Professional SpotlightSpotlight

It is always pure joy seeing a Broadway show. The actors are insanely talented, the music is catchy, the costumes are gorgeous, and the set designs are stunning. When it comes to set design, one show in particular stands out in our minds: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, a musical about Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. We saw the show last year on Broadway, and not only did the show blow us away with its dark humor, wit, and enjoyable show tunes, but the set was so grand that it was essentially its own character.

We were over the moon when we had the opportunity to interview the award winning theater, opera, and dance stage designer Alexander Dodge. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is just one of the many incredible sets he has designed (also for which he received his second Tony Award Nomination!). Alexander has also designed for productions such as Julius Caesar, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night.

In addition to two Tony Award Nominations, a Lortel Award, a Drama Desk Nomination, and an Outer Critics Circle Nomination, he has also been the recipient of two Elliot Norton Awards, three Independent Reviewers of New England Awards, two Connecticut Critics Circle Awards, two San Diego Critics Circle Awards, and a Bay Area Critics Award. Alexander continues to impress with his attention to detail and incredible designs.

Born in Switzerland, Alexander grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona. He attended Bennington College in Vermont, spent a semester abroad in London, and later trained with the talented Ming Cho Lee at the Yale School of Drama. Alexander’s credentials and experiences with stage design makes him stand out above his peers, and even with his continued success, he is a pleasure to talk to and is generous with his time. Also, this September, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder goes on tour! If the tour is coming to your city, you’ll be able to see the amazing set design Alexander has created.

Name: Alexander Dodge
Education: BA in Drama from Bennington College; MFA in Design from Yale School of Drama
Follow: alexanderdodgedesign.com

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Alexander Dodge: Do things you want to do when you can and when you’re young. I have a one-year-old son and I’m focused on getting him to understand the idea of doing all the things he can when he can. You never know what’s going to come ahead in life that will stop you from doing something you could have done when you were young.

CJ: You majored in Drama from Bennington College. How did you decide what to major in?

AD: What’s great about Bennington is that they’re all about learning by doing and want you to dabble in a lot of things before deciding what to major in. Every year you have a work semester so my first year I worked in a gallery in Soho, my second year I worked in San Diego at the Old Globe Theater, my third year I worked at the Young Vic in London, and my fourth year I worked at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. I had these great experiences of learning what was good or what wasn’t for me. After a couple of years of that I figured out what I really liked doing. And we had a great performing arts center there – it was the same size as one you’d find at a major university but for 500 students. That was incredible. You could get lost in some of the backstage stuff, it was really cool.

CJ: You also received your master’s of fine arts degree in Design from Yale School of Drama where you trained with Ming Cho Lee. What inspired you to go back to school to receive this degree?

AD: Going to Yale was great because it was completely structured – in the three years there was only one elective class you could take. Which is great in a way and I loved being at a large university for a while. The campus was awesome, and Ming Cho Lee is amazing. I absorbed so much and it was so important being there and being around the other students who you learn so much from. So many places teach you different skills, and Ming Cho Lee was really about teaching you to become an artist. To really see, and really look, and figure out how to interpret the world around you.

CJ: How do you work with the rest of the crew to create the physical stage that the audience sees?

AD: Unlike architects we don’t have engineering backgrounds, so we’re not required to know exactly how to construct and put things together, but we make suggestions and we’re really only responsible for the look. So there’s a technical director for each project – either based at a theater or based at a commercial shop. If you’re doing a Broadway show there aren’t any scene shops here so everything gets built elsewhere. So I’ll give them a pretty good sense of the technical drawings, and then they’ll really figure out how to construct it. I’ll also give them a color model, renderings, paint elevations and all that, and they’ll then take those drawings and do technical drawings of what’s inside and what’s actually keeping the walls up. You also work very closely with the director to figure out how you can put everything together in the space you have to work with.

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CJ: You are a set and costume designer for theater, opera, and dance. What does it mean to be a designer, and what do your daily tasks look like?

AD: Today is all about finishing up a model and coming up with new designs I’m doing for a new show this summer, as well as reading a play I just got offered. So it really depends. It tends to be office time when I’m in the city, but I fly all the time and it’s a lot of travel.

