I have about 3 blog posts in the works, but lately I have been in such a funk that I cannot focus on the content they are about.
There is a confession to make here. I am a former Disney Cast Member. Being one was a badge of honor, performing the roles I had the opportunity to was a gift I cannot even begin to explain, and the joy I had on a daily basis almost outweighed the pain that my body was developing.
When I left, it was because I had limits and expectations on what my life should be that were completely based on what other people thought and what I thought it should be. Not because leaving would make me happy, but because I needed to “grow up.”
There were blessings in leaving: being close to the members of my family who were already diagnosed with Celiac when my diagnosis happened, being able to spend 8 hours with my Grandmother the day before she passed, getting to perform in a variety of productions in the Chicago area while meeting some incredible people, and only being 3 hours from my family. There have been some bad things as well, but that is another tale.
Except, I never really let it go. Every year like clockwork, from 2007-2012, I flew back to work for a week as a seasonal cast member, to recharge my batteries with the love and happiness that I had doing the job I did there, to see friends, to make new ones, and to soak it all in.
April 14, 2012 was my last day as a cast member. I donned my blacks for the last time, took my voyage, and then said “goodbye.” Not because I wanted to, but because the rules on being seasonal had changed, and there was no way I could make it work while living in Chicago.
I miss it. People tell me I need to do what makes me happy and what I am good at, but to be honest with you, I am not sure what that is. I know the things that I enjoy doing, but I know my happiest time was when I was going into work every day and performing. I could be in the grumpiest mood, not feeing well, swear that I was living in a sauna, but as soon as the music started and I stepped onto whatever stage it was, it was like my world receded and for however long I was on stage, there was only that.
If this does not make sense, I apologize. Tonite was a night where I just needed to put thoughts down and get them out. If you want to read about my adventures eating GF as a guest as WDW try this.
And I am going to leave you with the last thing I do on every trip to my happy place:
I don’t know why I tend to start blogs like they are letters, but it just seems a bit more personal than my just jumping in with what I want to say. Or maybe it is just a quirk of me.
Within the past month, a friend that I had gotten to know and love lost his parents within a week of one another. I felt horrible because the first thought I had when I heard his mother had passed was, “But what about his Health Kwest.” See, Steve was the local “Khantestant” for the Genghis Grill Health Kwest, and to say that he was kicking some serious ass would be an understatement. So pairing the sadness of him losing that motivation in his weight loss goals with the fact that I could not begin to imagine what he was feeling, having lost both his parents in a week, and not being able to give him a hug (about the only thing I could do, as I did not have the right words), I couldn’t think of what I could do to show that I was there for him.
Enter a group of friends who formed the “We ❤ Steve” Surprise Party committee. These people had the same feelings I had and came together with the idea to show him our love, but also show our support in his fitness efforts. I really wanted to contribute in some way, but cooking is not a strong point, so bringing a dish to pass was out, and I am in a bit of a financial mess right now due to an argument with my insurance company, so money was not an issue. But the one thing I knew I could do was put together a video. A photo montage video. And after mentioning it to a couple of people on the committee, and explaining how it would be different from the video they had already planned, they agreed.
Thus began a 2 week period (maybe 3), of asking everyone I could who knew Steve to please mail me a photo of the two of them. And then, this past Sunday started the process of putting it all together. Then discovering I had more photos than song. Thankfully, a friend did some music editing for me creating an extended version of the song, allowing me to put in as wide a variety of photos as I received. Working an 8 hour day and then coming home and putting 2-3 more hours in editing this project and trying to make it perfect.
Now, a friend pointed out that there is a website that could have assembled all the photos into a montage for me and included some special effects. But I could not do that for 2 reasons. The first was prideful: I learned how to edit in college on a non-linear system (reel-to-reel) and wanted to play with iMovie and figure out some basic non-linear. The second had to do with love. Sure, something thrown together in a random order by an algorithmic program is quick and easy. By taking the time to look at each photo and place it to specific beats and lyrics in the music, I was putting my love into the project and making it personal, something I hoped that people would feel when watching the finished project.
