I was standing outside, on the corner of 76th and Broadway, freezing in the February cold and trying to stop analyzing the events of the afternoon. The other girl had dressed the part – pink flower and all – and was a dancer. Three rounds of callbacks and, much to my chagrin, it had all come down to dance. DANCE! I had convinced myself I hadn’t gotten it; told myself that I had done my best, that there would be a next time, when my phone rang. I answered, my heart pounding, and heard my manager’s voice on the other end of the line. I’ll never forget that conversation as long as I live, because in that moment - even though I had no idea what was in store - I knew my life would change forever.
I flew out 6 days later (!!!!) to join the tour in Tempe, AZ. I made my debut 3 weeks later in the biggest theatre I’d ever seen, let alone performed in, and went on to do the show nearly 600 times in 17 cities all over the country. It’s crazy to think back on the beginning now, because it doesn’t feel so long ago. I’ve only been off the tour for two months, but Wicked feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once.
To say being a part of Wicked was the most incredible experience of my life would be an understatement. Anyone who has watched the show knows what a breathtaking spectacle it is – how moving and charming and fun and funny it is – and its importance in the canon of musical theatre. But being involved in the show was beyond anything I could have dreamed for myself. Over the course of a year and a half, I grew and changed and struggled. This company and crew became more than my co-workers, my friends. They became my family. They were the shoulders I cried on, the adventurers who ate, drank and explored with me, the people who inspired, challenged and supported me. We spent holidays together, saw the country together, cheered each other on as we made debuts and cried as we said goodbye. Sure, there were moments where I didn’t want to do the show. There were times where I was tired and sick and heartbroken or felt insecure about my life or my work. But I always knew I could come to the theatre and be surrounded by people I loved, and who loved me too.
I realize my contribution to Wicked is small. There are hundreds of actors, musicians and stagehands that have all been a part of the show, and hundreds more will follow. But Wicked’s contribution to my life was huge. Not only has it been the most incredible opportunity of my life, but it also reaffirmed my belief that this business - while a business - can truly change people. I talked to so many people outside of stage doors and online who said the show had given them confidence, had encouraged them to pursue theatre, or taught them to embrace being different. On the days that coming to work felt like a job, I would always get a little reminder that what I was doing – what we were all doing – really mattered.
So, it seemed appropriate that my final blog post – the end to a long journey – be on Wicked’s 10th Anniversary celebration. Wicked is closing a beautiful, memory-filled chapter, but also beginning a new one – just like me! I know I kind of fell off of it in the last few months (I’ll post some more pictures after this, I promise!), but I’ve loved writing this blog and sharing my stories with you all. Thank you to everyone who has read or shared my posts, but thanks especially to the Wicked fans. You are some of the most generous people I have ever known, and one of the main reasons Wicked has remained such a success.
Ok, signing off. Happy anniversary, Wicked! I am so grateful you exist, and my humble heart thanks you, for everything you’ve done for me. Here’s to 10 more brilliant years.
Is there a better way to spend a Saturday morning than crossing something off your bucket list and having a kick-ass time doing it???
That’s right friends, Wicked took over the Color Me Rad 5K COLOR RUN on a cloudy morning in New Orleans. On a two show day, no less! With our performance schedule (and the exception of travel days, of course) I am not accustomed to seeing 7 am - let alone leaping out of bed at the strike of it to start my day. But I happily pulled on my race clothes, enjoyed the peaceful morning with oatmeal and hot cup of tea, and then climbed into the car to head to the race.
Color Runs are pretty silly, but the perfect kind of 5K for me. I like to run, but I’m not a competitive runner. I get bored, and especially with the touring schedule, this time of my life isn’t the right one to start training for one seriously. But, the Color Run is simple: a 5K course (so only around 3.5 miles), with 6 “color bomb” stations. Or basically, people throw bags of colored corn starch or spray you with watered versions of the colors. One station for each color. Then, at the end, everyone collects these color bombs, and at the count of 3, we throw them into the air into a massive, crazy, color bomb.
