Shannon is my long lost Broadway-Fitness-enthusiast-sister, synced on all things mind-body-spirit. She is/was the quintessential example I have encountered four years and counting- someone who embodies a lifestyle inside and outside the theatre that taps in to the healthy living that doesn’t just benefit us physically but effects our emotional, mental, and spiritual energies. So take a read, take notes, and take the take aways because Shannon’s interview is basically a masterclass in being Fit for Broadway.
NOTE FROM SHANNON: Hi My name is Shannon Mullen. I remember seeing features on FFB a few years ago and only dreaming of being asked to do a feature! From 5 years old, I knew that singing and dancing were all I ever wanted. I couldn’t focus on anything else throughout my childhood. Other kids would be hanging out but I would be invested in dance class after dance class, rehearsal after rehearsal, voice lesson after voice lesson….and wouldn’t have had it any other way. I wanted to absorb every bit of performance that I could. Something that got in my head at a young age was body image. At 16, I started heading to the gym to run. I loved to run, but it took a huge turn for the worse when I was chasing a body image versus running for enjoyment. Undereating, being a cardio-bunny and being a high school student involved in the musicals and dance took me down a very dark and scary path. This went on for me for a few years until a very loving trainer offered to teach me to weight train one on one and spoke to me about nutrition…for free. I became addicted. I showed up 5 days a week and learned the basics of weight training and it transformed not just my physique, but my mental state as well. I feel as dancers, we are told not to lift heavy weights or eat carbs or we will be huge…but it’s truly the worst advice anyone could ever say, especially as women. That type of mentality teaches us to not take up our rightful space and to stay small….physically AND mentally. Thanks to this trainer, I was able to find myself through fitness and carry it into my performance as well. It was extremely rewarding to go on tour right after college and receive messages from young girls and their parents that appreciated my healthy image in addition to my talent on stage. I never thought people would want nutrition and training information from me…so it only motivated me even more. It lead me to have a survival job in NYC that I am INSANELY passionate about which has made moments between gigs much easier to bare. I feel that in the Broadway community, it is easy to let our shows become our life. Fitness is my escape and my balance. I get the best of both worlds!
Q: Shannon! I feel like you’re my #Fitforbroadway long lost sister and everyone who has connected us through the show confirms you are a Fitness X Broadway queen. Can we start from the beginning… What’s been your journey to Broadway?
A: I feel like a lot of people can relate when I say I always knew that I wanted to be on Broadway. I went to SUNY Buffalo and studied for a BFA in Musical Theater. I was very lucky that right before my last semester of college, I came to NYC to audition for the national tour of Hairspray just to see how I felt “competing” in the musical theater world and I booked it! It snowballed from there. I went on the road with Legally Blonde and then Rock of Ages and in the blink of an eye, 5 years had gone by where I was able to perform in every single state (except Hawaii! Argh!!) and made lifelong friendships and connections in this business. After that, the momentum slowed down as I forced myself to turn down some opportunities that would take me out of the city because I knew I wanted to be on Broadway. I just kept showing up. EPA’s, ECC’S dance calls, singer calls….I would always remind myself that it can change in an instant….and all of a sudden, when I felt the most hopeless and frustrated, it did.
Q: What’s been the most surprising twist in your journey or bump in the road?
A: Every single person’s journey is individual. The second I start comparing my opportunities with another, I have lost sight of what I need for my own growth….not just as a performer but as a spiritual being. Our jobs don’t define us and I see so many people get caught up in the role or the labels of “union” “non-union” “regional” “cruise performer” “broadway” etc….the twist has been that EVERYONE here is talented…and the opportunities we get are all different….but the reason for that is that our art needs to extend EVERYWHERE to touch more people around the world. I wasn’t booking when I was auditioning for a label. It was when I let go of labels that I was given more opportunity.
Q: You are a fitness gal as much as you are Broadway! How have health and fitness been a part of your journey as a performer?
A: Fitness is my alter ego. Anyone who knows me knows that my workout is like my daily cup of coffee haha! It centers me, grounds me, humbles me, empowers me, focuses me and sets the tone for my day. It is the one time of day that I don’t think about any other worries. It forces me to be in the moment and deal with where I am that day. It directly parallels live performance. You have to juggle the elements in the moment. Fitness lead me to be able to teach at Barry’s Bootcamp for 2 years and make lifelong friends both from my fellow co-workers and the clients that transform the more they show up…not just physically but mentally. The parallels between fitness and Broadway are huge. SHOW UP. GO FULL OUT. WATCH YOURSELF TRANSFORM. There will ALWAYS be an ego voice in your head trying to sabotage you. Fitness helps you quiet that voice by showing up when you least want to and telling that voice…I CAN do this….so step aside and watch me. It strengthens not just your body, but also your mind. When you carry that mentality into how you approach EVERYTHING, it makes you unstoppable.