CJ: When starting a new project, what does your process look like?

AD: Collaboration is the name of the game. I find that the shows I’ve worked on that have been the most successful are the ones that we all work together. I’ve also done shows where I basically hand them the set design and they go with it. Other times it’s a lot of back and forth and figuring it out together, which can feel much more satisfying. Also the director might have a take on the piece that’s important. The text is read first and foremost, then I go to the director and talk about what he or she thinks, then there’s interaction with the costume designer an the lighting designer. Usually costumes and set are what we start with because of the nature of how long those things take to create and build. We have to start right away. Nothing is by chance – everything has to be decided, down to the buttons and the trim on the jackets, the height of the door frame, and so on.

CJ: What is an important skill you need as a set designer?

AD: Trying to carve out time for myself is really good. If I don’t go to the gym in the morning and have my time, I’ll have a million excuses to not go in the afternoon. But it’s time for myself and it’s important for my own sanity. Even though I’m on the road a lot, trying to keep a business routine is really good too. This past year I’ve made a big push to carve out vacation time, because before that it was all about trying to grab a weekend here or a weekend there, and that was kind of it. But the theater is very different where we plow through national holidays and don’t really have a typical summer season because there are always shows going on. I remember once I did a show in Boston and we started technical rehearsal on December 26th and we went right through the New Year – it was a whirlwind of work at a time when you’d really love to be with your family.

CJ: Is there a cause or issue that you care about? If so, why?

AD: Something I care a lot about is LGBT youth and youth programs like the Hetrick-Martin Institute. There’s also a program called Live Out Loud which provides scholarships for LGBT youth. I also love smaller theater groups like The Civilians – they do a whole variety of investigative theater, which is so interesting.

CJ: What should a young adult who wants to be a set and costume designer do now to set him or herself up for success?

AD: I think try to get out and see as many things as possible is important, especially if you’re close to any major theater area. Even if you’re in a smaller town, take advantage of what’s there. Familiarize yourself with what you’re interested in. Try to travel to places that offer different shows. Seizing those things, especially if you want to do this business, is important. And see a variety of things – see operas, concerts, modern dance, and museums.

CJ: What are you working to improve upon – either personally or professionally – and how are you doing so?

AD: Being more present and taking more time for my family and me is something that I’m really working on. It’s difficult with work, but I don’t want to be that person where my job is everything. Time with your family is not to be undervalued.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AD: I would say don’t major in drama – branch out more than you did. I think that I zoomed in on what I knew I wanted to do, but in hindsight I’m thinking it would have been good to take an anthropology class or more science courses. In grad school I decided I wanted to be in a show for the first time, and it was great. I was on the stage at Yale University and it was such a great experience.

Alexander Dodge Qs

Images by Carpe Juvenis

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Growing up on Long Island, Tina Marie Realmuto’s love for acting was recognized in middle school, and she has pursued acting ever since. All throughout high school (hello, Class Valedictorian) and college (where she graduated a year early!), Tina got involved with all things acting-related. By studying amazing actors, stepping on-stage night after night, and living and breathing theater, Tina demonstrated her commitment to her craft.

Tina is not only talented and passionate about her work, but she is humble and motivated. With a great deal of experience in theater, Tina is also involved with films. She most recently finished shooting the short film, Whispers Of Guitar Strings, where she played one of the film’s lead roles. By working hard, feeding her passion, and constantly learning and improving, Tina is on the fast-track to stardom.

In-between classes at the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City, Tina sat down with Carpe Juvenis to share how she deals with stage fright, how she prepares for roles, and what her experience at graduate school has been like. Attention aspiring actors and actresses, take notes! Tina is seizing her youth and taking every opportunity possible to learn and hone her skills, and we can’t wait to see her on the big screen and Broadway!

Name: Tina Marie Realmuto
Age: 23
Education: Currently working towards Masters of Fine Arts in Acting at the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in NYC; Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Connecticut College
Follow: Website

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means to take advantage of opportunities that you are given at a young age and to really try to find out what you want to do with your life and go full throttle and go with it. Life is short. Follow your passion. Realize your dreams and try to pursue them.

