Make a Mark

Image of Lauren Bryant and Urban Creator's Rob Sonder reviewing designs on a laptop.

I can’t recall when or where I first heard of Make a Mark, a 12-hour creative make-a-thon benefiting local humanitarian causes, but as soon as I did, I knew that I had to participate. I firmly believe in using design as a tool to make the world a better place, so once I heard that I could be paired up with a local non-profit and donate my time and expertise to help them solve a creative problem I was hooked. My interest in participating was only increased knowing that I would get to work on a team of creatives.

 

I’ve never run a marathon, but I imagine this was the design equivalent. From learning about the client, their goals, and their audience, to rounds and rounds of revisions, each of the challenges could’ve taken 12 weeks instead of just 12 hours.

 

As a freelancer, I don’t often get the opportunity to collaborate with other designers. And prior to freelancing full-time, I worked in-house on a team of just two or even one. Up until this weekend, I hadn’t realized that it had been years since I’ve collaborated in this capacity. And never before have I been on a team of creatives that worked together so seamlessly. Perhaps this was due to the time constraints, with only a day to work, we knew there was no time to mess around. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the last time I worked with this many designers I was an undergrad working on a fictional project where the stakes were much lower. Regardless, it was an honor to work on such a wonderful team and such a worthy cause. Thank you Aly Agoff, Aurelia Kare, Esen Pence, and Ian Kimble for being the best team-mates.

 

12 hours + 5 designers + 1 non-profit = 1 book cover, 2 event schedules, 20 infographics

 

Urban Creators tagline is “Educate, Energize, Empower, Unite.” They use food, art, and education to build equity and self-determination in their neighborhood. For the past 10 years they have made a profound impact on their community in North Philadelphia. I have lived most of my life in the Greater Philadelphia area so it was very meaningful for me to be able to help a local cause that is doing incredible things including transforming 3 acres of land into a network of farms and gardens and providing 117 jobs for local youth.

 

I am in awe of what Urban Creators has done, much as I was in awe of seeing what each of the other non-profits has done and what their creative teams were able to accomplish in a day. From branding, promotional videos, to a functioning app (seriously, how did they do that in 12 hours?!), it was an inspiring day. I definitely plan on returning for Make a Mark PHL 2020.

Hamilton

Image of a Playbill repeated three times with colorful illustrations surrounding the image. Words on the Playbill read: What comes next?

I have been waiting to see this show since 2015. I’ve talked about it with almost every single person I’ve interacted with over the past four years. I’ve listened to the soundtrack on my way to work, at work, at the gym, on runs, in my car, in my friends’ cars, at friends’ houses… And for the first time, I listened to the soundtrack after having seen the show. Two days after seeing Hamilton live, I put on “Cabinet Battle #1” (not even a sad song) and I started crying. I just burst into tears. I finally achieved this goal. For four years it has been my dream to see this show and experience the magic first hand. I’m thrilled I saw it, it was everything I imagined and more, but now, I don’t know what to do with myself. What do you do when you finally do the thing you’ve been dreaming of? Obviously, I have other things in my life that I’m working towards, but this was such a big part of my life for so long. I am now left wondering:

 

What comes next?

 

It’s horribly cliché, but fall has always felt like a transition period for me. For most of my life (and for many others), it’s the transition from summer break back into the school year. But even post-school and post-college, big changes have happened for me in the fall. Fall of 2015: I moved back home after my internship ended in NYC. I had hoped it would lead to a full-time job but unfortunately, they didn’t have a position available for me at the time. (Ironically, this internship was my first introduction to Hamilton) Fall of 2016: out of the blue my supervisor was let go and consequently, I took on a new role at work. Only a year out of school and I went from being a Junior Designer to a one-woman design team. Fall of 2017: after trying to make my new role work and realizing it was no longer a good fit, I left my job to pursue freelance. Fall of 2018: I took on a new role as an adjunct professor, transitioning from student to teacher.

