2012 in Review

In November of this past year, I took part in a little daily project on Facebook called The Month of Thanks.  Every day I sat down to write, publicly, something I was thankful for that day.  And let’s be honest, there are some dark, dark days in November in Minnesota.  Some days many of us are just thankful to wake up in the morning, the small victory of not having died in our sleep.  Ahem.  Um, did I mention we don’t get much sunlight ‘round these parts in the winter? Even so, it was a beautiful project to partake in – one that made me grateful for the gratitude alone.  And in considering this 2012 Year in Review, Day 28 of my Month of Thanks leapt off the screen at me:

:: Month of Thanks, Day 28: today's recording session was in a pretty, pretty studio I'd never seen before. And the longer video for which I was providing voice-over was really quite lovely (there was a commercial, too, but that was, you know, short and commercialey). I am profoundly grateful that a combination of luck, training, skill, and perseverance has enabled me to do what I love for a living.

That, right there, is the essence of so much of last year.  The joy of exploring new studios. Of meeting engineers, writers, and producers.  Of realizing that I am able to make my living doing what I love because of luck, training, skill, and perseverance.  No single one of those things alone would cut it; it takes every piece to create the balance.  Some of those things are in my control, some are not, but every one is a gift.  And for that, I am most grateful.

And so, without further ado, my performance highlights of 2012:




  • Continued part-time work at the Science Museum of Minnesota on the Science Live team – performing live science demonstrations and science-related short plays for museum audiences.
  • Traveled to Portland, OR to present to national museum colleagues the first draft of Kitchen Chemistry, a new live stage presentation I created for the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Joined the advance-publicity team for public appearances and started rehearsals for my roles as Anne Bonny and Mary Read (depending on the day) in the Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  


  • Voiceovers for Marketplace Events spots - fourth year running.  Ty Pennington and I on national TV and radio urging you to attend home shows across the U.S.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.
  • Voiceover for Land O’Lakes butter – my first truly-national television commercial.  I had done plenty of spots in the past that were aired in specific markets all over the U.S. (and therefore recorded multiples with appropriate city names filled in), but not one single commercial that would be aired everywhere.  Network TV, cable, everywhere.  It was very exciting.  Recorded at Echo Boys for Campbell Mithun.  




  • Opening of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
  • Started rehearsals for Rajiv Joseph’s achingly beautiful two-person play Gruesome Playground Injuries.


  • Voiceovers for KeyBank - this was the first session reading tags for their “Vase” (and another – the name of which I’m forgetting) TV and radio ads. 47 tags, to be specific.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.  
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank (yes, more) – I ended up having several more sessions at Campbell Mithun this month – just a couple tags here and there – but still a delight to be in their studios every time.




  • Performances of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, which merited some lovely press, a hug from a newspaper critic, and a sweet note from the casting director at The Guthrie.  AND a new “Facebook friendship” with the playwright.  An honor and a joy.  
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.




  • Performed/read at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for a new play, which I’m embarrassed to say I retained no notes about – so cannot recollect the playwright nor the name of the play, nor if I read a role or the stage directions.  For shame, Leigha.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Voiceovers for more Marketplace Events spots – this was for home shows that would be taking place later in the year, hence weren’t recorded at the year’s first session in January.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for A User’s Guide to Hell, a new play by Lee Blessing.
  • Opened Kitchen Chemistry, a new live stage presentation I created for the Science Museum of Minnesota about the science of spaghetti – covering topics from boiling water to starch structures to smell and taste perception.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Wrote and hosted the filming of the third in a four-part series of short satirical 1950’s-style educational films, titled The Wonders and Worries of Nanotechnology:  Who Benefits? on behalf of the Science Museum of Minnesota for The Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).  Film + Production by Teddy Media.  


  • Voiceover for The Gimmie Awards, General Mills’ bi-annual awards ceremony.  Recorded at Syring Studios for Campbell Mithun.  I have to admit that it was a little exciting knowing who the winners were and why before the winners themselves.

Featured Press

  • Interview and photo shoot for small feature article and very large photograph to run later in the month in Vita.MN, a local arts and entertainment magazine owned by the Star Tribune.  The focus of the article was my work in Minneapolis/St. Paul as a full-time stage, screen, and voiceover actor.  




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for Way West, a new play by Mona Mansour.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.


  • Performed on-camera as The Bride in Girls in Lane 4, Steeltoe Stiletto’s entry into the Minneapolis 48-Hour Film Project.  For our efforts, we garnered a “Best Film” nomination and walked away with a coveted “Audience Favorite” award.  


  • Voiceover of animatics (they’re like roughly-animated storyboards) for a new Land O’Lakes product, which I still believe is going through the development phase.  I’ve been told that if it does make it to market with this concept, I’m in for the final spots.  This is, however, a months-long process – so who knows.  Keeping my fingers crossed nonetheless, because optimism feels better than the alternative.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.




  • Performed/read for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of a new play, which I’m embarrassed to say I retained no notes about.  This is the second of two in 2012 that I somehow didn’t manage to keep records on – what on earth?  My apologies to the playwright.  For shame.  Again.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.




  • Read stage directions at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for Regulation 18B, a new play by Scott Wright.
  • Read the role of Diana Margineanu at a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center for No Hay Luz and the Search for the Red Bourgainvilleas, a new play by Domnica Radulescu.  Thank goodness for my four years of Spanish in high school.  Rusty as all get-out, but the foundation is still there.
  • Continuation of Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  I KNOW, right?  When on earth did this thing end?!  Labor Day.  And so this is the last time you’ll see this particular gig mentioned.  It was a hell of a lot of fun, but I was so, SO happy when it was done for the sole sake of not having to fuss with that wretched dirt makeup anymore.  That shit was satanic.


