An Altar In The World – SheLoves Red Couch Book Club

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There are books that feel like an instant and perfect fit in your hands.  You seek them out, and hold them in a firm grasp, in part because so many people you love and trust have told you to ingest their words.  You’re also drawn to the title, and a few vivid paragraphs from the introduction.  You remember the specific moment  you turned to the first page, and couldn’t put it down.  You vacillate between devouring the words almost immediately, and forcing yourself to go slowly, so as to prolong your first read through from cover to cover.

An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor is one of those books.

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Please join me over at SheLoves Magazine Red Couch Book Club to read the rest of this post and join the discussion!
 

What I Was Into – September 2014

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I’m interrupting this month’s scheduled programming to share my favorite monthly linkup slightly late… {What else is new? Sigh…} –despite the linkup being closed.  September was a banner for month for me–check out my favorite reads, blog posts and more.

{Any  compensation from affiliate links in this post, {we’re talkin’ pennies} if used, go to support All Manner of Inspiration – thanks!}

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September went blindingly fast, and was absolutely GLORIOUS!

I was in one of the most enjoyable and beautiful musical theatre productions I’ve been a part of in a long time, Fiddler On The Roof.   My sweet mother-in-law and aunt-in-law flew in to see the show and visit, which was a blast.  I had two weeks off from rehearsals and performances–my first down time since June, and my sweet husband and I took our first legit vacay since 2012, enjoying a gorgeous weekend in the mountains.  I ended the month with starting rehearsals for a musical opera of sorts, The Golden Apple.

Fall has still not arrived, at least in terms of the thermometer here in Texas, but pumpkin-everything arriving at Trader Joes, and cool mornings were at least a start.  And the cooler temperatures for a few days in Colorado was pure gift.

Books

What I Read

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead 

Man on man, did this book ever astonish me!  I don’t often describe my reads with such cheesy phrases, but I felt like this work of fiction snuck up behind and smacked me on the head with its brilliance, as I lost myself in the professional ballet world, and narrative of these characters.  Joan, a chorus member of a New York ballet company, has a brief fling with a famous Russian ballet star (seemingly modeled after dancers like Baryshnikov), and helps him defect to the US.  She eventually leaves the ballet life for a husband, a family and a house in the suburbs.

Those details are really just the bare bones, and the beginning really–of this beautiful novel.  I was impressed how accurately she described how dancers feel, and the pressures of the professional ballet world.  (I was not a ballerina, but got a window into that life as a young girl.  NOT for the faint of heart.)  At times, the plot twists in such a way that you might think you’re watching a soap opera, but the language and literary devices of this talented author had me invested and all in with her characters.

This was a perfect read for our vacation.   Its my favorite work of fiction I’ve read all year – highly recommended!

An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor

SO many bloggers and writers I respect have RAVED about this author and this book in particular for so long, this read felt overdue.    I actually asked for it for Christmas last year, and didn’t read it cover to cover until this summer.   The sheer beauty of the writing and the wisdom lived out by this author are absolutely exquisite.

We are discussing this incredible book at the Red Couch Book Club in October–head here for Leigh’s beautiful introductory post.  I’ll be helping facilitate more discussion on this read with a post at SheLoves later this month.

What I’m Reading

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley,  Letters Backstage: The Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor by Michael Kostroff  and Tables In The Wilderness by Preston Yancey.

 

 Beauts In the Blogisphere

Tsh Oxenreider at The Art of Simple: 13 Books I’m Reading This Next Year 

Tsh is spending the next year traveling ’round the world with her family.  She outlines the books she wants to read, and the countries she plans to read them in.  So many of these are on my to-read list, and I added many more.  Book list posts are simply the BEST. 

Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy:  Let’s Make Autumn Reading A Thing

I realized as I read this post, that I’ve always kept an Autumn reading list for myself, but Anne making this a thing is a book nerd’s happy place! I’m for sure generating my own post in this vein–perhaps Anne will have a booklist linkup!

Shauna Niequist: Put Yourself On The Pride Board

How They Blog podcast with Anne Bogel: Decisive Blogging

 

Rocky Mountain High

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My sweet husband and I took our first getaway/vacay weekend we’ve had together {that didn’t involve visiting relatives} in over two years, when we jetted out to the mountains of Colorado for some R & R.