Q: Top 3 #TrainingforBroadway tips.
- Stay in your lane. I find that anxiety and paranoia creep up on us when we are focused on comparing ourselves to others. Focus on yourself with love and compassion. Treat yourself like your own best friend and just be where you are NOW and work from there without judgement or criticism.
- Connect with your JOY. Life wants us to have fun. Audition rooms respond to us more when we are having fun. I always try to take a second to close my eyes and picture 6 year old Shannon dancing around and screlting…..I’m still that little girl with big dreams and I don’t want to let her down. We all have that….and it’s important to bring that joy to our work….why do it otherwise?
- Get Still. The irony of me writing this is that it is the hardest thing for me to do. Haha Trust, faith, letting go….whatever you want to call it….allow yourself to stop trying to make the pieces work. Sometimes things are out of your hands and that is OKAY. Those things aren’t for you….but if you focus on those, then you’re missing out on the incredible things that ARE yours and want your attention.
Q: Any other holistic practices to stay #BalancedOnBroadway?
A: Humidifier. Essential Oils. Never starting a morning without water with fresh squeezed lemon and Himalayan sea salt. Journaling like a MOFO.
Q: Top 5 products, companies or brands that are shaping your lifestyle right now.
- Young Living essential oils. (Joy, inner child, stress away and Valor are my personal faves)
- Beyond Sushi….because their food is EVERYTHING.
- Barrys Bootcamp… because it really is the best workout in the world.
- Create Playgroup podcast….created by the industries Kristin Hanggi and Natalie Roy. If you haven’t listened yet….please do, because it is only a fraction of what they have to offer performers. These women are transforming lives!
- Trader Joes. No need to explain.
Q: Favorite 3 workouts
A: Only 3?? Haha!
- Barry’s Bootcamp…shocking I know! Haha but I LOVE to run and I LOVE to lift heavy things!!
- YOGA—the hotter the better. There is nothing like a moving meditation.
- Boxing. Talk about bringing out your inner fighter!
Q: Fill in the blanks…
A: The best part of working on Broadway is… when my mom and dad visit and see me up onstage. I feel like it is the best way for me to say thank you to them for all of the sacrifices that they made to help get me here. The driving back and forth to dance classes and voice lessons, the endless loud music I would play while I would practice, the long voice and dance recitals that they sat through, the financial and emotional support. I haven’t always believed that I could be on Broadway, and even typing those words right now makes my heart flutter, but they never once doubted me. I get overwhelmed with gratitude and humbled to have been raised by two of the greatest people in the world.
The most challenging part of working on Broadway is… balancing my schedule. 8 shows a week plus being the assistant dance captain means a lot of rehearsing people to put into the show. I am at the theatre A LOT and taking time to connect with my other friends and family…plus taking some “me time” is important but not always easy. We also work throughout holidays and family events so it is hard to be able to take the time to travel and be there for everything.
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: People who are willing to face their demons. People who are willing to try just ONE more time. It inspires me to see someone’s breakthrough moment. We always have more to give than we think we do.
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring performers who have their sights set on Broadway?
A: Don’t wait for permission. I see so many people going into auditions looking for the job to validate their talent….but that is backwards thinking. No one will ever be able to tell you what you’re capable of. Bring your A-game into every single thing you do and don’t worry about the opinions of others. It can be insanely tempting to fall into the victim trap to think the business is out to get you….but that is just a false reality that keeps us feeling small. Live big. SHOW UP. Choose to inspire yourself to constantly assess where you can grow. Figure out what’s working vs what is not working and adjust accordingly. Be authentically you so that you attract the type of projects that you love and the people that respect you for your authenticity.
“BROADWAY INSPIRES ME TO BE COMPASSIONATE. Broadway shows demand so much of us. They ask us to be honest and vulnerable in order to connect with our audiences. They ask us to set our egos aside and let the performance be about telling stories of strength, adversity, love, loss, laughter, etc. It’s brave to say no to making shows all about you and to make raw and real connections with the people you get to work with. Broadway demands us to be compassionate with ourselves so that we can be compassionate with others.”
Shannon is wearing “Namaste Auditioning” Tee from Fit for Broadway Apparel
Photos & Interview by Jane Jourdan.