best nine: vol. 4

new york, personal

I spent most of the first half of this year gainfully unemployed. It started to get old right around the beginning of March and I went looking for odd jobs around the city. I dabbled in babysitting and picked up a few daywork shifts at Kinky Boots a couple Sunday’s a month. Once I started rehearsals for Chess, my weeks became saturated with a more routine schedule; but I wasn’t making enough money to continue living that way once Chess closed on May 12th.

Sometime at the end of April, I received a text from my sweet friend, Brian Letchworth, asking if I was available to supervise the next musical he was putting up. I was going to kick myself if Chess prohibited me from doing it. I asked when the starting date was and internally kept saying to myself, please let it be after May 12th, please let it be after May 12th.

“May 13th.”

If that’s not some universe magic…

The day after Chess closed, I started pre-pro as the wardrobe and wig supervisor for a new musical called Desperate Measures at New World Stages; my old stomping grounds and the scene of my first dressing job in New York when I did Heathers in 2014.  It was an incredibly taxing undertaking – I have never had a job that took so much out of me.  But what made Desperate Measures one of my most memorably enjoyable experiences were the people I built the production with.  Never have I worked alongside such a warm, talented, inclusive group of people.  In the midst of previews, Nick Wyman showed up one day with a bouquet of orange roses because he saw how hard I was working every day to keep my department a well-oiled machine on my own.  It set the entire tone for the wealth of gratitude and kindness I would share with these people; making my time at Desperate Measures unforgettable.

Opening Night was a whirlwind – I had ordered a dress from Rent The Runway (my go-to for any and all Opening Nights) that hadn’t arrived on time.  It was also only available in the size below mine, but I took a lot of chances on this dress.  After many, many phone calls and a pair of Spanx, everything ended up coming together; and I shared a beautiful Opening Night with my beautiful new friends and my handsome forever-date.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

best nine: vol. 3

new york, personal

In March I started rehearsals for a production of Chess at The Gallery Players in Brooklyn. Admittedly, I almost didn’t take the gig. I was afraid I would get an offer to work wardrobe for a show over the two months we would be in rehearsal/production.

I sat in The Chipped Cup formatting a “respectfully decline” email for the director when my friend/collaborator/(sometimes) writing partner Emm O’Connor unexpectedly walked in. She was meeting a mutual friend of ours to start collaborating on a web series. We all ended up sitting together, talking out ideas for an hour or so, and I was elated. Emm walking in at that moment was a reminder from the universe that I moved here to create art; not to turn away from it in fear that better opportunities would come my way at the same time.

As we sat there, I deleted my draft and quickly typed out an acceptance email – thus signing onto one of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in a show in New York and meeting some of the greatest people I know. This show taught me humility, patience, and a lot about how not to lead a company when you’re carrying a show on your shoulders.

best nine: vol. 2

personal

In March, I decided to do a round of Whole30 on steroids — No grains, no dairy, no added sugar, no alcohol, no legumes, no social media for thirty days. Within that time, I also made the brave move to get veneers over my front four teeth – something I had wanted for most of my adult life.

When I was in the second grade, I was kicked in the mouth during a gymnastics class and my two front baby teeth were kicked out. I think after that they were super scared to grow in next to each other, and I was subsequently left with large gaps between my front four teeth. We considered braces, Invisalign, and everything in between, but my dentist assured me that they would adjust once my top wisdom teeth grew in. Alas, they never did; and as I grew out of my adolescence and into adulthood, my insecurity with my teeth started to grow too.

In 2013, a month before I moved to New York, my dentist told me about the option of porcelain veneers – the best option in his opinion, especially if I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. It wasn’t until four years after the fact that I actually chose to take the plunge. A few days before CATS closed at the end of 2017, I stopped into my dentist’s office and asked him if we could get the ball rolling and by the time we finished, on March 21st, I finally felt like I was coming into myself for the first time in a very, very long time. On March 27th, Sub/Urban Photography captured my new-found energy in my updated headshots.

March was a very transformative month – I stripped a lot of my world down to the bare bones and rebuilt it to cultivate a much more prosperous year for my soul.