Then the raves started coming in. For the OTHER video. The original video. I kept seeing comments by the organizing committee on how brilliant it was. I shared mine in the thread, but no one said anything. And my confidence went out the window. Two of my friends were life savers and confidence boosters during this time, telling me how great mine was in a different way. Finally, the night before the party, I shared my finished project with the committee, so they knew what they had to work with and determine where in the program it would go. And one of them sent me a response that meant more than he will ever know. “Magical.”
Friday, 12 April was the night of the party. There were some travel difficulties (stupid Chicago rush hour traffic) and of course I did not save the files in the proper format for the computer the projector was connected to. Thankfully, I had my handy dandy laptop with me and could export the files in the proper format. WHEW!
And when my two videos played, I still wanted to leave the room. I felt embarrassed when called out for making them. I tried to brush off any praise because it made me feel uncomfortable.
But, I gave the best gift that I knew I could give. I made it with all the love and friendship that I have. And it touched the heart of the person I wanted it to touch. Who could ask for anything more?
I know, in the post I said videos, a plural. But I only talked about one. On Wednesday night, I realized that we did not have anything relating to Steve’s Health Kwest put together. We had something with his onstage work and something to give him a visualization of his circle of friends, but nothing on his workouts. I asked a friend with more video editing experience if he knew of a way I could pull videos off of YouTube, as the websites I had tried were absolute disasters, and he helped me out. Thursday night found me editing “Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa to just the chorus, then putting together a short video using clips Steve created for the social media challenges he had during his Health Kwest. It was about a 5 hour project, and I think it turned out pretty ok.
My heroes do not wear capes. They learned their lesson from Edna Mode (“No Capes!”). They do not star in major motion pictures or score the winning touchdown at football games. They are not famous. My heroes are the people who are so comfortable in their own skin that it does not matter one iota what others think, which is something that I have always admired and tried to learn from their example. My heroes are all insanely talented. My heroes like to give back in ways big and small. My heroes have all faced challenging situations and come through it with their dignity and humor intact, and with a strength of character and spirit that is inspiring. I want to tell you about 4 of my many heroes. These women inspire me on a daily basis, and I hope you can find inspiration in their stories, as well as in the stories of the people around you.
The first person I want to talk about is no longer with us. Her name was Brittanie Hanson, but almost everyone knew her as Siobhan. We were not close, but we talked at work. Maybe it was because we competed over similar roles. Maybe it was because she so fully accepted herself and all of the things that made her unique while I was still trying to figure out who I was and how to love myself. She wore her Star Wars fandom on her arm, would quote Eddie Izzard when the mood struck (my first introduction to him), read science fiction books that I had not heard of but sounded fascinating, and lived every day to its fullest. I was not living in Orlando at the time that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, an almost always terminal diagnosis. Yet she REFUSED to give up. Her family of co-workers had purple dog tags printed that said, “Don’t tell me the odds,” which was her motto when she got her diagnosis. She fought every day, was positive every day, and continued to educate me through her Facebook postings. She lost her battle within 6 months of her diagnosis, but she fought until the very end. She showed me that there are people out there who will accept you and love you for who you are and not ask you to change, that you can love the things you love and be loud and proud about it and not care if people thought it was weird/dorky/different. Because of how she lived and died there are hundreds of people out there who cannot see a dragonfly and not think of Siobhan.
