Bri Sudia discusses Chicago theater, taking care of herself, and organizing her audition book.
Chicago based actress Bri Sudia is the person everyone wants to work with.
Not just because her talent is in high demand and she's been featured at incredible theaters like Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Northlight, and Chicago Shakespeare. It's because of how incredibly warm, kind, communicative and supportive she is. Her talent is beyond comprehension, her work ethic is epic, and she is truly a damn professional in her fields. This woman has a Masters in Acting, is a two time Jeff Awards nominee and has a degree in Sign Language interpretation for God's sake. She's incredible.
Bri and I met in 2018 at the wedding of Chicago's own, Andy Nagraj and Liz Krane Nagraj (Hi, guys!). We share a vast amount of mutual friends from our time at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, so we fell into easy conversation. I liked Bri from the moment I met her, and as I've come to discover, everyone who meets her feels the same way. My adoration was further solidified at the reception, when I ate shit on the dance floor (Spanx on full display) and she helped me get up and kept dancing with me like nothing happened.
Bri's probably going to hate this next part because she doesn't toot her own horn at all. BUT...
Bri has this extraordinary timeless beauty which runs as effortlessly through her personality as it does her elegant facial features. She has an etherial face which can be placed easily in any decade or century. She looks like she could be the model for a 1910 Women's Fashion Magazine cover, or a 2068 Senator from New York, or a 1789 Vegetable Farmer turned famous Artist. I. Would. Believe. Anything. She moves every part of her body on stage with the purpose of telling the story: eyebrows, nostrils, knees, and toes...knees and toes. You can see what I mean in this video from The Chicago Tribune when she sings "One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man" from Bernstein's Wonderful Town. Some shows, her voice floats through the air in Mezzo land and then in another, BOOM, belts the house down to rubble.
Her laugh is as powerful as Oprah. Everything is intentional with her, and that, in my opinion (which nobody asked for), is what comes together to create such an unstoppable force as Bri Sudia. Both on stage and in reality, Bri Sudia cannot be stopped. Unless she passes a plant store, in which case she will absolutely stop to buy more plants for her jungle/apartment.
"It’s okay. It’s ephemeral."
Bri has indeed made a name for herself in Chicago, and lucky for Chicago, she loves the theater community there.
"I feel that in Chicago, being a good person is really valued to a company. Not only do they want to work with and support great talent, but also kind and open-hearted people. I hoped that the people I wanted to work with wanted to work with me."
Its that connection with people and the story of the shows which make her on stage experiences so worthwhile.
"I love audiences. I love starting the show not knowing exactly what everyone showed up to the theatre with. I love learning to read their energy while I’m out there, what their expectations are, how well they’re following the story, who they root for, how to encourage them to laugh more, cry more. I find it fascinating. Reading a new audience every night to me is like an excellent book."
However, it's that same connection which can make it difficult to move forward to the next project, no matter how exciting.
"Ooohph. This business is rough on the heart. I think I just try to keep folks around me who can provide perspective and honesty. I struggle with letting each project go. You put your sweat and tears and sometimes literal blood into making the story come to life. You bond with the family of actors around you. But then you all move on and start again with a new family, to make a new story. Its the best/worst part."
So how does she recommend coping with these emotions? "I remember crying on a closing night one time years ago and my friend Heather said, 'It’s okay. It’s ephemeral. It was only meant for now' and that stuck with me and has always brought me comfort."
"Find joy in things that aren’t acting. I’ve started coaching high school kids who want to be actors and I think they’re amazing and working with them has given me so much clarity about myself. "
Ok, so we've covered emotions. What about dat baaaawdy? Bri says she prepares for the demands of each new gig with new eyes, voice, and body. Whatever that means, she kicks it into gear.
"To prepare for Wonderful Town at the Goodman Theatre a few years ago, I went to hot Yoga every day for a month to build my core strength and flexibility. Knowing that dance rehearsals would kick my ass, I didn’t want to spend a week being sore. Be kind to yourself. And get a good ENT.
Organizing with Bri
Bri thrives in (reasonable) chaos at home, but needs calm at work. She uses organizing as a soothing pre-show ritual.
"I usually get ready really slowly for like 30 minutes doing my hair and wig prep and then rush into costume/places. But my favorite thing to do is re-organize my station before we start. It always makes me feel ready."
At her station, she creates calm by adding photos and decor in a crafty way.
"Pictures and decor make me feel normal. I love going to Paper Source and buying sheets of the individual wrapping paper sheets and putting them up like art. Cheap and large ways to cover old gross dressing room walls! I also love hanging lights."
Of course you can also find standards like a vocal steamer, makeup wipes, toner for post makeup removal (she loves Mario Bedescu), snacks, and homeopathic lozenges.
Bri's favorite organizing tool is an oldie but a goodie: a steamer.
"It's a handheld clothes steamer. I know that sounds weird but half of my audition stress is looking like a windblown crazy person when I get there. So I have a little steamer I got on amazon that just steams out wrinkles and funny creases and it’s saved me again and again."
Something similar to this steamer will do the trick.
One of my favorite things about organizing for people, is finding out systems that work uniquely with their personality. With her audition book, she absolutely nailed a system early on in her career which worked for her and hasn't needed to change a thing.
"My audition book is the same it’s been for like 15 years and it’s embarrassing. But I know what everything is based on the color tab. And they’re like weirdly color coordinated- they want a ballad? I go to the blue tabs. Jazzy or sassy? Red tabs. Etc"
But the best part of the system is the small piece of personalized mail which keeps her mentally centered through all her auditions.
"Tucked in the front pocket is a note my best friend wrote me when we were both in for the same role 5 years ago. She left it on my chair for when I came out because she already had to leave. And I tucked it in my binder and forgot about it. It says something like “I love you! Can’t wait for tomorrow!” when we were going to hang out. It just reminds me there’s more to life than this one audition, and my friendships are more important than any gig."
After she closes a show, Bri will organize her show materials so its easy to reference when needed, but also aesthetically pleasing.
"I usually get my scripts or scores reprinted and bound at Fed EX all with a black back and clear front, so they sit on my shelf all matching for future reference. Love having them."
Her music is a little less organized. But honestly, as a fellow plant Mom, I completely support her journey on this... "I’m currently using some old vocal selections books to raise up some of my plants."