Quinten Busey: Get Tappy

quinten

I met Quinten this summer doing Singin in the Rain and we quickly became best friends over our mutual affection for Zumbach coffee and Miranda Sings impersonations. I chose Parkview to meet for cappuccinos and brunch because it was the midway mark between our apartments, and they play Jazz music on the reg. We agreed on beautifully brewed cappuccinos to sip on…and quickly snuggled into a cozy nook against red brick walls to chat about the highs and the lows in NYC.

*Ideal cup of coffee: Espresso with a tiny bit of sugar


 

AF: So what are you drinking right now?

QB: So fun fact… it’s almost been one year to the DATE… that I started drinking coffee. January 16th. So in ten days… I will have been drinking for one full year.

AF: That’s a reason to celebrate! Welcome to the club!

QB: It is so good.

AF: What made you decide to join the addiction?

QB: Well first of all… I want to be cool. Everyone who drinks coffee is cool. But really what started it is that I was on the committee for my five year reunion for college and it was all coffee dates.. Every time we would have meetings they would be at coffee places and I would be so nervous thinking, “Well… I can’t not get coffee at a COFFEE place…everyone’s gonna judge me.” This was my mindset.

AF: People can be coffee snobs.

QB: So I asked people how to start drinking coffee.

AF: Really? What did people say?

QB: People said start drinking drinks that are really sweet like vanilla lattes, overly sugar stuff… so I started with that and that lasted like two seconds because it was too sweet for me. So then I slowly started adding less and less sugar and now I’m like just give me espresso with a tiny bit of sugar!

AF: So you’re drinking a cappuccino with just a little bit of sugar. What’s your go-to coffee drink?

QB: I’ve been pretty seasonal honestly. During the summer I’m all about an iced latte, iced coffee….

AF: -From Zumbach! New Canaan, CT! Sponsor us!

QB: So good! I have a lot of Starbucks gift cards so if I’m there I get a shaken espresso, which is two shots espresso with a splash of milk. But now that it’s cold… I’m all about this cappuccino.

AF: Me too.

(We stopped the interview for a moment to order brunch…)

QB: Side-note… when do you think it’s appropriate to stop saying “Happy New Year”?

AF: I say it for at least the first month.

QB: When does it stop?

AF: I don’t know… I’m so excited about the new year.

QB: Me too.

AF: So… the question I always ask is what is your backstory… how did you discover your love for performing, where did you go to school? Lay it on me.

QB: I was born and raised outside of Memphis, TN. I started taking Piano lessons and then those lessons turned into Voice lessons and that turned into my Voice teacher telling me they were doing a children’s musical and encouraged me to should audition! Long story short I auditioned for it, got it, and was HOOKED.

AF: A star is born.

QB: That was in eighth grade… I had never really taken dance lessons or anything. I never took dance lessons until college… so in eighth grade… I’m hooked right? A community theatre was doing Thoroughly Modern Millie and you had to be able to Tap dance so I thought, “That sounds like fun… I want to be able to do that…” so I started learning Tap dancing so I could audition for it.

AF: That is amazing.

QB: And then obviously Tap dancing has become my favorite thing in the world- (follow me at Pull Back Productions!) I did that, realized you could get a degree in Musical Theatre, and went to a small college on Staten Island called, Wagner College. I loved my school. They taught me how to dance and all the stuff you need to be successful in the city. I graduated, moved to New York City, and I’ve been auditioning ever since! Some years are much better than others but like… still here doin’ it!

AF: You’re still here.

QB: Still here.

AF: That’s the biggest challenge sometimes… to just stay and take what comes at you.

QB: One hundred percent.

AF: So what did your first year in NYC look like?

QB: I am a very rare case where my first year was amazing. It was the only time in my life where I paid all my bills because I was an actor. I was working constantly. It was because I could dance well, I was auditioning for companies that were a little lower down on the totem poll and then I got to work at Arizona Broadway Theatre and I was lucky enough to work there for over a year and a half! But if we go past the first year… we get to the second and a half year and it got really bad. I started becoming more choosey about what I would say “Yes” to. So my advice on that is first of all, listen to “A Balancing Act.” You should surround yourself with only positive people… end all be all… and then you just need to find ways to inspire yourself. Do something outside of Musical Theatre. Love something outside of it. It doesn’t have to be as much… but if you do find something you love more than Musical Theatre, do that!

AF: I’m at the point now where I have a lot of friends shifting gears…

QB: Year 27, year of shifting gears! Okay so… I brought things I wanted to show you. These things keep me on track and focused. (Takes a gorgeous journal out of his bag) This is my inspirational journal. During my really bad year, 2014-2015, I started reading The Secret and now I have all these inspirational quotes… so whenever I’m feeling bad or like I had a bad audition I open it up and read one of these quotes…

AF: What’s your go-to quote?

 QB: “A car’s headlight can only see two hundred feet in front of them but can still make a journey from California to New York.” So it’s like I can still go on a journey but I can only look two hundred feet in front of me because that’s all that’s important right now. Because looking to the far future for what’s going to be is… miserable.

AF: You can only control what is happening in the moment… in the present.

QB: So I have a lot of quotes and entries. I carry these around with me literally all the time.

AF: It’s like your little saving grace.

QB: Yes- and then to be even MORE positive… I have a passion planner.

AF: A what??

QB: It’s the best thing ever. So this is my quote for the year… “If you want something you’ve never had… you must do something you’ve never done.”

AF: So what does that mean for you Quinten?

QB: So for instance, my passion plan for this year is to get an agent. I think it’s a pretty solid goal.

AF: It’ll happen.

QB: So then you do things in order for it to happen. For instance I’m starting this Growing Studio Class on Monday… and I’m networking with friends, singing at open mic. nights, business cards… and then you plan that into your whole year.

AF: These things are all essential. It’s little things that we don’t realize… auditions are not always the way you book work.

QB: Yep! So yeah… I have this passion planner and everything’s color-coded and so at the end of the year I can see what color was my year…

AF: It’s great to have a visual and to approach each day knowing you’re sort of tracking your progress and moods!

QB: Not that I’m judging my moods…!

AF: But it’s good to be self-aware!

QB: My favorite thing is that I have a whole page dedicated to “what makes me happy…” So I write things like pretzels, Chili’s, birthdays…

AF: Do you have coffee on there?

QB: In like my first line…

AF: Phew.

QB: New York City… going to the movies… after today I’ll update it to brunch with Annabelle… so that is a long-winded answer… obviously you don’t have to be as intense as me…

AF: No but to make sure you are aware and intentional about your progress and your year… and being realistic about success. There is a time and place for everything.

QB: Preach!

AF: It’s easier said than done.

QB: Oh so much easier. That’s why I stick to that passion planner like it’s a Bible… because if I don’t it messes everything up.

AF: It makes you ask, what am I doing here? Do I still want to be here?

QB: Or get a bullet journal… you just use bullets.

AF: Well I do love lists, so… it’s just really wild to reread some journal entries…

QB: Oh yeah. I read some from two years ago and realized I was just so unhappy…

AF: So I have a question for you… as an actor and as a naturally positive person… do you feel obligated to always put on a happy face? Do you feel actors are held to a certain standard of “having it together?”

QB: I feel when I am on a contract I am always happier… because I am doing what I love and I never complain when something goes wrong because I am literally doing exactly what I want to be doing. But when I am in New York hustling and bustling I don’t feel the need to fake being happy. I’m going to embrace, “no this is what happened today…I’m upset by it…”

AF: But in a contract situation you feel a responsibility to be a leader and sort of set the tone?

QB: I mean yeah… there’s an artistic director in New Hampshire at the Palace theatre and his motto is, “Everyone is talented…I just want to work with nice people.” And it’s so great because every time I work there, it’s true… people are so nice! It’s so wonderful. It makes you want to work harder and it makes it more fun to perform with such nice people!

AF: It’s just good to remember in our career that sometimes it’s more important to be a good human and be kind than to be the most talented…

QB: Oh my God my mom would hug and kiss you if she heard you say that.

AF: Heyyyyyyyy!

QB: Hey Florence!

AF: So what are you working on now?

QB: Starting next week I’m beginning my showcase class and I’m going to start choreographing something for my business to make another video!

AF: Amazing. And what inspires those choices?

QB: Okay this is a great segue. There’s a great podcast called, A Balancing Act. I’ve told SO many people to listen to it. It really does change your life. She talks about how we define an actor as somebody who is on a paid contract but she redefines it by saying a working actor is someone who is working on their craft; taking class, singing through their book, finding new monologues, reading a book about it… So I realized, Oh my God… I want to be working on something all the time. So I started a company because of that podcast and now I teach once or twice a month but now I’m into making these videos and choreographing. I’m exploring art… and using my friends.

AF: Putting your work on display.

QB: I love Tap dancing and I love sharing it with others.

AF: It’s so good! Everybody needs to watch it!

QB: So that’s why I started Pull Back Productions… because of that podcast. Full circle. It sounds cliché but it changed my life forever. Isn’t it funny that that podcast came into my life when I was so miserable and so unhappy and after listening to ten episodes… my whole life was changed for the better? I am the happiest I am right now…

AF: I think it is so important to act on impulse… and to pursuit other interests. Find something to fill you up because contracts don’t last!

QB: Yep.

AF: Doubts are so horrible and so normal but you assume nobody is thinking those things…

QB: Everyone is. Last year I called my teacher on the phone and told her that I was just a little confused about what I wanted and needed somebody to tell me that yes what I’m doing is correct. And so she goes, “Yeah I went through the same thing two months ago…” and she has a Tony and is a very successful woman…

AF: It doesn’t ever go away…

QB: I was like, Oh. She goes, “This happens to everyone… this won’t be your last time… you’ll probably feel this way again next year…”

AF: It’s good to be aware that nothing will ever really fulfill you unless you are truly happy.

QB: That’s why you must find something that makes you happy outside of Musical Theatre and surround yourself with positive people. On one contract I started a group text and would send the cast a positive quote each day. It’s what I connect to. Some people think that’s cheesy… and I understand that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

AF: Come on, in our chaotic world right now… bring on the cheesy. Okay now I want to know… tell us when you felt your greatest feelings of joy and accomplishment in the city and then an example of when you felt most discouraged.

QB: Okay so the first moment I had of pure joy was… I had just graduated from college and I worked at this company right after school and it was really fun but I was really young and I didn’t really know what was happening… and then that Christmas my roommate got me a job. So I had been working based on other people’s recommendations but then finally I booked this show at Broward Stage door and I did it all by myself! I went to the audition, didn’t know anybody that has ever worked there, didn’t know who any of those people were and I was so happy because I knew it was based solely on my talent. It was the first time I realized how much I love this career. But then in 2016, “the dark ages,” I got typed out of The Wizard of Oz and then the next day I got typed out of The Little Mermaid and Damn Yankees… like I may not get the job but I’m definitely not somebody to be typed out for those…So I’m already so depressed because I hadn’t worked in over a year and hadn’t been getting any callbacks and didn’t get this tour that I really wanted and I just remember standing outside of my survival job, on the phone with my mom, and not even crying, hysterically crying and my coworkers are passing me by… Then two weeks later my job was like, “We’re closing for business…” And I was like, “What!? Now my survival job is gone?” I remember being so depressed and thinking I wasn’t going to have a job any more and I went home for two months… because I couldn’t get a job. I was thinking I would change paths, go home, figure it out. That was the lowest of the low- leaving the city for two months. I couldn’t pay my rent. I couldn’t afford to live in the city.

AF: And look at him now!

QB: I’m happy as a little lark in June! This year has been wonderful.

A: I’m sure a lot of it has to do with an attitude shift, right?

QB: At home I really focused on what I wanted to do. I asked, What shows do I want to be in? If you look at this year… I did Singin’ in the Rain, Anything Goes, and White Christmas… I know what my strengths are. I know I can Tap dance!

AF: So in conclusion… where do you see yourself five years from now? Hopes, dreams?

QB: Five years… that’s a lot of time. It would be nice to have a dog and a relationship and I just have so much more to learn in this career… I’m going to keep taking classes. I’ve realized that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here in the city. I just want to be happy and still auditioning and obviously working would be awesome… but I’m so happy in my normal life that if I’m not performing I’m still happy! So… pretty much in the same place I’m in right now but with a dog and in a relationship. I mean Broadway would be cool… a National tour?

AF: To put a cap on all of that… what are your words to live by?

QB: My quote of the year is, if you want to do something new, you should try something different… how are you going to get anywhere by doing the same thing?

AF: Thank you for coming on the blog! 2018 is off to a great start!

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Andrea & Ben Laxton: Sharing Success

ben and andrea

I met the Laxtons at a coffee shop that just opened right near their cozy apartment called, The Uptown Garrison. This coffee shop is destined to become the best new place to meet up with friends, drink strong coffee, and get work down. In our case, we had a very successful conversation about being a couple in the business over lattes. Andrea and Ben never cease to amaze me.