Mary Ann Douglas has the perfect initials because she is, in the absolute best way, completely MAD!!! Quirky, hilarious, unique, she is someone that I have admired for years because she is so comfortable in her own skin and does not care what anyone else thinks about her. I have always had a rough time doing, in fact I wanted to fit in so much I denied parts of myself, and watching her do it on a daily basis just made me realize what I was missing out on by not being fully me. As an added bonus, her absurd sense of humor and unique way of looking at life just made every time I got to work with her an adventure in the many ways my sides could hurt from laughing so hard! She is quick to point out that so much of her positive outlook on life stems from her family who told her; “You can be as beautiful as Venus, but looks fade and you are left with your personality. Just look at Great-Grandma. She’s a wonderful person, but looks like a prune!” What a fantastic way of looking at things! As with all of my heroes, there is another reason she is on here, one that ties in with her comfort in her skin. At 13 she faced a serious illness and spent the better part of 4 years in hospital. To keep her siblings from being scared or to keep herself from crying, she dealt with this adversity with humor. As she said, when you are fighting for your life, what other people think of you does not matter and that she developed a different sort of confidence. And when those moments that everyone has, when they worry about the superficial or what other people think, she reverts to the thinking that if someone likes her, it is scars and all — but if they don’t, in the end it does not matter. Since I did not even know all of this until recently, she has definitely succeeded in not letting any of this define her. But she has succeeded in showing a positive way to live your life, love you, and not care what anyone else thinks. It is a joy to know her, and giggle at her antics from afar.
Next up is Angelyn Rhode. I knew her a little bit because we worked together, but I did not really get to know her until we did a show together. At first I thought she was going to be the biggest bish on the face of the earth. Yes, I am ashamed to admit I pre-judged based on my limited interactions. But in doing the show, I learned that she is a fantastic dancer with a beautiful soprano voice and a spirit that was as bright as her name. And we became friends. A couple of years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through all of her treatments with a positive attitude. When she knew she was going to start losing her hair, she staged “The Great Shave,” where a friend who wore his head bald shaved hers for her. She was just as beautiful without hair as with. When she knew the type of cancer and how it could come back, she had a double mastectomy. She inspires me to find the best of a situation and how to use everything we are given to live our best life. Now, she spends her time raising awareness and raising money to help others who are fighting Breast Cancer. In two years, her organization Music for Melons has raised over $4,500 for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer by, among other things, staging productions. She also runs Hats by Angelyn, which makes and sells beautiful crocheted hats and donates 20% of each sale to Music for Melons. Beautiful, positive, caring, passionate, talented. Is there any doubt why she is one of my heroes?
Lastly is the person who became my first friend in Chicago, Mary Fran Wiley. When I made the move to Chicago from Orlando I only knew the person I was dating. Mifa and I worked for the same company and soon it became a ritual for us to run over to Starbucks as soon as I got in to mentally prepare ourselves for a day dealing with rejection over the phone. We both left that company about a month apart, and life happened. I was in the middle of the ending of the relationship that brought me to Chicago when she was in a horrible car accident. Sadly, I was too selfish to see her, but I tried to stay in touch. When told she might never walk again, she trained to run a 5k. She got a job in a different city and went back to school to improve her graphic design skills. Started blogging about GF baking and published an e-book. Got her dream job as a web designer and purchased her first pair of Louboutins. Lives her life with what she calls her “deep dark secret” and tried to keep her friends from knowing because she did not want them to treat her any differently. She is another friend of mine who is inspiring for who she is and how she is choosing to face adversity. She inspires me to fight when told something is not to be, to look for and make my own opportunities, to make those big purchases and splurge on myself every once in a while, and to find the positive, even when it is hard.
These are just a few of the people I know who have overcome. All of them are under 30 which just amazes me because I know they will continue to inspire. They have touched my life and helped inspire me to reach inside myself, love myself, accept who I am and how I look, and to take the challenges life hands me with a positive, don’t quit outlook. And be me, no matter what anyone else thinks.
I thank all of my friends for being awesome, inspiring, motivational, educational, and wicked fun.
Normally, my audition routine is audition for everything. Sometimes there is a show that I am really passionate about, that I will devote more time to, but I will still audition for other shows around it because, hey, you never know if you are going to be the right show. But then, comes “The Show.” The show that does not get done very often for whatever reason, that for whatever reason, you need to do on a personal level. For me, that show is THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
I know, I know. It is sugar on top of cotton candy on top of saccharine. It is the last Rogers and Hammerstein musical and people like to poo poo it. But for as long as I can remember, the movie has been the top of my favorite list. Growing up, I watched that movied EVERY time it was on, and when my family got a laser disc player, I rented that all the time. I honestly do not remember if my mom ended up buying it or not, but I know I chose it as my rental often.
