September

Uncategorized

On September 1st, basic girls along the east coast came climbing out of the woodwork, already ordering PSLs and pulling their scarves out of storage (no judgment, I stand among you all).I realize it’s a bit premature as we’re still averaging 80 degree days and, technically, we’re sitting in the summer season until September 20th. But make no mistake, September isn’t just an excuse to start getting excited for autumn, but for the biggest shift in seasonal energy since we put away our raincoats and boots back in May (or was it June? Who’s to say because Global Warming).

We come off this high of sweet summertime; typically filled with sunny vacations (and a lot of margaritas) and are subsequently met with the impending calm that lives in the coming months of, what I would argue is, the most peaceful season in our calendar year.

That’s what excites me about September. Yes, I can’t wait to lose track of the Pumpkin Spice Lattes I will consume from The Chipped Cup (not Starbucks, let’s be clear), visit Blue Jay Orchards in Connecticut to pick apples and drink fresh apple cider, and slip into my fall wardrobe and show you all how much money I have wasted on sweaters. But, mostly, I look forward to this month for the way the season brings peace to my mind and soul.

Forty-First & Avenue of the Americas

new york, personal

I’ve been very fortunate to spend the past few years working off the beaten path from the midtown madness — in theaters like New World Stages, 59E59, and the Neil Simon on 52nd Street. It was bliss — close enough to everything we love about midtown but far enough away from the overcrowded center of the city. Admittedly, I’ve grown into one of those New Yorkers who’s silently screaming as they sift through the saturated streets flooded with tourists standing idle and taking pictures of the place I call home. So you can imagine the reality check I got moving to the Nederlander Theatre, which lives on 41st and 7th — right smack dab in the middle of Times Square.

You wouldn’t think nine blocks could make such a difference, but it does. Everything around me is accessible but crowded, boundless yet limited, and amazingly frustrating. Brighter, louder, busier.

Especially when you work in the theatrical industry, you find that where you are is so crucial because, more often than not, you’ll spend just as much, if not more, time in your theatre’s neighborhood than you will in your own. But, as with any move to a new neighborhood, you find the eye of the storm. You find the peace within the chaos. You find your happy place. I am so lucky to have that on Forty First and Avenue of the Americas.

Bryant Park has been one of my happy places since long before my chapter in New York was penned. I fell for it when I was sixteen years old, sitting in a dark green folding chair, drinking an iced tea from Pax watching Broadway in Bryant Park with my mom. Because of its familiarity, I found myself a frequent visitor when I first moved here in 2014, but it’s since been so out of reach — until now.

I have spent many an afternoon over the past few years writing, reading, brainstorming, laughing, and dreaming in this park. To have it within arms reach again as I settle into new surroundings is such a blessing. I am grateful for the peace it has brought me, and will inevitably continue to bring.

june twenty-ninth

new york, personal

Since moving to New York almost five years ago, I try to revel in the moments that make me feel like a true New Yorker; moments that allow me to breathe deeply into the reasons why I love this extraordinary city, and the life I’ve built here, so much.  Those moments can be few and far between, though, when you’re bogged down by the reality of living in New York — it’s tough, expensive, messy, and, most of all, exhausting.  So when we do encounter those instances when we remember why we’re here, it’s important to wrap ourselves up in them, if only for a millisecond, as a reminder of just how alive we are in this intricate collection of skyscrapers and sidewalks.

Tonight was one of those reminders — a night you could only believe was written in books or for movies.  As I sit in a cab on the Westside Highway, on the highest of highs, looking out at the city lights as I climb the streets toward my sweet little studio apartment, I realize I want to cling to this feeling forever.  My home awaits me only to fall asleep and dream up more nights like this one.

My entire day was dedicated to celebrating my sweet, warm, fun-loving best friend; a man who finds joy in every moment and whose birthday could not be disrupted by the sweltering city heat, nor the poor souls who texted him to say they would miss sharing the night with him.

If you’re reading this, you missed out.

In conjuring up ideas for his special day, I encouraged him to spend his night at Haswell Green’s, a new bar on 52nd Street in Midtown next to the Neil Simon Theatre (my former home) and off the beaten path of most Times Square tourists.  They have incredible cocktails, a very uniquely crafted menu (helloooo bacon wrapped meatballs) and live music, where the house band, Imperial Cities, plays most nights, including tonight.

It was so unbelievably special.  Everyone was drawn to the dance floor by this group of musicians; whose arsenal of song selections is outrageously impressive, to put it mildly.  I was euphoric as I ran though the crowd singing screaming Hanson’s “Mmbop” at the top of my lungs with my closest friends and favorite dance partners, holding the birthday boy’s hands as we grooved to ‘Valarie” by Amy Winehouse, and cackling when Imperial Cities played “Baby Got Back” when someone requested a love song.