Before the start of the race - all clean and white!
It was SO much better than I could have thought it would be, which is great, because I had pretty damn high expectations! If you see any of these coming to your town, drop everything and do it. Plus, it benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. So much fun and all for a great cause? What could be better!
Whew! That last post really needed to come out before I shared all the happy stuff about my time in New Orleans. Stress is no joke, people!
Ok, on to the happy stuff. Hah, happy stuff. I like it!
One of the absolute best things I did in New Orleans was take a culinary bike tour through the city. Yup, you read that right. Foodies, rejoice! Confederacy of Cruisers offers three different tours: a culinary, a drinking (how people do that and manage to stay upright on bikes is a mystery to me), and a history of New Orleans tour. I stopped reading their website at “culinary” and signed up with one of my castmates, Kevin (he plays the witch’s father and sometimes the Wizard!).
We met on a muggy afternoon, bellies rumbling and headed off.
Our guide was FABULOUS. She started the tour by explaining a little about New Orleans culinary history in general, which is fascinating. NOLA is a huge melting pot of cultures - French, African, Creole cuisine, Southern, old-school Italian - you name it, New Orleans has it. And it’s created a food style all its own. I’ve never been in a city with such a passion for its food and its culture. Our first stop was the Ruby Slipper, in the Marigny-Bywater district. The Marigny is just on the edge of the Quarter, a little sleepier and quieter, but just as rustic and beautiful.
The Ruby Slipper used to be a bank, and the owners of the restaurant have kept the interior pretty much in tact. We stopped here for this:
THAT, ladies and gents, is Eggs Cochon. A buttermilk biscuit with pulled pork shoulder, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. YUM.
"Cochon" (or French for pork) is a very popular ingredient in New Orleans, and has become a focus in the more modern restaurants. There’s actually a restaurant called Cochon (which I went to, duh), named one of the "Most Exciting Restaurants in the Country." The breakfast was delicious, and just the right size to whet my appetite for our next stop.
Stop #2 was not too far away, on a cobbly old street in the Quarter. A West African place! Side note: our guide explained that she does these tours 6 days a week, and in order to keep it interesting for herself, she picks from a list of about 10 places around the city. So if you were to do the same tour on two different days of the week, you’d get to see different places and taste different food!
Bennachin. West African heaven! What a funky little place. We sat in the little pillow-filled corner at the window, and shared some traditional side dishes.
Happy foodie buddies awaiting our treats!
We tasted some of the most delicious roasted spinach, and plantains served with a spicy tomato sauce. I’d never had plantains until I tried Cuban food in Miami, and I got hooked on these suckers. They are perfectly sweet and, if cooked right, crunchy on the edges. But! In Cuban cuisine they’re usually served alongside main dishes, but never with tomato sauce. In West African cuisine, it apparently is the way to do it, and it was perfect: garlicky and sweet with the perfect amount of spice. It turns the dish into a slightly savory one, a welcome surprise.
After African, we biked our longest stretch all the way to Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Since getting to NOLA of COURSE I had to ask around to find the best place for a po’boy. My local dresser and hair person at Wicked all agreed: Parkway was the place. So needless to say, I was thrilled!
Parkway Bakery has been around since 1911, and has remained a family run joint and a neighborhood staple. It sits in one of the neighborhoods most badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and had to close for renovation for a period of time after the storm. But, the community rallied around them, and the Bakery made every effort to come back swinging - opening its doors only 2 months after the storm.
As for the menu, they’re famous for their fried shrimp po’boy. Well, that and their “Surf N Turf,” which is: house-carved roast beef, topped with their fried shrimp and doused in….wait for it…gravy. In essence: a heart attack on a French roll. I couldn’t quite bring myself to that!
The po’boy was incredible. The shrimp were perfectly crispy and lightly battered, but remained sweet and juicy on the inside. The bread (baked in house, of course) is crusty, and the perfect way to sandwich all the goodness inside. With a cold beer…perfection.
