Laura Hooper is an English Actress working and having a jolly good time in New York.
Here she writes for Actor Hub as An English Woman In New York and how to take bites out of the Big Apple before it swallows you whole.
Find out more about Laura by visiting her website www.laurahooper.info
When people ask me why I moved to New York, I often answer “adventure”, which isn’t strictly true…
I’ve certainly had an adventure since I moved here nearly four years ago, but the honest answer is to make life happen, instead of letting it happen to me. I was feeling a little stuck as a working actress in London and it was time to do something bold. I had never even been to The Big City when I found the words leaping out of my mammoth mouth that I’d shake things up by studying acting again, but this time in New York.
I knew three people there, a writer I’d worked with a few years back, my hairdresser (I know, handy right, girls? especially at New York prices!) and a woman I’d met in a bar.
What was I thinking…?!
Four years later I have a one woman show I’ve toured internationally, a short film in distribution, a produced radio play, a full length play in pre-production, a bunch of wonderful agents and a penchant for gin martinis.
I felt the fear and did it my way in the City So Nice They Named It Twice. (Cripes, I hope I don’t have to pay the Sinatra Estate royalties for that sentence!)
Part 2 – Putting Pen to Paper.
Welcome back to the next instalment… First, a little update. CRUMBLE is up and running and is going superbly so far, we are already selling out shows, have had some fantastic press – the highlight so far being a lovely review in the Daily News. And no, I haven’t had any little accidents in anyone’s kitchen, but there are still a few shows to go … !
So. DOING THINGS THAT SCARE US. Right behind seeing a person looking in at me through my window, stand up comedy (although I have discussed braving it at some point) and being buried alive, there is writing. Or rather, there was writing. It is now one of my passions… I have actually been known to cancel a night out to spend more time with the characters I am creating on my laptop and for those of you who know me and my love for a Negroni and a natter, know this is big stuff.
As a child I’d have panic attacks about creative writing, the night before our weekly school assignment was due I’d be hyperventilating through a waterfall of tears… for hours on end. My mother thought I was probably just, you know, rubbish but my teachers were surprised to hear I would get in such a state, saying I was actually quite good. 20 years later I discovered the route of this issue, but more on that later.
Fighting my crippling fears (an age later) I decided to go to a playwriting class along with my old chum Mark O’Neil, at the marvellous HB Studios in the heart of the West Village. On prewarning him that I was going to be utterly dreadful he halfheartedly muttered something about sure and be fine and away we went. I realized that I may have been in the right place when the insightful tutor Julie Mckee gave some fabulous feedback to a short play being read aloud, along the lines of I liked the sounds of peeing off stage, there could be more of that or maybe he could just pee for a really long time. Home.
Yakim, The Spiritual Advisor
The next week we had to present our first 10 minute plays, the premise was simple; one character had an object and the other wanted it. I decided to write about a strange little book my Nana in New Zealand had written called Yakim, The Spiritual Advisor it is one of the weirdest and most fascinating books I’ve ever come across. As I began writing, I discovered how much I enjoyed creating the dialogue, my characters made me laugh and we all like a good laugh don’t we? I had no idea if it was any good though and as the class approached my anxiety started to rise, those same feelings I had had as a wee nipper. But then I realized what they were all about… it was about revealing what actually went on in my head. When you act you aim to be truthful and terrifyingly honest but it is through someone else’s words. These are my words, my stories – sometimes moments of my past – which I am sharing with the listener and often what I create is dark, a little sick (goodness, two of them are about incest – don’t judge me!) and in the main peppered with profanities. I hid behind my vat of iced coffee when Yakim was read aloud. Mark had two words for me when it was over – you f@*$er I believe they were…!
Fast forward a load of writing classes, creating a bunch of short plays I am proud of and developing a new pastime to keep me from dancing like no one’s watching at the Pyramid in East Village – I now have a full length play in pre-production for 2016, have made one play into a short film and Yakim, The Spiritual Advisor has recently been adapted and produced as a radio play.
