My protective “gear” on the plane from NY to CA
Lauren Elder is an actress, director, singer-songwriter, and world champion whistler living in New York City. She has been seen on Broadway in Side Show and Hair and in the West End in Hair.
She recently played Mary in the world premiere production of Mary and Max, a new musical by Bobby Cronin and Crystal Skillman, at Theatre Calgary, where she won the BroadwayWorld Regional Award for Best Actress in a musical. Other Theater: Hair (Shakespeare in the Park/NY Public Theater), The Village of Vale (Lincoln Center), Orange Star Smasharoo; Regional: Side Show (Kennedy Center, La Jolla Playhouse), Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival; TV: Law & Order SVU, Louie, Boardwalk Empire, Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, 2009 Tony Awards.
Lauren is also a private acting, voice, and career coach and on faculty at NY Film Academy and A Class Act. She performs regularly in nightclubs around NYC, including 54 Below, Joe’s Pub, Birdland, and Club Cumming. Her debut album can be found on iTunes and Spotify! laureneldermusic.com
T2C: How are you dealing with home containment in LA?
Lauren Elder: I’m doing pretty well, now. I’m with my mom at her house, and very grateful for that. Most days are ok. I’m still teaching musical theater online for NY Film Academy and as a private voice and acting coach. When I’m busy, I can stay pretty positive, but if I have too much time to think or read the news, it can get pretty overwhelming.
T2C: What would you say is the difference of being in self lockdown between NY and LA?
Lauren Elder: The first two weeks of my lockdown were spent in my apartment in Queens, and it was very stressful. I was afraid to leave my apartment (which is quite small), and started having anxiety attacks everyday. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, but this was a level I hadn’t experienced since 9/11. So, I took a risk, got on a plane, and flew to California. Now that I’m on the west coast, I have much more space, including private outdoor space. We have a great backyard and ocean views, and watch the sunset every night. We’ve also been able to find a few hiking trails where there aren’t many people, and even take a few walks on the beach. It’s very helpful to not have people right outside my window, or front door, which was my reality in NYC.
T2C: What have you been able to accomplish in this time?
Lauren Elder: I’ve been working really hard on a new tv show, which I started creating with my friend Crystal Skillman (Mary and Max, Open, Pulp Verite) before the lockdown. It’s a musical comedy, so I’ve been busy writing songs and developing the characters on the show. We have weekly online meetings with our producer and directors, and have been on a great track with it. We’ll have some content coming out soon (follow @laurenyoungshesgotthis on Instagram to see it)! I also started filming One Woman Rent https://youtu.be/SBKaNYVcoMc, a project that I had been working on for the stage, initially, but when the world shut down, I figured it made perfect sense to just start filming. That project also helped me learn a lot about video editing, which has been really fun.
T2C: What has this time stopped you from accomplishing?
Lauren Elder: Definitely some financial goals that I was close to reaching. As an artist, it can be very hard to stay afloat, financially. I have been working hard to make money solely from performing, directing, writing, and teaching, and was getting to a pretty solid place with all of it right when this all started. I had some great gigs lined up for the spring and summer, which I was really looking forward to, but those have all been canceled or hopefully postponed.
T2C: What kind of emotions does this time bringing out of you?
Lauren Elder: Every single emotion! Sometimes within moments of each other! At the beginning it was all anxiety, but as it has continued longer, and with the uncertainty about when performing for a live audience will be safe again, things have been colored with more grief and depression. But I also have moments of great happiness, being able to spend so much time with my mom, and in a place that is so beautiful. I’m also incredibly grateful to be healthy and able to move my body.
T2C: If you were to equate this time to a song or song cycle what would it be?
Lauren Elder: I was working on the song “Lonely Room” from Oklahoma with a student this weekend, and it really reminded me of this time. The ups and downs of it. Feeling alone and frustrated one moment, and then full of hope the next, only to go back to the loneliness again. But it does end on an optimistic note, which I think we all need right now.
T2C: What message would you like to give the world right now?
Lauren Elder: Wear a mask, stay home, distance. Please listen to the doctors and scientists and follow their advice. And maybe think about how we can move forward in a more thoughtful way. We have an opportunity to change for the better, and I really hope that happens.
T2C: What is the first thing you will do when we are no longer self quarantined?
Lauren Elder: Hang out with my friends. I really miss them. Ideally we would have a beach party that turns into a costume party and sing along of all the songs!
T2C: What are the things that are getting you through this time?
Lauren Elder: Wine! Cannabis (again, I’m grateful to be in California, where it is legal)! My mom. She has always been my rock. And Mondays In The Club With Lance, a weekly “party around a piano” which we have had at Club Cumming (owned by actor Alan Cumming) for the past 2.5 years. As soon as clubs were shut down in NYC, we took the show online! We broadcast every Monday night from 9pm-1am (Crowdcast.io/mondaysintheclub), and it has really kept a sense of community in my life.
T2C: What haven’t we asked you that you would like to say?
Lauren Elder: I really hope that people take a look at what is happening now and how it could’ve been handled so much better, and let that influence who they vote for in November. On local and national levels. We can be so much better than this.