16 Books for a Creatively Healthy New Year

Books_thatll_Change_your_life

I’m heading back to school this week, after a lovely month of relaxing, hanging out with friends, and enjoying quiet time spent with my family. It’s difficult to believe that in a week I will be back in the swing of a new semester, running from theatre classes to my editor position at the newspaper to rehearsal and back again! I’m looking forward to an extremely challenging semester, creatively; but I also know that I have a tendency to go a little bit crazy when things get overwhelming.

This year, I want to focus on living the creative life I love without all of the stress that tends to come with it. Refinery29, one of my favorite websites, seems to be thinking along my lines: they published an article featuring 16 books that will change your life in a creative way. I’ve added these titles to my (somewhat staggering) reading list, and hope they launch me off into the new year in an artistically positive way!

 

Advertisements

Adorable Little Ones

I don’t think I have a case of baby fever, at the moment. The same cannot be said for many of my college compatriots, who I see swooning over the little ones running about campus with a hungry look in their eyes. They’re so ready.

I am so not.

I do not want diapers or dirty dishes or throwing up or all my money spent on all of the above.

Logically.

But all of the cute fall and winter pictures of little hipster children? Yep. I’m there. I love them all. And a little bit of my heart cannot wait to dress my own in cute little pom pom hats and owl sweaters and baby slouchy boots and cart them around to parks and farmer’s markets and artisinal stores while we chatter amiably about the latest book that we have read together.

Le sigh. A girl can dream.

Image

Little Eleanor from Love, Taza. She’s a girl after my own heart.

Image

Image

Curly haired little guy. My dream.

Image

What could be sweeter?

 

So Much to Be Thankful For…some girl(s) 2013

Wow. I have closed and opened the play I’ve been working on for a month, Neil Labute’s Some Girl(s), in the span of a week.

Time truly flies in the college theatre world.

I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to express how much this show has impacted my life. It did nothing less than remind me why I love this crazy, stressful, often debilitating, but essentially beautiful business. I was blessed with a phenomenal director who listened to me and encouraged me, and a cast of four incredible actors. More important than those artistic accolades is the distinction that they are just really, really incredible people, who have constantly lifted me up during a rather difficult time in my life.

Image

My entire family came to see this show, all the way from up north. It was my first “main” role at school in a large play, so their presence meant the world to me. The Boyfriend and his family also made the trip…really, could I be more lucky?

Image

And now, we’re on to the next adventure. It is going to be so strange living outside of the Some Girl(s) world. I’m in the don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened mode at the moment. The universe has been very, very good to me.

Hope you are all having a great start to your November as well!

Get Up and Go

My audition outfit: dress provided by Target, shoes by Jessica Simpson, and earrings bought from a lovely sorority sister who knew of my obsession with all things sparkly and dangly.

One of the greatest life lessons that the acting world has given me is very simple: Show Up.  Basically, this means that stuff can only happen if you take the opportunities that you’re given.  You will never get cast in a show if you don’t show up to audition.  Likewise, you will never get the help you need at work if you don’t ask for it.  You won’t be able to reach the cereal at the back of the shelf of the grocery if you don’t ask the hunky shopper next to you for some help.

See? Multi-situational applicability.  That’s what I aim for.

I had a true test of this theory this morning. I stayed up too late last night, and when my alarm went of at 7 sharp, I cursed whatever minion that had possessed me to sign up for a 10 am opera audition slot.  The excuses started pouring in: it’s pointless because I won’t get cast, my voice doesn’t feel up to snuff, it’s been a long week, I’ve done enough…I could write a book with the things that actors come up with.  But after about ten minutes of wrestling with myself, I got up.  And I drank two sips of coffee (because caffeine is bad for your voice.  The world is a cruel, cruel place sometimes).  And showered, got dressed, prepped my music, walked out the door and auditioned my butt off.

I showed up! And got a nice little boost of confidence.  A good start to my Saturday.

Now excuse me while I go chug coffee like it’s my job.

