Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Here's my Holiday Gift to all you Renaissance People out there!

"Comfort and Joy"

Arrangement and instruments by yours trully, all on Garage Band...

I Played My Drum For Him

Ask the Little Drummer Boy. He gave of what he had, and never gave up when he couldn't afford to go to the mall and spend hundreds of dollars for brand new gifts for the baby Jesus.
Ted and I looked around to see what we had this fall and saw things we've collected: Champagne and wine corks (no surprise there), leather scraps, and feathers from the birds in our neighborhood: wild turkeys, bluejays, Canadian geese, and tufted titmouse. After experimenting with a few different prototypes, little Christmas Tree ornaments emerged from our combinations and the Pocono Angel was born.
The next challenge was sending them in the mail without ruining the feathers and by using only recycled brown paper bags and cardboard.
Soon, we had over 30 made and our family and friends now had little personalized ornaments to hang on their tree.
Pa rum pa pum pum!

Reuse your T's

Happy Holidays, readers!
For your gift this year, I'm linking you to Huffington Post's list of reuse ideas, mostly for t-shirts. I want the book called 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt by Megan Nicolay!
Here's to a creative and eco-friendly 2011!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Coats

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for you, my faithful readers.
AND for my faux leopard swing coat and Ted's charcoal wool dress coat that I bought at last year's Salvation Army Coat Sale, both worn to the recent opening of the play Elling (starring Denis O'Hare and Brandan Fraser) on Broadway at the Soho House! (paired here with a winter white lace mini dress that I found for $15 at H & M and a long gold chain and pendant I bought at a flea market for $8)
AND for our friend Kelly (pictured here) who accompanied us to the opening.
AND for the coat sale that is coming up at 9:30am on Saturday, December 4th at the Salvation Army between 10th and 11th.
It's good to be Ren!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dulcinea Beauty Tip #4: An Apple a Day

At first, it was a saving money thing. Big surprise, right?
But then, eating a large apple plus a handful of raw almonds made a fabulous start to a lunch. Or was a wonderful way to curb hunger between meals.
And eventually, old snack standards like tortilla or potato chips and candy didn't seem like food anymore. In fact, I finally believed that excessive salt and sugar shut off my ability to notice I'm full and actually cause me to overeat.
Now, I start off each meal by filling up on the good stuff: Green vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and water so by the time I get to meat and dessert, I'm too full to ask for seconds.
Reward? Shopping spree (at thrift stores, of course) for a whole new smaller wardrobe!

Pictured right:
Leenya as Dulcinea in Man of La Mancha, Arts Center of Coastal Carolina 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dulcinea Beauty Tip #3: Fall in Love

In the final scene of Man of La Mancha, Aldonza assumes Don Quixote's name for her, Dulcinea, partly because he is the first man to ever fall in love with her, but also because after his death, she learns that it is up to her to love herself.
In Hilton Head, I got in the best shape of my life partly because of the intense fight choreography, partly because of 4 hour volleyball matches on the beach, but mostly because I fell in love... with running.
The best way to get in shape and then stay in shape is to find a physical activity that you will do every other day not only because you know it's good for you, but that you can't stand to NOT do it, that when you have to skip a day you miss it. And even better, is to fall in love with an activity that is FREE and that you can do anywhere you are, summer or winter.
Every other day, I would run out of the girl's cast housing and down the street, over the white sand dunes sprouting with tall grasses, and out onto the beach. With Dixie Chicks (Taking the Long Way Home) or Melissa Etheridge playing in my iPod, I'd challenge myself to go farther and farther each day, finding the perfect strip of sand that wasn't too hard packed by the receding tide nor too dry and loose to get my footing. Even with inclement weather threatening, the beach was the best setting for inspiring intervals of jogging and full out sprints. I raced dolphins and watched pelicans and ospreys hunt in the waves. A number of times, I even ran barefoot (inspired by an interview on NPR about running shoes being uncessary) and found it even more exhilerating (though my toes ended up with blisters between them from the sand).
Before long, my clothes were looser and I felt stronger and stronger and then my days between runs I found myself missing the beach.
Back in New York, 80 degree days are in the past, but I've held to my regimen and pretend that the New York sidewalks are the packed down sand of the beach. On cold or rainy days, I walk stairs, taking the elevator down and repeating the climb until I've climbed at least as high as the Empire State Building.
And it's wonderful to be back to my first true love: my husband.
What have you fallen in love with?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fall Bitch and Swap

Have you thrown your Bitch and Swap yet? What did you get?

