing a show night after night, and sometimes more than once in a day, can be the most rewarding experience. Even if I was exhausted I would still wake up the next morning and think I had the best job ever.
2. Always remember your training--warming up really is the most important thing you can do.
3. Supportive shoes can make or break a long running show.
4. Baking for your cast is always the right idea.
5. Dancing 300 year old dances teaches you that dancing then was no less exhausting than dancing now.
6. Layers upon layers of clothes onstage that make you incredibly hot is still my favorite thing. Maybe this is why I love classical shows so much.
7. Hearing a young or an old person tell you after a show that they love this book and you helped them want to read it or read it again never gets old.

I'm sure there were other lessons, but I can't think of any more at the moment. It was an incredible experience, and I made great new friends, and I'm grateful for my time spent on this wonderful piece of literature.

Reviews posted for posterity:

Broadway World


Seattle Weekly

Seattle Times


Heed the Hedonist

Push to Talk

Drama in the Hood

I'll post the pictures when I receive them. I had one week off between the end of this show--and the beginning of my next!

Horse Girls and girls and girls and girls

I returned from my summer in the south reluctantly, but excited to start the projects I had signed on for. I submitted myself for the UPTAs in September. I started making my plans for the regional theatre movement I was attempting to start for myself.

The day after I got back, I had a photo shoot for promotional photos for the show. The reason I agreed to Horse Girls was not only the incredibly fun and challenging new script I had read, but because for the first time since college I was going to do an all women show! An ensemble based script, I was playing the lead Ashleigh, who was a preteen award winning equestrian. The director was a friend who had previously asked me to do a reading of the script a year before that I'd had to miss. Now, all these women were coming together to produce great work--at the perfect time. The subject matter starts fluffy but quickly turns dark. We ended up opening the show the week after a terrible school shooting in Marysville, WA. Because of this event, our opening night was poignant, tragic, and very real.

 We drove out of Seattle to a ranch that had offered us their horses and land to take some pictures. We hadn't rehearsed and we didn't know each other (as is often the case with these things) and got to bond over an afternoon of horses and girl talk. I couldn't wait for the next two months with these ladies.

As Development Director at Annex Theatre (who was producing this show as part of their season) I was a staff member, and company member, and now a cast member. Another of the cast members was also playing my sister Lydia in Pride and Prejudice, and before we opened Horse Girls we were already spending our days rehearsing for P&P.

I also had the pleasure for the first time since moving to Seattle to act with another Stephens College alum on stage. We were delighted to be working together after our time in college and it really brought us back to our roots in creating plays by, for, and about women.

The rehearsal process was challenging and exciting. We were working with a new script, a young director, and a great team. It was an incredibly physical show, not only in the sense of stage combat, but also the idea of putting yourself back into your preteen body and working so hard to be 'grown up'. We sang, we danced, we yelled, we cried, and we told our story.

In the end the New York based writer flew into Seattle to help us tech the show, and we opened to sold out audiences. The run of Horse Girls sold better than any other off-night show in Annex history. With an all women cast! I've attached the reviews below if you'd like to peruse them.

Seattle Times

Drama in the Hood

The Stranger

I had the thought during the run of the show that not often does it happen that I'll get to spend two contracts in a row working with mostly female casts! It was a joy, a gift, and a reminder of how I started and where I came from at Stephens College. I was inspired in those weeks to continue to do all I could to work with as many women in this field as I possible.

Shortly after we opened, a New York premiere of the show was announced, with another Stephens Woman in the cast!  The end of our run at Annex was sad, but we were all moving onto different shows and knew that we'd work together again.

I can say this show was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in my professional career.

Rewind 6 months: The Summer of My Discontent

We last left off over six months ago when I was taking a bit of a life break to do some traveling and deep thinking about my career path, the city I want to live in, and some family matters. I ended up traveling from Seattle east through Idaho and Montana down to camp in Yellowstone in Wyoming. From there I headed south to Colorado where I stayed for a week in Breckenridge.

Now before I left Seattle on my summer trip of 2014 I had done a quick and dirty audition for Pride and Prejudice for Book-It Repertory Theatre (with whom I previously performed in Frankenstein). They then called me the night before I set out on my trip to ask me to do a callback, which of course I was unavailable for because I was leaving. I offered to push my starting time back a few hours the next day if they could fit me in because I desperately wanted to be cast. But unfortunately the timing didn't work out and they said they'd have to move onto callbacks without me. More fortunately it was at this point in my travels in Breckenridge that I missed a call from the director offering me the part of Mary Bennet/Miss Darcy. I immediately called him back and accepted the role for the upcoming December 2014 production!