  • Voiceover for Cheerios – this was an incredibly sweet online video featuring a “panel” of really cute kids talking about how their moms don’t really realize that they still like Cheerios even though they’re not babies anymore.  Adorbs.  Recorded at Spotnik for Orange Filmworks.  
  • Voiceover for Marketplace Events spots – yes, more.  I love these people.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.




  • Performances of the remount of Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries.  Man, I love this play.  Rajiv is brilliant.  He didn’t write it for me, but I want him to write for me always.
  • Started rehearsals for kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva la Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.  This year’s show was going to be HUGE.


  • Voiceover for Target – the second iteration of a short film about inclusiveness - entitled Anthem  (originally voiced in December 2011 and entitled You Make Us).  Recorded at Media Loft.  
  • Voiceover for Crystal Farms’ Simply Potatoes – announcer on two fun radio spots featuring some fantastic Minneapolis/St. Paul talent.  Recorded at Babble-On for Gabriel deGrood Bendt (GdB). 
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.
  • Voiceover for the National Bone Marrow Donor Program’s annual awards ceremony.  This was my second year back in the studio for this client, and it was an honor and a joy to be asked back. Recorded at Aaron/Stokes for Blue 60 Pictures.
  • Voiceover for General Mills’ Yoplait Yogurt – dialogue with the delightful Gary Bingner, announced by the equally-delightful Mark Benninghofen.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Shout! Creative.  




  • Read stage directions for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of The Toupee, a new play by Tom Dunn.
  • Performances of kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva La Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.  This was part of a much-larger project called 28 Days of Good Energia, which included a full (and gorgeous) gallery exhibition, and it was, again, a whirlwind of activities and some of the most amazingly soulful and creative and funny people.  And incredible food.  Ohmygod.
  • Started rehearsals and research for my role as Nephthys in the Lost Egypt at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The evolution of ancient Egyptian mythology is a fascinating beast unto itself – and oh boy was there a lot to learn for this project.


  • Voiceover for LifeTime Fitness – this was for an animated video that will, in theory, play on their exercise machines in gyms nationwide.  Recorded at LifeTime Vision for LifeTime Fitness.




  • Closing performances of kaotic good productions’ The Cooking Show con Karimi & Comrades: Viva La Soul Power! at Intermedia Arts.


  • Voiceovers for a gorgeous short film and not-yet-completed commercial demo made by a reputable marketing firm campaigning for a very large company.  Unfortunately, I’m unable to share more than that due to confidentiality requirements at present, but if they land the gig, I can share.  Recorded at BWN Music.  
  • Voiceovers for KeyBank – a few more sessions this month – just a couple tags here and there for their “Vase” TV and radio ads.  Recorded at Todd Syring’s studio at Campbell Mithun for Campbell Mithun.




  • Read the role of Jane for a new script workshop at The Playwrights’ Center of ColorLines, a new play by David Wiles.  Keep an eye out for further developments on this play.  Because wow.


  • Cast as host for on-camera industrial for DraxImage’s RUBY-FILL Strontium- and Rubidium-82 Generators.  Turns out my gig at the Science Museum has made me pretty adept at presenting information, like about machines that provide measured doses of radiopharmaceuticals, as if I know what I’m talking about.  Filming to take place in January 2013.  


  • Voiceovers for Marketplace Events spots - fifth year running! FIFTH year!  Love.  Ty Pennington and I on national TV and radio urging you to attend home shows across the U.S.  TV commercials aired on HGTV and ABC and their affiliates.  Recorded at Audio Ruckus for Coordinet.
  • Voiceover for Crystal Farms’ Pancake and French Toast batters – TV commercials. Recorded at Echo Boys for Gabriel deGrood Bendt (GdB).



At the start of last year I promised to dream bigger dreams and then run to catch them.  The dreaming did indeed happen, and continues unabated.  It is, however, now accompanied by blueprints for the life I intend to build.  Plans are afoot.  This is the year that I’m going to break ground on new land.



Good Signs

You know when the director personally walks you out of your audition and wants to discuss your availability for a callback with the client, and then at the callback gives you a high-five in front of the client after your read, you probably got the gig. And I did.

First on-camera audition in seemingly forever, and nailed it.   More details after the shoot.



2010 in Review

End-of-year lists can be so tedious.  I know this.  And yet here we are.  Because the only thing more tedious than end-of-year lists is searching for some documentation of some thing that happened a year or two or three ago, and not being able to find anything about it because I was too lazy/tired/overjoyed/myopic/disassociated to actually write about it.  I therefore offer up this end-of-year list as a compendium of my professional shenanigans so that searching for them in the future won’t drive me crazy.  You’re welcome, Me. Be sure to thank me later. In 2010 I made my living in front of an audience and behind the mic.  And for that I am so deeply in awe.  So deeply grateful for my fortuity.  While our economy is not nearly as bad as 2009, it’s still in terrible disarray and record numbers of people are still unemployed.  Even so, I was able to make a modest living via my profession; a modest living that didn’t require me to engage in morally questionable behavior (the kind where one would accompany a raised eyebrow with ‘actress’ in air-quotes).