*Ideal cup of coffee:

BL: Pour Over.

AL: Almond Milk Latte


AF: What are you drinking right now?

BL: I went with a latte today, but usually I just go for some straight up pour over. At home if I want “coffee coffee,” I’ll grind some with our Aeropress, which is the best tour trick ever.

AL: It’s great for travel. So for any of your readers who are going on tour or are going to be on tour at some point…we are endorsing this product.

BL: You find a great coffee shop on tour and buy the bag of beans, and grind it yourself!

AF: On tour that’s what we would get most excited about! Finding cute coffee shops…

BL: That’s what I remember most about San Francisco…

AL: That’s what I remember most about San Diego!

BL: Going to Ritual… going to Four Barrel…

AF: How long were the sit-downs for Ghost?

AL: A week… some two-week.

BL: I think our longest was two and a half weeks.

AL: For Mormon he had an eleven-week sit-down!

AF: What do you prefer? Short or long sit-downs?

BL: It was nice getting to settle in. You know your neighborhood and then people were scattered all over the city so we got to visit other areas! We were all in Airbnbs.

AF: Amazing. Alright Andrea, what’s your ideal cup of coffee?

AL: Hmm… usually an Almond Milk Latte. Simple. We have an Espresso machine. We are huge coffee lovers. When we go on contracts I bring my travel size one with me.

AF: When it comes to coffee… I have no shame. So I’ve asked everybody on the blog this question but since you are our first couple on the blog I want you to ask each other this one… Ben, what are three words you would use to describe Andrea? It’s like the newlywed game!

BL: I would say…

AL: I know what he’s going to say.

BL: Passionate, driven, and bubbly. Bubbly’s not quite right though… Light-hearted, silly…

AL: Erratic?

BL: Full-spirited.

AF: Love it. Filled with spirit.

AL: My words for Ben would be…

BL: Let’s see if you get this right…

AL: We don’t know each other that well so this is hard…let me start rattling off a few and then I’ll pick the top three. Friendly, amicable, generous, passionate, talented, curious but not nosy…approaches life with a newness or freshness… Like… I would use the word bright-eyed but that has a negative connotation…

AF: Always seeing the best in people or situation…?

BL: Optimistic?

AL: Yes! Optimist. I guess we could go with friendly, talented, and optimistic. My dad used to call him “The gifted one.” And I’m like… “Dad I agree with you, but I’m your daughter…” I wasn’t that offended but I just thought, “Wow he must feel strongly about this…” and I was like, “I agree with you, dad.”

AF: Well you guys clearly know each other. Let’s talk your backstory- how you met, how you got to the city, what the city has looked like?

AL: Well we met before college even began.

BL: During orientation.

AL: We were at that orientation where they group you based on your major once you get there. He was running up the stairs at the basketball stadium and I was like, “Oh man, I don’t know if we’re going to be friends.”

BL: Too enthusiastic…

AL: He was so enthusiastic…in a beautiful way… but I think I was just weary and I didn’t understand that who he is, is one hundred percent authentic. I thought he was attention seeking… and so was I!

AF: We all were!

AL: And then we became fast friends. It didn’t take long. He was so talented and so inspiring that it made me proud to be going to Belmont. He always did that for me and he still does. I’ll see him perform today and I’m so proud that we came from the same program. We didn’t fall in love until Junior year…

BL: We were best friends…

AL: Nobody really knows the real story…. We were so close because there were only six of us in our class and it was always so platonic until it wasn’t… He was driving me home from a Halloween party and he was throwing French fries out the window and I opened the door… while the car was moving… so I was pulling all the stops.

BL: She was flirting.

AL: I was flirting hard. And then one day we just started making out and then we fell in love…

BL: Yep.

AL: We fell in love really fast. I’ll quickly tell you about moving to New York. We did a quick contract together right after school… it was very challenging, we learned a lot, and it pushed us in a way we needed to be pushed in not getting things we wanted. It lit a fire under us. It kind of exposed us to how just because you’re the best person for the job doesn’t always mean you’re going to get the job… which is a really valuable lesson to learn. It was a true dose of the real world in a great way.

BL: And also coming from a college program that kind of has the same idea about what makes a good performance, or what makes a good performer, and going to a place that had a very different idea about that and learning what that meant and finding skills in other ways, it really opened us up and took us in a new direction… because when you move to New York you’re like, “Wait a minute… what was I being taught for four years?” I think that helped us prepare to learn and adapt on our own…

AF: Grow together…be together… outside of the Belmont bubble!

BL: Learning to support each other through some tough moments.

AL: We did have to work through early and I’m so grateful. It always reminds me of the The last Five Years when Jamie says, “I will not fail so you can be comfortable Kathy, I will not lose because you can’t win” and we had that moment when he was doing really well and was really revered and his performance was very valued and I didn’t feel the same way and I felt that the attention and the praise he was getting was taking away from my experience and I recognized it immediately and knew I had to figure it out or we were not gonna last. It was a beautiful opportunity to get to work through that before we got to New York. Living in New York is its’ own thing to figure out! So then after that we booked separate tours. He booked Catch me if you Can and I booked Beauty and the Beast. He proposed to me while I was on tour and then we had six months of Equity work lined up after that… but then we ended up booking Ghost together. We got married on a two-week layoff and then we had three more months of tour together and then we moved to New York on the heels of Ghost.

BL: We were sort of questioning whether to take it and we sat down and said, “Okay… we’re going to ask for two weeks. A week for our wedding and a week for our honeymoon…and if they can’t give that to us… then we won’t take it.” And they were like, “When’s your wedding? Well you have a layoff during that exact time…”

AL: It was amazing.

BL: We got to audition early for Ghost because it was the same team as Catch Me… They were having people on our layoff come to New York to audition for Ghost. And because I was staying behind to propose to Andrea… I reached out and told them how much I wanted to be considered and if I could send in a tape… and if Andrea could send one in too… And they loved her. They brought her in for an audition and they were like, “Ben we love your tape but you look a little young for this show so we’re not going to move forward with you…”

AL: But the story goes they were considering me for Molly but they were also considering me for a cover and I didn’t specify on my sheet that I’d be willing to be a cover and so they called me and asked and I decided to be honest and said, “I just got off tour and I was covering… I’m now with my husband and we have six months of Equity work lined up, I wouldn’t take it unless he can come with me… then I would cover. So they brought him in… and we booked it!

BL: Yep!

AF: People want people to be happy on tour.

AL: I’m so glad I was honest.

BL: We found out later that it was a mistake… they had made a first pairing down and they’d paired it all the way down and then decided to start over and they never opened everything back up again…

AL: The way that it happened was really amazing. So we did that and then moving to New York we had a bunch of money saved up and we’d just been living together on tour…

BL: Living together in tiny hotel rooms… so basically just like a New York apartment!

AL: So we thought… oh we’ll be fine. But the first three months were TOUGH.

BL: You don’t take the city into account… you don’t think about working, and auditions. When we moved Andrea went straight into rehearsals for the Chasing Rainbows reading.

AL: I turned Equity the next day… I got my card.

BL: So that kind of made up for me being a guy and her being a girl…!

AL: Ben sort of struggled and had to sit in that hallway of shame… I never had to struggle. I never had to wake up at three am and put my name on a list…

BL: And I’d be like, “Hey can I take my wife’s water bottle to her?” And they were like, “No. You’re gonna have to have her come to the hallway…” I had to text her that I had her water bottle and that they wouldn’t let me pass the rope…

AL: It’s so demeaning. So that was an interesting dynamic for the two of us…. But then I just ended up taking on too much work. And Ben…

BL: I got a little children’s show…

AL: I think what was hard about all of it was working, juggling all of it, and living in a small space, scheduling… and trying to figure out balance. Our relationship was the last thing that we gave attention to and we ended up figuring it out… But we had that and then we were supposed to go on Ghost international tour together and then Ben booked Mormon.

 BL: Three weeks before we were supposed to leave… !

AL: So then I go by myself, so we’re a part again, and I’m international… and so at times we were twelve hours a part, sixteen hours a part…

BL: Twelve was better than seven or nine…

AL: Yeah…

BL: ‘Cause then you’re starting and ending the days together…

AL: Communication was really hard. How old were we?

BL: We were twenty-six or twenty-seven…

AL: And you feel just kind of a shift… anywhere from twenty-six to twenty-nine…

AF: I feel it! It’s this weird in between… kind of waiting time…

AL: Things will happen but it’s that period of putting in the leg work and not really seeing the results yet and things in your personal life might be a little different. I had different feelings about who I was as a woman. I had different relationships and that whole time we were not together. And I remember coming back and telling him, “I feel like a totally different person now. I feel like a totally different person than who I was when I left.”

AF: So was that a huge adjustment then?

BL: It was pretty big.

AL: We had to do a lot of work. And that’s when we realized we needed to put each other first.

BL: Yeah.

AL: So right when I came back from China… I went to Flat Rock.

BL: And I was still on tour…

AL: And then I booked Elsa in Frozen in LA and he came and joined me. And then I decided I didn’t like LA and I booked Goodspeed, so we moved back to New York.

AF: Were you both contemplating living in LA?

AL: I thought about it…

BL: She was potentially going to be there for six months so I just thought, “Oh great… I’ll just go and live with her there.”

AL: As messed up as our trains are in New York… I missed them. I didn’t like driving around. The energy of New York energizes me, and for me LA didn’t stimulate or inspire me.

BL: It was hard for us to find forward motion. The pace is just different.

AF: It’s good to explore other cities… and Ben you found that with tour, too…

BL: Yeah I got to live in San Francisco for three months and it was great but I was ready to leave after the three months. I was ready for the next thing.

AF: You have to listen to that!

AL: I’m not in a place yet where I’m ready to settle…I think this is something I’m meant to do… for now.

AF: The opportunities in the city are endless… and that’s what keeps us coming back, right?

BL: If it’s not one thing it’s the next thing…

AL: I’m not driven all the time… if I’m not happy… I take a step back.

BL: That’s been key.

AL: I am just now getting back into auditions.

AF: On that note… how would you define success?

AL: That’s been key for my success in life. I define success as being able to wake up in the morning and be grateful and have joy for what I’ve built for myself in no matter where I’m at in my life. The ability to just to stop and enjoy where you’re at is success because things come and go; contracts come and go, Broadway will come and go…we’re going to have kids, we’re going to have so many adventures- but if you can stop and truly feel grateful I think that is ultimately my version of success.

AF: That’s amazing. Just shifting the perspective from “I want” and instead being filled with gratitude.

BL: It takes your power back because there’s so much that’s out of our control. But if you just wake up and are striving to be happy with what you have around you… whether that’s moving forward with the next thing or that’s just taking a step back and enjoying where you are…coming to the Uptown Garrison and enjoying a cup of coffee and being happy about it… you’re totally in control of that.

AL: Just being able to perform in the city is success.

AF: Ben, I’d love to pick your brain… success…Broadway. For me right now, Broadway feels like the top of success…so for someone who is currently on Broadway, what is your perspective on this topic?

BL: For me, success was having my parents there, and having Andrea there at the show. It’s a show that I’d been doing on tour so my first night I was just thinking about the little differences in blocking and stuff. I wasn’t really nervous. Opening night on Broadway didn’t feel overwhelmingly, incredibly special and wonderful, which is probably a bummer for a lot of people to hear, sorry! But then looking out and seeing my parents in the audience… I thought about all the sacrifices they’d made. My mom driving two hours once, sometimes twice a month to Chicago for voice lessons when we moved to Illinois… them getting to see that, that made it feel like success. There are certain things where it makes it easier, to be in the “government show”, knock on wood…

AL: It does make it easier to pay our mortgage, go on trips, take vacations…

BL: That’s the exciting thing for me. It’s allowed us to really settle and make a life. That’s why it feels like success. I’m really going to be able to do this and focus on my family.

AF: Laying that foundation for the future!

AL: Money’s not as tight so it allows us to be a little more fancy-free. It allows me to not feel obligated to babysit every single day. I work because I want to work…

BL: Driven, nailed it!

AL: It is so important to make your partner’s success feel like your success too. It is pinnacle. I think that has been the most valuable thing to sustain our marriage. It’s like when he goes on for Elder Price on that Broadway stage, I’ll probably feel even prouder than him. I think I will have more joy than if I was bowing as a lead on Broadway. His success brings me a lot of joy.

BL: Thank you baby that’s really nice.

AF: On that note, what is the biggest benefit of having a partner in this business and what is the hardest part about it?

