We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Dahlenburg and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I’m not typically a good decision maker, but deciding to pursue acting was a relatively easy decision for me to make, despite the fact that I never thought I could be an actor. I always secretly wanted to be one, though. I grew up in New Mexico, and my family was not involved in entertainment and wasn’t artistic at all. I had been living in LA for about a year when I got laid off my content writing job, and after I got laid off, I realized I didn’t like writing nearly as much as I thought I did. I decided to take a job as a barista to re-evaluate my career prospects. It was actually my husband who suggested that I consider acting and that I sign up for some improv classes, and so I did, just to dip my toes in the water. And it was terrifying, but I loved it! I kept getting asked by my classmates who my talent agent was or how many auditions I was getting or how much I book, and I kept telling them, “I’m not an actor,” and they would say, “Well, you fooled me.” And hearing them say that was like a lightbulb turning on in my head. I was already living the actor life! I was working as a barista and taking classes and working on my performance skills. I remember thinking, “I have to do this. I have to try. And if I fail, that’s ok, but at least I tried.” That’s really been my driving force through this whole journey. When I’m on my deathbed, I’ll be so much happier to look back on my life knowing that I tried to pursue my dreams and failed than being too afraid to try at all.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what sets me apart from others is that I’ve lived so many lives before I started acting, which gives me a tremendous amount of experience to draw from. Starting my acting career later in life has provided a lot of benefits to me, and I’m grateful to feel like I can approach the entertainment industry a little more grounded and with more perspective than someone who starts when they’re 18 or 19.
I’ve gotten where I’m at today entirely due to hard work and sacrifice. I’ve never felt like I was someone who was naturally good at anything, and so I always try to work hard and show up to my classes and to my auditions prepared so I can put my best foot forward. It’s so easy to get lazy as an artist in the beginning when you still have to work 2 or 3 other jobs to make ends meet and no one is holding you accountable to creating your art or to the integrity of your art. It takes a lot of discipline. For me, I have to actively practice that discipline every day to keep myself going. Especially during the pandemic, it’s been so easy when I’ve had no work and no auditions to lay around and let my brain and my body get mushy.
The biggest lesson I’m learning is that I can’t be concerned about my future. I can’t be concerned with booking this job or that project or becoming rich and famous. This journey is a lifelong journey, and this art form is subjective and not everyone is going to like my work or like me, so I just need to focus on the now. I may never become rich and famous, and I may never book that dream part, but if I just focus on my work and the love of my work, then none of that other stuff will matter. And that’s a hard lesson to learn, because of course I want to book this job and that project and my dream role. That’s the dream! But focusing solely on that dream can also be soul crushing when I audition over and over and over again without booking anything for months at a time. It can make me feel like I’m failing instead of persevering, so I have to keep reminding myself about what’s most important.
What I want the world to know about my story is that I’m not special and I don’t come from a family of entertainers or artists, but that I’m still pursuing my dream job. I think so many people are afraid to pursue their dreams because it feels out of reach or they’re afraid of what their friends and family will think of them or they’re afraid of blowing their lives up. And as someone who was in that very same position and has come out the other side, I can confidently say that I am more myself and happier with my life than I ever thought I could be. So if there’s anyone out there reading this who’s been wanting to take the plunge but feeling scared, I’m here to tell you that I did it, and you can do it too. I will always be a cheerleader for someone who is pursuing their dreams, no matter what it is.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh my gosh, there are so many places and things to choose from! First of all, I love brunch, so we’d need to get brunch someplace fantastic. I love Republique and Ostrich Farm for brunch. Then, I would want to take them to El Matador beach in Malibu. The rocks and the cliffside there are so incredible, and I love watching the sun set on the ocean. It truly encompasses the phrase “California Dreamin'”. We’d come back into the city for dinner to either eat something really fancy like sushi at Nobu or Bestia, or we’d get something delicious and laidback, like tacos at El Zarape on Fountain and Kingsley (seriously, amazing tacos!), or pizza at DeSano’s. Then we’d go out for drinks at Death and Co or The Rendition Room, and afterwards we’d see a comedy show or some immersive theatre. Having been a barista, I would also want to take my friend on a coffee tour of LA. We’d have to hit spots like G&B, Civil Coffee, and Endorffeine. We’d also have to go to the classic things like go to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market, The Grand Central Market, Griffith Observatory, and go hiking. My best friend also does Lindy Hop, so we’d probably go out to a dance at LindyGroove or find where Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five are playing to dance to live jazz. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, I have to give credit and major props to my husband, Brett, who suggested that I start this journey to begin with. He’s been endlessly supportive, he’s a fantastic cheerleader for my tiniest wins, and he’s a great sport at helping me with self-tape auditions. Our one-bedroom apartment has completely turned into my recording studio, especially during the pandemic, and he constantly has to take work calls outside in the freezing cold (LA freezing, you know) so I have a quiet place to record.
I also need to dedicate my shoutout to my acting coach, Don Bloomfield, and my classmates at DBA Studio. Don continuously pushes me farther than I believe I can go with my work, and he’s never soft on me or sugar coats his words. And my classmates are so, so inspiring. They are hardworking, talented people and they help keep me sharp and on track, especially on nights when I show up reluctantly after a long day.
Finally, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron has really help shape how I approach my work and my career. Her book has really helped me embrace being an artist, in all of its rollercoaster-like ways, and it’s given me tools that I use every day to help feed and nourish my Artist.