Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Haunted by a Song

Have you ever been haunted by a song?

When I met Russell Kohlmann in the West Village to film the Pride episode of my web series, Laura Loves NY, we walked into an area of Christopher Park where 2 musicians were playing. And Russell said, "This is why Laura Loves NY because you can just stumble upon a random performance in the middle of the day."




Turns out the song was Riptide by Vance Joy, and it is delicious!

 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Walk Through Fort Tryon Park with Deborah Unger

Earlier this year, actress Deborah Unger joined me on my web series, Laura Loves NY, and she showed me one of her favorite spots in the city: Fort Tryon Park.



It is an absolutely LUSH experience, and I can't wait to go back! It's at the tip-top of Manhattan, but it doesn't take long to get there. The subway got me there  - from the West 30s to 190th Street - in a half hour!

Interestingly enough, after my walk in the park with Deb, I've seen signs everywhere about how it was 242 years ago that the British occupied Manhattan. They took over in September 1776, and as Deb remarks in the video, General George Washington and his troops initially LOST to the British! Wow!

I'm thankful to all those who fought -and continue to fight - for freedom.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, "History is happening in Manhattan, and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world! In the greatest city in the world!"


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The people who helped me get through 9-11

Getting ready for work this morning, I flashed back to 17 years ago, wondering if I was doing the same thing... getting ready for work, heading out into the big city to take on the day.

We can get stuck in routines, you know? So today, I look back and thank the people who helped me get through that day:

Rodney Newby, my boss at Sony, had the wherewithal and presence of mind to send us all home when it had been confirmed this was a terrorist attack. Rodney continues to be a pillar of strength and compassion and innovation. I am so thankful for his friendship.


My husband, Rob. Getting home to him meant everything to me. It still does.


Maryanne Schwartz, our friend from the PA Renaissance Faire, with her sister, Tina Sams, was the first one to call us on our landline. Thank goodness we had one because all cellphone service was dead. Hearing her friendly voice was a soothing balm, and our friendship continues to be a beacon of hope and tenacity.


Then there were more calls from family and friends. My mom. My brother. Rob's family.


My Dad was stuck in Hawaii but we connected days later.

Just knowing we were able to check in with each other and make sure everyone was ok was a blessing that not everyone had that day.

Thinking of everyone who was affected by this tragedy.

We are all in this together and have to look out for each other.


Monday, September 10, 2018

The 20th Anniversary of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Harry Potter was first published in America.

I remember seeing the book on a friend's desk and asking her about it, because who wouldn't be fascinated by the picture of a boy on a broom?


 She told me it was Harry Potter, and so I picked up a copy myself. This is before Pottermania took over the world, and JK Rowling's book felt like a secret treasure I'd just discovered.

I've got a first edition hard cover, but not a first printing, so it's value is whatever I assign to it: priceless! :)

This year, I had 2 friends whisk me off on Harry Potter-styled adventures: Kacey Camp, who plays a Wand Keeper at Ollivanders in Hogsmeade invited my husband and I to join her for a day, and my friend, Fern Lim, whom I worked with on the web series, Human Telegraphs, saw my post about going to Hogsmeade and invited me to catch Harry Potter and The Cursed Child with her.

So you could say I've been celebrating Harry's 20th Anniversary all year!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Back to School Advice

Even though it's still 90 degrees in NY, most kids have gone back to school. And like a lot of actors, I'm heading back to class as well. So here's some sage advice for anyone who's studying this wild ride called Life :)


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Neil Simon's Speech from the Actors' Equity Association

When I was in high school, I remember the drama department doing, "Barefoot in the Park," and it was utterly charming. But I was introduced to Neil Simon long before that with "The Odd Couple," which my folks watched on TV when I was a kid. Then there were all his hits at the movies: "Murder By Death, "The Good-bye Girl," "Seems Like Old Times," most of which I was way too young for, but when "Biloxi Blues" hit the theatres, I totally got it! And a few years after the film, I got to play Daisy onstage.


When I moved to NY, I remember passing the theatre which had been endowed with his name, "The Neil Simon Theatre." I even took my husband and sister-in-law there to see "Hairspray."


