Throwback Thursday

I’m having new photos taken this weekend with my friend Billy. He’s fabulous and I can’t wait to get some new shots. It’s been a while. So, in the tradition of #ThrowbackThursday, I decided to share with you my first real headshots!! I took these before moving to NYC from a fancy Dallas photographer. It was 2003 and I was 21. (Yes, I am 31 now. Le sigh.) I am obsessed with my jean jacket in this photo. And the fact that the pics are identical except for the facial expression. And what is up with my perfectly shaped mushroom hair? And the weird lighting that gave me roots? I’ve never dyed my hair and never had roots! However, I’d kill for the blonde hair color again. My hair seems to get darker everyday.

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Another JTF in the Books

I returned to NYC Monday after a jam packed weekend in Atlanta with 4,000 of my closest middle school aged friends. The Junior Theatre Festival is such a wonderful experience and I’m so honored that I get to be a part of it every year. JTF is organized by the good people of iTheatrics and Atlanta TUTS. Sponsors include Disney and MTI and the festival is the largest of its kind celebrating both musical theatre and kids.

The weekend kicks off on Friday with all the groups from around the country arriving and registering. After a Friday night reception where all the directors, workshop leaders, staff, and adjudicators get to mingle with each other, the festival officially gets started on Saturday morning with the adjudication process.

The festival is not about competition. Groups don’t come there to compete, but simply to present 15 minutes of their Broadway JR. work and receive feedback from Broadway and theatre professionals. It’s such a great opportunity to present a smattering of the show you’ve been working so hard on and get real feedback that will help celebrate your successes and help you improve where you need it. It’s such a rewarding experience for the kids and directors. It’s also great to see students who excel singled out. Kids that are great dancers are invited to audition for the Choreography DVD’s that are included with every Broadway JR. Director’s Guide. Kids that stand out as being a great part of their team get to be All Stars and learn a number just for them to present at the final awards ceremony. There are even awards for stand outs in acting, dancing, music, and ensemble work. The groups that receive the highest adjudication marks are also presented with the opportunity to perform in the final awards ceremony.

I like the label this weekend “Stop Crying You’re Just Making A Fool Of Yourself” weekend. Seriously. From the second I walked into the theater on Friday morning and saw a group rehearsing Hairspray JR. for the New Works Showcase, I was done. I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps all down my arm and spine. I’m a sucker for kids who can perform well, and I’m even more of a sucker for kids who can’t perform well but are living their life on stage like there is no tomorrow. Needless to say, there was tons of both categories everywhere this weekend.

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I was lucky enough to be a discussion group leader, which is the person that takes a group into a discussion right after they finish their adjudication. It was such a rewarding experience. It was amazing getting to lead the kids in a discussion about how they were feeling about the whole process, why they felt that way, and how they were going to implement the adjudicators notes into their show. Kids are smart and sometimes I think we don’t give them enough credit. They can handle constructive criticism and they can handle pressure. All the kids that I got to chat with were lovely and well rounded. I also taught Advanced Acting classes on Saturday afternoon and had a blast. These kids are really special.

The kids at JTF are given so many fabulous opportunities. They had a Q&A with cast members from Newsies as well as the Pathways to Success chat where former JTF students who now have successful performing careers come back to talk about their success. Alan Menken was given the JTF Award and was so honored. Afterwards he was placed on a chair and given a surprise performance of “Be Our Guest” by a huge group of kids. I wish everyone in the world could have been there to see the look of surprise and tears on Alan’s face. I cried too, not that that was anything new by this point.

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We were even introduced to 9 year old Eli from Marietta, GA who spearheaded a fundraising effort at his school for Sandy victims in East Rockaway. Eli’s school raised $12,000 for the schools and was the cutest little peanut I’ve ever seen. And yes, I cried when they showed the video that he made about raising money. And don’t forget when he said that his favorite fundraising activity was making Origami. Yep. He raised $98 by making and selling Origami. SOMEBODY BRING ME THIS CHILD!!

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The Junior Theatre Festival is so special and I’m so honored to be a part of it every year. There is no way to accurately capture what it’s like in that giant convention center turned theatre when everyone is there. The festival ended with “Seasons of Love” sung by everyone. (click to watch) It was a spectacular way to end the weekend. I’m looking forward to next year!!


The Junior Theatre Festival

This weekend I am headed to The Junior Theatre Festival. JTF is the largest gathering of musical theatre students and educators in the world. The Festival is run by iTheatrics and Atlanta Theatre of the Stars and is a fabulous time for the almost 4,000 students who attend as well as their teachers. The student prepare their abbreviated versions of any Broadway JR title and have the opportunity to present their work for a panel of professionals who give them constructive feedback on their performance to help the students grow as performers. The weekend is also filled with workshops and awards and is something that these students look forward to all year long.

I’ll be working with the kids with their adjudication performances and then teaching Advanced Acting Workshops. There are no words to describe how magical this weekend is not only for the students, but also for the adults that attend as well. I look forward to spending my birthday weekend in Atlanta with the future of musical theatre every year. I wish I could blog everyday of the festival, but there just won’t be time! I will be tweeting though, so stay tuned for pics from the jam packed weekend!


Throwback Thursday

I’m jumping on the #ThrowbackThursday bandwagon and supplying you guys with some fabulous pics from the good ole’ days every Thursday. Today I present: Easter Sunday, Sometime in the early 90’s. My hair is remarkable, but it’s clearly in competition with my sister’s. I remember loving that sweater, and the matching pink leather skirt that I was wearing. I felt seriously badass in that outfit.