What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?

I majored in theater at Connecticut College and got my Bachelor of Arts, and I was determined to study theater before I even applied to Connecticut College. In high school I took theater classes and just loved them. After that I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life and realized that acting was my passion. I applied to some conservatories – not many because I wanted to do a liberal arts program to get a more well-rounded education – and decided to continue with acting.

Did you study abroad?

Unfortunately I did not because I graduated a year early so I wasn’t able to study abroad with my schedule. I would have loved to. I probably would have gone to Italy or England because they have great theater. I definitely want to travel. Once I’m done with my Masters [at the Actors Studio Drama School], I would love to travel and see the sights and absorb the world.

What was your experience like graduating early?

Graduating early was tough to leave my friends and leave that part behind me, but once I got into the Actors Studio Drama School, it allowed me to see the next step and goal, which relieved a lot of uncertainty. It was very helpful.

What or who inspired you to become an actress?

Meryl Streep is my all-time favorite actress. I saw a couple of movies of hers when I was younger, but there were a lot of serious roles that I wasn’t allowed to see until I was a teenager. It was Mamma Mia that I fell in love with Meryl. I love the music of ABBA and the role she played, you saw a different side of her. Her versatility shined, and it helped me realize that this is what I want to do.

How do you mentally and physically prepare for a role?

This answer has changed since coming into my Masters program. Before, I really just read the script and tried to identify with the character, see similarities in her that I possess.  However, now at the Actors Studio Drama School, my process is incorporating the Method. It’s a technique to acting that is grounded in the work of Stanislavski and it basically explains that inspiration can only bring you so far. Sometimes you are automatically inspired with the role, but sometimes you can’t get that inspiration.

We do a technique where you do different sensory work. First you do relaxation so you can relieve your body of external tensions and stresses. Then you do sensory work, which helps me connect more with my emotional memory, which brings forth an organic and truthful emotion. It’s very difficult and emotionally and physically draining at times, but it’s so rewarding when you are able to access that part of yourself that I was never able to access before the program.

In terms of mentally preparing, it’s the sensory work and relaxation. I do different vocal warm-ups and learned how to do a series of steps that trains your voice to be more resonant – this way you won’t lose your voice onstage.

How do you stay motivated through each performance?

It all comes back to that inspiration. What inspires you? What drives you forward? Also for the character, what are her motivations? Since I haven’t been in a very long run before – such as months and years – but only for 10-12 performances, I really try to stay in the moment and remember that it’s a new audience every time. You owe that to the audience since they are coming to see the show for the first time. It’s also important to stay true to the character. I try to be motivated and try to do each part justice and do my part to tell the story.

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actress?

I have been very fortunate in that getting into grad school was an experience in itself. The audition process was grueling, but it prepared me for the real world as a working actress. It’s important to know that you’re not going to get every role that you try out for, and that you need to have confidence in yourself. I’ve learned in this program that you have to believe in yourself and your abilities.  Appreciate the opportunities you’re given; be grateful for them, and give 100% of yourself and in the end you’ll be rewarded for that. Also, just be nice to people and be polite, courteous, and never think of yourself superior in any way. This program has helped me as an actress and a person. I view the world differently.

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What was the audition process like?

Most of the schools I applied for I had to do classic and contemporary monologues. For Pace, which I love, I had to do a scene with a partner. My mom offered to do the scene with me, and I was like, “why not?!” We did a scene from Steel Magnolias. It was only five minutes long, and it was a beautiful, surreal experience. I auditioned for Elizabeth Kemp, and we performed the scene, and then she came out and spoke to us individually. She told us both that we had to think of someone that we lost and would do anything to bring back. We both picked the same person unknowingly. We did the scene again and genuine emotion was coming out, and I was bawling my eyes out. Just from those two minutes of guidance from Elizabeth, it helped me perform the best acting of my life.

Do you have a pre-show ritual?

I am a spiritual person and have faith. I also try to incorporate preparatory work and try to get to an authentic emotional place for the character.