I sang “Edelweiss” when my Grandmother died. My great-uncle got me a book that is autographed by Maria von Trapp. Heck, when I was a youngster (before I remember, but it was one of my favorites), my grandparents took me to see a community theatre production of TSoM. Right around the time they started singing “Do a Deer….” in a place different from the movie (after several other songs were in a place other than my beloved movie), I stood, in all my curly hair/frilly dress glory, and yelled at the stage; “You’re doing it WRONG!”. Yeah. I kind of had the movie version memorized. But, knowing that all I can play in the show is a nun, and knowing that lightning has been known to hit in the general vicinity of a theatre when I am a nun (ask me about EVITA someday), well……yeah, I still want to do the show.
But here is the dilemma. I am afraid that if I put all of my eggs in one basket, I will end up without a fall show. Yes, this show would make my heart happy on SO MANY different levels. BUT. The actor but. The BUT that is born out of the knowledge that the possibility is out there that you may, or may not, be the right “fit” for the cast or the directors vision. And going in, you don’t know what that fit is going to be, many times it depends on the people who are also auditioning. So, there are 2 other auditions, one that I have written off, primarily because it is Tuesday and I need to get things done.
The other audition is for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. It is being put up by a group I have been trying to get into for 3 years. I know that as a Tower, I have a shot at being a Cagelle, which would be a lot of fun. But….
And it is that gosh darn “BUT” that is making my life miserable right now. I think I have figured out what I am going to do, it scares me, but you know what, if it so happens that I don’t get a role, any role, in show A, I know there will be more auditions right around the corner.
Hi, I’m adding this after the original post: So, here is part of my quagmire. La Cage auditions first and will have their first audition that week. SoM auditions the following weekend. La Cage runs Nov 9-18. SoM runs Nov 9-Dec 9. There is a difference in travel distance, with La Cage being closer. My heart is still saying SoM, but if I don’t get it, I cold be showless for an extended period of time.
Hi! How is everyone doing out there?? How is life? How has your summer been? Mine has been pretty interesting and pretty low key. It’s a very interesting mix. I feel like I should pick up where I left off with the Disney/Universal trip, but that has been so long ago, that I don’t really remember where I left off except that Disney Onstage = Awesome for Glutards, Disney Backstage = Not So Much and that Universal was a blast, but a total food wash.
So, what have I been up to?? Well, near Memorial Day the studio where I was taking Burlesque classes
had a Graduation Recital and I got to perform with a group of my fellow Beginning/Intermediate students in that while the gradates prepped after their individual numbers for their finale. I only went down to a bra and my second pair of panties (the routine had us removing the outer pantie), but it was exhilarating. I felt strong, sexy, and confident, three words that I do not feel that often and rarely at the same time.
Not too long after that, actually ON I went up to Northern Wisconsin for a friends weekend. It was a fun weekend with friends and I got to see her marry the love of her life. How can that NOT make you happy??
I think not long after that, I did a 20th anniversary show for a friend’s theatre company. It was not everything that was promised when I showed up to the first meeting, but in the end, I had a lot of fun with some talented people and got to share the stage with some friends. And I hope, beyond all hope, that the next time I ever sing “Seasons of Love” is because I am in a production of RENT. Can I please call for a ban of that song in any and every musical revue show? It is honestly the entire reason I never saw RENT until about the time the movie came out.
The big highlight of July was cheering on a friend in her international beauty pagent here in the Chicago area. She rocked out, won “Most Photogenic” and was an amazing advocate for her platform, Celiac Awareness. I met her at the Gluten Free Cooking Expo that I have been volunteering at for YEARS and I love my “cupcake monsters.”
