If you follow me on ANY form of social media (but especially Instagram: @brittanyinge), then you know that I’m currently playing the role of Penny in the Actor’s Express production of Suzan-Lori Parks’s epic masterpiece, Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3).
We currently have only 4 SHOWS LEFT! Tonight at 8pm… Friday at 8pm (in which my understudy may perform… because God is good. #BOOKED)… Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. If you’re in Atlanta and you haven’t seen the show yet, I strongly encourage you to join us!
This show has been a GIFT. When I first read the script, before auditioning— many things intimidated me, including the show’s length and the emotional vulnerability that I knew it would require. I have learned SO much from “Penny” and I know that I will carry her with me for many, many years to come. I have also learned a ton from the glorious and generous actors who make up this cast. They’re honestly all so talented and will likely be featured on TNSA in the future (individually) as Artist Highlights. So, just keep an eye out for them! Every night with this show is an adventure and quite literally, an EPIC journey—of mind, body and spirit for the actors and the audience. I love telling this story but more than that, I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of peeling back the MANY layers Suzan-Lori Parks created to make the story and each character dynamic in their own right.
We were fortunate to work under a brilliant and collaborative director by the name of Martin Damien Wilkins. His vision included nuanced contemporary elements being present alongside this mostly factual (and only sometimes otherworldly) historical body of work. We worked hard in rehearsals. VERY hard. But we also spent A LOT of time having discussions about the number of things Parks “could have meant by that” (“That” being; any of the brilliant present-day parallels created by her usage of contemporary language or her usage of very specific pauses and punctuation choices or her writing original music to bridge the show’s three acts ). Peeling back the layers, unfolding the mystery, creating a backstory… that’s my favorite part of being an actor. Truly. It’s where grounded and layered storytelling happens! I feel privileged to have been able to dive in and do the aforementioned kind of work on a script as well-written as this one. Legit!
Okay… I’m rambling a little bit (Because I’m at a lost for words. I’m in my feelings.) So, I’m not sure how much sense this blog will make when I read it back, but my point is this… Father Comes Home from the Wars has been a transformative experience for me as a Black woman. As voiceless as I (and I’m sure many others) sometimes feel in our current world… I have been wearing the shoes of a woman whose voice is even less valued. I have had the challenge and honor of doing the work to find her value for myself AND for the audience night after night. No easy feat. As an artist, I’m grateful for the opportunity. As a woman, I’m moved by the storytelling. As a Black person, I am in-touch with the show’s themes around the “true” meaning of freedom. As a collaborator, I am FULL. Our main character, Hero (Evan Cleaver), takes a monster-sized personal and physical journey in our show and I feel that I’ve taken a monster-sized artistic journey while playing “Penny” and sharing space with such powerful and beautiful artists. Grateful. Onward.
Victor Perry | Singer | Songwriter | Producer | @perksofbeingvictor
- Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? Yes! I’m currently working at Leadership Prep Brownsville Middle Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I’m an Assistant Teacher. The school is a part of the Uncommon Schools Charter. I actually just moved to NYC 2 months ago and I can say this has so far been one incredible experience!
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? Being that I’m still very new to the city, I haven’t had time yet to begin working on my artistic goals and visions, so during this time, I’ve begun to discover other artists that are either in a similar place or a few steps ahead and I’ve begun to digest what they have to offer artistically. There’s so much talent. It’s beautiful.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Yes, of course it is. I think it will always be a term that can be applied to just about anyone in any walk of life they choose to take. For me, the term means “hard-work” or “actively seeking” to find work. As artists, we are always starving. Whether it’s starving to write a great song, book a performance or find your niche audience, we’re steadily starving towards something.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Great question! I’m constantly finding new things to be inspired by. At this point in my career, I’d say Whitney Houston, Mikky Ekko and Coldplay. Those three artists are most definitely helping me continue to “define” what it is that I feel when I’m either writing a song or performing it.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I do. My best music (from a personal viewpoint) has come from a place of confusion – a place of struggle, and in turn has continued to help capture what it is that I set out to do with my music. As an artist, the most beautiful thing that we all share is a journey. Each journey is different, with different obstacles and different successes; while still being broken down to one singular aspect: a journey. I need struggle. Nothing worth fighting for should ever come too easy.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? Thankfully, I haven’t had to.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? 4 A.M. Nostalgia, my debut EP, is my favorite project by default because it was my first time creating something in its entirety. From the writing/production of the songs, to the album artwork and styling of the project, and [down] to the marketing/campaigning – it all was orchestrated by [me]; what I felt was necessary at the time.