 In 1983, Neil Simon received a special award from Actors' Equity Association at the National Membership Meeting. The following speech, which he made while accepting the reward, were first printed in Equity News in November, 1983.

“The actor is the bravest soul I know. My god, it’s hard to be an actor. I know of no greater act of courage than to walk out on an empty stage, seeing the silhouettes of four ominous figures sitting in the darkened theater, with your mouth drying and your fingers trembling, trying to keep the pages in hand from rattling and trying to focus your eyes on the lines so you don’t automatically skip the two most important speeches in the scene, and all the while trying to give a performance worthy of an opening night with only four pages of a play, the rest of which you know nothing about and can only guess at … and then to finally get through it, only to hear from the voice in the darkened theater, 'Thank you.' You nod politely, and start the interminable six mile walk off the stage into the wings, only to have to walk back on because you left your purse or you galoshes or your envelope with your resumes on the chair at stage right, now having to make a 12 mile walk off into the wings. It has got to be the most painful, frustrating and fearful experience in the world. Because with it comes a 90% chance of rejection. And to do it time after time, year after year, even after you’ve proven yourself in show after show, requires more than courage and fearlessness. It requires such dedication to your craft and to the work you’ve chosen for your life, that I’m sure if Equity posted a sign backstage that said, ‘Any actor auditioning for this show who gets turned down will automatically be shot,’ you’d still only get about a 12% turn away.

Since for the past 22 years I have been one of those silhouetted figures in the darkened theater, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for your courage, your dedication, your talents. I think I became a writer partly because I had an acute case of shyness all through my youth and I was well into my teens before I said full sentences. Since then I have found spokesmen to utter my words and thoughts. And what spokesmen they were: Maureen Stapleton and George Scott and Walter Matthau and Jimmy Coco and Elizabeth Franz and Matthew Broderick and Peter Falk and Lee Grant and Alec Guiness and Marsh Mason and Jason Robards and Richard Dreyfus and Zeljko Ivanek and Jack Weston and Joan Hackett. And the featured actors and the bit players and the understudies and the thousand who have performed my plays in theaters, barns and probably supermarkets all over this country. I don’t know how many plays I have left in me, but I sure hope there’s enough to cover every actor who carries and Equity card.


The collaboration that has existed between us all these years had certainly not gone unappreciated by me. Recently I received the most thrilling tribute I’ve ever been given in my entire life: The naming of a theater after me. While it takes my breath away every time I see it, I’m not foolish enough or egotistical enough to think it got up there without the talent of those who have said my works all these year – my spokesmen!!! So the next time you pass 52nd Street near Eight Avenue, just think as I do, that the name of that theatre is the Neil Simon and company.“ - Neil Simon

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fern Lim, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It's been a cool couple of weeks. August started with an invitation to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. Fern Lim, one of my producers and co-stars of Human Telegraphs won tickets to the show, and scoured the web to see who among her friends Potter fans!

Well, I've always loved Harry Potter, and had just filmed a segment with Kacey Camp, a wand keeper at Hogsmeade in Universal Studios:



So of course I was over the moon when Fern asked me if I'd like to go to the show! I thought she was joking at first, but she assured me the invitation was real, so I asked her if she'd like to be interviewed for my web series, "Laura Loves NY."

One of my favorite things about New York is finding out what other people love about the city. Everyone has a favorite place, and for Fern and me that week, I'm pretty sure that place became The Lyric Theatre on Broadway.

Fern is an actor-producer-art director and so much more! Before heading out to see Harry and the gang, we sat down to chat about her new web series, Human Telegraphs, which I guest-starred on, and discovered we're both California girls!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Laura Loves NY: Musicals with VP Boyle

I recently met up with one of my first musical theatre coaches, VP Boyle. VP is a tall drink of water and Broadway vet whom I've always referred to as "The Willy Wonka of Musical Theatre."

He's been directing and teaching in LA, and decided to come back to NY to kick off his Musical Theatre Forum for MaxTheatrix.

