Bret Shuford 0:00
Hey friend, welcome back to the CreatiVisibility Podcast. I'm Bret Shuford, this episode is a little bit longer than the other episodes I've done. So just grab a little snack, grab something to drink, because I think it's super inspiring to hear the story about Karla Stickler, she was a member of the Bravo Company have wicked as well as many other companies have wicked. But in ended up actually leaving the industry to become a software engineer, we're going to get into all of that. And then randomly made headlines recently right over the holidays, having been called out of her little software engineering pad to play Elphaba on Broadway overnight on Christmas, and got a lot of press out of it. And so we talk a little bit about the unexpected twists and turns of what we do as artists. Also this idea that you can have multiple careers that we don't have to just be one thing. And also just how the artistic industry or the commercial artistic industry I will say, tends to view understudies standbys and how we see leadership changing within that system. So this episode, by the way, is brought to you by Kajabi. Kajabi, is my favorite platform I've ever used for growing a business. Kajabi is an all in one business system. I host my website, I host my email list, I do all of my lead pages, I do all of my courses all within Kajabi. And right now, they are doing a 45 day trial, the idea to income challenge for 2022. And it's totally free, using my link, which is in the show notes down below. So if you're somebody who wants to coach or wants to work with individuals, or teach courses or run on a small business, Kajabi is the number one platform to grow your business. It's all in one they have premium products you can sell and make money online. In fact, you could be making $1,000 without having to pay for Kajabi. Because 45 days, I'm telling you is enough time to get something going on your website, take it from me, I've always been surprised by what Kajabi can do. And I have many, many coaches I've worked with and they all say if Kajabi existed when they started their business, they would have started with Kajabi. And that was enough for me. So if you check the show notes down below, you're going to see a link to try Kajabi and take the free 45 day challenge or let's step by step training for your business launch. Three live check ins with their team bonus video training from Kajabi heroes, which are people like me, a built in community of entrepreneurs, and again, a 45 day free trial, something you will not get ever again. So I encourage you to check out Kajabi today. Hi, Carla, welcome to the creative visibility podcast.
Carla Stickler 3:21
Hi, thank you for having me.
Bret Shuford 3:23
I'm really excited to have you here because I was just telling you before we started recording, I've had several people mentioned your story to me in the last week. So word has gotten out. We were ships passing in the night over at Wicked on Broadway. We didn't actually get to do the show together. But when I saw your feed posts or your Instagram story posts of you singing, which by the way for somebody who will tell the story in a second, but for somebody who hadn't done alphabet A long time you sounded incredible. So bravo. I know how hard that is. Tell our viewers the story like what happened, your experience as a performer because I know you've you're in New York for many years and then on tour. So tell us a little bit about your history, your story as a performer and then where you're at now. And what happened last week?
Carla Stickler 4:17
Sure. Okay, do you want me to let's see, how far should we go back? I like most Broadway actors in their late 30s. I was a performer for a very long time. I did a couple national tours. I started wicked in 2010. So I first went out in the national tour first national tour in 2010. I was the understudy for two years I was a standby for one year, I did get to go to Hawaii for two months, which was the best thing I've ever done as a performer. And then I came back and I went right into the Broadway company in 2013. And I was the understudy for Elphaba. And I was there full time until about mid 2015. When I just got like, super burnt out, and I was like, I gotta get out of here, I need some space. I went to grad school. I was like, I gotta go, I gotta leave for me. I was like, I couldn't figure out how the best way to like navigate getting out of the business was that people would understand. Like, when you're in a Broadway show like that, you're like, Oh, I can't just like quit. Like, how do I explain that? Parents understand how exactly, you know. Yeah, so what can you do? So I was like, Okay, I'm gonna go to grad school. I've been teaching a lot. And I was like, maybe I'll go get a master's in education and I'll be a teacher because I really like doing all this education stuff. So I went to NYU and I got this educational theatre masters and I started teaching I started my own private voice studio. I was teaching at Marymount as a voice teacher and at cap 21 through Molloy college as a voice teacher. And I was also doing a bunch of like thespian festivals is like a teaching artist. And throughout that time, from 2015 to 2019, I was still like, dabbling with performing I would things would come up and I would take things that came up, but I wasn't like really crazy seeking stuff I like popped into wicked. Maybe once or twice a year for like a week or two here and there just to like fill in for like a vacation or emergency in that ensemble track. Never got to play off of a always is like the bonus Elphaba in the building. And then
Bret Shuford 6:27
for people who don't know how many elbows are usually in the building,
Carla Stickler 6:31
which should always be three. So if there are not three people tend to panic. So two is usually like we can get through to for like a week we can have to have somebody on vacation. But really, if there is one Elphaba in the building that is like all hands on deck, fire, like alarms, we got to get somebody on this building. Because it is common for an alpha to go down Micho it is more common that it is not common. It doesn't happen all the time. But it does happen.
Bret Shuford 7:00
She's a hard track. Track. A
Carla Stickler 7:03
lot of girls will start that show and then be like wizard and I
Bret Shuford 7:06
know that happening. I'm gonna go walk offstage, walk out the door.
Carla Stickler 7:15
She walks off, another girl walks on. And yeah, yeah, I helped them out a lot for that kind of stuff. But I was kind of just trying to figure out what I love teaching. But I also like, I don't know, it's like a person who was like looking for more stability in life. Teaching was great, but it does not offer stability. It's still hustle. And I love my students. I love teaching. But I think when you're teaching college students, and I love all of the college students I've ever taught, so if any of them ever hear this, it is not like a person who loves you. Okay.
