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Broadway actress Lorna Courtney talks cementing a future in an uncertain industry The Creative Independent

Broadway actress Lorna Courtney talks cementing a future in an uncertain industry The Creative Independent

 


Broadway actress Lorna Courtney discusses the ups and downs of auditions, being a lifelong learner, and embracing all creative interests.

When did you first feel successful?

As an actor, success can be measured in different ways. This can be measured by the number of notes you receive at the end of your performance, or by audience reactions or sometimes by awards and recognition. But for me, I feel most successful when I give the most or when I have the most impact. At first I didn't know how big it was & Juliet but when we did our testing out of town in Toronto, people kept coming back. Moms would bring their young daughters to see me and they would tell me that they feel so inspired and that they admire me. These are the times when I feel like I'm doing the most good, therefore I feel the most successful.

I’m interested to know what brought you to this show.

I was in two shows on Broadway before it closed. I was an understudy in both: a behind-the-scenes revival in Dear Evan Hansen and in West Side Story, I was in the ensemble as Maria's understudy. When the shutdown happened, many creatives ended up leaving New York for financial reasons, and we began to question our career choices and paths. Should we go back to school? Should you make a career pivot? When auditions came back, the theater wasn't open, but there were auditions for TV and film, and I probably auditioned for a hundred things before landing the pilot episode of The equalizer with Queen Latifah. After that, we went back to the drawing board. I was auditioning for this musical that I really, really wanted to get. I spent so much time and effort working on the material, and I didn't end up getting the role at the end of the day, it went to another actress. But a few weeks later, the same producer had another musical called & Juliet, and it was actually the same casting director for both series. I was given the material and when I read the script, I was laughing, I was crying, it brought me so much joy. I read it with my best friend and her mother, and her mother said, Lorna, you must have this role. It was so empowering and uplifting.

How do you deal with the uncertainty of the sector you operate in?

It’s hard because no matter how much time, energy, and effort we put into things, it’s not up to us. It depends on the people who have the money, the people in charge, the producer. Even when you're auditioning for college musical theater programs, if there's someone who looks like you in the program, you might not get them simply because of that. They seek to form a cohort, a group. So it has nothing to do with your talent at the end of the day, it's a specific look. The way I deal with uncertainty is that when I'm working, I make sure I have an emergency savings fund that I'm building.and that I invest in my retirement fund, my Roth IRA and also a regular brokerage account. Then, creatively, I'm always in class. I'm always learning and I think that's really the only way to grow and feel like we're continuing to improve. Even the greatest, those who have reached the top, will say: Oh, you never stop learning. So I'm taking lessons in front of the camera, I'm in singing lessons.

What resources did you find most useful?

I had to learn a lot about my body. Many people don't realize this, but when you're dancing on Broadway eight times a week, it's a lot of stress on your body and your mind too. We act out and it's a lot of emotional stress. So after the show, I take an Epsom salt bath and eat. I also underwent craniosacral therapy with an alignment specialist. She also did a myofascial release on me and taught me how to do it on myself just to release any tension in the body that is held up. This is all useful. To me, eating healthy to fuel your body means eating a lot of carbs, eating more carbs than you think you should because you're burning them. I learned a lot about body and voice health and awareness.

Do you have a routine before the show?

I do it and I think it's important. For my part, I do a physical warm-up and a vocal warm-up. The physical warm-up involves Pilates and what is called silent breathing; a lot of people think it's a breathing exercise, but it's actually about being able to engage your body, because when you're singing and dancing you need something stable so the rest of your body can move freely. In total, I would say it probably takes about 20-25 minutes to get my body and voice ready for the show.

When you're not playing, how do you fuel your creativity?

This dates back to the pandemic, where some people were thinking about different career options. As human beings were interested in multiple things, and as an actor or creative, If you can find a way to combine all your interests, isn't that the point? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to do everything you love or want to do? For me, I'm taking a songwriting class at Berkeley and want to start learning piano again to help me write songs. I also take a finance course for non-financial professionals. Even though some of us have business owners, we should be able to understand what our accountant or business manager tells us. We should be able to know how to budget, track and set goals for our money, especially since we are in a field where it comes and goes.

When you're not actively on a show, do you have a day job that you return to? Or are you living on the savings you were talking about.

Before & Juliet, I worked at a gym because I loved working out and I could work out for free. Now I do freelance work, and that comes in the form of singing lessons and cameos, small gigs or workshops. Honestly, a goal for me is to try to create something like another source of income and income when this job, which is temporary, disappears.

Is there anything you wish you had told yourself when you started this creative journey?

Yes. I would say slow down and absorb, observe and learn. I think when you want something and you really, really want it, you want to do it as soon as possible, which also means growing up sooner. And when you're young, why not be? I graduated from college early because I didn't want to have to take out loans during my senior year. If I could go back, I would love to continue learning, maybe even do a study abroad program, which I haven't had the opportunity to do. So I think that's also why I'm in so many different classes now because I want to try to catch up on the things that I didn't have a chance to do.

How has the meaning of success changed for you as you become more successful in your career? Does the goal post keep moving?

Honestly, I want to say no because to me a lot of these things don't matter. What's important is to listen to your director, and if he gives notes, that doesn't mean you're wrong, it's not a bad thing. Don't take these things personally. It has nothing to do with your talent. But there are a lot of very talented people who never get recognized in that way, or to the highest degree when it comes to awards and that sort of thing; This does not make them less efficient than me. For me, success is measured by impact.

Especially in an industry with so much rejection and uncertainty, it could be so easy to get swallowed up by imposter syndrome.

Who can say that the artist who has his own non-profit organization and improves the lives of children every day, but who earns far less financially than a multi-millionaire, who can say that he is less successful than the multi-millionaire ? I mean, I hope both are happy too, but maybe success is also measured by happiness. It's so awesome to be able to do something that I love and that makes me happy, and I get to bring joy to so many other people too. For me, that's success. So many people find themselves stuck in a situation where they are unhappy. Some of them make a lot of money doing what makes them very unhappy. Does this mean they are successful? I am a person who likes risks and challenges.

Lorna Courtney recommends:

Favorite food spots: Peace Fruit Coffee, Until Thai And Modern bread and bagel.

Keep a journal and write down your thoughts.

Go to museums and take walks on rainy days. I like Fort Tryon Park And The cloisters.

Go to the theater, concerts, comedy shows, or improv shows. Today, the Tix app is great for tickets.

The New York Public Library for Performing Arts is a great resource.

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