- What are you currently working on? After releasing my debut EP, I began to reach out to producers from all around the world and ended up meeting this one guy from the UK who is absolutely incredible. He has a beautiful way of landscaping his music with organic and authentic live instruments while keeping it very soulful and soothing. We’ve worked on about 6 songs and will be releasing a project together as a band later this year. I can’t wait to share it. It’s definitely an evolution from my debut.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The true and only first step I think any artist should take when wanting to become a professional artist (as it relates to me, a vocalist/singer-songwriter) is to have a product. If that’s just a single or a collection of songs like an EP, it’s very important to have a product. I can’t tell you how successful I’ve been and how many doors have opened for me because I had a product to share. Many producers are looking for writers, singers, and even [additional] producers, but they need to hear what you have to offer. While it is powerful to be able to tell someone, “I’m a great vocalist”; that won’t necessarily get you to the next step [of being] in the studio if you don’t have product. We live in a world where having something tangible is a standard protocol. I can recall during 2014-2015, I’d reach out and email producers about wanting work and I’d fall short and receive little to no response because I lacked a product. As soon as I had a product in 2016, I emailed some of the same producers (and more) and received so many responses and to this day, I’m now having to decline work because I have so many opportunities presented to me. That’s when I [finally] felt like a professional artist.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I would want the world to give everyone a fair chance. So many times, we get settled in our ways and settled in what we’ve come to appreciate and often times, ignore what others can bring. I do understand familiarity will always play its role in deciding if you like an artist, but to simply write someone off because they sound [too much] like someone else or can’t possibly co-exist with this other artist because this artist is considered “great, iconic or legendary” is problematic. The world is BIG enough for everyone to find their place and to find their way.
Christopher Allison | Trumpet Player | Composer | Band Leader | @iamcousinchris
1. Are you currently working a day job? If yes, can you say where? I am the Entertainment Director for the Negril Village Franchise. My job duties include creating and managing all our night life and party details for the restaurants here in Atlanta and NYC. I focus hard on opening Atlanta to some of its hottest rising DJs, filmmakers (Screening Room ATL), promoters, and some of the livest bands in the city. I always try to focus on bringing a party atmosphere to a fine dining environment. The ability to connect different generations and cultures is an amazing experience. My experience in the music industry has privileged me with the knowledge to literally create my own position.
2. What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? Honestly… creating! I am constantly working on my next gig, next cover, next original piece or next event. I don’t believe in being stagnate. I constantly try to fill a void during slow times. Most of the time, it’s also me locking myself away and going off the grid to just practice. I always tell myself that I SUCK! LOL. [Remaining humble] is something that has blessed me, because there will always be someone who is trying to take your spot.
3. Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Being a STARVING ARTIST to me, is a choice. Imagine if all the legends that we all look up to had 1/3 of the resources that we [currently] have available to us. Listen, I know kids in middle school ready to start companies. I mean, that have business models and tools to take over! So if an 11 year old can make it [happen], anyone can.
4. Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? First, I will have to say Melvin Jones. He help mold me into the horn player I am today. His guidance, mentorship and friendship is what has pushed me. He is definitely one of the coldest musicians I have ever met. From him being my band director in college to us sharing the stage together. I’m blessed to call him brother. Miles Davis… simply put, because of his approach to creativity. His sound and creativity paved a way for so many artists inside and outside the jazz world. [His style of] simply playing what you feel is correct, [in my opinion]. Play something that makes you happy and drives you to play the next day and the next day. Terrance Blanchard, because I am a film head and a huge lover of a great score. His many works with Spike Lee have always blown me away.
5. Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? There should always be a time period [of struggle] in any success story. Everyone needs that time to figure out if this is really what they want to do and [to learn] how hard they’re willing to work for it.
6. Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Yes I have. I had an internship with Universal in their sales department and I realized I didn’t want to end up like my boss at the time. I was still gigging pretty heavily then, but my boss always made me feel like I had to make a choice between what side of the field I wanted to be on. So, I had to sit down with God and I had to leave. It worked out best for me and my journey.
7. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? That is so hard to say. I guess the first tour I ever went on is still my favorite because I learned so much. It also help me prove to myself and my loved ones that I can do this. That tour was with PJ Morton and Maroon 5.
8. What are you currently working on? Currently, I am starting our festival tour with Rapsody (9th wonder and Roc Nation Artist), performing with Cameo and serving as Co-Founder of Screening Room ATL. My band, The Village Band, has a show every Sunday at Negril Village. And I am proud to say that I’m working on my debut EP.
9. What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? Simply put, be visible. There are so many great artists out there, but they are [creating art] at home. You have to be on the scene. [Musicians], you have to go to the shed and network. You have to surround yourself with others in your field.
10. If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? I would love for older generations to stop looking at [young] artists as individuals who don’t have direction. Back in the day, society was placed in a bubble. To be successful, you had to follow “these” steps and live “this” way. Today’s generation of artists and creatives believe in creating something that isn’t there. Art is a product, yes, but it’s a product that is built from the deepest part of our hearts. [In other words], it is our lives and it will make sure we survive. By any means necessary.
Paris Crayton III | Playwright | Actor | Director | Motivational Speaker | @pariscrayton3
- Are you currently working a day job? I wouldn’t really call what I do working a day job. I pick up a few shifts here and there at the Public Theatre in NYC but other than that, all of my income comes from the hustle. When I moved to New York last May, I promised myself that I would only go after what I wanted. No more spending time looking for a “job”. I need to live my dreams.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I love to read and watch plays. Theater is my life, my cure and my drug. I feel I am complete when inside a theater but anything art-related feeds my spirit. Going to art museums, ballets, operas, open mics and more. Oh and food! I love to eat.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? I think [the term] is valid but I’m happy that [TNSA is] showing people that they don’t have to be that. When I think of the term “Starving Artist”, I think of someone who is willing to miss a few meals for the sake of their art. That’s not an easy thing to do and lots of people aren’t willing to do it. Many celebrities were “starving artists” before they made it big. What are you willing to sacrifice for your art? Honestly, I have and will skip the dollar menu meals a few times to prepare myself for the Steak and Lobster meals that are coming from the continuous hustle.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? That’s a loaded question, so I’ll choose the ones that inspire me now. I would have to say Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Lin Manuel Miranda and Donald Glover. Tarrell is my favorite playwright and he seems to work non-stop. A play that he put away in his dresser, thinking it would never be produced, won him multiple Oscars– one for Best Film. He’s a beast. Lin Manuel Miranda is a huge inspiration because he is constantly thinking outside the box and let’s no one stop him from doing what he wants. Think about this for a second: There is a musical about the Founding Fathers of America using mostly actors of color, told through rap [music]. That is a highly ridiculous-sounding concept, but [Lin] took it and made it the best thing to hit Broadway in years. I strive to have that sort of artistic mind. He proves that nothing is impossible. Donald Glover because… come on. First of all, he’s really young, like everyone on my list, but what has this guy not done? He sings, dances, raps, acts, does stand up [comedy and] has his own television show. He’s a genius and this is only the beginning for him.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? Trials make you strong. I think it’s a part of life to struggle. Some writers struggle with writer’s block, Some singers struggle with losing their voice. All artists struggle with something at some point. I think the problem happens when you don’t learn from the struggle, or if you feel powerless because of it. Some of the best art is born out of struggle. Again, going back to Tarrell Alvin McCraney, he struggled with bullying and sexuality and created Moonlight. Adele struggled through a relationship and produced three incredible albums. Do I think it’s necessary for EVERY artist to struggle? No. Do I think it can and should be beneficial? Absolutely.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Oh yeah… a few times. I’ve always known what I’m supposed to be doing. Most recently, I quit my “comfortable” serving job of 5 years to focus on my theatre company. My mantra is “Create Your Yes” and I honestly believe that if you never jump, you’ll never learn to fly.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? I would say, when I co-wrote and directed the devised theater piece: “Because I said So” with the students at [Atlanta’s] Tri-Cities High School. Seeing the next generation of artists put so much work in was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Those kids taught me so much.
