Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Laura Harris
Current Location: New York, NY
Laura, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
The short answer to how I got to where I am today is that I was lucky enough to have the full support from my family in pursuing the arts and in being my authentic self, two things many people aren’t so lucky to have. I grew up at and fell in love with doing musical theatre at MTA, the Musical Theatre Academy of Orange County, and continued at the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts. MTA gave me one of the greatest opportunities of my life: studying acting with Deborah Mathews, who’s still the most brilliant acting teacher I’ve ever worked with. Studying with Deborah Mathews inspired me to pursue an education in straight acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I spent three years devising experimental theatre at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School and a year studying film acting and voiceover at Stonestreet Studios. Aside from acting, I’m also a songwriter and write music for myself and other independent projects.
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
In the upcoming months I will be releasing an album called Marmalade Heaven under my nickname, Smones. It’s being produced by the incomparable Jesse Raymundo who is the most brilliant musician I know, and I feel so grateful to have him working on this with me. The album is about constantly shifting back and forth between extreme emotional highs and lows, and it’s all over the place in style just like I sometimes am. It deals with chaotic energy, getting caught in loops, and trying to break out of the cycle of putting my identity in someone else. They’re all songs I originally wrote for myself but now have to let live in the real world so we can all dance together and move on. I think maybe my next album will be more chill, but I’m really excited to be extra vulnerable this time.
The road of the artist is a sometimes long and bumpy road. What are some struggles you've faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?
Obviously this is a very cookie cutter industry, and I think growing up in Orange County, while a huge privilege, had me pushing down the things that make me me, instead of celebrating them and leading from them. Things like my queerness, my Judaism, and being Costa Rican are probably three of the most important and inspiring things to me, but growing up in a place where you’re afraid people might be against any of those requires a lot of unlearning. I’m lucky that NYU showed me the necessity of finding community in people who lift up every part of my identity and not tolerating otherwise.
Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?
The most important and transformative thing I’ve learned is to not think of art as good or bad, but instead just ask if something moves you. Isn’t that all we’re looking for anyway? This would free my younger self of so much fear of judgment and would humble me so quickly. If what you’re doing moves you, then it’ll probably move someone else, and that’s all I can care about.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
You’re a freak. Put it in your work.
What inspires you? Can you tell us about something that maybe inspired you to pursue a life in the arts?
The times in my life when I’ve been the most stuck and lost have inspired me the most. They’d be boring to discuss, but these have been the times only art could pull me through and when I’ve realized art isn’t just for fun, but has a real healing power. When music, tv, or theatre is the only thing I can enjoy, finding healing in enjoying other people’s work always leads me to rediscover the healing power in creating things yourself. My most lost times have led me to create for myself and myself alone, not worrying about an audience but only about creating in a way that fulfills my emotional and creative needs. This is when I know I’m in the correct field.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
My proudest moment so far has definitely been my solo show, Chimera, which taught me that you can make truly anything you want to if you just commit to it. I teamed up with some incredible friends to create a solo show for my final year at NYU about how I was an octuplet in the womb and ate all 7 of my siblings,- true story- which explored my complicated history with health and having control over my body. I wrote the script and the music, arranged by the brilliant Molly Kirschenbaum, and spent seven weeks or so leading a room and creating a big something out of nothing with my collaborators. The show took place in my mother’s womb. Not literally, although my mom did come to see it! Directed by the incredible Maya Quetzali Gonzalez, I saw directly how valuable it is to put yourself honestly into your work. That’s the most valuable thing I learned from my education at NYU Tisch and Playwrights Horizons—young people can make really killer work together, and you can make anything you want. Just allow it to be weird.
The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts or artists play in today's society?
I don’t think I know anyone that would be able to get by without music, design, television, film, etc. The arts are essential and should be treated as such.
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
I think as artists we have a responsibility to make sure everybody is represented and to be loud when that’s not happening. As a queer person, I know how life changing it can be to finally see yourself in a character. My hopes for the future of the arts industry is that we get louder and louder about our frustrations with the lack of inclusivity in every area within the entertainment industry, and fight even harder to have underrepresented stories told.
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