Wake Up Calls


“Stop making your POC friends be your 101 class because we are getting exhausted.”

-Deanna Myers

This was a plea from an artist of color at a recent town hall held to discuss the casting crisis we find ourselves in in Chicago theatre. Recently there have been a number of scandals in the Chicagoland area about white actors being cast in latinx roles. The most recent one being the casting of a white Usnavi in Porchlight Music Theatre company’s production of In the Heights. Many of my brilliant, hardworking, empathetic friends who are artists of color are getting bombarded with requests and demands for clarity on the issues of inclusivity, diversity, erasure, and authentic casting. They are completely worn out and understandably frustrated.

Well, I am of the belief that it isn’t their job to educate us white folk on how all this works. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t reach out and learn from and more importantly COLLABORATE with artists of color to gain better understanding. What I’m saying is…do as much research and learn as much on your own before you do so. You wouldn’t jump straight to an advanced class on a topic you know nothing about, right?

Before I get into it, I have to apologize. I am one of the ones who has stayed quiet about the Porchlight controversy. This one hit close to home. Some very close friends and collaborators are involved. I truly thought they had made an unfortunate, unintentional mistake that they couldn’t walk back from by casting a white Usnavi that they thought was Latino. I assumed that everyone had learned their lesson, that this was a wake-up call for the actor, and that it would NEVER happen again with those on the artistic team.

And more than that, POC members of the cast had reached out to me telling me that they were having an authentic experience. Who was I, as a white woman, to tell them that they weren’t? To take that experience that they were excited about away from them? So I stayed quiet watching it escalate and escalate. Every time I thought that it had passed, it reached a boiling point again. It is my privilege that allowed me to sit back and “wait for the storm to pass,” justifying to myself that I had spoken out on many other scandals and many other issues and that I’d just sit this one out. I was silent because I felt like to speak up would betray my friends. But what I’ve realized is, to not speak up is to betray my community. Being woke is a constant job and we can’t be lazy or we’ll fall back asleep. Also, I think I can help. I have a somewhat unique perspective. I’m a white woman who has more experience with authentic and inclusive casting than most.

The first thing I’d like to talk about are the various wake-up calls that I’ve had while casting. The first one happened on my very first casting gig. Bailiwick Chicago was casting Aida and I had my eyes set on the role of Amneris. I emailed the director and the casting director telling them that I would love to audition for Amneris, but that if they didn’t see me in the role I would love to help with casting. Casting had always been a bit of a fascination with me and I cast things in my head all the time.

They told me that they were going in a different direction with the show but that I could help with casting admin. under the tutelage of Lili-Anne Brown. I heard through the grapevine that the “different direction” was that they were going to try to employ a full POC cast. I felt a tiny bitterness raise up, they wouldn’t even let me try for the role because I was white? Wasn’t that taking things a little too literally? We started casting and that sentiment felt foolish. I was dead wrong.

Aida is set in AFRICA. Which I knew of course, but up to that point the show had been traditionally cast with the Nubians played by black actors and the Egyptians cast as white. I never questioned it. It had never dawned on me that it wasn’t appropriate to cast white people as the Egyptians. It slowly became OBVIOUS that this was the way to go. Watching Lil cast the show and watching how the actors fulfilled these lead roles better than any white actors ever could was eye-opening. The story was so much more powerful cast in an authentic way. Bailiwick Chicago also hired Deeply Rooted Dance Theater to choreograph the show. It was beautiful and was a huge success, selling out and extending. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before and I learned that there are some stories that aren’t yours to tell.

My love affair/obsession with authentic, inclusive casting was born. Lil and I worked together casting many shows after that and when she became artistic director of Bailiwick Chicago, I took over casting. My first job was casting Mahal, a play by Danny Bernardo. This was my second wake-up call.

Mahal is about a Filipino family. I had seen the reading of it and I loved it so much. I was honored to cast it and determined to get it right. I called in everyone I could think of that might be of Asian decent. Thank goodness I had Danny on call helping me along the way. There were a couple of close calls where I almost called in someone completely inappropriate. There was a WHITE GIRL that almost fooled me. To be fair she almost fooled Danny too. That headshot was crazy. Anyway, I realized that I was completely uneducated, not only in what our Asian-American Chicago theatre talent and resources were, but in (I’m ashamed to say) being able to differentiate between different types of Asian actors.

I could have hidden behind my ignorance and been afraid to ask questions. But I didn’t do that. I had two Filipinos in the casting room and I leaned on them heavily and they had the patience of saints while I negotiated my way through the casting process. And we put together a beautiful cast, where the entire Filipino family was played by Filipinos. This would not have happened without having Filipino artists in the room.