I unfortunately got a pretty strong allergic reaction to the blooms, and a breathing reaction to the altitude {a first for me}, but I thankfully had my inhaler and medications that made it bearable.  It was still worth every stuffed up nose and wheeze to wake up with Pikes Peak in our bedroom window, and eat breakfast on a terrace of a 100 year old bed & breakfast with a postcard view.

Pumpkin-Deliciousness at Trader Joes

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People, the BEST SEASON FOR SHOPPING AT TRADER JOES IS HERE. {Cue happy claps and violins.}  I love the end of September and October, when Trader Joes begin selling their fall, or more specifically, PUMPKIN-themed-product goodness.

There’s usually some old favorites, and they always add a new product or two that your taste buds decide they can’t live without.  These are my current 3 favorites–subject to change on my next TJ’s shopping trip.

I confess to consuming WAY more of the cookie scones that would EVER be permissible on my diet.  I also have been prone to eating the granola cereal like trail mix.  Get thee to a TJ’s near you, and gobble up these fall beauties.  You’re welcome.

 

 Things I Love

*Shopping at the new Whole Foods 10 minutes from home.

*Eating heirloom and organic tomatoes bought from Whole Foods that taste homegrown.

*Reading books in the style of the one I hope to one day write.

*My hubby and I picking out a sectional–our first new couch together.

*Running a show, taking a few weeks break, then starting rehearsals for another show at the same theatre–all in the same month.  {Being a working actor is a gift, and no small feat, no matter your locale!}

*Finding a gorgeous bedding set unexpectedly when shopping at a department store–and seeing that it matches the throw pillows we already own beautifully.

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*Decorating our house in general–hanging pictures, planning gallery walls and placing beautiful things and sentimental ‘knick -knacks’ alike on shelves.

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*Painting my Grandmother’s old hand me down lamps a GORGEOUS shade of Annie Sloan duck egg blue.  With lampshades on clearance at Lowes, we’ve spruced up some BEEYOOTIFUL master bedroom lamps!

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*Getting back into a routine of weekly women’s Bible Study with my church–I love our community of women–especially the worship team–who’ve become good friends and kindred hearts.

*Rooting through ‘South Beach Diet’ cookbooks for recipes, and finding a delicious recipe: Black bean, tomato and jicama salad.   {I spruced it up for my tastebuds by adding some extra cumin, ceyenne pepper, a dash more of lime juice and olive oil, and a teensy-TINY dash of honey.}  Delish.

*Putting a teaspoon of either pumpkin spice or cinnamon into my morning coffee. How have I not done this before now?  So yummy.

 

What I’m Looking Forward To In October

I’m writing a blog series,  31 Days In A Musical Theatre Life,  {Well,  at least, as many as I can during the thick of rehearsals} as part of Myquillyn Smith’s 31 Days  Writing Challenge.  She even has a fancy new website for all of the links this year – Write31Days.

I’m looking forward to the flurry of rehearsals and a few weekends of performances in an obscure, but musically exquisite operatic musical, The Golden Apple.  I’m also hoping to enjoy passing out candy to trick-or-treaters at our new house this year.  I’ll be dieting/eating well and exercising with gusto and making writing a part of my daily routine.

Most of all, I’ll be waiting with bated breath for Texas to give up the 90 degree days, and surrender to fall.

What were you into this past month?

Backstage Beauty {Day 2}

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For as long as I can remember, I have lived at the edge of these two universes we call “backstage”.  And before I lived there, I dreamed of it.

Because to take residence there is to breathe a most rarified air.   It is where every performer endeavors to live.  Once there, you stand on the precipice of magic and heightened reality.”

~Jason Alexander

 

I frantically put the last touch of finishing powder on my stage makeup as our friendly stage manager {and believe me, they are not always friendly} gives us our places call.  {“Places” technically means 2 minutes until the curtain goes up, but rest assured its code for ‘get your hiney to the stage.’}

As I ascend the three flights of stairs from the basement {the location of all of the dressing rooms in this particular theatre} with a few of my fellow castmates, I am in a state that can only be described as musical theatre euphoria.

