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!

 

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Annabelle Fox: Breaking Type

coffee

On Friday October 13th, my birthday, my husband agreed to interview me for the blog. He whipped up homemade coconut cinnamon lattes for both of us, and we embarked on a gorgeous walk through Inwood Hill Park all the way to Fort Tryon’s breathtaking overlook. I thought it would be fun to spend my birthday morning reflecting on my first few years in NYC. I’m looking forward to many more in this city that never sleeps!

*Ideal cup of coffee: Very hot with a little bit of coconut or almond milk.

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DWT: Helloooooooo and welcome to Actor Meets Coffee! This is a very special interview because well… it’s Annabelle’s birthday and so we are taking a walk and I am going to ask her her own questions! Hash-tag-hubby-take-over… here we go.

AF: Oh no, we’re not drinking coffee right now!

DWT: Well- I made you an incredible coconut steamed latte this morning with cinnamon sugar so I think maybe you can just remember your coffee during these questions…

AF: Haha, you’re right… it was a double-shot. Must be why we’re walking so fast.

DWT: Describe yourself in 3 words.

AF: Intuitive, peppy, and sociable.

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

I’m from Wilton, CT…I did all the shows at Wilton High School.

DWT: And you won, Wilton Idol!

AF: When I sang, “Tomorrow” from Annie. That show has just followed me around.

DWT: The kids made you sing it on the playground and you were like, “I think I want to be an actress.” And then you followed your dreams.

AF: Right- and then I went to Belmont University for Musical Theatre…where I met you. And the first show we did together was…Anything Goes.

DWT: And I flirted with you hardcore.

AF: You thought you were flirting but really you were just winking by the wings. And then I moved to NYC in 2015…auditioned a ton, got my card in 2016, signed with CLA, and then landed two lead roles this year! Woo woo!

DWT: What did your first year in New York City look like?

AF: At first… a lot of early mornings to got on that nonequity list…

D: Dat non-eq lyf doe!

AF: Ugh..I feel for you guys. I was really lucky because I booked an Off Broadway kids show at Vital Theatre from a video submission during a contract right before moving… so when I arrived I just jumped right in. It was really nice to be a part of a show while I was auditioning because I had somewhere to go and perform on the weekends after a long week of being on the grind!

DWT: Hash-tag grinding away….

AF: Then that Summer of 2015 I was part of Spring Awakening at the Hangar. Then I came back and was a part of the Off Broadway premier of the kids show, Flight School. While I was a part of that I was auditioning a lot for Theatreworks and then after about 5 callbacks, booked Junie B. Jones in the Junie Tour. I left the city to tour for 6 months, came back and oh and in that timeline we got engaged and married…so kind of a crazy ride!

DWT: And what were those two Equity contracts you mentioned before…?

AF: I played Magnolia Hawks in Showboat at the Alhambra and then shortly after Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain at Summer Theatre of New Canaan in Connecticut and actually got to live at home in Connecticut with my parents since you were away performing in Nantucket.

DWT: What attracted you to a career in the theatre in the first place?

AF: I’ve always been very dramatic and creative. I loved feeling totally separate from myself but also fully myself at the same time. At age 11, I loved being Annie in Annie probably because I’d always wanted to be an orphan! Haha- when I was five years old my parents walked into my room and found me “counting my money to be an orphan” after not winning an argument…haha. No- but I don’t know…I didn’t know that part of me existed but when I found it on stage in front of everyone it was like, “Oh this is fun!” And I’ve loved that adrenaline rush ever since!

DWT: What/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business? Definitely me, right!?

AF: Yes…definitely you! There have been so many days where I’m like, “I can’t do this…there are thousands of girls that are just like me…” and Douglas is like, “No but you’re special!” and I’m like, “No I’m not!” But then when I channel what is unique about me in the room it’s always a more successful audition because I look at it as a performance opportunity and time to tell a story rather than just checking it off the list.

DWT: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date as an actor?