Without further ado, my performance highlights of 2010:



  • Began rehearsals for the Science Museum of Minnesota’s next exhibition – The Dead Sea Scrolls: Words That Changed the World, wherein we would perform a three-minute introductory monologue for visitors every 7.5 minutes.  In all honesty, it was mind-numbing, but the visitors were mostly appreciative.
  • Interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio’s Chris Roberts about my line-memorization techniques – ultimately compiled into a clever on-air story and accompanying slideshow with fellow actors Steven Epp, Mo Perry and Clarence Wethern.
  • The Big Oscar Crunch 2010 – wherein I try to see as many of the Oscar-nominated films as humanly possible before the awards ceremony.  The fun of doing it that way is not only seeing excellent movies, but actually feeling invested in more than just the red carpet.
  • Started rehearsals for Spring of Freedom/Summer of Feara new Iranian play by Ali G. Ravi , produced by Table Salt Productions.
  • VO gig for Carlson Companies – got to put Nurse Evelyn Marsden’s darling English accent to good use.


  • Devastated to drop out of Spring of Freedom/Summer of Fear due to a harrowing family crisis which, because it apparently wasn’t bad enough, led to a nasty case of shingles.  Yes, shingles.  Probably the worst three weeks of my adult life to date.
  • Called in by the lovely Barbara Shelton at Bab’s Casting to audition for a new WB pilot Mike and Molly.  The network was looking for someone 30 pounds overweight.  I was exactly that (not anymore, thanks to a newfound love of yoga), and so happily went in.  Between the script (and the eventual casting choice), it became quite clear that LA thinks 30 pounds overweight is the same thing as obese.  Surprising?  Not really.
  • Called in by the Guthrie Theater to audition for the role of Eunice in Streetcar Named Desire.  Almost missed the e-mail because I assumed it was Guthrie marketing spam and was about to delete it.  Didn’t recognize the sender’s name, though, so opened it.  Close call.
  • VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics.  These are voice-overs for a concept by the ad agency for the client.  If it gets approved by the client, the agency then films the spots.  Since I almost never watch commercial TV, I have no idea if these ever made it though the pipeline...my guess is no (especially since many of these were the same as, or similar to, the ones I did in April 2009).


  • VOs for Nexxus demos/animatics – two more sessions.
  • Public reading of Casa Cushman, a new work by NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project (the folks who brought you The Laramie Project, at the University of Minnesota Nolte Center.


  • Crickets. Both figurative and literal.  Aside from live science demonstrations at the Science Museum of Minnesota, it appears that I did nothing performance-related in May.  And I went camping.
  • On Tuesday, May 11, amongst of a jumble of scheduled meetings and things to do, I found written in my calendar, “Hell-cat Maggie and Slops McConnell.”  I have no idea what that means, but I think it’s funny, so thought I would share with anyone who is still reading by this point.  Kiss, kiss.

June More crickets.  Figurative.  See May.



  • 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival, and my performance in Walking Shadow’s critically acclaimed See You Next Tuesday.  I was so excited to be back at the festival that I advance-purchased an Ultra Pass, with which I ended up only seeing three shows due to an emergency hospital visit and an emergency vet visit.  2010 was not turning out to be a great year for health.
  • VO spots (more, again) for Marketplace Events home shows with Ty Pennington – TV and Radio (listen).  Continued airings on HGTV and ABC.



  • Obscenely busy month that had almost nothing to do with performing.  Included business travel to San Francisco for continued work on behalf of the Science Museum of Minnesota for NISE Net (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network), with a little leisure travel to San Diego and LA on the side.
  • No! Wait!  Because of my General Mills VOs in September, this is the month that I was required to join the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG)!  That’s right, I got my SAG card in October.  October was not an actorly loss, after all.


  • Started rehearsals for a three-week, 30-hours/week workshop of Casa Cushman – in collaboration with NYC’s Tectonic Theater Project, choreographer Carl Flink, University of Minnesota Department of Theater Arts and Dance, a couple other U of M departments that I can’t recall at the moment, and The Playwrights’ Center.
  • Sent live the brand-spankin’-shiny-new leighahorton.com.


  • Performance of Casa Cushman at the Northrop Auditorium.  This was a wild ride, and at the end of it all, despite some crazy-cray-cray, it was kind of awesome.  And I kind of loved it.
  • VOs for General Mills (42 in total) for Progresso Light Soups, Yoplait and Yoplait Light Yogurts, and Big G Cereals national TV spots.  I just about died and went to heaven.
  • VOs for Marketplace Events Home Shows with Ty Pennington – third year running!
  • Authored and published a children’s book for NISE Net, Alice in Nanoland, which, as you read this, is being mailed to 200 informal science education institutions (science museums, children’s museums, etc.) across the nation in the 2011 NanoDays kits.  What a curious little experience that was.

And there we have it!  The months of 2010 demonstrate both feast and famine and average out to healthy; December being, by far, the most entertaining (well, for me, anyway).  I continue to stand, mouth agape, at the wondrous profession I have chosen and the beautiful trajectory it has taken thus far.  I cannot wait to see what delightful paths await!

I'll Only Get The Audition When...

...I’ve done something to my body that I can’t hide. Several months ago I was between shows and figured it would be an excellent time to try out a new mehndi design on my hand.  Mehndi, for the unindoctrinated, is the art of painting on the skin with henna - a natural plant-based dye.  The practice is rooted in Africa, India, and the Middle East, and used on the skin to create temporary tattoo-like designs or to dye the hair or scalp, usually for wedding ceremonies and the like.  Or if you’re me, it’s used to create designs on the skin that last a good two-plus weeks with no hope of getting them to fade early, no matter what you try.

Now, I am no stranger to mehndi.  I implemented my first design in the summer of 2008:

And I loved it.  The process is slow and meditative, and something I thoroughly enjoy if I have loads of time and can limit movement to allow for everything to dry properly.  The result is, to me, a secret delight - it’s usually hidden by footwear, but one can catch glimpses around the edges of my mary-janes if they’re looking hard enough.