This particular company of actors, technicians, producers, as well as our director & conductor are the creme of the crop, the creme de la creme.  Not only is every single person ridiculously talented at their particular job, they are kind, loving and fun people to spend time around.

{And truly, truly–THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE.  I can not stress that enough.}

As I open the stairwell door and my eyes adjust to the darkness of backstage, I find every member of the company hugging and wishing each other “Good Shows” and “Break A Legs”.  The energy is palpably electric while also being warm and nurturing.

The beginning of this show’s opening number has every member of the company joining hands and entering the stage in a long triumphant line of well known melody and choreography by Jerome Robbins. Amidst the revelry, I make my way to my place in line.  I’m surprisingly towards the front, between two principal actors I respect enormously.

The producer finishes his pre-show speech, and walks backstage, flashing his million watt smile to everyone in the wings.  He wishes us well as he hurriedly makes his way to the theatre.

I hear the sound of the orchestra tuning–the open fifth chords soothing my pre-show nerves.

The stage and auditorium go completely black, and a few seconds of silence resound through the air.

This is when it begins– the transition into another world.

Our stage manager Maggie begins to ‘call’ the show cues to the technicians backstage–hers is the only audible voice in the silence. We hear the rush of a large painted backdrop being lowered from the dizzying heights of the rafters to the stage floor. A musician onstage, atop a large house set piece, begins to play a familiar musical line known the world over,  that begins this particular show. {If you haven’t yet guessed, this is a production of Fiddler On The Roof}.

As the well known tune carries through the house on a lone violin’s strings, the actor playing the leading role of Tevye walks past us in character, stepping onto the stage to narrate the evening.

All of us in this theatre, whether on the stage, or in the audience, will have two and a half hours together in one space. We will connect with one another in ways we may not be able to fully comprehend, even after the curtain falls.

In musical theatre, the power of storytelling has its optimum medium. Words, music, movement, dance–all of these expressive components help tell the story at hand.

As our musical cue of forte percussion and strings resound, I step onto the stage, linked with my colleagues not only by hand, but in solidarity of artistic spirit.

Photo By & Property of Michael C. Foster

Photo By & Property of Michael C. Foster

 

We begin to sing our story, and everything else falls away.

I was made for this.

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This is Day 2 of a 31 Days series,  31 Days In A Musical Theatre Life.  Find the introduction post here.

 I hope you’ll continue joining me here–I ask for grace, as I have been a bit slow with my posts.  I’m currently in musical rehearsals for a show opening in a few short weeks! {Oh, the irony.}   Loving the 31 Days concept?   Find over 1200 other bloggers writing out their own 31 Days here.

31 Days In A Musical Theatre Life – An Introduction {Day 1}

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Today’s Broadway Soundtrack:

Its so hard to believe its already OCTOBER and time for another installment of #31Days!

This will be my fourth year participating in The Nester’s beautiful community of bloggers.  I’ve wanted to write about this topic since day one, but truth be told, I just didn’t have the nerve.

I’m grateful to say, thanks to some Divine nudging, current back to back show performances, and the whispers of my Spirit, I’ve decided to share with you the in’s and outs of my musical theatre life–both the fun and quirk of my inner musical theatre nerd, and the outlet of creativity that are a lifelong passion, and one of the things I feel I was put on the Earth to do.

What, you may ask, will my series include?

I’m hoping to share some of my personal stories of being a musical theatre performer–from tours across the country and the globe–to nitty gritty regional and community theatre jaunts.  I’ll be sharing  interviews with fellow musical theatre performers–including friends, musical theatre colleagues and perhaps a mentor or two.  They may be a guest post as well from a fellow actor and writing friend, whose ten times funnier in one sentence than I could probably be in this whole series.

Because I’m passionate about curating creative resources, I’ll also be sharing some favorite books for creatives, as well as musical theatre playlists, along with a giveaway, and much more!

If you saw the embedded link above, you’ll see I’m hoping to share at least one musical theatre tune (or more–via Spotify–follow me here– or Grooveshark) with each post.