Dulcinea Beauty Tip #2: Once a Week

This is a photo of me with dirty hair.
And it's so much more manageable than just-washed hair!
I've been told not to wash my hair more than once a week before, but I never believed. I mean, what's a girl to do if she sweats when she works out? And what about product buildup?
As Aldonza, I didn't wear a wig and I wanted it to look like it hadn't been brushed or washed in years. DJ, our director, even suggested that I clip pieces of straw into the back of it, as if I had been dragged through the stables, but in the end, sometimes more is not, well... So I began to wash it once a week, on my day off.
And I liked my hair better! Even with sweat from running, salt from swimming in the ocean, gel and mousse that I put in it every day, my hair had better texture and felt thicker and smoother and healther and much more manageable. So why go back to washing every day?
The secret is I do get it wet as if I'm going to wash it in the shower but then I add conditioner and leave that on for the remainder of my shower, rinsing before I turn the water off.
Then, whether I leave it wavy or blow it straight, it feels as though I have twice the hair than I would if I had just shampooed it.
Fewer washes=fewer dollars spent on shampoo, not to mention fewer dollars spent on hair color, if that should apply to you...
Thanks, Aldonza!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dulcinea Beauty Tip #1: The Aldonza Manicure

Okay, this is not really a "beauty tip" and this post would have been better timed before Halloween, but I came up with this idea when I was looking for details to make myself really dirty at the beginning of the show, Man of La Mancha. To become "a creature who'll never do better than crawl", I wanted to be covered in years of gutter grime so my transformation would be more dramatic. I knew we would be "getting dirty" by covering ourselves with burned cork before each show (see upper right photo with Lauren Ford, "Antonia"), but would it stay in the cracks of fingernails and toenails?
For about a year now, black has been back as the trendiest nail polish color, and not just for Emo, Goth or Alt Rockers. During rehearsals, I was wearing black on my nails and as it wore off between manicures, I wondered if I could wipe it off in a way that it looked like residual dirt. I must admit, I was inspired by the makeup in the Lord of the Rings movies (so many closeups of Frodo and the ring couldn't reveal clean hands) and was happy to know that this effect wouldn't require frequent applications of black shoe polish or something worse.
  1. Apply one layer of black nail polish all over nails (and toenails if feet are bare).
  2. Allow to dry.
  3. Soak paper towel or toilet paper in nail polish remover and wipe nails down, avoiding the cuticles, leaving polish on edges only.
Soon, other cast members wanted this "Aldonza Manicure" to add details to their dirtiness. (Pictured here are Sal Sabella, "the Padre", and me out after a show, showing off our gnarly nails)
Who knows? Maybe we'll start a whole new fad!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Dulcinea Project

It's no secret. I've been away.
And I haven't been blogging.
And I'm sorry.
But sometimes a Renaissance Girl has to take some Me-time, some away time, and get some perspective.
And this time, I got it while playing the filthy, lowest of the low woman-for-sale Aldonza in Man of La Mancha (pictured at right).
I realized that for the past 6 months, though I find pleasure in the creativity and imagination it takes to live well on an artist's budget, I have grown weary of making ends meet, of making just enough to squeak by. And I admit this, knowing that a lot of you are feeling the same way. And it's okay. It's the recession, baby.
But I regret that I stopped writing...
In the next few posts, I will write some beauty tips I discovered and utilized while making my transformation, onstage and off, from cheap jack- of- all trades Aldonza to beautiful superstar Dulcinea, including a dramatic body image change. It took diving into one of the most difficult roles I've ever performed to find myself and to know I've been here all along; I just needed to figure out where to dig and what to shed.
And it still didn't cost a cent, just a gamble.
Maybe I'll call it, The Dulcinea Project.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Three Coat Sales!

