Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #4
Courtney Wersick: Real-Life Disney Printcess

Courtney Wersick: Real-Life Disney Printcess

Hi Everyone!

It’s that time again! Time for our October Passion Piece Feature! This month, the spotlight is on my social media gal pal, artistic mentor, Courtney Wersick! And yes, you read that right, PRINTcess! Here’s a bit about her:

“Courtney Wersick is an Actor and Artistic Mentor, based out of New York City. With a Bachelors of Music degree in Vocal Performance, Courtney has always believed life is too short to pay bills and die. After completing a contract with Disney Cruise Lines after graduating from Towson University, she made the big move to NYC to pursue her Broadway dreams! Her mottos in life are “Progress over Perfection”, and “Be Kind, Always.” She is also an artistic mentor for emerging artists seeking to pursue a career in musical theatre – using her own experience to help the younger generation feel confident they are chasing their dreams with their best foot forward. Courtney loves working with children, is a loud and proud cat lady, and a (maybe not so loud but still proud) true-crime enthusiast! In her free time, Courtney is a calligraphy artist; co-owning a small art/print shop called Printcesses, which she co-found with her best friend in 2018.”

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #4
Courtney Wersick: Real-Life Disney Printcess

I’m particularly excited to feature Courtney this month because I feel like her and I have been talking about this since I even started the blog! The last few months have been tough on artists trying to find a community, but thanks to the amazing artistic community on Instagram, Courtney and I started following one another and what a lucky break it was! While she and I have yet to meet in person (I’m going to have lots of new fun friends to catch up with when the world regains some new normalcy!), Courtney’s love and light still shine on me from states away. The title of artistic mentor is so perfect for her, and I feel like she is mine in a way! Watching her speak on social media about her audition experiences, cruise ship life, and her journey towards finding an apartment in NYC have been so enlightening and beyond helpful since these are all things I would like to be able to do! Having a guide like Courtney who is so open and honest about her experiences can only be beneficial if you, too, are looking to pounce on your Broadway dreams.

On multiple occasions, Courtney has been in my messages, lifting me up and holding me there in times of struggle during the pandemic. I so admire her for her kindness, her work ethic, and her never ending passion for the people and things she loves. Let’s hear about what Courtney’s up to and how she practices self-care and self-compassion!

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

I’m Courtney! I am from Bowie, MD – and I am currently riding out this pandemic in Baltimore, MD with my boyfriend/partner, Jason!

What are you currently doing for work, if anything?

Since performing/the theatre have been almost completely halted due to the pandemic, I have been finding new ways to not only prepare for when theatre returns, but to reframe my model for success. I’m working with an artistic mentor myself, doing a lot of self-reflection on my “why”, and kind of treating quarantine like my own little “rehab” for my Imposter Syndrome. I truly believe mental health and self-care are the two most important elements of being a performer and I’ve been trying to look on the bright side and really take advantage of the down time I’ve been given during this shut-down. Additionally, I’ve been working on my calligraphy/art business – we recently launched our new sticker collection and that has really opened the floodgates for my creative output! Most excitingly, I have also been building an artistic mentorship program 🙂 My mini-course on moving to New York City is now available on my website.

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #4
Courtney Wersick: Real-Life Disney Printcess

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

Well, it really begins from when I was too little to even remember! I was always a performer — putting on shows and concerts for my friends and family in my living room. Growing up I did every musical, choir, and show I had the opportunity of doing and really have been chasing this dream from the get-go! It all really changed when I was 12 years old. I saw the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, and decided to give up my dreams of being the next Britney Spears and switch to being an opera singer. I started taking my first professional classical voice lessons when I was 13 and the rest is kind of history! I couldn’t afford to go to college in NYC, and when Towson offered me a scholarship — I couldn’t say no. They didn’t have a MT program so I studied  classical voice because even though I knew I wanted to eventually pursue musical theatre, I really loved opera and felt that continuing my classical training might give me a leg up, vocally. 

I’m very lucky to have known what my passion was at such a young age, and while that has definitely led to some perfectionism and high expectations in my adulthood — I am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had along the way. I’m now at a place where I can appreciate all the work I’ve done, while exploring new ways to pursue my passions!

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

       – Performing (duh)

       – Food (specifically pasta and sweets)

       – TV and movies (I’m a spooky movie girl) 

       – Calligraphy

       – Inspiring others (if you ever need a hype man, I’m your girl hahaha) 

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

Absolutely! I’m really trying to do more of all of those things during these crazy times. I had a breakthrough recently regarding doing more of what makes me happy and brings me internal fulfillment and all of those things are involved!