I asked him where he'd like to meet in the city, since my web series, Laura Loves NY, showcases artists in one of their favorite spots in New York City, and he said, "Let's do Times Square!"

So we did this interview in the heart of Manhattan, right on Broadway!

Monday, July 30, 2018

Human Telegraphs Trailer!

At the end of 2017, I filmed the role of Joey, a delicious New Yawker in Season 1 of the web series, Human Telegraphs.


It was an incredible experience, and I've been watching these Three Bright Lights as they've been working on post-production.


They just released the trailer for Season 1, and I got a nice spot in the middle.




They have 2 more days, crowdfunding to finish post-production, and then we're off!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Pants On Fire

In the winter I booked an incredibly fun gig called Pants on Fire. It's a really fun podcast that helps kids gauge what's true and false.  Two experts come on the show to talk about a subject, and the kids use their lie-detecting skills to see who's the expert and who's the fake.


The hosts, Deborah Goldstein and Ethan Berlin, are hilarious, and all of the episodes are a delight, mixing humor with history. My episode on Glass just came out.

Hope you enjoy it!




Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Day with The Queen in Hogsmeade

This summer began joyously with a visit to LA to see our old friend, Kacey Camp, who played The Queen at The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, which was my first full-time acting gig. Kacey welcomed me to The Faire in the same way she helped my husband and I move to New York: with an open heart.

She was so good at playing The Queen that my hubby and I continued to call her, Your Majesty, especially if we wanted to curry favor.

As I began to work onstage in New York, Kacey moved out to LA and landed some sweet gigs on TV. She was even showcased on Entertainment Weekly when Universal Studios opened up Harry Potter World. So my hubby and I headed to LA to see my family and catch up with Kacey at her new stomping grounds in Hogsmeade!


Saturday, July 14, 2018

When I took my husband to Jurassic Park

My husband loves dinosaurs. Always has, always will. When our nephews were old enough, he couldn't wait to share the Jurassic Park movies with them. That's how much he loves dinosaurs.

He recently posted this on Facebook, and it made me smile :)


We went to CA a few weeks ago to see an old friend from the PA Renaissance Faire: Kacey Camp. She was our Queen when we were both hired for the Shakespeare troupe at the faire, and we've been friends ever since.

Kacey showed us around Universal Studios, and we had to go on the Jurassic Park ride. My husband suggested I film some segments for my webseries, Laura Loves NY, so we did a special California Edition:



My husband is the one making faces behind Kacey and me in the early part of this vid. He's a big kid and so am I! We keep each other laughing. :)


More vids to come from our CA visit. But for now... onto the next adventure!

Happy Trails!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Laura Loves NY: Pride

I was so honored to have the very talented Russell Kohlmann on my web series, Laura Loves NY.  We had a blast, running around the West Village, singing songs, talking about upcoming films, Kate Bush, sharing advice, and celebrating Pride.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cabaret, Footage, and a very Full Calendar

June is filling up quick, and I decided to add it all to my Get In Gear calendar, an incredible 100 day program built by Show Biz coach, Bonnie Gillespie:


This is helpful in keeping track of all the footage I've filmed for my web series, Laura Loves NY, as well as setting up days for post-production. I also added the cabaret class I'm teaching with Mary Feinsinger, my Music Director from Hell's Belles the Musical at the 92Y. 

I'm amazed to find myself teaching! I've done round-table musical theatre sessions with other performers where we share recommendations to improve performance, and this class has a similar feel. It's really exciting to see each performer work on music they love, and I enjoy being able to help them make adjustments. It also reinforces what my teachers have taught me. Funny how that works, passing on knowledge. :)

I've been fortunate to craft two of my own cabarets. I performed "Love in 35 Minutes" at The Actors Fund, and I created a mini cabaret to promote Hell's Belles when it was running Off Broadway. I performed it at the legendary Don't Tell Mama, or "Mama's" as most cabaret kids call it.
 

 I've also got the usual stuff of auditions and working with my acting and voice coaches, and it helps to see how I'm filling my days with so much good stuff!

Hope you are too!