No, I haven't posted in a while, but yes, I want you to know about the upcoming Salvation Army Coat Sales!
  • Saturday, November 6th 9:30am to 5pm
  • Saturday, December 4th 9:30am to 5pm
  • Saturday, January 8th 9:30am to 5pm
Check back to my first Coat Sale posting for my tips to navigating these hectic and hilarious events.
And I promise to post again soon!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The OTHER Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park, brought to you by the Public Theater, went back to a wonderful and often unattainable conquest: Rep. Most of the actors perform in both Winters Tale and A Merchant's Tale. Ted and I saw both shows at the Delacorte Theater this summer: Beautiful, ethereal, clever, starstudded...
...and sanitary.
Call me crazy, but I like my Shakespeare (and most theater, for that matter) more hands on, more about human contact and imperfection. So when I went to see New York Classical Theater's production of Much Ado About Nothing (starring my longtime friend and onstage husband, Company, Fred Rose) Saturday night, I was, at long last, sated.
And yes, I am blogging about both because they are free to the public (with a suggested donation, of course) and they are at the top of my list of New York summer adventures, but I have to admit, when I heard that I'd have to sit on the pavement to see Much Ado and then get up and move around to various locations all around Battery Park with a hundred other various strangers, I anticipated the grumpiness that only a long time New Yorker who avoids events like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting and Macy's Thanksgiving Parade trully knows.
But at least until the word gets out, there is no standing in line starting at 6am for a New York Classical Theater Shakespeare play. Once you know where to meet for the initial scene, you just jump in with the crowd and don't get too comfortable. Which I found to be, unexpectedly, the beauty of this concept.
I joined Benedick, Beatrice, Hero and their friends in Castle Clinton, along with 150 other people of all ages, shapes, colors, and species (Duffy the dog was mezmerized by the fight scenes). Each theatergoer was respectful and eager to find out what happened at the next location (kids ended up in a race), all of which served as a great background for the 1940's seafaring concept.
When the sun went behind the horizon (Battery Park sunsets over Jersey City and the statue of liberty are pretty spectacular) the same assistants that ushered the crowd to the next location held flashlights as spotlights. Occasionally, ambient noise competed with the dialogue, but the actor's vocal work was impressive and the audience seemed to hang on every word of the abbreviated script. The acting and directing was strong and the story prevailed. And I never had a chance to sit and tune out. We were all a part of the experience.
As of next week, Much Ado moves to Central Park at 103rd Street, the exact location is listed on the website. Bring comfortable shoes, shorts/pants that you don't mind getting dirty, something to sit on that you can easily carry from place to place, and friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Trees Are Cool

Check out this The Lower East Side Ecology Center's website for instructions on how to safely recycle and for a money saving tip that we should all remember:

"The net cooling effect of one young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-sized air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
How's that for free?
And true. I just returned from the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut where I was in a 12 day workshop reading of an amazing new musical called "Clear" written by Paul Stovall and the best place to cool off was under one of the amazing huge trees on the grounds. There are photos of famous actors and playwrights and directors (Woody Allen, August Wilson, etc.) under what was known as the Conference Tree. What an amazing creative meeting place! Holy Ground, as our musical director/cast member Brad Simmons said.
Yay trees!
And yay Lower East Side Ecology Center!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

More Divawear...

Another performance at Symphony Space with some amazing celebrities (I performed between a video of Stephen Colbert and Leonard Nimoy!), another reason to create another "Divawear" design.
This was a top I made from 2 identical silk scarves that I found in a ten cent bin at a thrift store in California (I bought 10 of them, stay tuned for the gown...) and then sewed together. I added a draw string and my Divawear tag... et voila! "Wow" comments from Jane Curtin, Carmen de Vavallade, and Eugenia Zukerman!
p.s. Strappy sandals from Payless, dark wash skinny jeans from H & M...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All because of a Blog

Donna Lynn Champlin is my newest Ren Girl Hero.
For under $1,000 she recorded and released her debut album, Old Friends.
Mine, with the amazing discounted and free help of dozens of musician friends cost $10,000. In this Broadway World article, Champlin relates her story of how simply blogging about her adventure, she assembled her team and emerged with a record winning album!
Guess what my next project is?