On My Want List: Kate Spade Flats

ImageI am obsessed with the new Kate Spade New York styles that have been popping up on all my favorite fashion blogs.  The clothing and desk accessories are to die for, but what have been really catching my eye are the shoes.  My God, the shoes! I am the kind of girl who finds a style she loves and proceeds to wear it till the soles fall off, so non-committed applicants need not apply.  The Kate Spade flats are all gorgeous, but they also have a reputation of withstanding harsh New York city treatment by the young fashion trendsetters who wear them.  I’ve put some of those dreamy activities above, but for me, these flats would be perfect crossing-campus wear…now if only I can find the perfect pair to match my acting uniform of all black…

Note: I have a college student budget, so I will not be sporting any of these anytime soon.  Look forward to a more affordable flats post later! But hey, a girl can dream, right?

 

Good Is Good Enough

Image

This summer was all about taking time to take care of myself.  And that included learning what really makes me tick.   I don’t think very many people spend time thinking about how our brains work, or the ways in which we are comfortable functioning.  I know I certainly hadn’t given it much thought. But understanding your comfort spots, both good and bad, can help you get your life on track. I had a really rough semester last year, and didn’t quite know why.  After a summer of thinking it out, I discovered  a few personality traits that add to my stress, and am working on turning those into strengths this year.

One of these little bad habits? I have a very hard time letting “Good” be “Good Enough.” This is best illustrated in the acting world, for me.  In our profession, auditioning is the job, and getting cast is the fun part. So every time I get a callback at my incredibly competitive program, I should be praising the Lord and be thankful for the chance that I get to play. Which is usually the case. But callbacks do not always result in being cast. In fact, it would be fair to say that most of the time they don’t. 

I have a hard time letting the fact that I got called back be Good Enough.  I always want to take it one step further: yes, that was good, but it could have been perfect. In my mind, this has always just seemed like hard work and motivation. But this summer, I realized it’s affecting my quality of life.

It’s good to have high standards and set big goals…but it’s also good to remember that success can be measured on many scales, and in many ways. I had the good fortune to get called back for Yelena in Uncle Vanya yesterday, a lead role which I never in a million years thought I would read for.  I had an absolutely incredible callback. I am so proud of the work that I did, and feel so blessed to have created some very magical moments in that audition room. I got cut just before the end, so I will not be getting the part, but you know what?  A good (try AMAZING!) callback is good enough. Life is too beautiful to waste on “could have happeneds.”  It is going to be a struggle, but I am committed to bettering my life this year by keeping this healthy perspective in mind.

Hope this helps you to remember that you’re good enough, too 🙂

Don’t Be a Desk Potato! how to stay active at a desk job

Image courtesy of Levo League

Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day just does not do it for me.  During the school year, I spend so much time running to class, performing, working out, and rehearsing, that it feels like I barely sit down.  But for the past two summers I’ve held an amazing summer assistant job at a major company…which has meant desk work. A lot of it.  And in that time I’ve found that hours of restful sitting does not a happy Lauren make.

I was meditating on this issue the other day, while readin several great profiles of professional women from Levo League (by the way, if you haven’t checked this organization out, go do so right now! Probably the most excellent source of information for 20 something women I’ve come across).  One thing that all of them seem to have in common?  Insanely active lifestyles, and a passion for fitting fitness into the work day. I love that! I am so inspired by women who take on a full 40+ with gusto, and still remember that their bodies are incredibly important. 

Here are some of my tips for staying active at work, even at your desk!

1) Standing your ground

It might be tempting to sit in that office chair all day while you type away at the computer or file your heart out. But I say: do not give in!  My rule of thumb: if it can be done standing, do it. Example: one of my major jobs is scanning files into a database.  While I have to sit to enter info into the computer, I’ve discovered that organizing and assembling files is best done on my feet! Plus side: any afternoon drowsy spells are usually crushed.

2) Take a walk

If I do have to sit for a long period of time, I find myself itching to walk it off after about an hour.  I realize some companies are more restrictive, but even getting up and out of your seat for one minute is better than sitting all day!  Tip: when you need to get a drink or go to the bathroom, head to the station furthest from your desk. You’ll get a little extra walk in!