BL: I think the best part is the grounding force. Based on our definition of what success was… it’s about looking at your life. So having a concrete person and concrete animal for that matter really helps you take a step back and realize what’s important. And then stupid practical stuff… this morning Andrea was able to sleep for an extra five minutes because I stapled her headshot and resume together while she did her makeup. Time management!

AL: The biggest benefit to having a partner in the business is that we can talk about stuff for hours and hours and hours and it’s not so totally annoying. We have so much we can relate on. We have the same training, we went to the same school… so we can talk about a performance, music theory… We also tend to think similarly. I want to know what it would look like through my eyes and he’s the closest thing. It’s cool. So when he came to Ghost I asked and he said, “Okay… here’s what was great… you don’t have to worry about this…” and I’d be like, “This is what I was doing in this part… are you getting that?” And he’d be like, “Yes, I’m getting that.” I just trust him and trust his eyes and ears so it’s very beneficial. The benefit is the support in every sense of it. Of course you have that emotional support…but actual advice you get from the person is invaluable. I don’t trust anyone as much as I trust Ben.

BL: We kind of worked through the biggest pitfall of being with someone in the business, which is allowing their success to feel like your failure. And Andrea has a great way of putting this and says, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to dim your light for my light to shine.” It’s really cool.

AL: It happens in relationships all the time. You shouldn’t have to dim your light.

BL: It’s funny because even if it feels like competition… it really doesn’t come down to that at all. They either wanted this person or that person… it’s not that that person is better. It could be any arbitrary thing.

AL: Success is being happy in the interim. Live your life. Enjoy your life!

BL: When you’re enjoying life and enjoying other aspects of life… then you can walk into the audition room and not care!

AL: Yeah like… “Let me just do some good work… and then leave!”

BL: Don’t dim your light.

AF: Okay- last question… what are your words to live by?

AL: Listen to yourself, have faith in yourself… it’s all about self-actualization. Figuring out my unique perspective on the world and to cherish myself, cherish my relationship with Ben… if you have that sorted out… then you can apply what you’ve worked for.

BL: Everyone’s path is completely different. For some people it helps to look around at others if that inspires you. I try to let it inspire me or move me in a certain direction. But don’t get caught up on when they achieved what. The industry is going to go through so many different things. I’m very fortunate right now because it was just my time to be in Mormon. I graduated the same year Mormon opened! So yeah… use others to inspire you but know that everyone’s path is different.

AL: That’s beautiful, babe!

AF: You guys are beautiful. Cheers.

Peter Saide: Live an Examined Life

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Peter and I coffee’d literally “down under” at the St. Kilda Coffee in midtown. Since Peter is Australian and this café is also Australian… we agreed it was the best place to meet for a chat. With busy New Yorkers getting work done on their computers silently, we gabbed at a table near the window for a whole hour about Peter’s regional gigs, his love for New York, his dog Gunnar, and some profound bits of wisdom he’s accumulated throughout well-travelled life.

*Ideal cup of coffee: Latte or Americano


AF: What are you drinking right now?

PS: I’m drinking a latte. So simple. I typically order a latte or an Americano. You’re drinking a Flat White which is the MOST Australian!

AF: It is!? I didn’t even know!

PS: Yep. Starbucks tried to bring them in a few years ago and failed. So then they rebranded it. If I’m forced to go to Starbucks I just get a coffee… I don’t like to give my money to the big corporations except for like Amazon…

AF: I’m addicted.

PS: I just moved to a new apartment so I’m ordering everything from Amazon… so much easier!

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

PS: Oh woah… sure. When do you ever have to answer this question!? Tall? I feel that I am tall of heart! Easy-going and spontaneous. Although it depends on who you talk to because there have been moments in my life when I was not easy-going.

AF: Well you go through seasons!

PS: Of course. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t pretty happy to say yes to what happens. This wasn’t the plan originally…

AF: So let’s talk about that.

PS: So I studied in Australia at QCM which is the Central Queensland Conservatory of Music. It was a tiny little course and it was brand new and I did Musical Theatre as an afterthought. I wanted to be a Forensic Psychologist. It’s Criminal Psychology. Now I like to play bad guys- it’s the same thing!

AF: Analyzing the characters…

PS: I think what we do is psychology. Understand people and then try to recreate it. But I got accepted into Psych School, got accepted into Law School, and got accepted into this Musical Theatre degree. I was so young- just after my seventeenth birthday I graduated high school. I thought, I’ll do this for a year and if I don’t like it I’ll be eighteen and I can go do something else. I liked it… and I did another year…and then I was on stage playing Anatoly in Chess and I was like, “I have to do this. Damnit.” So then I graduated, moved to Sydney, and a year into Sydney I was doing a production of Jekyll and Hyde that I then left for a production of Into the Woods. I was Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf. I was managing a Virgin Music store in a mall in Western Sydney. I’d been to these auditions… but I just didn’t know how to be an actor in the business. I knew how to perform. We didn’t get taught about the business. And the business in Australia is so small and so different so I just had no idea how it worked. It didn’t make sense to me. So I did this audition for Tokyo Disney and I got it. So a year after I moved to Sydney, in January I moved to Tokyo, and I meant to be gone for eight months and I haven’t lived in Australia since. I met an American girl… and kind of chased her here. I knew I wanted to know about New York. I spent a couple months in London.

AF: Wow- world traveler!

PS: Well I just wanted to know where I was meant to be. I kind of got the impression that the Australian theatre scene didn’t make sense to me, so I spent all my savings traveling the world with my sisters, my girlfriend, and my mate- it as awesome. At the end of that live in London for a bit and then came to New York in March of 2006. I moved right as there was this blizzard. I was living in West New York, New Jersey… You’d walk down to Boulevard East and see the entire skyline and it was perfect. It doesn’t snow where I’m from so still when it snows… I love it.

AF: Do you feel like you were meant to be here?

PS: I felt I understood it the minute I got here. For me it’s been New York, Berlin, and Sydney… Those are the cities where I walk in and think, “Oh… I get this.” So that’s kind of how I got here. I knew I was prudent professionally to find out…and that I was kind of chasing my girlfriend here…

AF: But—it worked out!

PS: We’re still really good friends… and she’s killing it on Broadway!

AF: So what would you say some of your highlights in New York have been?

PS: I haven’t been here for very long! I got here in 2006 but I didn’t have my Green Card until after 2009 so for three years I did Cruise Ships and then I did an International Tour. I was in a break between ships and I was in the city around Christmas time and I thought, “I need a vacation…but I should do ONE audition”. There was this tour of Cinderella with Lea Salonga… it was the only audition I went in for and I got it! That’s how I met my agent. It was an International tour so they could hire me as an Australian. That was 2008 into 2009. Our tour ended a few months early, went back to Australia, came back to America and got my Green Card later that year. So it’s been almost eight years. For most of that time I’ve been out of the city!

AF: That’s what’s so funny about our business—you come to the city to work in the city and then book work out of the city!

PS: Mathematically there’s not enough work here for everyone! The first job I got as an American actor was Jersey Boys. I played Gaudio… in Vegas. So case in point… I got my Green Card in October, had my interview on a Wednesday and my final callback on a Thursday, and the offer Thursday afternoon. Amazing. So then I spent the best part of three years in Vegas. Great community there. I opened in November of 2009, and at the time Musical Theatre was killing it in Vegas. It’s hard for a musical to get traction there now so I was lucky to be working there when Lion King and Phantom were running… I didn’t get back to the city until 2012. And at that point I was just kind of a newbie with two kind of good credits. I didn’t really know anybody.

AF: So you really had to work on cultivating Industry relationships? Let’s talk about that…

PS: I’ve been every lucky to have my agents since 2007. They’ve been amazing and supportive. I’ve never had an instinct to network. My instinct is to do the work. I guess we could all say we start from that place as actors. So what I wanted when I got back from Vegas was a body of work. I realize that I couldn’t control that in New York but I could control that to an extent if I did that regionally… I also contemplated Grad School… but I tried as best I could to make my professional choices my Grad School. I chose projects that were interesting, tried to work with people who I could milk for information. I tried to be as receptive in my career as I could be. Until this year I’ve been regional and then I just decided to settle down here…

AF: And now you’re starring in Desperate Measures!

PS: Yes! And I just did Law and Order

AF: Amazing. Okay so I want to know… obviously you’ve played Gaston…

PS: Three times.

AF: What was your favorite theatre that you did it at?

PS: I got to go back to Sacramento Music Circus. I did Hair there. It’s stock theatre, eighteen days total, but that eighteen days was the most profound theatrical experience I’ve ever had. And then I had the chance to go back and it was all I wanted to do. Also- Glenn’s Beauty & the Beast is kind of dark and earthy… I’m grateful for the breadth of experience I’ve had with the show. I love him. I love Gaston. It’s funny when you book that job and people are like, “You’re perfect!” I’m like, “How dare you!” Or the people who bring their daughter to the stagedoor and they’re like, “You were my daughter’s favorite part!” and I’m like, “You need to read some different books!”

AF: So what else have you done in New York?

PS: My Off Broadway debut I made in 2012 which was a play at 59E59 with the Brooklyn based company called, One Year Lease- they produced a show called, Skin Tight which was physical theatre and was a two-hander- just me and one other girl. And then straight off of that I did my second Off Broadway show with Prospect Theatre Company and was part of the first mounting of, Death of Five Voices that we then did in Italy at the castle where it is set. It’s wonderful to be in Desperate Measures that’s gaining a lot of buzz…

AF: Well that is all very cool and exciting. Now I want to talk about your dog. When did you get him?!

PS: I got him in Vegas… in the middle of nowhere in Pahrump. He came from a breeder out there. When I was a teenager I wanted a Great Dane and mom said, “No Way.” So I found a Weimaraner, a dog that looked like a Great Dane but was smaller… and he died when I was at University so I had this chip on my shoulder. So then I was in Vegas and had a house and a backyard and enough money to pay for a dog…so I got one! That was 2010.

AF: And he loves the city?

PS: He’s happy. I’m walking him constantly.

AF: How do you think having a pet in the city has been beneficial?

PS: It’s been a good thing for me. I’m not out as often. He keeps me in line. I’m not a creature of habit… I don’t like routine. He gives me a regiment. He’s the most beautiful thing!

AF: What’s your piece of advice that you’d give someone moving to the city…

PS: You know that’s funny because I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m going back to my alma mater next year to direct. I just started working on it and trying to come up with a design. I’ve had no desire to direct, but I taught a master class and I like working with the kids, but what I’m good for is to teach the process. I have a great respect for the space and the people in the space and understanding of who’s doing what. We have this weird way of putting divas on pedestals in this industry because the divas that we know of are incredibly successful… so a lot of performers think that they need to act with that kind of entitlement. It rings as false confidence to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about approaching the role as a teaching director… I want them to learn how to approach the process with absolute respect for everyone in the room. You’ve got to be humble AND stupidly confident. Life’s too short to not treat people with integrity. It’s so competitive and we’re just trying to make our rent. I would say… remove your expectations from what you define as achievements or success and instead place your expectations on your work ethic and sense of self… because those are things you can work towards to and aspire and achieve. There are so many intangibles and so many things that are uncontrollable as you pursue this profession…. Every job you do could be your last job. It’s weird at the same time of feeling like, “I absolutely deserve this…I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be” to think how lucky I am and to find that balance between the two. My answer to the, “What is your dream job?” is “I refuse to have a dream job or role…” because I don’t want to end up disappointed. There are things that I’d play… I’d love to play Joey in Most Happy Fella, to my taste it’s perfect Musical Theatre. There are these things I want to do… but I’m not going to get attached to that. If I can be an actor, pay my bills, feed my dog, and buy my mates a beer… seriously that’s it.

AF: What your favorite beer?

PS: Just… yes. Sure. Any.

AF: You need a nice little night-cap at the end of the day.

PS: There’s nothing I don’t eat or drink.

AF: What’s the most Australian thing that you miss that you can’t find here?

PS: My mum. Seriously… I haven’t lived there since 2004. I go home every couple of years. I’m very close with my family. It’s really hard to convince four people to take two weeks vacation. Everyone came over while I was in Jersey Boys… so that was great. I love Australia, I love going back but I don’t have a home-sickness for it anymore. I left when I was twenty-one.

AF: And now you’re twenty-two!

PS: Yeah- twenty-three! (haha) My social circles are here. My professional circles are here. I get homesick for New York. I miss a meat pie every once and a while but you can find that here…

AF: What’s in a meat pie besides meat?

PS: It’s like a chicken potpie but with mince meat or with beef and liver…all kinds of good stuff. Also Vegemite… I got some in my pantry!

AF: I’m not sure if I like it!

PS: It’s very salty. My sister used to have it with honey.

AF: I worked with an Australian on my first summer-stock contract and he let me try some.

PS: It’s your duty as an Australian. You make people try Vegemite and get people drunk.