Only one stop to go, and it was the best choice for the incredibly hot New Orleans afternoon: POPSICLES! Back to the Quarter we went to Meltdown, a pop-up shack in the middle of a street lined with bars and sex shops. The woman who owns the shack makes all the popsicles by hand, using local and organic ingredients.
I tried the Pineapple Cilantro. So refreshing. I immediately wanted to try them all right after!
No one in my group was under 40, and they were all amused by my endless picture-taking - despite the facial expressions in this photo! Hah!
And that, my friends, was a fabulous day in New Orleans. If you’re a foodie and want to spend your afternoon doing something totally unique and un-touristy (all the places we visited are local spots), then look no further than Confederacy of Cruisers. Check out their site!:
Ok, y’all. I’ve started three different blog posts about New Orleans over the last few weeks, but I can’t bring myself to finish any of them. Not that I WON’T, at some point soon. And certainly not because there’s nothing to write about! New Orleans was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been, and despite being sick for the last full week, I felt very lucky to have spent a month exploring all it had to offer.
For those of you who follow this blog, you know that I’ve written other posts about stress and anxiety. It’s always been my personal struggle, as it is for many performers - especially the ones who travel for a living. You’re constantly in different places, away from your family and friends from home, packing and unpacking seemingly in the same day. Little things that aren’t so hard to deal with can seem like big, impossible tasks on the road. With that being said, being on tour, especially with Wicked, is one of the biggest blessings I could ever ask for in this life and this career. A year and (almost) half in, and I still LOVE my job!
But, lately it’s been hard for me to remember all the amazing things. I find that my anxiety and stress is triggered by physical health issues, or when I feel like I can’t perform or be the best version of myself on and offstage. It’s always been the case for me my entire life. If my voice goes or my health goes - my sanity goes right along with it. For the last three weeks I’d been having a bizarre serious of vocal struggles and health issues - loss of voice, major sinusitis, chest congestion - which I was treated for by multiple doctors and it just never seemed to get any better! The worst thing for an impatient person like me, with a job to do!
This whole experience inflamed my anxiety in a MAJOR way. I wasn’t feeling good about my performances onstage (when I could come IN to work), and was feeling depressed about having to separate myself from my castmates and friends to heal and rest. I cancelled a between-cities trip to NYC to try to get better enough to start things off right in Columbus - a trip I’d been looking forward to for weeks. Bad bad all around. After 3 weeks of struggling, I finally got into a FABULOUS ENT here in Ohio and got a diagnosis: silent acid reflux.
Silent reflux is actually very common, and notoriously hard to diagnose because the sufferers generally have no typical heartburn symptoms. And, it has been known to cause respiratory infections! There ya go!
Anyway - the reflux is not the point of this post. I started this blog to detail my adventures on tour, and this incident led me to discover (again) how important it is to remain positive and not let stress and anxiety rule your life. Acid reflux is aggravated by…wait for it…stress. Health problems all over the map are caused by…wait for it…STRESS! I find that when things like this happen to me, I immediately jump to the negative. I forget to breathe, forget to see the big picture, and always think about the worse case scenario. Are people judging me? Am I overreacting? Am I ever going to sing again???
(This is actually where my brain goes. Crazy, right?)
I am by NO means a master - I wouldn’t even say I’m very good at managing stress or anxiety at this point. Once your brain grows used to a pattern, especially one that it feels comfort and safety in, it can be very hard to break. But for me, at this moment in life, all I can do is take baby steps. I may slip up every once in awhile, or maybe even a few times a day, but as long as I take a moment to breathe, meditate, text my Mom or a friend, think positive thoughts and TRULY ASSESS THE SITUATION FOR WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS: I can still turn things around.
One step at a time. Because what would life be like without the stress or anxiety that I cause myself? What could it be like?
All is well.
All is well.
In all matter of things, all is well.
Well, Wicked did Dallas. Two weeks ago. Hooray for catch-up blogging!
(I’m working on getting better)
I’m writing from our sleepy little street in New Orleans (the Garden District, to be exact-ish) after a long day of rehearsals and the show. I have a lot of things to catch myself (and all of you!) up on, so let’s get to it.
