Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Kristen Daniels
Current Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Kristen, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I have always loved everything about theatre. From just a few years old, I would gravitate toward anything musical. So much so that there's a picture of me from my second Christmas clearly stealing the show with my very first microphone. I always loved entertaining and would be running around the house singing and dancing all the time. Not too long after seeing my love for music grow and grow, my parents signed me up for a children's singing group. I loved every minute and was excited for every show. That was my first experience truly performing, and I was hooked.
In my middle school years, I took part in my first musical. Never had I gotten the chance to put singing, dancing, and acting all together before, and I knew that I just had to do another show. That's when I first was introduced to the Academy for the Performing Arts. I took part in their APA Jr. summer camp and was honored to be trusted with the lead of Alice in their summer camp version of Alice in Wonderland. I fell in love with APA and the teachers, and knew I had to go there for high school.
While attending Huntington Beach High School, I took part in the APA Musical Theatre program, led by Tim Nelson and Diane Makas. APA was a second home to me and holds my fondest memories of high school. From riding a wooden Pegasus horse 20 feet in the air in Xanadu, to jumping off a baseball dugout in Damn Yankees, to traveling abroad to Scotland to be in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, APA was my creative outlet and a way I could completely express myself and my artistry.
I knew that I would want to pursue this in university, and ended up landing on UC Irvine to pursue a degree in Theatre. There, I had the honor of going on the renowned New York Satellite Program, a trip that gave me a glimpse of life as an actor in New York. Big surprise, I loved it! During my time at school, I also mounted two fully staged musicals myself- which I consider one of my most proud achievements-, took clowning, performed in my first play, did my first professional show, and met my boyfriend, who you can frequently catch performing right alongside me in whatever show I'm doing.
Since graduating, I have had the pleasure of consistently working professionally in musical theatre, going from NorCal's Sierra Repertory Theatre, to SoCal's Laguna Playhouse, and many in between. Since the pandemic, I have had to really find unique ways to keep my creative juices flowing by participating in online concerts, taking classes, and even performing in a full virtual musical! I have also taken an interest in film and television, having now shot five short films since quarantine began. My latest film, an animated project, just came out last week!
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
Right now, I have been taking advantage of my time by expanding my current skills and working on new ones. I have been taking classes, and participating in "Zoom concerts" through the company Broadway Knights. I've done about 10 concerts with them, all raising money for a worthy charity called Tara's Chance. As I said before, I have been doing a lot of film work and am in the process of diving deeper into voiceover. One thing that I have been working on even before the pandemic began, is my small business, 42nd Street Stitches. I embroider musical theatre inspired embroidery hoops, patches, and keychains, and also sell stickers of my original designs. You can find me on Instagram at @42ndStreetStitches or you can order something custom from my Etsy shop!
What challenges have you had to overcome on your journey as an artist?
My biggest obstacle I have overcome happened during my years in college. I strived during those years to earn the coveted BFA title of our Musical Theatre program, one that you must audition into to receive that degree. Unfortunately, I was not chosen to receive it. I had worked as hard as I could toward it, with what I considered, no success. It was very disheartening, since I put so much of myself and my energy into it. But looking back now, I actually consider that one of my biggest turning points in my career. I truly could have let that pull me down, but I instead chose to overcome the rejection. I changed my perspective on the situation, and embraced my artistic freedom.
In the wake of this news, during my senior year, I mounted an entire fully stage musical, planned my own senior cabaret, flew to New York for my first callback for a national tour, and graduated with my Honors in Musical Theatre, and in Academics too! Up to the point that I found out that I didn't get the BFA, I had tried to fit what others expected or wanted of me, but with the BFA no longer as my "end goal," I was able to release myself of other people's expectations and truly be myself as a performer. It was extremely freeing and helped me get to know what kind of work I truly enjoyed doing, which for me is musical comedy. I now try to be an advocate and supporter of those who want to pursue musical theatre by saying that a BFA is not the end-all be-all. You can still create fulfilling art, work professionally, and perform to your fullest ability all without a BFA.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
The best piece of advice I have received would be that you don't have to try to be like anybody else, because they are already taken- you can only be you. I still try and remind myself of this. Sometimes it's hard to think that you are enough already just as you are. I know I, and I imagine many others, get caught often in the trap of comparison. I try to remember that keeping your focus on yourself and your journey is the only thing that you have to do. Everyone is on their own path and everything comes in its own time. It's hard sometimes to trust the process when you can see others that are "ahead" or doing more than you, but the only thing you can do is trust that the journey you are on will take you where you want to go.
What inspires you as an artist?
I draw my inspiration for the arts from the things that bring me joy. One of the reasons I love musical theatre is that there is such a strong element of love and happiness in it. For me, when I'm in a show, it's that buzz of excitement in the audience that you can feel; the growing kinship of strangers to family in a cast; the passion that exudes from you when you're singing a song; the feeling of accomplishment in the curtain call. All of this brings me such joy and keeps me going, even when I don't book a job, or mess up an audition, or you know, when a global pandemic occurs. Holding on to this joy that inspires me to perform fuels me to keep going. I also am inspired by the idea that every performance you do could be someone's first show they've ever seen or someone's last show they'll ever see. We are a big part of someone's memory forever, and that feeling inspires me to give my 110% for every show I ever do. You never know what kind of impact you are creating!
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
There are many things that feel bleak about the arts industry right now since the pandemic has occurred. Broadway's shutdown is especially hard to see, but I am hopeful that things will come to an end, hopefully sooner than later, and we can go back to sharing in the art of theatre once again. Live theatre is special because it is LIVE- the audience and the performers feed off each other in an interactive and personal experience. I hope that we can soon begin performing together again and that we can use this time of shared struggle to lift up our fellow artists. I hope to see a spread of kindness, equality, representation, and positivity in the arts for the future.
42nd Street Stitches Instagram: @42ndStreetStitches
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