Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #3
Mara Ranson: Rockette Dreaming and Beyond

Mara Ranson: Rockette Dreaming and Beyond

Hi Everyone!

Another month, another Passions Piece Feature! This month Beyond the Footlights has the pleasure of featuring my friend and Radio City Rockette herself, Miss Mara Ranson! Here is a little about Mara:

“Mara grew up in Ewing, NJ training in versatile styles of dance before completing a BFA in Jazz Dance Performance from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Directly upon graduating, a semester early, she began rehearsals for her first cruise ship contract as a production dancer. She would eventually travel and perform on two more ship contracts that took her all over the globe and let her have the chance to perform featured roles in Vegas! the Show among others, and that allowed her to learn and perform aerial skills like hammock and lyria (aka hoop). Back on land Mara has performed featured roles in theme parks, on international stages in Tokyo, Japan, and in regional musical theater productions including Crazy for You and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Mara’s proudest accomplishment was making her dream come true, and becoming a Radio City Rockette in the Christmas Spectacular. She performed in over 100 shows this past holiday season and was featured on Dance Spirit Magazine’s web issue.  

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #3
Mara Ranson: Rockette Dreaming and Beyond

Off the stage, Mara is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and barre certified through Exhale Spa where she teaches barre, cardio, and hiit style classes in NYC.  Mara’s newest venture is pursuing her Physical Therapy Assistant degree.  She is starting classes this September, and is looking forward to this new career path that keeps her moving her body and helping others to move pain free!”

She can just do it all, can’t she?! I met Mara two summers ago (that’s crazy) performing together in Crazy For You at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, and we’ve kept in touch online ever since! I remember being in rehearsals with her and not only admiring her for her obvious talents and her killing leggings, but also for her generosity and kindness. She was one of our dance captains, and as a student placed in a company of professionals at the time, it was so reassuring to have someone to go to and look up to in moments where I just needed a little extra help with any choreo!

I also remember the day that Mara shared on social media that she was going to be a Rockette. I had heard her talk briefly on her experience with auditioning various times and the dreams that she had, and it was just so cool to think to myself “I know her! I just shared a stage with her! And now she is going to get to live out her dreams as a Rockette!” It truly was her perfect season, and hearing all about how she had persevered with such grace until her dreams came true gave me hope in my ability to achieve my dreams too.

Since quarantine started, I have taken Mara’s dance cardio classes on Instagram and Zoom and let me tell you- they are NO JOKE. She kicked my booty, in the best way possible! Without probably even knowing it, she has helped give me many a push towards staying happy, active, and gentle with myself since quarantine began! Here is our chat about Mara’s passions, self-care, and exciting adventures- old and new!

Who are you, where are you from, and where are you spending your time these days?

M: Hi, I’m Mara! I grew up in Ewing, NJ, attended The University of the Arts in Philly, and post college have been living in NYC (whenever I’m not away on contracts!). Now-a-days I am back in my NYC apartment after a few months of staying with my parents in New Jersey. I am back in school for a new degree as a Physical Therapy Assistant (!!), and just started a new job in a Physical Therapy clinic. I also have been teaching dance and fitness classes through zoom off and on throughout the pandemic.

What are you currently doing for work, if anything? 

M: As I just mentioned above, I just recently started a new job at a Physical Therapy clinic where I will be helping to teach exercises to patients and assisting with their treatments! My career has been making a pivot lately which is scary but exciting! 

Tell me a little about your journey as a performer and how it has brought you to where you are today?

M: I have been dancing since I was three, and grew up as a competitive dancer. I knew I wanted to dance professionally but knew I also needed a little more time and guidance to hone my craft, so I got my BFA from UArts where I majored in Jazz Dance. My years at UArts truly shaped me into the performer and dancer I am today. While I was there I got to work with some wonderful choreographers and figured out the path I wanted to pursue; musical theater, showgirl work, and above all else, the Rockettes. Right out of college I started my first cruise ship contract which was an amazing opportunity to keep growing as a person and a performer while traveling the world! I eventually did two other ship contracts over the next four years. In between those I performed in Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, VA as well as in Tokyo, Japan in the Spirit Productions show Broadway Christmas Wonderland. I also have performed in a few regional theater musical productions, my favorite of which, was Crazy for You, where I met Beyond the Footlight’s very own Angela LaRose! Between all of these endeavors I never stopped auditioning for my dream job with the Rockettes, and in 2019 after eight auditions, I finally booked my dream job! It still feels surreal to me that I spent the Christmas season last year performing in my dream show, in my dream theater. Dreams do come true friends! Never stop working, and never give up! All of my experiences in my career lead me to accomplishing my dream.

If you can, list for me your top 5 passions- no matter what they are!

M: My top five passions, hmm: movement, coffee, helping others feel empowered, planning and organizing my life, and dogs.

Does the work you are currently doing fall into the same category as any of those passions?

