A Little Brit of a Performance

I just performed in a play! It’s been a while since I’ve been on stage in a full length production and this was my first time treading the boards in the good ol’ U S of A*.

This play (titled ‘Off Book’) is unique in that it’s written by my uber talented friend Khai Dattoli, who not only wrote and produced it, but also plays one of the lead roles.

There’s nothing like that initial panic you get when you first read a script and see how many lines you have. There’s always that moment of ‘I’m NEVER going to remember all this!’ but as I’ve learned, if the writing is good enough, it’s actually very easy to learn 100 pages or so of dialogue.

Since Khai knows me well (we take classes together at The Sport of Acting) and she has seen me perform many times, I’m honored to say that she wrote the part of Emily Roberts specifically for me. Emily Roberts just happens to be an uptight, condescending bitch (told you she knows me well) and the most fun character a girl could ask to play. The show also allows me to switch from British to American accents as we dive in and out of the ‘play within a play’ in the story, something I love to do! Although it did prompt the assistant director and several audience members to clarify whether I was British or not (I guess my British accent sucks.)

When I was a wee lass at acting school in Wigan, my life revolved around when my next stage production was. I played everything from a street-wise fairy to an Arabian princess and I spent a lot of time being pissed off that I didn’t get to wear blue costumes since I pretty much only ever wore blue (it’s the important things, you know?).

During this time, I must have been ages 10 to 14 or so, my Dad (remember 3rd rat?) would volunteer to do the backstage work with some of the other actors’ parents. They always became the highlight of the productions, sneaking in for cameos where they could and providing necessary banter backstage.

One time in particular stands out for me. Dad was in one of the wings during Arabian Nights and had one of the prop parrots in his hand. He picked up a rubber band and was pretending to launch it across the stage to one of the other Dads in the opposite wing. Quite entertaining for the bored kids backstage who only got to go on for two minutes of the entire show. However….the birds tail feathers came out….and the poor parrot shot across the stage in the middle of a scene and scared the crap out of everyone. Hysterical?, Yes. Professional? Meh, it was a kids community theater show…what did they expect?

In my teen years, I attended a Saturday drama class where we put on a slightly higher caliber of show and with this group I was able to perform at the Lowry Theatre in Salford as well as at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My teacher in these classes was very different to the ones I had in my younger years. He was incredibly strict. During a performance at the Edinburgh festival my poor lobster passed out on stage and was dragged off. The second she came round she received the biggest bollocking of her life off our teacher! Of course it was completely her fault that she passed out you absolute numpty! How ‘bout a “are you ok” next time?!

We had some characters in that group, some extremely talented kids who went on to be pretty big stars both in the UK and the US, as well as the ones that….well….let’s just say they didn’t take things very seriously. One performance I was given some extra lines to say (because I’m awesome, obviously) and right after I said my line, on stage in front of maybe 50 people or so, the loud mouth girl behind me squawks “how come she gets to say that line?!” IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SHOW! Discussion for afterwards perhaps, love??

I’m pleased to say I am now old enough to have a hissy fit and demand that I wear blue in performances (Ms. Emily Roberts wore blue in ‘Off Book’ thank you very much), but I did miss my Dad’s antics in the wings. Don’t get me wrong, we had our own backstage drama during ‘Off Book’, mostly to do with flying bugs and doors that open and close when they’re not supposed to, but you’ll never beat Mr. Inappropriate, the parrot with no tail.

I think my poor little brother Daniel has been dragged to just about every play I’ve ever done. Typically, this being the one I’m absolutely proud as punch of, he was not in the country at the time to see it, nor were my parents. But don’t fear! They and you will get to see the show in shiny lovely DVD format very soon…..and before that….I could share a few of my experiences from the 6 weekends of performances we just wrapped up……stay tuned! And while you’re waiting, check out some of our wonderful reviews…… http://tolucantimes.info/theatre_review/off-book-a-world-premiere-at-the-secret-rose-theatre/

*pretty sure that’s something only old people say but whatever.