August started with a bang. Almost quite literally if you consider the gun that was fired in show. Anyway, I had been asked by a director I have auditioned for several times to take place in a musical revue that he was putting together as a fundraiser for a local theatre company. Of course I jumped at the chance to work with him. Then I saw who else he asked. EVERY other person in that cast has, at one point in their life or another, played a lead or a main supporting character with solos in a show. Some of these performers I had seen on stage and just wanted to learn as much as I could from them. And then there was me. The tall chorus girl in the back. But in this show, I wasn’t going to be a chorus girl. Every single person in the show was featured in at least 2 numbers. What did that mean for me? I was going to be singing Magenta in “The Time Warp” from ROCKY HORROR SHOW, and Mazeppa in “Gotta Get a Gimmick” from GYPSY. Plus ensemble in 4 other numbers. **GULP** Nervous. Scared. Floored. Honored. Determined. Terrified. What if I got there and I was the weakest person in the show? What if I got there and the director realized he made a mistake? Well, I got the sheet music about a month early and did everything I could to start working on my parts so that when the time came for rehearsals to start, I could be (somewhat) professional and at least know my music. I knew it would be tweaked as I worked with the director and knew what he wanted, but I could know words and pitches.
11 Rehearsals. 22 people put on a 2 hour show in 11 rehearsals. We sold out 97% of the house over the run of the show. I came into the rehearsal process determined to be friendly, but to keep my head down, work hard, learn by observing others, and not let all of my crazy energy out. And for the most part, I think I succeeded. I don’t know how my performances went. I know they felt great, and each night they felt stronger and stronger. I don’t know how well I succeeded in everything else I wanted to accomplish, or even hope to accomplish. But I know this. I came out of it with a bunch of new friends and the knowledge that I got to play with the big boys and I held my own.
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty hard on myself. For the longest time, I thought I could not sing because someone told me, “we don’t sing well.” I think believing that helped to form some of the mental blocks about myself and the roadblocks I put in my own path.
When I was a little girl (yes, I was little), I used to LOVE to sing. Did it all the time. My Opa would give me a penny every time I saw him if I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I sang it a LOT! But eventually, the music in church that I couldn’t follow the melody if they gave me a 20 foot roadmap, and someone saying “we don’t sing” every Sunday, led me to believe I could NOT sing.
When I finally got a car, I sang in it ALL the time! I just belted along with the songs hoping I did not sound like a total tool. Worrying about what other people think is another issue of mine…even when there was no one in the car with me. One day, I was chillaxing in my parents basement with Teenie, singing along to Queen videos (she got to hear me sing, I gave her rides and I ALWAYS sang in my car. Still do), when she turned to me and told me “You can sing!” When I didn’t believe her she told me that I hit a really hard note. That was also a bass note. Hi, female, but still, kinda cool that my range went that low.
Talk about the confidence boost! I still did not believe I could really sing, but her encouragement got me to find a voice teacher one summer when I was between colleges and interning at a theatre. While I did not like how I was singing with her, looking back I see that what she was doing was trying to get me to place my voice properly. Best response was when I was singing at a Christmas service (in the pews), and my mom turned to me and stated, “you have a really nice voice.”
And then, I did nothing with it. Not a thing. Just kept singing along in my car. No voice lessons, no nothing. Until about a year after I moved to Chicago. I moved here wanting to act and do the things that I let fear stop me from doing. And I got a job hosting karaoke on the weekends at a local theme park. So I signed up for group voice lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. Hated my teacher, but between her and the encouragement from the folks in the park, I signed up for private lessons. And I also started auditioning for musicals.
I was with my first teacher for almost 2 years, before she left for new adventures, and during that time I started to be cast fairly regularly in ensembles of various community theatres. It is amazing how much you can learn, when you are open to it and go in with an open mine. After that, I moved to an instructor who has really worked with me on standing correctly, speaking correctly (did you know you can talk wrong?), and placing my voice in the proper spot when singing. Currently, we are taking a small break while she rehearses for a show.
So, while I do not think my voice has grown into what it can be, it has grown. I still sing karaoke, but at bars, and I am back on the audition circuit. To continue growing my voice is a challenge, but I have learned that I CAN sing. And it is one fear that I have broken free from.