AF: So you mentioned as long as you can be an actor, pay your bills, feed your dog…you’re happy. Is that how you define success?

PS: Yep. Satisfaction. You’ve got to define your own satisfaction. There are things that I want and things that I expect of myself that are profound… It’s kind of difficult to articulate. At the same time that I have an awareness that I’m not done at finding what I need to find… I also have a satisfaction that as long as I listen hard and treat people with integrity and love hard on the people that I love nothing else is important at the end of the day. So really… to me success it has nothing to do with Broadway, TV… just to be present and to live an examined life and to be curious, and work on getting better at my career. It is to pay tribute to those blessings by investing time and energy. I refuse to hang my hat on achieving something I can’t control.

AF: Words to live by…

PS: Be nice to people… for God’s sake! I went through a divorce in 2012… and you know you go through a season of searching. My middle name is Kahlil…named after the Lebanese philosopher, and he has this quote, “Out of suffering emerge the strongest souls, the most massive characters are seared with scars.” I love that concept of embracing the pain. It’s not something that is black or white or good or bad…just a facet of your experience. It all feeds back into approaching your experience with integrity.

AF: Being fully human and open…

PS: The thing that spleens me the most about people is when they’re ignorant. It’s amazing to me when I meet someone who doesn’t take the time to educate themselves about the things they don’t know.

AF: Well cheers to that!

 

Katie Oxman: Be a Little Dreamy

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On Tuesday November 14th, I met with long time friend, Katherine Alice at her favorite cafe, Chacha Matcha in Chelsea. As Connecticut natives under the same voice teacher we were always bumping into each other at voice lessons and now both in the city… at auditions. The cafe was brightly colored with accents of pink and green, neon signs with cute slogans saying, “I love you so Matcha,” and comfy window seating. The baristas bounced between grinding Matcha (finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves) and steaming milk for lattes. I swapped out my regular coffee for a coconut matcha latte, and Katie insisted we nibble on a strawberry Doussant (cronut).

*Ideal cup of coffee: I am so against sugar in coffee. Get out of town. Otherwise it is coffee ice cream! I drink black coffee with a splash of Almond milk depending on my mood.

AF: What are you drinking right now?

KO: I’m going for my “later in the day drink” which is an Almond milk latte or a macchiato…but a REAL macchiato…not a Starbucks macchiato. I was a barista for a year so I know how to make everything properly so that means…the Italian way! I can differentiate quickly between good or bad espresso and good or bad milk… With good milk and good foam I can drink a latte in a second- you’re actually supposed to drink a latte fast by the way! Espressos are perfect for like five minutes.

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

KO: Oh my gosh…Secretly I hate that because I feel like I have seventeen personalities and lives that all happen at the same time. The best way to meld them all together would be: creative. I sort of live for creative projects. I find gifting birthday presents so fun. My gut would be to say colorful… I am super goofy. And now I’m starting to sound like a Grandma…but old school?

AF: You appreciate the classics!

KO: And I’m determined they don’t die. I like hanging out with people, fireplaces, monogamy…or I’m the mom in some situations. Like, “You’re doing mushrooms? What? Mushrooms go on pizza…” To me that’s all encompassing “old school.”

AF: Tell us a little bit of your back-story…where you’re from…

KO: I’m from Connecticut! Well my favorite version of this story is actually a story that booked me A Chorus Line in college. We had to say where we’re from and everyone was going around saying where they’re from and I said, “Well… I was born in New York City, grew up in Connecticut, but I plan on moving back there so I’m going to pretend that Connecticut never happened.” And that’s how I booked the show and I know it’s because I said that. The funny thing is I have nothing against Connecticut. I love it. In retrospect I feel so lucky because I grew up an hour train ride from Manhattan which is where I was born, always wanted to end up, always wanted to visit, but then you had the country… Best of both worlds! And you get the seasons! I was always super surrounded by art. My mom’s an antique dealer and my dad was an Equity actor in England. He’s still very British…with an alien card and everything. My uncle is a serious painter and my mom’s dad was Allen Funt with Candid Camera so that was the family business that I just dropped right into. We would fly to California and see tapings of shows. My mom would always play old musicals, I’d push all the furniture out of the way to perform. I was Barbra Streisand as Dolly Levi for Halloween when I was five. That’s how I explain it. I went between the balance of being forced to perform, when your family’s like, “Sing something!” which we all hate… I loved that until I was six and then there was this arch of time where I just didn’t want to be that close to people and then I jumped right back into it and my first show was Annie.

AF: So was mine!

KO: And I was Grace Farrell and I booked it because I hugged Annie. Nobody else got anywhere near her but I went in and hugged her in some kind of dramatic scene. Motherly…check.

AF: So then what about school? When did you move here?

KO: Oh right because that’s back-story now! I wasn’t going to go to school. I auditioned early decision at NYU because it was really the only one I wanted to go to…. Because New York!- Not like “wanted to come here”…fully knew I was going to end up here. I did early decision for NYU, didn’t get in because of grades… I was not focused on grades in high school. I didn’t have bad grades but I was in rehearsal every single day!

AF: Side-note…Connecticut schools are really hard!

KO: Toughest school systems! I had to choose between dedicating three hours at night to getting A’s or taking dance class. I never regretted that decision but I definitely didn’t get into any schools so I sort of let that go and was just going to move here and start auditioning. But my school did the Connecticut High School Theatre awards, which I won Best Actress for…so I got to go to the Jimmy Awards!

AF: Casual!

KO: Haha, casual… it was the first year they were on Broadway which was so fun! We got to do it at the Marquis Theatre. I missed my High School Graduation to go to the Jimmy Awards. Best decision of my life. No regrets…I remember talking to my High School theatre friend, Jelani Alladin, who is now Kristoff in Frozen on Broadway!! but I remember us talking about it and he’s like, “Yeah it’s no big deal…you gotta do the Jimmy Awards…”

AF: You need someone to be on that same wavelength as you to validate such a huge decision!

KO: Essentially it was like Broadway or High School graduation…so obviously I’m gonna pick Broadway.

AF: I’m pretty sure I remember seeing something about that on Melody’s bulletin board…

KO: Oh I’m sure there was a little newspaper clipping or something, haha!

AF: Oh yeah we haven’t mentioned we shared the same voice teacher in high school! How did we actually meet?

KO: I think you took class right before me so you’d be coming out as I was going in! I could tell you what your two audition songs were for college if you let me think long enough on it……

AF: I mean I can tell you…

KO: Tell me.

AF: “Astonishing.”

KO: I knew it! Because mine was “Gimme Gimme.” Those were THE songs! But yes Melody… another reason we were so lucky in that town. We had serious theatrical stuff happening without leaving the town. And then because of the Jimmy Awards I met the president of Point Park. It’s done through the CLO in Pittsburgh so all of the Point Park staff come. And I remember during the intermission of the show in the bathroom the Choreographer said, “So I hear you’re not going to school…you should talk to us about Point Park.” At the after party the president was like, “You should come…” So I sent my audition materials late. And then I got in and was like, “Well I guess I should just go there…” I knew nothing and the first semester I was terrified because I knew nothing about Pittsburgh. I was eight hours from home. But it ended up being magical because now I’m a die hard Pittsburg fan. They sell more theatre tickets combined there than all major league sports… All these artistic hipsters land thereto open their own shops because they can’t afford rent in the city so they move there. I stayed there an extra year after I graduated because I was doing so much theatre work. I got my Equity card from the PCLO. I knew everyone in the town. My friends who are still there work constantly…doing Equity or Sag things…but only in Pittsburgh….

AF: So now YOU’RE here! What have your first few years in New York City looked like?

KO: I stayed an extra year in Pittsburgh because I was working and then moved to New York as “SAG Must Join” and with my Equity card and have basically not worked since. I’ve been pavement pounding and pounding on doors… I’m not going to call it a negative but coming from a city where I was so “in” and I had cracked that glass case…in the union, working, and then having to do it all over again was a little bit of a “oh” because I thought I knew New York so well. But you don’t… The last agent I sang for two weeks ago asked what casting offices know me… and in my head I said, “No one.”…. They ‘pay to play’ thing is a real issue which is why you have to change your perspective… and think, how am I going to keep myself busy in this amazing place?”

AF: And stay inspired! It’s a blessing to book anything these days.

KO: And that is something I’d love to talk about truthfully. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been doing a lot of cool projects, I have a manager, I have an agent… all good on paper but I’m not specifically booking shows… I’m working on small things or I’m on this tour that I’m doing right now…and that’s all very different from a show at a regional theatre or on Broadway. And since it’s been two years now since booking a contract… that has flipped me around from being jealous of other people’s work and has forced me to be happy for other people so now I’m just happy when people are working. I don’t think about it that way any more. Which…obviously we all still get jealous in this business but it has definitely helped that. It mellows you out. It’s a good thing. You kind of have to enjoy the struggle… When people ask me what was the last thing I did I say, “You know what…I’m enjoying the struggle.” You find the good part of the struggle. Sometimes I get concerned and I think, when I’m in a Broadway show, what’s next? Right now I have that to look forward to! Think about how lucky were are to go sing in a jazz club one night, go see a show, have a nice cocktail… have your life. Broadway performers give up their lives. Your life becomes your Broadway show. Don’t get me wrong…we’re going to do it but at the same time it’s not all glitz and glammer.

AF: You’re shedding so much light!

KO: Every product has its’ own merit no matter how big or small… The benefit of the struggle is you can appreciate where you are!

AF: Speaking of that… tell us about this tour that you’re doing.

KO: The tour is, Candid Camera Live. My Uncle does the tour so he asked me to come do it with him and my cousin who is his son and is a journalist, comes with us too and runs all the slides.

AF: What is the show like?

KO: So Candid Camera has been on TV for eight decades. It started with my grandfather and then my uncle took over and I’ve started doing a couple episodes since. So now they do this show that’s an interactive thing. They show clips, there’s music, I come out very briefly a couple times. I sing the theme song, I play a joke on the audience, it’s very short…very mini… but it’s nice to be performing! It’s not that it’s glamorous…but I have my own dressing room every time in these beautiful vintage theatres! We don’t have packed houses but they’re really lovely people who are big fans so they are so kind and happy. It’s great! And then I come back and I’m in the city. It’s a tiny little theatrical gift. I did it last year too!

AF: That sounds so great! I am so happy for you. Now…talk to me about long-distance…

KO: Oh brother. There’s a lot of different aspects of it. One is keeping one hand in New York and keeping your life happy. So, my boyfriend Garrett Storm worked on the Disney Cruise line and it was amazing- but I’m not proud of the fact that my immediate reaction when he told me was, “Eight months!?” and then “Ahh this is amazing!” And they were totally simultaneous…but it’s rough! One thing I was remembering the other day when I was in high school and in college until it happened… to me… all I ever wanted, like the “amazing goals” were to have a boyfriend and my Equity card. And then both of then happened halfway through college and then I left college and I was like, “Oh so Broadway’s next! I did my list!” So with all this reflection time now it’s like if Young Katie saw me now would be like, “You did it! You live in New York! You have a boyfriend! You have your Equity card!” She would be stoked out of her mind. And here I am grown up Katie like, “Where’s my contract…?”

AF: You’re building your foundation and finding yourself through it!

KO: And keeping creative! I try to imagine not having a partner in the city but if I didn’t have someone at my house at the end of the day who understands what’s going on…

AF: And your dog!

KO: Another thing… I don’t know how all actors don’t have pets… But we tear ourselves down all day we need people and partners who can pick you up. He’s just the best partner ever! And having a dog! They’re my little family. They’re a packaged deal.

AF: When did you start your color girl/Instagram side business? What does a typical day look like for you?

KO: So I’ve been with Instagram since day one. I’ve had one since it started five years ago. I never really liked Facebook but because I’m so visual I really loved Instagram. I also think it’s harder to be “mean” on Instagram. It’s a very positive space. And this might sound braggy but I feel like I’ve always sort of been “on trend.” Not so much with my wardrobe but… I have a good sense of what people are looking for at the time. Like new restaurants, visual trends… I was always following people who were in that zone. I rode this wave with a lot of other people. We were staying up on the trends. It was sort of an accident. My feed changes…if you looked at it over the years you would see that slow trend climb. But in the end it’s always been the same. I do it for myself. I effing love it. It keeps me creative. When I’m doing what would be called a “flat lay” (picture taken from above), for a brand it is totally zen for me. I can turn my brain off and just enjoy the staging. So now it has turned into a bunch of other jobs. Occasionally I do stuff that is sponsored . I accept free things in exchanged for sharing them. Again- only if I want to support them. I got a weird one about Game of Thrones makeup brushes? It’s become this portfolio and identity for me that has led to other jobs. Like last year I worked for a company and created content for them. And now I have a new job that I love where I work for a doll company and I run their Instagram and I take all their photos. I still cater occasionally, and watch my “Broadway child” backstage at her show, but mostly this is my job and it all came through Instagram. It’s more about what you can offer. The thing I struggle with is….okay so I have almost 10k followers…if I focused on turning it more into a very consistent brand, I could double that, but what I want to do is also have me in there. Sometimes if I post about theatre or acting I’ll lose followers… but then it will be my most popular post because all the followers who do appreciate who I am and I engage with back are like, “Oh this is such a fun side! We love hearing about that!” So it’s been a slower climb for me to the big numbers because I’m trying to keep it really me, mixed with this “color-branded” me. So it’s a full time brain job but yeah I hope to segue it… So every day there is a part of my day where I’m either “flat-laying” or going somewhere deliberately to take a photo, which usually means a café or a bakery. That thought process is in every day.

