We had the good fortune of connecting with Sika Lonner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sika, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
I’ve never liked the phrase “no pain, no gain.” I mean, this concept makes no sense on a physical basis– pushing through pain without listening to your body is really quite dangerous. I commonly hear this phrase used in an attempt to motivate individuals who are struggling in one way or another. While I certainly believe hard-work is necessary to achieve one’s goals, I don’t think hard-work and pain are synonymous. Claiming that pain is the only way to see personal or professional “gains” is dangerous. It places a value on suffering that may inhibit people from leaving toxic, abusive, or otherwise unhealthy situations. Perhaps I seem melodramatic, but think of how often we judge ourselves or others for rejecting opportunities. If a person leaves a job due to a toxic work environment, they’re a quitter, they don’t have what it takes to make it in this industry. If an individual declines an opportunity that does not align with their personal beliefs, they don’t want it enough. I don’t believe you have to suffer in pursuit of your dreams, and I think walking away from toxic, abusive, or soul-sucking opportunities is completely okay. Valuing your well-being and valuing your goals aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they should be mutually inclusive. I hope chasing your dream is an act of self-care, even the tedious parts.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m still young and new and learning a lot, but I reflect on all the incredible friends and mentors I have had and I feel so lucky. I am studying theater with truly amazing artists at Loyola Marymount University, and I have had the privilege of acting in multiple mainstage productions. In the spring of 2022, I will be studying theater abroad in Bonn, Germany, Moscow, Russia and Croatia. I could not be more excited! Reflecting on my education so far, I am particularly grateful for my early background in improv. In high school, I was a four-year member of the improv troupe Creatures of Impulse, directed by the truly exceptional Mark Duncanson. We did all kinds of shows– long-form horror, short-form comedy, long-form puppet musicals, you name it! I learned so much in those four years; improv basics, character work, getting over my self-consciousness, and the elements of strong storytelling. My background in improv has hugely influenced me as a performer and as a storyteller. Improv actually inspired me to begin writing– after spending so much time studying story elements and strong character choices, I wanted to start to document the stories in my head. I added a screenwriting minor at Loyola Marymount University, and I am so glad I did! I have had the privilege of working with some amazing writers, and I am now working on revisions on my first feature length script!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh boy! Where to even begin! Well for starters I’d bring my friend to the beach. I live very close to Dockweiler beach and I go there all the time. I remember so vividly after finals one evening my roommate and I decided to go watch the sunset to unwind. We made chocolate-covered strawberries and laid out a little picnic when a pod of dolphins swam by. It felt like a Disney movie! Plus, Dockweiler has fire pits, and I adore a good marshmallow roasting session. Additionally, I’d like to take my friend to one of LA’s fantastic museums. Two personal favorites that come to mind are the La Brea Tar Pits (I adore natural history museums) and the Getty Villa. I love getting outdoors, so I’d want to take my friend on a hike on any of the great trails near Malibu. In terms of food, I am a huge foodie. I personally have celiac disease and must eat gluten free, and so the Rising Hearts Bakery is one of my all-time favorites. It has amazing gluten free goodies that I can’t find anywhere else. Also, if we could get a reservation, Bestia is an excellent restaurant. Lastly, I’d want to take my friend to see some live theater– probably something experimental and weird. I have had the chance to see some very cool theater/performance pieces while in LA. Definitely check out what is showing while you are visiting! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
It’s cliche, but my mom. I don’t know where I would be without her. She comes to all of my shows and reads everything I write. I could not have had a better mentor and cheerleader growing up. I feel very lucky to have been raised by such an amazing woman– someone who taught me how to stand on my own two feet, how to love and be loved, and how to create. My mom is very artistic. She’s a painter and a dancer, but she won’t use those titles. Ever humble, she tells me that she just loves doing these things, but that she’s not a real artist. She just “putters.” But ever since I was a little kid, I would find her painting in the garage or dancing in her bedroom, as dedicated as any “real artist.” And I’ve always thought my mom makes the most beautiful art. I love her paintings with delicate strokes and her sculptures with severed Barbie arms and mismatched buttons, and I like dancing with my feet on her toes or watching her completely immersed in music. My mom has shown me from the beginning that art is internal– it’s about your own passion and emotion and growth. She’s my inspiration. To quote one of our favorite children’s books, “my mama had a dancing heart, and she shared that heart with me.”
Monika McSweeney, John Paul Houston