…And don’t forget to be a “normal” person too. Don’t forget to spend time with family and take vacations. I know the acting takes top priority sometimes, but you are still human. You deserve to have a human life too complete with family and love and friendships and memories.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lydia Kalmen. Lydia is an up and coming new face to the professional acting scene. She has recently appeared in an Off Broadway production of Manfred by Lord Byron and at the NY Winterfest in the original work Our Last Night on Earth. She also performed in The Spyglass Seven, an original work about Edgar Allan Poe and the loves/muses in his life which was performed at the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival this past fall.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Performing is the family business for me and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. My Dad is a musician, piano and keyboard. And my Aunt (my Dad’s sister) owns a dance studio, where I started classes the day after my second birthday. I danced competitively in jazz, lyrical, tap, and ballet all while growing up until I graduated High School. I was also a member of a non-for-profit youth ballet. We performed in the big theatre that gets the Broadway tours. We always performed with a live orchestra and every show was sold out or close to it.
However, I know how taxing dance can be on the body. I never had a desire to be a teacher or a choreographer, so I started looking into acting. That way I could still do what I love, I could still perform and bring stories to life. I have found a greater passion for acting than I had for dancing. I love bringing a character to life and telling their story. I love to move an audience. There is nothing like the natural high when every fiber of your being is in character and in the moment and you’re creating a living work of art.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I can’t think of anything specific. The life of an actor is always pretty interesting haha.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I also can’t really think of a funny mistake. Being a perfectionist I don’t usually find my mistakes funny. I make note of them and try not to make that mistake again. Don’t get me wrong, I laugh at myself easily if I do something goofy like walk into a glass door or something like that. But clumsy accidents like tripping over your own feet or walking into a glass door are different than making a mistake.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just finished a production of As You Like It. It’s been a little while since I’ve worked on any Shakespeare and it’s been a blast getting back to into it. The language is so beautiful, so many great witty jokes, and there is such great imagery in the writing.
Another interesting experience lately was an original play Our Last Night on Earth. I played a character that had been attacked and left for dead. Because of her condition she is kept sedated and is taken care of by nurses. Every once in awhile she would come out of her drugged haze and have breakdowns as she is reliving the attack. That was an interesting challenge as an actor. Going from a rag doll state to mental breakdown and back again. Telling this woman’s story of anguish and fear with not many words, mostly actions.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
One if the most interesting people I have met was actually a manager of mine at a part time “survival” job, working as a Broadway Brand Ambassador with theatreMAMA. Margot Carr is a very unique person, a lovable eccentric artist with a heart of gold. She would make her rounds in Times Square to see how we were doing in the cold weather months with a floor length faux fur coat and huge sunglasses. She was supposed to be incognito so we wouldn’t realize she was there, but looked more like Greta Garbo in a dramatic role. Her niche in the performing world is as a mime. She has the physical comedy chops of Lucille Ball and the looks of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Garner. She would eat a chocolate chip cookie and purposely smear the chocolate just right so when she smiled at you it looked like she was missing teeth. When we were having a bad day, she would sit us down for an inspiring heart to heart. She saw the potential in me as an artist that I couldn’t see and encouraged me and helped bring me out of my shell in subtle ways. She loves French music in the style of Édith Piaf and I could easily picture Margot sitting at a French cafe with a glass of wine. I’ll never forget her.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This industry is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Anyone who seems like an “overnight success” really isn’t. There are years of auditions and rejections beforehand. One person who gives me a boost of hope when I’m feeling burnt out is thinking about Morgan Freeman. He didn’t get his “big break” until his early 50s. Everyone has their own path in life and you can’t compare your life to theirs. Your life is your life and their life is their life.
And don’t forget to be a “normal” person too. Don’t forget to spend time with family and take vacations. I know the acting takes top priority sometimes, but you are still human. You deserve to have a human life too complete with family and love and friendships and memories.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I wouldn’t say I’m a person of great influence. One thing I would like to see change is getting rid of the amount of garbage and waste in this world. I saw a special on 60 minutes about albatross on this uninhabited island, I forget where, but the corpses of the albatross had large amounts of plastic in their stomachs. That was really an eye opener for me. There’s so much plastic in the sea the fish are eating, then the albatross eat the fish. I’ve even heard reports about traces of plastic in the fish we eat. Plastic remnants seem to be infiltrating every corner of the globe no matter how populated or unpopulated by humans it is. This is becoming an extremely serious problem. We are poisoning our planet and ourselves with our waste.
How to fix that I have no idea. Most of our plastic recycling is not being processed because China won’t take our recycling due to political drama and there aren’t plastic processing plants in the US. And even if China were taking it or we had the plants here, there are still so many people who don’t bother to separate their trash and recyclables. Or they just throw their garbage out of the car window or drop it on the city sidewalk. How do you change individual people’s minds when they already know about the problem and don’t take the necessary steps either because of laziness or lack of caring. It feels like an unclimbable mountain at times.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone had explained the business side of the acting industry. I’m just starting to get a handle on it now. I wish someone had explained to me in detail what it means to brand yourself and how to promote one’s business properly when that business is yourself. I wish I had mock agent interviews and prep so I would have a better idea of what to expect as far as questions.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is a new one and it’s one that has made a big impact in a short amount of time. The new Associate Pastor at my church often says “You are loved and you are enough”. In today’s society that is built on competition, it’s important to be reminded that I am loved and excepted just the way I am.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Director, writer, actor, and acting coach Shirley Beth Newbury has been a blessing in my life. She has been a friend of mine for a few years and she has been coaching me recently. Beth is a brilliant artist. She tells it like it is and will be brutally honest, but it all comes from a place of love. She just wants to bring out the best in an artist. I am so grateful for all her advise and help throughout the years.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
There are so many people. The one name that always pops into my head when friends ask this question is Malala Yousafzai. I am in awe of her courage and the courage of the other girls on the bus the day of the shooting. Going to school, getting an education, it’s something so many of us take for granted. And yes, going to school can be dangerous in America these days too, but to face the risk of being shot just because you’re a female who wants to learn. Instead of shrinking into the shadows after he recovery, Malala has stepped into the spotlight to fight for the right of all girls to have an education. She is wise and courageous beyond her years.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter @kalmen_lydia
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!