Bret Shuford 7:45
Love you all.
Carla Stickler 7:48
But I'm like a really big empath. So like, I absorb a lot of emotions. And my students and myself included when I was a voice student, you come in and you bring all of your things into a voice lesson. And I was just like, absorbing all of them all day long. And I was getting very burnt out. So I was like, I this is not sustainable either. So what is sustainable? And a friend of mine, who I had done some readings of his musical year or years ago, he was like a songwriter, shut up my birthday party and was like, Guess what, I'm a software engineer. Now. I was like, I'm sorry. I need you to explain to me. I went home and just like started teaching myself how to be an engineer, like Googling, like, how to be a software engineer. What can I learn first, like, what do you do? What is software engineering? What's coding? What's programming? And I just, like, started teaching myself stuff. And I fell in love with it. And I was like, Oh, this feels sustainable. Like, I can have weekends free and evenings free and health insurance. And like, this is creative and interesting. And I find myself like, fully immersed in it when I'm doing it. And I was like, great. This is it. This is my thing. I can do this. I'm smart. And I also felt really smart. Which like after being an actor for a very long time. You're so smart.
Bret Shuford 9:02
Yeah, yeah, it sounds smart. Right? I'm a software engineer friendly. Oh, I'm not even gonna go near that. Right.
Carla Stickler 9:10
Really smart. And that was really enough. I was like, it sounds smart. And I picked it up really quickly. So like, amen. Let's do it.
Bret Shuford 9:18
So smart. It's so good. So
Carla Stickler 9:21
like, I literally just that was it. Like the pandemic started. I look for a job. And here we
Bret Shuford 9:26
are. So did you have to get a degree in software engineering, or no, you just trained yourself. So what's a job application interview like for software engineering?
Carla Stickler 9:35
Oh, one thing to backtrack, just a hair. I do not get a degree. But for anybody who's listening and is interested in software engineering, there are these things called boot camps. And there are these software engineering boot camps. They're all over I went to this one called the Flatiron School in New York. And it's like a three month program where you like just learn how to code they like teach you a couple like programming languages and then like my friend program had like a whole career services aspect to it. So they help you kind of navigate the career, like the job search and stuff. So they like really helped out. I also, like worked part time for their online program after I finished because I was like, well, as a teacher, I know that you learn best by teaching other people. So I'm going to teach other people how to do this so I can get better at it. So I did that part time while I was like, doing like one last performing gig, right before the pandemic started.
Bret Shuford 10:30
So you are really, you are smart, you don't just sound like you're smart.
Carla Stickler 10:36
I'm smart, smarter people.
Bret Shuford 10:45
So I think what's really important just to sort of reflect on what you just shared in your whole story is the evolution of you finding this because I think so many people think they have to make this sort of black and white decision about what their career path is like, Okay, I'm either a performer or I'm not, or I'm either a software engineer, or I'm nothing, right. And I think that part of that is a cultural, what's embedded in us in a capitalistic society, and like the American culture, you get a job, and you do it until you're 90 and then die. And you know, whatever. I think it's interesting to you know, I don't know, if you want to speak a little bit more to this process of that evolution for you. Did you feel like that, because growth is uncomfortable, right, in that it's part of that process is trying things and failing. And when you reflect back on that journey of going to grad school, trying out teaching, going to the boot camp, getting this job? What do you feel like were the biggest aha moments for you in that process?
Carla Stickler 11:51
Oh, gosh, my whole life. I'm a very, very spontaneous person. But I'm also like, a very all hands on deck all in person. So like, once I make a decision, I commit like, 400% I think a lot of that process was like, Okay, I'm leaving work, and I'm going to grad school, I am committing to this thing, I'm going to be a teacher, I'm going to do this 100%. And I try to trust that process. I try to trust that like, Okay, I know, I've been a performer for a long time, that is a part of me, but I really enjoy being a beginner at something I enjoy learning. So I enjoy that like weird uncomfortableness, of like, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm like, I'm gonna ask a million questions. And I just like really love that. I love being in a space where I can be kind of like humble about what I know. Because I don't know anything, right? I can literally just be that beginner have that beginner mindset. And so I try not to be scared of it. I've always been like that. I mean, even when I was younger, I spent a lot of time trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. Where did you grow up? I grew up in Chicago, which is why I'm blocked to Chicago. Got it. I live in Chicago now, obviously. And you know, my family, we're all like musicians, and my mother was an opera singer. And there was always like, this idea that I was going to be a musician. And I would go to Interlochen up in northern Michigan every summer and I went there, my senior year of high school, and I was constantly like, trying to figure out who I was. I knew I was a singer, but I couldn't decide if I liked musical theater enough to do musical theater. And I didn't know if I loved opera, but I liked singing. But I also like, did pottery, and I love pottery. I remember my senior year, I was like a voice major up Interlochen. And my teacher, my pottery teacher was like, you really should go to school for pottery. I think you're really good at this. And I was like, Cool. No, I'm gonna be a singer. I was like, No, I think I have to be a singer. So I like went to school for Cincinnati as a singer. And I was having trouble singing, I was like, having all these issues. And I ended up getting diagnosed with having a system, my vocal cords. I really think this moment was kind of like this big life changing moment where I was like, Okay, I don't know what I'm doing. And I don't know what to do with that. And I feel awful and uncomfortable. And I thought that I had made this choice about what I was going to be for the rest of my life. I was like, I'm going to be a singer removed all these other parts of me. And I made a decision. And all of a sudden, the decision that I made was not going well. And I had to have surgery to have the cyst removed. And I just was so terrified to sing and I didn't know who I was anymore. I had like, no identity. I dropped out of school, and I worked at a deli in Chicago, and I like made sub sandwiches and I just didn't know what to do. I was like, Who am I if I can't sing, and I was like, Okay, well, let's make another decision. Well, I love performing. So I love singing and singing is performing. So therefore I love performing. So I'm going to go to NYU I want to be an actor. I want to be the best darn actor I can possibly be. And so I went to NYU and I started acting and I didn't do a single play while I was there. Because I like God I'm an acapella group, and I like to learn how to like sing pop music, and I didn't know what I was doing. But I was just like, Okay, I'm just gonna live my life and hopefully something will. It was like the weirdest moment in my life. It was like this moment I like didn't know how to like really commit to something different. I just like, I'm going to take anything that comes at me. And in order to graduate, I had to do summer school. So I did kept 21. And I remember in one of my classes, I was singing, I'm not afraid of anything, but I just remember Brown, and just started weeping. And my teacher was like, Carla, what are you doing? Why are you not doing musical theater? And I was like, I don't know, I'm so afraid of this.