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #3
Mara Ranson: Rockette Dreaming and Beyond

M: I am overjoyed to say that my new career I am pivoting into does fall into those passions! I chose to go back to school for PT because it is a field that will allow me to keep sharing my love of movement by helping others to move stronger and with less pain and more function. I also am still teaching fitness, and hope I can continue to for a long while.

What has been inspiring you in a time where we are seeing so much change in the world/our industry?

M: It has been crazy inspiring to see how artists have been creating, sharing their art, and coming together remotely! One of my favorite things to come out of COVID is that I can take a dance class with friends/artists all over the country and the world. It’s wild how even through technology we can feel like we are exchanging energy and connected. 

What are some things you like to do in your down time to foster those passions, so they stay just as alive as your work?

M: I love going for walks and runs through the city, or through any area I am at and taking in the scenery and people of an area. One thing I love about NYC, and what makes people watching so much fun, is that we have such a diverse population. I love seeing people from all walks of life living together in our city. I also love my passion planner! It combines organization and planning with a different creative outlet that dance. I used to be a bullet journaler, but this year I have switched over to the passion planner and I am loving it. Like I said, I am a lover of movement, so it is important for me to workout and sweat as well. I take rest days when I need (something I am still working on being ok with), but I always feel so much better when I take the time to sweat and move my body. I love the feeling of getting stronger!

What are your top 3 goals in your life/work?

M: My be-all, end-all goal for my whole life was to be a Rockette; now that I have accomplished that I feel like I can move on to other goals that are equally exciting and important to me: to find a career outside of performing that feeds my soul and gives me stability, to have a family, and to be a good person (one I already work to accomplish on the daily of course!).

What does your self-care routine look like?

M: Some things that really feed my soul are spending time with my boyfriend, just taking it easy and enjoying tv series and movies, enjoying a fantastic cup of coffee, baking, going for long walks or doing a yoga flow, face masks, and the ultimate treat, a full body deep tissue massage! 

What advice do you have for anyone struggling to make the time for their passions in their life? 

M: Buy a passion planner! Start scheduling yourself time for your passions! You can’t pour or create from an empty cup, so at some point you are going to have to start prioritizing yourself! 

What wonderful advice, thank you so much to Mara for her time and her thoughts. That’s something I think we can all take away from this one: You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Nurture yourself, nurture your passions, and the rest will be history!

Lots of love!

~ Ang

Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature
Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly
Feature #2

Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly

Feature #2

Hi Friends!

Beyond the Footlights is back with another Passion Piece Feature, and this month I had the joy and privilege of communicating with actress, theatre coach, and ball of literal sunshine, Jenna Leigh Miller!

Here’s a little bit about Jenna in her own words!:

Passion Piece Feature
Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly
Feature #2

“Hey! My name is Jenna Leigh Miller and I am a New York City based actress. I hold a BFA in Musical Theatre from Otterbein University. I first came across Musical Theatre on a Brownies trip to NYC, where we saw Beauty & the Beast, ever since then I was hooked!  I started singing at the young age of 3 years old, at church. I truly was singing before I was talking. I lived out my “Fame the Original Movie” dreams by attending the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts as a Vocal Major. I am also the creator of Problem Solved, a Theatre Coaching for all artists, specializing in everything audition related. In my free time I enjoy cooking, games nights, Gilmore Girls, and reading as many quote books as I can.”

Y’all. If you don’t already follow Jenna on social media, you MUST this instant! While Jenna and I haven’t had the opportunity to meet one another in person, I feel like I already know her like I know any close friend just from our interaction with one another via social media. I truly don’t remember how I stumbled upon her profile, but from the moment we connected I could tell how positive, uplifting, hard-working, and hilarious she is!!! I follow both her personal account as well as her Problem Solved account, and on any given day, my feed is full of Jenna doing everything from highlighting her favorite self-tape products and audition book hacks, dancing up a STORM, and singing her face off to her making her signature chai, chilling with her blow-up pool dolphins, and doing blind taste tests of her favorite adult beverages! Her feed really is the social media experience we are all in need of during this crazy quaran-time!

I just love how real and supportive Jenna is at all times. What you see is what you get, and that isn’t something that is easy to hold onto in our line of work sometimes, so for that I admire her immensely. Because she works hard, she plays hard, and because of that, I thought it would be fun to check in with Jenna and hear about her passions and how she practices self-care! Here’s our chat:

Who are you, where are you from, and where are you spending your time these days?

J: I am an actress, performer, artists, daughter, friend, and human being. I am New York City based but I am currently quarantine in Easton PA, which is also where I’m from!

What are you currently doing for work, if anything?

Passion Piece Feature
Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly
Feature #2

J: I am so grateful for my theatre coaching business- Problem Solved, truly has kept me busy during quarantine! I also teach acting to younger kids with this company based out of Pittsburgh called South Hills Music Academy. And I social media manage An Actor Plans, which sells Broadway themed stationary goods! Check them out: @an_actor_plans

Tell me a little about your journey as a performer and how it has brought you to where you are today?