- What are you currently working on? What am I NOT working on would be a better question! Currently, I am opening the two-person drama “Harold and Rodney Play Chess” by Adam Seidel in NYC next week. In June, I will make my way to Atlanta to direct Ron McIntyre’s “A Piece of My Mind”. While there, I’ll be presenting a staged reading of my one-man show to prepare for the world premiere at Indy Fringe Festival in August. I haven’t shared that yet, so TNSA is the first to know!
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The very first step was probably when I left St. Louis in 2006. I moved to Chicago on a whim after being accepted into a conservatory. That was the first time I learned to fly because I had nothing but a few bucks and my 1998 Toyota Camry. I would advise other artists to KEEP CREATING and KNOW YOUR WORTH. You know the saying: “If you build it, they will come”– it’s so true! Keep creating your art and when they do come, know what it’s worth because people will try to get over on you. Make it so that your art is bringing in passive income and soon you can kiss your “job” goodbye.
- What is your favorite & least favorite thing about being a full-time artist? [My favorite thing is] the freedom. Not having to clock in and work for someone else is one of the best feelings in the world. Least favorite is sometimes not knowing where the next gig is coming from. It always works out in the end though; at least in my experience.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? Artists are the closest thing to God, in my opinion. An artist’s job is to literally make something out of nothing. Creation. I would want to change the minds of people to understand this. We can not survive without art. The EARTH without ART is just… EH!
Solitaire & Your Artistic Journey
Growing up, my Mother was always playing Solitaire on our Windows desktop computer. As a younger person, I found myself confused by the game and my Mother’s love for it. Now, as an adult myself (with grandma tendencies), I often find myself playing Solitaire on my phone. It relaxes me. It focuses my mind and it somehow even manages to slow me down, which is a rare occurrence these days.
It recently occurred to me that there are parallels between the game of Solitaire and the journey of being an artist. So of course, I have to share them with you! If nothing else, maybe these parallels will inspire you to download your own Solitaire app for the next time you need some quiet brain stimulation.
Solitaire vs. Artistic Journey
- Game of 1: In Solitaire, the focus is always on being your personal best. The app I have puts emphasis on players striving to beat their best time. There are no other players to compete against or defeat. Every time I open my Solitaire app, it is me against me. In the same way, every time we do the work of progressing ourselves as artists, the only competition we should focus on is the person we see in the mirror.
- It is Okay to Start Over: When I first downloaded my Solitaire app, bad hands plagued my progress. Literally, the first 10 games or so, I could not get a win (and I’m REALLY good at Solitaire)… so I began to get frustrated. But no matter how frustrated I became, I did not quit. I kept starting over and allowing the same cards to reinvent and reassemble themselves until I could obtain a win! In the same way, as artists, we have to get creative when certain “doors” close in our faces. We have to use the resources we have (or “the hand we’ve been dealt”—see what I did there?) to find new avenues and opportunities to obtain the “YES” we know is rightfully ours. The NO’s never stop on this artistic journey, but we have to train ourselves to be at peace with hitting the reset button. With persistence, determination and some strategic maneuvering… WE WILL WIN!
- Speaking of winning… There are enough WINS for everyone: There are numerous Solitaire apps. Numerous people play and win games of Solitaire daily. No one else’s Solitaire victories take away from my wins or my progress as I continue to strive to beat my best time. There is enough Solitaire victory to go around. If you download the app, learn the game and keep at it, eventually… YOU WILL WIN! And your victory won’t stop anyone else from also winning! HOW DOPE IS THAT?! In the same way, the victory and progression of your artistic peers in no way diminishes the triumphs that await you along your personal path. Be patient and know that there is enough winning energy to touch everyone’s journey! Winning is inevitable if you stay the course! Or, as my Mother likes to say: “As long as you stay on the field, you’re still in the game”. What can I say? We like game analogies in my family.