3) Don’t let the day beat you down

Sometimes after a long day, the last thing I want to do is workout.  I’m tired, grumpy, and would much rather go home and chill out with a good book and an iced coffee. But getting a little excercise in everyday is vital to my happiness.  I try to remember how good I’ll feel afterwards when I’m struggling to lace up my tennis shoes.  For me, the best time to work out is in the evenings after work.  But if you lose all motivation once 5 o’clock rolls around, try and fit a little workout in in the morning! It might seem difficult to wake up earlier, but you’ll be reaping the benefits all day long.

4) Get your fuel!

Whenever I feel like I’m lagging a little bit, I use these instant energy boosters:
-Water! I try and drink at least four glasses at work each day. Hydration keeps you focused
-Snack time: that tired might feeling might just be your body telling you it needs some TLC.  I try to always keep some snacks at work.  Favorites include watermelon, carrot sticks, or some low-fat and low-carb crackers or popcorn.
-Music: there’s nothing like a favorite jam coming on to give me some extra motivation. I love listening to Country Pop Pandora or Imagine Dragons!

 

 

 

Perfect is Boring

Image

 

So! When we last talked, I was fast and furiously preparing for sophomore juries, which are sort of the capstone of your first two years in the BFA acting program.  You go in, perform three monologues in four minutes, and leave.  And the next night, you sit in a room with four members of the acting faculty for ten minutes, and they tell you all of the things that you need to work on/are doing well. A little nerve wracking.

Or, if you’re me, a lot nerve wracking.

I am a perfectionist.  I like things that are “in my control” to go perfectly.  Which is odd, because in so many other things in life, I’m a go with the flow, happy-go-lucky kind of person.  This year I’ve developed pretty severe anxiety about things “not going right.” Which is unfortunate, because acting is a live art form.  Meaning that things usually do not go how you expect them to.  I know all this, and it’s finally starting to seep into my brain, and yet anxiety issues are not something you can simply switch on and off.

 

But in the midst of my worrying, I realized something: it’s cliche, but I AM ENOUGH.  So I’m not perfect all the time.  I wouldn’t be in college if I was.  I’m here to learn, not to be the perfect student.  I get so worried about my teachers thinking I’m doing a good job that I sometimes forget how much I love what I do–and really, why act if you don’t love it?  There are so many easier things.  So no matter what they said, I would come out of there and still be Lauren. I’d still have an incredible group of friends and family, the most amazing boyfriend, great writing skills, a solid sense of humour, and a talent with making fatty delicious desserts. 

This might shock you: but my talkback was great.  Mostly positive things were said, all of which made my heart glow.  The biggest critiques were my unwillingness to forgive myself and my fear of losing control and letting it all go–both of which are necessary to good acting.  I cried through the whole thing (poor teachers!), but I felt so much release.  I know the faculty loves me and cares about me as a performer and as a person.  They believe in me and my work, which is an incredible feeling.

So.  Woof.  What a weekend.  My project this summer is going to be work on lessening my anxiety, learning to let go and have fun in the work, and gaining some self-confidence.  All difficult for me, but I am so pumped to take the next step in this amazing journey.

Five Things…Jury Weeked!

I feel like the Jaws theme song plays every time someone around here mentions Sophomore Acting Juries.  These are like the capstone to our first two years of BFA Acting training.  You go in front of the school of theatre faculty members, and perform three monologues in four minutes. For me, that means a 1:30 Shakespeare, a 1:30 Chekhov, and a one minute contemporary piece.  Woo! Talk about intense.  That all happens Sunday.

On Monday, we go in to have a ten minute sit down discussion with the faculty.  They talk about anything and everything: how your pieces went, yes, but also what they’ve seen in the past two years, what you do great at, what you could improve upon, any behavioral issues, things they’d like to see next year…and so on.  That part is the most nerve racking to me, because I can’t control it at all!

In the midst of this jury craziness, there’s also a weekend. Go figure.  Here’s what I’m most excited about.

1) Performing my monologues.  I’m not really even nervous for this part.  I truly love all of my pieces, and I’m so excited to finally perform what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks! Especially my Shakespeare…cause that thing is just such a jam.  Love it to pieces.

2) The post-jury party.

Heaven in a cup.