The director left me with one tidbit of information that would help to inform the rest of my summer: if I had been near the end of my EMC weeks (of which there are 50, and I was not near the end) and wanting to turn Equity (which I would like to do eventually) then I would not have been able to be cast in the show. They had reached their budgetary quota of Equity actors for this show, and were no long able to take on more. The main reason for my travels in the summer of 2014 aside from seeing family and reconnecting with my roots, was about looking into some new markets.  This phone call quickly taught me that I'm nearing the point in my Seattle career where casting (though already completely out of an actor's hands to begin with) was going to soon be based on my ability to financially fit into a theatre's budget. Moving on up in the world!

This got me thinking as I continued my journey south through New Mexico and into Texas in my Suzuki Forenza Wagon that this was the beginning of a new chapter in my career. I was ten weeks into my EMC program, soon to be 20 after Pride and Prejudice, and that would almost mark the halfway point in my 'professional but affordable' career. Now of course I have the option to not turn Equity immediately and to continue to gather weeks until a theatre makes me 'flip', so there's not necessarily a rush. But regardless, I had a revelation. There were many theatres I wanted to work for in Seattle that hadn't picked me up yet. But I was also incredibly unhappy with the weather and the cost of living. It dawned on me that it was very important for me to begin looking into other regional theatres, and new cities in places that I would enjoy living in more -- while these theatres could still afford me. This was my strategy: if I can get regional theatres to get to know me and hire me while I'm still cheap, they're much more likely to do so after I turn Equity. After all, a huge part of theatre is networking and who you know. And no one outside of the city of Seattle had heard anything about me.

So I set to work splitting my summer between family, friends, and travel. I visited Austin (mostly), Dallas, New Orleans, and even road-tripped to Florida. The one city I missed that I'd like to explore is Atlanta. I really enjoyed Austin, and made it a point to see several shows there, though the summer season was slow. I saw a show in Dallas as well, though New Orleans had nothing playing when I stayed there. I did get to talk to friends and alumni and made some great professional connections in all the cities and was able to compare market size, pay rates, cost of living, and generally if I'd enjoy living there.

I'll list my discoveries, and if you ever want any more details, feel free to ask.

Equitable or even slightly larger than the Seattle theatre market. They have more 'mid-size' theatre companies, which means more theatre companies that pay near the Book-It or Taproot level, and have the same quality of production. I find Seattle to be lacking in the mid size theatre category, which is the reason there isn't enough paying theatre in town here. Dallas also has the Dallas Theatre Center, The Children's Theatre, and several larger theatre's in the Ft. Worth area next door. Basically they were the highest paying city I visited, but they also had the highest cost of living and I'd have to live in the big bad city again.

A smaller city, more equitable in population to Seattle. This city has a fringe artistic vibe. Everything created is brand new here, and there's a big excitement surrounding art. It doesn't seem to be a saturated market yet, but it also doesn't seem to pay a lot. I learned from friends that there are 3 or 4 good paying theatres in town, and the Zach Theatre reigns among them all. Regardless, I really enjoyed the city! It was bikeable and felt like home. It's also the closest city to my family, currently. The cost of living is lower here than Seattle, for the most part, and the location is between Dallas and Houston if I ever needed to spread myself in all directions. There's a ton of commercial and film work to be had in this city, and the pace of life is just so different from Seattle. Obviously, I fell in love with this city.

New Orleans:
This city was the cheapest city I visited by far. It's so ridiculously affordable to live here! They have a great small theatre scene, and of course their famous Fringe Festival that happens every fall. Again, the theatre schedule was slow in the summer, but I heard great things about the quality of work being done in this old, historic town. Again, not incredibly high paying for their performers in general, but some wonderful companies to work for and a fun place to live. I have a lot of friends that say they love to visit but would never stay, but I have to admit that I could totally see myself living in New Orleans. Every street was a new adventure, and the culture is so inviting and artistic! And I could bike everywhere, which I would recommend, because driving was scary.

All in all I had a fantastic summer seeing some great small theatre and relearning how much I love and miss The South. They're my people, and though I love to travel and I plan to live many places, I think I'll always go back there.

I also learned a lot about where I'm at in life. I have a great drive to do theatre professionally, and while I've been living in Seattle that has been my one focus. All of my jobs have been theatre related, and my entire schedule has been filled to the brim with acting, teaching, developing, and selling theatre. And I've loved every second of it. But I'm starting to feel like it's time to love where I'm at, and this city just isn't doing it for me anymore. Now, that's not to say I'll never return, because I would love to. I love most everything about Seattle. But right now I want to slow down and build my hobbies and try something new. I want to continue to do theatre and work for theatre in my life, but I need to put a little bit of life back into my theatre.

So the plan was hatched as I made my way back up to Seattle in September of 2014. I was driving back across the country to fulfill two more contracts I'd signed--Horse Girls at Annex Theatre and Pride and Prejudice at Book-It Rep.. I had no idea what would be in store for me, but I knew I had to make every last experience county because my Seattle chapter was coming near to its First (of possibly many) ends.