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

Passion Piece Feature
Feature #4
Courtney Wersick: Real-Life Disney Printcess

 Honestly, I am so inspired to come out on the other side of this with a renewed passion for this industry, and a new perspective of who I am and what I want to do as well. I am hopeful that there will be some changes made to the “system” that involve us all being more compassionate, more patient, and more supportive of each other as actors and artists in general. I have seen so many of my performer friends taking the time to break down the walls that so many of us put up to protect ourselves from criticism and judgement – walls that I truly believe hold us back  as artists AND human beings. If the only thing I did this year was find my inner peace and figure out how to help others do the same – then maybe 2020 won’t go down as the worst year in my history book. There is still a light at the end of the tunnel. 

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?

I’ve been working on giving myself the quiet time and the space to fully live in the moment and FEEL the emotions that present themselves. It is so easy to just push them down and distract yourself with staying “busy & productive’ but as I learned pretty early on in quarantine — that doesn’t serve me in any way. I get burnt out A LOT. So when I feel like I’m overworking myself, or I’m feeling anxious – I have been taking a step back and sitting down with a book, watching a tv show I love, or even just playing my Animal Crossing for a while to just really try and RELAX – to avoid burnout. Taking care of yourself is JUST as “productive” as the traditional ideas of “working” that we all force upon ourselves. 

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

Firstly, to spread sunshine wherever I go. There is nothing that brings me more joy than bringing a smile to someone’s face.

Secondly, to inspire others to chase their dreams and chase them bravely. I want to be that person for people to turn to when they feel like their dreams are too big. We all need that person. 

Lastly, to enjoy my life. I don’t want to be on my deathbed thinking about all the things I didn’t do, or all the things I did out of trying to please others. Life is too short to live for other people. I want to share my life with others and embrace every second of it because my happiness comes from within. 

What does your self-care routine look like?

Recently, it’s truly a balancing act. At the beginning of quarantine, I was setting impossibly high goals- so now I am focusing on balancing “work” with “me time”. As for “me time” – I’m currently reading through Midnight Sun (ngl, I’m struggling), playing Animal Crossing, watching a bunch of South Korean zombie films, and spending time with my boyfriend and our new kitten – Fizzgig! I try to alternate between a “work” activity and a “me time” activity on a 1:1 basis 🙂 

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

I cannot emphasize this enough – therapy and/or mentoring – have changed my life. There have been so many times where I have struggled to find motivation to pursue my passions, and it always came back to something within myself that was holding me back. I strongly urge anyone struggling with this to really take the time to figure out their “why” and take the time to explore the obstacles both mental and physical (ie. their schedule, or day job, or family dynamic, etc) that may be holding them back. I think that’s a very good use of this time, so we can fully thrive in our power when life returns to “normal” – whatever that is! LOL. 

HUGE thank you to Courtney for sharing her time and energy with me! If you want to learn more about Courtney, give her a follow on Instagram and check out her website!

Talk soon! xo

~ Ang

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

The Show Must Go On

The Show Must Go On

Learning To Grow With Your Community Through Good Times and Bad

September is in full swing, which means the first semester of college is in full swing! While college students may be experiencing great change, many are doing anything they can to a) keep themselves safe and healthy and b) maintain whatever sense of normalcy they can. As fall rolls around in theatre departments, (the department that I am clearly the most familiar with), the season usually means Showcase audition season for senior theatre students.

For those reading who may not know what “showcase” is/means, generally, it is a group of students from an acting program that are chosen to perform at their school’s showcase for agents/casting directors in the spring of senior year. At my school, like many others I am sure, actor’s showcase was considered a big deal, and a lot of hard work and preparation went into both the auditions and the performance itself.

I want to speak a little on my experience with showcase, and hopefully offer up some encouragement and advice to those preparing to embark on their showcase journey…

I got into my senior showcase and, unfortunately, we didn’t get to take it to New York this past March as we had planned. Literally, about a week and a half before we were scheduled to head to the city, the world became a brand-new place and the showcase was postponed. If you experienced any sort of loss of work due to the pandemic, you could imagine how completely devastated we all were- myself, my classmates, and my professors. In school, the members of the showcase class met several times a week to rehearse and continue to learn about the industry. We continued to meet as a class over zoom once we were sent home but reaching the day our performance was supposed to take place and meeting on a zoom instead was extremely hard.