AF: And is it typically a place you’ve researched? Or they reached out to you?

KO: It’s a combo. Sometimes I reach out to people that are new, telling them I want to promote them and nine times out ten they’re like, “Come by.” Or I get approached. It’s a part of my every day where I’m thinking, “What am I going to post today…” But that’s part of my day job brain!

AF: It’s so cool that you created this career for yourself!

KO: Yeah! And don’t get me wrong… other people are doing it and doing it well and I follow them but you have to create it out of thin air! Someone who created her own sprinkle company said in an interview, “You have to create your own dream job.” If you’re not going to do a 9-5 job, it’s true. It doesn’t mean you have to do a start-up but you have to create a reason for why people need whatever it is that you do in the world. It’s so crazy… now I hear of actors who lost out to other people who have more followers on Social Media. To me that’s pretty tragic…

AF: It’s so easy to put a timer on success. But there’s no rush! We’re in this for the long haul… it’s so important to have other creative outlets and remain confident that it will happen! It happens to the people that just stay.

KO: You just don’t stop. Like everyone says, if there’s anything else in this world that would make you happy go do that and if not, just don’t give up and then literally…eventually it will happen! You can’t riddle or rhyme anything out of it.

AF: So right now…how would you define success?

KO: The easy answer would be… once you’ve been on Broadway, because people know what that means so to them that means you’re successful. So from the outside looking in success is having a Broadway credit and they wouldn’t care if you’re the third tree from the left. If you’re on Broadway you’re on Broadway. But from the inside looking out I think success is being creative every day and working towards your goal every day. Sometimes there are days when I don’t do anything involving working out or singing and I don’t go to an audition…but even if you think about it and plan to do it tomorrow and being in that world in any way you can… that is success and you’re still working towards it. There are no rules in this business. People say this all the time but it is so hard to digest no matter how many times you hear it…but the only thing you offer is you. That’s the only thing that makes you difference, reason you’re going to get anywhere, the reason you stand out, the only thing you need to worry about. And people say it constantly, “You are enough.” But if you don’t believe it… I don’t believe it all the time. I go in and out. Some days I’m like, “I look like me today.” And then some days I’m trying to conform. That is the truest thing. That’s it. That’s the only through-line for all the classes.

AF: It could happen at any time! The stars WILL align! That’s what’s so exciting about the city! The world is your oyster… it’s all at our fingertips here in the city!

KO: People think that networking is this scary, important thing, but networking is what you’re doing right now! Networking is going to a nice cocktail bar and keeping your eyes out because you never know who you’re going to see. Networking is seeing a show. Networking is reading bios. Networking is not pedaling yourself… it’s about being involved in any way you can.

AF: What are your words to live by?

KO: Don’t stop believing. The trap I fall into is getting built up on negativity and feeling like I’m not where I thought I would be… So the thing to live by isn’t necessarily words but to not let that happen. So I get out, I talk to people, and I put on an outfit I love. You go to everything. Even though people say EPA’S don’t matter anymore… you go there, talk to people, meet the people, do it. Don’t stop, literally. Don’t be afraid to be dreamy about it because you have to be excited about the pursuit of it. It’s not lofty-headed but if you don’t love it go do something else! Be proactive. Don’t have a week where you choose to not go to that audition because have you ever regretted going? No. You regret NOT going! Also you have to love where you live. You have to find neighborhoods you love, places you love going, meet people…

AF: You need to find your “spot!” Like I’ll probably go to the puppy store after we’re done with this… Well I’m so happy for you and excited for your budding career!

KO: It’s different than a career… haha. Because if somebody was like, “How’s your career going right now?” I wouldn’t necessarily call it, “a career.” On paper… I have no contract to show but I have all the tools in my toolbox so I should be proud and I should think of it as a career because a career is not always “working.”

AF: It’s what you do in the in between time. Creating your own work is huge.

KO: YouTube is huge for me. People watch it. Our cover of “Lovely Night” from “La La Land” has over half a million views. I actually got to talk to Lionsgate Films about it. They used it for professional DVD sales and then they sent me a DVD! I watched a bootleg version of it two hundred times, reversed everything… if you watch it side by side it is the exact same thing.

The Seeing Place: See Each Other

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On November 1st, I met the cast and founders of, The Seeing Place Theatre at The Bean in lower Manhattan during their tech for their current show, Jack Goes Boating: Erin Cronican, Candice Oden, and Brandon Walker. I felt like I was walking into an artist colony. There were students, actors, and teachers mingling among the buzz of coffee grinding and aromas of pastries from behind the counter. We walked with our coffees to their intimate black box theatre space and chatted during a light cue-ing. It was the quintessential theatre experience. Their set also happens to look just like Friends’ Central Perk which would make anyone feel right at home.


AF: So why don’t you guys go ahead and introduce yourselves!

EC: I’m Erin, Managing Director of the Seeing Place. I’m a professional actor, singer, and producer, and career coach! Alright Candice… your turn.

CO: I am Candice- the other woman!

BW: I’m Brandon Walker. I’m the artistic director of The Seeing Place.

AF: So tell me about your theatre…

EC: Fifty-five seats in the theatre and we can put them anywhere we want. It’s a true black box…it’s empty. This play has like twelve or thirteen locations which is absurd, but we’re putting an audience on two sides of the actors so the actors are really doing 360 acting and therefore it’s super intimate and they’re using all the space.

AF: Well now that I’ve gotten the down-low…Let me say it’s so good to meet you guys! I had no idea anyone would ever reach out to my blog and want to have coverage on their show but this is such a cool way to discover your theatre for the first time! I know you’ve been around for a while but I am so glad to know now that you exist. Literally in the middle of your tech! Well today is just a fun time to talk about theatre, coffee, and how this theatre came to be! So Erin…first question…what are you drinking right now?

EC: I’m drinking a tall black drip coffee with pumpkin spice and a little bit of soy milk.

BW: I’m drinking black coffee.

CO: I am drinking the bean chocolatey smoothie. I got fancy.

AF: There must be caffeine in that…and sugar… so we’re good.

CO: Yes. Yes there is.

AF: You guys going to be up alllllll night! And what would you say your ideal cup of coffee is at home?

EC: Oh I have the best coffee… hands down I get it at Fairway and I buy flavored coffee but it’s really rich. I always have chocolate flavored and I have vanilla almond at home but I’ve had dolce de leche, and southern pecan is really good…they’ve got caramel… they have everything! They grind the beans. That’s what I make at home and it’s the kind of coffee that  people who “don’t drink coffee” will still drink my coffee.

C0: If I have coffee, there are lots of other things in it. Lots of soy milk and sugar. I want it to not taste like coffee.

BW: My ideal coffee is French press coffee made a’ la Bulletproof Coffee so with MCT oil or butter.

AF: Well now that we know everyone’s coffee let’s talk about how everyone got to the city. So Candice…why don’t you start us off!

CO: I’ve been in the city for 12 years!

AF: So you’re a New Yorker!

CO: I’ll gladly take it.

AF: So did you go to school for theatre?

CO: I did not. I did not go to school I jumped on a cruise ship… Holland America. I did cruise ships instead of college!

EC: You probably learned more than me!

CO: I learned a lot about life. (laughter)

 AF: Truly! In the middle of the ocean. And then you got connected with these folks!

CO: I met Erin through my ex-boyfriend. She has a coaching business and my boyfriend at the time was seeing her, for BUSINESS RELATED reasons, and I was secretly a little bit jealous because I really wanted a career coach but I thought…I’ll let him do his thing. But then he told me he could give me her information, and he thought it’d be really cool for me and I was like, “Ok!” (laughter) And then we met, and I knew we were going to be friends.

EC: And then I was like, “No! We’re going to be BEST friends!”

AF: And how long have you been performing?

CO: I’ve been performing for twenty-five years. It’s actually true… Yeah, I’ve been very lucky. Obviously I’ve been doing it my entire life. I love it so much. I started dancing when I was a kid because I wanted to be like my big sister. I had no interest in dancing I was just interested in being like my big sister. So I took dance class and the studio where I went was incredible and so supportive and they really raised me. They were my second family. They made me who I am today. In New York city my first professional gig was a workshop. I did a lot of those…where only Industry people were invited. My first job where my friends could actually come and see me perform was a Seeing Place show. The Seeing Place has been where people can actually come and see me work.

AF: They can see you! Alright Brandon…

BW: I’m from San Diego. I’ve been here for ten and a half years, although I still don’t really feel like a New Yorker. I came here because I was running away from a girl. I didn’t really know where I was going when I got in my car. I was either coming here or Chicago. I had never been to either place… really. I was actually never really considering leaving San Diego. I was vehemently against the artists that kept leaving… I thought, why is everybody leaving? If everyone just stayed we could have our own art scene here. It is a town where people go to die or to surf. It is very difficult to be an artist there. I moved here, I’d been studying with David Gideon, who is an acting teacher who teaches Lee Strasburg. I studied with a student of his beforehand in San Diego, Frances Girk. I have not gone to a traditional school. I went to a couple community colleges and got something like one-hundred-sixty credits in Social Sciences. I have no idea why I did that. I had no interest in graduating. Outside of that, I’d had a theatre company in San Diego for six or seven years. I’d pretty much done Shakespeare from when I was nine to twenty-two. And then I branched out a little bit and moved here when I was twenty-five. That’s me.

AF: Alright! That was a very cohesive answer. Last but not least…Erin.

EC: I’ve been here twelve years. I moved here from the San Diego area. I’m from a suburb of San Diego county. I knew Brandon from there, although we were not coupled at the time… it took many, many years for that to happen! I’ve been acting since I was nine.

CO: She won’t say how many years…she’s just gonna give you nine.

EC: That’s the way I do it! You do it the way you do it! Either way they’d be like… “But that’s negative years, Erin, ‘cause you’re not that old…”

CO: That’s right!

EC: As you can tell…age is an issue.

AF: What is age!?

EC: It’s awful in our industry that’s what it is. I feel like your career gets better and better and better as a guy. Women have such defined age ranges to be in. You are the ingénue and that is a certain type and if you don’t look like the ingénue well that’s it, you’re the character actor and you’re not gonna work until you’re forty. And then those people work, people like me who are Sopranos, all of a sudden can’t work and we have articles like Melissa Erico…talking about doing Finian’s Rainbow at forty-six and wondering if she can still be an ingénue. She chose to write that article to address the fact that she was very concerned about what people would think. You don’t ever see men writing, “Hmm..maybe I’m too old for this part…” Anyway… I am a militant activist. My background is in Musical Theatre. I went to school for theatre at Pepperdine in LA. I moved to New York in 2005 in search of the best pizza and found it. Brandon moved here in 2007 and pretty soon after that we were in touch and Brandon suggested we make some theatre and I was like, “Okay.” We started talking about all these ideas but didn’t do anything until 2009 when he formed an idea for the company and asked me to join and I said no. I was doing TV and Film and so I told him I was “busy.” I did the first and only revival of a musical called, Subways are for Sleeping. It’s a Julie Styne, Betty Comden, and Green musical that has really great songs. It only ran once on Broadway, flopped, and had never seen the light of day until this revival. Carol Lawrence, was hot of the heels as Maria in West Side Story and this was her next big thing. That was the first big thing I did and then other than our theatre company being around for now eight years, I am swinging in two Off Broadway shows right now! I’ve done lots of workshops to finally be doing something in the city feels good.

AF: I think if you are working in the city… you are successful. But then again…what is success? There are so many variations in this business.

EC: Yes…on that note. Talking about creating your own art… we did a production of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and we were lucky to do it and then it got extended and went over the showcase code so we had to go on contract. But what’s really interesting is that when people would say, “Oh my God you played off Broadway, who produced it?” and I’d say, “I did,” they’d go, “Oh.” Like it’s not meaningful any more…

AF: My husband and I were just talking about this. I had a really amazing year last year with two Equity leading roles and the next performing event I have coming up is a concert of his music for his new musical. And he goes, “Annabelle! I’ve written a role for you!” I know it will do so well but it still doesn’t have the same weight as a regional contract. But that’s so stupid because all musicals and plays had to start somewhere… so who’s to say that that’s not successful to be part of this new work even if I’m cast because I’m his wife!?