One thing about me. Trade secrets! When I’m casting, I choose my battles. There’s usually one casting choice that I feel passionately about where I will devote all my energy and advocate strongly for that actor. I was leaning toward a non-Filipino actor that I loved for one of the roles and it was the role I had decided to fight for. So I dug my heels in a bit, trying to make headway in the discussion. Danny turned to me and the director and told us in the nicest way possible that it wouldn’t be authentic and might be borderline offensive to a Filipino audience. And it dawned on me. I hadn’t thought about them. Not once. Not for a second. I hadn’t considered the audience. And the actor we cast instead of my pick was absolutely brilliant AND authentic. I was dead wrong.

After Mahal, Lil and I got into a rhythm. When the show called for authentic casting, we made sure to cast appropriately, even if it took extra effort. When race wasn’t a major part of the plot, we would strive for as inclusive a cast as possible, re-purposing roles that were traditionally cast as white for actors of color. These two practices I have carried with me into every project I work on.

I’ve had many more discoveries and wake-up calls along the way. I am constantly learning and constantly trying to do better the next time. In the end, I am still a white woman advocating for actors of color in the casting room. I try to be a good ally. And I am a big ole fan of our rich embarrassment of riches when it comes to actors of color in Chicago and I try to spread my enthusiasm to those around me in positions of authority. But hear me. I am a great part of the team but… HAVING ME IN THE ROOM IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR HAVING AN ARTIST OF COLOR IN THE PROCESS.

I know this is all really confusing. I know that things are changing really quickly and it’s hard to keep up. I know that you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing. Hell. I’M afraid of saying the wrong thing most of the time. I know that people are having strong reactions to casting situations that didn’t seem to be a problem a couple years ago. The goal post is moving farther and farther away and getting more and more specific with what is acceptable and what isn’t and you might feel lost.

Start with those two practices. Go back to the text every single time. Pour over the script. Does it call for a certain non-white race in the script? Is that integral to the plot? Cast it that way. It is no longer acceptable not to. Is race ambiguous or not integral to the plot? Find opportunities for inclusivity. Every project is an opportunity to cast in a way that looks like the world around us. Broaden your mind past our preconceived notions to include actors of color, more women, different body types, trans actors, disabled actors, etc. It will enrich your shows. It will enrich the experience. More of the audience will see themselves on stage. It can change the world. We literally have the power to change the world if we just move past the discomfort of having to admit we’re wrong.

That’s what we need to do. I confess, I think I’m right most of the time. But when I’m proven wrong, I will admit it. For the white actor playing Usnavi to respond to the question of whether he’d do this all again with, “one hundred percent. I now stand more firmly in my own beliefs than I did before all this,” is insanely disheartening. Up until that point I thought as a community we were making progress; that we were getting through to people. How this young man could watch the same town hall that I watched and not want to do better next time is beyond frustrating. I REALLY hope that that quote was taken out of context. I’d like to see the paragraph it belongs in. Because if that’s IT, then this experience which could be a serious wake-up moment for this actor has gone to waste.

Up until this point I had chalked it up to youth on his part. I mean… I thought it was appropriate to do a monologue from MEDEA when I was 15. I was always a little dark, kids. Anyway, my point is…we do dumb shit when we’re young before we know any better. I really wanted to give him a pass. How would he know this is inappropriate? In college we are taught to audition for anything and everything and not take no for an answer. He’s straight out of school. This was his mess up. We all get one, right? But you have to LEARN from it. You have to grow. That’s the whole point of making mistakes is that the next time we don’t make the same mistakes. And what is becoming glaringly obvious is there are many that don’t think anything is wrong.

So how do we move forward? As artists? As a community? When so many have put so much work in and still can’t reach someone? We keep trying to change hearts and minds and stay available for those that want to learn and change.

But if that doesn’t work? I have faith in what’s new. I have faith in the changing of the guard. I do hope that the established theaters in town come along for the ride, but in the meantime those of us that can’t let the status quo continue will be making our own art. We are going to be casting in rooms with people who are just as excited about inclusion and authenticity as we are. We won’t have to convince people through shame and threats of poor optics to be on the right side of history. Because there is an army of like-minded people who are coming up right now. Literally none of us are doing this for the money. None of us. But we are passionate and we are loud and we will not be denied. If we can’t change the old guard we’ll create a new one.