After juries, a bunch of the BFAts (that’s my sophomore class buddies) and I are going out for a big margherita pizza and some fro yo.  It will be the unhealthiest that I have eaten in weeks…and I cannot, cannot wait.  Sometimes, you gotta live a little.  After that, I will be coming home to a good book and an amazing bubble bath. And hopefully, some stress free sleep!

3) Lazing about! If you haven’t been able to tell from my last months’ worth of posts, I don’t get a large amount of down time here at school.  Full disclosure: I pretty much get none.  So this weekend, I’m looking forward to sleeping in.  To watching episodes of wedding shows.  To maybe even indulging in a movie.  I’m looking forward to having ample time to get my homework done–how sad is that?? I’m so ready to have a little bit of de-stress time before we launch into the craziness that is last week and finals week (and boy, is it ever crazy).  Fact: I am currently lounging in yoga pants with a huge glass of water and a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and intend on finding a new Netflix show as soon as I finish this post.  Let’s see if I can remind myself how to relax!

4) Jeans!  Okay.  This is a tiny one.  And it’s a little sad how excited I am.  But I bought the most amazing jeans for my jury, and the world must know! They’re American Eagle Artist cut, super stretch.  All the comfort of a jegging, but with a look stylish and tailored enough to wear to an audition.  I’m in love. I want all the pairs!

American Eagle Outfitters Artist Jean

Wimpy pic, I know.  More incentive to go look for them in store!
Or find them online
here.

5) Foods!  I have a tradition of splurging for the last two weeks of the semester and getting “Lauren Level Comfort Food.”  For me, that means:

-Honeycrisp apples (so expensive, so worth it.  The agony and the ecstasy)
-Strawberries! Or another kind of fruit I usually pass up with a laugh of “Ha, I’m poor.”
-TWO kinds of cereal.  That’s right, y’all.  It’s getting crazy in here. (for the record, today it was cheerios and cinnamon Life, aka Lauren’s crack).
-Original Goldfish. Just one bag.  A little salty indulgence.
-Raisins.  What, whole fruit and dried fruit??? The world is a remarkable place.
-Creamy chicken ramen noodles.  For those last two nights of school that I just really, really need it. Sorry, sodium content gods.
-Salad! Because the lettuce is sad here.
-The end all be all: a bag of Dove dark chocolate.  I mean…how could I not?  I usually try to keep this one at one piece per day…but who knows how my mind will hold up in these last two weeks? My math skills have never been exemplary.

 

Hope your weekend is just as exciting!

 

We Are Back, We Are Back!

Life as an acting major sometimes just seems like a continue roll of shows opening and shows closing.  I feel like we just began rehearsals for Emotional Creature, and now we’re done! Craziness.

The tech week for this show was crazy.  Our director had a family emergency, and was only able to attend half of one tech rehearsal (and I cannot thank her enough for her commitment to the show). So on we went, working with each other, trusting the ensemble and our amazing stage manager, and tweeking and finessing without a director! Hard stuff.  I don’t think any of us really knew how the show was going to go over.  We all loved it. We loved the ensemble we had created, and felt a deep and powerful connection to the material we had talked about.  But we also knew that it was long (three hours!), intense, and not everyone’s cup of tea.  We went into performances with a lot of joy, and just a tiny touch of nerves.

Y’all, people LOVED it.

I am so happy to say that.  The audience every night came ready to dance and take a journey with us.  They let themselves be invested in this story of what it’s like to be a girl, no matter if they were younger, older, girl, guy, crazy, shy, whatever.  The laughter and applause was incredible, as were the moments of silent emotion and recognition.

If you play for audience approval in theatre, you’re going to be dissapointed at least some of the time–not everyone likes every kind of play or performance, after all.  And even though I know this, I wanted so badly for this show to go well.  And I am so, so happy that it did!

And now we are back to the regular, non-tech life of a BFA.  Oh, wait.  I forgot to mention: it’s sophomore jury time.

Image

JURIES?!?!?! Where??

Duh, duh, DUH!!!

Fun stuff. So this week is going to be spent working monologues, memorizing audition pieces, and generally waffling between being nervous and excited.