When it comes to videos, it gets tricky, and for good reason. Because of the Broadway Union –Equity–there are strict rules in place for posting videos of Equity productions.  For this reason, I won’t be able to share video of recent productions I’ve been a part of–but I may be able to share other videos that are already public with permission.  

I’m also hoping to do a backstage vlog of the current production I’m doing this month.  I’ll iron out all of the details soon–please stay tuned!

If there’s a specific angle you’d like to read about this month, let me know! Please leave me a comment, or drop me an email.  

I’m so grateful you’re reading along with me.  This beautiful writing project has grown leaps and bounds in 4 years–you have 1000’s of blogs to read this month–I want to make it worth your while to read this series.

Join me here tomorrow for some musical theatre goodness!  

The Things I Was Into – August 2014

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I might as well call this installment of ‘What I’m Into’ the Musical Theatre Edition, because that’s pretty much what’s consumed my life this past month.

This month has been chalk full of creating theatre on the stage with fellow artists and friends.  Though my schedule has been harried, vacations non-existent, and balanced living a distant memory, I wouldn’t trade any of these days for the world.  Musical theatre performing is my favorite creative passion, and one of the things I feel I was born to do–I am utmost grateful for these beautiful, creative days.

{affiliate links in this post, if used, go directly to support All Manner of Inspiration – thanks!}

Musicals Galore – Phantom & Fiddler On The Roof

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I spent the first 2 weeks of the month finishing the performance run of Phantom to sold-out crowds, had one day off, then went right into rehearsals for a production of Fiddler On the Roof.  

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As I type this post, I am in the thick of  ‘tech week’ for Fiddler – theatre speak for the longer, extended hours of rehearsals the week leading up to opening night.  Its often a tedious, grueling process, but thankfully – this particular company of actors, musicians, and technicians are a wonderful lot of folks – its been a much-more-fun-than-usual tech week.

 

Books

What I Read

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Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs

I still remember standing in the hotel lobby at the Allume conference in 2012, talking and praying with Annie, and getting chills as she described the book she was writing.  I have been eagerly awaiting its release, and it did not disappoint.

Annie’s writing is personal, friendly and the best kind of hilarious.  Many author’s writing styles are described as “personal”, but she really is one of those authors who, when you read her books, you feel as though you she is right there with you, sharing her wisdom over a cup of coffee–and I love that she included the name and locale of the particular coffee shop where she wrote each chapter.  She shares more of her personal life and stories in this book, that yielded some beautiful takeaways for me–I gobbled these words up in a few short days.  This book is a wonderful read I really enjoyed.

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Attachments & Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

After all of the blog-world I read kept waxing on and on about Rainbow Rowell books (especially Rainbow & Park), I had to check them out at the library.  While both of these books are very well written and enjoyable reads, my favorite was Attachments.  (Let’s just say, I’m not one for downer-endings, though I did like the ray of hope at the end of Eleanor & Park).

I read Attachments firstand flew through it.  It was good enough that I had to clear my calendar the morning I finished it, so I could read straight through.  Eleanor & Park seemed to not quite live up to the hype for me, but I loved the in-depth character writing, and really rooted and cared for both main characters, which to me, feels like the mark of wonderful fiction writing.  Both were fun summer reads.

 Unnaturally Green {One Girl’s Journey Along A Yellow Brick Road Less Traveled} by Felicia Ricci

Let me start by gushing and just say, I loved this book.  I hope to one day write a memoir that among other content, shares some of my stories of being a traveling performer.  When I began to research books written in memoir form by musical theatre performers, I was stunned to only find three legit titles on Amazon.  (I realize this could have been a limited search, and but this was my surprising initial finding).   The first one on that list was this book, and I devoured it!

Ricci is a Yale graduate, and a literary  winner for nonfiction, and boy, did it show–her writing voice is fantastic!  (A quick internet and youtube search for her after reading her book turned up her numerous how-to singing videos, but I’m reallllly hoping she writes another book very, very soon!)  In her early 20’s, she auditioned for and got a creme de la creme gig for a musical theatre actress–the ensemble replacement, and soon after, stand-by for Elphaba in the San Francisco company of Wicked.    She shares the in’s and out’s of her personal journey–from the audition process, to rehearsals, performances, cast bonding–the whole wonderful lot of it–with hilarity and wit, while still revealing her vulnerabilities.

