We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Henning and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Julia, what are you inspired by?
I am inspired by inspiration. This response often garners a bit of an eye roll, but hear me out. On the deepest level, I am inspired by the human condition, or rather, the objective observation of being a human being. In most cases, inspiration is thought of in relation to a singular moment or a tangible experience. I am more interested in the notion that inspiration exists at all. As human beings, we are gifted with the experience of being alive. Breathing. Sensing. Emoting. These elements of human life enable us to have these moments and experiences. As a student of philosophy, the performing arts, and psychology, my entire life’s work centers on the human condition. I am fascinated with the concept of being alive in all forms; the suffering, the celebrating, the questioning, the ecstasy of ‘being’. So when I think about what inspires me, I think about inspiration as a consciously unconscious force. Inspiration is precarious and unidentifiable energy that has the power to manifest material and spiritual change. That in and of itself inspires me! Have I lost you yet? I’ll simplify a bit. When I am creating a show, performing for an audience, discussing ideologies, or counseling clients, I am inspired to make the other person feel and think. Because when thought and emotion are activated, the other and I are sharing an experience of being alive, of being a human. Sure I could say love inspires me or sunsets inspire me, but it is the awareness that I get to feel love and see a sunset that inspires me to put myself and my efforts into the world. Reminding myself and other people that being alive is a magical and exhilarating blessing is my deepest inspiration.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I revel in sharing my story of how being a creative hyphenate led me to the path I’m on today.
I am a proud Midwesterner, born and raised in Michigan. After studying philosophy and acting in Chicago, living in Los Angeles was the ultimate notion of ‘having made it.’ Little did I know that getting to LA was just the beginning. After years of interning for career counseling companies and providing admin services to local theaters, not to mention picking up a few notable film auditions and theater gigs along the way, I started to realize that fulfillment was lacking in my life equation. I wanted something more profound. Don’t get me wrong, being an actor and attempting to launch several small businesses is plenty deep, but the dives began to feel more stressful than rewarding. Enter immersive theater. I began working as an immersive theater artist at the start of 2017. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had found ‘it.’ Whatever ‘it’ is for you (purpose, inspiration, fulfillment, joy?), I found ‘it’ in the immersive world. For those who don’t know what immersive theater is: imagine seeing a live show, but you, as the audience member, are part of the 3D living world that the characters inhabit, and instead of a stage, you can move and interact with a physical space that houses the story. Pretty cool, huh? I was looking for a place to be an artist and deeply connect with others, and immersive theater fit the bill. Over the next couple of years, I landed roles in some of Los Angeles’ notable immersive productions until I got the itch that once again, I wanted something…deeper. So I started my own immersive theater company.
Inspired by a ‘bright’ idea that came to me in a long car ride with my mom (anyone else get all their ideas while driving?), The Halogen Company was born. I wanted to devise my own immersive work, but I also wanted to create a place where artists and individuals could gather and essentially…connect! After a couple of of mildly successful smaller-scale productions and workshops, The Halogen Company found success in the summer of 2019 with our premiere immersive show that brought together many known immersive talents of the LA immersive scene. Positive and hopeful reviews led to an invitation to the premiere LA immersive invitational, where smaller performing companies were given a chance to create an immersive experience in 24 hours. The Halogen Company walked away with the “Fan Favorite Audience Award” and many new creative friends. Around this time, I collaborated and was lending my talent and services to other immersive companies, and all seemed well in my quest for fulfillment. In my pursuit of a more profound purpose, I failed to mention that I decided to enroll in the Clinical Psychology Masters program at Pepperdine University while building running The Halogen Company’s newfound momentum. And…
I got in! So, while I was grasping concepts of the human psyche during the day, I developed productions and worked as an actor at night. Sounds fulfilling…right? Sorry to disappoint. Something wasn’t quite right. Cut to January 2020. Yep. The year it all went down. Now I know we all had a pretty peculiar and radical year as a collective. Add to that a creeping notion that yet another massive life change was waiting for me (not to mention having to experience the death of a loved one every single month of the year while not getting to leave the house, and needless to say, I wasn’t doing so hot.
As the pandemic hit and most people scrambled to figure out how to live in this new ‘normal,’ I found myself swimming in a pool of relief. I had jokingly mentioned to loved ones that I just needed the world to stop for a moment to figure out what I wanted to do! Then it happened. The world stopped! (Note to self: don’t manifest world crushing change…?) Anyway, The Halogen Company kicked it into high gear to produce “Yule,” an interactive virtual holiday variety show. With that came a false sense of security that I had something to work on and that my days harnessed a sense of purpose, which it did! I thank the cast and crew of Yule from the bottom of my heart for sticking together during such an intense and arduous time. However, no one knew was that I was reeling. I now had a master’s in psychology, a relatively successful new theater company, ongoing acting work, and yet…I wasn’t fulfilled. Remember how I said I was looking for something more profound? Well, call it what you want, but when I finally decided to have my Eat, Pray, Love moment and ask whatever universal source that governs us for help, I got an answer.
Now, before I divulge that answer, I feel it is vital to mention that for as long as I can remember, I have been ‘that’ person for the majority of my life that other people come to for advice, perspective, coaching, venting, you name it, I get the call. I have always chalked this quality up to some otherworldly, perhaps past life traits I just happened to be living out now (I live in LA, this is not as weird as it sounds) and the odd sense that other people believed I knew what I was doing in this world. Either way, I study the human condition because I love it. But the human condition seeks me out for some reason, and I have always listened. Ok, back to the mystical response from the higher power.