A Little Brit Healthy – Hiking (Part 2)

So day 2 began with a bang (or a bleurgh technically) and the boys decided they would carry all of my bags so I could stumble feebly along with only my own body weight to slow me down. There were tears. There was more puking. And there was a lot of grumpusing. In fact I’m not sure how they put up with me but they did, and we had been hiking a steady uphill climb for several hours when it dawned on us that we hadn’t seen another human being since Lord of the Flies kid. Was this normal? Were we on the wrong path? Had WWIII happened and we missed it???

Well as it turns out, the path we took down the hill with the fallen trees had been closed earlier that day due to the obvious danger and inconvenience. Except when we went to pick up our bear canisters from the main cabin and told the rangers about our route THEY SAID NOTHING. And of course when we later asked why they figured we would see the downed trees and realize it was a no go zone and turn back. They clearly underestimated our bravery/stupidty.

We may not have seen any bears (or people), but that didn’t stop us constantly jumping at strange shaped rocks and rustling in the trees. Day 2 brought a lot of unwelcome wildlife. The mosquitos were feasting on a few members of the group (my veins run pure chocolate and I don’t think mosquitos are partial to chocolate so I was spared) and we had several run ins with rattlesnakes. The first one I almost stepped on. It was only when I heard the hiss and saw it rear back it’s head that I realized I was about to be feasted on by something worse than a mosquito. I ran forward, bowling the others over, and then immediately started going through the scenarios in my head. What if it had bit me…..there’s no civilization for many (uphill) miles……there was no phone signal…..I would be toast!! We clung together a little closer after that, and it wasn’t long until we had our second encounter. We were about to cross a bridge when we noticed the mother of all rattlesnakes was chillin at the other end…..daring us to cross its path. Seemed like a good time to take a break!! None of us were up for the challenge, especially in a poorly chosen arena such as a rickety bridge, so we waited. And waited. Eventually it slithered off and we were free to cross. With caution of course.

After many arguments about where to camp that night (mainly me whining about not going any further) we settled in a great place by the river and I’m happy to say I managed to keep all of my dinner down that night.

Day 3 brought several deer sightings and finally, some people! We were nearing a campsite that was populated with visitors and so people were taking day hikes from there towards where we were. By this time, it felt like we had been in the wilderness for months, not days. We were desperate for real food and a shower. How do people do those cross country hikes where they do this for months?!! I was so ready to be sat on the couch with a cuppa watching some TV.

We were climbing a rocky hill when ahead of us we saw a man leading some mules. However, one of the mules had decided he didn’t want to go any further (I felt his pain) and the man was struggling to control his steed. He requested that I throw a small stone at the mules bum to get it moving. Not something I ever imagined would be requested of me but I suppose these weren’t your average circumstances. I didn’t have much choice since they were blocking our path, so after a few crappy mis-throws (I’m athletically challenged OK?!) I finally got him on the back leg and this was enough to spur him on up the rest of the hill.

When we got to the populated camp-site, we realized that I had in fact just helped the man and his mules deliver food to the little shop there. More importantly, to deliver MARS BARS. Double victory. I felt I deserved a free one for my stone throwing skills. Nobody else agreed. Regardless, we were happy to have some real food and a proper camp site to spend our final night in and the place (Glen Aulin) was beautiful.

The final day and our trek back to the car should have been easy. It was fairly flat and a straight shot but the map didn’t show that a lot of that ‘easy’ trek was through sand and it also failed to mention that the signs in the park are LIARS. We passed a sign that said ‘2 Miles to The Stables’ which was our final destination, however we must have walked 4 or 5 miles before we got to the car. When we did eventually get to the car, victorious, we looked like the kid we had passed at the beginning of our trip. Dirty, exhausted, pissed off at the lying signs, ready for some home comfort and a good night’s sleep.

