by Sam Leicht
Seven months of traveling across the country with 25 co-workers absolutely could be a recipe for disaster, but we were lucky. The right people, combined with a great schedule, combined with the best show turned out to be the formula for an unforgettable, truly lovely adventure.
Our last two weeks of tour with The Lightning Thief were in Boston. My boyfriend Jared was visiting for the weekend, and we decided to take a day trip to Newport for the day off. We walked the coast for a few hours in the morning - imagining different lives in each of the mansions that litter Newport. We got lunch. We got ice cream. We did a little shopping. Jared went to the restroom and I checked my phone for the first time that day.
I had a missed call from our producer, Barbara Pasternack, and a voicemail saying to call her when I got the chance.
I knew Barbara was going to be at the show in a few days so I guess I was thinking that this call was a thank you for tour, and it would be best if I called her when we got back to Boston because it wasn’t urgent. In hindsight, I realize that this seems a bit cavalier, and when I told Jared about the call he had a very different reaction than me.
“Sam… you have to call her back right now. What in the world would your producer be calling you individually about but for something important?”
Needless to say, the call was important, and when I called Barbara back, she told me that our show was going to the Longacre Theatre in the fall. I was Sutton Foster playing Jo March in Little Women: astonished. I was flabbergasted. It was the best surprise I’ve ever received. I thanked Barbara, hugged Jared, and spent the ride back to Boston wondering if it was real life.
Moving back to New York felt better than I expected. I like New York, but to some extent I’ll always be a suburban boy at heart. With six weeks before rehearsals, I needed to press play on my paused life. I thrive on the dichotomy of my two jobs. I love performing and I write how grateful I am that The Lightning Thief is moving to Broadway in my gratitude journal pretty much every day, but I love working in the health field as well. I love helping people learn and discover and work toward sustainable health.
Which brings me to the topic I wanted to address; a topic that has been around, but may be hitting an all-time high in the age of social media. In my training, I make it very clear upfront that we will focus on sustainability over aesthetic, function over beauty. If you want a trainer who is going to appease your request to transform into Zac Efron, I’m not your guy. I am looking to give you the tools to be your healthiest self - and maybe that isn’t as appealing as me telling you that I can make you look shredded in 60 days, but that’s my training philosophy.
Aesthetic is a short term, unsustainable goal for health. It’s the demon goal that is almost never achievable and almost always discouraging. When we adhere to a “In order to book the part, you need to look the part” mentality, we perpetuate a belief that health has an ideal image. Or in our industry, we perpetuate a belief that Broadway has an ideal image. I’m interested in the health of our community, not the size of our clothes.
In fact, I’d like to change the mantra to a slightly more wordy, but much more accurate message of: “In order to book the part, you need to be incredibly hard working, you need to be working toward the healthiest version of yourself, and the stars need to align.” I realize that this slogan wouldn’t fit in an Instagram bio as well.
Everyone needs physical activity to be healthy. Whether that physical activity is walking, yoga, dance, CrossFit, Barry’s, biking, etc. we know that physical activity is a key component to health. With physical activity we are able to prevent chronic disease and injury. We’re able to promote proper muscle patterning for basic movement in old age like sitting on the couch or picking up groceries.
I understand how aesthetics can be an exciting reason to get healthy. But I’m hoping that upon deliberation one can see just how much more exciting (and less disappointing) it is to focus on health over aesthetics. When we look at health as a lifelong journey of discovering exercise, nutrition, sleep, mental health, and relationships, it seems ludicrous that aesthetics were ever even on the table.
I would love for us to stop letting aesthetic based companies take advantage. Promises are made on social media all the time about how to get shredded fast, how to look the part, and how the healthy versions of ourselves aren’t enough. And in order to combat these demons, we need to band together and encourage sustainability over aesthetic. Health over “ideal.”
I want you to feel good. I want you to have a positive journey with health throughout your life that doesn’t turn you off of taking care of your body altogether. I want us to rid our minds of the “Broadway Body” because the only Broadway body that we should be working toward is the healthiest version of ourselves. And I can promise, you deciding to work toward your healthiest self will be so much more interesting and “marketable” than you deciding to work toward someone else's.
It’s easy to read this and say “easier said than done.” If you feel that way, I highly encourage you to find a trainer, or a workout partner, or a family member, or anyone who can keep you accountable on your quest to prioritize health over aesthetic. I didn’t say it was easy, I said it’s important and it takes a village of support.