Tonight was a night you remember when you’re 90; where you metaphorically pat your twenty-six-year-old self on the back for living out your dreams and dancing like a fool until all hours of the night while you could.  I am so lucky to live in a city that brings me friends to build memories with and nights to be preemptively nostalgic for.

New York, you have my heart.

have a nice day

new york, personal

I had a relatively frustrating morning — I haven’t slept properly in almost a week, I woke up about thirty minutes before I wanted to be at work, and when I managed to make it on time, I realized I left my wallet in my apartment.  All I wanted was a cup of coffee.  Simple, right?  I just wanted to walk down the street to my coffeeshop, get a cup of coffee, and go back to my apartment.  But walking down the street as a woman in New York, at any time of day, is never simple.  Inevitably, we will get spoken to in a derogatory manner by one or more men we do not know trying to bless us as we walk down the street at two in the afternoon with our coffee.  And we say nothing.

What’s most frustrating about the catcalling in New York isn’t always what is said.  Nine times out of ten all we get is, “God Bless You” or a good old-fashioned, “Have A Nice Day.”  It’s the fact that these phrases are dripping with sexual undertones.  They are remarks about our bodies disguised as harmless, flippant comments and that is what makes us so uncomfortable.  What do we say?  Do we berate men in the middle of the street for telling us to have a nice day?  We can’t, even though we know they’re not genuinely hoping that we have a nice day.  We’ll never say, “Thank you,” because we won’t condone their behavior.  We don’t want to give them the satisfaction of getting a rise out of us, so we ignore it; because what else can we do?

I will never not feel nervous walking home at any time of day and seeing a scattering of men between me and my apartment door.  Not because I’m scared, but because I know what’s coming.  I know the chances of my body being objectified are high.  I know that someone will watch me with their entire body as I walk by and wait until they’ve seen the back of me before they tell me to “have a nice day.” Why should we have to anticipate that?  Why should we have to brace ourselves for words that make us uncomfortable?

What I don’t think these men understand is that they aren’t paying us a compliment.  They aren’t making us feel good about ourselves, they’re degrading us to nothing more than our exterior.  I am not so shockingly beautiful (especially today) that you need to stop me on the street to tell me so.  You’re not going out of your way to tell me to “have a nice day” for my benefit; you’re doing it for your own.  If you are standing on the street at two in the afternoon catcalling women you don’t know, it’s because you’re alone.  And you’re inevitably alone because you don’t respect women.  If you did, you wouldn’t be standing on the street catcalling women you don’t know — you would be at home with one.

Have a nice day.

a little cue and ayyyye

personal

Yesterday I had the pleasure of skyping in to my buddy Matt’s Stage Management class out at University of California Irvine to talk about CATS and my time in the New York Theatre scene.  The students emailed in a ton of questions that I had prepared answers to, but we didn’t get to address all of them in the short hour we had.  So, I decided to post them here!

Enjoy learning a little about my weird world.

Q: How did you get involved in the theater?

I knew I wanted to be a performer after singing a very on-key rendition of “Little Doo Scoop” for my mom on our back patio in Connecticut in 1994.  Performing has always been my passion and I have been blessed with an incredibly supportive family (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, pets, you know who have endlessly encouraged me to pursue this career, even throughout times when I’ve thought about giving up.
After high school, I wanted to attend Marymount Manhattan College in New York for Musical Theatre; but my mom encouraged me to go to Western Connecticut State University because they had an up-and-coming Theatre Arts program and it was about fifteen minutes from where I lived (hey, in-state tuition!).  I went there kicking and screaming but, in hindsight, it was the best decision I ever made.  WCSU’s Theatre Program encouraged (required) its students to participate in all aspects of a production; so  performers didn’t just perform, they had to join one of the technical teams on a show in order to receive credit for mandatory courses.  Subsequently, I developed a passion for scenic painting and design; one I would never have found had I not attended WCSU.  It did not diminish my desire to perform, but ultimately strengthened my skills and made me a more well-rounded artist.
*My mom was right about the “up-and-coming Theatre Arts program.”  When I came in as a freshman in 2009, their BA in Performance was a non-audition program.  By year’s end, they had developed a BA in Musical Theatre that was audition-based, and today they have a $98 million Performing Arts Center and a BFA in Musical Theatre, along with many other amazing degrees.

Q: What was your first professional gig, and how did you land the job? Has working on costumes/wardrobes always been your career goal, and if not, how did you start working in that field?