Markelle O’Day | R&B Artist | Executive Creative Director of The Divine Agency | @markelleoday
- Are you currently working a day job? Yes and No. (laughs) [I run my own company], The Divine Agency.
2. What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? [I stay inspired by] creating music and [writing] screenplays and films.
3. Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? Yes, because the “starving artist” still exists. There are a number artists that have yet to grasp the business side of the Arts Industry at every level. At the core of the starving artist is [a lack of] financial awareness, financial accountability and financial gain.
4. Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Shonda Rhimes! Because of her ability to create a new world within the one we live in; and her attention to detail and artistic rhythm, along with her consistency. Vanable Moody! Mr. Moody was my high school band director and he was instrumental to my growth as a musician and as an artist. One of the things I loved about him is that he taught me to identify when to create outside of the box and when to color inside the lines. The Atlanta Ballet! I was on scholarship and interned at The Atlanta Ballet while in high school. To this day, their focus on lines and structure is something that I continue to utilize in my own art, no matter the form.
5. Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? Yes, struggle defines and gives you new perspectives as an artist. One of my favorite quotes is: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass. With every struggle or mistake, you should be at a place where you are learning and growing from your past.
6. Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. Yes, I resigned from teaching high school full-time to [create and] run The Divine Agency full-time.
7. What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? The Divine Agency is my most coveted project thus far. To see where I started my company [from] to where it is now is amazing!
8. What are you currently working on? I am currently working on my new single entitled “Waste of Time”.
9. What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? [My first step was] deciding that I wanted to [create art] for a COMPLETE LIVING! [My advice to other artists would be]: develop strategies to bring in income doing what you love!
10. What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? I am not a morning person and being a full-time artist allows me to get up a little later than when I was teaching. Plus, I get to develop art with artists and non-artists [alike] on a daily basis. My least favorite thing is that people initially want to devalue your worth as a full-time artist if you don’t yet have fortune and fame.
11. If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? [I would change the perspective] that our talents and services should be [rendered] for free. THE ARTS ARE LIFE CHANGING!
To learn more about Markelle and keep up with his journey, visit www.MarkelleODay.com!
It has been a while since I’ve checked in with a “Leading Lady Chronicles” update… but no worries, I’m still going strong! There have been so many amazing things happening, which has made life SUPER busy. (And made me SUPER grateful!) I can’t wait until I’m able to share everything. Until then, I’m checking in from my day job/desk job with a Monday Motivation (#TNSAmondaymotivation) reminder for all of us about approaching our goals in steps! Not leaps. Not bounds. STEPS. Often, especially in our microwave, instant-satisfaction, technologically-advanced world… we want to skip to the end. We want to make it to the BIG FINISH without climbing the (smaller) steps that will lead us there. I’m sure that I am not the first to tell you (but I’m happy to remind you)… that it simply doesn’t work that way. And you should be thankful for that! We will all appreciate so much more that which we have truly worked and sacrificed for! Hear more of my thoughts on this topic when you watch the latest “Leading Lady Chronicles” VLOG below! HAPPY MONDAY! -Brittany
Be productive. Be specific. Be brilliant.
Stephen Scott Wormley | Actor | Singer | Dancer | @sirstephenscott
- Are you currently working a day job? Currently, I am fortunate enough to be consistently working and not have to take on a day job. That is, of course, not always the case. My last full-time day job, which I have since moved on from, was at a restaurant in NYC. I am also employed by a company as an actor to assist in training, which is what I will do when I am home (NYC) from working, if I am not performing when I return.
