Meet A Mom, Featuring Theater Mama Courtney Carter
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in Katy?
Tell us a little about your time in New York and your favorite things about the Katy community so far!
Katy took our idea of “having it all” and made it a reality. Living in New York, I never imagined that I really could have the house and the kid and the dog, and still have the chance to be performing. It’s sort of understood that you get one or the other. The idea that I could be performing on stage in one of the most beautiful theaters in the country and come home to my family at night felt impossible. It wasn’t without hard work, and definitely would not be possible without my incredibly patient husband and amazingly helpful family, but we are making it work! – I think!
I’m also so impressed with the diversity in Katy and Houston. I hadn’t realized before moving here what a transient city Houston is. I was so relived to learn that almost no one is *from* here. We’ve met so many amazing families from all over the country, and world!
We’re also loving how quickly things are growing here.
Favorite things about New York City and one thing you don’t miss?
There really is no place else on earth like New York City. New York can be very overwhelming, and very intimidating, but once you get comfortable there and find your group, your places, your routes – you feel like such a rockstar. The first time I learned to navigate the subway without having to use Google Maps, I felt like a true New Yorker. I really miss the diversity – the way you could think of any type of cuisine and probably find it within a 5 block radius. The theater, museums, history, and culture of New York just can’t be beat.
I definitely don’t miss living without a car. Grocery shopping in New York is a whole different beast – both in the cost of groceries and figuring out how you were going to carry it home. I really didn’t learn to cook until we left New York – you just didn’t need to! (And couldn’t afford to!)
For you, what’s the greatest gift about being a mom?
I had a mom friend tell me once, “Being a mom is like Christmas morning every day.” And it really is. By the end of the day, I am so exhausted and I’m counting down the minutes until bedtime. But as soon as she’s sleeping, I miss her. I love going to get her out of bed every morning.
Coming from the world of theater, you become very used to an almost constant rejection. Every time you walk into an audition room, you are basically begging the director to like you -to think you are good enough, or pretty enough, or talented enough. But being a mom, I am someone’s favorite person in the whole world. All of that insecurity and rejection just went away. She would pick me every time – until she’s a teenager, I guess.
Something you wish someone had told you before becoming a mom?
No one told me that being a mom is 10% parenting and 90% doing dishes.
Fun or interesting fact about you?
My favorite fun fact is actually about my daughter. In 2017, we took a family vacation to Italy for my cousin’s wedding – and while we were there, my daughter was picked up and blessed by Pope Francis! We were at a general audience at the Vatican (with 30,000 other people). And his car drove right past us and a member of his secret service came and took Frankie out of my arms and carried her up to the Pope to be blessed. It was incredible!
I also sang our National Anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Fransisco Giants! I’ve been in talks with the Astros to sing for them this year!
Favorite family-friendly things to do in Katy?
We really love Hooray Indoor Playground! We’ve been taking my daughter there for play dates since she was old enough to sit up on her own. I admittedly cannot handle the Houston heat, so I usually go into hiding in the A/C from May – November, so Hooray has been a lifesaver for us.
Do you have a favorite family-friendly restaurant?
We live just around the corner from Jimmy Changas, and that’s been a go-to for us. Margaritas and an outdoor play area? See you there.
Favorite thing in the area for pampering or fun?
Here’s the thing about New York City – you can get the best mani/pedi of your life on almost every corner, and it is so cheap! Truly. “My place” in New York did shellac manicures for $10 – not a lie. I’m upset about it at least once a day. So a semi-regular manicure is just something I’m not mature enough to give up just yet, even though the cost may bankrupt us. Oh, and Starbucks. It’s a daily thing. It’s an addiction. It’s out of my control. Sorry not sorry.
Best mom hack that makes your life easier?
Why is my mom-hack about shopping?! So I kept seeing ads for these adorable and trendy toddler pieces from boutiques pop up on my Facebook, and suddenly had the idea to search the description on Amazon – and it works! I have found so many of my daughter’s best pieces on Amazon – some for $3! So when you see those adorable Facebook ads pop up, try searching the description on Amazon. Most are on Prime!
Tell us about your background in theater in New York!
I was cast in my first National Tour when I was still in college. I got really lucky in that my tour wouldn’t be leaving until after graduation, so I was able to finish school, and then went straight on to tour with a musical called “Spring Awakening”. I toured with that show for a year and then moved straight to New York. I did the New York audition scene for several months, and then pretty quickly was cast in another National Tour, “Jekyll & Hyde”. (I actually was in Houston for two weeks with that tour – long before I ever had an idea we would be living here). Our Jekyll & Hyde tour was unique in that it was called a “Broadway-bound” production, so we toured the show for a few months until a Broadway theater opened up in New York. When our theater, the Marquis Theater in Times Square, opened up, we moved our show to New York City and I made my Broadway debut!
Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
I was so lucky to grow up in a city that had some amazing theater and theater education, so I was immersed in the theater world very early, taking dance classes and singing lessons. I was cast as “the kid” in lots of different shows in Pittsburgh and had the chance to grow up surrounded by some theater professionals. I learned so much from them and saw early on that you really could make a life for yourself doing what you loved. When it came time to pick a college major, there was really no question that I would go to school for Musical Theater. I went to Elon University in North Carolina and learned so much, not just about the craft of performing but also about myself and the type of performer I was and the type of person I wanted to be. The business of theater is a tough one. The competition is so fierce, and 99% of the time, it is completely out of your control. So it’s really important to grow a strong back bone and to feel confident in yourself and your training, because more often than not, you are just as good as the girl sitting next to you in the audition room, but she fits the costume already.