My first professional wardrobe gig was a dresser position on a new musical at New World Stages called Heathers, based on the 1988 cult classic of the same name.  My sophomore year of college, before discovering my love for scenic painting, I worked wardrobe for one of the MainStage productions to fulfill hours for a class.  I hated it.  I promised myself I would never do costumes again (my life is looking really hilarious now).  Years later, during my first month living in New York in early 2014, I was working as a waitress at a pub near Madison Square Garden and I was miserable.  I happened to ask a friend of mine one night who worked at Sleep No More if she was in need of any scenic painters.  She wasn’t, but had been offered a dresser’s position on a show that she couldn’t take, asked if I would be interested, and I said yes (because anything, even costumes, would have been better than my waitressing job).  I interviewed with a woman who, at the time, was the Wardrobe Supervisor for Heathers and she hired me.  She was fired three days into tech, and production hired a wonderful man named John Furrow to take her place.  Two years later, John offered me a position on his wardrobe team dressing the Broadway Revival of CATS.  Life is funny that way.

 Did you ever think you would be in this profession when you first started college?

HA, no.

 What’s your best memory on the Heathers?

In the opening number of Heathers, John and I had to quick change Veronica’s character from frumpy to popular.  We had gotten it down to a science, so that by the time she ran out to finish the song, we were walking through the crossover back to the dressing rooms.  The applause that erupted on Opening Night when she came out actually made me cry; because I knew I had been a part of making that moment happen.  It was real magical.
Also they had a champagne fountain at the Opening Night party.  It’s definitely between that moment and the champagne fountain.

 What was your favorite show that you’ve ever worked on and why?

I’m about to go into my 17th production (doing wardrobe) in New York; it’s so hard to choose a favorite. I’ve loved them all for different reasons; there were a handful I totally hated.  I’ll give you three: Heathers for being my first show, CATS for being my first Broadway show, and Songbird for bringing me the gift of gorgeous music and beautiful friendships (and Himself and Nora for bringing me the gifts of Whitney Bashor — my friend, mentor, and vocal coach. And Lonesome Traveler for bringing me real tight friendships.  I just gave you five because this is really hard.)
 What’s it like working on a Broadway show? Is it like a dream come true?
Yes and no.  Yes, because Broadway has always been my dream; but working on Broadway is kind of like hanging out with your favorite celebrity — you realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be; and if you’ve worked professionally it’s not all that different from your previous shows.  But yes, it was a dream come true.  It was magical that for eighteen months I got to wear that badge of honor when people asked me where I worked and I could respond with “The Broadway Revival of CATS” — it just sounds good, and everyone, even non-theatre folk, knows CATS.
 How is it different working in regional vs. Broadway theaters?
I’ve never worked regionally doing wardrobe — only Off and on Broadway.  Honestly, it really depends on the theater and the production company.  I have been in some stellar Off-Broadway houses.  But I was spoiled having Heathers as my very first experience, because it set the bar pretty high for future Off-Broadway productions that weren’t as commercial.  Working on Broadway is obviously best of the best; but even Broadway shows tier differently perks-wise.

Did all of your training and previous work experience prepare you for Broadway? What all was still new when you started working on Cats?

Another yes and no.  I felt ready and not ready all at the same time.  I knew I would be taken care of with John as my supervisor; he knew my strengths, he knew my weaknesses, and knew that this wasn’t my ultimate career goal because he met me during a time when I was just starting out in this city and I had made it very clear to him that performing was my top priority.  He even said to me when he offered the job to me that it would be a great opportunity if I was still auditioning (like he needed to sell me on the idea of working on Broadway).  But I learned more than I could have ever imagined working as a dresser on CATS.  I was a literal tadpole in a sea of other dressers, performers, and technicians who had been in this business for decades and had so much to teach me.  
The best advice I can offer when you’re being thrown into something you’re not quite ready for, especially in this business, is to outwardly express your willingness to learn.  People don’t want to work with someone who thinks they know it all; especially when they’re the new kid.  Despite the fact that I had worked Off-Broadway for two and a half years prior to CATS, I was still new.  I’m still new; I only have one Broadway show under my belt and that may seem like a big deal, but to the people who have worked in this industry for years, it’s only the beginning.

 What is the biggest challenge you face in your field of work backstage?

