A Latte Conversation with Lora Lee Gayer
By Amy Sapp
How do take your coffee?
My go-to coffee order is typically iced coffee, and then I do a little bit of soy milk and a Splenda. It is very simple, very easy. Then, hot coffee is typically the same.
Here’s the thing, I also typically order a large coffee. But I never finish it. You would then think, “Well, Lora Lee, why don’t you order a small or a medium?” My answer to that is I just feel that by ordering a large, it will make me seem cooler. It’s like, “I have a large coffee because I have a lot of places to be. I have a lot of stuff to do.” I just need to be caffeinated; but the thing is, I am not going to finish [that large]. “This girl has a lot of stuff going on in her life. She must be very important.”
When you have walked into Studio 54 for Holiday Inn, has anyone ever commented on this large coffee?
No, but I have definitely had people that I have dated in the past -- I have had several people comment, “Lora Lee. Why are you doing this? You never finish it.” Well, stop questioning me, and then maybe we will see if we keep dating.
Talking about coffee, do you find you need more caffeine while performing in a show like Holiday Inn to maintain your stamina? Do you drink less?
I think it stays the same. In the show, I go onstage and don’t leave; so, my pee breaks have to be very timed out. They do. There is one part in the first act that I can go pee. It’s after I sing “There’s Nothing More to Say,” and I am changing into Christmas. The guy that does my hair for the show was like, “I feel like you really only take that pee break during matinees.” To which, I then realized is true because the matinee is closer when I have coffee. I don’t really have coffee before a nighttime show because I will get jittery. But during tech week, I definitely will drink a lot, a lot of coffee.
What do you do in addition to drinking caffeine to make it through a show?
No, I am not kidding. There was a time when I was doing a Master Class at my old high school -- also why anyone is asking me to do a Master Class is beyond me -- so I went back to do the “Master Class,” and one of the kids goes, “So, how do you deal with the ups and downs of the business and the rejection?” Not even thinking, without a beat, I was like, “Drugs.” And then I had to clarify, “No, I mean, prescription. Wait a second. Let’s hold that back for a second.” I was joking, but I was sort of saying in a way that therapy, calling my mom, and antidepressants are what really keep me going.
What do you really do to keep going?
I am one of those people that has never coddled my voice or my body, and I just always assume that it is going to be fine. Obviously, I try to get sleep, eat healthily, things like that. But it is kind of like germaphobes. (Sorry to any germaphobes listening.) If you are a germaphobe, I feel like you tend to get sick more. It is a mental thing, and you are not exposing your body to the germs. Essentially, it is the same way, I feel like, with my voice. Some people are like, “Well, I am not going to drink at all or speak at all. I am not going to live my life.”
You don’t live like that.
I do normal things, but I honestly don’t coddle myself because I think that my brain mentally will wear myself out.
For Halloween this week, I went to a couple of haunted houses -- I love haunted houses -- and I went with my best friend, who is not in a show right now. The next day, she said, “Oh my gosh, my voice hurts so badly from screaming. Does your voice hurt?” Not at all, actually. I actually feel that my stamina is up. Right now, my [vocal] cords are like Hulks. Each one is an individual Hulk. Little baby green Hulks. That’s how I picture it.
Speaking of mental barriers, have you ever suffered from one yourself as a performer?
I feel like you cannot be an actor without having anxiety. Impossible. It’s a really hard business. The thing is, there is the Catch 22. If you are not working and all you want is that next job -- and yet there is the anxiety that you are not working at this point. You think, “What is wrong with [me]?” You bring that into the room. It’s funny, a good friend of mine is currently working; she’s on three television shows right now, and she just got another one. I said to her, “Do you want to leave some jobs for the rest of us?” It’s an energy she is walking into the room with -- this confidence. So then, when you are walking into the room when you are not working, you are anxious. You can go into a tizzy of anxiety trying to figure out what they want or, “Why didn’t they like me?” I think anxiety is a major thing.
Right now, though, you are in a Broadway show all about the holidays. What is your favorite holiday?
Halloween. I have really great memories from it. My mom always made us make our own costumes. We spent months making those costumes. It was just a blast, and I felt like it probably started the whole idea of me dressing up and playing different things. I remember every single costume; I just spent so much time on them. I never wanted to be anything pretty. One year, I was a witch, but it’s funny: some of the things I went in as a kid, I don’t think would be allowed anymore in schools. I was a witch, but I was in kindergarten, and I had a rope that I tied around my baby doll’s neck and dragged my baby doll.
That is horrifying.
Oh, yeah. I was a witch that ate children. I don’t know, I just love Halloween, and I love being scared. I love all of it.
This Halloween, Corbin Bleu, who is in the show, and his wife along with some of our other friends -- we actually drove an hour and forty-five minutes away to go to a haunted house, and it was awesome. It was so cool.
Who was more frightened during the experience, you or Corbin Bleu?
Oh, me. Corbin likes to play it off like he doesn’t get scared. And he doesn’t, really. But he did a couple of times.
I like to be the first to go through [the haunted house] because I want to get all of the scares. You have got to go in the front. So, I started to feel bad that I was hoarding all of the scares. So I said to Sasha, Corbin’s wife, “Why don’t you go to the front?” She went up front, but of course she is pushing Corbin in front of her. Yeah, things pop out at you, but [Corbin] was more laughing at Sasha and I because we would just cling to each other, screaming.
I am picturing a re-cast version of Holiday Inn done as a terrifying haunted house.
I can see Morgan, the little kid in the show, just going around and killing everyone. “Has anyone seen him? Anyone seen Charlie (his name in the show)?” And then, you see him slowly coming from behind you. Actually, Easter Bonnet… since we don’t do a Halloween scene [in the show]… Keeping that out there.
What was one of the best Halloween costumes you had growing up?
There was one year that my best friend and I, at seven, went as undertakers. We got a fake coffin and carried the coffin around with us. You had to open the coffin, and that is where the candy was. There was a skeleton in there, too. That was good.
I have to say, one of my favorite costumes that was not my idea -- because I was three -- was when my brother was a newborn. My mom did it; I was a little mouse, and my brother was only a month old -- a little, little tiny baby. My mom took yellow foam and stuck his little head in it so he was Swiss cheese. I was the mouse, and he was my Swiss cheese.
Right now, you are in the heart of the holiday season while also being surrounded by the holidays of the show. How is that?
Well, we are in the Macy’s Day Parade this year, which I am so excited about! I grew up here, and I have always wanted to be in the parade since I was a little girl. This is my first time being in the parade, so I am so excited. When there were tricklings that we were going to be in the parade, I went to Dennis Jones, our choreographer, and I said, “I will literally do anything to be in the parade.” Out of the big showstoppers we do, the big ones we would probably do, I am not in. So, I said, “I will do anything.” We have a big jump rope number, and I told him, “I will pick up the jump ropes. I will stay in the back. I will do anything.” But luckily, they are letting me do it. [Laughs]
Last minute, rapid-fire questions. Coffee or tea?
Milk or coconut milk.
Sugar or Splenda.