The Balancing Act: Performing With Littles

I was asked a question on social media a couple months ago that has sparked an ongoing conversation in my head: “Any tips for performing with littles?” And while I know I am not the authority on this, figuring out a balance with family life and performing is something I am crazy passionate about.

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5 Ways We Balance Performing + Family

First off, let me say that kids were not the plan. When Addison and I got married I told him straight out that it would probably be 10 years or so before I wanted them. Performing was (and is) life and I didn’t think I could do both proficiently. We graduated from WSU in Musical Theatre in 2012 and went on to work in entertainment in Walt Disneyworld. A few months into the job something shifted. I was not finding the fulfillment that I thought the job would bring and I still had a lot of contract to fill. I was searching for deeper and richer meaning in life. Purpose. And then all the sudden I wanted a baby more than anything in the world. I’ll never be able to explain this sudden call to motherhood in maybe the most inconvenient job to be pregnant. But it was so real and so important. From there I quickly got back on my feet to get back to my job and life continued on, church, social life and performing. And that was maybe the most surprising thing to me of all. I think in my head children meant that performing went on hold. And this leads me to my first point.

  1. Children don’t make your life end. Continue to be you and to follow the things that are important to you and grow as a well rounded person. They will find that there is more of a person to love and look up to. I would even dare to say that I would not be the quality of performer today if I didn’t have children. Since having children I have endured more pain, felt a deeper love than I could have imagined, become more empathetic for those around me and am more in tune with my own emotions—all of which affect my acting abilities. I would also say that kids made me prioritize my projects and be more selective, making me more of a rare-commodity to directors and forcing me to only go for projects that is in my ideal castability.

When you’re pregnant with your first you’re so excited and anxious to do every little thing right, so we read books and things. One of the things that I read stuck with me (I believe it was in “Baby Wise” -Dr Robert Bucknam, M.D. and co-author Gary Ezzo) They said that having your world revolve around baby is tempting, but will not help the baby be independent or gain confidence. A baby needs to come into a family and understand that he/she is part of a team. That you all have a common goal. And sometimes it’s about the baby, but sometimes it’s about supporting Dad, and sometimes it’s about sacrificing for Mom. You all have equal pull as part of the family. Now, as a mother of 2 (age 5, and 1) this is more true than ever before. Both my husband and I do shows and other kinds of performing-random gigs, recordings, film, etc. It’s never steady, but our options are always abundant. Our schedules are never the same from week to week, and that’s how we like it. We spent a year or so after Disneyworld with the motto of saying, “yes” to everything. It was adventurous and doable at the times as we are constantly honing our skills in and learning what brings us joy and what brings us stress. We are much more selective and specialized now, increasing our value and enhancing our skills in select areas that we choose. We try to keep balance from week to week of doing stuff for each other. Sometimes the balance is watching the kids so Addison can get some time in at the gym, sometimes it’s Addison making dinner as I’ve been gone at shoots all day, sometimes it’s setting aside the million things I have to do to play a game with the kids. But also, it’s sometimes about the kids hanging out with a babysitter so that mom can go do a show and dad can go choreograph a show, or the kids having some quiet time so dad can edit photos.

2. Let kids be a part of your team. Kids are natural born helpers, they will feel a sense of pride as you succeed, the same as you do when they succeed. Let them help you. Tell them what you need from them. Make sure always return the favor when they need it.

3. You are the greatest example to your kids of what they’re capable of. Persue what makes you happy, it will give your kids permission to do the same.

I remember the day I found my mom’s “Treasures of Truth” book. It was a scrapbook of sorts, back in the day. I found pictures of her cheerleading and an article of when she sang, “The Impossible Dream” for her high school graduation. It dawned on me that day—mind you, I was like 17—that my mom was a real person, who had hopes and dreams, just like me. I remember wanting to let my kids know that I was a person with dreams early on. I wanted them to know that I was cool because I worked at Disneyworld, took voice lessons, did summer stock in West Yellowstone, and did a study abroad to London, twice. So whether that’s acting or softball for them, I want them to know that I am humble enough to continue learning-always, and brave enough to keep putting myself out there even when it’s scary.