Friday, June 01, 2018

Broadway Bites with the Queen of New Jersey

I met Erin Zapcic a few years ago when she was a wench at Medieval Times. Since my first professional gig was in the Shakespeare troupe for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, I could relate. We both connected via Self Management For Actors by Bonnie Gillespie, and we did Get In Gear together, which is a unique program that is truly life-changing as well as career-changing.

Erin recently made history as the first queen of Medieval Times, and it took me back to my brief stint as Queen Elizabeth for Penn Ren. My husband said I swaggered like Bette Davis ;)

I invited Erin onto my web series, Laura Loves NY, to hear about some of her adventures. She met me at one of her favorite spots: Broadway Bites:


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Distilling Essential Oils with The Twisted Sisters

When I finished school, one of my first professional acting gigs was part of the Shakespeare troupe for the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. It was a great place to learn and grow and spread my wings. We did improv and kept it in the language of the Renaissance. We didn't do it in verse. Think Shakespeare in Love - that sort of thing - with a lot of "thee" and "thou."

And at the Faire I met my husband, Rob, and made lifelong friends with these two wild women we called, "The Twisted Sisters."


They were hired to run the Herb Shoppe, and they always had great natural remedies for everything.

Fast forward to Now, and The Sisters, Maryanne Schwartz and Tina Sams, run various small businesses, including The Essential Herbal Magazine and Lancaster County Soapworks. Plus Maryanne makes jewelry out of her Torchsong Studio.

I went to see them to learn about Distilling Essential Oils and to interview them for my upcoming web series, Project PrePause, which is about the wild adventures of perimenopause. Since they've both been through it, I wanted to tap into their wisdom, so I can share it with other women going through The Change.

Tina had her distiller all set up, and we a had a lot of fun!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Auditions, Steel Magnolias and Mother's Day

Yesterday, I was up early for an audition, and I ran into a little gal who looked like The Little Mermaid. I kid you not. And she was auditioning for The Little Mermaid, which was just too perfect for words!

It was so easy to chat with her. With some actors, there can be a beautiful flow of conversation, and this was one of those actors who was uncensored and not "in her head" about the anxiety of auditioning, which let's face it, a lot of audition rooms are filled with fear, so I tend to walk out of those holding rooms and find my happy place.

We chatted for about 10 minutes, and then it turned out her audition was in another building, so she had to dash down the block. I wish I would've gotten her name, because she inspired me, and made me think of some of the wonderful women in my life. 

So to all you ladies out there, celebrate yourselves and the women in your lives! We deserve it :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Aaron's Uber" on Funny or Die!

I recently filmed a fun sketch with my friend, Wayne Henry, whom I've done a ton of work with over the years! He's the genius behind Jaws The Musical in which I played Sally, the love interest of the Great White Shark.


So of course, when Wayne said, "Do you want to do a sketch?" I was totally on board!

Enter "Aaron's Uber," written by the hilarious Brad Heller. He's a UCB alum who totally reminds me of a young Jerry Seinfeld.

I play a country gal who has no problem squeezing into an already packed Uber:



And we're on Funny or Die! How fun!



Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The First Flush of Inspiration

I'm doing Masterclass with Helen Mirren, and one of the questions that's asked is, What was your first flush of inspiration? What was the first play or film you saw that inspired you?

When I was little, my folks couldn't afford a babysitter so they took me to all the movies they saw. I feel like I grew up at the movies.

I have vague memories of the film, Network, with some angry little man yelling vehemently. Even though I was too little to "get it," something about that film is ingrained in my memory, and I know I need to revisit it as an adult. As BBC.com put it, "It's the 40 year old film that predicted the future." Way too timely!



As a kid, of course, I resonated with Disney movies. They had a big impact on me, because they were all about imagination! In fact, the first play I did was in first grade: The Three Little Pigs. I played The Big Bad Wolf, and I loved it! Being onstage, dressed in a costume made by my mother - all black! - I was probably the tiniest Big Bad Wolf in history, and I was FIERCE!