I have written about 4000 words about this trip and have neglected to mention so far the one thing that made all of the puke, sweat and tears worth it. The scenery. The incredible beauty that is Yosemite National Park with its waterfalls, mountains, valleys and peaks, I saw some of the most amazing sights I will ever see in my life. I was spurred on every morning by the promise of what views that day would bring and I was never disappointed. They say childbirth is the easiest pain to forget, I feel the same way about hiking. It hurts and I complain most of the time but by the end of it, I’m ready to go again because a lot of the time, the only way to see these awesome sights is to scramble, claw and push your way towards it.

Massive thanks to my fellow Goonies (Daniel, Gavin, Jackie and Becca) for the adventure of a lifetime. Who’s ready to go back???? I promise I will train and carry my own bags…..

Here’s a short video my brother made documenting the trip (Warning: Strong Language) and some pictures.

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A Little Brit Healthy – Hiking (Part 1)

I should begin this post by saying that ‘hiking’ means something different in America than it does in England. We Brits would probably say we were “going for a walk up the hills” or something, and hiking to us means those hardcore people with sticks and proper hiking shoes and all that jazz. In America it’s just what you call it when you go for a walk up some hills, with varying degrees of strain.

Alas, I’ve been here so long that I too now refer to an hour-long walk through some woods as a hike. And let me tell you….I am not a fan of hikes no matter which meaning you use (duh, it IS exercise after all!). I’ve hiked with several friends who have almost lost that title by the end of the hike. I’m a grumpus who doesn’t like heat or exercise and I need to drink lots of water so I don’t keel over but I also need to pee every 5 minutes. See? Don’t I sound like the most fun hiking partner EVER?

With all this said, you can imagine my friends and families surprise when I announced that I was going hiking in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park in June of 2012. And I’m not talking ‘glamping’ here…I’m talking full on backpacking, pumping our own water, hanging bear canisters on trees and yes, peeing in the wild. Did I mention the 10miles+ uphill climb every day? Yeah. That happened.

WHY?! I hear you cry. Why would you go on a trip like that when you hate exercise and the sun?? Because I’m a mother effin Goonie, that’s why. And when adventure calls I come running (minus the running part). Plus, it sounded like fun and I was confident that my friends who had done this kind of thing several times before would take good care of me. And if they didn’t? Well, Goonies never say the D word.

You’d think in the weeks leading up to the trip I would be getting my arse to the gym and practicing some day hikes, building up my stamina etc. Nope. I was far too concerned with finding a cute baseball cap to match my shirt and deciding what freeze dried rice meals I wanted to take. As well as hording hot chocolate sachets and tea bags – two key survival items in my book.

We (my brother, three friends and I) arrived at the start point of our journey, picked up our bear canisters and after some momentary panic over the weight of our backpacks, set off for the first day of travel. The first red flag should probably have been the 14/15 year old kid who, looking like one of the weaker sprogs from Lord of the Flies, collapsed near us within the first half hour of our trek, panting, covered in dirt and asking how far it was to White Wolf (where we started). Pffft. Amateur. We laughed at him, gave some vague directions and carried on our merry way.

After a couple of hours (and after passing a sign that said ‘2 Miles to White Wolf’ about 5 miles in!!) we began our descent down a steep hill in the forest. Switchback after switchback played havoc with our schedule and I won’t lie when I say I definitely considered turning back when we saw that a massive redwood tree had fallen (or was it pushed?) and was now blocking our path. Now this isn’t just your average tree trunk that you can hop over. We’re talking easily the size of a small house just the width of the trunk alone, and then hundreds of branches and gnarly bits to deal with too. We decided to press on, after all we were Goonies and this was our time dammit! So with lots of team work, some ninja creeping past a wasps nest or two and a nice little balancing act, we made it over the tree trunk….but not before we surveyed the land from said trunk, and saw that this was not the only tree lying horizontal….there were loads!!! Some had chainsaws stuck in them where the park employees had attempted to chop them up and move them, no such luck! These things were monsters. And it was going to take us a looooong time to climb over all of them. But climb we did.