4. Pursuing your dreams and having lots of interests helps you be relatable to your kids.

ENOUGH ABOUT THE KIDS! Let’s talk about the spouse! I am freaking #blessed to have the devilishly handsome, Addison, by my side. We talked about our future with theatre before we were even married-it was no question that we would love to perform as much as possible and the same for the other. So that was already part of the deal. It’s never something we’ve had to revisit or explain to one another and with that, we know how freaking lucky we are. We don’t have rules on anything, but just a lot of communication about dream shows coming up. The only thing we’ve had to do as parents is prioritze. Instead of accepting any role, being selective and saying, “I’ll only accept _____.” This has never been a selfish act for us. On the contrary, if we aren’t performing exactly the part we wanted, we would love to give the opportunity to perform to the other. It’s just that simple. There are so many different couples out there, with many different understandings of the HUGE commitment that a show is. The main thing here is communication. Tell them what shows are on your radar, what the commitment might be and what it means to you. For me, doing theatre isn’t a selfish act. I am a better mother/spouse and more involved and eager to be home when I am doing a show. It’s my self-care. It is me, using my full potential as a human and a creator for a couple hours a night, so that I can be a better mom all the other hours of the day. A friend always tells me, “doing a show is cheaper than therapy!” Amen, sister.

5. Communicate with your spouse.

Here’s a fun little video that Hale Centre Theatre did of our family, finding the constant balance.

I would love to know what helps you and your family find balance! Leave a comment!

The Audition Tool I'll Never Go Without

What happens when a killer actress/vocalist, an incredible music director/pianist extrodinaire, and a music library bursting from the seams band together for the success of your next audition? Magic. Magic is what happens. I’m still reeling from how awesome this is.

So, a few weeks ago I was pretty stumped on a song to sing for my audition. I could have phoned something in and hoped it was enough, but that’s not me. So I paid a visit to Audition Advantage, a program run by Erin Carlson (actress/vocalist), Anne Puzey (music director/pianist) and Jeanne McGuire (music director/pianist). Here’s what happened:

Text Erin at (801) 916-7464 to set up an appointment! Check out the Audition Advantage FB page!

The Most Common Makeup Mistakes

I see a lot of faces. Faces are the COOLEST!!! I love that it’s my job to check out you fine people every day. There are a few things that are personal pet peeves of mine that are really easy fixes. Are you making any of these mistakes when you go into your next headshot session?

  1. Not blending your foundation past your jawline. The skin on our faces is different than our neck. The texture and the color. If you are using an overall foundation, make sure to get a reeeeeally good match for your skin (they do this at Ulta for free for their brands) and if necessary, blend some of that foundation down your neck as well. Not doing this will usually make your face look warmer and smoother than your neck.

  2. Don’t use metallic makeup. This goes for eyeshadow, blush, and bronzer. While I love a little sparkle as much as the next person. A lot of time that shimmer that you use will not photograph true to color and can end up just making you look muddy rather than sparkly.

  3. Contouring gone wrong. I mostly see contouring go wrong on noses and foreheads. Cheekbones just must have a clearer line to follow. I don’t mind some contouring! Just keep it in check ;)

The number one thing that will fix all these problems?? Do your makeup in natural light. Get close to a window with a mirror or do it in your car! As I am a natural light photographer, doing your makeup in natural light will give you the most true to photograph look. Take a couple test shots with your phone, especially on angles that you can’t naturally see from a mirror—your jawline and your profile. Just to double check your work!

Still don’t want to risk doing your makeup yourself?? Check out all my favorite HMUA on my Pepperfox Preferred list! Text PEPPERFOX to 78619 to join my weekly Pepperfox Tips and gain access to the list!

Sooooo, you had a bad audition. Now what?

Bad auditions. We all have them. How do you pick yourself back up?

I used to really suck at auditioning. I’ll say it. I was the only person in my class the second year in college who had never been cast in a production. I finally got the courage to talk to a professor about it and he was brutally honest with me (a story for a different day) Something clicked that day about how I came off in auditions that I worked my butt off to fix and fixed it. Also, I’m no stranger to rejection and I know how to pick myself up after.

  1. First and foremost, CHOOSE to pick yourself back up. No matter what. My daughter Poppy just learned how to walk. And that first night of walking back and forth in between the safety of mom and dad, I was almost grateful for the times that she fell. I was quickly able to pick her back up and show her that it wasn’t a big deal. We’d even cheer! If that first night, she had fallen and I had let her stop trying right then and there—(like she wanted to), it would have confirmed in her mind that she shouldn’t try again because the falling was not worth the walking. She would have developed a fear of it by not trying it again. When we have a bad audition, every day that we do not go to our voice lesson or choose a new audition, we confirm to our mind that we are not good enough. You have to jump back in there in order to create new habits of auditioning and change your brainwaves. You have to prove to your brain that not every audition is going to go that way. Auditioning needs to be practiced. Get out there ASAP! Also, here’s a video of Poppy walking for the first time just because I really love you guys.

  2. Have a day. Give yourself a timeline. Mine is usually 24 hours. Mourn it. You put your heart and soul into this thing, as well you should have. Process it. Be mad, be sad. Eat some cheesecake. Then be done. Let it go. Find a way to be happy for your friends who got cast and then pull your bootstraps up and find something else to look forward to.