But let’s back track a bit and talk about the prep for this opportunity. At my school, the process begins at the end of junior year. The basic info is given out, and the summer before senior year, you begin the hunt for audition material. Mid-September you audition, that week you find out if you will be part of the showcase class, and if you are chosen from the auditions, you kind of immediately start searching for your materials that you’ll perform. There is a lot more to choosing material than you would think. We did scenes/songs, so pairs needed to be solidified and the order finely tuned. Even after we thought we had settled on material, it changed, and the process started all over. God bless my professor and her team because I am sure there was SO much more to it than I even know at this point, having been through it all. You rehearse. And rehearse. And rehearse. And then you’re supposed to take that work, do your thing, and celebrate when it’s all said and done. We got it all, but that last bit looked a little different for the class of 2020.

So, I swear I have a point here, and it is this: I’m sharing this experience and perspective because we went through it all only for it not to happen. If you would have told me a year ago (yikes, a year ago already) when I was preparing for auditions, “hey, maybe don’t stress so much because…what if the world enters a pandemic and showcase gets cancelled?,” I would’ve laughed right in your face and proceeded to stress anyway. I started going back over every aspect of the class and the preparation that I had worried myself sick over, and I just kept thinking, “wow, I was so upset in that moment and so worried in that moment, and so frustrated in that moment…and for what?” Now, I understand that when I was upset/frustrated/worrying in the moment, there was no way for me to see into the future. I felt as though every feeling I was feeling was valid and justified, and in those moment, they were, but it was a major lesson for me.

I was so stressed the day before auditions, my mom and aunt took me to get my nails done in an attempt to get my mind off things
I was so stressed the day before auditions, my mom and aunt took me to get my nails done in an attempt to get my mind off things. If it looks like I had been crying…it’s probably because I had been.

Not to get all Carrie Bradshaw on you here, but the whole experience got me thinking about the weight I place on moments in my life, the importance that I assign to things, and how I often allow little stressors to overtake my life in a much larger and unhealthy way. I spent many months in preparation for showcase allowing myself to feel anxiety, frustration, and pressure and allowing those feelings to really run me dry. There were lots of time I just couldn’t focus or sleep because I just couldn’t turn my mind off. It was like a hamster wheel of deadlines, scripts, notes, judgments- you name it. On the other side of it all, it made me take a deeper look at myself and the bad mental habits I had created and ask myself, “would I be this worried if I knew I wouldn’t have this to worry about in a month?,” and if the answer is no, then I shouldn’t assign so much weight to that task. If I had that mentality throughout the whole process, I can guarantee the work I was producing would’ve been even better, too.

Let me be perfectly clear: feelings of stress/anxiety/frustration are all normal, but allowing them to run your mental health is, well, not healthy. My feelings like that and the weight I assigned to them also did NOT solely stem from my showcase, but from a combination of life as a college student in her senior year, plus all other aspects of life.

My best friend, Cathy, and I enjoying some margs post-showcase auditions
My best friend, Cathy, and I enjoying some margs post-showcase auditions

My showcase class and I always had a blast when we were together. When we were staging the showcase, we were all seated onstage to watch each other’s scenes and songs. The supportive, loving, and electric energy that I felt in that room every time we would sit and watch each other was simply remarkable and untouchable. I constantly had the chills or tears in my eyes while marveling at some of my best friends and colleagues bringing their gifts to life. We were each other’s support systems in the crazy process, and I feel very lucky to have shared every last minute of the journey with them. Showcase or no showcase, we will always have each other.

For my friends preparing to embark on this journey yourselves, no matter how different the experience may be, here is my advice to you:

  • Choose material that you love that speaks to your heart. Fight for it and for yourself.
  • If you don’t end up being part of your showcase class, do not let it stop you for a single second. Promise me that. Your art and your voice matter, showcase or no showcase. It does not define your worth or your career path WHATSOEVER.
  • Be kind to one another. Be kind to your leaders. Everyone is adjusting to a whole new way of doing this, so be gentle with each other.
  • Do the work. That’s all on that. Try not to allow yourself to get too overwhelmed. I promise, every aspect will fall into place. It may take 50 tries and you may not end up where you started but take comfort in knowing it WILL work out for the best.
  • Hold on to your classmates. All of them. That is your support system, now and forever. Celebrate each other’s victories and comfort each other in moments of struggle. Enjoy being in a creative space with your best people and be grateful for one another.

Be grateful. Be gracious. Be kind. Be you.

You will make it through.

~ Ang