How do you overcome self-doubt or stage fright?

Self-doubt is hard because in this profession, we shouldn’t center ourselves on accolades from people, but we do need that feedback. However, you can’t let negative comments or feedback make you think less of yourself and your abilities. Self-doubt is hard, and I went through a lot of debate about whether I should go into this industry. At the end of the day, you have to realize how much this enriches your life and as a human being. It’s a constant battle throughout my life, but I keep pushing forward.

Sometimes I get nervous right before I go onstage, but once I’m onstage I’m usually okay. Thankfully, my stage fright hasn’t affected my performance. What helps me is realizing that it is my physicality up onstage, but I’m really being someone else. This way, it makes me feel less judged because it’s not me as Tina, but me as my character. I’m telling the story of someone else, which helps me feel less self-conscious. I focus on doing the best I can as my character.

What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?

Everyone’s journey is different. For me, it was great to go to a liberal arts school and study theater, as well as other subjects, and then go to an acting graduate school for training and to get more experience. Other people might want to go straight into theater after high school.

Be true to yourself and really hone in on what you want to do. I know it’s hard to figure that out when you’re 17-years-old, and I’m fortunate that I knew what I wanted to do. Start now when you have the time and energy to accomplish things. When I’m in my 30’s, I’d like to have a family and kids, but now is my time to do what I want to do.

What does a day in your life look like?

My days are a little crazy. Right now my days are filled up with classes for the program. I’m taking a theater history class, acting, voice & speech and a movement class where we learn how to use our physical bodies with acting. I spend time studying and rehearsing, but just trying to enjoy it all at the same time.

What activities were you involved in throughout high school? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

In high school I was involved in theater and dance classes, which propelled my love for theater. I didn’t audition for major productions because I was an AP student so I had a lot of homework. Academics were the most important thing to me in high school even though I knew I loved theater. It ended up being great that I did that because I had enough AP credits to graduate early. I focused on theater classes in college. I was in an Italian Foreign Language Honor Society Club and I was involved with Best Buddies, which is a program that worked with special needs students.

In college I participated in Gospel Choir. I also did a lot of behind-the-scenes work such as sound design and set construction. I tried to do different elements of theater, but I realized acting was my true passion.

You attend the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University. What has your experience been like going to graduate school in New York City?

I grew up on Long Island, but I was thrown by living in New York City. I love the Broadway strip and it’s great to absorb so much culture. It’s also great to observe people, especially as an actor, just walking down the street. I’ve been more observant of people and their habits and behaviors. I love New York City and lower Manhattan. I haven’t been able to see too many shows because of my grueling schedule, but I love that I have the city at my fingertips.

How has the Actors Studio Drama School changed the way you act or view acting?

It has changed me in every way. I came here with a notion of what to do, but this program went on a deeper level. The amount of authenticity in emotion that comes through the work and preparation is mind-blowing. It transcends you in a way, and it borderlines a surreal experience. It taught me a different view on life. I realized that our creativity is inside of us and we just have to tap into it. A lot of people have it, but they don’t have the means or inclination to do it. I really recommend this program, I love my professors, and I’m so grateful to be here.

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What has your favorite role been?

In Elizabeth’s class, I played Corie in Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. It was so freeing. My partner and I had great chemistry and I learned so much from the scene.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be playing Catherine in A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller. It’s great because it’s an Italian-American family in Brooklyn in the 1950’s. I can’t wait to do that. It’s part of a festival where we perform scenes.

What motivates you in your everyday life?

I would say my family. I’m very family-oriented. I have a great mother and father, best friends, and wonderful grandparents. The love is there. I try to do that in all my work; I try to find the love. Even when people are screaming at each other, the love is beneath everything.

Also, I try to be a good human being. I try to be positive, even when I’m tired. To bring joy to people, that’s a huge motivation. I think about acting and theater all the time, but I’m also a normal person who enjoys reading, seeing friends, and watching TV and movies. My art really drives me though.

Who is your role model?

Meryl Streep, of course. I also love Ellen Burstyn, who I met during orientation last year. My mom is a wonderful role model for me just as a woman and a mother. I hope to be as great of a mother as she is one day. She’s been a great support system and role model for me.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Have faith in yourself. Have confidence. You can do it.