Living Like An Actor

Being an actor is cool. Everyday presents a new set of challenges or adventure. You also get to do all sorts of fun things, go all sorts of fun places, and even when you think you know yourself pretty well, you sometimes get to learn a new thing or two about yourself.

I woke up Sunday morning to a surprise email from a writer friend of mine who wanted to know if by any chance I might be available to step into a reading of one of his shows this week. With a little finagling here and there I freed my schedule and jumped in. The show is a fabulous musical called
The Passion of Ed Wood and it is about none other than Ed Wood. Now, some of you may not be familiar with Ed Wood but you may have heard of some of his movies. Glen or Glenda. No?? How about Bride of the Monster? Nope?? Maybe Plan 9 from Outer Space? OK. So Ed Wood was known as Hollywood’s worst filmmaker. His films were terrible. They were campy, low budget, horribly written travesties that are now only remembered as cult classics. Ed Wood was committed to being a filmmaker and he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stand in his way. He was also a cross dresser and friends with Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula) towards the end of Bela’s drug addled life. Needless to say, Ed Wood had an interesting life and it makes for a great story on the stage.

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Once I had committed to doing the reading my inbox was filled with emails with the script and music and people asking for my information and yadda yadda yadda. All great things to bombarded with. And then, near the bottom of one of the emails from the composer there was a lone question. It read:

Do you by any chance play the guitar or ukulele?

Now, I have many gifts in life, but playing instruments isn’t really one of them. I am a fair piano player but that’s about it. When I was a kid I played the guitar but then I broke a string and my mom never replaced it so I stopped playing. I know, I know. Silly Mommy. But then when I did
Mamma Mia in 2006, there is a scene where Sophie has to play the guitar on stage. The guitar player for the show taught me the four or five chords for the song and I did pretty well with it. However, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to play it for you now, I would die a quick death because my retention level is horrendous when it comes to stuff like that.

So naturally I responded with:

I play a little! :) :)

What? Way to go Amanda. Sure, telling them you play “a little” isn’t technically incorrect. You have played a “little” amount in your life. You knew a “little” amount of chords in 2006. Your natural talent is quite a “little” amount in regards to playing any string instrument. Good job. And stop using so many freaking smiley faces! That doesn’t make it better! Luckily,
Rob is extremely gifted musically and knows how to play. He said, “The ukulele is easy! I’ll teach you!” Yeah Rob. Easy for people with the type of musical gifts that I do not possess.

Rob just happened to be borrowing our fried
Lauren’s ukulele this week for a recording so he printed out a chord sheet and started showing me the four chords that I needed for the song in the show. The strangest thing happened. I was able to do it. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was simple. And not only did it feel simple, but it all stayed in my head. I didn’t even have to think about it. It just made sense.

Instantly I’m picturing myself as a full blown rockstar rocking alongside Pete Townshend and Slash. They are shredding away on their guitars as they make way for my ukulele solo. I’m entering the stage from above as I’m dropped down slowly into the fog from the fog machines. And there are fireworks. Clearly I’m a gifted musician. How could I have gone almost 31 years without knowing that this musical gift lied inside me like a dormant beast awaiting to be aroused?? Obviously my life was just starting.

Once the high of mastering four chords wore off, I started thinking about my accomplishments. Obviously no one has ever mastered the ukulele as fast as I did. Right? Right?? It was just so easy. The neck is so small that my hands don’t have to reach too much and the simplicity of only four strings is great. I mean, who needs those pesky two other strings! It’s almost as if the ukulele was made for kids!

Wait. What? Made for kids? Is this why I’m so good at it? Are you telling me that I have mastered the recorder of the string instruments at 31? Great. Just great.

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Despite the fact that I may have just picked up a child’s instrument, I still feel pretty accomplished, albeit a little less than I initially thought. Maybe Pete and Slash will have to wait. The important thing is that I couldn’t play the ukulele on Sunday and I could on Monday. Who knew! And what’s even better is that I really, really like playing it. It’s fun. Being an actor is great. I love these challenges that allows you to discover something new about yourself. Those type of challenges are much more fun than the not-making-enough-money-to-eat kind of challenges that also come along with being an actor.

So, perhaps you’ll consider living your life like an actor this week? No, I don’t mean starve yourself, I mean challenge yourself to go outside the box and do something that you never thought you could do. You might be amazed at the results. I know I was.


2013: The Year of the Blog

I first started a blog in 2006 when I moved to Las Vegas to join Mamma Mia. I thought it would be a good way for my family and friends to keep up with me and what I was doing. I blog fiercely for about a month or two and then abandoned the idea. Over the years I kept coming back to the blog every once in a while and once again I’d blog fiercely for a month or two and then abandon the site. Do you see a pattern here?

When I started my triathlon training I saw it as a great opportunity to blog once again. There were so many things happening in my life that it made for good blogging. I really enjoy blogging, so I’m making a commitment to myself that I will blog at least once a week for the year of 2013. My blog will mostly consist of my musings and will be about anything from football to fashion; from voice teaching ideas to triathlon training; from motivational mantras to musical theatre; from favorite food to the struggles of living in NYC. I will include anything that seems blog worthy.

So, stick around if you’d like. If I’m gonna take the time to write it I sure hope someone reads it. Besides you Mom.