My time at Profiles

I worked at Profiles for two years. While there I was an actor, assisted with casting, and assistant directed three productions. I had heard the same rumors everyone else heard before I got cast in Sweet and Sad. I decided to make up my own mind, knowing that if something inappropriate began to occur I would be out of there right away. “I’m tough,” I thought. “I’m a Navy girl. I know how to handle myself. I’ll be fine.” My friends warned me to watch out for Darrell. Some even said things like, “don’t sleep with him even though you’ll want to.” I laughed all of this off. That’s a normal warning that girls give other girls that are starting a show with a womanizer. “Don’t sleep with (fill in the blank).” It’s such a common thing to hear.

My first day of rehearsal I met this infamous ladies man.  We got along great. I was never attracted to him, but I loved acting with him. He would look at you with this crazy passion in his eyes and send all this energy your way. He gave you so much on stage. I lapped it up and gave it right back. It was intoxicating.

My time at Profiles was a happy one filled with what seemed to be mutual respect and understanding. The company members were my friends, confidants, and artistic collaborators. It was my artistic home. I loved the realistic style of acting. I loved staying after the show in the dressing room and talking til the wee hours of the night about how we can make a certain moment better. There were notes after every show and I LOVED it. Nothing was ever good enough for us. It could always be better. I strove for that perfection.

It was a boys club, sure. I had to dance around some egos, sure. But what woman in the theatre…in LIFE…doesn’t have to figure out how to dance around some male egos? Or so I thought at the time. I began to pride myself in how I could trick them into thinking something was their idea, when it was really mine. And even if I didn’t always get the credit, the show was better for it. I felt important and needed and like a true collaborator. Other members of the ensemble would say that Darrell and Joe treated me differently than other women, that they actually treated me like an equal. I wore that like a badge of honor. I felt so inspired and included that I knew I had to find a way to stay. So I assistant directed the next show, and the show after that.

I reached a point where I simply didn’t believe the rumors. My experience was a better test of the truth than some rumors that I had never heard substantiated, right? Any time I had heard any allegations it always happened to “a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend.” It didn’t seem credible. They laughed off the rumors at Profiles too. I heard stories about crazy ex-girlfriends and ex-wives.

I moved on from Profiles because after spending almost a year assistant directing their shows, I wanted to act again. I went back to doing musicals. I did a national tour. I wouldn’t say we lost touch, but we didn’t keep in touch either.

Last year while I was still on tour, I saw the original post on Facebook where “not in our house” was coined. I knew from the comments that they were talking about Profiles and WHO they were talking about at Profiles. I was disturbed, but I brushed it off. Surely those men who were all in steady relationships, never partied, barely drank, that I constantly teased that they were “SO boring”…surely they couldn’t be the same men in these salacious stories, could they?

I pulled my car over to the side of the road last night and read the article in The Reader about the pattern of abuse at Profiles. I read all 12,000+ words. After I read it, I sat in my car for an hour before going home. I felt numb. I started shaking. The thought that there were women who had nightmares about a place that used to feel like home to me was a hard thing for me to accept.  When I got home my brain was still desparately grasping for ways to defend my old colleagues. My roommate stopped me and said, “I don’t understand why you’re being devil’s advocate about this. It really surprises me.” I stopped. It surprised me too. I’m an activist for women’s rights. I run a theatre company celebrating women. Why was I clinging to the last bit of hope that these stories weren’t true?

Because they were my friends. Because they were my heroes. Because they inspired me. They made me feel like a true artist. Because I learned more about acting and directing there than anywhere. Because I’m PROUD of the work we did there. Because it is literally breaking my heart to say #notinourhouse about Profiles because I know it means accepting the truth. But I must say it. Because it’s inexcusable. It’s intollerable. NOT IN OUR FUCKING HOUSE. Just because it didn’t happen to me doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

And you know what? It DID happen to me. Not at Profiles. But it DID happen to me. It happened when a director tried to sleep with me after the very first rehearsal. It happened when a celebrated older actor showed up to a show, took one look at me, and said “mine” and then him and his friend tried to get me drunk at a cast party and take advantage of me that night. It happened when a director cast himself in the show so he could “make out with me.” Talk to a woman who was young in the theatre. Just pick one at random. Chances are it’s happened or is HAPPENING to her. And don’t exclude young gay males being targeted by older male directors! They are just as vulnerable.

It’s happened to most of us. This is not a union thing. It’s happening in non-equity theatres and in equity theatres alike. It’s happening with some of the most respected names in the community. This is not even a Chicago thing. Or a Theatre thing. This is the culture of our society. This is the mess we have to dismantle. This does not begin or end with Profiles.

But Profiles is definitely culpable. I know that now. I think what hurts me the most is that I wasn’t just an actor at Profiles, I was in a position of some authority. I was supposed to protect those actors. I thought I was. I thought I had their backs. I was so proud of them. Some of them affectionately called me “mama.” It makes me sick to my stomach. When I look back now I can see possible little warning signs that I brushed aside at the time. And things are starting to come to the surface. Things I didn’t know. I was too wrapped up in my own artistic experience to pay attention.