More on that to come xx

Photograph by Sub/Urban Photography

best nine: vol. 1

new york, personal

As we turn into the homestretch of 2018, we’re naturally privy to a lot of self-reflection. It’s especially easy to do when we’re influenced by everyone around us; specifically on social media. I mostly find the last week of December, my feed is filled with the grid of photos generated by a website called “Best Nine.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Best Nine, it’s a collage of the top nine Instagram photos from your page that received the most traction from #1 to #9. It’s fun and all, but here’s the thing — more likely than not, that collage of photos will in no way represent your best nine moments this year – just the most aesthetically pleasing ones.

I started thinking about self-generating my own Best Nine. What were truly my best moments of 2018? If I could encapsulate my year in nine moments, what would I choose?

Over the next nine days, I’ll be giving you my best nine (in chronological order) and the stories that surround these significant moments.

February 9th: The Day I Saw Waitress for the 3rd and a Half Time.

In November of 2017, my friends and I had purchased tickets to see Jason Mraz’s very limited run in Waitress. I had already seen the show twice, but Jason Mraz has always been one of my favorite artists, next to Waitress composer Sara Bareilles. I was working at CATS at the time, and had taken the night off to go see Waitress, but made up for it working that afternoon. Jason’s dresser also happened to be doing daywork at CATS that same day and told me that I could come backstage and meet him after the show (cue the ugly crying).

I left from daywork and went straight to Bareburger on 46th street to meet my friends for dinner before the show. About halfway through the meal I started to feel…not right. You know, that rock-in-the-stomach kind of feeling. With every step we took from Bareburger to the Brooks Atkinson, I was feeling worse and worse. We sat down in our seats and I was 99% positive I would have to preemptively apologize to the woman in front of me in case I threw up on her – that was where we were at.

I barely made it through Act One. I tried invoking the “mind over matter” mentality and just kept telling myself I got to meet Jason Mraz if I kept powering through.

During intermission, I reluctantly left, got in a cab, and threw up three times on Riverside Drive on my walk home. There was a man walking his dog who definitely thought I was some drunk idiot stumbling through our neighborhood.

I was so bummed. I missed my chance! I was going to meet Jason Freaking Mraz and nothing was going to stand in my way and my body was like, “Hold my beer.”

So here we are, February 9th, and Jason Mraz is now playing opposite Sara Bareilles in his final weekend at Waitress. I am gainfully unemployed, but still went to the box office and got the cheapest ticket I could to the show (for the low low price of $160 – oops).

And afterwards, I got to meet Jason Mraz, and tell him the tale of how I almost threw up all over him in November. But instead, I was here, not throwing up all over him, and wearing my favorite sweater.

Fin.

Elephants on elephants on elephants

personal

I don’t wear a ton of jewelry. I have one very pertinent piece I wear almost every single day — a name-plate necklace my friend Danielle had made for me in my mom’s handwriting. I take it off on the rarest of occasions for a show or to wear something else but, most days, it stays with me. It’s sentimental and significant; whereas most of my other jewelry is accented or for show.

My friend Gerardo works for a jewelry company that specializes in well-crafted, very fine, expensive jewelry. He offered me the option of renting some pieces for the opening night of Pretty Woman in August, but I didn’t see anything that appealed to me. More recently, he gifted me a necklace of my choosing from the company in exchange for a review. Amongst the options was a sweet little sterling silver elephant necklace. I chose it because I thought it was sweet and simple – something I could wear now and then. Moreover, I wanted to help out my friend (and who doesn’t love free stuff?).

But in the spirit of being more minimal and simple with my belongings, my mind, and my relationships, I was hesitant to get anything I didn’t need. So I started looking into the meaning of elephants and their potential significance to my life (other than just their ability to make me uncontrollably giddy as I watch videos of them playing in bodies of water).

I came across an article detailing the symbolism of elephants within different cultures: strength, beauty, power. But the general consensus of their presence is this —

Many communities consider the elephant to be a strong symbol of luck and good fortune…the famous saying goes, “Keep a lucky elephant at the door to your house so that you can get protection from bad luck and only invite the good inside.”

