15 August, 2017

#LoveList - Stuff I Love (& actual use!) - BEAUTY

1. Bare Minerals @bareMinerals
I have been a loyal bareMinerals user for the better part of 15 years! I have tried alternatives, been taken up by the fancy of an alternative system, accepted samples and the used what makeup artists at work told me to use, but? BareMinerals will always be my first and my truest love. Like my high school boyfriend. Like that pair of pajamas bottoms I still wear from the 90s. No cheesy or nuanced metaphor could ever describe our love affair accurately.

Not only do I love the creamy, skin-defecting, breathable, and made from natural AF stuff formula, I also love what the company stands for—
“We're from San Francisco, surrounded by artists and innovators who inspire us to think differently, follow our gut instincts and to pour our heart and soul into everything we do.
We create products like no other brand, and we connect with women in ways that no other brand would dare. For over 35 years, we've built a community of strong, passionate women who have become customers—but more importantly—lifelong friends. We create innovative products that are powered by nourishing, skin-loving minerals. We formulate our products with purity in mind, so you can feel good about everything we make. We connect with women in deep meaningful ways because we've never been content with just making them look pretty, we want to make them feel beautiful. WE EXIST TO MAKE A POSITIVE DIFFERENCE IN WOMEN'S LIVES.”
Whatever. Weeping. It's fine.

Whether it be their original powder formula, their mineral veil, blush, warmth, or their new BBc creams and liquid foundations— I can’t get enough. If I ever met the founder, I’d probably have an Lansbury-like moment of explosive and tear-filled gratitude.



2. Clinique Black Honey lipstick - @clinique
Transparent pigment merges with the unique, natural tone of your lips to create something wonderful and yours alone. Sheer, glossy. Emollient-rich and very lightweight.

I would have never bought this product if it weren't for the initial buzz (and I never listen to buzz. In fact: I’m one of those contrarians that didn’t read Harry Potter til 2001 and refuses to watch Game of Thrones, etc.). The color looks extremely dark in the tube which is a little scary, but it is truly a lipstick like no other, something I just…had to try.

I ordered the darker color (there is also a light one called Pink Honey), slid it on and ANGELS SANG.

One coat. Build able. Sheer in an “I just ate a cherry popsicle” way. Soft and creamy. The color is PERFECT. (Incidentally, this was Tzeitl’s lip color of choice for her wedding day—so Clinque had some serious Broadway air time).

Way to go Clinique.




3. Mario Basescu Facial Spray -  @MarioBadescu

The Mario Badescu line of skincare is extensive and generally A+
“Mario Badescu had a vision to bring to New York City his European-style facials—and it was in 1967, out of his two-room Manhattan apartment, when the world-renowned salon and product line were born. News of his unique philosophy and loyal following (which included a star-studded roster of in-the-know New Yorkers) quickly spread and Badescu’s home-turned-studio flourished. Fifty years later, Mario Badescu is the name that continues to transcend generations and span the entire life-cycle of skin: from powerful acne solutions to potent anti-aging treatments, we customize regimens for every skin type and concern imaginable.”
All of that said, my favorite of their products is an absolute must-have, complete with my addicted-as-if-to-meth-like need to be facially spritzed by their Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater. Cult-favorite. Makeup artist must-have. Revitalizes with dewy radiance.

Boosts moisture and glow. Smells like a freaking rose garden has exploded on your face. It's a rejuvenating mist infused with herbal and botanical extracts (like Aloe Vera, Gardenia, Rose, Bladderwrack and Thyme) that help soothe and re-energize skin—giving it a healthy, radiant glow.
I like to give my skin and makeup a fresh and dewy finish, so I spritz my favorite brush or sponge with this before blending in foundation or concealer. Then I mist my face as a final step to add radiance. I keep this in the fridge so it is nice and cool, and in the middle of the day (especially in summer!) I spray a super-refreshing, cooling boost.



4.  TIGI S FACTOR Tamer  and De-frizzer - @sfactorbytigi

As a life-long multi-textured hair diva, this has been the only product (and I. Have. Tried. Them. ALL) that consistently delivers my unruly hairs the sublime smoothness and a silky touch whilst Sir-Lancelot-level of defense against the Evil Sorcerer Humidity. This defrizzer and tamer fights humidity and moisturizes, and also serves as a heat protectant and frizz fighter by sealing the hair cuticle.
“Scientifically blended ingredients make this the perfect product for sleek, smooth, silky hair,
softening roughness and fighting humidity. Great for blow-drying smooth styles, Smoothing Lusterizer tames fly-aways and smooth’s the hair surface for a perfect finish.”
It also smells like Johnny Depp is french kissing you with a mouth full of Oreos. Or Scotch. Or whatever floats your fancy.