Dealing with unprofessional behavior from others.  I was severely bullied at CATS by one of my colleagues, which ended up making my experience there really hard.  I have definitely been prone to unprofessional behavior before on shows, but this was, by far, the worst.  Yet the biggest challenge wasn’t just walking into the building every day knowing I had to deal with this person, it was walking out of the building each night still holding onto my integrity by choosing not to engage with the unprofessional behavior.  Not biting back was one of the hardest things I’ve every had to do (I bit back once, it wasn’t really a bite so much as a nibble, but I was really hungover, so here we are).

 What would you say is the most difficult part of doing wardrobe for a major production?

That goes hand-in-hand with professionalism; knowing your place and respecting others.  Being a Wardrobe Supervisor and being a dresser are two very different titles.  Aside from Heathers, CATS was the only other show where I wasn’t my own boss. Luckily, on both productions I had the same supervisor so it was an easier adjustment, but to alternate between Wardrobe Supervisor and Dresser can be really tricky sometimes; you never want to be that person who micro manages everyone — especially when it’s not your job to.

How involved are in the design process? Were you able to adjust or change any aspects of the costumes for CATS?

As a dresser? Not at all.  As a Wardrobe Supervisor?  Almost not at all.  
Prior to load-in for a show, your only job is to discuss how you’re going to handle the costumes that are given to you.  Once the costumes are in the building and on the bodies, it’s more within your jurisdiction to dictate the functionality of the costumes.  That becomes your conversation with the design team — how the costumes function and, if any pieces are interfering with the execution of the show, what changes need to be made.  Once the show is open, the design team usually isn’t around anymore, so as the supervisor, you are in charge of any decisions that come along with costumes.  However, if it becomes a design issue, it must still go through the designer should any changes need to be made to a costume piece.
I have been on Off-Broadway productions where I am the Assistant Designer in addition to being the Wardrobe Supervisor.  This gives you a little more control over the design of the costumes, but all final approval must still go through the Designer.

 What types of communication do you have with the stage manager for a given production?

If there is ever any type of issue backstage; a cast member is running late getting dressed prior to places call, a quick change has gone awry and an actor will miss their entrance, or you witness something happen on stage that needs to be documented in a performance report — you go to stage management.  For CATS, we had a Production Stage Manager, a Stage Manager, and an Assistant Stage Manager.  Most times, our communication with Stage Management was in regards to the actors safety.  Many of our cats were injured on this show and when that happened, we would need to alert Stage Management if they didn’t already know. 

Another major communication with Stage Management occurred during the times when we would have a mid-show switch out.  If an actor was injured or sick halfway through an act or performance, Stage Management would announce it over the backstage intercom and we would keep them posted as we dressed the understudy on how long it would take them to get on stage.

What’s the most interesting thing that you have experienced or witnessed so far on the production? Most incredible? The best failure?

On CATS especially, it was amazing and interesting to see how easily and quickly they adapted to their surroundings — especially during emergency situations.
Just one story on a laundry list of instances: In December of 2016, we got struck with what we refer to as “The Jellicle Flu,” where almost the entire female ensemble had the flu.  We did a ton of split tracks, and very rapidly ran out of swings.  One of our Grizabella understudies went on for a cat she didn’t even have an assigned costume for just because we needed a body and voice on stage.  It was so bad that our actress who played Jennyanydots was also out and we had nobody to cover her.  She does a giant tap number immediately following the opening number, so this was a big deal.  So our dance captain, Corey John Snide, a MAN…he’s a man…dressed up in her little fringe dress and tapped as Jennyanydots in that number and absolutely CRUSHED IT.

 Were there any crazy wardrobe malfunctions that you’ve ever seen while doing a show?

I’m just going to leave this here.

IMG_0582.jpg

 What type of quick solutions did you have to come up with to solve any costume problems?

Usually as a dresser, you wear an apron that has any emergency supplies inside it; safety pins, super glue, thread and needle, spare snaps, etc.  You must be able to think on your feet while also remembering that some malfunctions can’t be fixed in under five seconds. Wardrobe malfunctions happen all the time; you and your actors just have to roll with the punches when they do.  A lot of actors came off stage with untied tails or had shoe malfunctions where they kicked off their shoes and went on stage shoeless, then came off stage to brand new shoe laces.  Things happen and you just have to breathe into it.  Most times, it’s out of your control.

 Do you have any memorable audience?

Mamie Parris, our Grizabella, tried to snatch a man’s cell phone from his hands as he sat in the front row on his phone during “Memory,” the most famous frickin’ number in the whole show.  It was totally warranted, and I will forever love her for that moment.

 When you apply for work, do you ever do dual applications for backstage and stage for the same production?

No, I like to keep that separate.  If I’m submitting for something I see myself fit to perform in, I won’t submit to execute the costumes.  Most of the work I get wardrobe-wise is word-of-mouth anyway, so it usually doesn’t go hand-in-hand with the projects I submit for performing-wise.