Listen to Yakim, The Spiritual Advisor by Laura Hooper
When she approached me to become part of the team, I jumped at the chance. I hadn’t worked on radio drama since drama school and it was becoming a fond, distant fond memory a bit like the wireless itself! Instinctively I knew I had to rewrite Yakim for this medium (no pun intended!), I felt drawn to it as my very first play, a very personal piece which I’d not be cast in myself as I’m currently too old or too young for either role. But for radio? Eh… no problemo! I dusted off the play, reworked it, brushed up my New Zealand accent and away we went. Strange things happened when I went into this world, as is often the way when you brave it and go there… After producing Yakim I discovered that some lines or ideas I’d thought I’d created I actually hadn’t! For example, my wondrous mad old ducky of a Nana actually thought that stray cats came to her reincarnated by souls of people from her past. Apparently not a “stroke of genius”. Either something my subconscious had stored from childhood or maybe, just maybe I was channelling her and her spiritual world whilst I was delving in there… it all got a bit emotional and weird and the booth too. You never know….. You can listen to Yakim, The Spiritual Advisor and the rest of the Geste plays here: www.gestecast.com
Cat on The Matt
Did I have any experience here? No. Was I confident? No. Carry on.
I chose one based on a rather boy mad girl ruthlessly trying to make a gay boy straight. I approached an enterprising young film maker Jesse Reed of JR Vision to direct the film; he loved the script, had some great ideas to make it more filmic and had a fantastic crew.
I knew who I wanted to play the Matt to my Cat, the divine Stuart Williams who auditioned for me a few months back for another project. This, without a doubt is the best audition I have ever seen an actor give and I’ve seen a fair few at this ripe old age.
He gave an incredibly raw and truthful reading (he made me cry), was completely himself, respectful, professional and funny. Although, not right for the role we were casting, I knew I would work I would work with him at some point and this was that point and it was the best decision ever.
He was an utter dream to work with, immensely trust worthy, confidence bolstering – if you hadn’t noticed by now, mine can be a little shaky – and fun, fun, funny. We rehearsed, shot, and edited together quite a nice little film.
Thankfully Jesse didn’t let me just pop this on my showreel and away in another drawer – especially a bad idea with storage being such a sort after commodity in The City of Claustrophobia!
This led to signing with a distributing film company in LA, registering the script with the Writers Guild of America and being awarded a certificate from The Library of Congress as proof of copywrite – and who doesn’t like a certificate? Especially ones that can remind you of your childhood, swimming the width of the school pool and the presidents of America all at the same time!
When I popped across the pond and came to inhale my bit of the Big Smoke, I’d never have believed I’d be writing, let alone a producing my own short film and a radio play out of the worlds I had created. Maybe being a scardy cat has its benefits; it means you care, it means it’s important to you, it could even mean you might be alright at it!
A top tip to fall back on when those nagging nerves get the better of you in an audition:
I always try to be myself and to have a giggle with the panel, I used to be quite stiff as I wanted to be seen as professional and good at my job. That got in my way. I think I just looked like I had a pole shoved up the unmentionable and more nervous than I was in the first place! I realise now that you can’t try to be professional, you either are or you’re not and cracking a joke just shows you might be good to work with. We all want to have a good time and to be put at ease whichever side of the table we are on.
I was auditioning for the role of a life time, to play Aphrodite. I really wanted it which can pose a problem…. I prepared like team Trump for the Presidential campaign (but with less toupees!). I put on my glad rags, a load of lippy and in I sashayed. After reading a scene with Cupid (Aphrodite’s son), the director asked if I’d be comfortable with the incestual nature of the relationship between the two characters – Oh yes I replied I only do plays with incest! I got the job and am now signed to develop the rest of the trilogy with the company until 2017.
An English Woman in New York
Laura Hooper is an English Actress working and having a jolly good time in New York. This is part one in a series of three.
The final installment from Laura Hooper, an English Actress living and working in NYC.