So I happened to have loads of time, a good book, and some bravado available one day, and decided it was time to give it another go, this time on my hand.  Far more bold, far more daring; my own little joy and a temporary eff-you to societal norms.  And achieved a rather striking result:

Which would have been juuuuust fine, had it not been for two things:

1) I stupidly didn’t realize how much I talk with my hands - especially when giving science demonstrations at the museum. File that one under “Horton, Duh.”  And as we’re all well-aware, little dudes like to ask questions about things they don’t understand in loud voices.  So in an effort to be encouraging of constructive dialogue about differences, I ended up explaining the science of henna as often as I explained the importance of surface area in chemical reactions.

2) the call I got from my agent the next week, requesting I audition for the lead in a new network sitcom pilot (more about this in another post).  You see, the thing with henna is that when it fades, it doesn’t do so uniformly - so when it gets to a certain point of faded-ness, one looks like a burn victim and unintentionally alarms the kindly, beloved casting director.

And thus the lesson I learned the hard way is this: not all of us have the privilege of outwardly flying our freak flags.  Therefore, I must keep it (whatever “it” happens to be after any given flight of fancy) in a place where it can be covered.  Even if it’s only temporary.  Bah.

The Anachronism in my Face

My agent called last month to see if I was available for filming down in Iowa early/mid-May, as a casting director wanted to see me for a Mandate Pictures indi-flick called Peacock, set to star Cillian Murphy (better known as freaky Scarecrow in Batman Begins) and Ellen Page (of Juno fame).

I found myself pained by the dilemma this caused: during the second half of the filming dates I was scheduled to visit my family in San Diego, and introduce my beau of 1.25 years to my California Parents. Plane tickets were purchased, rental car was reserved, lodging was secured, and California Parents were counting down the days.

Either the vacation with my far-off folks had to be shelved, or the possibility of filming had to be shelved. There was no room for compromise.

Turns out the braces-in-my-faces ended up making the decision for me. I was told that the movie was set in the mid-60s. I was aware that the casting director was calling me in based on my headshots – both of which feature a closed mouth. On purpose. I hated my teeth when those were taken, and had every intention of getting braces. I now have those braces (just eight more months to go – thank god). I can’t imagine that braces in a movie would be a big deal, except for the fact that the braces I have today were not invented until 1972. NINETEEN SEVENTY-FREAKING-TWO. I would have walked onto the set with a giant anachronism epoxied to my face. I shared that with my agent, who then politely declined with the casting director on my behalf.

Ahhhh, braces – fixing my teeth, and fixing my dilemmas. While I hate dilemmas, I still hate the braces more.

The Science of Acting

I recently viewed a profoundly moving speech given at this year’s TED Conference in Monterey, CA – it was presented by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor on the fascination she experienced when able to study her own brain while she was having a stroke.

The speech has haunted me for weeks, not only because of my generally-hidden passion for science as related to quantum physics and the consequent implications on the human body and psyche; but because it finally provided a clear, scientific answer to what I experience while performing on stage – the interaction between actor and actor, and the interaction between actor and audience.

First, for context, an excerpt of Bolte Taylor's speech detailing the primary functions of the human brain:

Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It's all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere, it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically through the movement of our bodies. Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like. What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.

My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it's all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we've ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. It's that ongoing brain chatter that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It's that little voice that says to me, "Hey, you gotta remember to pick up bananas on your way home, and eat 'em in the morning." It's that calculating intelligence that reminds me when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it's that little voice that says to me, "I am. I am." And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me "I am," I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.

With these brain functions finally delineated in a way I could understand, I’ve been far more cognizant of how I experience the world – my surroundings, my relationships, my interactions. All in all, I tend to embrace and honor my right brain-ness, yet have a constant undercurrent of streaming left-brain narrative and evaluation.

That said, I found myself rather shaken after having what seemed to be a wholly right-brain experience at an audition the week before last. I was in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, participating in what turned out to be a six-hour audition. It boiled down to about 4% actually auditioning on stage in front of a director, 28% working scenes with audition partners or reading the sides over on my own, 32% chit-chatting with other actors, and 64% tedium.

There was one actor in particular (and thus to the point of my story) with whom I was assigned to read. We worked our scene multiple times, and then got to talking in generalities. The more we talked, the more we realized we had similar experiences with some of the same people, and thus, a connection was formed. Energy was shared. I didn’t realize the benefit of this exchange until we were in the audition room and our scene took on a whole new level of familiarity and spark.

When we were paired again later in the day, without the opportunity to first read over the scenes together, I was not concerned - it was like being at home on stage because I somehow trusted this actor implicitly. And he gave a powerful performance, and with it the finest gift – I felt this rush of strength and wisdom and insouciance being directed at me, and in turn it gave me license to summon up the same in myself and return it to him. He gave me the right to shine unabashedly, without censure. At one point, I had even put down my script because my character was done speaking but still on stage – I used that time to make physical discoveries, and to just live in the space. I did all of this without internal narrative – it just…happened.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like rays of sunlight burst out of my chest and destroyed the onlookers, a la Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hell, it probably didn’t look like anything special to anyone beyond our little sphere of interaction. But it felt important.

And I got cast.

Got it…got it…got it…don’t got it. But wait!...

Thursday, December 20 – 3ishMon agent extraordinaire calls with the news that I’ve been chosen to be the voice of a marketing firm’s client’s (I know, I know) telephone system based on my demo alone, no audition needed. I’m so accustomed to getting audition calls that it takes a repeat for me to realize that I actually HAVE the gig. “Wha-really?-Sweet!” I’m told that I’ll be recording the next day, and that they’ll get back to me with a confirmation of time. Horton Happy Dance ensues.

