Trinity Arts Interview Series: Stephanie Laubscher

Our newest interview is with Stephanie Laubscher, actress, singer, lover of words. Anyone who knows Stephanie, or has heard her lead music at Trinity, can testify to her beautiful spirit and grace, but you’ll have to read on to learn how she pushes through artist’s block, why it’s good to ignore your dirty dishes, and what she has in common with a tree.

Q: What is your favorite space to create?

Stephanie Laubscher: I feel more vivid when I am outside, so whether I am journaling or reading the latest audition script I often sit out doors at my table, on a blanket, or on the tire swing (yes, I live by a tire swing).  I love creating outside partially because of the obvious inspiration of Creation itself, but I think much of my preference is due to the fact that there are fewer distractions—at least, the kind of distractions that impede my focus and creativity.  A cardinal alighting nearby is a very different thing from my RSS feed.

Q: What is your favorite snack to eat while creating?

SL: Mast Brothers chocolate.  That subject doesn’t even need a verb.

Q: How do you handle artist’s block (times when it is hard to create)?

SL: Unfortunately, I feel I have often not handled artist’s block very well at all, at least when I am trying to create original work.  I let myself get into ruts.  With acting it’s a slightly different situation than writing or choreography because I’m nearly always performing someone else’s work.  You can’t go to rehearsal or a film set and complain that you don’t feel creative: you have to push through the lack of focus/discouragement/lack of inspiration to accomplish the director’s vision.  In fact, sometimes this particular kind of artist’s block leads to interesting character discoveries because it gets me out of my head and into my gut and, really, that’s perhaps the best thing an artist can do when she is at a dead end: stop calculating and start reacting.

Q: How do you stay motivated and disciplined in our distracting society?

SL: I’m afraid I sometimes don’t stay disciplined.  It is so easy for me to put off creativity in light of a sink full of dishes.  I often struggle with the sense that productivity is to be favored over rest and stillness, but it’s only in stillness that I’m able to find the joy in creating that God wells up within me.  The best thing I know to do is to put away my phone, turn off my computer, and coerce myself into rest.  Not the cat-napping kind of rest—though that’s needed, too—but the kind where I must face myself in the quiet; it is only when I focus that I flourish.

Q: What is the best advice someone has given you?

SL: It wasn’t necessarily advice, but one piece of encouragement has so marked me that it still affects my outlook.  In high school I was about to perform in an acting competition when my music teacher at the time handed me a note:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skilled writer (Psalm 45:1).”  I still have the note (stuck in my mirror where I see it consistently).  It affirms the effort I have put into honing my craft while reminding me of the Source—and Audience—of my creativity.

Q: Who/what has inspired you lately and/or locally (i.e. other artists, exhibits, shows, bands, designers, etc.)?

SL: Though I am primarily an actor, I am often inspired by work not directly within my medium.  Recently, I have been really inspired by Bon Iver’s new album: something about the music causes my soul to rest, and out of that rest springs ideas and impulses to create.  I am affected by its simultaneous complexity and simplicity, a balance I strive for in both my art and my everyday doings.  And who wouldn’t be inspired by a voice as visceral as Justin Vernon’s?  

I also recently saw the film The Tree of Life, which overwhelmed me.  Terrence Malick is my favorite filmmaker—and the director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, is a favorite cinematographer of mine—so seeing his work in the cinema for the first time was a magnificent experience.  It was like watching a visual symphony, comprised of movements with repeated motifs in harmonious and dissonant arrangements.  Malick connects the everyday to the eternal in a way that is full of meaning to me.  I am directly inspired by how natural the performances of his actors are (a style that has certainly influenced my own film performances).  I will stop myself here, because I could talk about Malick’s work all day.

Q: What is one book/song/painting/piece/etc. that has been enriching to your faith?

SL: This is a difficult question to answer, because so much of my growth in my faith has had some form of art at its root.  However, one work that is consistently enriching to me is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke from his collection The Book of Hours, written while he was young and on a tour of cathedrals in Russia:

            I find you, Lord, in all things and in all
            my fellow creatures, pulsing with your life;
            as a tiny seed you sleep in what is small
            and in the vast you vastly yield yourself.

            The wondrous game that power plays with things
            is to move in such submission through the world:
            groping in roots and growing thick in trunks
            and in treetops like a rising from the dead.

There is a quote from Terrence Malick’s film The New World that says, “I will find joy in all I see.”  That concept has been the crux of my life—though not always articulated—ever since childhood, and to me is exemplified by Rilke’s poem.  It speaks to God as a Creator, of His joy in created things, and of His powers of transformation.  The impulse in me to create is the same impulse that makes trees grow tall; it is the same impulse which raises the dead.

Q: Describe your process behind the featured piece.

SL: My featured piece is a recent film from Whitestone Motion Pictures.  It is a book trailer commissioned by Zondervan for an upcoming Christian inspiration/romance novel.  Though I am philosophically opposed to the genre, I was excited to be part of the project because it was directed by Asher Emmanuel, a local filmmaker whose work I admire.  My younger brother, Samuel Laubscher, was the director of photography. 

The entire concept of a film trailer is that it pulls from intense or memorable moments from the work as an entirety, so creating a book trailer was a challenge.  I had to conjure up a vivid person through only the briefest moments of her story.  I had to distill emotions that progress over the course of an entire book into less than one day of filming.  I had a wonderful time.

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