What’s next for you?

I want more film experience. I’ve been so involved with theater, which is my passion, but I’d love to try different mediums of acting. Watching film actors as a child really propelled me into acting. Once I graduate, I hope to become a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and I hope to come back here to teach and continue the legacy that they have established.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

Whether it is a role in the theater, on a television show, or in movies, Caroline Lindy will seriously impress you with her talent. A graduate of Kenyon college with a focus on Drama, Caroline not only has incredible acting skills, but she adds depth to her work with her study of dramatic literature. With diverse experiences on the sets of an operetta, Law & Order: SVU, Liberal Arts, and most recently a music video, Caroline is learning a lot and excelling in her career. Despite her success, Caroline also experiences self-doubt every now and then, but her positive outlook keeps her motivated. Continue reading to learn what advice Caroline has for youth interested in acting, what she has learned from being a working actress, and how she determined what to study in college.

Name: Caroline Lindy
Age: 24
Education: B.A. from Kenyon College
Follow: IMDb

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

I define “seizing your youth” as taking full advantage of these years where anything is possible and nothing is off limits. It’s about being open to everything and everybody. When you’re young, it’s your job to never stop learning, growing and figuring out what you want and need from life. It’s a time to take risks, fail, and as corny as it sounds, reach for the stars!

What did you major in at Kenyon College and how did you determine what to study?

Kenyon College has great Drama and English programs, and I was originally interested in studying English. Ultimately, I realized I was more interested in the process of analyzing and physicalizing works of dramatic literature rather than exploring works of fiction and non-fiction. I continued to take English courses but chose to focus on Drama more intensively, and it became my major.

What or who inspired you to become an actress?

I grew up in New York City, and I was lucky enough to have parents who took me to plays and musicals and made me watch Hollywood classic films. I danced next to the television set while watching Singing in the Rain and recited Shakespeare along with Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. I loved everything about the theater and the screen from a very young age. That exposure is what probably inspired me to pursue a career in the field.

Did you always know that you wanted to act professionally?

Yes, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself for a long time. I was too embarrassed to really audition for any plays until my senior year in high school. Entertaining people is scary territory, and it took me awhile to develop the confidence to be able to sometimes fail and embarrass myself in front of an audience.

What was your first professional acting role, and how did you go about securing it?

My first professional acting role was when I was in the sixth grade. I took an after-school musical class where we sang show tunes, and I performed with great gusto. The teacher knew the director of the Bronx Opera Company, and I landed my first role in their production of “Boccaccio”, an operetta. I played one of the village children and sang in the chorus, and I was totally delighted. It was the most exciting thing that could have happened to sixth grade Caroline Lindy.

You were in an episode of Law & Order: SVU. What was that experience like and what was your biggest take away?

The experience was very exciting! SVU films in NYC, but I got the email about an audition just as my plane landed back in Los Angeles after a visit to NYC. I quickly filmed my audition and sent it to the NY casting office. I got the part, and had to turn right around and fly back east. Filming only took a day, but was a total blast. Everyone was warm, welcoming and professional! I felt very lucky to have been given a role.

You are in the new Dizzy Bats music video, GIRLS. What was it like shooting a music video, and how is the process different than filming for a movie or television show?

Most music videos require actors to focus primarily on expressions and gestures as opposed to text and dialogue. I actually find shooting a music video to sometimes be harder than shooting a scene for screen, because you are provided with less information about your character and have to be comfortable just being yourself with a camera right on your face.

What was your favorite scene to shoot in the GIRLS music video? What was the hardest scene?

I really enjoyed the scene that we shot on the Ferris wheel.  The views of Los Angeles and the Malibu mountains off in the distance were truly breathtaking! The hardest scenes were the driving scenes. Connor [Frost] was driving and I kept on distracting him, almost causing us to get into minor accidents. Luckily we made it out alive. Don’t film and drive!

Caroline Lindy

What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actress?