Target Women

Watching Target Women will definitely save you money.
I ran across this hilarious off-hand cable TV show between Tosh.O and the Daily Show and recommend it for a healthy dose of perspective.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Second Annual Bitch and Swap

It's a small world in this big city.
I was doing a reading of a new musical and met two marvelous new actors who had just come from a hike upstate: first clue that we probably had tons in common... But then I found out that Anna (who has a blog, too!) is also from Missoula Montana! Next (drumroll ladies and gentlemen) I invited her to my Bitch and Swap.... and she couldn't come because she was already having one that week! What?
But we did compare notes afterwards on Facebook. Seems more people are into purging than acquiring and we both had huge piles to bring to Sally's (thank you Renee for filling up your car the next morning!) and varying sizes of donated clothes are inevitable and everyone has more fun if none of that matters.
How was your Bitch and Swap Potluck?

$99 Headshots!

How can you beat that?
Ben Strothmann offers a 20 minute "Quickie" session for an affordable alternative.
Let's face it. When you've had several headshots in your life you know how to a)do your own hair and makeup and b) choose one outfit that you know will work. This short session requires that pre-planned focus (time for only one look/background color), and it forces you to do your homework: Check out other headshots on line, see what you like and don't like in backgrounds, poses, outfits, makeup and show up with ideas. Ben is great at taking those ideas and setting up the right lighting and background.
He recently moved to a new studio with a great big bathroom down the hall, complete with full length mirror, and mine was the first shot taken in this new studio! His clear instructions on his website made it very easy and fast to view my proofs online.
Thanks Ben! Now to get my new headshots to the casting directors...

Check out more photos by Ben of The Chalks in a previous post:

Monday, April 12, 2010

For the Love of Boots

Okay, who else has a little crush on their Shoe Repair Guy?
I think my husband has accepted it and is okay with it so I'll just sing his praises a bit here.
$70 dollars just revived 6 pairs of fantastic boots, some of which I've re-heeled 3 times already! I mean, these boots have miles on them. And he not only re-heeled them, he gave them each a beautiful polish. That's love, isn't it?
And it's good for the environment.
And it's good for our pocket book.
Yay, Shoe Repair Guy!

Window Shopping

Am I crazy? Okay, don't answer that too quickly.
But I do wonder why, when I feel like I can finally afford to shop for new items, I walk into department stores and retail shops, get bored, and walk out empty handed.
I mean, where's the hunt? Where's the creativity?
My friend Chad does think I'm crazy, because instead of looking at a fabulous sundress and thinking, wow, that would go great with the cute pair of slides I bought last season, I think, how can I make that out of something I already own or something that I know I can find for two dollars at a thrift store, like a tablecloth, for example? Or curtains? How do you solve a problem like Leenya?
Take Gap and Urban Outfitters. It's gotten to where I just walk in and browse (a salesperson's nightmare, I know) and each price tag is $40 and above for items that all appear as if they're vintage or lovingly worn anyway. Instead, my brain starts to calculate: Hmmm...
70's peasant blouses with sleeves cut off
Men's vests with darts sewn in the back lining to make them more fitted
80's print full skirts, shortened to a mini
Early 90's cuff boots or 70's shortened cowboy booties
Loose-fitting khaki's (even pleats can be reworked in the newest trends) to roll up to capris
And I have my list!
Then I head to Sally's, Conway's, or to my new favorite treasure chests, the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market on 39th Street between 9th and 10th Ave. and Outcasts, benefitting St. Clement's Church on 10th Ave. between 46th and 47th Street and look for fabrics that I'm drawn to, colors that I need in my wardrobe.
$33 dollars later, I leave with 2 huge bags of new summer items and I know it's going to be a fun new season.