Bret Shuford 15:39
I don't know. That's the Carlos steckler shirt. I don't know what I'm doing.
Carla Stickler 15:47
I find myself in these situations now, though, where I'm like, I don't know what I'm doing. But I've learned to overcome that moment. So many times, where I'm like, I know what that feels like, I know what it feels like to not know what I'm doing. And to realize that that is not the end of the world. So I'm, as I've gotten older, and I found myself in those moments, again, where I'm like, I don't know what I'm doing. But I can trust that there is a process, and that I will get through it. I just have to kind of make a decision. And once I make a decision, generally things fall into place. And it doesn't always have to be the right decision. I made a decision to go to grad school it was teaching was maybe not the thing I want to do forever. But it was a decision. And that decision was like really important to make because I needed a path I never knew path. It didn't honestly, at that point matter what that path was. Something. And so that was a very long answer to your question.
Bret Shuford 16:42
But like so profound, I think this idea that, especially someone like you, I can identify with this, you're good at a lot of things. You're like, I can do pottery I can sing I can. And I think that's why people like us are great understudies and swings is because we're curious. And we're not just curious to dabble. We're curious to dominate. You know, like, we want to be good at the things that we're curious about. There's been very few things in my life that I've actually said to myself, Bret, you don't like yoga, I love yoga. And I've constantly had to tell myself, you do not need to be a certified yoga instructor. You can just practice yoga.
Carla Stickler 17:25
I did that when I was doing Bikram yoga all the time. I'm gonna be a teacher.
Bret Shuford 17:32
You don't have to be a certified yoga professional, you could just take classes.
Carla Stickler 17:38
Oh, my God, that is so funny. I feel that's so hard. Everything that you like to
Bret Shuford 17:48
do? Bret stop. Right. So I do think that there's something about that mindset. But there's also something to about and talk about your experience as an understudy in a swing? You know, I think that I'm very curious for you. What did that drive any of that decision making? Did you enjoy being an understudy and a cover? And what do you think you learned from that experience that's helped you today doing what you do.
Carla Stickler 18:16
I loved being an understudy, because I have a little bit of a savior complex. Like, I like saving the day a little bit. I like that I know and trust myself enough that I am going to perform well under awful circumstances. And it is something I know about myself. And I would never commit to something but I don't think I could do it fully 100% I liked that aspect of being an understudy. But you know, I do think anybody who's been understudy, there's always that feeling of, Oh, I could do this eight shows a week, I could totally do that. I could totally do that. If they would just give me the chance to do that. You don't want to say it out loud. Because there's this whole like, hashtag humble thing like, half a grateful like, I'm so happy to have a job and like how dare I wish for more because I already have a lot of great things in my life. And there's sort of a feeling of, I don't want to ask for more. I know like I'm good at this thing. And like maybe if they gave me an eight show week, Elphaba, I'd be terrible at it. I don't know, I work really well under pressure. And maybe I get bored. I have no idea because I've never done it. I like the flexibility of being an understudy or standby, right? I like that. I don't have to do the show every day. I like but I get downtime. When I was standing by on tour, I like had a bracelet making business. I was like an Etsy store. And I was like make bracelets backstage. It was super fun. I was like, I wouldn't be able to do this if I did the show eight times a week. So I don't know. I like that. What did you ask you asked how I think that's kind of like,
Bret Shuford 19:44
how do you think that that adrenaline cuz I know from my experience, right? Pretty much every show I did. I was an understudy. And the best part of an understudy is the first time you go on. Because that's the only time people really appreciate shade it. And then after that, it's just like an insurance policy, in my experience, but I do think that what it gave me as a human is this ability to sort of deflect anxiety in a way that like, I don't think if I didn't have the ability to sort of take it one step at a time, show up one scene at a time, learn how to read people's eyeballs, if I'm in the wrong place, or, you know, all this stuff that comes with in the in your account. So being an empath, just being able to sort of absorb your environment and go with the flow, all that stuff, I think prepared me for the pandemic, it has prepared me for entrepreneurship, it has prepared me, it has helped me not care about if a social media post bombs or whatever it is that I'm doing. How do you feel like that experience as an understudy has helped you in your current path and decision making over the last couple of years?
