Although Judy Alvarez only recently joined The Caledonia, it feels as though we have known her for years. Her bright smile and sunny disposition are a pleasure to see every day. She took time from her busy schedule to talk about her life and the road that led her to us; I hope you’ll be as delighted by her story and her zest for life as I was.
Lance: Please tell us about your background?
Judy: I was born in California, then lived in New Orleans until I was 3, then moved to Houston, Texas. I grew up and was educated in Houston, went to Texas A & M, and graduated from the University of Houston in Clear Lake. I studied Theater Arts at both schools. I moved to New York on July 5, 1989 and went to American Music and Dramatic Academy. Once I graduated there, I had a variety of wonderful and interesting careers which I’m continuing to enjoy. I came here to be an actor and I have done plenty of acting and I still continue to. It’s been so interesting to be able to use my skills and have different adventures. New York is amazing. You’ll find people here are just so talented in many different ways. When I was younger I did everything from working as a receptionist in a record company to bartending in the Broadway theaters to working as a company relations manager for the Hair Club for Men. Then I went from dot com to dot com in that era helping startups, then I became an executive assistant, and an office manager. Along this way, I was performing consistently. I also started producing theater back in 1996 as well as performing throughout all this. Eventually I met my husband and it turns out he is a very active actor and he’s now an award-winning playwright. We started producing his work and employing wonderful actors and crew, mostly people we had worked with previously. But when we have to cast someone we don’t already know, they will usually become part of our talent base, supporters and friends as well. It’s been a wonderful way to support the theatrical community while producing great work we are passionate about. Our company is called Fandango 4 Arthouse. We most recently produced a workshop of his one man show, American Tranquility
Lance: How do you juggle that all while working at The Caledonia?
Judy: I’m working at The Caledonia full time and this is my dedication right now. I’m so grateful and honored to be a part of this team. That’s just where my focus is and my artistic work fits in absolutely miraculously with the schedule.
Lance: Do you have any upcoming performances that you don’t mind sharing?
Judy: I was in the first season of City of Mercy, a thriller series that was made for TV and is now accessible on YouTube. I’ve been cast in season two which is waiting for funding at the moment. I also do work for a company that trains organ donation requestors. It’s a very important job for me and I take it so seriously. Most of the other actors I’ve worked with treat it as one of their most important opportunities as well, and they work with a variety of working actors, one of whom works for the Met Opera for example
Lance: What are some of your hobbies and passions?
Judy: I absolutely love geology and earth science – I have a huge rock collection. I love to paint. I love animals and I recently started adopting farm animals through an organization that uses donations to care for cows, turkeys, goats, etc. I’m a vegetarian by the way. I love going to the beach even in the winter. I love the arts, theater, and exhibits. I’m also happy just reading or going to the park; I love reading about history and the history of New York City is fascinating to me. My husband and I recently moved to Brooklyn, so little by little we’re exploring it. I love yoga classes (my favorite studio is The Giving Tree) and I love to dance!
Lance: What would you say you’re really good at?
Judy: Acting is my true passion and what I feel I am very good at. I’ve had so much training and when I’m actually performing, I feel full of joy. I feel 100% in the moment. It’s one of the few times that time seems to be completely still no matter how fast my brain might be going.
Lance: It’s great that you have pursued your passion. So many of us have passions that we don’t pursue, and I think that’s part of why you always seem joyful.
Judy: Yes, thank you! I’ve almost forgiven myself that this is what I do better than anything else. Where I come from you don’t go off to New York to become and actor. Part of me always felt like I should “stop playing” and get to work. Every time I think that I think, “But I don’t want to.” My heart just always wants to be on vacation every single day. When I wake up in the morning. I feel that I’m on vacation. When I don’t, I know something’s wrong. Most of the time I feel there’s no need to take things so seriously. It’s because, you know, you’re part of the rat race no matter what you’re doing. You’re facing all this energy that can really bring you down or stress you out. When you take a few minutes to just be still and realize that that energy’s not you, just those few moments make you realize everything’s pretty good. You don’t need to get caught up in that anxiety of that rushing. When you take a moment, you realize it’s just such an opportunity that we are able to live here, and we’re surrounded by so many great things. It’s just incredible. It’s constant learning. Constant enjoyment. There’s so many things to taste, to do, and to learn and to see. It’s just so exciting. I’m so glad that part of me chimes out the part of me that thinks, “You need to stop playing and get to work and just be serious.”
Lance: What are some of your favorite places to go and things to do in New York City?
Judy: I love going to the Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, Central Park – any nature. I love Long Beach. I also love the theater; Broadway feels so good for the soul. I also love trying different restaurants with friends.
Lance: You are a trained reiki practitioner. Please tell us about that.
Judy: Yes, I’ve been doing that for 29 years. It is a hands-on healing technique. I love to do it on animals as well as people. It’s noninvasive, hands-on energy and it’s very calming and wonderful. It was not something I planned to do, but someone gave me reiki one and two, which I accepted in training. I don’t think I could’ve come to New York if I had not been a reiki practitioner. It’s been something very grounding for me and I think the adventure that I’ve had with being a reiki practitioner has been very comforting for me as I’ve lived in New York and learned of other spiritual teachings. It’s just one of the things I’m grateful to be able to do for myself and other people whenever the opportunity comes up. It’s good for the nervous system. But people can respond to it very, very, very differently on the physical level or the emotional level. The first reaction I see that’s pretty consistent, people relax immediately, which is probably the basis of any kind of self-healing. It is under the concept that we are healing ourselves. For me, from a scientific view, I would say if the person is releasing anxiety during that hour or however many minutes we have together, that is something. I allow the recipient to tell me what they felt and what they experience. It’s usually unique and it’s usually different. Some go to sleep and experience something during that time. Other people just feel just so relaxed and at peace that they’re not feeling immediate symptoms. I’ve had just very different things.
Lance: What do you like most about being part of the Caledonia team and what is the most challenging part of your work?
Judy: I love the support and the welcoming. I can’t get over how welcoming everyone has been. It takes my breath away. When I first got there, and everyone was so helpful and so nice, I didn’t take it for granted. But it has continued. That kind of generosity with their time and patience hasn’t slowed down. These people work so hard and they’ve never made me feel like I’m not sufficient with the knowledge that I have. They’ve just been so supportive. What is challenging is the learning curve that they all seem to be mastering beautifully. There’s so much. What I see, the staff blows me away. It is a very demanding position to know as much as they know as quickly as they know. The record keeping that has to be done in such a busy environment. It has the illusion of not being busy at times when you never know what the concierge is having to deal with behind the desk. There could be so many urgent things up in the air trying to sort out and address that may not be apparent. It will never look that way on the other side of the desk. It could look very calm. The way I see the team just so poised and so fluid with one thing to the next, it’s very inspiring. I’m doing my best to live up to it and I’m working very hard to catch up to the rest of them. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.
Lance: Judy., it has been such a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time and for sharing part of your story.
Judy: Thank you, Lance.