To the casts of Hellcab 2012, Dream of the Burning Boy, and Hellcab 2013: I’m so sorry. I’m sorry if you needed protecting and I didn’t protect you. Anything you need, I am here for you now. I vow to spend the rest of my career making sure actors who work for me feel safe. Thank you for listening.



If you are experiencing inappropriate behavior in your show, with a colleague, or at a a theatre please reach out to NotInOurHouse.

What if Musical Theatre was Made for Women?

Photo by: Heather Stumpf

It’s time for Feminism and Musical Theatre to get in bed together.

A while ago I read Michael Riedel’s New York Post article, “A feminist war is being waged at Broadway’s Waitress,” about how the creative team behind Broadway’s Waitress is letting their feminism cloud their judgment regarding the production. Waitress has Broadway’s first all-female creative team. It’s the story of a woman from a small town who is stuck in an abusive marriage, who expresses herself by baking creative pies. I was lucky enough to see the pre-Broadway production, starring Tony Award-winner Jessie Mueller, at the American Repertory Theater this past Fall. Full disclosure: I loved the show and Jessie is a friend. So, I’m biased.

I hated Riedel’s article. Besides the obvious snark and condescension that the article was dripping with, the thing that disturbed me most was Riedel’s last statement: “Let’s leave domestic violence to Tennessee Williams and David Mamet.” This got my blood boiling. Are women not allowed to tell difficult stories from a woman’s point of view? Is musical theatre not allowed to cover real-life topics? Do we have to leave that to the “serious” male playwrights? Can musical theatre not have a message–and may women not be the purveyors of that message? This article helped illuminate the inequity and, frankly, the intolerance of women in musical theatre.

There are more female actors than there are male in musical theatre and fewer roles, and not by a little. The ratio of male to female roles in musical theatre is shockingly unbalanced. Even some of the great iconic roles in the musical theatre cannon: Evita, Aldonza, and Mary Magdalene (in Evita, Man of La Mancha, and Jesus Christ Superstar respectively), are in shows where almost every other role is played by a man. Musicals that are heavily cast with women, like Nine or Company, may give a lot of female actors work, but the show is still all about the man.

Women are also grossly underrepresented behind the scenes. In my hometown of Chicago there are only a handful of female directors, music directors, technicians, and musicians who are regularly employed by our hundreds of theaters.

What is even more scarce than behind-the-scenes representation is the amount of musicals written by women being produced in theaters across the country. According to the latest findings by The Kilroys’ List, 22% of the plays produced in America are written by women. How many musicals produced in America are written by women? I don’t know. There is no data collected, but I do know it’s less…much less. Can you name even ten female composers or librettists? How about five?

And it doesn’t end there. Logically, it would make sense that if we are putting up shows that are tailored to men, written by men, about men, directed by men, and cast with mostly men, then men must be our largest audience demographic, right? NOPE. Not even close. 68% of the Broadway audiences were women in 2014-2015. Sixty-eight percent. It doesn’t even make good business sense to tailor specifically to men.

With all of this in mind and with my recent statements about my dissatisfaction with non-inclusive casting, I started Firebrand Theatre with my most trusted colleague, Danni Smith. Firebrand is a musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding their opportunities on and off the stage. That’s our mission statement. We are the first feminist musical theatre company in the world, and that gross article by Mr. Riedel reinforced the importance of a company like Firebrand and how far we still have to go for equality in our chosen art form.

When Danni and I decided to embark on this journey together, I did some research: I did an online search of “feminist musical theatre.” Do you know what showed up? Nothing. Nada. Naught. Zilch. Zero. Zip. There are a few articles, and there is a book you can buy on Amazon. But, actual theatre companies that only do musicals with a feminist or women-centric mission? None. I began to get really angry. Why wasn’t this a thing? Why is there this huge void? And more importantly, why had I just accepted that this was the way things are for the last 15 years of my career?

So how do Danni and I plan to fix this? The first thing is very simple: We hire more women. We just hire them for pete’s sake. We hire female directors, music directors, casting directors, choreographers, musicians, lighting designers, sound designers, costume designers, and so on. How do we expect a woman’s point of view to be celebrated when everyone crafting that point of view is a man?