If there was ever a more appropriate place for this sweet little sterling silver elephant to sit, it is amongst the goodness gifted to me by people who fill my soul, who represent the brightness I have invited inside my world, and who encourage me to only leave room for the good. I would only choose something that significant and symbolic to get entangled with the chains that hold something very important close to me. I’m glad I inadvertently chose you, little elephant, to keep at the door to my house.

Also, there’s a great journalist forum called Elephant Journal that I subscribe to for really deep and connective articles. Subscribe, you won’t be sorry >>> Elephant Journal

Also, here’s a baby elephant playing in a very small pool of water in case you’re having a hard day >>> https://youtu.be/Q-2shQ6NAyU

to be or not to be

personal

I have always been a firm believer in the powers of the universe.  Most of my ability to see the positivity in a situation is attributed to my “everything happens for a reason” disposition, and I hope to forever embrace that.

However, more recently, I’ve been faced with wondering how much of our fate is really in the hands of a higher power or right within our own.  A few months ago, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Jeremy, who raised his eyebrows at me after I said, “Hey, that’s the universe working its magic.”  I vividly remember him passionately placing his Old Fashioned on the bar, staring me dead in the face, and asking me to explain to him how I attribute every move I’ve made in my life to anyone but myself.

I was honestly a little taken aback (not in a negative way, I love a person who challenges me) but I couldn’t believe anyone would question the idea that moments, people, relationships, jobs, catastrophes weren’t put into our lives at certain moments to either allow us to grow or change or develop by our own choosing.  I gave him the example of a scenario I was experiencing at that moment:

When I moved to New York, I had zero idea how to move through it.  I had willingly chosen to pack my bags and take a chance on being enough to earn a consistent living in, what I would argue, one of the most difficult industries to break into.  About six weeks in, I happened to ask a friend from college one night in a bar if she had any scenic painting jobs she knew of and she instead presented me with an opportunity to dress an Off-Broadway show.  I interviewed with a woman who, despite my incompetency, hired me.  She was promptly fired three days into tech and replaced with the man who would go on to offer me my first Broadway contract two years later.  If that woman hadn’t hired me, or been a better fit for her own job, I never would have gone on to work on Broadway, and I wouldn’t be where I am today (or would I?).  Better than that, asking that question in a bar one night and getting that job dressing an Off-Broadway show sprung me into working with a Stage Manager who recommended me for another show a year later where I met Jeremy, who I wouldn’t be sitting in the bar with three years later to have this conversation about fate and destiny and the big, bold universe.  He said, “That wasn’t the universe, that was you.”

He’s not wrong.  We make choices in our lives that, in turn, bring us where we need to be, when we need to be there, with who we need to be with.  Yet that doesn’t shake my faith in fate.  I’m a hopeless romantic. I believe we have soulmates (multiple, in fact.  I’ve already met some of them).  I believe we have a destination that isn’t always clear, nor what we think it will be.  Even still, I’m growing more curious about the idea that we have more control than we give ourselves credit for.  If we trust some higher power, are we just waiting for people or lessons or situations to just show up? Is there a mysterious alternative life I could have had where I didn’t ask my friend in the bar that night if she had any job opportunities for me?  Would I have ended up exactly where I was supposed to be any way?  At what point are we relinquishing control of our own fate?

Either way, I am filled to the brim with faith that the universe has my back (kind of like a trust fall).  I’m finding more and more ways to smile and nod at it and acknowledge that, despite how much control I have over my choices, the outcome is all about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people — when it’s right.  And I’m trust-falling into the idea that I am right where I’m supposed to be; just with a little more awareness that my choices still carry some of that weight into the fall.

Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we would never fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are.
Eventually all the pieces fall into place…until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moment, and know that everything happens for a reason.

-Carrie Bradshaw

cold spring – I mean -autumn

lifestyle, personal, Travel

When your day off falls on (what feels like) the first day of Autumn in New York, you take to the road with your best friend, throw on a well-crafted playlist, and drive along the Hudson River towards a new destination. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, all you need’s a light jacket! (Name that movie).