Looking back on Dallas now, I can say it was one of those tour cities that fell into the “nice” category. Nice in my touring language means nothing bad, but nothing exceptional either. In other words: either the city didn’t excite me, or all I saw of it was the inside of the theatre’s rehearsal studio.
I should preface this by saying I’m sure Dallas is (or can be) an exciting place, but we were VERY busy. Lots and lots of rehearsals, some visits from our creative team, and, not to mention, in the span of four weeks we replaced three major roles in the show (aka. more rehearsals). When we have a lot of rehearsal, hardcore fatigue sets in, and it can make it hard to have the energy to get out and explore when we do have the time.
I did manage to get out and see and do some things, and I made a handy dandy list of happy times from my time in Texas.
Dallas, the pros:
1. The locals, crew and producers.
I wouldn’t say I’d ever directly experienced what they call “Southern hospitality” until I came to Dallas. Those of us who had been here before had gotten us pretty excited about it (“They feed you between shows! There’s an amazing opening night party!” they crowed), and it did NOT disappoint. First of all, when we arrived at the theatre our first Wednesday afternoon, we all had these at our stations:
You’d be SHOCKED at how fluttery a group of ladies got at the sight of these bad boys! Men, are you writing this down? Flowers. Always. Work.
Second - they fed us between shows. Every. Single. Weekend. While we would be performing the matinee, a team of local board members and volunteers would transform our Green Room/kitchen area into a full-fledged picnic area. Long reams of white paper (and little baskets of crayons!) covered the tables, and each week, a different family would cater. It wasn’t exactly food that one should be eating an hour before one needs to fit into tight-waisted skirts and/or corsets (ie. ME), but it was tasty, homestyle Southern cooking, and now and again a delightful pick-me-up on those four show weekends.
Side note: at the opening night party (during which I spent most of my time exploring a wine cellar bigger than most NYC studio apartments), I met one of the women catering our first weekend meal, who was bringing brisket. AND SMOKING IT HERSELF. Imagine a tiny mother of seven (you heard me right, SEVEN) kids smoking enough brisket to feed 130 people in her smoker. Her smoker that sits in her backyard. Craziness.
2. THIS PLACE.
That, my friends, is the Cosmic Cafe - aka. the best, most delicious lunch place that I sadly discovered on my LAST week in Dallas. In case you can’t tell from the photo, it’s a renovated house that sits next to a strip mall outside of downtown. Every inch of the property, inside and out, is decorated, and it’s serving up delicious vegetarian Indian food all day, every day. I had some of my favorite meals in Dallas here, and it was a welcome change from all the fatty Texas fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I wish I could take this place on the road with me.
3. Visits and more visits!
Not only did I get to see my aunt and uncle (and meet my new baby cousin for the first time!), but I also got to reunite with my friend Kelsey from college. Oh happy day!
As I’ve said before, it is SO nice to see familiar faces from home and other facets of your life when you’re on the road. When things get tough, it can make all the difference. Getting to catch up with Kelsey, finally meet her boyfriend, and swap stories and gossip from all our mutual friends at UM was such a breath of fresh air. And in my aunt and uncle’s case, I haven’t seen either of them in years, so seeing them and hearing all about their life in Dallas was such a lovely surprise.
Oh, and did I mention THIS ball of deliciousness???
That’s my baby cousin Emily. She is seven weeks old and so cute. Did I mention delicious?
4. The audiences…and getting to bubble for them!
You guys…these crowds were ridiculous. We sold out nearly every single performance, and it felt great to do the show for an audience that was so invested in the story and the characters. And! I got to go on here! First time performing with Alison Luff, Jaime Rosenstein and John Davidson (our new Elphie, Nessa and Wizard, respectively). It was awesome. Still smiling thinking about it.
Dallas, the cons.
