“How To Be A Wizard”: Professor Laura Brandel- Session 1 (Part 1)


Hello Fellow Wizards in Training,

Session one will be taught by Laura Brandel: Yogi, Theaterical Director, Choreographer and former New Works Producer for the New York Theater Barn.  You will be able to see Laura’s new play, Cry Eden, begining November 17 at Access Theater.

This will be the first part of session one. Laura and I sat down to speak on Monday, October 3rd at La Colombe in Chelsea just after my weekly yoga class with her as the Instructor.  As I have sat down with each of our Wizard Professors during these interview sessions and while working on editing each interview to present to you, my fellow W.I.T. classmates, I have been so encouraged and filled with hope.  My prayer is that this will do the same for you and you will gain knowledge from this series on how to respect yourself, be authentic in every situation and grow from seasons of testing.

Well, let’s jump into Session One, Part One with Laura Brandel.

On Working in NYC and having Passion Work

EBONY VINES: We’re just going to sit here and talk a little bit about life and being a New Yorker and how to stay authentic in this city where a lot of people are doing multiple jobs. Which, you are one of those people and everyone has one job they do to pay the bills and then everything else on the side.


E: So, that’s specifically why I chose you because I have lots of friends who are dealing with that, including myself…obviously…

L: That’s how we know one another! (laughing)

E: That’s right. (laughing) So, tell me what was one of your most difficult work experiences?  It can be either what you do to make money or what you do because you love it and is your passion to pursue. 

L: Um, I guess it kind of comes across differently. Very differently in both. Because, in the yoga community over time and as I continued to grow in my credentials and my studies. I’ve been really blessed to be offered a lot of opportunities.  And it’s almost like I can take as much as I can handle. And it’s wonderful!  In theater, even though that’s a huge passion of mine, I am often like “Choose me! Choose me!  Look over here! I’m doing something, do you think it’s interesting?” And, I often feel as if I am chasing it. Whereas yoga is definitely coming towards me and if I didn’t love theater so much it would be so easy to drop into the yoga and just do that.  Because I love that too. I am very lucky in the fact that I love my, you can’t see my hand quotes here, but my “day job”.  It would be very easy to fall into it, but there’s that little conscience in the back that says “Keep going! Keep going!” And there are very satisfying moments in theater which is why I keep going back.

E: Yeah, it’s that elusive, often feels like tumbleweed, that ball rolling down the hill that you’re like running after, “But wait! But wait!” (laughing)

L: “But wait, but wait! I’m coming I’m coming! I love you!” (laughing)  I know, that’s not a specific scenario, but that’s my daily challenge. Especially when theater isn’t looking at me or I’m pulling so hard at its skirt and its swatting me away and I’m just like, well, I could just do this yoga thing, that I love and that loves me, but there’s something that’s…you know that internal fire, that drive that keeps me at it.

E: Tell me what you love about both things?  Tell me what you love most about theater, and then also tell me what you love most about doing yoga?

L: I love theater, just because. I love most art forms. I’m just kind of an art junkie. I grew up watching theater and was really taken with the…how current it can be, how alive it is and how in the moment. And when I started making theater.  That was very exciting.  That I could be a part of it.  Not in a way where I was necessarily on stage, but could be kind of the motor, running behind it.  That came a little bit later in my life.  I always would love to go see the theater.  I would always be very afraid to be on the stage, but then had to figure out where I belong and then once I did it felt like breathing, it felt like home.   I love the opportunity, to be a story teller and to work and collaborate with other story tellers. And just work out is happening in our lives, in our day to day, what we love, what we struggle with and see how that can kind of all play itself out on stage in front of a live audience who is there. It’s such a visceral thing.

On Staying Centered

L: I discovered yoga actually trying to do theater in some way.  My voice coach Michael Pesce.  Shout out to Michael Pesce! I started to see him for voice lessons and I was just like a ball of anxiety and frustration.  Because I wanted everything immediately and I had zero patience and zero way to deal with that I didn’t have any patience and he just kind of dropped it into my head.  He was like, “Um, have you tried yoga?” I was like, “No, I’m not going to try yoga, I hate yoga.” (Laughs) And he was like, “You know, I think we should try yoga.” So, we would start my lessons with some breathe work and sun salutations and some restorative postures on the floor and it came to the point where I was like, “I want to come to you and sing.”  And he was like, “Well, then you’ve got to do your yoga somewhere else.” So, I started going to yoga classes and I was like, “Ohhhh” and I was hooked. It was a coping mechanism for me and my anxiety and my patience and my ability to be patient and it became my tool in my day to day and it was something that I really loved.  And I know that a lot of people find yoga for its physical practice. They enter in a way where it’s like Zumba, like a way to work out. But I really entered in through the other way where I needed to build a sense of ease that I just never cultivated and it really gifted me that. And then once I got to that place I was like, “I gotta teach this, I gotta share this.” Which is why I love my, in quotes “day job”. (laughs)

E: Do you have a specific morning or evening practice that you do?

L: […]right now I just make sure that I get 4-5 movement practices in the week and a meditation practice at some point everyday. I’m also a big proponent of Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga. So, it doesn’t always have to be so active, especially for people like us who live in New York.  We don’t need to keep go go go going.  Sometimes it’s helpful just to lay down and be quiet and be still and receive.  Instead of all the give give give that we are use to doing. That’s an important part of my practice.

On Rejection and Staying the Course

E: Being here in a city that is so driven and comparison driven on any given day you could feel like total shit before you’ve even like stepped out of your apartment because Facebook said so and so won the Genius Award at 9am.  It’s just like craziness here it’s just craziness. So, tell me about a time in your life when you felt like either you weren’t good enough or your personality was squelched and what you did to fix that or how you changed your circumstances or just changed your mind even so that stopped? 

L: This is a great question.  This year was actually pretty challenging. In the way that you’re talking about.  I just felt like I lost most things. And in like the champagne problems kind of way.  I didn’t lose any person.  I just lost fellowships and opportunities. And that’s okay when you look at the scope.  But when it’s happening and it’s happening in a snowballing type of a way, it starts to feel like “Oh God, is this actually what I am supposed to be doing? If no one else is seeing my worth is this right?”

I was up for a fellowship that I had a relationship with this good, upstanding institution.  I was so well prepared. This was something that I wanted and knew would be great for my career.  I started seeing a career coach for directing.  To wear I could practice these interviews and feel really aware of what is going on around me and how I can feel current and supported and I go in for this interview feeling like, “I got this.” Like, “I got it” The interviews had two completely different scenarios.  One where I felt supported and upheld. And another one where I felt demeaned and it had everything to do with the difference in the people in the rooms.  In the end I didn’t get the fellowship and I asked for feedback because I had some people in the room that I knew and they had shared. And they were like, “You know what.  You were one of our favorites. You came and we were so excited, but that other room just didn’t agree with us and you might want to think about the difference.”

And I think that part of what helped me get over it and not just stomp around and quit is that I just let myself be mad. And that helped drive me into making very positive decisions moving forward and empowering decisions moving forward.  And helped me think about what I had been working towards in a more stream-lined way.  So, it’s kind of like when you trip and fall, you can either sit on the floor and cry or you can get up and go like, “Oh Fuck that!” And then march away.  And so I was just kind of mad and shed the things that weren’t working for me and started to go after more specific focused goals.

To Be Continued…

I hope you all have been encouraged so far by Laura’s words of wisdom and insight.  Next time we will talk about how you can pursue your passions without waiting for someone to give you “permission”. Don’t forget to check out Laura’s new project Cry Eden which opens on Thursday, November 17 and runs through Sunday, November 20th.


To The Revolution!