Firebrand will pick shows that showcase women rather than marginalize them. Will this be easy? No. I applied the Bechdel test to every musical I could think of and the results are depressing at best. And in my opinion, passing the Bechdel test should be the bare minimum. There is some really good material out there: Anything by Michael John LaChiusa or Jeanine Tesori passes every feminist test I throw at it with flying colors. Traditional material can also be re-imagined to fit our criteria. We are going to go back to the text every single time to see what it requires; We will not just do what has always been done.

Even with existing material that features women prominently, and even with creative re-imagining of shows that could be made to do so, the options will run out because, sadly, musical theatre is even more behind the times than non-musical theatre. The barrier breaking shows on Broadway right now–Hamilton, Fun Home, Waitress, etc.–will not trickle down to the regional market for many years to come. So we remain behind the times, and we don’t want to wait for these titles to be available; We want change now.

So, the biggest thing we are going to do to combat this problem is to add to the canon. At Firebrand we will be commissioning new musicals that fit our criteria of both employing and empowering women–New works will have to pass the Bechdel test and the Firebrand Test.

The Firebrand Test:
In this work, there are at least as many women as men in the cast, it lends itself to inclusive, diverse casting, and it empowers women.

And just so we’re clear, we love men and we want to employ them too. We just want to tell stories that celebrate men and women in service of evening the field. Our ideal scenario is that one day we won’t have to use the term “feminist musical theatre.” One day it will just be “musical theatre.” That day is not today.

So I would like to invite Mr. Riedel and others who share his views to embrace feminist musical theatre; It will make for more interesting storytelling when women in musicals play something other than “the virgin,” “the whore,” “the mother,” or “the hag.” It will make our art form all the richer when we are representing everyone’s point of view.

Is this something you can get behind? Do you think musical theatre could use a makeover? If so, I invite you to donate to Firebrand Theatre below. We want to change the face of musical theatre and we want you to be part of that movement.





Do Better


(Photo by Joe Mazza at Brave Lux)
I’m a stage actor based in Chicago. I’ve been a working actor for ten years. I have been very lucky in my career in many ways. I have worked with and for incredible people. I have also heard this:
-“You really need to lose some weight if you want a career.”
-“You won’t work until you’re forty, because you’re never going to play the love interest, but after that you’ll work a lot.”
-“You would need to lose twenty pounds for the role.”
-“You’re not believable as a love interest.”
-“You should really wear more makeup, and show your cleavage more.”
-“We can work with your body type, but if you are serious about this career you need to have your nose and teeth fixed.”
-“You don’t have a commercial body type.”
-“They told us you were smaller.”
-“I mean, you’re good-looking, but you’re not beautiful.
There is more. There is so much more. This is just a sample. For the last ten years I have been conditioned by my industry to hate my body.
Not all of the above things were said with malice. Most of those individuals thought they were helping or didn’t even realize they had said something inappropriate. Some of them WERE helping, and did help me land a role I wanted. It doesn’t change the fact that I, an average-sized woman have dealt with so much sizeism and sexism in one of the last industries where you can discriminate against someone because of how they look. And if I’ve dealt with it, I know others have and that some have it worse, way worse.
The statement that bothers me the most is “you’re not believable as a love interest,” because it’s a damn shame. I have played the love interest before. Being believably in love with another human on stage just happens to be my specialty. (Also, I take issue with the term “love interest.” Men are never referred to in that way, even if the woman is the lead. But that’s a different fight for a different day.) Am I not right for the particular love story you’re telling? Great. But to say that I am not right to ever love on stage EVER? Horseshit.
I just did the casting for a local Equity musical and we saw all types of women for the female lead. Three of the women called back for the role  that weren’t the typical “love-interest type” actually thanked us for seeing them for a role they would never normally be seen for. I’m so glad that it made them happy, but I’m so upset that this is an anomaly. We need to do better by them. We need to be braver. Those of us who affect casting decisions need to be as brave as the actors bearing their souls in front of us.
So how do we change the game? Artistic directors, casting directors, directors, anyone involved with casting…we have to do better. Not for me; I’m fine. I have become less interested in being a “cog in the machine” and more interested in becoming a part of the solution. But we need to do better for those who come after me.
We NEED to diversify. If you are involved in the producing process, ask yourself, “Does my show have specific plot points related to race?” No? Then you should think about looking outside the caucasian race. “Does my show have specific references to body type?” No? Then you should be open to other body types. “Are there some roles in my show that could possibly be re-allocated for women to play?” Yes? Then think about switching the genders of those roles. And don’t forget the trans community, the disabled community, the community that brings you into a new perspective.  Be Actively Inclusive.
And, don’t expect these different groups to just show up, seek them out, invite them, include them. Do your due diligence and make your company one they feel welcomed to be a part of. It’s worth the extra work.
Theatres wonder how to stay relevant; how not to die off once their main audience literally dies off. This is how. We need to start casting in a way that looks like the world that we live in. Casting predominantly white and male is antiquated. It doesn’t fly anymore. If we don’t change with the times, we will become irrelevant. And worse, it’s UNCREATIVE in a CREATIVE art form. We have so many more types of stories to tell with so many more different types of people. Let’s do better.
And as for me?  I’m taking my body back from this industry. It hasn’t been mine for 10 years. I will no longer lose weight for you. I will no longer try to mold myself into what I think you want me to look like. I will no longer starve myself for a quick weight loss to please you. I will no longer change myself in any way for YOU. When I take all the pressure to change myself away and I take all the negative feedback away, I realize that I actually like myself. When I stop worrying that if I speak my mind people will not like me or worse…DUN DUN DUN…they won’t CAST ME, I like myself A WHOLE LOT. This is my New Year declaration.