Thursday, December 20 – 9:30 pm Agent calls - still no confirmation of time. Cue sinking gut feeling. Dredge up memories of the Qwest commercial I landed back in June, but lost due to a script issue that went missing in the bowels of their legal department.

Friday, December 21 – 9:30 am Agent says they’re still working on it. I am optimistically cynical – brain abuzz with trust that great things will come, yet tempered by bitter memories of former gigs lost.

Friday, December 21 – 1:21 pm Agent calls to say that Client has decided to save money by going with an internal employee, without ever hearing my pipes. Saving money = no job for me, and deeply-Minnesota-accented telephone system for them. Turns out there is lining, however, and it is silver - Marketing Firm is very, very disappointed at Client’s decision, and looks forward to working with me in the future.

Friday, December 21 – 4:41 pm Agent calls to say that I lost one…but gained another. I am wary. Yet I love my agent. Pensive Horton Happy Dance ensues. I’ve landed a voiceover for the Kansas Lottery, wherein I get to talk about my boyfriend in Topeka. Topeka. Topeka, Topeka, Topeka. It’s a fun word to say. Try it. Seriously. I’ll wait. See? It’s right up there with “button” and “pocket.” I imagine it’s going to be even more fun to get paid to say it.

Anyway, the recording is slated for late next week, but has yet to be confirmed… I shall hope for the lack of a theme here.

Not to Mention the Baby-Eating

The ever-elusive Ministry of Cultural Warfare is actually holding AUDITIONS. Yes. YES! This only happens once every leap year or so - granted, it's about 20 days early for a leap year audition, but we at MoCW are all fancy-free (lazy?) like that - so come audition.

If you’re cast, we’ll teach you the secret handshake and you’ll learn what we drink to keep ourselves looking so fresh and vibrant – I am 429 years old, after all.

AUDITIONS DEC 16-17: Ministry of Cultural Warfare is looking for funny actors for a double-bill of Chekhov parodies for the Twin Cities Chekhov Festival at Bryant-Lake Bowl, February 2008.

A Rain of Seagulls, written by Meron Langsner, directed by Leah Cooper, explores nearly every Chekhovian theme known to man in roughly 40 minutes—meaning that, of course, the cast is heavily armed and rather morose. 2 women ages 20-30 1 woman age 40-55 1 man age 20-30 3 men age 30-45

Our Vanya, Ourselves, written by Matthew Foster, directed by Reid Knuttila, is a mash-up between Anton's Uncle Vanya and "Sisters and Other Strangers," a classic episode of The Golden Girls when Dorothy's cousin Magda visits from Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism. 3 women: 35-50 1 woman: 25-35 1 woman: 55+

Rehearsals January 14 through February 6. Performances February 7, 22 and 28. All the details at the MoCW site. Sides will be available for download there soon also.

Technicolor Baby

After reading an interesting article on the ongoing Great Headshot Debate (color vs. black-and-white), I decided to expand my portfolio several months back with a color photo for on-camera auditions. I’ll still keep my black-and-white for stage, but want to mix things up a little.

This here is the result of a little in-studio visit to killer Twin Cities photographer Craig VanDerSchaegen. Dude is the master of natural lighting:

Leigha Horton color

Is it wrong that I feel kind of obligated to write a novella now? This thing just screams dust jacket.

Mrs. Ira Glass

Three-second quiz! Okay, go!:

Q: What do you get when you cross National Public Radio with competitive reality TV?

            a) the open (re)casting call for Eric Stolz’ character in Mask;

b) fodder for the newest edition of The Culture of Narcissism, with a postmortem foreword by the author (this was just too good to stay dead for);

c) The Public Radio Talent Quest (to which I have submitted an entry and thereby opened myself up to yet another* opportunity for nationwide criticism);

            d) All of the above.

Of course the answer is D. Of course it is. That being said, I humbly request that you listen and vote (yes, voting requires registration, but you won’t get spammed, I promise). Besides, if you take a gander, you’ll get the meaning behind today’s title.

There’s part of me that thinks this is completely silly. But there’s also part of me that thinks I have a fighting chance. They’re looking for “hostiness” – and dangit, I think I can give it to them.

The Art of Negotiation

I just negotiated myself right out of a cool acting job.

Yes, it (just barely) paid enough to make ends meet; but it didn’t pay enough to honor the work that actors do as artists, and the value of one’s time.  The pay was reasonable for stage, but not for screen.  And certainly not for such an established company.  Not for something that will continue to generate strong revenue for them long after the actual performance is over.  Not for aspects of performance that they can re-use as stock footage for future projects, without paying royalties.  I just can’t sell out like that. 

It makes me sound like a jerk, right?  “She was offered a somewhat-decent paying gig and she turned it down – who the hell does she think she is?!” 

I’m still trying to figure myself out, but this much I know is true: I am an artist that just took one for the team.  I am an artist that took a stand for a reasonable wage.  Yeah, I did it for me, but I did it for everyone else in this town, too.  What had to be explained to me by a friend, many times, very clearly, is that if artists keep accepting mediocre-at-best wages for their work, it drives prices down.  Companies know that they can get other actors at a fraction of a reasonable wage, because there are actors out there desperate enough to do it; but what they don’t realize until after the fact is that the actors they get are less qualified.  In our economy, you get what you pay for.