Stay a student. Never stop learning from people who have been in the industry for longer than you.  Don’t be afraid of rejection – it’s inherently part of the profession, so learn to accept it and move on. Once you stop being afraid of hearing the word “NO,” then you can start having more fun at auditions, and start showing casting directors and other industry folks your true artistry.

What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?

Being a professional actress demands that you throw yourself into an incredibly competitive group of people with giant egos and enormous amounts of talent. However, it is also an industry that embraces the individual. The most important piece of advice I think I could give a young actress would be to just be you. When you’re just starting out, bring yourself into every audition, because there might be a million girls who look and sound similar to you, but there’s no one who is exactly you. So show that to the world! If this casting director doesn’t love you, the next one will! As long as you’re enjoying the process of building a career, don’t give up.

What does a day in your life look like?

When you’re an actress you have to be ready to embrace an unpredictable schedule. I get auditions notices throughout the week and therefore have to keep my schedule fairly open and flexible. I usually try to start off my day with physical and vocal warm ups, followed by auditions, classes or rehearsals (if I’m in a show). I’m also constantly taking on freelance work to supplement my income.

How do you overcome self-doubt or stage fright?

There are times when I feel terrified or feel like a failure, and I say things to myself like, “maybe I should go to Medical School.” However, I remind myself that my favorite feeling in the world is being on stage and feeling the energy of an audience. I love acting because I love entertaining people, I love telling stories and I love being around other people who like to create those stories with me. It’s my favorite thing to do, and it keeps me motivated and inspired.

What motivates you?

My parents, other family members and friends. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to pursue this career.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Dare to be different! As long as you are a considerate, thoughtful and good person, who cares what people think of you? Be yourself and have fun. Life is too short to live any other way.

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

As a working actor in New York City, Logan Keeler is a very busy man. Days before his premiere in the medical drama, Men In White, Logan took time to sit down with Carpe Juvenis to discuss advice for those interested in acting, what he did to become a professional actor, and to explain how he prepares for roles. New York City is an exciting place to be an actor and participate in the theater, and Logan continually builds upon his experiences with each new role.

Thoughtful, kind, and knowledgeable in his craft, Logan is someone you will be inspired by and learn a lot from. When he’s not taking walks in the park, rehearsing lines, or auditioning, you can find Logan on-stage in the rare revival of Men In White, which opened on November 8 and runs until November 24 in New York City. 

Name: Logan Keeler
Age: 25
Education: B.A. in Theater and Film Studies from Connecticut College
Follow: The Seeing Place Theater | The William Esper Studio | Profile

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Logan Keeler: I don’t think youth is something that we have to lose. I think a lot of people are very much afraid of that. Adulthood means giving a lot of things up. I think perhaps it’s the business that I’m in, youthful experiences is so coveted because that’s where human beings want to live. I live in New York City and so many people are wrapped up in their jobs and have schedules and responsibilities.

Youth is really just appreciating very simple joys without critique. Seizing your youth would be more like retaining appreciation for smaller things. Just as you’re a kid on the baseball field and not watching the game, just picking up the blades of grass, that’s nothing that we have to lose, and that’s something that I personally try to retain.

CJ: What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?

LK: I majored in Theater and minored in Film Studies. A liberal arts college worked for me because I still wasn’t quite sure what to do. I always liked acting and maybe started as an attention-getter or something so that explains the theater major. I went more on a whim and had very little plans but it gave me a chance to say, “Hate this, hate this- love this.” If I went back, I would pick up the film major as well.

CJ: Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

LK: I studied abroad in London at the British American Drama Academy. I almost stayed in Connecticut at the Eugene O’Neill Center, which is a really good program for acting. It was only 15 minutes away, though, so I decided on London.  It was great to get out and see another perspective. The British look at acting very differently and neither side of the pond is wrong. You can pick and choose which things you like. If anything, studying in Britain just solidified my interest in acting.

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CJ: What or who inspired you to become an actor?