I don’t really need to make a numbered list for this category - basically we were busy, our hotel was far away from the cool part of town, and I didn’t feel excited by the things Dallas had to offer tourist-y wise. Although I did do this:
That’s what they call the “Grassy Knoll,” or where JFK was shot (the “X” marks the actual spot). The building where he was shot from is now a museum, and a fabulous one so I’m told (we waited in line for 30 minutes before deciding: another time).
And with Dallas behind us now, the tour officially moves East. New Orleans (get ready, folks, lots coming on this one!), Columbus, Philadelphia, and Boston. Bring. It. On.
Birthday love from this past Saturday!
UL: At Wicked we have “Birthday Club,” or the person with the birthday before yours buys your birthday treat. It can be anything you want (one of our swings always does root beer floats, sometimes people do fruit, or the classic choice - cake). I share my birthday with one of our Boq u/s, Rick Desloge, and we decided on COOKIE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!
UR: My beautiful friend Tim in NYC currently works at a restaurant and sent me this picture of his amazing creation before his shift!
B: It’s birthday tradition that my mom always makes me a “worm” cake: yellow cake with chocolate icing, Oreo “dirt” and gummy worms. My college roommates always re-created the cake when my mom couldn’t be there, and this year my whole class sent me cupcakes! It was so sweet, I love them all so much!
Ok friends, the post I promised a billion years ago. I wanted to talk a little bit more about my experience on the Clean Program.
To summarize (very quickly, because there’s a lot of info): The CP is designed to rid your body of toxins that keep it from running effectively. It does this by helping you to identify which foods trigger inflammation, discomfort, etc. - or, eliminating foods which have been known to cause allergic reactions. The most common of these are gluten, dairy and soy, but the cleanse also keeps you away from red meat, pork, alcohol, caffeine, processed sugar, nightshade vegetables (eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, etc), certain other non-gluten grains (oats, barley, rye), and corn.
You’re probably thinking….WHAT???? IS SHE CRAZY? HOW COULD ANYONE DO THAT?!?
Well, it’s easier than you might think.
There are a ton of cleanses out there, and I have always been skeptical of some of the more rigorous, ridiculous sounding ones, but this one is by FAR the most doctor-endorsed. It has been done by thousands of people, it has a lot of scientific credibility, and it doesn’t focus on weight loss or “results,” which was important to me.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I didn’t follow the entire Clean Program. To follow it to the letter, you order it online, and receive probiotics/vitamins, protein powder packets, and other materials…and drop almost $450. That kind of money wasn’t in my budget for pure experimentation, so instead I went out on my own. I read all the materials about the Program (they’re free online - you can find them here: http://www.cleanprogram.com/files/clean-program-manual.pdf), researched, and decided with my current lifestyle and equipment (I was living in a hotel with a pretty mediocre 2 burner stove, I had a blender that I traveled…but no oven or decent counter space), I had to modify. I decided:
1. I would create my own meal plans from the foods allowed on the ELIMINATION DIET. When you start the CP, they ask you to eat 3 days off of this list to prep your body for the full cleanse. It’s a pretty varied list - tons of options - so I felt like I would have no trouble getting all my nutrients.
2. Eat as close to 3-5 small meals a day as I could manage. This means drinking enough water (since hunger frequently is a sign of dehydration) and really being aware of my snacking. If I was was hungry, I always ate. There was no deprivation and weight loss was NOT, I repeat, NOT the goal. But, if I wanted to eat just to eat or because I was bored or upset (we’ve all been there), I committed to ignoring it.
3. Having a smoothie for breakfast every day. The CP cornerstones on shakes: 2 a day, plus one large meal for lunch off of the allowed Elimination Diet food list. I didn’t think I would be sane drinking two of my meals a day, but breakfast was totally manageable. Plus, it’s a great way to get veggies in early in the day. I researched protein powders and decided on a hemp variety. I also drew a lot of inspiration from the Clean Manual and recipe blog for smoothie concoctions.
4. If it was possible, keeping a 12 hour window between my last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day. The CP encourages you to stick to the 12 hour rule in order for your body to fully digest and absorb the nutrients before it next processes a meal. It’s supposed to help with the deep colon cleansing. Since I work till late, this wasn’t always possible, but I did my best.
