Pursuing a Dream; East, West, Midwest – An Interview with Brooke Hills

My oldest daughters perseverance to pursue her dream has been an ongoing inspiration to me. Brookes story shows that God can provide ways to keep our dreams alive even while moving us in what seems like a different direction. He has a purpose for our lives in every season.

Dawn: As a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Brooke: Looking back now, it all seems pretty clear that my life was heading in the direction of being a performer, but as a little girl, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be. I took ballet, tap, and jazz classes at a young age, and I think that gave me a great foundation physically to learn how to connect with my body and tell a story. I also took piano lessons for four years and loved the excitement and natural performance high of the recitals. People who meet me now have a hard time seeing it, but at my core, I am shy and introverted. Performing has helped me develop skills to show my more outgoing and playful side. Regardless of career, I knew I wanted to be a wife and mother.

Dawn: How have your dreams changed over the years?

Brooke: I thought I’d find my husband while in college, get married, and start a family after two or three years.

I did get married at twenty-two, after graduating college with a degree in Theatre, minors in Spanish and Communications. At that age, I’d been dating my now husband, Doug, for five years. We seem to be a good model of following what’s right for you when it’s right for you. We got married in our early twenties and have chosen to wait, for various reasons, to start a family. We are now in our early thirties and have been married for ten years.

Doug and Brooke
Life challenges and throws things at you, and it’s definitely helped me to keep an open mind, trusting that sometimes things happen for a reason, and God will be faithful. We’d been married for four years when Doug got a job promotion that moved us to New York City, an exciting opportunity for both of us.

However, that also meant moving away from my family in Seattle. I’d never lived farther than a half hour drive from my mom, dad, or sister.

I was acting in Seattle, but talk about intimidating. New York —BROADWAY, incredible talent in a highly competitive market. It took me a year of taking classes and making friends before I finally got the kick in the butt to start auditioning on a more serious level. Meaning, researching all the auditions and getting up at the crack of dawn to get in line and do what I could to be seen. Early on in the audition season, I waited nine hours for one audition and was not seen. I made smarter, more strategic choices after that. On a good day, I could run around the city and get seen for multiple auditions at various locations. Pounding the pavement to get my shot.

Fiddler on the Roof
Wouldn’t you know it? After doing a couple shows in the city, and auditioning with purpose, I booked a National Tour with Fiddler on the Roof! Me! Crazy. You know, sometimes it’s like that joke where the guy keeps praying to God to win the lottery...finally after praying for it several times over, God finally responds with “buy a lottery ticket!” Sometimes you just need to step out on faith, regardless of the outcome, do the work, and follow your dreams. Cliché, but in my case, also true.

Five years in New York: living in Brooklyn, working on a handful of productions, a national tour, a film, a nanny job, a waitressing job, taking acting classes, voice lessons, surviving two hurricanes (Sandy and Irene) and living life in one of the most incredible cities in the world, I felt pride in being a New Yorker. I had built a community there; I belonged there. It has been said before, and it’s true, New York has its own personality—it can kick you when you’re down, then turn around and open your life to new experiences, people, and possibilities. Living in Brooklyn had become part of who I was; my life there helped me grow into the person I am today.

As we were rounding that corner of starting a family in New York, God threw another curve ball at us... I’d been praying for a clear sign. You see, as an actor living in NY, I felt pressure to continue pursuing that career. It’s hard to know when to start a family when you could be one audition away from your next big break. God answered, but not quite the way I expected; though, when does the answer ever come in the way we planned?

Les Miserables
Nearly two years ago, Doug was offered a great job opportunity that took us to Fort Wayne, Indiana. We trusted that this was the right step for Doug’s career and our future as parents. I struggled and went through all the different stages of grief, working to keep honest communication open with my husband, and anger was a difficult stage to get past. I trusted that this was the right decision for us, but nonetheless, it was hard to leave the community I’d spent five years building to start all over in a new location where we didn’t have family or the draw of the big city. Though having friends and family in our beloved Chicago, just a quick drive away, was a silver lining and added bonus. It’s been wonderful being able to spend more time with them.

Dawn: Did you struggle with finding your purpose in Fort Wayne?

Definitely. Moving anywhere after New York makes a city seem small and insignificant. It was a struggle to adapt and accept this new life, away from family on the West Coast, and from the community of friends we had build on the East Coast. We left a life we loved in New York, and I was in a new city, searching for a job. What was my purpose?

White Christmas
Through tears and struggle, I chose to find something, anything that would resemble what I love to have in my life. In Brooklyn, I had a keychain that read, Love the Life You Live on one side, and Live the Life You Love on the other. Thank you, Bob Marley, such sage advice. So I did. 

I discovered a beautiful yoga studio that reminded me of the city. It filled me with hope and made me smile after all those tears. I was on my way to finding people and places that would resonate with me. 

One afternoon, I was dressed to go for a run, but thought Id quickly check out the art gallery down the street. I went in and was transported into a world of art and culture. It was a beautiful three-story Richardsonian Romanesque home built in 1905, complete with Tiffany glass in the windows, and full of gorgeous fine art. I spent over an hour there, lost in a happy place. I spoke to the artist/owner, and a couple weeks later, she offered me a job. What a blessing! I had no art history knowledge or experience in an art gallery, but she saw something in me that clicked, and I’ve been working there ever since. That job opened a whole new world of Fort Wayne to my eyes, and working there, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting creative and insanely talented artists from all over the world.

My original plan once we moved was to go back to New York for a month or two and audition. My college friend, Emjoy, a fellow actress based in Chicago, encouraged me to think about my goals and maybe focus my efforts in the Midwest. “Grow where you are planted,” as they say…Thanks to her, I was able to book my first show in Chicago, work there for a couple of months, make connections, and start working with an agent.

Auditioning out of Chicago also booked me a job in Wisconsin (Les Miserables) that helped me achieve a “before baby” goal of getting Equity points in the Actors Equity Association. I’d given up on that idea after moving, thinking if it didn’t happen for me in New York, I’d missed my opportunity. I was wrong. I booked more shows, got an agent, started working in voice-over, and was recruited into the band Pink Droyd, all within the first year of living in Fort Wayne. Just last week I was able to record at the Sweetwater Studios with musical theatre performer, Jason Hill, and will be performing next week with Pink Droyd at the hugely popular Three Rivers Festival here in Fort Wayne.
Singing with Pink Droyd
Not only have I been able to find a new community here by meeting people and intentionally taking the time to strengthen new friendships…but I’ve also been able to find my place here as a performer, with more opportunities yet ahead. My husband and I have enjoyed becoming part of, and giving back to this community, and we look forward to starting our family here.

Because of my experiences, I now have the gift of an expanded sense of family, a stronger understanding of self, and an appreciation for all the wonderful people Ive had the privilege to meet and have in my life. I cherish them. Truly. 

I have proven to myself that I can continue to learn and grow no matter where God puts me. Loving what I do, and finding people to do it with has been very fulfilling, whether it be East in New York, West in Seattle, or here in the Midwest.

My purpose wasn’t lost in those big moves, it simply evolved.

You can connect with Brooke on Facebook and learn more by visiting her website.

If you’re moving into a new season, how is God is leading you in a different direction? How are you feeling about the changes that are happening in your life?


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