EC: One thing we deal with in having our own theatre company is that when you create your own work you’re in control of how everything goes. For myself, I feel really artistically satisfied. And when you’re creating your own work and feeling artistically satisfied you go, “Oh wow… well then why am I auditioning for other things?” So then that becomes a question because you start to realize that the success is all wrapped up in, well is it artistic satisfaction, Is it money? And I started to realize it’s money and big contacts. In our company, a lot of times, actors will be in a new play because they want it to go somewhere, not for today’s experience. Always thinking, “How can we roll this into something else?” Sometimes you forget to take a breath and go, “Oh my gosh.” Like right now…we’re in a theatre… that’s in the middle of a tech rehearsal… it’s so awesome!

AF: So is that because of this day and age of social media, where everybody is constantly posting their achievements? You can never just be content in the present…

BW: Success varies from person to person. I don’t believe in good actors. We give people awards… huh? My teacher says to me a lot, “I wish you would stop trying to be an actor and be an artist instead.” And when you start to make that a goal, it’s much more fulfilling.

AF: What is the reason behind the name of the theatre?

EC: The Seeing Place is the actual translation for the Greek word for theatre. Theatre means the place we go to see ourselves. “Theatron.” It used to be a place for discourse. You went to the theatre to have a conversation about life and people got up and did skits and people debated about it. And then those debates got moved over many, many years later to pubs and public houses and now I guess it’s social media… and so what we’re trying to do is take theatre back to that place. We’re trying to create a conversation with our audience. It’s not just coming to see a play and then you go home. You come to see a play, you get to know the artists, you get a chance to talk to the artists, and really think about how this has impacted your life. We hope to ask more questions than answer them, and we hope to get them to start thinking about, “Who do I know that is like the people that I’ve seen?”

AF: That is so exciting. You guys have literally started this from square one. How did you come upon this location?

BW: I was trying to find a theatre on this block that was not the theatres that I’d already approached because they were all full. We were doing a production of, “The Scottish Play,” and we had lost the space we were planning to perform in so we had to get something last minute. We were looking for the same basic area… I literally pulled up theatres on Google Maps and picked one and called them and they said it was actually available during those weeks and that was that.

AF: When the timing is right…it makes its’ way.

EC: And then we rent wherever we can for the short amount of time that we get it. Or we’ll find rehearsal spaces or rehearse out of our apartment…

AF: Let’s talk about this show that you’re putting up! You guys are doing it all…acting, producing…

CO: The play is about four people finding themselves.

AF: And why should I come see this show? Is it contemporary?

CO: Yes, yes it is. It is a dark comedy.

BW: It’s about these four people, two of them are in a troubled marriage and they’re trying to hook up their friends who are extremely socially awkward and they plan a dinner get together…during which the two make a date for next winter to go boating but they’re both deathly afraid of water. So the whole play is about them dealing with themselves and being able to get to do that.

AF: How long is it?

EC: An hour forty with a ten-minute intermission. I think it’s funny as the artistic director, Brandon gives the story answer and I give the marketing answer. This is the tenth anniversary production of the play. It premiered at the Labrinth Theatre and they did it at the Public Theatre space… just up the street. The original play starred, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Beth Cole, and John Ortiz. It’s a very well-received, heartwarming play. It’s part of our season called, The Empathy Initiative. That’s our season theme… so the idea is that we are trying to pick works that all try to fight oppression through art, through theatre… so how can we have a conversation about oppression? As the three of them said, this is a play about how sometimes we are the most oppressive to ourselves, so if we can learn how to forgive ourselves and love ourselves then we can start to do that for others.

CO: Those were good answers guys.

AF: Well… I’d love to wrap this with “words to live by…”

EC: My favorite quote is Andy Warhol, “They always say time changes things…but you actually have to change them yourself.”

BW: My old one was, “Live to the point of tears.”

CO: So dark.

AF: Who said that!?

BW: Camu. I’ll give you the one that has been inspiring me for a little bit. It’s Lily Tomlin. “I kept waiting for someone to fix the problem and then I realized… I’m someone.”

CO: That’s nice.

(light cue-ing still occurring)

EC: I have to show you some of our light cues before you go…

AF: This is reminding me of Stranger Things

EC: We’re in the Upside Down! We’ll be binging the second season as soon as we open the show…

CO: Mine is a Lily Tomlin quote, “I always wanted to be somebody but now I realize I should have been more specific.” Be specific people. Be specific!

EC: Here’s one that’s a bit more political…it’s a Sheryl Sandberg quote. “I want every little girl who is told she is bossy to be told, she has leadership skills.”

AF: I love that.

EC: How about we call it “like a boss” instead of bossy?

AF: You must be in marketing. Good with the words!

EC: Must be. Can’t help it.


Catch, Jack Goes Boating playing at The Seeing Place through November 19th.

Tickets here: http://www.seeingplacetheater.com

Nadia Quinn: Say Yes!

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On Thursday October 26th, I met with the hilarious, Nadia Quinn at Joe and the Juice in midtown. I met her two years ago when she and Douglas, my husband were in Robber Bridegroom together. With an extensive career in commercials, TV shows, Broadway, and concert circuits, I knew I wanted to jump on any opportunity to pick her brain. We chose an exclusive candlelit nook against what appeared to be Belle’s library. (It was just a very realistic mural). We sipped on hot coffees and noted how Nadia’s tenacity has gotten her to each open door.

 *Ideal cup of coffee: A light roast. Not a lot of people know this but the lighter the roast…the more caffeine. I think the more you roast the beans, the more mass they lose so there is less caffeine. (We asked Siri to confirm…)


 

AF: What are you drinking right now?

NQ: Just a regular coffee with a whole lot of cream.

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

NQ: Loud, tenacious, and creative. I don’t know that I would put loud first… I would put creative first, then tenacious, then loud. I feel like I only said loud because I know other people would call me loud.

AF: Are you an extravert or an introvert?

NQ: I think I’m an extravert. But I also think I’m both. Sometimes I recharge alone, and some times I recharge around people. Sometimes I get really anxious in big groups, but also, I think I work better with other people around. I like having energy to brainstorm off of… maybe because I grew up with a lot of children in the house and I had to be loud to be heard? I definitely have to put effort into talking at a quiet, normal level. Like right now, I’m trying to speak at a low volume.

AF: Tell us a little bit of your back-story…where you’re from…

NQ: Well, I was born in Wisconsin, but before I was a year old we started moving. My dad had a job that required him to move quite a bit. He was an electrical engineer and would renovate power plants and then move to a new one and then move to a new one. I think we moved thirteen times before I was in sixth grade. Every grade I was in a different school. When I was at the end of fifth grade we moved back to Wisconsin- that’s where my grandparents were living. We lived with them until my parents found a house, so I finished 5th grade at this school in the inner-city of Milwaukee. My Aunt taught first grade there and happened to be everyone’s favorite teacher, and I was the only white person in my class and everyone called me “white girl”, but like, affectionately. It’s a very fun and memorable experience from my childhood. After that school year my parents found a house in the suburbs, so I had a pretty suburban Middle School/High School experience… I did a lot of music and theatre in High School.

Ever since I was pretty little, I knew I wanted to be a performer. My parents say I was standing on tables singing for friends when I was two. Apparently I was singing before I was talking.

AF: It’s crazy how it’s just in you. It chooses you.

NQ: It does, doesn’t it? It definitely chose me…I remember watching Punky Brewster and thinking- I needed to be on that showFull House was my other favorite show and I actually wrote letters to the producer, saying I was DJ’s age and she and I could be sisters on the show… or the Tanners could adopt me. I wrote a lot of letters to people that I wanted to know or work with… including Jonathon Taylor Thomas who I draw a large portrait of on a piece of poster board and mailed it to him. I got a postcard back and it said, “Thanks for the picture, love JTT.” I still have it. Anyway…I always knew I wanted to be an actor. My family is tremendously supportive, but I do remember them initially thinking it was an odd thing to study or pursue professionally.

AF: So neither of them were/are performers?

NQ: Well, My dad is Middle-Eastern…and before moving to the US, he was actually an actor in Jordan. He is a very natural comedian and entertainer. He has all these weird masks… when new people are at the house he’ll disappear for a minute, and then come back with this weird rubber old lady mask on and start telling jokes in a funny voice. He always has a gag or a magic trick or a joke on hand. I had an incredibly entertaining childhood, but he didn’t pursue it as a career. Actually, before he came to the US he played the prince in a play that was performed for the king, They wanted to turn it into a TV show, but he turned it down because he planned to move to America and go to Engineering school. He was the only one of his 11 siblings to go to college. I definitely get my tenacity from him. My mom was a home-birth educator and doula while we were younger…and then went to college to get her nursing degree at the same time I went to college… I just think they’d never known anyone else to pursue art as a career in this way, but they saw how passionate I was about it and got on board. I applied to only one school— a small liberal arts college in Wisconsin—Viterbo University. It was a really great program. I heard about it because…I participated in the High School Theatre festival with a play my school did Senior year and actually won a statewide Best Actress award. The adjudicator was the Dean of Viterbo’s Theatre Arts program and he suggested I come to their school for acting. I applied, auditioned, and got in…so I went there. I didn’t really know that there were other options. I started as an Acting major and when I got my roommate assignment she said she was Musical Theatre and I was like, ooh, what’s that? She said, “It’s basically the same thing as the Acting program, you just take voice and dance classes, too…” And I thought- I like doing all that stuff so I’ll do that! I switched my major the first week of school. I think there were maybe twelve people in my class and I was always cast as the old people. I played Judge Danforth in the Crucible when I was nineteen. But it was fun. I probably won’t get to do that again, ever.

AF: What did your first few years in New York City look like?

NQ: I moved here in 2002. I’m a New Yorker now. I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. The way I got myself to New York is actually a kind of cool story. So, I graduated college and knew I wanted to get to New York desperately, but I think I only had like five hundred dollars left after school. This plan to move to New York started to form-  My friend Michael from high school who went to Fordham, and we had another mutual friend from high school who was planning to move to NY to get a nursing job and so he connected us. He said to me, “You and Katie should move to New York and live together in this cool new neighborhood where everyone is living…in Astoria.” and I said, “Okay”. Katie decided she was moving in July and would find us an apartment, and I said, “great!” but I literally had no money to support this decision. SO… I had this idea to raise money by putting on a one woman show at my old high school. I got permission from the principal, hired an accompanist, and then…put on a show! It was August 2nd, 2002. Two forty-five minute acts of monologues and songs.

AF: Why does this make me emotional? It’s so sweet!

NQ: Haha- yeah, I think it is sweet, looking back. At the time, It was the only option. I needed to make several thousand dollars pretty quickly. This somehow seemed to me like the most reasonable way.

AF: And obviously people in your town remembered you!

NQ: Totally. And I also HUSTLED for that show. I put flyers everywhere. I think six hundred people showed up and I made $5,000 to move to New York. I had a U-HAUL already reserved. I just knew it had to work out. So I did this show and gave a curtain speech that was like, “I’m moving to New York, I’m going to pursue my dreams of being on Broadway, and by being here and donating to my cause, you are part of that journey.” At the time it didn’t feel that amazing but now looking back…I see that it’s pretty amazing. Bold. But I’ve always been strangely entrepreneurial- I loved planning and executing grand schemes as a kid. When I was in fifth and sixth grades I somehow got it in my head that I wanted to put on a Carnival in our backyard to raise money for the Battered Women’s Shelter of Milwaukee. I got a couple friends to help me— we convinced the puppy kennel across the street to bring a little pen with puppies so people could pay to play with the puppies for ten minutes. There was face painting and some basic carnival games…My dad barbecued wings, and I think I raised like three hundred bucks both summers to give to this shelter. I always had these wild plans and ideas— I mean, I had three separate babysitting clubs in three separate states. I started a lot of businesses as a youth… Oh, but anyway- the show. I was like, “I’m putting on a show, please help me get to New York.”

AF: I don’t think many people would have the audacity to do all of that. That’s incredible.

NQ: That’s where the tenacity comes in. I was pretty fearless. Oh, gosh it’s so silly now. I had a feather boa for the opening number, which was “Broadway Baby” and the show was called….Broadway Baby.

AF: So… is there a video of this somewhere?

NQ: Oh gosh- there is… but I’m actually afraid to watch it. I had this really short haircut, and felt like an adult woman and I was twenty. I presented this show like I was a thirty-five year old broad. I’m sure it’s on VHS somewhere.