Carla Stickler 21:02
Yeah, I think I mean, you kind of nailed it, right? Like that feeling of like, I can go with the flow. I know how not to take something if something doesn't go, right. I know what that feels like. And I know that it's not the end of the world, right? Like I have messed Oh, I have bombed so hard on stage in front of 1000s of people. And I'm like, if I could have made it through that experience, I can make it through the first three months, the pandemic without a job and figuring it out. It's not fun, it's like really uncomfortable, but like, I know that I'm going to get through it. I know, as like somebody who's been in those extreme positions of feeling uncomfortable, and just like kind of absorbing everything around them. I'm like, I can do this, I know I can do this, this is no different. It's just a different climate, it's just a different space that I'm in. But it's still the same feeling. It teaches you to kind of really just trust yourself, and know you won't be that it's not gonna be that awful. It might suck for like a minute, but nothing will truly ever be that. That awful, or if it is that awful, it won't last forever, right? Like if something really is awful and uncomfortable, like, this pandemic has been awful for a lot of reasons for a lot of people, and you have these moments of like, you're grieving all of these things. And I've been very fortunate, I haven't lost anybody, like extremely close to me. But, you know, I can only imagine like, that stuff. It comes with you, as you move through life, it gets easier as you go. So like learning to kind of deal with those kinds of really difficult situations, and move forward as best as you can. Through them. Instead of trying to like, remove yourself from them, or like I just kind of have to move through this process. I have to move through it. Get over there. I will still remember that but like I just got to get over there.
Bret Shuford 22:42
Yeah, yeah, yeah, keep moving up. When people ask me like, because most people who live outside of Mughal you know, people in the muggle world which you are now part of you, let's call you a half blood right now. But, you know, they think oh, my god and understudy Oh, my God, a swing. How do you do it? That's always a big question. Because how do you do it's like, one thing at a time, you just take one scene at a time, one step at a time, one entrance at a time. So that's to me, I think, is really such a great life lesson for anybody. And I applaud you for like really living in that process. But let's talk about what happens. So you've been in this mode of like, when's the last time you're Oh, wicked. So 2019. You said, right. Yeah. So
Carla Stickler 23:29
I was there in the summer of 2019, covering, like an illness for two weeks. And at that time, I was actually doing my software engineering bootcamp during the day and I was going to theater at night,
Bret Shuford 23:39
and you're living in New York, you're living in Brooklyn, you're thinking, you know, I'm going to get this software thing. And then like, if wicked, like so many people we know like Lindsey and Laurieann, you would just get called in and do wicked for a little bit. Make a little insurance money. Go back to your thing, right. So wicked shuts down pandemic, everything shuts down in New York, you're there. You're in New York for how long during the shutdown.
Carla Stickler 24:05
So we stayed until April of this year or last year. 2021 years me nothing. Like what day is it? I don't remember years 2021. We moved to Chicago in April. We were just like in 600 square feet. Both of us working remotely, just on top of each other. What are we doing?
Bret Shuford 24:27
What is your partner your partner's in the was in the business.
Carla Stickler 24:31
So he works on advertising now. He actually used to work for Second City, which is how we met we met on a cruise ship when I was doing my show on a ship and he was working for a second city. The weird thing is we both grew up in the same hometown. I went to the same high school did not know each other. I played softball with his older sister. We both went to NYU If our parents knew each other, it's so weird. It was supposed to happen. Wow, it was like Kismet. So moving back to Chicago is like we were both like well, family. Friends. Make sense.
Bret Shuford 24:59
So So you're back in Chicago, you bought a house? We did. We bought a house. I love graduations.
Carla Stickler 25:06
I love my fireplace.
Bret Shuford 25:08
Oh my gosh, I'm looking at it right now. It's so cute.
Carla Stickler 25:11
Yeah, it's the reason we bought this house. It's very hard to turn on and off, but I love it.
Bret Shuford 25:17
But, uh, looks good. But against that wallpaper. I can't. So you're in Chicago? And was there, like a resignation that had happened? At some point, you're like, I'll probably never hear from them again. And I'm just gonna be a software engineer and talk a little bit about that.
Carla Stickler 25:33
Yeah, I definitely like moving to Chicago definitely was, there was a moment where I was like, Okay, this is real like, by doing this, I am officially removing myself from the equation, like equipment calls, I can just show up at the theater tomorrow afternoon, or this afternoon, if they call me at 10am. I was like, there's a moment where it's like, I'm kind of like taking my power back from Wicked, where I'm like, Oh, my wife
Bret Shuford 26:03
has all the power I'm getting.
Carla Stickler 26:06
It's hard to say no to wicked. I've been wrong. And I love the show. And every time they would call my husband be like, Are you sure you want to go back? I was like, fine beam. I gotta go. I like I can't say no. I know. Like, I really thought that moving to Chicago, I would gain some of that closure on that. And more of that. I can say no, I can say no, because guess what, I don't live there. Like they'd have to be super desperate. I don't want to say they're desperate. But they have to be super, like
Bret Shuford 26:35
short listed. Yes, yeah.