Hours later and finally at the bottom of the hill, we realize we need to set up camp as the sun is fading and we still need to get to the river to pump fresh water, stack the bear canisters and then string them high up in a tree far away from our tents. As we set up camp we realize we are in Pate Valley. Hmmm that sounds familiar. Oh yeah THIS IS WHERE THE BEARS LIVE!!! I mean yeah they live all over the park, but this place was notorious for sightings and I had read that Pate Valley was where they mostly hung out. So that was nice. As we looked around there was evidence of bears, claw marks on the trees and crushed pinecones. It was a little unnerving I’m not gonna lie but my comrades assured me that nobody has ever been killed by a bear in Yosemite National Park and I’d have to be really unlucky to be the first. Clearly they don’t know me very well….

Our first night was horrendous. I had somehow managed to get heat stroke throughout the course of the day and spent the night shivering in the tent, trying not to throw up and counting down the hours until I could get out of the tent and not be eaten by a bear. The minute the sun peeked over the horizon our tent was unzipped and I treated my fellow Goonies to the sounds of last nights dinner in reverse.

Hooray for being a pale, weak Brit.

End of Part 1……….

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A Little Brit Red in the Face

So after all the awkward auditions, self-tapes and rejection, when that much-coveted booking FINALLY comes along, I can breathe a brief sigh of relief. And then… the real pressure begins.

Sometimes I’ll wait three weeks between an ‘avail’ and the actual shoot date. And those three weeks usually involve me going out of my way not to change a single thing about my appearance: Don’t get any more of a tan, don’t cut my hair, don’t lose or gain weight… so I can avoid arriving on the day of the shoot to a bunch of people yelling, ‘Who is this girl; this isn’t what we hired?!?’. I’ve spent many beach and pool days cowering from the sun just IN CASE I booked the job and IN CASE I get a tan and look different from my original audition.

A few weeks ago, I booked a really cool gig that would involve a close up of my face. Score! The days before I made sure to stay out of the sun, get lots of sleep and drink plenty of water (and less alcohol!) to avoid any wrinkles, pimples, dark circles etc. All was great, until the night before during a trip to the cinema, I had the genius idea to try some Hi-C Fruit Punch for the first time.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hi-C, it’s a very sweet fruit juice that they usually have at soda fountains, rich in sugar and some kind of red food coloring. And therein lay the problem. It would appear that I am in some way allergic to said food coloring. By the end of the movie, one side of my face was swollen, red, itchy and burning. I tried not to freak out but all I could think of was the camera close up on my elephant woman face and an angry crew yelling that I would never work in this town again!!

I’d like to say that this was a freak accident but in reality, I SORT OF knew I wasn’t supposed to eat or drink stuff with red food coloring in it but I’m also SORT OF a piggy and can’t say no to something that looks yummy, no matter how bad for me it might be. One time I ate some red ‘off-brand’ wine gums and woke up the next day with hands that looked like those foam fingers you get at sports games. And giant fat ankles. So ….you can understand why I was a little, ok A LOT worried about what I might wake up for my 7am call time looking like.

I spent that night putting ice on my face, taking Benadryl and imaging all of the awful scenarios that the next day could bring. Not to mention the fact that my mum was most definitely going to kill me when she found out what her idiot daughter had done now.

When my alarm went off at 5.30am and I stumbled into the bathroom, heart racing, I was relieved to find that the swelling had gone down THANK GOD, although the redness remained.

Thanks to the wonderful magic of make-up and a great team/army of ladies who knew what they were doing, my face was much more human by the time we began to shoot and I didn’t hear any comments or whispers that involved the words ‘elephant’ or ‘red’ so I think I got away with it. We’ll see!!

Note to self: You must resist the red sweeties/drinks/desserts the day before someone wants to put a HD camera directly in your face!!!

Aaah who am I kidding. Once a piggy, always a piggy.

A Little Brit Awkward – Auditions

From the time I somehow managed to lock myself in the casting room bathroom for over an hour and had to completely dismantle the lock with a nail file, emerging a sweaty panicked mess who then had to return the restroom key to the casting assistant, to the time I had to teach an 80 year old woman what twerking was (ME+TWERK=FAIL) and everything in between, it’s been a pretty epic 7 years of auditioning in LA.