For a fun example, here’s a sample of what I would typically eat on a day during the cleanse:
Pre-Workout (morning): 1 spoonful almond butter
Post-Workout (breakfast): Protein smoothie (spinach, mixed berries, hemp protein, flaxseed, coconut water, almond milk, 2 dates).
Lunch: Homemade cauliflower/carrot soup, small salad, 2 brown rice cakes with avocado.
Dinner: Ginger salmon stir-fry with snow peas, kale, carrots and garlic with quinoa.
Snack (if I wanted it): Raw mixed nuts with some dried fruit (apple rings, dried cherries, etc.)
Sounds good, right??? And that just scratches the surface of the options I had. I made almond butter pancakes for breakfast one day with raspberry chia jam that were INSANE. And, we baked a LOT of dessert. You can eat clean and still have dessert! Some of the best things I had on the cleanse were desserts we concocted from the recipe blog (or other vegan-y websites).
As more and more weeks have passed and I have of course gone back to incorporating certain things into my diet, it’s become more and more noticeable to me how much I enjoyed following the CP. First of all, I felt I was doing something good for myself, so emotionally I was happy and proud of myself for making the commitment. And, I just felt…better, overall. I never felt deprived, I enjoyed the hunt of recipe searching and meal planning, I liked trying new grains or spices that I hadn’t heard of before (coconut nectar! Amaranth!), and my body felt like it was running smoother than it ever had. That being said, it was NOT easy. I was cleansing over Easter, and THAT my friends…was the ultimate test! Theatre folks like their sugar, especially when Easter Sunday is a two show day at the end of a very long week! But ultimately, my body felt better when it wasn’t trying to digest a bunch of mini Snickers bars. And, after I finished the cleanse, I wasn’t dying to go back. I still find myself incorporating a lot of the pillars of the plan!
The CP was a great experiment, and one that has been extremely valuable to me in my ever-evolving culinary journey. Definitely check out their recipe blog and website for more info:
And here are some other recipe sites I drew inspiration from:
I know I said my next post would be on eating Clean (it’s proving to be a bigger project than I originally anticipated, but I’m getting there I promise!), but in the spirit of the continued Happiness Project, I found it more important to share this:
I just finished watching this documentary called (you guessed it), HAPPY. It was recommended to me by a friend in the Wicked company, who struck up a conversation with me between shows after seeing me reading The Happiness Project. Long story short, we had a great chat, I went on Netflix and I watched it (hey, it was only an hour after all). The verdict? I have decided this film should be mandatory.
I know, I know. A movie about happiness. Cue inspirational music and footage of people with long hippie hair hugging each other. I assure you, none of that (okay, maybe some music, but by that point in the film YOU’RE TOTALLY INTO IT). I found that HAPPY correlated with a lot of ideas that had struck me in The Happiness Project.
HAPPY tackles a lot of different ideas behind happiness: what makes us happy, society’s current trends with happiness, the science behind our own brains and our abilities to control our happiness, similarities between countries with the happiest people, etc etc etc. It takes you from Bhutan and Denmark (the happiest nations in the world), to Japan (one of the unhappiest), to community celebrations with Namibian bushmen and inside our own brains. It really made me think about things differently - things that I value, things I want to do in my life…
*cue inspirational music*
Hah! Just kidding. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so just trust me - see this movie! AND TELL ME YOU DIDN’T WANT TO MOVE TO BHUTAN IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS!
Oh you are so welcome, and sorry to hear about your daughter’s bites! The good thing is: they could be SO many other things, not bed bugs. Chances are they’re not. But if she does have them, things will be ok, I promise!
Okay, I HAD to post a picture of these. I was gifted them at the stage door - hand-painted, personalized (love the popular!) and even more beautiful in person. I don’t think I’ll ever bring myself to wear them, I just want to display them! Further proof that Wicked fans are the most generous and thoughtful! Thank you, Destiny!