5. The BEAUTYBLENDER

Think all makeup sponges are created equal. Think again. The BeautyBlender is the ONLY makeup sponge out there that is worth the time of day.
“what makes the original beautyblender® so different?

the exclusive material
Super plush, moisture loving. Ensures makeup sits on the surface of sponge for smoother, more uniform blending.

the unique design
The original egg shape guarantees effortless blending in both small and large surface areas.

the look of perfect skin
360º of edgless, flawless application eliminates lines and streaks that other sponges & imitators leave behind.

minimum water retention
Open-cell structure only holds what is absolutely necessary for prime application performance.”

It’s design and material is utterly unique and the absolute perfect consistently to create a totally flawless finish, and in my opinion is peerless. I have every size and shape their products come in, and use them on stage and off.



6. NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil - @NARS
The result of a lipstick combined with the kindergarten-level convenience of a pencil in a jumbo crayon design.

The NARS Velvet Pencil ensures that lips are instantly saturated with rich, vivid pigments and a velvety matte finish.
"I wanted to create a modern way to wear a very classic matte lip. The creaminess of the texture makes them very easy to wear."—François Nars, Founder and Creative Director of NARS Cosmetics

The pigment is so rich and the color instantly saturates in a super-velvety matte finish. It is long lasting, non-drying, is enriched with magical unicorn tears or something to deliver the creamiest texture ever. You can use it for lining, all-over color, or pairing with another lip product.

The Countess exclusively used this product in Cruella (which appears to be discontinued— sad!). It’s my lipstick go-to.



14 August, 2017

Friends I Went to Summer Camp With: A List

CAMP.
Interlochen Arts Camp is located between two freshwater lakes in northern Michigan, and was the magical location of the majority of the lasting relationships I still cherish as an adult. 

Not everyone I met and be-friended is still in the arts, but most of them are kicking major butt, and all of them became the wonderful human beings they promised to become as children.

Summer arts camp is a funny thing—there you are, eleven years old an a total weirdo back home, and you get to spend 8 weeks with a handful of other weirdos just as passionate, talented, freakishly informed about a single art-form  as you are.

Three of those weirdos for me were:

THEN.
Alex Michaels, known today as Alexis Michelle of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 9 fame. (SHE IS FEROCIOUS and go see her werk). Little baby Alex and I met the summer we were ten and eleven. He had braces. I had glasses.

The day we met, we were auditioning for the Intermediate summer operetta, and, had to audition in front of the entire group of fellow middle schoolers vying for a role. What I remember best was that Alex and I BOTH sang excerpts from Show Boat, geeked OUT over one another’s talent and a shared obsession with Rebecca Luker, and never looked back. He was my first “best gay” and I was his first “best gal.” (Incidentally, we were both cast in that operetta as the comedy sidekicks…)

Last month, we reunited on stage at 54 Below, singing together once again, celebrating 20 years of friendship that all began in the Northern woods.
NOW.


Then.
Santino Fontana was my first ever scene partner! We met the summer of 1999 in ADVANCED ACTING TECHNIQUE (faaancy), and what I recall above all else is that
     1. The scene was a John Patrick Shanley classic that I only now realize as probably mildly inappropriate for teenagers
     2. We were REALLY into it and dare I say it, kind of good, and
     3. We performed our scene n what, at the time, was a very advanced form of communication called THE INTERNET. That’s right, we performed our scene and got feedback VIA SATELLITE for, of all people, Matthew Broderick.

I followed Santino to college (even though I had to leave the program to grieve the loss of my Dad) and he’s been one of my friends and artistic allies ever since. We’ve been there through epic highs and lows throughout all of adolescence and life. From the

Santino is not only (to quote his wife Jessica) "a unicorn" of talent, to his family and friends, he is the absolute loyalest man I know—unflinchingly, with all of his heart. When we made our Carnegie Hall debuts together in 2013, it had been a roller-coaster couple of years for both of us, and what a triumph. We'd "practiced." And above all, it was pretty special to realize that we’ll always just be those kids from Advanced Acting Tech.
At our shared Carnegie Hall debuts in 2013



THEN. ...Holy Moly.
Michael Arden and I met the same summer, and he was also in that Advanced Acting Technique class (that class was… obviously… fairly promising…). We instantly bonded, singing together at every opportunity, joined at the hip as budding artists and humans. The inside-jokes are countless.

Michael and I met at camp, but our friendship deepened and was made permanent when we went to the yearlong academy— we literally did almost every show opposite one another (he was the Charlie Brown to my Lucy, the Georg to my Amalia, etc).