I’ve changed clothes in so many Starbucks bathrooms that I remember the different codes for the doors depending on which one I’m in, and I don’t want to know how many drivers have seen me trying to simultaneously change clothes, stuff a sandwich down my throat and recite lines while driving. Ah the glamorous life of an actor.

I’ve also lost count of the number of times I’ve headed into an audition, lines learned, ready to go – and then they ask me to dance….why you ask? I HAVE NO EFFING CLUE. Apparently it’s to loosen you up pre-audition or something. At first I thought my friends were just calling ahead to make this happen, given my extreme lack of rhythm. I’m still half-expecting to see a montage of those tapes on You’ve Been Framed (is that show still on??) or sent to me via mail with a blackmail note. Spoiler – I would pay.

So then there’s the dreaded ‘self-tape’. Where you are asked to set up a wobbly video camera or laptop camera by yourself at home and film your audition then edit it and send it in. Of course most people get someone to help them do this, but being my polite British self I won’t ask for help and often end up recording the other persons lines to play back and play off of, which is an absolute NIGHTMARE since I end up cutting myself off and flipping out, knocking over said wobbly camera and sulking for the rest of the day.

Now, if you’ve ever tried to record an audition at home, whether voice-over or on camera, you can relate to my next statement. EVERYTHING MAKES NOISE!! I have so many outtakes of my dogs barking, sniffing the microphone, grumpusing (my corgi grumpus ALWAYS has to have the last word) scratching, throwing toys in my face and just generally being arseholes, not to mention the air-con coming on and off and the cast of Furious 7 who seem to appear outside my window every time I record, primed and ready to race. Add to this the inevitable string of expletives from my now frustrated and flustered self and you have a day of utter hell just to record a two minute audition. Hooray for self-taping.

Auditioning is fun but you have to have thick skin. When you think about it, as an actor you spend the majority of your life being rejected or criticized, often for things completely out of your control. Even when you book a job, there’s always a chance that (usually right AFTER you tell everyone) you’ll get cut, the shoot will get canceled or the company you just shot an amazing commercial for will literally self-implode in the most spectacular way (I’m not bitter Phones4U…honest). So it’s best to just keep your head down, keep working hard and forget about the 99% rejection factor.


A Little Brit Of A Performer – It’s All In The Genes

I got the acting bug at a young age and found it to be an excellent outlet for my weird. I was actually quite relieved when I discovered that acting was a thing, for several reasons. The first was that it made much more sense that the people on my favorite TV shows were actors and not people going about their daily lives while sniper-like camera men hid behind their couch/tv/plant and filmed their every move (little did I know this would end becoming a VERY popular method of TV making eventually) and the second was that it made me realize I wasn’t an attention seeking brat for no reason. All those holiday tapes ruined by me screaming ‘FILM ME! FILM ME!’ in the background finally made sense!

My Dad will tell you that acting is in the genes. His genes. He was after all Third Rat in his school production of The Pied Piper and gave such great life to his one epic line “He Went That Way!” that it’s a wonder he didn’t at least get nominated for an Olivier award for it! Cue many years of Dad offering to help with my lines or asking for parts in productions I’m involved in because he was….and don’t forget this now or he will be very offended….THIRD RAT. Not first, not second…THIRD.

I went to acting classes every Saturday and got involved in any theatre production I could. Alas, I was never to have a lead role in the school plays since they were musicals and I have a serious lack of vocal talent, not to mention the paralyzing fear I have of singing in front of people (trust me, if you’ve ever stood next to me during a group rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ you won’t hear a peep). I will rap at the drop of a hat of course, but there wasn’t much call for rapping in My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar. More’s the pity. I think they would have been vastly improved productions with the addition of some Phat Beats!! (I really need to stop, I know).