Carla Stickler 26:39
And I really thought I was fully closing that chapter. Very much. So I was like, I'm gonna just move forward and commit fully to this life that I have. My husband, my dog, my house, my new job, my weekends, evenings, I get to like drink alcohol now, which really, really fired. me when I was sitting all the time. I couldn't, I couldn't even have like a glass of wine. I was so nervous that I was gonna lose my voice. So nice to like, be a real person. Those
Bret Shuford 27:08
are perks. Those are real perks. We are. So I what happened. So they called you out of the blue.
Carla Stickler 27:16
So I have been noticing there was a lot of stuff going on on Facebook. I think a lot of people were noticing. I had been noticing a lot of the girls that I knew covered, the roles were all sick, where they were all out, they would not be available, if called upon. And so Sunday morning, one of the girls who had been called to come in and help out actually ended up testing positive for COVID It was so sad and she she's such a beautiful actress and I was so sad for her. And then she posted this thing on Facebook and like my heart broke for her. I was like, I want you to have this so bad. And then the second thought that I had was they're gonna call me later today. I was going through my head of like all the girls and I was like Who else is available?
Bret Shuford 28:03
And was this to play the role or just to have a cover in the building? So you would just become be the standby while Jenny dunloy who's currently the standbys on for Lindsay piers. Yes,
Carla Stickler 28:16
I was actually on a sling contract because they thought it might need me also for the ensemble. They're like, we need another person in
Bret Shuford 28:23
the bill. Yeah, cuz they were doing like crazy split tracks. From what I heard that the dance captains and stuff and for those of you that don't know, that's when, you know, a swing is like, basically playing for people in one performance.
Carla Stickler 28:38
I think they got up to one person was doing five in one show. Yeah, that's insane. That's insane. They just needed more bodies. I get it. Yeah, you know,
Bret Shuford 28:47
yeah, keep the show going.
Carla Stickler 28:49
Gotta keep it gotta keep going. I think like that is one of the really interesting things out that I think a lot of people have realized that I don't know if they quite knew how hard standbys and understudies work. I mean, man, thank you Hugh Jackman, for that beautiful viral thing. He that thing he said about the Marian understudy. It brought this like really lovely awareness to like the hard work that goes on to keep the show's going. Yep. And I think there's a lot of people who don't, because they don't understand that they're like, Oh, my God, shows are going to such crazy lengths to keep their shows open. I'm like, yes. But also, even if there wasn't a pandemic going, they would have gone to these lengths as well. If they found they only had one alphabet in the building, they would have
Bret Shuford 29:35
kept it. That's what I do. Yeah. But I do want to just speak to something that you don't have to speak to. I'll speak to this, and that is that Charlotte St. Martin, who's the president of the Broadway League, had made a statement that was very demeaning to understudies and swings. And also just really kind of pointed out the lack of understanding that the Broadway League, which is basically the union for producers has on who keeps their shows going. And so this big movement happened and it happened to coincide with this event for you, which was beautiful, which is, you know, Hugh Jackman coming out and honoring. And Alexander billings did this for a wicked while honoring the understudies and swings and all of that. So I just want to give a little side note that it was a beautiful thing that needed to happen, I think, especially for the Broadway League and for other producers and leaders within the theater world to see.
Carla Stickler 30:32
Yeah, it was really powerful. How many people kind of rejected that story that she said that she like, very publicly made. Just being like, that is not true. That is just not real. That is not the reality of this. And we are going to be very vocal about it. And it was cool. I mean, it's cool. It's really nice to see. Yeah,
Bret Shuford 30:52
yeah. So you don't call them to be a standby. So they called you on Sunday. What was that conversation?
Carla Stickler 30:58
Yeah, so it was actually it was a text message.
Bret Shuford 31:02
Carla Stickler 31:04
Marcia, from Marcia. Okay. So we were in the car. So I wake up and I'm like, Oh, God, I bet they're gonna call me today, if they don't find but I'm still going on vacation. And my husband, I hop in the car and we drive. We're going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and about like, a few hours in, we're like, stop at the Mars cheese Castle, buy some squeaky cheese curds. And I get out, I get back in the car. My husband got a text message. And I was like, Cool reads me. He's like, Ah cool. Okay. Are you ready? I was like, I was like, is it wicked? He was like, it is wicked. I was like, I need to think about this. He goes, Do you want to do this? And I was like, I Oh, I sat with it for a few minutes. I was like, I don't know, I really thought I was done. And like, I'm about to go on vacation. And like, I'm so excited about my vacation. We're just gonna like be in a cabin in the woods now and just have a great week. And I was like, there was something in me, I think because of all of the attention that like understudies and swings. Oh, this moment that was happening in New York. I was like, you know, I like want to kind of be a part of that. That is such a big part of who I am. And who I was for a really long time. But to have this opportunity to go in and be a part of that. And to like, help keep the lights on. I love Broadway. I love the theater. I love wicked. I really do. I love the show. And I love the show. Right? It's been like such a
Bret Shuford 32:33
good story. It just feels so good to walk out that theater after doing that show.
Carla Stickler 32:38
I feel that I have to do this. I feel like it is better than me. And like I have a week off from work so like can do this. So I was like, I gotta go. He's like, Okay, I was like the first thing I sing through the song.
Bret Shuford 32:53
Do I even have those notes? Right?
Carla Stickler 32:57
Like, oh, I'm
Bret Shuford 33:00
the most unnatural, the most unnatural notes that anyone? And yeah, anyway, go ahead. So you're gonna sing through this.
