Jen Donohoo here, Mustard Lane’s Casting & Recruitment Director. When I was asked about taking over as guest blogger this week, I wondered in what direction my musings might lead. My life on the Lane has spanned almost 7 years. I feel a sense of pride in seeing how much our company has grown over that time and that our CEO, Kristal Mallookis, has taken me along for the ride. To give you an idea of who I am and how I do what I do, I think we need to back track a little.
I moved to NYC from Chicago in June of 2012 and like many upon moving to a new city, and New York City specifically, I was terrified of upsetting my momentum with my performing career and subsequent side gig game I had going in Chicago. Would I be able to find that same work flow that allowed me to focus on my professional career, auditioning, taking classes, training, etc and also pay my rent? This weighed on my mind for years before I finally got up the courage to move after booking back to back shows at Equity Theaters in Chicago. I thought, okay, it’s now or never, but the fear of not having the side gig work still frightened me. I turned to my college roommate, Danielle Cortier, a fellow Laner, who assured me that if I moved to the city, she had the perfect company for me. They were actor friendly, flexible and only took referrals, and thus began my introduction to Mustard Lane.
Over the course of my 7 years with the company, I have worked everything from flyering, bartending, catering, hostessing, costume character work, check-in and even as a human wayfinder. You name it, I’ve done it. I’ve lead and co-led teams of 4-100. I’ve traveled across the country meeting new potentials, as well as catching up with those that have been working with us for years. I feel lucky that I’m able to combine my love of travel and meeting new people with my job on the Lane. To say that ML has been a lifesaver over the years, and the one constant in my life would be an understatement. I have been able to balance my love for directing and choreographing and still feel like an integral part of our day to day at ML. I’m constantly playing that juggling game, switching hats several times a day, but that’s what keeps my life interesting. Never a dull moment.
Traveling is part of your job! What’s the best part? Meeting new people. I work with people from all over the world and despite culture differences, language barriers, and background, we always work to put together the best show or event. It’s incredible when you set aside those basic differences how much you can accomplish. Just this past week, I was working with world class high divers, acrobats and dancers setting an aqua show on a cruise ship. The main languages spoken were Russian and Portuguese, but somehow through careful explanation, demonstration and the help from a few of our more fluent English speakers, we were able to put up a show!
Most memorable trip yet? Oh man, this is a tough one. I’d have to say last year’s month long trip to Indonesia and Spain is high on the list. Also, my three week tour of wine countries in Italy and France was pretty incredible. Being able to explore from Beaujolais to Pouilly Fuisse during the morning and log on for a few hours with ML in the evening is not a bad deal!
Where have you traveled to meet new Laners? Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, and Washington DC.
Approximately how many Laners do you interview in each city? I normally schedule between 5-10 new interviews with a smattering of catchups with Laners we have working for us on the regular to see what they’ve been up to lately.
What is your number one interview tip? Be yourself! Our clients love hiring our staff for their personality and charisma. I want to know what you’re going to be like on the gig. Finding the right balance of working hard and getting the job done, but also being able to relax and go with the flow are super important on our gigs.
Favorite travel beauty hack? Ha! Drink water!! All of the water. Especially on those international trips. I know it’s tempting to have the free wine on the flight, but trust me, you will regret it when you land and hit the ground running.
How do you manage to focus on work while traveling? I’m able to compartmentalize. I know that my mornings while I’m in Europe are for exploring, then by 6PM, I come home and log on, which is around 12PM EST and work alongside our team in NYC. Making sure they have everything they need. Taking interviews via our Vonage App, etc. The days become really full, but by the end of the day I feel super accomplished.
Do you have a personal item that you won’t travel without? My eye mask. I didn’t start using one until about 5 years ago. With the constant change in environments, beds, rooms, etc, that’s the one thing I know will comfort me. I put that mask on and bam I’m fast asleep!
Favorite gig you’ve worked lately? I loved co-managing the Bustle event last September. We had a team of 100 Laners, many of them new to the Lane. To witness first hand how well they were meshing with our crew was a great feeling and the fact that they all cheered at the end of the night because they all had such a great time. Nothing better than seeing an event come together after our hard work and planning.
Would you prefer to be working the events or behind the scenes? That’s a tough one. Can I say both? I love knowing how it all comes together. A few years ago I switched from being a professional dancer, singer, and actress to mainly Associate Director/Choreographer gigs. This move came as a natural progression for me. I grew up teaching. I started assisting dance classes at 11 and teaching my own dance classes at 15. While living in Chicago, I assisted several choreographers and acted as Dance Captain on shows. That role of leadership has been something I’ve always been drawn to and I suppose was groomed for. I guess whether I’m leading the organization of it behind the scenes or out in the field, I’m pretty content and fulfilled.
Favorite city? Yikes, don’t think I can answer this. Top 4? Granada, Spain, St. Jean de Luz, France, Nuits St. George, France (really any city between Mersault and Dijon) and Munich, Germany.
Where to next? Planning a trip to London to visit one of my best friends who just had her first baby and then another one to Italy. Have my eye on a house in a hamlet in Tuscany.