Michael and I have both been through our share of tough stuff early on in life, and our families became very close as we grew up. His grandfather, Jim, wrote me a letter he handed me at high-school graduation. This deeply feeling, but very quiet Texan wrote that seeing Michael and I together on stage were "the happiest moments of my life" and that "it is the dream of my life to see you together on Broadway someday."

Well.

I was there for Michael's Broadway debut, he was there for mine. And last year, when we were both in the same season on Broadway, I was one of his guests at the opening night of Spring Awakening, and he was one of mine at Fiddler on the Roof.

Jim's dream came true. If only he, his wife Pat, and my father could have been there to witness it. That said, they were. They are a part of everything Michael and I are, and do; and because they gave us the gift of Interlochen, they gave us the gift of one another.

For Michael is, without exception, the artist with whom I credit with forming my capacity early on. Like a chess or tennis player who had the world’s best opponent to make their skills all the sharper, acting opposite Michael constantly made me better, and I owe everything I am today to that start. 

2016, Opening Night of Fiddler: a shared Broadway Season. Dream come true.

Camp. Magical.



07 August, 2017

from 'on optimism and despair', by zadie smith

"If novelists know anything it's that individual citizens are internally plural: they have within them the full range of behavioral possibilities. they are like complex musical scores from which certain melodies can be teased out and others ignored or suppressed, depending, at least in part, on who is doing the conducting. at this moment, all over the world-- and most recently in america-- the conductors standing in front of this human orchestra have only the meanest and most banal melodies in mind. here in germany you will remember these martial songs; they are not a very distant memory. but there is no place on earth where they have not been played at one time or another. those of us who remember, too, a finer music must try now to play it, and encourage others, if we can, to sing along."

-Zadie Smith, from 'On Optimism and Despair'

 A beautiful, brilliant piece I implore you to read.


01 August, 2017

Stage-door-ing: A Guide

Dear Al,

Any tips or things to keep in mind when a fan wants to meet a performer they admire at the stage door? I've heard both wonderful and horrible stories and I want to be the best kind of "fan" I can be! 

Thank you,

Jessica

*

What a FAN-TASTIC question! So thoughtful and something very few people every discuss at length. I am so happy to provide a little insight into what it feels like on both sides of the stage door experience!

When you are a professional actor, singer, artist, speaker, performer, noted person of any kind, you often meet strangers that have been influenced and affected by your work. There are many kinds of “stage door” experiences, some beyond beautiful, some verging on the inappropriate, and some downright upsetting.

It should be noted that most are wonderful, but just in case you are ever in fear of crossing a line, it might be helpful to lay out some helpful hints about what it feels like to be on the other side of the exchange, and hopefully encourage more positive and meaningful encounters, and lessen the chance of a cringe-able moment for all. :)


I want to begin with a recognition: it is, without a doubt, a privilege beyond imagining to be any kind of human "of note." If a fellow human feels the desire for an autograph, a photograph, or any moment of time with me, I continue to be honored, and, frankly, slightly in shock. Why? Because I don't feel particularly remarkable. Especially when I sit at home pretending that "putting on my bathrobe" is "getting dressed," watching crime drama with my cat, on my sofa in Queens. But hey: I recognize and respect that being a public performer comes with certain visibility, perceptions, honors, and also, sacrifices. It is all part of the gig.

Ruthie Henshall, West End star and creme-de-la-creme of singing actors, taught me at the very beginning of my career that being generous with people at stage door is "Act 3" of our job—and I believe that. That, if a fan is brave enough to come up and thank you for your work (and perhaps even express what you mean to them); that, despite a long day of life-giving, energy-draining performance, those audience members have earned that extra 5-10 minutes post-show. Everyone has earned it. It is courteous, generous and rewarding from, and for, both parties.


Some of my most beautiful encounters in the theatre have been experienced after a performance with extraordinarily generous people, sometimes young hopefuls that remind me of my younger self, and others simply filled with emotion, gratitude and lifelong memories.

When I was a young theatre-goer, I came to see my first Broadway shows at 14—it was the 1998 Broadway season and my eyes were full of stars and my ears full of show-tunes. Audra MacDonald, Rebecca Luker, Douglas Sills, Judy Kaye, Donna Murphy, Patti Cohenour, Marin Mazzie— they were my idols and role models and dare I even say it? In a certain way, my saviors. I was spending every single day with "them" as their voices and vulnerabilities blazed through my stereo system in metro-Detroit.

I respected, adored, and felt grateful to them, but I was also quite shy, and could never in a million years have built up the courage to thank them in person for the gifts they had given me. I would have melted down in a puddle of “I-don’t-deserve-to-breathe-the-same-oxygen-as-this-human” incomprehensibility; rendered incapable of articulating what they meant to me, what they had given me, let alone kept it vaguely together long enough to avoid asphyxiating on my own tongue.