New Dreams

I have one more day at home before flying down to Sarasota, FL to continue the Sister Act tour. Today is New Years Day. Today is supposed to be the day that you start anew. You’re supposed to come up with things that you want to change. You choose your resolutions. I’ve been thinking about that for a couple of days now. The thing is, I can’t think of any. Is that weird? Let me explain. No. My life isn’t perfect. Of course I want to be more patient, nicer, thinner, wear makeup, give someone the time of day, save more money, be more active, be able to fly to the moon, travel to Hawaii, etc.

I guess that resolutions are kind of merging in my brain with goals and dreams. It’s all the same thing for me right now. And for the first time in a long time, I have NO IDEA what I want. None. Zilch. Nada. Clueless. This started to become apparent the other day. On Facebook there is a thing going around where you name your top 5 musical theater roles.  I got tagged, and I was so excited. I love talking about my favorite roles! Evita! Fantine! Elphaba! Aldonza! Every fallen woman that’s every been written in the cannon!

For some reason, I had a hard time putting these roles down that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a teenager. I wasn’t excited about it. I thought about my favorite roles that I’ve played…Mother in Ragtime, Emma in Tell me on a Sunday, Lou Ellen in Oh Boy, Violet in Violet, and Ruth in Dessa Rose. What do all those roles have in common? I had no idea they existed. I didn’t grow up dreaming about playing them. They were all a complete surprise and my biggest theatrical blessings. I had no pre-conceived notions of how to play these roles, or expectation of what these roles could be.

I ended up making up my own musicals: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Clementine, Battlestar Galactica as Starbuck, Hillary Clinton as Hillary, Mists of Avalon as Morgan Le Fay, and Queen Elizabeth as Elizabeth. The thought of playing THESE roles put an unquenchable fire in my heart. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t be honored and thrilled to play my girlhood dream roles.  What I’m saying is that I have new dreams. Dreams that I don’t even know what they are yet. Dreams of the  unknown.

I wrote up a 5-year plan a couple of New Years ago. It included theaters I wanted to work at, accolades I wanted to receive, certain agencies I wanted to represent me, etc. Through the years, no matter what things I achieved, part of me has been unhappy because I haven’t been ticking off enough of the goals on that list.

This year I have no list. I have never in my life been more uncertain about what the year ahead holds for me. I don’t know where in the World I will be. So much is up in the air right now. I’m going to let the chips fall where they may. A couple of months ago I was really stressed out about all of the uncertainty that I’m facing this year. And now? I’m not. I don’t know what happened. Part of it was listing my favorite roles. Who knew a Facebook fad could illuminate my life so much for me? Ridiculous.

I don’t know what’s coming and more importantly, for the first time ever, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to plan. I don’t want to make lists. That works for some people. It doesn’t for me. My life has never followed the typical road, so why on earth did I think my career would? I face this year ready. Ready for it all. If you told me this time last year, that I would be on a National Tour DANCING and singing, I would have laughed in your face. I hope that a year from now, I am doing something equally bizarre. But I won’t be laughing at it this time. I welcome it.

Happy New Year my friends!



Catching up

I’ve been trying to figure out how to catch up with my blog succinctly, without leaving anything out. And the fact of the matter is, I can’t. The nature of this tour is that it has A LOT of one-nighters. It happens too quick to keep up with it. Some of my castmates have been excellent about taking pictures at every venue and logging every restaurant we eat at for future reference. I have not.

It gets overwhelming trying to keep up with it all. Also, with all of the injustices happening in the world in the last couple of months, it’s hard to want to talk about things that seem frivolous, like theater or that I had honey butter on my corn muffin in Knoxville. Especially when in the very same town square that I enjoyed that corn muffin, and did my joy-filled show, during the Christmas Parade there was a civil rights protest.

