Mid-photoshoot, Erika looked at me and said, “I think I’m going to take these off,” as she started plucking off her fake lashes one by one with her iPhone as a mirror. If any moment sums up the cool girl vibes she gives off, it’s that one. And “cool girl” meaning the girl who is unapologetically herself and therefore completely magnetic, inclusive and disarming; the kind of qualities you want in a best friend or boss. Have you ever experienced someone who holds their power with such ease and grace that it feels like a gift of reassurance and a wink of approval to be yourself too? Yep, that’s Erika. She steps into Cady Heron’s shoes (sneakers, heels, then a sensible boot, if I remember the story correctly) in March as Mean Girls begins previews on the BE Way.
note from Erika: “Hey lovely humans who are reading this! My name’s Erika Henningsen. I am obsessed with canines, but have been known to hang with a select few cats who showed real panache. I hoard milk chocolate even though I know dark chocolate is better for me. I love bourbon but can’t stand scotch. I love being around humans but really value my morning coffee-podcast listening- alone time. Celebrity crush on Kevin Bacon (Footloose-era AND now). I have never seen a single STAR WARS movie, but have won Harry Potter trivia in three different bar competitions. Oh, also, I sing and act…dance if it’s asked of me, and consider it one of the greatest gifts of my life that I get to be part of a community full of such passionate and creative individuals.”
THE BE WAY CAPSULE
What is shaping your mind, body and spirit? (tangible, intangible, ideas, people, places, ideas, rituals, practices that are molding your mind, body, and spirit in this space and time.)
1. WOMEN WOMEN WOMEN. Folks, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we are in the midst of an XX Chromosome RENAISSANCE. I mean, we females have always been aware of our power, but it seems now the REST of the world is finally taking notice. It’s been my goal this year to continue to find ways to celebrate and collaborate with my female peers. I think this will be pretty easy considering this Broadway season is chock-FULL of awesome women: looking at you FROZEN, my MEAN GIRLS cast, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, the list goes on. Inspiring me this year on a personal level are my two older sisters. Both started new jobs and are kicking butt despite foreign and challenging environments. I want to channel their lack of fear and badass-ery as I start this crazy wonderful journey.
2. Morning time. This is my loose term for the two hours between waking up and heading to rehearsal. I don’t do the same thing every day, I simply try to listen to what my heart/body/brain needs that morning to feel settled and invigorated. Sometimes it’s the gym or yoga, sometimes it’s sitting with coffee and reading, sometimes it’s making a breakfast that creates way too many dirty dishes but is absolutely delicious. When I get to rehearsal, I’m there for the cast, for the story, for the show. When I come home, I’m usually still thinking about work, prepping for tomorrow, organizing my life so I don’t get overwhelmed. The morning is sacred time, just for me.
3. To be great, one must always be good. Open for interpretation, but this encompasses my belief that one cannot hope for success of any kind if they do not lead with goodness. Goodness means different things to different people. For me, goodness means acting with integrity: choosing my words thoughtfully, following through on my promises, showing congruency in my statements and actions. See: The FOUR AGREEMENTS.
4. Simple joys. GUYS. Simple pleasures are an absolute necessity. Mine include but are not limited to: new house plants, flavor-of-the-month coffee beans from Empire Tea & Coffee Co., $3 face masks from Sephora, bath bombs from Lush, volunteering with Sing for Hope (check. them. out), 3-sentence journal entries, dog memes, the Off-Camera with Sam Jones podcast.
5. Remembering the Big Picture. It’s easy to get tunnel vision in this business. The work isn’t something you leave on a computer desk at the end of the day: building a production from the ground up is a process that often requires full mental and physical abilities 24/7. However, I’ve found it important to remember that my work suffers if I allow it to be all-consuming. If I shut myself off from the world, if I tune out of the global discourse, if I forget to be curious, my artistry feels static. To combat this, I spend my commute time listening to at least one of the following: NYTimes Daily Podcast, Pod Save America, NPR TED Radio Hour or Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. Taking a step back, remembering the big picture, helps put my personal fears/anxieties in perspective.
6. Be the buffalo. This is one of my favorite sayings, whichI learned from the wonderful Brian Patrick Murphy. It’s origin stems from how buffalo react to storms: whereas cattle will run AWAY from an approaching storm and inevitably end up directly in the maelstrom (since duh, they’re cows and v slow), BUFFALO will run INTO the storm and thus come out the other side much faster. In human terms? Run confidently towards the things that scare you. Don’t shy away from the difficult or uncomfortable emotions, conversations, and decision. Confront and conquer your fears before they gain momentum.
#bravemonth Bonus Question
Brave (definition by Erika): Being brave is having the conviction and trust in yourself to do what’s right and what’s truthful versus what is easy.
When have you noticed an unconventional act of bravery? What was it?
Whenever I teach, I am amazed at the bravery of my high-school students. Despite living in a time when their individuality and sense of self can be easily jeopardized by social media, online bullying, or gossip circles that snowball with every ding of a text-message, these students throw themselves into the work with invigorating openness and vulnerability. I admire the braveness with which they share themselves and their stories with their peers: they are wholly present and unafraid to expose their heartaches, aspirations, thoughts and fears.
Photos & Interview by Jane Jourdan.
What’s Creating you? (Prompt)