AF: So then you raised $5,000, you move to New York…

NQ: I moved to New York, and I knew nobody. I lived in Astoria. My roommate was a nurse. I found a waitressing job my first week in New York and Carmine’s in Times Square. I remember sitting on the floor with my Backstage, circling the auditions that I wanted to go to. I was non-union when I moved here so my first audition was at a YMCA, for a production of Beauty and the Beast. It was in the evening. I went, and it was filled with a cast of characters rivaling Waiting for Guffman and I thought…something about this is weird. I sang my audition song, “A Little Bit In Love,” and got a callback for later that evening and so I sat there for a minute…and then I left and didn’t go to the callback. I remember sitting in the room and there were actors in the corner singing RENT to each other full voice and I thought, “I don’t think I want this weird job at the YMCA.” I didn’t know what else to do other than buy Backstage and give it a go, though! Oh-  I also bought those clear mailing envelopes where you can see your headshot through the window, and mailed out probably five hundred to any person with an address. I looked like a forty-year old woman in my headshots so that was outrageous.

The second audition I went to was for Theatreworks USA. I got a callback…and then I got it! It was a three month tour of the show, “Just So Stories”. Anyway, I went to quit my job at Carmines and the manager said, “You will never make as much money as an actor as you are making here.” And I was like, “Sorry! I didn’t move here to be a waitress!” I did the three month tour- mostly for young elementary school kids. We had to build and breakdown the set at each new stop, and we stayed in really random hotels in weird towns. At the time it didn’t feel like a big deal because it wasn’t “Broadway.” I just couldn’t see that it was one of the steps there. Now of course I’m like, “Holy Sh*t, that’s unbelievable! Your second audition you get your Equity card!?” So then…after tour I came back to NY. I had a friend that I had done summer stock with just move to the city, and we happened to live across the street from each other in Astoria. She was already in the Union and suggested we start going to auditions together. So for the next few months, she and I woke up at 5:45 every morning to catch the train by 6:30, be in line at the Equity building at 7:15, fully dressed in hair and makeup. We would have a plan where we would hit all these different auditions in one day. We got each other up early every morning- it was nice having a buddy. We would go at least four or five days a week. We were pretty aggressive about it.

AF: Did you have a job at the same time??

NQ: Yes, I started catering! I had to buy a tuxedo…I probably still have it. So, the following March my audition friend tells me she’s going to an call for Disney Cruise line and I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do but I went with her anyway, and ended up getting the job! I got to develop a brand new musical for the ship- it was a pretty fun job that lasted about nine months. I got back off the ship the following March- it was great! I made some wonderful friends, paid off all my credit cards, and saved a little money, too.

So then one of the girls I was working with on the ship had been working at this bar on ninth avenue called, Vintage. I was visiting her at work one day, and the owner was there, and I asked him if I could work there and he said, “Sure, when can you start?”

I worked there for six years! It was such a fun and iconic place. Working there totally changed my life. So many of my friends in the business I met because I initially waited on them. I met my husband at Vintage. I met the casting directors for the Roundabout theatre at Vintage. I asked them if I could be a reader at auditions sometime, and they said yes! I met so many people and got to watch so many incredible auditions during my time as a reader. It was invaluable. I was actually the reader for one of the plays that Alex Timbers directed…and when he was doing Bloody Bloody several years later, he remembered me from that experience. I was committed to staying in New York. I didn’t want to leave for a job again. I had my sights set on Broadway and in order to do that  I decided I needed to stay in New York. Working at Vintage, even though I was waiting on them, I was around people at the level I wanted to be at. In the mean time I started writing these funny songs. I’d written some in college, I’d pick up a guitar at parties and improvise a song. I was doing that casually on the side. I was auditioning still, but only in New York. I got close to a few things…but I wasn’t super confident. I thought those big jobs were so far out of my league… and then I started getting really nervous at musical auditions for some reason. Maybe I wasn’t getting the feedback that I wanted. I started to get really discouraged and my leg started to shake at auditions. I think it’s because I didn’t really know who I was. The material I was picking and singing wasn’t coming from me. I was still singing these old broad songs and my book was such a disaster and it started to make me feel terrible. I went down a hole of thinking I wasn’t ever going to be as good as I thought I needed to be to get the things I wanted.

I went to a career coach and he told me I needed to be in a scene study class to remember why I love acting, and also to take a commercial class. So I signed up for both… I hadn’t done scene work since college probably, and this class helped me remember that I really loved acting and I started to get my confidence back and remember who I was. It was really terrifying at first, but it gave me back some confidence. And then I took this commercial class and got a commercial agent…who is still my agent! The night after we presented to agents at the end of class he goes, “I like you! I’m gonna start sending you out on sh*t! I’m gonna call you tomorrow!”. I don’t think I believed him but he called me the next day, brought me in, and signed me. And then things started to fall into place. My commercial career happened much more easily than anything else. But of course I still wanted to be on Broadway!

So I took a Musical Theatre audition class with a casting director from Telsey and in that class after I performed she said, “Hey I remember you! You’re that really funny waitress from Vintage. You’re funny! How come when you sing, you stand up there, arms straight at your side, singing these serious songs into the distance with no personality?” And I was like, “I don’t know!” And she suggested I take Improv classes at UCB. That really changed my life… I realized I needed to find where the truth was within me as a performer and improv really helped with that. It’s such an in-the-moment art-form. It really helped me to find my voice. I started writing more funny songs, just for fun.

A boyfriend at the time encouraged me to sing a couple songs at an open mic at bar one night and it was really fun. Everyone responded a lot and they asked me back to play again. So then I found other places to sing…and I bought an amp…and then I asked Vintage if I could sing every Monday night at the back the bar. They said yes. It was fun- I gave out prizes from the dollar store. Maybe twenty people would show up, but it was really fun. I decided eventually that I wanted to do a show at the Laurie Beechman, I had started dating Aaron (my husband), so he played the guitar, and my friend Patrick who I wrote songs with played the piano, and two of my other friends sang backup. That’s how the band started. Summer and Eve. By the end of our run, we’d written probably forty songs. Aaron and I recently decided we’re going to start up the band again, just the two of us, since we have so much material. We’re calling it: Summer & Steve.

AF: I love it! How sweet to get to create together! So now we all want to know… how did you book Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?

NQ: Well, I auditioned with original music for BBAJ. I played guitar and sang a Summer and Eve song about Dame Judi Dench… and I think I felt comfortable for the first time in a long time because I was genuinely doing me. I wasn’t trying to do a thing that didn’t feel right. And then I also continued doing Summer & Eve, doing commercials…and then that job ended and I started auditioning again.

What I’ve realized through all of this is what’s always been the most satisfying to me has been creating my own stuff. In this business… people weren’t giving me what I wanted…and then I realized you can’t sit around waiting for people to give you what you want. I stopped seeing the downtime as failure, and focused on making things I wanted to be in. As soon as Bloody Bloody ended, I started writing a musical with my husband and best friend that we just work-shopped this year called, It’s the Bear. It takes a long time to write a musical! We hope to do a bigger workshop next summer.

AF: Congratulations!

NQ: Thank you! It always came from a place of wanting to do things that weren’t being given to me. Why not make it myself!

AF: It’s so easy to compare.

NQ: Yes. Many peers who I moved to the city with have huge Broadway careers and it’s a mind-f*ck some times. But that’s their path. There’s no “right way”. This career isn’t linear. It’s hills and valleys and nothing about it makes sense.

AF: With that said… how would you define success?

NQ: I think success is a bizarre concept that really doesn’t even mean anything. I still feel unsuccessful a lot of the time. I feel far from my ultimate goals.

AF: As somebody who’s just starting out, I feel like that’s insane, because your career is so rich!

NQ: I know that of course, but I think what I’ve realized is….there’s no job, or moment, or thing that is going to propel you suddenly to being at this place where you feel more successful. I think it always feels like….what’s next? I think success is finding peace with yourself as an artist and a creator where you don’t depend on jobs to give you value.

AF: That is so good. I’m going to tattoo that on my arm.

NQ: You are an artist. I am an artist. I’m going to make art until I die. But that’s not jobs. I’m going to get some jobs and then those jobs are going to end, and in between I’ll need to find a way to still feel valuable. For me, that’s been writing music, going to museums, making stuff, reading, hanging out with friends. Realizing that life is worth more than climbing up the mountain. Maybe climbing up the mountain is part of the fun of it because what happens when you get to the top of the mountain? You’re just standing at the top of a mountain? Where do you go then? So…yeah…I totally dream of being a household name, but I can’t worry about that. Just gotta make the things I want to work on, and take it a day at a time.

AF: You have to be crazy enough to believe that it could happen.

NQ: Right, and why not? Someone else is already doing it…and the only reason they’re doing it is because they THINK THEY CAN DO IT… so why don’t we all just do it? I’m writing my own stuff because it’s going to be like this way forever. I heard a story that when Judi Dench gets a new job (can you tell I’m obsessed wtih her?), she keeps her purse on her lap incase they ask her to leave. I think those feelings of, “Do I belong? Am I good enough? Have I made it?” never go away. The parameters just change.  If you had told 21 year old me that I’d be on Broadway at 29 I’d probably think, “Oh wow! Then I’ll have made it!” But of course the show ended, and I felt back at square one… even though, of course, I wasn’t.

Keeping your brain in it in the right way is work. Mastering how you handle the downtime… Like this blog that you’re doing is helping you grow as an artist and human— making connections, keeping yourself busy. Tonight I am re-joining acting class just for fun! I’m shooting a couple days on a film in two weeks, I have a few other jobs here or there…but most days I am simply waiting around for auditions! I missed singing, so I started this “series” where I sing duets on my couch with friends. It’s just for fun, but it does bring me a lot of joy.

AF: I love that! What are your words to live by?

NQ: SAY YES! I’ve done all kinds of incredible things by just saying yes. You never know the opportunity that might be disguising itself as something seemingly strange. My grandma always told me, “Put your deepest desires out to the universe and then don’t say no to opportunities because they could be your answer coming to you. Just because it doesn’t look the way you were expecting it to, it could still lead to other things…”  You have to really stay open. I think I got caught up stressing that my dream was the same as everyone else’s dream and I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough space for all of us. The quicker you realize that’s complete and utter horse sh*t, the better. There is no limit on success. We are all completely different individuals and there’s no way to quantify or qualify what’s going to happen for you or know when or how it’s going to happen!

This is an analogy I came up with… I think of a project being cast as a chef creating a recipe. The casting director and director are making an omelette, for example… and all the actors coming in are all the different ingredients they could put in. And they’re like, “We’ve already cast eggs…but we need four other things.” They’ve been presented with strawberries, parsley, and feta cheese…like if somebody asked me to pick between strawberries or feta cheese it wouldn’t be possible because I like them both individually and in totally equal but different ways. Right? So this director sees all the ingredients and picks her four favorite ingredients that she thinks IN HER OPINION…match best with the eggs that are already going in the omelette. They love strawberries! But they’re not going in the omelet, you know? But, maybe they’re gonna make strawberry ice cream next and then you’ll be just the perfect ingredient! It’s all totally subjective. I try to walk away from an audition knowing the results have little to do with my work, as long as I am being authentic to myself. Be you, OWN your work, and know that whatever burning desire you have is unique to you. Also…take class. Stay in class! You can’t ever be too good.

 

 

Emma Stratton: Be Happy

emma stratton

On October nineteenth, I met with Broadway’s freshest face, Emma Stratton, who I met last year when we performed in a concert together at 54Below. I decided on Bibble & Sip because I’d been told their coffees were fit for a queen and since Emma is currently in Prince of Broadway, it was fitting. We sat in a cozy nook surrounded by greenery and peppy New Yorkers on their lunch break, breathing in aromas of coffee, matcha pastries, and floral lattes.

*Ideal cup of coffee: I drink coffee but caffeine doesn’t affect me! It’s sort of a nightmare because if I’m tired I have to take a nap. But my ideal cup of coffee is a really good cappuccino with just a thin layer of foam and my favorite place to get a cappuccino in the city is Buvette in the West Village. It’s so cute. It’s this French restaurant…it’s adorable. My cousin was just here and she used to live in the West Village and we actually bought shirts that say Buvette on them because we go all the time. It’s all you need.


AF: What are you drinking right now?

ES: The Lavender Latte from Bibble and Sip!

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

ES: I would say…introverted for sure, romantic…in all aspects…in life. I light a candle every morning and make flower arrangements. I have really close relationships with my family so maybe loyal? Loyal. My family flew out for the show on a red eye as soon as they heard I was going on.

AF: That’s so great!! I want to talk about being introverted. It seems that this is a trend with actors. Do you think actors who are more introverted are perhaps more drawn to performing as an escape?