Carla Stickler 33:07
I gotta tell you, I don't know if I'm just a freak of nature and have like, freakish vocal cords. But like Elphaba sits very nicely, and
Bret Shuford 33:14
I noticed that listening to you. I'm just saying I'm not a vocal expert. But I will say I noticed that listening to you is like, it just sits in your voice in such a cool way that it's much more natural for you. Yeah,
Carla Stickler 33:25
I think cuz I was like a coloratura soprano before and my voice is set really high. It sits in a really okay place for me where I don't usually have problems with it. I can usually do it whenever. And so like that also was part of it. I was like, Well, I know. I can sing the show. I haven't sung much in two years. Two and a half years, whatever. But it is. Yeah. Like muscle memory, man. Stuff's real. Yeah. Donalyn. Real. Real. So
Bret Shuford 33:52
you book a flight or they book a flight for you to fly to New York on Monday.
Carla Stickler 33:57
Yeah, Monday, so I flew out mid morning, but my flight got delayed. It was a horrible snowstorm in Upper Michigan. That was like the day where like, everything was being canceled. Oh, so much for being delayed. I can't I spent so much time in airport just like panicking that I was gonna get COVID and I was gonna get to New York and I was gonna test positive out there. And I was like, Cool. So thanks for flying me out. I'm going to just live in the hotel room for a week and so luckily I got there. I got there right in time to walk to the show Monday night because they don't Monday night chokes, holidays, good holidays. Monday night show and then I went home. I slept. I had a rehearsal all day. All afternoon. Tuesday. I followed Jenny around the show Tuesday night. That was it. They're like, we think you're ready. Do you want to do another run through like during Wednesday during the matinee and I was like, yeah, why not? Up in the studio? Yeah, as I can't hurt I would love to just do it again. So me and the stage manager. She played every part. It was just me and her to be honest. And
Bret Shuford 34:59
we went I definitely been in that rehearsal too. Yes. So
Carla Stickler 35:03
as long as your mind with our stage manager is a very fun No, it's It's lovely watching her play. Everything is
Bret Shuford 35:13
she loves it. She lives her best life. Yes. Yeah. And
Carla Stickler 35:17
like, by the time we were done, they were like, Okay, you're ready, like, feel good. You feel good. I was like, I feel good. Yeah. I mean, I feel the same. I felt every other time I understudied it. I feel like I haven't done it in a while. And I know it and like, I just got to you got to put me on coach. So I can make sure I know it. Like there's no other way around it right. When you ever say like, I just got to do it. Yeah, like no way. Yeah, I got my numbers. I know of dialogue. It's so yeah. And then I just kind of waited. So we were taking antigen tests every morning testing every day, every day. So like, every morning you wake up, you take a test, you take a picture of it, you send it in to their testing people. So I had done a PCR right when I got there that was negative. So like then after once you take the PCR they do the antigen test. Got it. So it was just kind of like well, you're ready, as long as you can go on our standby have been doing so many shows, because she'd been the only person in the building for a little while. And was just like needed a moment like just need to just take a moment
Bret Shuford 36:20
and that holiday schedules brutal to because you do like 16 shows in a row or something insane.
Carla Stickler 36:27
Yeah. So I was like, you let me know when you want it. When you're ready, girl, I'm here if you need me. I'm also fine. If you want to just keep plowing through. I am here I am just here. Use me if you want. So I kind of knew I was going to be on for the Saturday night show. But again, it was that thing where you're like, I still have to wake up and take that test. And if it's positive, I can't do that show. So I just like was living in like fear of taking my tests.
Bret Shuford 36:57
Like not leaving the apartment, I'm sure just like, yeah,
Carla Stickler 37:00
I literally am but I stayed like New Year's Eve I was in on 49th between Broadway and eighth and a hotel room right in Times Square. And I was just like, I could hear all the noise and Times Square. And I'm just like, can't go anywhere. Can't leave can't leave.
Bret Shuford 37:14
Yeah. Oh my gosh, that's crazy. You're in Times Square not looking at New Year's Eve.
Carla Stickler 37:19
It was probably the saddest New Year's Eve either.
Bret Shuford 37:26
And so when they hired you, they hired you to come in to be a standby for two weeks. Yeah, at
Carla Stickler 37:31
first, it was a week with the option to extend. Got it.
Bret Shuford 37:35
So you wake up Saturday morning, you take your antigen test, negative,
Carla Stickler 37:41
and then the message I'm like, All right, I'm not going to at that point, like I'm like, our standby could also still be like, you know, I'm going to come and do the show. As an understudy. There are never guarantees that you're going to go on even when somebody is like, hey, hint, hint, I might call out you're like, will you do? It doesn't matter.
Bret Shuford 37:58
So don't tell me that
Carla Stickler 38:00
secure and like freak out about it. Because a lot of times I've had people tell me that and then they do the show that night. Yeah, me too. Like and you're like, I don't get my hopes up. Because Yep. It's just like a mess. But that's
Bret Shuford 38:11
just healthy. That's just keeping yourself sane. Yeah. Yeah.