 What keeps you motivated? What makes you keep standing on the stage? What is the most difficult step in your creative process? How do you overcome it?

Nothing lasts forever; which sounds really negative and morbid; but it’s more so a reminder to keep moving forward while simultaneously basking in the glory of your successes and failures.  A lot of that goes into my creative process as a performer because it can be discouraging and motivating to work in this industry in a capacity that isn’t necessarily what I want a career in, but keeps me acclimated to the business.  I love that I have created a dual career for myself here; I love that I’ve built connections with people both on and off stage who know me in two different capacities and subsequently respect me for what I do on both ends of the spectrum.  I have never met an actor I’ve dressed who heard I was a performer and scoffed — they always want to know more. I’ve also never met an actor I’ve worked with on stage who has scoffed at my “day job” working in costumes.
Supporting each other through those alternative careers is so massively crucial to our creative process because it is so rare that we will consistently get a paycheck from this business.  You must find joy outside of your artistic endeavors because there will be times when pursuing success in this industry will get you down, and you will have to take a step away, even if it’s for a day or a week or a year.  To have something in your back pocket that brings you joy outside of relentlessly pursuing a lasting career in the arts will be your best kept secret.

 What do you wish you would have known or done prior to starting your career in theater?

I wouldn’t change a moment of the journey I’ve been on.  But in truth, I wish I had opened myself up more in college — to reading more plays, seeing more productions, and knowing a little more about this business before diving in headfirst.  But then I wouldn’t have this story to share, so would I really change anything?  Probably not.

 What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned by working as both a performer and backstage?

The way you treat the people around you goes farther than any amount of skill or talent you may have.  I don’t work in this business because I know what I’m doing; I work in this business because people like working with me.  If you’re difficult to work with, most of the time, you will not have the career you hope for.  So treat people with respect, even when they don’t always deserve it, because you never know who will be the next Jerry Mitchell or Bernie Telsey. You never know who’s going to help you along in your journey towards success.
xo,
T

the coffee chronicles: vol. 1

the coffee chronicles

Let’s Gossip.

I basked in the first day of 2017 with an astonishingly horrific hangover as I sat across from one of my best gals, Hailei, in Astoria, Queens following a New Years Eve that was overflowing with many different types of liquor and a night for the books.  After trying to stomach a breakfast burrito at Queen’s Comfort (key word — trying.  I tolerated maybe two bites), she took me to the promise land: a little coffeeshop on 30th Avenue called Gossip Coffee.


Gossip1

I live for a great aesthetic and, despite my aversion to anything bright that morning, I was living for this houndstooth-coated coffee shop.

It’s been well over a year since my first visit, but today I share with you my return to Gossip Coffee in Astoria, where I enjoyed a decadent oat milk latte with my beautiful Hailei (where neither I nor she felt like a tiny man was mining for coal inside our heads).

*It’s important to note that Gossip Coffee passes the Oatly test: They have it. That’s the only question on the test.

Our barista was wonderfully weird — fun and chill and jumping into our photos while she made us lattes and convinced us that doughnuts would perfectly accompany our drinks (There was no real arm-twisting here). Gossip has Chef Scottish Francis’s hashtag-shaped doughnuts for sale, but I opted for a vanilla frosted with rainbow sprinkles (my fave).  If you’ve just finished a Whole30 stint, do yourself a favor and only eat half the doughnut. I have zero shame in admitting that I could not stomach the whole thing.

Hailei and I sat in the courtyard behind the glass double doors for a bit; which was bearable despite the weather, and will be perfect come summertime (If we ever get a summertime…). It’s home to many plants, benches, and a mini tricycle that I attempted to sit on but was too scared to actually ride.

Gossip was filled to the brim with patrons without being overly crowded. It’s great to see that a local coffee shop is getting the traction it deserves. The aesthetic, baristas, doughnuts, and in-house espresso blend make it worth a return visit.

xo,

T

*It’s also important to note that the closest subway station to Gossip Coffee (30 Av) is closed for the time being as the MTA exists only to create chaos in our lives rather than to simplify it. I walked from the Broadway stop and it was less than desirable, but totally doable.

t h e   l o o k

Bagatelle Heritage Red Bell Sleeve Jacket:

I found this jacket on super clearance for $18 at Marshalls Stores  all because one of the snaps were falling off.  It was a steal.

