Activities

I have a multitude of hobbies and interests, and I am always seeking new opportunities to travel, adventure, and learn.

CHESS

I have been playing chess seriously since I was 8 years old. Throughout my youth, I achieved tremendous recognition for my chess skills, winning top place trophies in regional, state and national tournaments. For example, in 5th grade I placed 2nd in the state of Florida, in 7th grade, I placed 5th in Florida, and throughout high school I often placed in the top 10. I also represented my high school chess team and went on to win team trophies that placed us as #1 in Florida in 1998,  #12 nationally in 1999, and so many more top placements that I honestly regret never officially documenting, though the trophies are still on display at my high school, Pine Crest, in Florida.

GUITAR,  PIANO  &  MUSIC  COMPOSITION

When I first began to sing seriously at the age of 6, my parents introduced me to musical instruments that would complement my voice. I gravitated most to guitar and piano, which I continue to play to this day. My musical aptitude was further developed when my parents and I started a small marionette musical production company called Puppets R Us. For several years, we  composed and performed original educational musicals at schools and science theaters. Throughout my youth, I participated in multiple talent shows and also composed my own original music. I later went on to study under Chris Risola, platinum record lead guitarist of the band, Steelheart, with whom I developed my own demo CD. 

In high school and throughout college, I did a lot of music composition for traditional orchestras. One of my pieces, Fall of the Hero was a program piece written for 72 instruments and performed by the University of Michigan Orchestra in my final year.

ACTING,   CHOIR,  AND  MUSICAL  PERFORMANCE

I began a professional acting career at the age of 12 at the North Coast Conservatory Theater in San Diego, CA. I performed in The Snow Queen and The Magic Flute, directed by Michael Pieper, who went on to direct comedians such as Tina Fey in The Second City, in Chicago.

At the age of 12, I also joined the San Diego Children's Choir as an alto, and I was given the opportunity to tour Italy and perform at the Florence Cathedral. After I moved back to Florida, from age 13 through college I was heavily involved in my school choirs, and performed in venues such as the Epcot Center for four years during their holiday Candlelight Processional. I also qualified for Florida All State Choir for three years, performing in the Women's, Mixed, and Reading Choirs, listed in both chronological order and order of difficulty.

Throughout middle school and high school, I was known for my musical performance not just in choir, but also in stage musicals. I performed leading roles in two renditions of Guys and Dolls (Sarah Brown both times), Into the Woods (Cinderella), Once Upon a Mattress (The Queen), and Oklahoma! (Aunt Eller), among others such as 42nd Street and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I also stage directed student-run plays and sketches.

Guys and Dolls, 1998 (Sarah Brown)

Oklahoma! 1997 (Aunt Eller)

Once Upon a Mattress, 2000 (The Queen)

Into the Woods, 2001 (Cinderella)

Guys and Dolls, 2002 (Sarah Brown)

Florida All State Reading Choir participants, 2002

TENNIS

I have been playing tennis since I was 8 years old. For most of my life, I played singles, until 2013 when I was introduced to a local doubles meet-up in Los Angeles. I was a regular for several years until my main group disbanded. I anticipate that I will be joining a new group in mid-2018, since I received an invitation. Until I become a regular again, I still play occasionally, and I am always up for a singles or doubles challenge!

YOGA
SWIMMING

Although I am still new to yoga classes, which I started attending in early 2018, I have been practicing meditation and stretches for years (since YouTube channels started popping up!). I personally find that it aids a tremendous amount when it comes to mindfulness, which is a strong quality of good managers and colleagues.

Although I love tennis, swimming is my favorite sport because I like to meditate as I exercise. I've been swimming actively on and off since my childhood, though since 2013 I have been most active. I like to swim laps, and I can recommend a few good pools in the Los Angeles area for those who are especially interested in heated and salinated pools.

ANIME  FANDOM

If I were to be asked who has been the most influential person in my life, the answer is Akira Toriyama, author and manga artist of the Dragon Ball series. I discovered anime while in college, and Dragon Ball Z was a gateway for me to enter the anime fandom, where I pursued hobbies of fan art and fan-fiction. Through the production of fine arts, I learned that I was able to take storytelling to a visual level, and that opened the door for me to combine my writing and music skills and ultimately produce animations. Anime shaped the direction of my career and my discovery of how to combine my talents. When I was at USC getting my master's in animation and digital arts, I was an active member of the Anime Club, and organized events for its members. To this day, I attend weekly meetings with its alumni, and anime remains a strong personal interest of mine. My fan art includes comics, all of which can be found on my DeviantART page.

BACKPACKING  &  WORLD  TRAVELS

When I was 10 years old, my parents pulled me from school in order to home school me and take me on a three-month whirlwind trip around the world. That began my love for jet-setting, backpacking, and world travel. To this day, I have been to 40+ countries and have studied 5 languages besides English: Spanish (8 years), Italian (2 semesters), French (2 semesters), German (1 semester) and Japanese (1 semester). Though my Spanish is very strong, I do not consider myself fluent in any of the languages. However, my many travels and language studies have been extremely formative in me being world-cultured in both body and mind. I think outside of American philosophy, and embrace many world views and customs. My best friends are all international, as are many of my favorite places to which I have returned multiple times, such as Jamaica, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, and Japan.

© 2018, Laura Stephens