Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sam was drawn to storytelling by her love for books and film. She earned a summer screenwriting scholarship at USC and mentorship with Disney, Hallmark, and Sony Pictures, later obtaining her B.A. in Communications and Marketing from CSUN. For years, Sam devoted herself to the nonprofit sector (mental health and childhood cancer research), while ferociously writing novels and screenplays. As a fantasy novelist and animated screenwriter, she loves etymology and twisted folklore. When not fleshing out worlds of magical realism, Sam unwinds with reading, meditation, yoga, and hockey.
As the Story Terrace Project Editor, Sam enjoys bringing stories to life.
Hyenas Take Manhattan
There’s been a lot of big “firsts” for me as a determined, gallivanting novelist and screenwriter. The first time challenging myself to write a book in three days—and succeeding. The first time I traveled to Israel, haggled at the marketplace for overpriced dragonfruit, Turkish delights and spices, and sat atop the Golan wondering if this view was real or something out of the movie Avatar.
Then, there was the first time I stepped foot into New York City. It was a birthday trip with my significant other, Nick, and an opportunity to meet his best friend from London, Chris. As a writer, the intimidation factor crept in knowing that I was inches from renowned publishing houses, bumping elbows with hundreds of other writers in Grand Central, and helplessly wondering if my stories could cut it one day.
No sooner had I felt that, though, had it turned into this clear rush of positive, enthusiastic energy. Sweet-talking our way into a swanky jazz club and eating 99 cent pizza at “99 Cent Pizza” nearly every night was only half of the excitement. During our trip, the three of us would eventually rendezvous with Nick’s creative colleague, James, who’s been starring as a veteran cast member in Broadway’s The Lion King as the notorious hyena, Banzai, for over fifteen years! This would be the highlight of my first visit to The Big Apple.
With three tickets in our hands, we entered the Minskoff Theatre and settled into three perfectly positioned, elevated seats. In minutes, we’d find ourselves engulfed by leaping gazelles, colorful feathered faces, lanky giraffes, and our friend, Banzai, parading down our right flank through the aisle onto stage. I’ve never been so moved by a theatrical performance and I don’t think any of us felt the same after the show.
Our favorite part was, of course, dear James and his exceptional performance of a sharp-toothed, sneaky Banzai. We joined him backstage after the show to take a tour behind-the-scenes, meet the cast and crew, see the intricate costume designs, and marvel at vibrant, massive props like the towering Mufasa head that guides Simba home. The best part was yet to come though, as James handed us his own costume. We each took turns, slipping into the hyena mask rig to unhinge our inner Banzai, and with every laugh, felt more and more like oversized children.
Needless to say, the nerves of New York can be soothed with a simple phrase: Hakuna Matata.
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