LK: It was very much a combination of my parents. I have three siblings and we all went in very different directions with our lives. We very well did not have to, but we were brought up by my mother and father who were very open to giving us opportunities to try something and hate something and then find something that sticks. I tried a whole bunch of things – swimming, soccer, sketching – I wanted to be, like every other 9-year-old at some point – an astronaut. Just personality-wise, I grew up with my mother’s warmth and my dad’s humor and just the combination of the two, once I discovered theater, was a way I didn’t have to hide this weird personality. It’s cliché, but it’s mostly them and just the circumstances of life. Oh, and loving these old movies. Maybe it was West Side Story; that could have been it, too.

CJ: You were in the off-off Broadway production of MONEY – what was that experience like?

LK: That was last summer in 2012. It was fun to work in the big leagues. I worked with the same director at Connecticut College when we worked on You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Gerald Moshel. He called me out of the blue, someone had dropped out, and I was a little reticent but I agreed to do it and I’m glad I did. Financially, it gave me the opportunity to leave my regular day-work for a little bit and focus. It’s a fun show. No one really knows it so there wasn’t the pressure to live up to what happened last time or to how a famous actor played the role. The play is cute, it’s farce, it’s all making fun of the upper class and bureaucracy and doctors.

CJ: You can next be seen in the production MEN IN WHITE, which opened November 8. How do you choose roles and how do you prepare for them?

LK: There’s a lot of opportunity in this city. I don’t want to put myself in a corner and say “I only do musical farces, or dramatic death scenes on CSI.” I find opportunities that come along and I often just seize them because they are rare but if it is a question of “is this something I’m interested in,” I try to find the challenge in it. Men in White is a beautifully written show, it’s from the 1930s, and it’s a hospital drama. The challenge is that it’s a period piece and it’s seeped in medical terminology. It has quite a legacy to go with it; we haven’t seen it professionally in this city since it was done in 1933.

I stepped up to the plate with this role and it’s the next project – you can only put your attention at one place at one time. This is where I’ve been putting my attention for the past month or so. We had a long rehearsal period. The play wraps up in December and then I continue on, and that’s how it goes, unless I find that Broadway role and it runs a couple of years, but that’s a bit down the road.

CJ: Do you have a pre-show ritual?

LK: It has morphed over the years. I borrow from people and I see what works. I am a very physical actor, I like to get loosened up and stretch. Otherwise that pre-show tension or any residual tension from the day – nerves, if you will, I’ll just get locked up. I’m a big proponent for stretching. I’ll find an empty room with my headphones and get my mind off of the audience. I like to be jocular and light but the last 15 minutes or so, that is for me.

CJ: How do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?

LK: If the story is intriguing enough and you’re invested in it, it’s nothing you really have to worry about. When you see acting done really well on-stage, it’s seamless and effortless. Similar to the movies, it feels like watching a scene for the first time, not the fifteenth take. It’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes where I explore a lot of questions and details about what’s happening with the character in the scene. The other characters are there, the problem is there, and you are there. Whatever happens happens, and it’s a very scary thing to think about but you have to have faith that you and your cohorts have done the work. You and the actors are leaves floating down the stream, it should just carry you, and mistakes really only happen when you resist it.

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CJ: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actor?

LK: It’s not a business that is a means to an end, which is the big illusion of the industry, theater or film, regardless. I had a teacher in New York, Bill Esper, and he said, “If you’re here to be star, you better stop right now.” There are thousands of actors in the city, and many of them are very, very talented, and it’s a one in a million chance to be Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington. And that is not to say that they didn’t work hard, they worked very hard.

The big lesson is if you’re in this business, you have to be a little crazy, there has to be a couple of screws loose. It’s not like many other professions, where if you work hard you get promotions until you can retire. Just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’ll get a role you really want. You may. You may be perfect for the part. Or you may be too tall or “not the look”. But that is not in your control, and you need to accept that. You do it for the art’s sake because it fulfills you. In the meantime, you have to be certain that you’re doing this for the love of it because if not, you’ll go crazy in a bad way. It’s not right for some people.

CJ: How do you overcome self-doubt and stage fright?