 

And now here we are: Fall of 2019. In the past three weeks alone I’ve been incredibly lucky to see one of my favorite bands perform live (Vampire Weekend), I traveled to a place I’ve never been before (Hawaii), and I saw this incredible show that I’ve been dreaming about for years. So much has happened and yet something still feels off. I feel a change coming. It’s time for me to take my next step and conquer my next challenge. I’m not sure what my next challenge will be, but I am sure that no matter what it is, I am not throwing away my shot.

Indecent

Illustration of rain falling over the word "Indecent"

Indecent
not conforming with generally accepted standards of behavior or propriety; obscene.

Indecent is powerful. I have never left a show so at a loss for words as I did when the lights when down at the Arden Theatre Company on Sunday afternoon.

I first hear of God of Vengeance (the play within the play) a few years ago when the New Yiddish Rep staged a revival. I did not have a chance to see the show and then the title faded in my mind. When I heard that the Arden was producing Indecent the title popped back into my mind. Throughout the run I had numerous friends recommend the show to me. Not only were people raving about the production, they knew it would strike a particular cord within me – an American Jew who has loved theatre for as long as I can remember.

The show itself is a play within a play and covers themes of Judaism, sexuality, freedom, oppression, and the power of art. Needless to say, I was hooked. Though I’ve never felt very religious, I genuinely enjoyed learning about Judaism in Hebrew school and while studying for my bat mitzvah. I remember reading Night in my 8th grade English class and learning the phrase “never again.”

“the play is eloquent and contemporary in its themes of freedom of expression and the universality and the ubiquity of oppression” –Marty Tuzman, Honorary Producer of Indecent

Earlier this week, while still processing my feelings surrounding the show, I read this NYTimes Article that I had bookmarked about Immigrant Children being detained at the border. I sat on my couch and cried reading about the conditions they are being kept in. Overwhelmed with thoughts shooting off in every direction, I kept coming back to two questions: How is this treatment not considered indecent? and How can I help? While I still do not have an answer to the first question, I have come up with an answer to the second.

In an effort to play my part, I am having a sale on my Galentine’s Day Greeting Cards. I will be donating 100% of the proceeds to HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) a global organization that “helps refugees rebuild their lives in safety and advocates to ensure that all displaced people are treated with dignity.” You can read more about their mission here, their response to the border crisis here, and their Charity Navigator rating here. I know this is a small step, but it’s something.

You can check out my greeting card designs here and place an order through this form.

“art has the power to save us, save our souls, and our society, from the darker forces of the world.” – Rebecca Wright, Director of Indecent

73rd Annual Tony Awards

Illustration of pink flowers with the word "TONY" in the middle.

This weekend I got to check something huge off my bucket list – attending the Tony Award’s Dress Rehearsal and Gala. As a fan of musical theater, I was thrilled to watch the performances live at Radio City Music Hall. And as a theater artist myself, I was intrigued to watch the behind the scenes workings of a Broadway dress rehearsal.

Watching the rehearsal was magical. I cried the moment I walked into the theater and sat down in my seat. And then I cried at least 5 times after that. Seeing talented artists that I’ve admired for years (Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald, Darren Criss, Ben Platt, Aaron Tveit, Anthony Ramos, to name a few) was a dream come true.

Working at the gala was wonderfully overwhelming. I worked as a photographer at one of the beautiful flower walls taking photos of guests. So many of the people I spoke with were as excited to be there as I was and were so appreciative and gracious of me and my co-photographer Meredith. I even had a chance to speak with Bob Mackie, winner of Best Costume Design of a Musical for The Cher Show. In the whirlwind of people, I didn’t even notice at first that he was holding a Tony Award but once it registered to me what he was holding I said Congratulations. He was beaming. He said thank you and then introduced me to his team of designers. They went on their way and I was yet again reminded why I love theater – these artists are as kind as they are talented.

I was incredibly struck by Judith Light’s acceptance speech for the Isabelle Stevenson Award. In her speech she quoted George Bernard Shaw:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.”

It is a privilege to do the work that I do. To design and create for the performing arts, for non-profit organizations, and for my fellow entrepreneurs. I remind myself every day that I am lucky to do what I do and that by building my own business, I might inspire other women to follow their dreams and do the same.