Contract Livin'

Morgana Mauney

I recently returned to NYC after performing in my first musical! I had the honor of performing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Scranton Shakespeare Festival. This musical is full of magic, love and fantasy. I am a contemporary modern dancer who has decided to completely turn my career upside down and explore the world of musical theatre. This change has pushed me to leap out of my comfort zone regarding voice lessons, singing in front of casting directors, and dancing my face off in LaDucas instead of being barefoot. I am here not to talk about this life change, but to talk about how I maintained my healthy lifestyle and eating habits while away on a contract.

I love cooking. I love getting creative with how I can concoct a healthy(ish) meal no matter what type of kitchen I am working in. Leaving behind my NYC size kitchen full of all of my favorite gadgets and entering a dorm room kitchen forced me to be creative. I was impressed that my new kitchen was twice the size of mine at home. The first thing I drooled over when I walked into my new home was how open the kitchen was. You mean, I can be in the kitchen cooking at the same time as someone else? I don’t have to awkwardly wiggle around someone while they open the oven and I chop my veggies? Dreams were coming true. Now, it was not a fully stocked kitchen with all the pots, pans and cutting boards, but it had enough. The kitchen turned into my safe haven. Learning to sing while dancing and the duties of a dance captain and figuring out how not to have a melt down ten times a day were my main focus. The kitchen was a place for me to create and chop in a therapeutic way. 

I knew that one of the first things I would be doing upon my arrival in Scranton was grocery shopping so I came prepared-I made a list of ingredients for simple recipes. There were so many unknowns going into this contract that I knew that if I made myself as comfortable as possible in things that I could control then I would feel more confident moving forward. I love grocery shopping in big suburban grocery stores. There is space for twirling in the aisles, I don’t have to fight with aggressive shoppers for produce, and I can take my time strolling from one part of the store to the next. As soon as the cold central air of Wegmans hit my face, I knew I wasn’t in NYC anymore!

Grocery list:

  • Chocolate PB Perfect Bars

  • Organic black/pinto beans

  • Microwavable green beans/broccoli

  • Peanut Butter

  • Siete chips/salsa

  • Oats

  • Oatmilk

  • Quinoa

  • Blueberries/strawberries

  • Margarita Caulipower Pizza

  • Bone broth

  • Honey

  • Chickpea pasta/ sauce

  • Rice cakes/crackers

  • Balsamic Vinegar/EVOO

  • Salt/Pepper

  • Carrots/Hummus

  • Spinach/Arugula

  • Red onion

  • Bananas/apples

  • Organic eggs

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Cherry tomatoes

  • Cabot cheese

  • Ezekiel bread

  • Kombucha

  • Avocado

I definitely bought groceries for a small army, but I was not sure when the next time I would get a ride to the store would be so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. I am an artist, and let’s be real, we do not get paid much for what we do. I wanted to make sure I cooked as much as possible to save money. 

To keep my hanger away in rehearsals, I drank lots of water and had bites of whatever snack I had not already eaten. Of course, there were times when I did not feel like a snack so I would start to eat my lunch early. That’s the magical thing about intuitive eating. Listening to my body really set me up for success in and out of the theatre. 

Back at the dorms, I had to improvise while cooking some of my food. We did not have a cutting board so I used a deep dish baking pan with a dull knife to cut my veggies. When it came to cooking my pasta, I sauteed the noodles in  a pan instead of boiling them in a pot. To keep things exciting, I was able to spruce up leftovers and turn them into salads or pair entrees with different sides. I am a creature of habit, so it did not bother me to eat the same thing over and over again.

For breakfast, I would either eat oatmeal with peanut butter, blueberries, chia seeds and honey or I’d make a big omelette full of veggies, chicken & maple sausage, and cheese. I knew I needed to eat a filling breakfast to sustain me during long rehearsals, but it really depended on how I was feeling that morning.

My go-to lunches were burrito bowls. They were super easy because all I needed were black beans, pinto beans, shredded cheddar cheese, arugula, salsa, and quinoa. It was a simple meal to pack that would keep without a fridge. The choreography was complicated and I did a lot of partnering work so I was not sure what types of food would feel best in my body so I always packed options. Whether it was carrots/hummus or rice cakes/peanut butter or bites of a Perfect Bar, I was always munching on something. For dinner, sometimes I had chickpea pasta with a bunch of veggies and red sauce or when my tiredness got the most of me, I heated up a Caulipower pizza with green beans in a microwavable bag. Keeping my meals simple and healthy(ish) were key. 

When I first started rehearsals, I was going to the gym daily. I had so much energy to burn that I was up early and needed to get out some of my anxiety. As rehearsals continued, I realized that going to the gym first thing was not going to benefit me as much as I had originally thought. I was adjusting to learning lyrics and sleeping on a twin dorm bed with springs in my back so snoozing was a little bit of an issue. I was going to bed singing the same song on repeat and waking to a different one. Unfortunately, I was not  going to rehearsals feeling refreshed so I figured exerting more energy at the gym would only do me more harm than good. It is important to listen to what your body is saying.

It is easy to get caught up in the world of contract life and forget to take care of yourself. I am not 22 anymore with a body that does not need to stretch before/after shows. I am a proud 31 year old with a sensitive stomach and crazy back pain. There were moments during this contract where my body reminded me that I need to continue doing my physical therapy exercises, I cannot eat right before bed, and I need 8 hours of sleep to function. Going along with that, I had the most incredible time getting  to know my castmates. I spent time in nature with new friends, explored a new city by myself, and I only wore one hat through the show’s entirety.

As much as I love being a health coach and fitness instructor, there is nothing better than just wearing one professional hat. I was able to dive head first into this beautiful show without worrying about anyone else but myself. It was the hardest show I have  worked on because of all of the new variables, but I would not have wanted it any other way. I was doing the best I could to stay sane and healthy. I had to stay true to what worked for me and not compare my process with anyone else’s. I know myself and I will bring a lot of nerves and anxiety with me to whatever show I’m working on next, but I know that with time and more experience, I will rock whatever situation I am in.


*Omelette w/ lots of veggies, chicken & maple sausage, and cheddar cheese
*Oatmeal with blueberries, chia seeds, & PB

*Burrito bowls
*Salads with veggies & different proteins
*Left overs i.e. pasta/veggies or Caulipower pizza with a side of vegetables

*Chickpea pasta, red sauce, & microwavable green beans
*Caulipower margharita pizza with microwavable broccoli
*Veggie quesadillas
Morgana Mauney