LK: There is a lot of doubt. That is one of my biggest struggles. Regardless of the profession, just moving out of the house and doing things by yourself. Let’s face it, it’s New York City, and there are thousands of actors. It is so easy to come out of an audition, to get turned down by something, it’s so easy to give up and after being rejected so many times. And that’s where the doubt creeps in – it’s a seed. Things like doubt, jealousy, and hostility – these are all seeds that are monsters that feed off of themselves and they are a hard thing to stop.

It just comes down to the work. Because there’s so much competition if you look outside yourself. If you look outside yourself, you see a thousand other actors in this concrete jungle that wants to eat you alive. That’s what you see. If you look inside yourself, you have your goals, inner strength, and beauty. It’s hard, and I escape by going to parks and finding serenity. It’s a personal quest, and I don’t know where it ends but if you can turn your fear into excitement, you can do it.

CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?

LK: I would give a good amount of time to just experiment. Actor training is great to mix in self-exploration in general because you’re working from yourself. Even if you find your calling elsewhere in the meantime, you’re learning about yourself. I’ve learned so much through my acting studies just about how I react to different situations. I would take that time to study and to learn about yourself and dive in 100%. Worst case scenario is that acting doesn’t really work for you but you’re no worse for ware. Rather you’re better off in the next path you take because you’ve taken the time to be introspective. Just as with other professions, but this one is particularly crazy, and the rewards are not so visible sometimes.

When you discover that seed of inspiration, seize it. There’s no saying you can’t try those things later, but at the moment, this is where your inspiration is, so go 110%. When you put in the work, that’s when you’ll find the rewards. There are a lot of actors in this city that don’t put in the work and doubt can seep in, but it’s good to fend those off. You have to go to the smallest little seed in your heart, and it’s there under all the smog of the city and the howling voices of doubt, and that’s the seed to listen to, because it can be very hard to hear it sometimes.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

LK: Each day is very different. I try to see each week as a balance between things. There are daily professional regimens, finding roles, looking for a new headshot, finding an agent, working on a website. You’re the salesman and the product and that’s a lot of work. When I have the opportunity, I block out time to work on the craft. It’s as simple as stretching or time alone and meditation.

CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?

LK: I had always done theater. I very much enjoyed and miss my acapella group in college. I did not have that opportunity in high school. As a puny freshman, it was a good home base. With little projects and that cheering band behind you, I loved the music and the rowdiness.

CJ: Who is your role model?

LK: There are many artists that I admire in different trades. Some for their refusal to stifle their personality, some for their ability to go full-on into a role and into a character that is unlike themselves, and some just for their hard work. Depending on what my focus is on the time, my mind will drift to one of them. I’m thinking of Matt Damon right now. It’s cliché and he’s a big name artist and he’s one of the hottest actors out there. You hear a lot of stories of actors being discovered, that someone discovered a famous actor in the cereal section of the supermarket. That’s so rare.

I hear about Matt Damon’s story about him and Ben Affleck as teenagers taking the train down to New York on the weekend to audition. It was that dedication that is inspiring. I remember Matt Damon talking about going up to his teacher and asking him, “What is the secret? There’s gotta be some sort of secret!” The teacher says “Just do the work, kid.” Everyone is expecting a hand-me-down, and that’s not to say there’s not natural talent, but that’s raw and needs to be molded.

We all have our shortcomings, we get in our heads, and some of us have stage fright or trouble memorizing. There are all different personal problems. In a business this big, you have 100 people auditioning for the same part, and you want to be cuddled but really, no one cares what your problem is. It is upon yourself to do the work and get over it. Matt Damon did the work, he wrote his own stuff, he did minor roles, and he had the vision to look 10 years down the road and work towards what has yet to happen.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

LK: Get a haircut. Looking back on how I stuck to certain friends and interests, I would give the advice that there’s less reward in safety. As nice as that feels, it can be scary to do that as a 20-year-old when you have your group of friends. When you’re in high school and college and you see this looming graduation. A boat is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are for. I am beginning to take bigger risks to get bigger rewards, and I’m willing to make a little bit of a fool out of myself or take a chance at that if there’s a chance at a good outcome. A friend once told me that “Even if fear is 100 feet tall and 100 feet wide, it’s only paper thin.” Take a chance and do something you wouldn’t have dreamed yourself doing.

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