  3. You’re gonna hate me for this one. Get some lessons. Listen. We all have something to work on. Casting is not personal. Sometimes it’s about things we can’t control: your height, your hair color, your body type. But sometimes it’s about things we can control. You are a product. Sometimes the product needs some improvement. Get feedback on your auditions, if possible. You will be surprised at how many directors are happy to talk to you about what you can improve. Send an email, make a phone call. Sometimes you might already know what it is you can improve on. Take some voice lessons, get some audition coaching (from people who are not your friends-professionals), take some dance classes, take some acting classes. I promise you, we all need to keep up on our craft. An old dog can learn new tricks. Education can be uncomfortable—I get it. But performing is vulnerable. Rejection and feeling foolish is part of the process. If you came to performing hoping you would always feel like a rockstar, you are sorely mistaken. If you want this badly enough, pull up your sleeves and get to work.

I wanna hear from you! How do you cope with a bad audition?

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5 Ways To Feel Good About Your Audition--Everytime.

Auditions suck. There’s no way around them. If you are a performer, you must get your brain around the fact that, odds are, you will spend more time auditioning than you will performing. So why not find a way make this scary awful thing positive, regardless on if you make the show or not. Here are 5 ACTUAL ways to feel good about your audition—everytime. Let me first say, I’m not saying that you’re going to nail all of your auditions. I wish anyone could guarantee that for you. But you can set yourself up for success and prepare your brain to genuinely be ok, even if it doesn’t go the way you planned—which in my experience—it NEVER will.

First step, take the stress out of it. Second, take the emotion out of it.

  1. Give yourself at least 2 weeks before the audition to practice your materials. I am talking about song/monologue picked, cut finalized and practicing exactly how you will do it every day for 2 weeks before your audition. Yes, this includes your slate. Practice it so that it’s full of personality and something you don’t have to think about.

  2. Do a gratitude practice before you practice and before your audition. GUYS. If you are not aware of the studies done on gratitude and how it affects your actual brain waves-get yourselves on that. The SCIENCE is that putting yourself in a gratitude mindset will force your brain to work in your frontal lobe, not the lower half of your brain-where, btw, you react emotionally, and get stuck in old habits. Uhhhhh NONE of which you want for an audition. Your frontal lobe, and the alpha waves that gratitude creates enables you to be flexible and quick to adapt, be creative and create new habits. Also, gratitude automatically takes your focus off of you and on to others and your surroundings, allowing you to be more mindful and gracious and allowing the performance you give to be free of overthinking and less nerves. So, let’s say that sweet pianist who’s never seen or heard your music before starts you off on the wrong tempo—if you’ve done a gratitude practice right before—you’ve are automatically set your brainwaves into a forward and adaptable space where you can think clearly about how to adjust and not get flustered. Did I also mention that a RAD side effect of gratitude is that you will truly and genuinely feel when you get out of the audition that you were just lucky to be there, to learn, and to be considered? I’m not making this up. If you do a for real gratitude practice, you will not care if you make the show or not. You will be concerned with how others did, and you will truly want the casting directors to do what is best for the show, whether that means you’re in it or not. I know it sounds voodoo. I know it sounds too good to be true. But my husband and I just tested this out on our first audition-where we went in together. I got the show and he didn’t. We were both able to use this gratitude to cope with the nerves of callbacks and waiting for lists and LACK THEREOF. Addison, my husband, said that it is the first audition that he did not care whether it was him or not, he just wanted what was best for the show to happen. And I can honestly say it was the first audition I have not been nervous for and that I did more of what I intended. That is BIZARRE. Gratitude is voodoo magic and I am a freaking believer. So what is a gratitude practice?? Lemme share what we do. Super simple, takes maybe 5 minutes. Pull out a piece of paper or your notes app on your phone, or if you’re driving, say them out loud. Write down:

      • 10 things you’re grateful for. (if you’re stuck, start with things immediately around you—like in the audition room? I’m grateful for this chair to sit in so my legs don’t shake, I’m grateful I know the pianist, I’m grateful that this production team took hours out of their day to hear me, I’m grateful I don’t have a coldsore today—You get the picture.)

      • 5 things you love about yourself. This one is extremely important in the audition process! Write down your strengths, what makes you unique, that you love your lips! Whatever. You will be so surprised at how acknowledging these things will boost your confidence and make you feel one of a kind.

      • 3 attributes you want to work on. Joy, enthusiasm, patience, love, organization, etc.

3. Talk to your pianist. Even if you feel like you shouldn’t—go talk to them right before you go up and let them know the tempo and if you need your starting note. Don’t leave it up to chance.