On the odd occasion that I would book a wee TV role, chances were that the shoot date would fall on a school day. Not really a problem, I was doing OK at school and never suffered for missing the odd day. However, one time I pulled a sickie and was not aware that the shoot was outdoors. And of course it happened to be on the ONE sunny day that England had that year. Cue an epic sunburn on my face and my return to school the next day looking like I spent all day at the beach (which I did) and not at home nursing a mysterious and awful stomach bug. Whoops.

I distinctly remember being told by my careers guidance councilor at high school that I needed to pick a ‘real’ job to focus on. He literally laughed in my face when I said I wanted to be an actress and said ‘no really…what do you want to be’. I want to be an actress you crusty old grumpus!! (God how I wish I’d actually said that). In reality I stubbornly refused to name another career and slinked off to bitch to my friends about him. When I first moved to the US I really wanted to find that teacher and tell him that 10 years later I was in the States working and he could go do something unpleasant to himself. I now realize he was one of the many people that made me want to work harder to prove them wrong. So in actual fact I’d like to find him and thank him now! In hindsight I should have repeated his name along with my other enemies* every night like Arya Stark does….at least then I’d have remembered it.

Despite all the non-believers, there were many people in my childhood who encouraged my dreams. My parents have always been incredibly supportive of me and they’ve put up with some god awful shows that I made them sit through, often dragging my poor brothers along for the ride too. But hey, if it’s in the genes then it’s a family thing right? Which means we all suffer together!

This post was brought to you by Third Rat Productions. A ‘He Went That Way’ original.


A Little Brit Nosy

One day I checked my emails to find an entire string of conversation between another Baldwin family. It took me a few minutes to realize I had been included in the chain by mistake but by then it was too late. My curiosity was piqued. The ‘other’ Baldwin family was planning a reunion and each family member who chimed in on the thread had their own unique character traits. I became invested in the planning of the event (I am my mothers daughter after all!) and was actually a little disappointed when I reminded myself I couldn’t really go to the reunion. Although I won’t lie, it crossed my mind that they may not have seen the real Lauren Baldwin for a long time and I could perhaps get away with going and using my American accent to fool them all. Clearly I watch too much TV.

The emails continued and (as far as I could see) the reunion was a success and everyone was happy.

A few months later, another ‘family’ email arrived. One of the grandparents in the family was sick, very sick. And suddenly, the knives came out. The family fell into disarray, blaming each other for his poor quality of life and for certain family members not doing their equal share. It was all so tragic I got sucked right back in to the melodrama.

Eventually, he died. But rather than band together in mourning and forget the angry words that were said in the past, the arguing continued.

Picture me in a school attic like the kid from The Neverending Story, huddled around my laptop (who said that movie couldn’t be updated!) engrossed in this new world I had discovered. My own private reality show.

The emails were long and detailed…to begin with. When another family member fell ill and the discussion about whether or not to put him in a nursing home came up, the ultimate fallout happened. This resulted in one final family email that simply said ‘YOU ARE DEAD TO ME’. Harsh! I mean, this is family after all and from an outsiders perspective, most of the problems were due to miscommunication and misunderstanding. Hadn’t these people ever heard of a phone? Or Skype?

I bring this story up because after four years of peeking into this family’s life, I was found out just a few weeks ago. One of the family members sent out a generic email that I was included on, prompting the REAL Lauren Baldwin, who had clearly missed out on all the drama up until now, to discover that that’s who had been including the wrong Lauren Baldwin all this time. She berated the family member and included a link to my website so the family could see that THIS was who had been privy to all of the families deepest, darkest secrets for so many years. The fact that I was still included in that email means I was definitely meant to see that I had been found out. Although for all they know, those emails had been going to my junk mail box and had never been read! Regardless, I can’t help but feel exposed now, like one of them might show up on my doorstep at some point….

If you read this ‘other’ Baldwin’s, you need to be more careful. You got a sane** Baldwin here but I’m sure there are some out there that are not! I’m actually quite relieved to no longer be included on the emails. I think one Baldwin family is quite enough!

**I’m sure some people will disagree