ES: I spend a lot of time alone. I prefer it. It’s probably not healthy. Other then spending two and a half hours at the show I could probably spend all day alone. And I’ve always been that way! I also did tour two years in a row right out school and when you go to school for Musical Theatre you’re constantly with your class…so it was four years of that…and then Non-eq touring. I was sharing a bed with somebody most of the time because we would share a room with four people to save money so that’s added to it I’m sure! And as actors, I feel like maybe because we have the whole day and then two and a half hours at night where we just have to give it our all…that might be a reason.

AF: Tell us a little bit of your back-story…where you’re from…

ES: So I’m originally from Minnesota and then we moved when I was 7 or so to San Diego, California to a beach town. My dad has seven brothers and sisters all in Minnesota so we had like twenty cousins…and we had to move for his job. I’m the youngest of a brother and sister and we didn’t know anyone. So my mom put us in theatre to meet people. There’s the funny story that we always tell…I was too young to be in theatre so my brother and sister were in Oliver and I helped them memorize all their lines and so when it got to opening night I was a very annoying child singing and saying every line and at intermission the director was sitting in front of me and she turned around and she was like, “You need to audition for our next show…who are you?” And I was like, “I’m too young to do it!” And she’s like, “You’ll be fine.” So I auditioned for Bye Bye Birdie and at that time in that theatre company everybody could watch you audition and it was accapella. It was the scariest thing of my entire life.

AF: Were your song options “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “Happy Birthday”? Those were ours!!

ES: Oh my gosh! Hilarious. No- we could sing whatever we wanted so I sang “Meet Me in St. Louis” and I forgot what it was called, which to this day happens. So anyway my sister mouths it in the audience, “Meet Me In St. Louis.” So that was funny. And yeah I grew up doing community theatre and was in the ensemble for literally…ten years, which was the greatest gift I could ever receive because I never expected anything, I loved what I did, but I also knew that I could do parts! When I was in Beauty and the Beast, I knew I could do Belle. I was confident in myself even though nobody else was… which sounds really bad but it really was a gift!

AF: That’s all you need!!

ES: Right!? So randomly when I was seventeen, I was cast as Amneris in Aida and that was amazing. My family saw it on Broadway and so when it happened it was magic. It was at the Jewish Community Center… which like…we’re not Jewish but still it was the greatest thing in the world. And then after that I auditioned for schools. I really wanted to go abroad because my family loves traveling so I was going go to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

AF: It’s so crazy to think about how different life would be if we’d taken different paths.

ES: I could have been in Scotland for four years. Amazing…but so different. I sort of just wanted to be in a different place. I didn’t love growing up in California because it was a little plastic for me. But I loved New York. Anyway I got in early admission and was like, great because that was my dream school. And then when Unifieds came through LA my mom thought I should just audition to have a backup in case. Penn State was my last audition.

AF: My dad went to Penn State by the way!

ES: No way! Well long story short we went to Scotland to look at the campus, after I’d already gotten into Penn State which I didn’t really care about since I was so dead set on having a really cool abroad experience. Also I love Alan Cumming and Alan Cumming went there. My dad sat me down and said, “Do you want to be the best in your field or the second best?” Which was one hundred percent valid. And I was like, “The best, obviously, if I’m going to spend four years doing this instead of just going to New York.” And he didn’t pressure me at all but told me to really think about my craft and what I want to do.

AF: Dads are the best at just laying it out for you.

ES: He’s the best. He’s my best friend. So I went to Penn State, was in a bunch of shows, and then on my last day of classes I got the Anything Goes tour, which was very magical…

AF: And you were Reno, right?

ES: It was incredible.

AF: So were you going in and out of the city for auditions?

ES: Yes, and Penn State is only a four hour train ride into the city which is great. So I had done Into the Woods a few months earlier with a director from Penn State, who was getting his MFA in Musical Theatre directing, and so before he came back to school he had done a ton of National Tours. I knew that the Anything Goes tour was casting but because of finals I couldn’t make it. Then three weeks into their casting, this director texts me and asks if I tap dance. I didn’t know what he was working on and I said I could, why? He tells me that they’re trying to find a Reno and they can’t find what they need. And I said, “Okay let me know what I need to do!” So the next week it was SO fast. Monday was singing and sides, Tuesday was dancing, Wednesday was with Kathleen Marshall and everybody. Luckily it was Anything Goes so it’s a show everybody knows so I didn’t have to cram or anything. I feel like everybody sounds good on Cole Porter because it’s just classic!

AF: You’re being SO modest!

ES: I really feel that way! Anyway it went great and literally on my last day of classes at 10 am, two days later, I get the call. It was just meant to be! I hadn’t really woken up yet and I was living with my best friend at the time and I put the phone on my mute while they’re giving me all the details and I’m knocking on my friend’s door and he’s like, “WHAT!” and I’m like, “I got it!” and we’re both jumping up on down. I mean it was a Non-Equity tour with a bunch of one-nighters and I was living my dream; getting paid to do what I wanted to do, it was everything. I’m so glad that my first job was a Non-Equity tour because it taught me that I could do whatever. I don’t care how tired or sick I am… it taught me a lot. I’m sleeping on the floor of a bus on a million one-nighters and I LOVE this.

AF: For you to have gone through the rough and tough and to come out still loving it, that’s amazing!

ES: It all goes back to not being cast for ten years and then getting to do it! And then six months into that tour, James Gray, one of Susan Stroman’s associates, came to do some Bullets over Broadway stuff with our ensemble girls and saw the show and then after was like, “Hey we’re casting the Bullets Over Broadway National Tour and you’d be great for two parts…we’re calling you in.” A couple months go by and everybody has gotten an email to come in except for me! And I’m really bad at plugging myself but so a week before auditions I emailed him and was like, “Hey! No worries, just wanted to reach out… I’m still interested I don’t know if you remember me!” So he can’t believe I didn’t get an email so then I get one and I went in for the older and younger roles… Helen and Ellen. So Helen’s supposed to be a fifty-year old woman and low and behold that’s the role that I got! I came in for the last three days of that casting and I remember making Susan laugh and I thought my life is over. If I have one moment…that’s all I need. Two days later, I was having a cupcake and I got a call! We rehearsed in New 42nd Street Studios and it was amazing. I did that for a year. It was the first national so this time we had week long sit-downs in places and we thought this is the good life! We went to Minneapolis and so my whole family got to see it!

AF: So after these tours, what did your first year in New York City look like?

ES: So I did tours for two years out of college, then moved to New York in August, signed a lease in Harlem. I’ve been kind of in and out. For Christmas my family and I went to Switzerland! My parents sold their house and decided to do a family trip. And then I went away to Maltz Jupiter to do Gypsy. Louise is one of my top three dream roles so that was great.

AF: So now we all want to know…what was your audition process for Prince of Broadway?

 ES: It’s quite an exciting story. So James Gray who came to Anything Goes who said I should audition for Bullets Over Broadway has been my angel since the beginning.

AF: Connections, connections, connections.

ES: Absolutely. My parents were in town in November, we were waiting to go to Jacob’s Pickles on a Sunday, which was a very stupid idea because we had to wait like two hours. But I remembered this antique shop that I kept walking past and it was always closed. I tell my parents to wait at the restaurant, and that I’m going to go see if the shop is open. I walk in and James Gray is randomly behind the counter, working at the antique shop. And he tells me his really good friend owns the place and that he’s just subbing for him for a couple hours and that he lives down the street. So we’re catching up, and in the middle of it he asks if I’d be interested in swinging for Prince of Broadway. And I’m like, “Of course!” He listed off a bunch of Sondheim songs that I would sing and he tells me the auditions are in April. So I tell him that I’m doing Gypsy but I’ll fly in on my days off. So I keep contacting my agents about it, and while I’m in Florida they finally find out about the audition dates and I’m in actual shows and cannot make it. I texted James and asked if I could send a video and he said, “No I’d really like Jason Robert Brown to see you in person.” So I’m like…okay…right. And then I get a call a week before I’m supposed to get home and my agents tell me they’ve changed the dates to the day I get back. And so I left the day of our final matinee, got home at 1 am, and couldn’t sleep, lost my voice four days before. My best friend in Amsterdam is a voice teacher so we’re Skyping four times a day, he’s trying to get stuff out of me. I had to sing from Phantom of the Opera, “Buenos Aires,” and “You’ve Got Possibilities.” I’m screwed, I can’t sing. I woke up, went to Ripley for an hour and half just trying to warm up. I went in for Tara Rubin and James and did it and it was okay. James took me aside and he said come back to dance. I came back, danced, felt great about it. Then he dismissed everybody and told me to stay. If he didn’t know me, I wouldn’t have gotten a callback. So remember that! He said, “Come back tomorrow for Hal…walk in like the star that you are and just do it.”

AF: That makes me want to cry! Everyone needs a James!

ES: Right? And I needed to hear that. And so I spent the rest of the day just memorizing even more, putting it my body. I woke up, got there at one, and right before my audition I had a full on panic attack. I’m thinking I’m about to do all of this for Hal. Also- literally the reason I do Musical Theatre is because of Hal and Steve. Hal is actually a friend now, which unbelievable. So I’m thinking my entire life has led up to this, if this doesn’t go well it will not end well for me and then I just told myself to get it together. I was the last one of the day, went in, and acted like I owned the place. Something came over me. I did “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and I looked down afterwards and Hal was wiping away tears from his eyes. Everything in my body was saying keep it together you cannot start crying. Then Jason (Robert Brown) wanted to hear, “You’ve Got Possibilities” which is SO fun and I definitely messed up a bunch of the lyrics and was kind of laughing at myself and everybody was laughing and it was awesome. It was such great energy. And I finished and Hal asked, “Is there anything you can’t do?” and I died. So then I go into the bathroom and start crying and I tell myself okay you have to leave the building, and THEN you can cry. So I left the bathroom and Susan was walking in as I was walking out and grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “You just had an amazing audition, Hal loves you.” And I said, “Thank you!” I got in the elevator…it was like Samantha in Sexy and the City, the doors closed and I immediately started crying. And then I remember being in a yellow fog walking down 42nd street thinking, “my life is made.” I got the call two days later, I was on thirteenth and six and my agents asked, “How would you feel about making your Broadway debut in Prince of Broadway?” I started crying in the middle of the street, face-timed with my parents to tell them and they were driving and they had to pull over because my dad started crying…

AF: That’s insane! So many happy tears. So are you THE female understudy?

ES: I cover three women, so it’s a mix of a standby, swing, and an understudy. I have to be there every night. I get a call a few weeks later and Hal asked if I’d be interested in covering the third role which is the Emily Skinner role. Then a month later I was in pre-production and I got to meet Hal for real and he kissed me on the cheek and said, “I’ve been thinking about your audition for a month.” I have everything written down because this will never happen again… I’ve been in love with him my entire life.

AF: Do you hear that Hal?!

ES: No, he does hear that because when I met him for the first time I shook his hand and said I’ve been in love with you my entire life. I’m not kidding. He’s the greatest man on planet Earth. I feel like I’ve been perpetually crying around New York since April.

AF: So let’s talk about your Broadway debut…

ES: Saying all this out loud is very magical for me. I’ve been obsessed with Sondheim my whole life so it was such a blessing to get to cover the Emily Skinner role because I wasn’t supposed to. She sings everything you’ve ever wanted to sing and the second act opens with everybody singing, “Company” and then it goes right into “Ladies who Lunch.” So nobody had called out yet and two weeks ago on a two show day, Emily was like, “Just so you know, I’m not feeling well, I’ll probably get through this first show, second show you’ll be on.” I watched from the balcony incase anything happened and then ten minutes before intermission James Gray finds me and says, “Get your stuff. You’re going on for the second act.” It was kind of the perfect way to do it because I didn’t have time to think about it. I’m flying down the stairs, then back up the stairs, throwing makeup on my face, warming up, putting my wig on, get her mic on me…so I made my Broadway debut singing, “Ladies who Lunch.” My friend ran from Harlem, and got to the show in time for my second song of the second act. Then seven of my close friends came to the second show and Sarah Bareilles was also in the audience. I ended up going on five and a half times in a row. My dad and sister saw it three times and my mom and my brother saw it two times.

AF: I know this is just the beginning of an incredible career for you. I have to ask, when you have hard those hard days or stressful auditions, what/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business?

ES: It sounds weird but having a lot of interests outside of theatre puts everything in perspective. You have to have a full life so if work isn’t going great…it’s a season. Of course there are people who I’ll call but it’s mostly focusing on beautiful flowers and putting them in my room and fixating on that, or whatever interests you have! You live once!

AF: It’s so inspiring to meet with actors at all different points in their career. What would you say are your words to live by?

ES: Do things that genuinely make you happy. If I want to take a pottery class that will make me really happy, that will translate in that audition room because I’m going in as a full human.

AF: Well cheers to the ladies who coffee!