Carla Stickler 38:15
So until like, I got the call around noon on Saturday. I was like, Well, okay, I'm negative. So they know that I but I'm here if they need me. And then I just spent the rest of the day in my room doing the show in the mirror. In the shower, steaming it up. Just being like I got I got it. I may or may not have a bootleg of the show that I watched. Just watch the numbers and the jacks. You know, you do what you got to do. So I was like, Alright, I had a point. I was like, I need to stop. I know this. Well, there's nothing else I can do. I've gone through all of the fast like it's you know, there's like the the scene at the end right before defying gravity with history. It's like oh, no, just hurry. Are you alright? Oh, it's just a transition dairy. No, no, he's not. He's
Bret Shuford 39:05
Carla Stickler 39:08
You have to like, memorize everybody's lines in order to do it. Yeah. Like, those were the moments that get me the most scared because I'm like, you just kind of have to trust them.
Bret Shuford 39:17
Because just like all that underscoring and scenic movement happening all at the same time. Yeah, it's a lot. So, yeah, so Saturday, you were like, Okay, I know I can give myself a little bit of a break and what happened?
Carla Stickler 39:31
I get there. I get to the theater Saturday night. I got there very early. I sat in the dressing room for a little bit and just was like, I'm going to be in the space. I have a really big tattoo on my arm that I got recently as also like I'm done performing. I'm getting a really big tattoo on my arm. And so they had to like cover my hope and like do all this makeup because it showed through the green mesh thing. And I got to say like the elephant Have a team are incredible like the hair, the makeup, the dresser. I don't know how they do it, but they are so positive and their energy. It was like the driving force behind my show. Like you got this. You're doing right there's like Thank you.
Bret Shuford 40:17
How else are you got to do it? Yeah, you got a taxi for edible
Carla Stickler 40:22
as an understudy like nerves are not helpful. Adrenaline can be feeling like anxious like I can't do this and panicking is not helpful. So channeling that adrenaline into the show is like the thing that's going to get you through it. I knew we're sitting there payment greens like I'm so chill. I'm not like nervous yet. It always comes right before you run out on stage. I really think the beautiful thing about wicked for an understudy is the way Elphaba is crafted in the beginning of the show. She like bursts out through that door. And she everybody's like laughing at her and she then gets a scream at everybody. And then you sing the song that is just like about excitement and joy and being terrified and hopeful. And like you're really like physically feeling all of those things. So you use it, you're just like, cool. I'm going to live in this moment, because that's where I am at the moment. Currently, it's very grounding as an understudy for alpha. But I like to think a lot of other girls would feel the same. I think that that moment is really just, it allows you to kind of center yourself, you're like, okay, and you can kind of take your time at the beginning of the song. And it's like you get to lock in with the conductor. And like, I think it's really feel your feet underneath you. And then you're like, and now I got this. And now I can do the rest of the show. And it's gonna be fine.
Bret Shuford 41:43
It's incredible. And it's so well, I mean, again, it's a very well structured show. So you did the matinee, I did the Saturday
Carla Stickler 41:52
night show. He did not have a matinee. Oh, you know my name because of the holiday schedule. Yeah. So we had a Saturday night show on a Sunday matinee. And I did both of those.
Bret Shuford 41:59
And so then we'll have somebody somewhere in the audience filmed you.
Carla Stickler 42:06
Yeah, so a lovely fan who has since sent me that video. I love our fans, ma'am. Somebody's got to take those videos. They took that that video of my bow, a friend of mine, who just like has like a lot of Twitter followers. And like this other girl that I know in tech, who also like loves musical theater, somebody had put us in contact a few years ago, and she has like a giant following on Twitter. The two of them just grabbed on to this and like posted these threads on Twitter, and on their Instagram pages. And it just kind of like it was bananas.
Bret Shuford 42:40
What happens? Yeah, what happens?
Carla Stickler 42:43
It just like exploded, it was like, I don't know, as an understudy. I'm not used to getting that kind of attention. And all of a sudden, it was like, people just were so excited about this moment. They wanted to talk about it. They wanted to ask me questions. I don't even know what I was thinking. I was just like, I was still so overwhelmed by everything and trying to process everything. And I put this post up about like, this is going to end I know this is gonna end I just hope that when this is over, like some girl like sees this and realizes that she can like math and science and STEM. And also. Yeah,
Bret Shuford 43:13
I think that's what I followed you was when I saw that, yeah, I was
Carla Stickler 43:16
trying to process everything. I was like, as a lifelong understudy, I know this moment is probably not going to last long. Or I never expected to write I never expect anything from when I go on. So I was like, I hope that somebody sees this, who really just needed to see this really needed to see that like, Oh, that's a thing, you can have multiple careers like just because you pick one path doesn't mean it has to be the path for the rest of your life. It doesn't mean that path has to define you, you know, you can have multiple paths, you can be multiple people, a friend of mine coined this term, the human Venn diagram. And I love it because it's like, you live at the intersection of all of these different parts of yourself, that kept going through my brain. And I was like, Okay, I'm gonna put this post up just because like, I need to just like process this moment. And that thing, just like blew up. The thing that was so inspiring to me was all the people who started messaging me to tell me like, their stories, you know, and like, share with me what they do and how they've always felt like people have told them, they have to pick something. And they've always felt like the odd one out because they like these two very different things. And I just like, I was so moved by, like the things that people wanted to share with me and how people just felt seen. And it was like, that's the thing of all of this that like touches me the most, I was so overwhelmed. That aspect of it, just people really grabbing on to that and being like, yes, yes, of course. Why not? You know,
Bret Shuford 44:44
it's so beautiful. And I think that so many people, because of the pandemic, really were questioning their paths, regardless of what industry they were in. And so for you to sort of validate that you can have multiple paths and you can still be an artist and you can embrace the right and the left brain? How is being a software engineer different for you, now that you kind of went back and experienced being a performer? And then now you're, of course back to your regular job in the last week? What do you notice the differences? And or what do you miss? Or when you reflect on these two different lives?