Cynthia Rowley Cream Sweater:

I got this sweater as a gift and I live in it!  Cynthia Rowley is one of my favorite designers, and many of her items are sold at TJX stores; which I can only assume is where this is from…

H & M Black High-Rise Skinny Jeans:

I’m a high-rise gal all the way.  And while many of my denim comes from TJMaxx, I also dig a good high-rise skinny from H&M.  They’re $20, they make your tush look great, but they’ll last you maybe the year before they start to fall apart.  You’ve been warned.

Style & Co. Venesa Riding Boots:

These boots are originally from Macy’s with their Style&Co Brand marked at $80.  I happened to break my lace-up black boots a few weeks ago while visiting family in Connecticut and stumbled upon these at a second-hand store, Plato’s Closet Danbury, brand new, with tags, for $12.

photos people take of your head

lifestyle, personal

Let’s talk about headshots because I just got them done for the third time in my adult life and it’s amazing to see what changes in our faces as time goes on. I briefly touched on this in my post about (my queen) Jenna Fischer’s recently-published book The Actors Life; but that was almost six months ago, and many facets of my world and body have since changed.

Prior to 2013, I had never gotten headshots taken by a true “headshot photographer” — believe me, there’s a difference. I had photos taken of me, and they were more than sufficient for youth community theatre productions, but they weren’t professional headshots. Let’s take a gander:

2005: The Pre-Highlight Days I will give a shout-out to Donna Korb for giving me a very professional-looking shot for a few years. But after my hair went super-blonde and I went through, ya know, puberty, I needed something more up-to-date.

Cut to 2009: The year of the freshman fifteen and when her teeth clearly became addicted to Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee Western Connecticut State University’s Theater Department forced us all to get headshots taken by the Western Connecticut State University’s Photography Department. It made sense in theory, and it was completely free, but I’m pretty positive I rolled out of bed ten minutes before these were taken and that the man taking my photo was standing six feet above the top of my head on a stool. I had to crop and edit the crap out of this (I will spare you the original).

2011: The Year of the Stacked Bob. I loved this haircut — it was $5, and I wish I was lying but it was the best haircut I’ve ever gotten.  This was clearly a far cry from my first round of free WCSU headshots in 2009. But even so, I couldn’t use this come senior year, when I needed to dive head-first into the real world.

Which brings us to the first round of professional headshots I ever shelled out money for. Most of my college senior class went to Taylor Hooper Photography in New York (who takes stunning headshots); I opted for Julia Gerace Photography in Shelton, Connecticut. She is a legitimate headshot photographer, extremely cost-effective, and also takes great shots. Though I did not choose to have this photo retouched, for comparison moving forward, this was one of my proofs:

2013: The Year of Strawberry Blonde. At the tail-end of 2012 into 2013, I was a redhead. I loved it just as much as my $5 2011 bob, but the upkeep was too much and, let’s face it, I’m a blonde. So, right before getting my headshots done with Julia, I started the journey back to blonde. You would never be able to tell, because here I look like little orphan Annie, but there are a whole lot of blonde highlights trying their hardest to peak out.  I used these headshots for about three years.  Three years before I decided they could no longer appropriately represent me; and not because of the photos themselves, but by Summer of 2014, I was fully blonde again, and these were not the same women:

2016: The Year I Finally Started Getting Callbacks January of 2016, I scheduled a shoot with Curtis & Cort Photography in New York (talk about a dream team).  Curtis Holbrook and Cortney Wolfson are a dynamic duo of Broadway performers who know what you need in a quality headshot (and know you shouldn’t need to offer up your first born child to get one).  Cortney does the hair and make up, Curtis takes the photos, and they make you feel like you feel, not only like a model, but like a friend they’ve welcomed into their home.  Shooting with them was a dream come true, and these new headshots got me so much further in my audition season…

I finally felt like I was representing and branding myself appropriately.  No more questions from casting directors about why the girl in the picture had red hair and the one standing in from was platinum blonde.  No more wondering how old I really was since I was using such a dated photo of myself.  Curtis & Cort captured me beautifully.

And here we are, two years later, and I felt I still looked pretty much the same as my gorgeous, two-year-old Curtis & Cort shots; and, in all fairness, at the beginning of this calendar year, I did.  But I kept getting typed-out of open calls based on my headshot and I could not figure out why.  So I decided to go to a casting seminar at Actor’s Connection that had a Q & A with one of the casting directors (who shall remain nameless, but is a genuine dream) who had been typing me out of calls for shows such as Kinky Boots, RENT, etc.  I handed her the same headshot I had thrown in the pile with hundreds of other girls, sang my song, and waited for her feedback.  The first thing she asked me was how old my headshots were and if I had lost weight since getting my them taken.  I was very surprised, since I thought this was a pretty fair representation of me:

Llewellyn_Headshot2

She said after seeing me, she can see my body in this photo, but the way I’m positioned and the cut of my top makes me look a lot bigger than I am.  She said she would call this girl in the photo in for a role like Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, and, after seeing me in person, knows that isn’t a part she would cast me in.