- What is your favorite way to feed your spirit (i.e. stay inspired) during slower periods in your artistic life? I think this is always a work in progress and depends where you are in life when it happens. My last slow period was my first and longest. And it took me through it. A very good friend of mine told me to get a hobby, which I guess I never realized I didn’t have. And it just so happened that another friend of mine had signed me up for a kickball league in the city. And it just so happens that Mr. Wormley is a darn good pitcher… so I fell pretty hard in love with that. I met literally hundreds of people whom my path and circles never would have crossed. I had other things to do, focus on, put my energy into– and out of it, I even got some of my closest friends. You have to find something you fit into, that you enjoy and that allows you to happily focus on and give yourself a break from the sometimes grueling process of searching for work. So, I say to thee: Find a hobby. Knit. Kick a ball. Whittle a spoon. Find your joy.
- Do you think the term “starving artist” is still valid today? Why or Why not? I do. But I think the definition for me has evolved. I don’t think of it as starving in its literal definition– though that struggle is still very real, and we are all probably a few weeks from it because the rent prices in NYC are the work of a Satan scorned. What it means to me now is “Starving to Create” or “Starving to Inform”. I take it as a building desire to just do, to just be an artist.
- Who are your 3 biggest artistic inspirations and WHY? Now, I have a tough time picking favorites, so my answer will probably go a little different than expected. My BIGGEST artistic inspiration is actually my mom. She is the reason I continue to get on stage everyday. She worked so hard to give me every opportunity I had to be exposed to [the arts] and she believed in me wholeheartedly, more than I have ever believed in myself. She was my support system and in some ways, I feel closest to her when I am on stage. Her spirit inspires me to keep on pushing on every day. Without a doubt she is number one. There are so many artists who inspire me everyday. Ones who are deceased, alive and well and I am sure ones who have not begun their artistic journey will soon inspire me. So, I am not going to pick single people. I will say number two would be my friends. I have some of the most talented human beings in this great world as friends. Best friends, distant friends, friends by association. The beautifully talented people I surround myself with inspire me with what they do. What they create. With what they accomplish. They push me to be better. They hold me accountable. They expect a lot from me, and that ushers me into greatness. And Finally three: Black artists at work. When I go to see a show and see those beautiful brown faces lighting up that stage, my heart glows. When I see one of us in a role not too often cast our way (something I strive for in my own career) I get joy. When Audra [McDonald] wins every Tony… JOY. When Norm [Lewis] sings absolutely anything, JOY. When Joshua [Henry] takes a role that a brown man hasn’t had the chance to do and kills it, JOY. I see myself in these people and I thank them for their work and the way they inspire me. I hope to do the same.
- Do you believe that struggle (of any kind) is a necessary part of every artist’s journey? Why or why not? I believe that struggle is a necessary component of every human’s life. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. I think that the beauty of being an artist is learning to convert that struggle or hardship into something beautiful. I went to college very far away from home, in an environment and community that was very different from where I grew up. I am a city boy through and through. While away, consistently throughout my matriculation, I lost an immediate family member every Fall. In the midst of learning to deal and cope with those things, I made a pact to myself to accept the things that come into my life that I cannot change, because there will come a day when I will have to artistically present or understand [similar] situations. It also taught me the truest lesson of “the show must go on”. I had to learn early on that being an artist is very hard work. It sometimes means accepting and understanding your own emotions but being able to completely put them aside to tell another’s story. The beauty in that however, is that I have found that every project, no mater how “big” or “small” teaches me a lesson I needed to learn, encourages me in a way I needed to be encouraged and pushes me in a way I need to be pushed. My final year of college was when I lost my mother and I truly thought that one would break me. BUT, I had to walk directly into rehearsals for a one man musical not a month later and figure out how I was going to light up a stage all by myself for an entire show. Probably one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But not only did I push through it and find the peace in doing what I loved so much for a person who loved me so, I was consoled every evening with a beautiful segment that reminded me of my mother’s spirit. Only to then go into playing George in “Sunday in the Park with George” and learning that “Art isn’t easy, any way you look at it” and to “Stop worrying where you’re going, move on”. So yes, struggle is necessary but what you get back, well that’s just a blessing.
