Lorna Courtney’s Broadway Dressing Room Is a Self-Care DreamThe ‘& Juliet’ lead opens up about her favorite mental health hacks.
A decade after kickstarting her musical theater career by enrolling in the ever-popular LaGuardia High School, Lorna Courtney landed her breakout role in Broadway’s & Juliet. Courtney stars as the lead in the musical reimagination of the classic Romeo & Juliet tale and crushes her on-stage covers of pop music anthems like “...Baby One More Time.”
The musical opened on Broadway in November, and Courtney is soaking it all up while figuring out how to balance work, friends, and alone time amid a packed performance schedule. Here, Courtney opens up to Wondermind about the tricky balancing act, making her dressing room feel like the ultimate private spa, and saying no.
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Lorna Courtney: It's been a lot in a good way and also sometimes in a not-so-good way. Being the lead of a Broadway show is something that I've never really experienced before, [and it’s] a lot. I have to be in many places at once and do a lot of things. My schedule is very hard right now. But overall, I was just performing on Jimmy Fallon, so I feel over the moon.
WM: What helps you hold space for those conflicting emotions?
LC: Because this is such an important role, there can be a lot of pressure and burden. But I will say that the environment I'm in is such a loving, supportive environment. It really does help with everything. … We really have grown and bonded with each other, so it feels like family. It's great having that support system, especially for those [in the production] who are from Canada or from another place and don't have family here. We’re here for each other.
WM: What have you learned about your mental health since being cast in this role?
LC: I've learned to recognize when I'm feeling different. Every morning we wake up, we feel different, some days worse than others, some days not. I'm able to recognize it, accept it, and form a plan to come up with what I can do to help make [my mood] more positive or at least neutral so that I'm not bringing baggage into the workspace. I try to keep the workspace as neutral as possible. I want to put my best foot forward.
Being the lead, I also have to set an example, and that's another thing that can be a burden. But I'm known as a light and a source of energy for everyone. So I have different coping mechanisms that I've learned to do whenever I'm feeling low or I can't sleep. I have started to meditate, and I constantly find videos on YouTube for helping me go to sleep [and] helping me when I'm sick or feeling low. I take bubble baths with Epsom salt. I joined the gym, so I work out. The goal is to do 15 minutes of cardio a day, but sometimes I just go to the gym for the steam room, and that's OK.
I learned to sing through gospel choir, so gospel music is very important to me; the memories behind it are very uplifting, and the words are very empowering. So before every show, I listen to gospel music, and that gets me in the right mindset.
WM: What does your meditation practice look like?
LC: I do one focusing on the throat chakra because I'm a singer and use my voice so much. I believe there's power with that. There's power in music, there's power in vibrations and that energy through sustaining a note, and there's power in breath. Breath is the life source. So I think all of that is cleansing.
Another thing I do when I wake up every morning, I drink at least two to three cups of water to start my day on the right path. I try to eat as healthy as possible. I know it's very hard, and it's very expensive. What I do is get the family meal at DIG; it's four servings. Every time you order a family meal, they give you a $5-off coupon. I get that. … And I'm always drinking warm liquids too because of the weather and lots of cold and viruses are going around.
They named [my dressing room] Lorna Spa. Come in! There’s candlelight and blue film covering the fluorescent lights. The walls are pink, so it kind of has a purplish mood because, you know, primary colors. Then there's a Himalayan salt lamp in the corner, and in the other corner, there's live plants. I don't know how they're still living in my dressing room in the basement, but they're still alive. I have two different humidifiers, one of which is aromatherapy. I have different tools for working out my muscles, like [different] balls and foam rollers and things like that.
So people always joke [about my dressing room]. And I play spa music sometimes, and I have a couch, and I take naps. It's very relaxing, and that's what I wanted my room to sort of be. [I wanted] a neutral place to get in the zone and be calm and focused and center myself.
WM: What's something you've improved about your mental health over the years?
LC: I'm currently still saying yes to everything, and I struggle with saying no. It’s something that's really hard for me because I want to try and please everyone to make everyone happy. But I'm realizing that as my schedule is filling up, I'm having less and less time for my friends, and I don't want them to think that I don't want to be with them because that's not the case. I'm just really busy at this time, and the show is very consuming.
I love that [I’m busy] because I love what the show stands for, but something that’s been hard for me time and time again is the work-life balance. I'm hoping that I can get to the point where I do say no sometimes and know that it's OK and doesn't mean that it’s a negative reflection on me. And [I hope] that I'm able to continue to stay organized and on top of things in my schedule.
I guess it all boils down to time management, but more importantly to remembering that it's OK to make time for yourself. I haven't had a day off in the past two weeks, but when I do have my day off, I really like to be alone and take that day for myself, get a massage, watch a favorite TV show. [I’m watching] Wednesday lately, and I really enjoy it. [I also like to] take a day of vocal rest because I need that.
My friends are always gonna be there, and they're my friends because they know that this is what I’m gonna do in order to keep my mental health and be able to sustain the eight shows that I have in a week.
WM: If you were to talk to yourself like a friend right now, what would you say?
LC: I've done an exercise like this where I've written a letter to a friend, and all of the things were applicable to myself. So I would say the same things that I would tell my friends or anyone: Continue to focus on yourself and your dreams and your goals in life. Surround yourself with people who bring you joy and uplift you. Remember to take breaks and take moments for yourself because you need them. I love rewarding myself after a show—I get some vegan ice cream!
And remember to have fun. I think that's important. I love laughing, and I love watching standup comedy and funny videos on YouTube. Just have fun. We don't need to take life so seriously or take things that we're doing so seriously because then we forget who we are and get lost. Just remember that we're all human. We all make mistakes. No one is perfect, and we're all in this together.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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