What I’m Into & What I Learned In October 2014

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October has become one of my favorite months of the year.  This particular October was a busy and full month packed to the brim with theatre rehearsals, a grueling tech week and two weekends of performing onstage.   It was more warm here in Texas than I wanted in a perfect fall season, but the days that were cool and breezy were my favorite.

*FYI: This post contains affiliate links.  All that means is if you click on one of the links used below, and make a purchase through that link, this blog may be compensated with pennies, at no extra cost to you.  Those pennies go directly back into the running of this blog.  Many thanks!*

Books

What I Read

An Altar In The World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Tables In The Wilderness by Preston Yancey

What I’m Reading

The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho,  The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg, Breathing Room by Leanna Tankersley, Longing For More by Timothy Willard & Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

 

Theatrical & Musical Goodness

I was cast in 3 musicals back to back this year – starting in June.  The 3rd show in the bunch was an interesting and somewhat complex adaptation of the Illiad and Odyssey – a through-sung {which means all singing and no dialogue} musical opera called The Golden Apple.  

The Golden Apple was the first musical that transferred from an Off-Broadway to a Broadway run, back in 1954.  Its rarely done in part,  because of the scope of the material.  Performing this work with a 40+ person cast, and a full 36 piece orchestra was nothing short of lush and extraordinary.  I had a small singing role in both the 1st & 2nd act that was fun to do.  But most of all, I loved being a part of an ensemble of performers with such beautiful hearts and fun spirits.

There are a variety of musical styles in the piece, which is somewhat rare in older shows, and delicious to the musical ear.   One of my favorite moments in the show is the last scene. Our production restored the ending that the composer wanted originally.  When it transferred to Broadway, various powers that be thought a large production number was the answer, but I think this one is more powerful.

The simple and loving duet between the main characters, Ulysses & Penelope is entitled, We’ve Just Begun.  The lyrics are sublime, and the tune is one that frequently enters my thoughts and doesn’t leave.    Our producer posted the ending duet online, which I’m thrilled to share with you here.

The Golden Apple

Blogisphere Beauts

The Art of Simple & The Art of Simple Travel: Backpack Simplicity, China Taught Me About Me

…By forcing the art of journaling into a rhythmic part of my nomadic life this year, I’ll better translate both my thoughts and the world around me. Try as I may to escape it, I’m made to process through writing. Pen and paper are my conduit.

…Now that those sidewalks in central China are a few weeks behind me, I remember…what I’m here for. One of our paramount reasons to travel is to live life differently, to walk at a different cadence, to let life pulse a different rhythm. I want my work and writing life to morph into the same, to publish and interact and present the Internet my offerings in altered cadences, rhythms.

~Tsh Oxenreider

 

Sarah Bessey:  October’s Lady  

It’s the cliche of the season, I know, but I have to agree with Anne Shirley: I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

…Crisp mornings, sharp like a tart apple, wake me up from the stupor of summer. The air crackles with ideas and renewal, this should be the true start of the year, we come alive again.

~Sarah Bessey

 

Myquillyn Smith:  You Don’t Need My Obligation 

 Do you know that every year I give myself permission to not join in? I think that’s key to being able to create things–not feeling like it’s an obligation. You deserve so much more than my obligation.

I hope today you make time to let the art come to you if and when it’s ready.

~Myquillyn Smith

What I Learned

It is possible to get through a killer tech of an obscure and epically large musical opera, and come out smiling at the end of our opening weekend.  {tech=the week before the opening of a show involving longer than usual long hours of rehearsal.  By opening night, you feel both deep-fried and exhilarated}.  I was grateful to go through such an exhausting and yet artistic process at a beautiful theatre with such kind and wonderful people.   GRATE-FULL.

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In continuing my ongoing search for the perfect pen, I started using Sharpie pens.  At first I used the pretty ones with the silver caps, which are fine point.  But I learned that I much prefer the plain looking ones, in part because of their more substantial medium point–they just work better for my writing style.

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I had the best of intentions for my 31 Days blogging series, I really did.  I thought performing in a musical, whilst simultaneously writing about it on my blog would be the PERFECT setup.

I learned that I was wrong about that.

I learned that my creative bandwidth wasn’t able to sustain both creating and performing in a musical, and writing about it in a way that would speak to me or my blog readers.  I found myself sitting at the computer, looking at a blinking cursor under a perfectly titled blog post that had no words.  

I wish I was more prolific, or could creatively multi-task, but I realized rather quickly that I will be writing my musical theatre blog series slowly, now that I have time when I am not performing in a show.

I felt all sorts of random guilt about this, until I read Myquillyn’s gracious post.  {see the quote blurb and link above.}   Her sister Emily, one of my blogging favorites, wrote a similar post in the same day, but Myquillyn’s words were the ones that gave me permission first.

Happy Little Favorites

*NYX lipstick in this loverly shadeas well as their buttercream matte gloss in Cannes.

*the routine of almost daily musical theatre rehearsals.

*Celebrating my best friends birthday with a delightful meal.

*Sitting outside in the morning to read and do devotions because TEXAS FINALLY GOT THE FALL MEMO. Yay for cool breezes and lovely temperatures.

*I received my first ever Whitney English Day Designer in the mail for 2015.  Its the most money I’ve ever spent on a planner or organizer, but I think its going to be worth it.  I’m already working on the multiple worksheets English includes that include figuring out your core, your brand and goal setting.  Its beautifully made, and it sure is purty! 

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*I found some cheap colored felt tip pens at TJMaxx, and some journals to add to my giveaway collection.   Color me a happy stationary nerd this month!

 What I Ate

*My Fit Foods

One of my friends in The Golden Apple cast {who is the leading man in the video above and one of the most FIT people I know!}  told me about My Fit Foods–a company that sells pre-made quality meals to aid in weight loss and healthy eating.

I took their 21-day challenge, which I admit was a bit difficult for me.  {Mostly because I was not such a big fan of their dinners.}  It was a great help though, especially during tech week, to heat up a meal quickly in the microwave that wasn’t processed food, had a low glycemic index and lower carbs that  actually tasted good.    I especially like their breakfasts, lunches and healthy snacks.  Because they are not cheap, I am now just supplementing my meal plan occasionally with their breakfasts, lunches and snacks and cooking healthy dinners at home with my hubby.

Among their tastiest meals for me were the spinach and chicken enchiladas, chicken nuggets with green beans and a very tasty mashed and creamy cauliflower, and their chicken with mashed gouda potatoes.

 

*Another delish South Beach Diet recipe: Chicken with Cremini Cream Sauce

*A scrumdillious meal celebrating my best friend’s birthday.  I thought the plate was delightfully arranged, the photo is below.  The creamed corn was delicious, and a much smaller portion than it appears below, which made me feel a tad bit better about eating it. The mushroom hash doesn’t look HALF as good as it tasted—all I can say is BACON makes everything taste better. A foodie-happy meal for sure.

 

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Music Find

*I’m loving the band Johnnyswim‘s newest album Diamonds.

 

What I’m Looking Forward to in November

 

Travel, Travel, Travel!  After being homebound with my theatre schedule since June, I’m excited to get out and about and visit family and friends!    I’m extra excited to be attending a retreat near Austin at the Laity Lodge–a beautiful place I’ve always wanted to experience with a great group of people.

I’m also counting the days until I visit family.  My best friend moved into her first house, and I’m looking forward to helping her settle in and celebrating with her.  After a rigorous evening schedule these past months, having relaxing evenings at home, cooking dinner with my husband and hanging out are going to be GLORIOUS.

What were you into this month?

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!