J: I always knew I wanted to perform. I know that sounds so cheesy but, it’s true! I did other things as a child, soccer, swim team, but it was always AFTER rehearsal or AFTER my voice lesson or AFTER my dance class. To me, my path was always lit up. I knew what I wanted to do. As artists, creativity runs through our bones. That has spilled into other parts of my life, but my Broadway dreams have been consistent my entire life.

 If you can, list for me your top 5 passions- no matter what they are!

J:

  1. Performing…duh! #jennaforbroadway
  2. Cooking and cocktail making. Follow my #drinkswithjenna journey on Insta
  3. Supporting and uplifting fellow artists, that’s how I found Angela on Instagram! #artistssupportingartists
  4. Problem Solved, building something from the ground up is incredible rewarding
  5.  AUDITIONING! (I know crazy) I love being pushed outside my comfort zone in the audition room, meeting new people, getting an opportunity to perform. I even love the hustle that comes with audition season.
Passion Piece Feature
Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly
Feature #2

Does the work you are currently doing fall into the same category as any of those passions?

J: I love the quote, “Love what you do, and you will never work a day in your life.” Meaning I try to fill my time with my passions. If you don’t love what you do, what’s the point?! I turned my passions into my career. So yes, all of my passions fall into the same category!

What are some things you do in your spare/down time to foster or hone those passions, so they stay just as alive as your work?

J: See, this is something I struggle with. You know how they say don’t work from your bed, because you shouldn’t mix “work” with “down time”. Well… I am currently writing these responses in my bed, p-jays still on with a pomegranate G & T in my hand. So much of my work is my downtime I struggle to find that perfect balance. But I will say cooking is a huge stress reliever for me. It’s an hour to myself to create.

What are your top 3 goals in your life/work?

J: Oh woof, BIG question! I feel like this is best discussed in a bar in Downtown Manhattan with some fancy drink that is casually flaming, but I’ll give it a go…

  1. Perform on Broadway. This has been a professional goal of mine since I saw my first Broadway show, Beauty and the Beast, on a Brownies trip to New York City.
  2. Have a home base. I am slightly obsessed with tiny homes and I feel like for an actor it’s the perfect size. And being able to drive your house whenever you have a contract sounds brilliant to me.
  3.  Make a sustainable amount of money where I get to choose what I want I do. Whether that money comes from contracts or my business doesn’t really matter to me, but they don’t call it finical freedom for nothing. I want that freedom!

I’d just like to note none of these things I have achieved yet and I am ok with that. For me, it is more about the direction and not the speed at which I achieve my goals. I do believe in putting things out there in the universe and asking for what you want. But not at the expense of giving myself timelines I have to follow.

What does your self-care routine look like?

J: Cliché answer, but wine, face mask, and a good Netflix binge and some yummy snacks! I also find self-care is giving myself pep talks. I recently re-did my dance reel and when I was going through editing the videos 75% of them all had some sort of self-affirmation in them, “You got this Jenna,” “Show em what you got,” “You are so ready for this.” Makes me laugh watching it back, but to me that is a huge part of my self-care. If I don’t believe in myself, why would other people?

What advice do you have for anyone struggling to make the time for their passions in their life?

J: You make your own schedule. So, YOU get to decide what your energy goes towards. Carving out an hour of time to sing each week is the same as carving out an hour of time to do your laundry. To me I put them on equal levels of importance.

I also say this all the time but when it comes to the performance industry but, SHOW UP. That’s my advice, show up. Half the battle when it comes to pursing your passions is showing up. Show up for your family, show up for your fellow artists, show up in your audition prep work, show up to that early morning open call, show up when preparing food for your body, show up to that dance class you have been wanting to take all quarantine. Show up for yourself.

Passion Piece Feature
Jenna Leigh Miller: Social (Media) Butterfly
Feature #2

A HUGE thank you to Jenna for taking time out of her busy, fun-filled life to answer my questions! Weren’t her responses just perfect? So candid, so hopeful, and so relatable! I can’t wait until I am able to connect with her in person, but in the mean time, catch me following her journey and growth online!

WHAT? You don’t already follow Jenna?! Fear not. There are plenty of ways to connect with her online right now! Check her out at any of the following:

Actress Website: www.jennaleighmiller.com

Actress Instagram: @jennaleighmiller

Like to Know It: @JennaLeighMiller
Problem Solved: www.problemsolvedbyjenna.com 

Problem Solved Instagram: @problemsolvedbyjenna

Actor Must Haves: http://www.problemsolvedbyjenna.com/actormusthaves

Pinterest: @ProblemSolvedbyJenna
An Actor Plans: @an_actor_plans

Have a wonderful week my friends! Keep shining!

~ Ang