4. Understand and BELIEVE that everyone in that room wants you to succeed and that they are not making decisions about you personally. They are only completing a puzzle. Cameron Diaz will never be Jell-o. Please tell me that someone knows my reference! Take the emotion out of it. Put yourself on the other side of the table and recognize how hard and confusing their job must be.

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5. It is your job, as a creator, to put what you have out there and let it go. It is not your job to get the part. Your worth is not connected to when you make a show, but to when you merely show up and put yourself out there.

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What are ways you cope with auditions?! I wanna hear from you! DM me. Comment. Email. Whatever! Never miss a Pepperfox Tip when you join my texting club! Join PEPPERFOX TO 78619

3 Ways to Get the Most Value Out of Your Looks

Something I get asked a lot is what is a “look”. A headshot package may look like: 45 minutes, 2 looks, 5 edited digital images. So what does a “look” include and how can you maximize your look into showing the most versatility?

So, a “look” is basically an outfit. I like the word look because it implies an attitude as well. I try to get people to be as specific as possible with their character types and nailing that in their look. The thing that you need to understand before you come to me is your character type. How you are seen. How you come off. What kind of parts you get called back for. What’s your vibe. People have gotten this idea into their minds that sticking to a certain character type is limiting and negative. I am a STRONG believer that it’s the exact opposite. Owning your brand, your character type is POWER. You cannot control how the world sees you. But you can rock it and own it. People who understand their type will never be short of work. Those that are flimsy and indesicive will be met with directors who are flimsy and indecisive about casting them.

The second thing you are responsible for at at the shoot is owning the attitude of your look. You will be coached every step of the way by Bre. But the more you can understand that character and act in your photoshoot, the more successful your photos will be. Get in character. Embody everything that that character represents. Don’t be passive, commit 100%. Bre will be right there with you saying, “yes, and” for every one of your choices you bring to the table.

SO, let’s talk about 3 ways you can squeeze every ounce of value out of these looks.

Layers.

Bring layers to your looks. A jacket, or cardigan can go a LONG way in instantly describing a character visually to the viewer. Plus, a lone tank top will communicate a completely different character than a tank with a leather jacket. You could go from cheerleader to hipster with an edge with one simple change. Adding a layer like this does not constitute a different “look” at Pepperfox Studios! Quick changes like this are completely ok! It’s when you have to change that underneath layer that calls for a new “look”. Something else to consider is buttoning or unbuttoning a shirt.

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Hair.

Don’t underestimate your hair. There are big changes in your hair that would consitute a new “look” (ex. curling, straightening, putting it up, shaving facial hair) BUT some simple hair changes that are not time consuming can completely change your vibe and be a part of getting the most out of a look. Tucking hair behind the ear, putting hair off one shoulder, changing up your part, adding product, taking your front bangs to side bangs, pinning a section back, etc.

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Accessories.

Don’t forget those final-touch items that can change the overrall attitude. Simple jewelry and glasses are a great way to do this.

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Words of Wisdom From Jim Christian

This is Jim. Aaaaaand if you don’t know him, you should. He was the head of the Musical Theatre program at Weber State and taught me everything I know! About acting, Disney, work ethic, audition and HEADSHOTS. This guy. He directs just about everywhere.

So I asked him during his session, “what sticks out to you about a good headshot?” And some of his answer really surprised me. First off he said warm and approachable. He says he looks at eyes and smile for this.

But next, (to my delight) he said, “intelligence-I want to see someone who is capable of telling a story.” I FREAKING LOVE THISSSSS!!! This is what every director wants but can’t put in to words. They want someone smart who they can trust to tell their story-your headshot should have this extra level of intrigue. Not just a pretty or dramatic picture. GOLD.

Some other insanely useful stuff he said about your headshot and audition in general is DRESS LIKE YOU CARE. He wants to know when you walk into the room that you want to be there and that you’re pleasant to be around. If you’re in a show together, you’re going to be spending lots of time together. Make sure your production team and everyone in that room (and the check in room) leaves wanting to spend more time with you.

Holy crap. Well if that isn’t a #pepperfoxtip I don’t know what is.

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BE BOLD

Most the time for headshots, the rule in non-distracting clothing. But let’s say you just have this favortie shirt or this piece of clothing that gets you compliments al the time and that you feel lik e a rockstar in. BRING IT. Hey, sometimes it isn’t headshot appropriate. But this one just happened to be Morgan, symbolized in a jumpsuit. It is perfectly appropriate for the roles she’s going for, plus makes her insanely memorable. It also makes for a killer website/social media photo. So—BE BOLD.

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Pepperfoxtip: The perfect lips, everytime.

Ever get stuck in a place where you just wanna wear chaptick and not worry about lipstick, but you don’t wanna wash your face out? Let me demonstrate the trick I do every time.