Now that you’re a Texan, what are you doing to immerse yourself in the arts in the Houston area?
Oh gosh, it’s so hard! Why does it feel like anything past Memorial City Mall is SO FAR AWAY? I’m lucky to have some really amazing friends in the theater community in Houston, so I try to stay up to date on anything happening downtown through them – that doesn’t mean I’m driving down there – but I can stay informed! Even with the theater scene in New York City, social media makes it so easy to stay up to date on different projects people are working on and even see video of what’s happening in the arts. But I need to be making it more of a priority. There are some seriously talented people living in Houston, and audiences here don’t realize how lucky they are to see performers of this caliber. In addition to the local performers and theaters, Houston usually gets first pick of some of the best National Touring shows. Check out the Broadway series that comes through the Hobby Center year-round. Those casts are usually filled with the best of the best out of New York City, and we can see them within a 30 minute drive downtown.
Any upcoming local shows we can catch you in?
Yes! I am so lucky to be playing “Mother” in Ragtime at Theatre Under the Stars in April. Ragtime is a show that not many people may know, but it is one of my favorites. It won 4 Tony Awards the year it debuted in 1997. The show is based on the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow and tells the story of the three class systems in America at the start of the twentieth century. Houston is SO lucky to have this show coming to the Hobby Center. It’s a musical that doesn’t get performed very often, mostly because of how BIG (expensive) and difficult it is. Do yourself a favor and look up Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell singing “Wheels of a Dream” on YouTube. Our director, Marcia Milgrom Dodge directed the Broadway revival of Ragtime in 2009. She is totally inspiring and brilliant.
My character “Mother” is the matriarch of her family in New Rochelle, NY. Marcia (our director) describes her as “a feminist before there were such thing as feminists”. She is strong and smart and fiercely loves her children. I sing a really beautiful duet called “Our Children”, and I honestly have no idea how I’ll get through it in one piece every night.
Our show runs April 16 – 28 at the Hobby Center downtown. I really mean this – if you are a Katy mom coming to see Ragtime, please send me a message before the show and tell me you’ll be there! Especially if you are coming with your kiddos. I would love to meet you at the stage door after a show if it can work out with our crazy schedule. Theater meant so much to me growing up, and if I can make the experience any more special for you or your kids, I would love to!
That being said – Ragtime is definitely not a show for the little little ones. It’s a beautiful piece of theater, with stunning music and rich in history, but it definitely tackles some of our nation’s not-so-flattering history, including racism and injustices.
Do you deal with Mom Guilt? If so, how do you deal with it?
I have a really unique position with my job where I get to play both roles. The majority of the time, I stay home with my daughter. And it is SO hard. And then every few months, I get a show where I’m gone very long hours and see very little of my daughter. And it’s SO hard. I learned very early that there is no ideal scenario. I have weeks where I think I would be happier and be a better mom if I didn’t stay home with her. But I’ve also learned to be so grateful for the time I do have with her. But when I do need to spend time away from her, I know it is making me a better and a happier person, and a better and happier mother.
Who has influenced you most in being the mother you are today?
Honestly, my new mom tribe. I am the walking definition of one of those moms who looks put together but I have absolutely no idea what i’m doing. Why is that? When do I get to become the adult? I have learned so much from the amazing moms in my life. So many of my friends come from very different places and backgrounds and each have their own way of teaching their children, practicing discipline, nurturing them. I have 1000 questions a day, and I know exactly who to text for every random one. They know which combination of tylenol and motrin to give, what restaurants have free kids meals on Tuesdays, which Target has that good cleaner in stock. I have the friend who had the bad napper, the friend who has the great eater, the friend who knows when Gap is offering 40% plus 10% off. I am so lucky for the incredible women in my life.
When parenting gets hard, what’s something you do or tell yourself that gets your through?
Get off of Instagram. Those seemingly perfect moms who are in full makeup, posting about their gluten free fat free joy free meals that are perfectly photographed, while their perfectly behaved children wearing designer outfits read themselves Wuethering Heights in the background? That mom has her bad days too. And real bad days. Not just the bad days she posts about while sitting in the front seat of her car pretending to cry. I really think we are doing something terrible to ourselves in this era of social media. We used to just obsess over celebrities and their completely unattainable lives. It was part of the fun of it. But now we are doing it to ourselves with every post and photo. I’m really hoping it’s just a phase and we’ll all get so sick of ourselves that we get sick of worrying about each other. But in the meantime, stop comparing yourself to @lynzyandco. (Check her out, btw, she’s amazing LOL)
What’s one thing you hope your daughter looks back and remembers about her mama?
I hope she remembers that I was always there for her and lived my life to make her happy. But every once in a while, mom got to play dress up and do something really magical on stage. Even with her being so little, my daughter has such an appreciation and love for the arts, and I hope she never loses that.
What would you go back and tell the YOU before kids?
Say YES every time one of your girlfriends asks you to go out. Go to the movies more often. If you don’t really have anything tomorrow, don’t set an alarm. Eat that cake, girl – you’re going to have to work off that + baby weight later anyways. Say yes more. Say no more. Go to the gym more often. Take full advantage of the days where you can just throw on some pants and walk out of the house in 5 minutes.