It was incredibly eye-opening.  I never would have seen that in this photo without her pointing it out to me.  So I decided it was time for new headshots; I felt due for them anyway.  My hair was longer, I wanted to bring more of my natural dark blonde out than my usual platinum blonde, and I needed something a little more vibrant.

2018: The Year of Whole30ing (Again) I scheduled a shoot with Sub/Urban Photography.  I felt like their shots were a more vibrant and cost-effective alternative to that of David Noles Photography, one of the top and most expensive headshot photographers in this business.  I fell in love with Sub/Urban’s vibe, and better yet, their team is also amazing.  Amanda and Jake, the photographers, are another dream team (much like Curtis and Cortney) and Alex, the hair and make up stylist, is literally a magician.

I had been on the Whole30 Challenge for the month of March prior to my shoot with Sub/Urban and, let me tell you, it was the best decision I ever made, not only looking at the outcome of this shoot, but the comparison between my face in 2016 and my face now.

*Photos are not edited by the photographers
*Photos are not edited by the photographers

I asked my friends who I had eaten in 2016, and, looking back, I don’t think my weight was that much different.  It’s my face.  I had probably been eating whatever I wanted before my shoot in 2016; but being on the Whole30 leading up to my headshot session made me less bloated, fresher, and cleaner-looking.  And while I will give credit where credit is due to the photographers, the shots I had done by Curtis & Cort were equally as beautiful as the shots I just got by Sub/Urban — I just wasn’t taking as great care of myself as I am now.

Yet another reason to try the Whole30 Challenge, friends!  I’m serious, it will rock your world.

xo,

T

week four

lifestyle, personal

Happy Easter everyone!

I’ve considered the last ten days of my Whole30 extravaganza one collective week (it sure feels like one – it was a blur).  The adventures I took were an incredible way to round out this thirty-day journey; in fact, I’m a little sad to see it come to an end.  Sure, I’m (kind of) happy to rejoin the social media world, and I ate a lot of bunny cake today, but it was nice to have a reason not to.  Admittedly, I started sparingly reincorporating “normal” foods (not cake) and drinks into my system this week to reacclimate myself a little earlier than usually so I could include it in my final blog post.

So let’s look at a little side-by-side selfie action, shall we?

March 1st:

March 30th:

My hair’s a little darker, my mind, body, and skin are a little clearer, my teeth are a lot…different, and my heart is a lot fuller. This month was refreshing and rejuvenating and I would do it again (I probably will, stay tuned).

Watch the video above for snippets of my final ten days and a little personal reflection at the end.  Thanks for following my journey!  It was fun to share it with y’all.

xo,

T

week three

lifestyle, personal

Three weeks into my Whole30 Challenge and this has been, by far, my most action-packed week of the month.  I have climbed mountains, walked over hot coals, and successfully saved a kitten from a burning building (actually I did none of those things, but it got your attention, didn’t it?).

My week consisted of multiple camera angles, starting new projects, celebrating friends, and anticipating yet another nor’easter (that ended up being a huge letdown, might I add).  It was filled with lots of laughs, making new friends, and a lot of iced lattes.  Feel free to watch and/or read below (or you can settle for the vague, Reader’s Digest version I just gave you and go about your day).

“Drag Night” celebrating RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars at At The Wallace in Harlem have become Tara’s unemployed Thursday evening ritual.  This week, that tradition, along with the season, came to an end; for my Thursday evenings will soon be filled with rehearsals (more on that later).  After the season finale, I walked home and called the wardrobe number for my background stint on Blue Bloods the following morning.  “Khaki pants.”  I was playing a nurse, and they wanted me to bring khaki pants.  Let me tell you something Blue Bloods, I am not at my mother’s house, nor do I have the arsenal of pants I was forced to wear when I worked at Office Max many moons ago.  Also, it’s 10 P.M. (do you know where your children are?) and I cannot go out and buy khaki pants that I will likely never wear again (unless you want me to be a reoccurring role, then it may be worth it).

I probably texted every woman I know within a one mile radius (it was 10 P.M., I was not traveling far).  But, shockingly (sarcasm), nobody seemed to have khaki pants at their disposal.  Luckily, my friend Ty told me that he had pants I could borrow and voila!  Khaki pants.