And god, believe me, I wanted to do it.  Badly.  I had a great time at the audition – I thoroughly enjoyed everyone that was in the room – there was a great rapport.  But I had to respect myself enough not to accept their final offer.  And that was really, really hard.  It took the guidance and encouragement of a friend/fellow artist.  It took three (yes, three) books on negotiation techniques, one of them specifically aimed at artists, another specifically aimed at women.  It took time.  And in the end, it took a good cry in the privacy of my living room.

A couple of weeks later, and I still think about that job.  I still think about the what-ifs.  But in the end I still know, deep down, and sometimes after a lot of searching, that I did the right thing.

Integrity versus Gig: 15-love.  

Do-over at the Big G

After 45 minutes spent on the phone manually re-dialing the Guthrie’s Audition Line every 37 seconds, I got through to a real person with four minutes to spare in their pre-designated “window of opportunity” (my term, not theirs; likewise for the snark). I scheduled an audition for March 31st at 3:40 p.m; hung up the phone; and allowed myself five, good, uninterrupted minutes of spastic panic before I got to work.

I e-mailed my dear friend, sometimes-director, and always strikingly-brilliant Cooper who had, just days prior, returned from a 3-month life-adventure touring South America, and begged her to help me choose my two audition monologues and direct me in them. Stories of exotic fruit, impoverished children and harrowing Latin-American border-crossings would have to wait (kidding - we had already met over drinks and a guilt-ridden over-abundance of food by that point – I’m not that self-centered). She proved herself worthy of sainthood for the seventy-sixth time and agreed to help.

The result? Never have I been more prepared, nor, ironically, more nervous for an audition in all my life. I guess it’s because now there’s something at stake – I never really committed before (five+ years clinging to a day-job, anyone?), and now I am so committed it kinda burns a little. I want this. Badly. And when I want things, badly, I tend to be disappointed – that’s just the way things roll in my world.

But this time I’m not bogged down by should-haves – I know I was prepared (okay, okay, I could have started preparing a lot earlier than I did – but I still did a hell of a lot more prep than I’ve ever done before). I did my homework. I got real direction from a real director. I don’t regret much other than my nerves, and overall that’s a pretty sweet feeling.

Getting Schooled

I was lurking around The Callboard, an online discussion forum for Twin Cities actors, the week before last and stumbled upon a conversation about auditioning techniques. Someone suggested that everyone should read Michael Shurtleff’s Audition. Then roughly 20 more people responded that they too had read it and found its advice invaluable.

This lead me to two questions, 1) where the hell did everyone hear about this; and 2) what rock have I been living under? This just reinforced that I received a phenomenal liberal arts education in college, yet a highly uninformative (on a practical, business-level) theater education. I can tell you all about plays by early American women, but I can’t tell you why you’re supposed to wear the exact same clothes to callbacks as you did to the initial audition. Here I am, many, many thousands of dollars later, learning practical, business-level stuff on chat boards. Great. Somewhere I hear someone’s mother singing a hollow, yet loving, “I told you so.”

Anyway, reading the conversation on The Callboard made me feel embarrassed and a little ashamed… if I am to take myself seriously as an actor, it is my responsibility to be not only professional, but informed. It had immediately become apparent that I was not as informed as I had previously thought. And it had immediately become apparent that I have some work to do. So I hit the pavement. Last Sunday I walked into Uptown to scout out Audition at some of our wonderful independent and second-hand bookshops and found a lightly-used copy for three dollars. I also discovered a copy of Robert Cohen’s Acting Professionally: Raw Facts About Careers in Acting (had it in college, didn’t find it immediately useful, got rid of it…or so I thought. I came home to discover the college copy on my top shelf - oops.), Richard Brestoff’s The Camera Smart Actor, and a reference book entitled The Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide. All for under $25.

I immediately sat down when I got home and read the first 25 pages of Audition. Thankfully, there was plenty that I already knew or had learned (the hard way, of course) over the last several years; but I also learned a handful of new tips and tricks that I had never before encountered. Those three dollars were the best that I have ever spent. Not bad for reigniting my practical performing arts education.

The Week of Definites Came Early

Holy Hannah in a honkin’ huge hand-basket. Know how I said two posts ago that I hadn’t heard back from Children’s Theatre Company, so assumed that I ultimately wasn't chosen for the part – but the callbacks were an honor nonetheless? I was wrong. YES – I WAS WRONG, and I’ve never been happier to say so! Dudes, I got cast. My very spanking first audition at the illustrious CTC, and I got cast!

This winter I shall warm the hearts of wee ones in Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl – in the role of awesomely named Lacey Rubbertree. And it’s professional! And it’s full-time! And there’s a real-live bunny outside my window right now, no doubt here to congratulate me because we all know that animals talk to you when you’re a princess! And I am so excited that I don’t even know how to act properly when I think about it! HI LITTLE BUNNY! THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT!

Oh, MAN. This is really really good - nay, this is FANTASTIC.

The Week of Almosts

Callbacks without castings: good for my ego; ineffectual for my resume. sigh. Two weeks ago I was unexpectedly called in for an audition at The Children’s Theatre and ended up making callbacks the following week (not bad for my first audition there, eh? More! More!). I haven’t heard back from them, so am assuming I ultimately was not chosen for the part – but the callbacks were an honor nonetheless.

In addition to that, I had been specifically requested to hold a date for a Target radio commercial voiceover – they indicated I was on their “short list.” Ultimately, it turned out that whoever was on the shorter end of their list got the gig. Still, it was momentarily exciting… my hopes are that next time they’re looking, they’ll go back to that short list. Hell, at 5’2”, few people do short better than me.

Next week shall be The Week of Definites. Because I’m short.