The answer was this:
Continue your education and obtain your master’s in counseling, so you have the credentials of the brain to listen to and understand others.
Become a life coach, so you have the credentials of a piece of paper to continue guiding and encouraging others.
Let the theater company go for now and know you can always come back to creating and writing but that this format of work is draining and not enabling you to have the deeper life connections you are looking for.
Strengthen your mind/body/spirit relationship by actively taking care of your actual needs, AND…
Create a holistic retreat company that combines your psychology education and artistic experiences to bring the magic of the human experience back into the hearts and hands of the people who crave it.
Whether through college or the companies I worked with, I have always felt a kinship with the retreat environments. The notion of getting away from it all (the hustle), tuning out to turn in (goodbye social media), and diving deep (hello life-long friendships and life-changing realizations) all spoke to me.
So, as the quarantine life eases up and we leave our languishing behind for a sense of flourish, I find myself grinding away at my counseling and life coaching programs. I am slowly accepting acting roles and encouraging my creative team to pursue their passions under the Halogen Company umbrella. I am actively working on the connection and health of my mind, body, and spirit. And I am building the foundation for the retreat company that shall house all of these unimaginably unique and life-altering lessons. It isn’t quite time to divulge the details for my latest endeavor, but what I can say is that it has taken all these versions of me to get here, and I don’t regret that one bit.
I relish the idea of creating an immersively spiritual and psychologically enhancing life experience for those who seek it. I cannot pinpoint exactly how I overcame the challenges, other than admitting that I changed it when something didn’t work. I would say this essence of self-awareness and the courage to take risks is what I am most proud of in the work I have shared with the world and the work I will continue to put out. I have learned that saying yes to everything is NOT always the best thing, as you need to understand the empowerment of saying no and meaning it. I have learned that you must be honest and transparent about the intention and the integrity you are willing to put behind the work. I have learned that when you focus on the goal and separate yourself from the wrong people, the false narratives, and the crucial mistakes that come with significant changes, you will be rewarded. And lastly, I have learned that being excited about something is the best indication to pursue it. I am so proud that after years of being “busy” and constantly juggling multiple job positions, I am finally allowing myself to breathe and enjoy the process of finding the one thing that I have been looking for this whole time: fulfillment. Stay tuned for updates on where these retreats will be held and how you can share them with loved ones or indulge yourself with a bit of soul nourishment. I am proud to pursue a career that celebrates life in all forms and inspires others to be inspired.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Anyone who stays with me knows my formula for a stellar weekend in LA.
First, I am taking you to Speranza on Hyperion for a candle-lit hearty bowl of pasta and wine (ask for extra almond cookies with your bill)! If there is a wait or if we just want a late-night snack, I’m going for gold by sticking to the classic Din Thai Fung take-out feast. Dumplings, pork noodles, and garlic green beans…need I say more?
If we are thirsty, we are going to Edendale on Rowena. Again, if you know me, you know most of the bartenders at Edendale know my name for how often I graze their bar stools. If you are looking for modern American snacks and top-notch drinks but with a nostalgic old Hollywood flair (and an open roof back porch), you’re going to Edendale. Be sure to snag a photobooth session while you’re there.
Now, this next one isn’t quite for public access, but my go-to hang-out spot is actually my home, proudly dubbed “The Burrow”. The Burrow (yes I am a Potter nerd) is a 1920’s corner lot cottage full of history and heart. I love to host classic movie nights in my red tile living room or in the quaint and secluded back yard. The velvet cushion room gets a lot of deep dives and the kitchen is always stocked. You may find yourself lounging in the garden during one of my sunny day yard sales (I’m telling ya, you won’t walk away empty-handed)! Needless to say, I am a homebody so I made my home a place everybody wants to chill at.
Back when it was possible (fingers crossed it’s coming back soon!), the Vista Movie Theater on Sunset was a go-to. Filled with the details of Hollywood history and that sense that you’re part of something bigger when you see a movie there, it is my go-to spot for an afternoon flick or nighttime event.
Though there are many hot spots that demand to be experienced, the tried and true remains driving down the PCH with the windows down and (in my case) the roof off. Music is blaring and the sun is setting. You smell the ocean and after a long day sitting on the beach with friends, you feel infinite and that anything is possible. That is LA.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be the polite Midwestern daughter that I am without first thanking and acknowledging my family, specifically my parents, for endlessly supporting my endeavor and ideas. Without them, I truly could not imagine having lived the wildlife that has inspired all my efforts. Thank you fam. I then have to thank dear Dr. Carpenter, who will forever receive my praise and gratitude for guiding me towards the light of my being and for teaching me how to be accountable to myself and the world around me. It is also deeply essential that I thank my family friend and mentor, Candy, for her shaping me into the person I am. It is rare to find someone who sees you so clearly, understands you so deeply, and speaks to that awareness in such a way that shapes the paths you take, molds the personality you wear, and celebrates the lessons you learn. Candy has blessed me with all of these things. I thank Candy for encouraging me to do what felt challenging and unthinkable, for speaking to me with respect and candor, and for always telling me the truth. I honor her by hopefully inspiring other people to feel what she made me feel growing up; valued. This shout-out is dedicated to my loved ones and to the people who are looking to be seen.
Instagram: @invading.the.space @thehalogenco @thejuliahenning
Feature Photo: Amanda Pieper Additional Photo (crawling and looking out with other people): Michael Deasrie