She also brilliantly shared the thought process one goes through on stage when in an understudy/standby position in a creative way that I thought was SO brilliant, I fully plan to use her technique (and credit her of course) to share my own story in a future blog post or essay.  {Felicia, if you’re reading this mini-review: I’m referencing pages 179-183–SO. FLIPPING.BRILLIANT.AND.TRUE!!}

If you love Wicked, musical theatre, or just a fun light reading memoir, don’t miss this one!

What I’m Reading

Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley, An Altar In The World by Barbara Brown Taylor, Speak by Nish Weiseth, Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray & Letters From Backstage: The Adventures of A Touring Stage Actor by Michael Kostroff.

 What I Listened To

I loved discovering the soundtrack to Ragamuffin, the new film about Christian singer-songwriter Rich Mullins.  The album is filled with excellent covers of his songs–my favorites are on the playlist below.    I especially can’t stop listening to the classical trio Time For Three, (that only play popular songs) as well as Ed Sheeran’s  ‘I See Fire’ from the Hobbit movie.

{Follow me and my playlists on Spotify here.}

Favorite Instagram-able Moments

{Follow me on Instagram here.}

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Because the only plants I seem to be able to keep alive are succulents, I picked up a pretty one at Trader Joes for this whimsical planter head I’m obsessed with that I purchased at Homegoods.   I’ve since moved it to a larger shelf in our breakfast nook, but I loved the way it caught the light in this photo on our kitchen table.

 

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I taped up various cards and memorabilia into my stage makeup box YEARS ago, and have pulled it out of storage of late, as I’ve been enjoying performing professionally once again.

During a matinee of a performance when I was struggling a bit with a head cold, and randomly thinking of my Mom, this card flipped open in front of me–no doubt the years old Scotch tape having been jiggled apart from recent use–and I discovered that my card with Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz ruby red slippers on the front was indeed a handwritten note from my Mom!

My beautiful Mother passed away years ago, much too young. I read her words, and smiled as they gave me the warmth and unexpected feeling of her presence.  I love moments like this–Godscidence, my Godmother so aptly calls it–that remind me of the divine presence in my daily life.

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At the Declare Blogging Conference I attended this month, I captured some of my favorite Dayspring product displayed on the wall, their Words Matter line.  I love that various women on the Incourage staff shared both their favorite Scriptures or a quote from their writings, and then artists came up with these beautiful prints.  I took home a couple of these as gifts that I’m eager to find frames and homes for on my walls.

 

 

Blogisphere Reads

 

Emily Miller:  Sacro Speco: Give Your Soul An Occasional Sunday 

I was honored to be even a small part of the inspiration for writer Emily Miller’s Sacro Speco post.  Its been awhile since I’ve taken time on the blog for Sacro Speco – this was a good reminder to begin that tradition anew once again.

Emily Freeman at Chatting At The Sky:  For When You Feel Like A Spectator to Grief: A Reflection On the Death of Robin Williams   

 

Lacy Ellman at A Sacred Journey: Everyday Calls to Prayer: 5 Surprising Invitations to Encounter God, Hidden In Your Daily Life
 Laura Tremaine at The Hollywood Housewife: How I Instagram

 

 Tsh Oxenreider at The Art of Simple Travel: #WorldWideOx  Packing List: Women’s Clothing 
Allison Vesterfelt’s new e-book on writing: 

Everybody wants to be a writer. But not everybody wants to do what it takes to become a writer: to show up without pretense, to listen to themselves, to lean in and wrestle, to let go of control, to speak up and connect with an audience.

The act of writing won’t change you, it won’t even necessarily help you. But the art of writ-ing, the practice of writing—that will turn you into a better you, if you let it.

 

I want to share more goodness from August, but I need to head to the theatre for our opening night performance of Fiddler On The Roof!  It’s the day of the show y’all!  Mozeltov!

What were you into in August?