- Have you ever quit a “real job” for an artistic gig? If yes, please explain. My Lord. Let’s tell a story shall we… When I finished my tour in Japan, I came home to NYC and got my tonsils removed– which meant Stephen was not going to sing a single thing for a while. I had a show lined up 4 months later, so I figured I could rest and then work. What ended up happening was I couldn’t audition [for other shows] before the show [I already had lined up] because I was still recovering. So when it was over, Stephen had to get a job. I applied and got a job at a certain “Candy bar” in NYC. And worked a total of 5 shifts. Let me tell you, I then was very ready to be a starving artist. Starved. Destitute. Because there was NO way I was going back there. Take me out for chicken one day and I’ll tell you more. I left that job and got a job (by chance because I had no experience) at one of, if not, THE greatest restaurant in NYC. It was a beautiful place with beautiful people. Because I had health insurance, even though the money for me was not that great, it actually impacted a few decisions. I turned down 2 shows while working there because I would have had to quit, lose my insurance and then be back at square one in 4 weeks in the show was over. There came a point though when my heart was done working there. And then I booked something big enough to take me away– probably because the stars aligned and it was time. But I was ALWAYS ready to go when the right thing came alone. We just have to be smart about these decisions.
- What is your favorite project you’ve worked on, so far? Woof. Well, that’s a hard question. Currently, I am stepping into tech rehearsals for the musical: “Dorian’s Closet”, a beautiful story about Dorian Corey, a famous female impersonator, featured in the documentary Paris is Burning. When she passed, it was discovered that a mummified body had been kept in her apartment for at least 10-15 years. I will say this is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve worked on, which may in turn end up being a contender for my favorite thing I’ve worked on. I say that because it’s challenging– in a great way, but [also] challenging all around. We are working on a new project which means, even after a workshop there are hundreds of changes that are still happening to the script. Just as I memorize a chunk of lines and blocking– they may change. I have to CREATE this beautiful woman on stage and make myself and everyone else fall in love with her, while attempting to tell her story in honesty and truth. It is a challenge. One I welcome and accept and am thrilled to do.
- What was the very first step you took to become a professional artist? How would you advise those working to become professional and/or full-time in your same artistic field? The first step I took was understanding that this is truly what I was put on the earth to do. It isn’t my after work hobby. It isn’t something I just dabble in. It’s where my heart and soul meet. It’s what I have to do. I think only then can you really begin to work your way to doing this full-time, because you absolutely just have to. I started performing very young. I was singing with the Washington Performing Arts Society, not only with their choir but in a variety of other special concerts and programs. I loved it. I began dancing early on and acting in middle school, but I was never convinced I would be a performer. I was going to be a lawyer. In high school, when deciding what to go to college for, I battled between great pre-law programs and strong theatre programs. I ended up with a double major in performing arts and communication studies with a dance minor concentration in African dance and a pre-law focus track. That lasted a year before I dropped the pre-law track. During my sophomore year, I worked for the Environmental Protection Agency as a required internship for my second major. I made great money and met awesome people. I also [discovered then] that there is nothing I want to do more than perform. I will take a hot rehearsal hall drenched in sweat for 12 hours over a cubicle any day! But I needed that experience to confirm it for me. Often times we struggle with confidence, so I needed that last push. I would [encourage other artists to] give themselves the opportunity to have that [confirmation] as well.
- What is your favorite thing about being a full-time artist? What is your least favorite thing? My favorite thing: I am doing what my heart so much desires to do. I am making it happen. I am happy about it. I wouldn’t change it for the world. Least favorite thing: I am doing what my heart desires so much to do. But in doing so, I have to give my all. I have to go away. I have to get rest. I have to preserve. I have to make it so important that I often worry about myself outside of my career. Time away from it or your “low period” is great for this. It helps you become a balanced person. But sometimes in your busy season, you wonder.
- If you could change one thing about the way the world treats and/or perceives artists, what would it be? Just one thing? Well, it would have to be that the world thinks that anyone can hop into this business and make it happen. That it’s not hard, not a skill and if you have some free time you can do it too. No ma’am. This is work. This is hard work. You have to study, learn, hone your craft. This is not an after-school activity. We are not at play practice doing play acting. It is without a doubt, the toughest field. On your mind, body and confidence. It’s hard. And we do it. Realize that.
To learn more and keep up with Stephen, visit his website: www.stephenscottwormley.com.