All of this is to say: I think about 14-year-old Al whenever I meet someone at stage door, because they could be feeling just like I did.

Perhaps you, dearest readers, can’t entirely imagine how ordinary I feel when I come out of a stage door. Often times I'm thinking “Did I fully remove my makeup / I have to find some food / check on my cat’s Instagram / call my pharmacist / I wonder if my mother made her connecting flight in Atlanta yadda yadda yadda” …BUT I DO. I’m an "all-grown up" version of that 14-year-old girl  who might never be able to believe this is her life.

So I recognize now, that Rebecca Luker likely felt the same way about herself. (Just, ya know, without wondering about her cat’s Instagram...) All of my idols were (and still are) just people: normal, talented people going to work; and when they had the wherewithal, they were happy to greet fans at stage door because they couldn’t believe this was their life…

I don’t know when we become like our role models, but oh dear reader, we do. I still can't believe people even vaguely know who I am. In fact, this week at Yankee Stadium while supporting my Detroit Tigers (we won), a sweet fan and her Dad came up to me and said Hi, we got a picture, and I followed up by asking her how the heck she knew who I was. (I'm clearly... a total Pro...). 

Hopefully, as we grow, we can open ourselves to the realization that none of us are gods; that even our idols are people, and that we can respect the fact that authenticity is all that is required to make a meaningful connection with a person you admire.

I have had stage door experiences that have been touching, meaningful, and moving—I will hold them in my heart for the rest of my life. And, I've also had some stage door experiences that have been really challenging.

Know this: what lies within the confines of our inner-most selves is not only where an artist's best and most authentic work comes from, but it is also ours, to both defend and share at our own pace, and at a level of comfort that feels appropriate for us. We also have the right to change our minds, to retreat if we sense danger, to be discerning. And, we have the right to not engage for any reasons we deem fit, particularly if the work on stage is at risk (such as in terms of rest, energy, germs, rest, etc). You have purchased a ticket to the performance, and that price tag does not include meeting the cast outside stage door. It is not a requirement, and should not be perceived of negatively if the actors wish to decline their participation.

We have rights—just like everyone else on earth, for again, we are also human beings trying to figure it all out too. I truly mean this: no matter how remarkable you may deem someone to be, at essence we are all souls striving to grow, to heal, learn, and be better versions of who we are every moment.

Social media (and the media at large) has in many ways warped our sense of what it means to "share." Even the words "friend" and "follower" have become warped by this phenomenon. In my own, introverted and very privately held life, I define a friend as: one who has borne witness to, and held, my inner life. I will not allow that definition to be exploded by Facebook. But it would be irresponsible to ignore the very blurry lines surrounding the word "friend" in our society. A “follower” on the other hand, feels slightly clearer—I do not follow your comings and goings, but you choose to follow mine. That feels appropriate, and like the boundaries are clear. Above all, remember this: never confuse friendLY, for freindSHIP.

Still. Confusing.


Dearest theatre goers, television watchers and fans of all kinds: those you admire are human beings too. We have limitations, emotions, off-days and downright bad days. We have previously arranged appointments, we have beloved family and friends visiting. We get sick. Sometimes very sick, and have to disappoint people, which is, believe me, heart-wrenching.


But above all, we too have very real vulnerabilities and basic rights to any privacy we deem to be appropriate for ourselves. Those boundaries are self-set and deeply personal; and everyone, no matter who they are or what they do, has a right to maintain those boundaries and be respected for it.


SOME TIPS:
     - Come prepared!
     - Bring a pen!(Preferably a Sharpie or other permanent marker)
     - Have the playbill/ poster/CD/autograph book facing the performer, not facing you. It will expedite the process. 
     - Have the camera open, prepped, and the photographer ready-to-go.
     - Have a special request? Just ask! But also be prepared for a “no” if the performer  is unable or unwilling to accommodate your request, and be gracious about it.
     -  Keep your comments authentic, but be brief. Remember that there are other patrons, and that we have to get home (to our famous cats
     -  Remember that friendLY is not friendSHIP: these performers are strangers, and not your actual friends (however friendLY they may be!)
     -  Meeting the cast at stage door post show is not included in the price of admission. Be compassionate and gracious if performers decline to engage.


The last thing I want to do is frighten anyone away from sharing their joy, from expressing their gratitude and laughter, getting a fun photo or above all, those sacred, deeply felt moments that can only be shared in a theatre.

I simply urge you to be discerning, and recognize what you are asking of strangers. Above all, to remember that performers are people too.

The first stage door I walked through as a working actor: London's Palace Theatre

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