Next-to-Worst Audition. Ever.

Two weekends ago I auditioned at The History Theater for their fall production of The Orphan Train. After some consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it is indeed fair to extend the metaphor to daily-newspaper-movie-review obnoxiousness, and call the audition An Orphan Trainwreck. Upon checking in, I realize that I can hear the auditioners in the rehearsal room. This is not good for two reasons - it means that a) I'll be listening to the auditioners and gauging myself against them; and more importantly, b) the other auditioners will listen when I’m auditioning and gauge themselves against me. This thought rattled my cage a little.

After I've found a little corner to go over my monologue and song in my head, in walks the real-world incarnation of Darth Maul - one of the meanest and most immature people I've ever worked with. Ever. Truly, in the past 15 years of acting, there are only five people whom with I’ve ever had problems working…of those five people, she wins, hands down, for Most Evil. Consider this point in relation to Point B of Paragraph Two.

So now I’m going over my monologue and song in my head, listening to the other auditioners, and thinking about how “Vader” is a funny thing to nickname a mean girl (but how Darth Maul isn’t funny and neither is this girl who is now in the room with me). Then Teresa gets called in for her audition. Teresa is the person who is scheduled immediately before me. Teresa is also the person who goes into the rehearsal room and proceeds to audition using the same song that I am going to be auditioning with for the very first time. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I get into the audition room and meet the director, choreographer, composer, and accompanist. They’re all lovely. But then I recognize the choreographer, and proceed to quickly acknowledge our connection. Bad move. Turns out she left my present talent guild about a month after I started there, on bad terms. So now I’m immediately associated with bad terms. Dear Leigha, meet your new friend, Losing Battle.

Overall, the day did everything it possibly could to freak me right the hell out. Despite that, the song and monologue actually went well. But just to finish things off, I almost got mugged on the way back to my car. But I didn’t actually get mugged, so score one for Horton. Take that, stupid day.

And because I’m the total dork that I am, I literally gave myself a pat on the back when I was driving home.

The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game sucks. It is a bad game and I don't like it. The only thing I have ever liked about waiting is Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” – one of the best songs on the planet. Ever. But that’s it. Okay, okay, there are some other things that are good to wait for, because the waiting makes the experience that much richer, but I am tired of waiting for things right now. Lord, looking back on my last few posts, I’m sensing a theme here. Let’s not have a therapy session right now and deconstruct what all this means, okay? Let us instead get to the task at hand: So what is the task at hand, one might ask? I shall tell. I auditioned again last night (yes, it was only last night - bugger off) at callbacks for Gremlin Theatre’s production of The Petrified Forest over at The Loading Dock. The fact that I was even called back came as a huge surprise - I first auditioned last Wednesday night at 9 pm, which made me the last person they saw after two days of auditioning actors, and which I thought gave me a slim chance at best. Lo and behold, on Saturday I got a call (my caller ID displayed “GREMLIN” – how’s that for disarming?) – I answered to discover that I had made callbacks for the role of Gabrielle. Not bad, especially since I wasn’t waiting for the call.

And callbacks went swimmingly. The director was intelligent, pointed, and humorous and the only fellow reading for Squire was hauntingly good. I felt powerful and effective in my performance, the energy with the other actor was palpable, and the director’s feedback was insightful and promising. All of which, of course, furthered my investment, which is NOT GOOD. This is when the disappointment starts to matter.

Just a few examples of why it’s bad to be invested before the proverbial chicken-egg has hatched: I felt really good about Columbia, yet we all know how that turned out. Or how about two weekends ago when I auditioned for a feature film and the casting director went gaga over my performance and highly praised my audition right there on the spot, only to tell me again over e-mail that I did a great job, and oh, by the way, here are the names of the two people we’re calling back for the role (my name wasn’t on that list).

I’m not bitter. Really. I’m just trying to illustrate a point about the dangers of getting invested in something before finding out if I’ll even be involved.

I’ve been painting tonight to try and keep my mind off of it. Not bad with the right music and the thunderstorm lighting up the night sky. Not bad at all.

How to Succeed in Business by Trying Really Hard and Freaking Out About It…

…or All the Tedious Details of How I Got Cast in Twelfth Night at Theater in the Round in a Role Usually Played By Men and Liked It November 29th: The Neverending Audition 7 pm - Arrived at the theater, signed in, then dutifully found a corner on the floor of the overly-actory lobby and reviewed my monologue roughly a million times.

8 pm – scored a coveted spot on what would turn out to be a very hard bench. Saw some familiars, traded witty banter at various intervals between the million-and-first and billionth reviews of my monologue.

9 pm – after getting out of her audition, a girl announced to her “friend” that it went REALLY well. Her monologue, she continued, was Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing. Damnit. Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing was the monologue I was REALLY reviewing for the trillionth time. Gah.

10:07 pm – “Leigha Horton, you’re on deck.” Thank GOD. I stand up and stretch and forget my entire monologue. Continue to obsess over monologue until called onto stage.

10:15 pm – called onto stage.

10:18 pm – Them: “Thanks Leigha, that was great! We’ll be calling people tonight to let them know if we’d like to see them again at tomorrow night’s callbacks.” Me: Tonight? Really? You’re going to be up pretty late! Them: yeah, well…

10:30 pm - Get home and want to crash, but instead phone Monkey with all the details. He tries to remind me of my official “Audition, Then Forget About It” Rule (if I don’t hear back, no big deal; if I do, it’s party time), and I try to explain how this one is different. How I really, really want this, and really think that I am able to do the show justice - me and Bill are tight, monkey! TIGHT. At this point I have officially become tired and whiny. Not the sexiest of states, but whatever – I’ve got needs. Rules no longer apply.