I’ve been shocked and a little paralyzed by all of the atrocities that have occurred in the last couple of months. The positive take-away that I see is that a generation that has been blasted as being apathetic, lazy, and ineffective has taken to the streets to lie down with their fellow man in die-ins, to shout, to debate, to educate, to blog, and yes to fight for justice.

This is the digital age and you can’t hide anymore. You can’t sweep an awful crime under the rug. It will be exposed, and we are watching. This brilliant, passionate, and EFFECTIVE generation is watching and we won’t stand for it.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing a musical about singing nuns. I sometimes feel like what I’m doing doesn’t matter. I have to remind myself, that anything that brings as much joy as our show brings is a good thing. We do provide a service that is grossly needed. We are joy makers.

So, I’m sitting here at a cafe in Wausau, WI watching it snow outside the window, listening to Christmas music, and writing to you. This is what I can tell you. Things are easier for me this leg of the tour. Our schedule is a LITTLE nicer, but mostly it’s that I know what this is now. I know its blessings and its trappings. I know how to pack, what to eat, how much things cost, and my body is finally conditioned enough to do this show without falling over.

I’m looking forward to my Christmas break next week. It’s no secret that Christmas isn’t my favorite holiday, but that may be turning around a bit. I can’t wait to see my family and I feel so much more thankful than normal this year. To have this job…yes, but mostly I’m thankful to have my health, to have my family and friends, and to be alive. None of this is guaranteed. As a close friend of mine quoted a friend of ours who lost his life recently in a battle with cancer, there is “no time for fear.”

I love you friends. Have a beautiful holiday. I will be back after the New Year. A LOT of Florida in the next leg of the tour, so hopefully there will be a lot of pictures of fun in the sun!



Another Suitcase in Another Hall

I feel like the mistress in Evita right now.

So what happens now? (What day is it? Month? Where are we?)
Another suitcase in another hall
So what happens now? (Huh? I have no idea. )
Take your picture off another wall
Where am I going to? (I THINK I’m in Texas?)
You’ll get by, you always have before
Where am I going to? (Or is it Louisiana?)

One-nighters hit me like a ton of bricks. I had tried to prepare myself for it, but it was exhausting. Top that with the fact that I was hit with the 10 plagues (Fire Ants, Gastroenteritis, Bed Bugs, Insomnia, Dehydration, Bus-sickness, Fever, Laryngitis, Sinus Infection, and Plantar Fasciitis). Fun, right? It was one thing after another for two weeks, so I was pretty miserable. I didn’t get to do much exploring at all. Any time that I had that wasn’t doing the show or on the bus, I was in bed. I was so thankful during that time for health insurance, our physical therapist, and an understanding roommate.

Week 3, 4: Lincoln, NE; Kalamazoo, MO; Texarkana, TX; College Station, TX; Tyler, TX; Orange, TX; Baton Rouge, LA

Lied Center in Lincoln, NE.
Lied Center in Lincoln, NE.
Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, MI.
Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, MI.
Perot Theatre in Texarkana, TX.
Perot Theatre in Texarkana, TX.
Rudder Auditorium in College Station, TX.
Rudder Auditorium in College Station, TX.
Cowan Center in Tyler, TX.
Cowan Center in Tyler, TX.
Lutcher Theater in Orange Texas.
Lutcher Theater in Orange Texas.
River Center in Baton Rouge, LA.
River Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

 These two weeks are all a blur unfortunately. I did have adventures in Memphis and Baton Rouge though. I’ll blog about them soon! Cheers!


On the Open Road!

After Wilmington, our bus tour officially began. Our first stop was Paducah, Kentucky: the quilting capital of the world. Who knew? I went to the National Quilt Museum and was truly blown away. There were traditional quilts there, but what I was drawn to could’ve been mistaken for impressionist paintings. They were abstract and rich and made me miss my mother because they reminded me of her paintings.


The Carson Center in Paducah, KY. Stunning.
Kentucky Moonshine!
They are SERIOUS about quilting in Paducah.
The National Quilt Museum. The quilting capital of the WORLD.
Even the lobby of the Carson Center looks quilted!
Actors Arriving!
I stood on this shore and waved to Illinois. My home. My heart.

Our next stop was Conway, Arkansas. We weren’t in town long enough to explore thoroughly, but there was one curious thing. There was a Sesame Street! And muppet signs all over the place. I did some research and they have a PBS studio near the theater. It was so random. One of the coolest things about this tour has been finding out what thing each of these towns is known for.


Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway, Arkansas.
Signing posters for donors.
Happy Nun.
Happy Nun.
Mr. Rogers on Sesame Street!
How cute is this!?