You may need an NYU i.d. to get in, but why not try? Come next weekend to the grandDaddy of all Bitch and Swaps!


Sunday, April 25, 1pm-7pm
Kimmel Center, 8th Floor
Swap-a-Palooza is a clothing swap and celebration that lets you reduce your environmental impact by exchanging gently used clothes and accessories. Take advantage of the ultra-stylish NYU community's fashion sense and harvest a new look without putting pressure on your wallet - or the planet. Admission price is one bag of clothes. The Swap will feature do-it-yourself design stations to make your new wardrobe one-of-a-kind.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bitch and Swap Time

Okay Ren People! It's that time of year again.
Spring, though little more than a tease right now, is truly around the corner and it's time to trade out winter clothes for warmer togs. Re-read my posts about purging in Lady Godiva for tips on what to get rid of during this transition.
Also, start organizing a Bitch and Swap now! Not only is it a good excuse to gather your stylish-but-bargain-savvy friends together for a party, but you'll get new stuff for the price of snacks and beverages! And with all those around the world who are newly suffering lately, why not make it a fundraiser for a Charity? Multitask, I say...

Last month, I went on a retreat with my sisters Mary Brienza and Kathryn Markey.
Okay, it wasn't really a retreat and I don't really have real sisters. The venue was the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor Long Island and Mary an Kathryn are my stage "sisters" in the Country Western Comedy trio "The Chalks". We were on a quest to finally write the script that has been the result of years of fun on stage and Tom Caruso, our new director, was going to take us there!
In one week, we finished writing, changed, changed again, and then performed memorized our new musical, The Chalks: A Family in Three Chords! It was a huge challenge, but with an audience that barely stopped laughing enough to catch their breaths, well worth the trip!
Back in December, came and filmed our unscripted live show at the Laurie Beechman Theater and you can still watch it (for free!) along with many other New York Comedians. They do a great job of making videos of live shows.
Check us out because seeing a Chalks show isn't going to be a bargain forever!

Fancy Shmancy

Okay, I'll write later about where the *&$#^%&@ I've been the last 3 months and why I haven't written recently. There is a post I need to write!

A fellow singer/actor wrote me recently and I wanted to share. I'm honored to have her as a follower!

Oh Financially Savvy Fashionista!

Dear Leenya,

I never did update you on the results of my formal wear foraging! Your recommendations were wonderful- the first place I stopped was the Goodwill on 25th street where I found a two piece outfit with a wonderful full black satin skirt. The top half didn't fit, but for $35 I was happy for it to come along for the ride! So with my workable separates in hand I continued thru your list of venues, just to see what was out there. Most of the other locations on 25th and Housing works had a better supply of everyday clothes. Finally I arrived at the massive Salvation Army on 46th street where I found a bronze strapless gown I actually didn't need at the moment but will probably end up using it next month. And for $40 I figured it was worth taking home as well. It was quite a successful voyage!

Thank you again for your guidance!

I say, Sally Forth, oh fellow Ren Girl! A lot of people shy away from looking for formal wear at Thrift Stores when it's one of the first things that people purge, as they see it as a "wear one time only" clothing item and therefore, but you didn't let this stop you!

I just competed in the American Traditions Vocal Competition and for each round of the competition (I won the Bronze Medal!) I wore an outfit that was purchased entirely at a resale shop! In the quarterfinals, I wore my newest favorite grey pinstripe suit with a flea market sequined tank and the semi-finals featured me in an empire-waist flower knee length cocktail dress with a velvet blazer on top. Pictured here is me backstage in the final round at the gorgeous Lucas Theater in downtown Savannah with my amazing accompanist, Keith Burton, wearing the gown (complete with train!) that I found at "Sally's" for the opening night of Cyrano de Bergerac with Jennifer Garner. I was so happy to have an event for which I could wear this unique dress again!

To those who are reading for the first time because you heard about my blog in my introduction at the finals, Welcome! And I meant what I said about Savannah audiences...