Of course, they had a full costume ready for me when I walked in on Friday morning, and I didn’t even need the khaki pants.

After our shoot wrapped in Brooklyn, I made it home with enough time to eat something (and change out of the khaki pants) before babysitting on the UWS. I took a car home around midnight. I earned that car home around midnight.

St. Patrick’s Day in New York City can be extremely hit or miss — especially on a Saturday. My mom told me about something called “Leprecon” (like Santacon, but a far better play on words) happening in New York, so I had braced myself to see thousands of grown men dressed like leprechauns throwing up on the side of a bus outside the nearest Starbucks. But, alas, I managed to miss those sightings.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the first rehearsal for a musical called Chess in Brooklyn. Each year on St. Patrick’s Day, I am grateful to say I am working on a show in some capacity — most years it’s been wardrobe. This year, it’s a musical I’m in, which is pretty snazzy. Saturday night was filled with Irish music and birthday celebrations for one of my best guys, Oliver. The bar he chose was super mellow and void of Leprecon-participants. Praise.

Sunday was marathon day. It started at morning daywork for Kinky Boots, took me down to Brooklyn in the afternoon for another Chess rehearsal, and rounded out at The Blue Note in the West Village celebrating my buddy Chris’s birthday; sitting front and center (actually, a little to the right) for Roy Haynes’ 93rd Birthday Celebration. I got to sing with him (you should really watch the video now) and Jon Batiste was there!

(Just another Manic) Monday began with an 8:30 A.M. call to a bar (yes, a bar) in Hell’s Kitchen where I shot an episodic called The So-So You Don’t Know for a few hours. It was a lot of fun; and the girl I was paired to play best friends with ended up being someone I could probably become best friends with. After some brief babysitting, Manic Monday ended with me laying on the floor of my apartment watching Gilmore Girls, eating plantain chips, and reflecting on the fact that I had just done two weeks’ worth of activities in four days.

Tuesday I had two goals: make my audition, make my train home. I accomplished both, in heels yet. Connecticut was expecting its fourth nor’easter of the month; which was perfectly timed, seeing as I was coming home to multiple appointments on Wednesday that I needed to take care of. But alas, all appointments were cancelled due to the impending storm, where most parts of New England were expected to get 12-18 inches of snow before Thursday morning.

By 3:30 P.M. on Wednesday, there was not an ounce of fresh snow to the name of Brookfield, Connecticut. So I went shopping. And the grand total of three inches of snow we received did not start falling until around 6:00 P.M.

Mama Llew made a delish Whole30 din for us, which is pretty self-explanatory in the video. But so much happened this week, I was fresh out of time to make any Whole30 food-making videos. You’re welcome.

My heart is full and I am ready for these last ten days!

xo,

T

net worth = six dollars + $2.99 shipping

personal

A year ago, almost to the day, an envelope arrived at my home in Connecticut (creepy) from a student named “Jackie” asking if I would sign my autograph on the enclosed blank sheets of paper for a “Broadway Autograph Collection” project at her school called “Monte Special Education School.”

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Obviously, I was smart enough to recognize that this wasn’t legit.  The handwriting was very clearly written by an adult trying to disguise themselves as a child.  Better yet, it was stamped with the name of the school, which I promptly looked up along with the return address and discovered did not exist but, hey, it was flattering that some random human walking around this world wanted my autograph.

I sat on sending something back; on the off-chance that all the conclusions I had drawn were wrong and this was in fact a student named Jackie from a Special Education school asking me to participate in their Broadway project and I did not respond, I would have felt badly (not that I would have ever found out).  Also, at least one of my ensemble girls had also received the same letter, and felt comfortable sending something back,  so I threw them a bone, and I signed the signature I was using on the CATS company posters (not my signature for legit documents, credit cards, etc., because that would be foolish).

To be completely honest, I forgot this even happened.  In a weird series of events, I happened to google myself this morning in hopes of adding some undiscovered gems to my website.  If you Google “Tara Llewellyn Actress” the third result that comes up on Page 2 is this:

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A recently expired eBay listing of my very professional signature (equipped with a small heart and all) available for $6.00 (plus $2.99 shipping) sold by prettyboy45220, an eBay member since 2003 (I find it impressive that Jackie is experienced enough to have had an eBay account since Outkast’s “Hey Ya” was number one on the charts and can still manage to snag a spot in Monte Special Education school’s Class of 2017).

Mama Llew and I haven’t stopped laughing for the last half hour.  Thank you, prettyboy45220, for not only giving me a chuckle today but an inevitable title for a chapter in my forthcoming memoir somewhere down the line in my career.

xo,

T