I didn't have any idea that I was the villain of the piece. What villain does? I was excited because I got to huff and puff and blow their houses down! I accomplished this by hurling myself into the cardboard boxes that represented The Houses of Straw and Sticks. I was terribly bummed that I couldn't destroy the Brick House, but that was part of the story, so I had to act defeated. Ha!

I loved the whole communal aspect of the experience, sharing a story with an audience, hearing them gasp when I destroyed the houses, hearing them laugh, hearing them cheer. I felt like I was part of something BIG, some place where I could be BIG too! And everything pulsed with life!

That's why I love working in theatre and films - a film set is just as thrilling! - and that's why I love creating to this day.

Bad Girls

It never ceases to amaze me how often I'm cast as the "bad girl." I think it's because I don't look like a villain, but have a wild-card rollercoaster kind of energy which can work for the villain. Add to that a wicked sense of humor, cultivated by living with a humorous husband, and voila! As Daffy Duck says, "Despicable!"


I recently revisited some fearsome characters I've played, everything from The Big Bad Wolf when I was 6 to Annie Richmond, a sinful Southern belle who was trying to drive Edgar Allan Poe mad in "Poe Evermore." I especially thought of Annie when I was running around Washington Square Park. She would've given The Heiress a run for her money!


And now I'm pouring over a script with a character right out of the Wicked Stepmother realm.

The writer told me, "Have fun!" You know I will!




Friday, March 30, 2018

The March For Our Lives

Last weekend felt like the whole city of New York showed up to March for Our Lives. I knew so many friends and colleagues who were going, including people who were heading down to DC, and I wasn't going to miss it! If there's anything I've learned from people who've marched before me, it's that we must make a stand. I did it for the Women's March, and I was definitely marching for the kids.

I sprained my ankle a few days before, so I could only get so far. But I ran into my friend, Marta, and walked with her for 20 blocks. I took lots of pix, and marveled at the masses of people who kept moving towards the March. This was miles upon miles of people, and I couldn't get the song, "Found Tonight" out of my head.



My favorites were the Bubbes (Yiddish for Grandmothers). I heard one woman say, "I was out of town for the Women's March, so I couldn't miss this one!"


As I went home, I saw an old man with a cane. He was walking by a young man - his son? his grandson? - and he said, "See what people can do when they put their minds to it?"

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Laura Loves NY - Snow Day!!!!

It's been a leonine March. "In like a lion, out like a lamb," they say, but March is almost over, and we're seeing lots of stormy weather.

Still, there's something about a Snow Day that just totally appeals to me. I grew up in the CA desert, so snow always seems so magical.

Adding Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett to my groove helped me get through the pelting icicles.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Making Movies

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with my grandpa's movie camera. My mom inherited it, and my Dad started using it to film home movies. Me being an actor, I kept asking if we could "make REAL movies" with it, but film was expensive so I only got to make one. It was called, "The Seasons," and it starred me and my neighborhood friends, including Kara Herold, who went on to make documentaries about the female experience.

Flash forward to this February when I did a 6 day film challenge led by Ela Thier, who teaches at the Independent Film School. I had a BLAST! Each day had a different focal point, and it made me look at my world - and hear it! - with different eyes and ears. It also gave me a chance to explore editing and all the cool things I can do with iMovie. My final film, incidentally, was called, The Seasons:



I enjoyed this so much that I created a YouTube channel called, Laura Loves NY.  I'm a Southern CA girl who's always loved NY, so I've decided to show you around "my" New York.

Last month, I visited The City Bakery, which does a yummy hot chocolate fest in February:



And I'm going to keep on running around the island. If there's any place you'd like to see, let me know!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Strange Days

How is February almost over? This year has been flying! Between visits to CA, recording a podcast in NJ, catching the tail end of the Women's March in NY (because I was recording a podcast in NJ), and running around Manhattan doing a short film challenge, it's been a busy, creative time!

It's also been heart-breaking, seeing what happened in Parkland, FLA. My heart catches in my throat every time I think of it, and I look at those kids who are stepping up and speaking out, and I admire their undeniable bravery.

It makes me look at the world with wonder and appreciate every moment. I hope you do too.