We next moved into Galveston, TX which is a super cool town. It reminded me a bit of New Orleans. I wish I had been able to enjoy it more. Galveston is the town I started feeling sick in. This sickness would continue in one form or another for 2 more weeks. In fact, I am just now starting to feel normal again. I seriously think I’m allergic to Texas. Luckily, before my sickness hit me I was able to do a little exploring, including boarding the 1877 Tall Ship Elissa. Very cool!


The Beautiful Grand Opera House in Galveston, TX.
The Beautiful Grand Opera House in Galveston, TX.
Grand Opera House.
Grand Opera House.
Grand Opera House
Grand Opera House
It really reminded me of New Orleans.
When in Texas?
When in Texas?
Galveston, TX.
Galveston, TX.
Tall Ship Elissa!
Tall Ship Elissa!
Captain's Wheel.
Captain’s Wheel.

Alright, that’s all you get this round! Next up: One-nighters begin and I am struck with the ten plagues: Fire Ants, Gastroenteritis, Bed Bugs, Insomnia, Dehydration, Bus-sickness, Fever, Laryngitis, Sinus Infection, and Plantar Fasciitis. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?


Another Openin’ of Another Show!

The day after my Chicago adventure was our opening night in Wilmington, DE at the historic Dupont Theatre. It was everything you would want an opening night to be. Have you ever been in an audience of a musical that has a wall of sound that engulfs you? There is something physiological about it. Whenever I witness a wall of sound I get emotional. The same applies to being part of making that wall of sound. There is a number in Sister Act where the nuns are learning to sing called “Raise Your Voice.” It’s a passage of time piece where the nuns go from barely being able to sing to becoming an impressive choir. It’s an emotional song for obvious reasons. I think it reminds all of us performers about learning to sing and how much we love it and the joy found in it.





On Opening Night the energy was so strong that the nun chorus all burst into tears after that number and the audience ROARED. I’ve never been part of a show that has a crowd reaction like that. It’s addictive. The entire show was like a thrill ride, and we were SO happy to have the damn thing open. So much hard work went into it and LITERAL blood, sweat, and tears. We were also happy to go to the Opening Night party that signified the end of tech and the beginning of our grand adventure.


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See you soon on the open road!


Tech in the Autumn

Tech for Sister Act was in beautiful York, Pennsylvania. We were in a great hotel with a kitchenette in the room so I was able to cook almost all my meals. This is a rare luxury on tour. (A post on tips to a more pleasant tour will be in a post soon.) So while I was having my typical tech meltdown, I was surrounded by beauty and convenience.

When we arrived it was 80 degrees and the pool was open. When we left, it was around 50. We watched the season change from Summer to Fall in 2 weeks. I grew up in New York State, and remember the lush and beautiful Falls of my childhood, so staying in York was almost like going home for me.


While we were there we had a golden day. A golden day means you have no shows and no travel, you are free to do what you choose. Well I went to Gettysburg and had the time of my life. I explored a vintage hat store, went to the Wills’ house where Abraham Lincoln refined his Gettysburg address and of course strolled through the the Gettysburg National Cemetery. This was especially poignant for me as a Veteran. It was a very cool and humbling experience.


After a full day of exploring on foot, I ended up at the Dobbin House Tavern. It’s in the basement of the famous Dobbin House which was one of the hiding spots on the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s. After the battle of Gettysburg, the house served as a hospital for wounded soldiers from the North and South.

Now it’s a dimly lit, historically maintained tavern with delicious food. I had delicious fresh cheese and fruits, homemade date bread, onion soup, And there is THIS.



Apple Cider






Ummmm What!? You read that correctly. A big ass dollop of butter. It was rude and it was AMAZING. It was like Apple Pie in a cup. I will be repeating this recipe until the end of time. It was the most delicious hot fall beverage I’ve ever had. TRY THIS. DO IT. It’s life changing. I MAY try it with whiskey instead though. 😉

The other great thing about York is that we had rental cars issued to us, so I felt pretty free. And I did a decent amount of shopping. Which is bad, but honestly, I packed completely wrong and my luggage sucked. So I’ve been buying what I need. I’m quickly figuring out what I need and what i don’t. When I go home for the holidays, I will definitely be dropping off a bunch of stuff.

So, York was pretty great. It was really long hours. Tech wasn’t the easiest. I’m not going to lie. It was grueling, but we got through it and previews were great. I’ve never been in a show that gets this much response from the audience. Standing ovations every single day, people screaming like they’re at a concert. It’s completely thrilling. I hope you’re having a beautiful Fall and make sure to have some buttered rum. DO IT.