11:30 pm - no call. I go to bed very, very sad.

November 30: Wake up, still very sad.

In the afternoon, I get an e-mail explaining that David’s decision is way harder than he anticipated, and he needs more time to pull together the list of names for callbacks. The Horton Happy Dance ensues...I have not been officially denied yet. There is hope. SWEET. And then I realize that it just means more waiting and wondering. Horton Happy Dance comes to an abrupt stop.

December 3: I get a call from the Stage Manager – David would like to see me again at callbacks on December 6. Score. Resume HHD.

December 6: The Neverending Callback 6:30 pm until 10:45 pm. Callbacks. I’m there. Cool. Some of the mean people at the first auditions haven’t been called back. Also cool. Learn fascinating things about strangers while waiting in the lobby. Get called in to read three or four times over the course of the first three hours. Learn that fellow actor Stephen Frethem and I grew up about three houses down from each other when we were kids. Nothing for the last hour, watch proudly as the former strangers marry and bear children, get dismissed. Head home. Squeal all the details to Monkey. Sleep.

December 7?: It’s all just a blur now Get the call from David that I was funny and he’d like to cast me in the role of Feste. AKA The Clown. AKA the really clever, funny, exceptionally well-written part that’s always played by men. And then I said, "Let me understand this, ‘cause, I don't know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean, funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh... I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?"

Oh, wait, that was Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. I told you it’s all kind of blurry. I actually said something like, “YES!—wait, what? Feste? Really? That is a SWEET role, but I’m a girl. Well hell, if you want me to play Feste, I will play Feste. Cool.”

So there we have it…angst and sadness and joy and swearing-that-never-happened all wrapped up in a freak package just so that I can be your clown. Dig.

The Mr. Boban Experience

Saturday night I saw the closing performance of Live Action Set’s Please Don’t Blow Up Mr. Boban, a 90-minute wartime romp through the joy and grit of humanity re-mounted post-Fringe Festival at The Loring Playhouse. Overall, a beautiful, moving piece of performance-dance-theater that certainly deserved all the praise it received. There were a few places where I recognized modified improvisation warm-up games which could have certainly been left out of the piece and rendered it just as, if not more, effective, but they also helped establish a supportive group dynamic that was palpable. The story centered around a bistro owner, Mr. Boban, whose shop is bombed, his brother a casualty of that bombing, yet continued on as the townspeople’s safe-haven on both literal and figurative levels. Between a rebel that took up residence in Boban’s refrigerator and the soul of a dead little girl who stuck around until her photograph-plastered mother found her, it was at once surprisingly funny and heartbreaking. The most touching part of the evening, however, was when an audience member on the other side of the stage (the performance played in the round) began to silently cry during a particularly moving scene. The young boy that he was with, perhaps 11, noticed, scooted closer to his friend and extended his little arm up to try and embrace the grown-up's shoulders. His arm couldn’t quite reach all the way around, but the sentiment was clear. Sadly, children are often far more empathetic than we tend to notice when we’re wading in our own moments.

So since this is my website and I’m an actress and therefore have an obligation of self-servitude to fulfill, I have to interpret the Mr. Boban experience in a way that speaks directly to my personal dramas of the moment. Ready? O-KAY!:

I walked away from the theater feeling a bit melancholy and realized that being a part of that audience made me miss the stage even more than I already have been missing it. Voice-over work is certainly gratifying, but rather lonely at the same time; I want to work in an ensemble again, I want to feel the energy of a room and dance with it. Well, dance with it in an actor way, not a dancer way (although the two forms are being integrated more and more in the work I see lately).

Over the past month or two, I’ve been checking out tctheatreandfilm.org for audition listings, but not every company/venue lists there. And the old stand-by, the Star Tribune 550’s, is something that I don’t go out and buy on Sundays because I already get the New York Times – I think that I should be able to get the same info through the Star Tribune online, but no such luck. The STrib online classifieds are really quite terrible, actually – more so since they changed their search engine preventing one from viewing all submissions under the 550 header. So there we have it: half-assed searching for stage work, and nothing to show for it. Surprising? Nope. Disappointing? Yep.

Alas, (alack?) it’s time to stop screwing around. I’ve officially hit a plateau in the Twin Cities, and plateaus are sad and scary and lame; so here is my stage-acting agenda for the next two weeks:

  1. Get a new headshot (thank you, photographer monkey) and 100 laser prints;
  2. Decide on three new audition monologues (contemporary, classic, Shakespeare) and MEMORIZE them;
  3. Start actively seeking out stage auditions, and specifically request auditions for the Children’s Theater Company and The Guthrie. It’s time.

Donations accepted. Wish me luck.

The Empire Strikes Back

Take a flying guess who I was forced to read with at last Tuesday’s audition. Ready? It was Mr. PSA himself – the same fellow from the last awful audition. After a couple of bum auditions at this venue and a strikingly bad vibe from the space itself (duly noted by Nathan who auditioned the night before), I’m starting to think of this place as the Evil Empire. And no, for anyone taking bets, it’s not the Guthrie. So even though Mr. PSA arrived and checked-in 45 minutes after I did, he ended up getting assigned to me due to the male-to-female ratio. Reid and Erik were there with me (Reid was planned, Erik I happily bumped in to), and Reid did what he could to not get the giggles – it was a noble effort, but not entirely successful.

To quote a light-hearted but dissatisfied Reid, “merr.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the sound, it’s kind of beepy, but in a sad, recalcitrant muppet sort of way.

Ah well, onwards and upwards.