Carla Stickler 45:25
Yeah, you know, I do think there are a lot of similarities. As a software engineer, you kind of live in the unknown. There's this thing where, as a software engineer you really good at Googling, because you can't, literally cannot memorize every piece of information. Also, because technology is changing so fast. You're constantly learning new things and new ways to do things because you kind of have to, you have to adapt, or else the technology is old, and where are you in your career. So there's this adapting that has to happen constantly. And the thing I love about it is it is literally the same muscle that I use as a standby or an understudy, right? It's like that feeling of like, I don't know what I'm doing. I mean, I know what I do. I know I trust, I know how to find the thing that I need to get where I need to get to. But I also know that there's a lot of unknowns here. And as a software engineer, there's a lot of unknown. And I spend a lot of my day, looking up things and trying to analyze things and figure out what they mean, and how can I use them for what I'm writing? And how do you know I'm constantly problem solving. And I love that about it. Like, it's so creative. Heaven was whirlwind of a week, you know, last week and the week before and then coming back, it's been really nice to just like, focus again, and like find some like quiet moments to just sit and work on something. And not think about like Twitter and Instagram and interviews, and what am I going to do with my life. It's been really, really nice, just like sit with my code and myself in a room and just work. I've been very grateful to have that to come back to
Bret Shuford 46:59
congratulations. I mean, it's just so exciting. Did this reawaken the performer inside you? In a way? Do you feel like you want to extend an arm out into that world a little bit more? Or do you feel like, you know what I did it? And that was great. And whatever the universe wants to bring my way? I'm open to it.
Carla Stickler 47:19
Yeah, I think like a little bit of both. I think there's got to be something in between. Right before all this had about a month prior to this. And I've had a lot of people remind me of this. I put up this post on Facebook. I was like, anybody know anything about the Chicago theater scene? Like I just like, want to sing at a concert? Do you guys do concerts here like they do in New York? Just like, I don't know anything about the Chicago scene. I feel really dumb about it. But just being like, what are the opportunities because like, I was getting kind of like that itch. I was like, I want to do something. I don't know what that is. I do not want to do eight shows a week. Unless somebody wants me to, like start like their show and like pay me a lot of pain. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, I really my husband, I just moved to Chicago, I really want to explore here. But again, I'm open. I think what's really kind of beautiful about this moment, and also kind of the message, right, that we don't have to shut these parts of our lives out. Maybe there's a world where I can also be creative in other ways. And I have a lot of time free on my weekends and my evenings, you know, like, I don't bring my work home with me. After five o'clock. I go, and I do other stuff. So I don't know. I think I'm just gonna keep being open with the comfort of knowing I have a full time job.
Bret Shuford 48:32
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's really, it's just so inspiring. And anyone listening to make sure you go follow Carla on social media on Instagram.
Carla Stickler 48:43
I'm not trying to content up Oh, I am so bad at social media, you're
Bret Shuford 48:47
gonna have to now you're becoming a social media star.
Carla Stickler 48:52
You now have talked about this later?
Bret Shuford 48:55
We'll have a conversation. What, um, anything else you want people to know, or you want to dive deeper on or anything we skipped?
Carla Stickler 49:03
You know, you touched on one thing that I wanted to just really quickly circle back to Sure. The idea that during this pandemic, so many people, so many artists and actors lost their jobs, they lost our livelihood, and they were kind of like reflecting on like, Well, who am I? What am I? What do I do? One of the really cool things that's happened, right at the beginning of pandemic was I have heard having a ton of people reach out to me and be like, Hey, I heard you code. What is that? Can you tell me about that? And like, I would like to send them resources and how to get started. And a friend of mine who's also a Broadway performer and her husband, who's a musician, had gone through a coding boot camp about a year before I did, and they were getting the same kind of outreach. Like people were just like, hey, you guys code. What is that? And somebody put me in contact with them. And they started this group called artists who code which is like this really beautiful community now it's Like a big community of artists who are learning or have learned, and are maybe going to the job search and trying to get into tech, it's so cool. I have friends who started programming like right at the new pandemic, or now software engineers with jobs. And it's so cool to see people just realize that they are more than just an actor or a musician, right like that they have other skills, those skills as the artist translate into these other fields. And that is like, it's so so cool to see. I love that community of people, they are just so open and honest and awesome.
Bret Shuford 50:40
I love that. So I'm going to put a link to that in the show notes to that Facebook group or for anyone who's interested in learning more about coding, that's sounds like a really great resource so that people aren't just hounding you in the DNS. And do you have any other places where people can follow you or stay in touch? Or is it just Instagram?
Carla Stickler 51:02
You know, I think Instagram is probably the one that I'm the best at just like pictures. Twitter, I'm on Twitter. I'm Stickler Carla on Twitter, but I always get really nervous about what to post on Twitter.
Bret Shuford 51:14
I don't blame you.
Carla Stickler 51:17
I'm there, but I'm more on Instagram.
Bret Shuford 51:19
Well, it's so inspiring. Keep doing what you're doing. I can't wait to see how you blend both sides, your brain in all the things you start doing, or thanks for coming in talking and inspiring everybody.
Carla Stickler 51:32
Thank you for having me. It was absolutely lovely.