We were both in desperate need of some small town air, mood music, and good adventuring together; all of which were successfully executed and can be watched below:


the güd eats & dranks

We brunched at Hudson Hil’s Market & Cafe on Main Street where I had one of the best breakfast burritos ever crafted. G sipped on their Hot Apple Cider Buttered Rum — which can only be described as Autumn in a Cup (I drank most of it and was not sorry). We sat on the porch, looking out across the small streets of Cold Spring and drooling over the well-behaved cockapoo sitting under the table across from us; silently devising a plan to fit him in my backpack and take him home.

I caved and got a PSL at this little coffee shop called CupOccino Cafe (I’ve been holding out for The Chipped Cup’s PSL, but I think they’re hesitant to give into the seasonal drinks). Maybe I said decaf, maybe I didn’t, but either way, this latte kept me up until 4 A.M., so here we are. It was worth it.

Not an eatery BUT we did step into Cold Spring’s new bookstore Split Rock Books — whose narrow walls were filled to the brim with books I’ve been dying to read. I walked out with The Artist’s Way; which I could have easily purchased for a few bucks less on Amazon.com, but I believe in contributing more to local businesses, especially bookstores in this digital age, up and running.

If you’ve never been to The Cheesecake Factory, you need to do some self-reflection because you’re severely missing out. I opened this particular CCF in 2011 and worked there all the way up to the day before I moved to New York. We met my sweet mama there for Happy Hour and indulged in the seasonal Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake, which, even after sharing three ways, was enough to roll me back to New York.

Our final stop was to my favorite bar in Connecticut – Rosy Tomorrows. Tucked away off of Exit 2 on Interstate84 (right near a Trader Joe’s – score) stands a haven of many, many Tara Llewellyn memories. I grew up at Rosy Tomorrows. I had my first legal (and illegal, oops) drink at Rosys. I have shared many laughs and developed many friendships around the fire pit on the back patio. To continue making memories there with people who matter to me – whether they’ve been with me countless times or for the very first time – makes it all the more special.


the roadtrip tunes

Last week, I asked some close pals to share with me some music that reminded them of Autumn. I’d venture to say that as the seasons change, so does our taste in music. Most specifically, there are many songs that invite that feeling of Fall for me filled with nostalgia from seasons’ past.

Here are the ones that accompanied us on Monday’s trip:

Roll Away Your Stone

by Mumford & Sons from Sigh No More

I could go on for days about Mumford & Sons.  Their albums are the soundtrack to my Autumn season (except for Wilder Mind — didn’t dig that so much.  I have hope for Delta, but Babel and Sigh No More will always have my heart).  You can read more about my feelings and faves here.

The Ballad of Love & Hate/February Seven

by The Avett Brothers from The Carpenter

My sweet pal Lilian Sun told me to listen to The Ballad of Love & Hate by The Avett Brothers, and I just continued to fall for their music.  February Seven was my pick.  Here’s what Lil had to say about “The Ballad of Love & Hate” —

There’s something so satisfying about listening to it because it’s so serene and comfortable.  It feels like I’m coming home, which is how I feel about Fall as well.  Despite it having heavier subject matter, love wins in the end and everything is right in the world.

City

by Sara Bareilles from Little Voice

Sara B is just simply the greatest.  She will forever be on my playlists year-round.  Her song City feels like a narration of my nights in New York.  I listened to this song on repeat when I first started feeling comfortable here; about eight months into my chapter here in the fall of 2014.

The A Team

by Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran — another staple.  His earlier album + brings me a lot of peace, which is something we all identify with so heavily with the fall season.

Somebody More Like You

by Nickel Creek from Why Should The Fire Die?

This was a G pick from his favorite album.  He told me on the car ride home that when he was in the fifth grade, he heard this album playing in a bookstore and marched right up to the cashier to ask who they were.

The lyrics “you said you’d love me always, truly; I must have changed” have such a sense of loss and a sense of gaining a new perspective and understanding.  The same goes for the feeling of summer into fall.  The loss of one season, and the gaining of something new.  Ever changing weather, ever changing humans.

Heavy

by Birdtalker from One

My best friend Danielle gave me this song to add to my Fall Playlist.  It is my new obsession.  I have been listening to it on repeat, and you should too.

It speaks a lot to change and the process of letting things go, which has always been synonymous with fall for me.  It makes you feel like you’re being hugged by a good friend.

There are so many more songs to come as we continue through this new season — stay tuned.

September

personal

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.