AF: I think it’s been an accomplishment to have worked consecutively after my Theatreworks tour! For a long time I was placed into a stereotype of young/child roles…and after playing Junie B, I was ready to embrace this “type.” But I think I’ve been successful in breaking through those stereotypes. It was just a few months after tour when I booked Magnolia in Showboat and I was getting to play these ingénue roles. It’s an accomplishment to have reevaluated my type or lack of type!

DWT: What is the hardest and the greatest thing about living in the city?

AF The hardest thing about living in the city is feeling like you have to constantly “go go go” and if you take a moment to breathe you’ll fall behind. But at the end of the day when I realize I’m getting caught up in the chaos of the city I need to sit back and assess how far I’ve come because if I don’t, I get so overwhelmed. The city can be very overwhelming if we don’t give ourselves permission to relax and release. The greatest thing about living in the city is all the opportunity, being close to friends, and to be able to say, “I’m doing it!”- at least for this season of life…!

DWT: Hash-tag just do it…hash-tag Nike!

AF: And when you do have those achievements or those breakthrough auditions… it’s really exciting! Classes pay off, certain relationships that you cultivate could lead you to the next big thing which is really what’s so cool about this city! You could be friends with someone in a show, and turns out they’re also a writer, and they want you to sing one of their songs from their show or be part of a concert for a friend, and you hear those stories about there being casting director in the audience…

DWT: We’ve all heard this story before

AF: And they’re like, “Hey I just heard you sing and I want to cast you in a show!”—Not that this has happened to me yet but I think that’s so exciting and cool and keeps me going. You just never know when it can happen!

DWT: How do you evaluate success?

AF: Success is being happy amidst the chaos.

DWT: I think that’s a good answer! What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve taken away from a contract or a role?

AF: I think with Theatreworks I realized I needed to take better care of myself. I wasn’t eating properly, sleeping enough, or doing the typical physical or vocal warm-ups because our time was so limited…so I learned that with that contract.

DWT: You learned your limits.

AF: Yeah- I also have learned that I can do more than I was capable of! With Showboat I was really scared because I’d never played such a legit role. It’s cool to learn through experience your greatest potential!

DWT: What are your words to live by?

AF: I always say this to other people… everything happens for a reason. Whenever I’m confused about why something went the way it did, I have to remind myself of this.

DWT: I thought your words were, “Love is patient, love is kind!”

AF: No- those were from our vows!! The other one would be Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” I think this is more important now than ever in our ever-changing world. It’s really easy to want to be like other people if we see them having success. It’s easy to want to emulate somebody and want to be just like them but it’s important to remain true to yourself and at the same time be open to all the opportunities ahead of you.

DWT: What’s the best thing about your husband? Going off the books! This is NOT one of Annabelle’s questions…

AF: The best thing is that he’s equally goofy and serious. So when I need tough love and truth about an audition or situation or scenario he is all truth bombs. And he’s also always performing for me. He keeps me laughing… which is important!

DWT: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I’m gonna answer for you…

AF: These are things I think we’ve agreed on…?

DWT: NYC scenario: Ten years from now Annabelle will have five dogs and will be living in a penthouse apartment…central park west at 74th street, one child, you’ll be in a Broadway show… But if we move to Nashville we will be living somewhere in Brentwood or Green Hills and we’ll have a garden and we’ll have several golden retrievers and you will be running some sort of Theatre thing…

AF: You think??

DWT: Yep! Definitely. Hey- so thanks for reading this week’s Actor Meets Coffee!

AF: I hope you’ve sipped along and enjoyed your coffee and our chats!

DWT: Cheers to you!

 

Jamie Boswell: Patience is a Virtue

this for blog

On Wednesday October 4th,  I met my fellow Theatreworks alum and audition grind soulmate, Jamie Boswell for coffee at the cutest nook in Harlem, The Monkey Cup. After meeting him two years ago during his six month National tour with Curious George, I thought it was only fitting to to take him to a coffee shop that specializes in monkey face latte art. With our smiling lattes, shelves of books, and ivy lined walls, we discussed how to stay positive in NYC, babysitting, and the delicious carrot muffin we shared (not included in the interview below).

*Ideal cup of coffee: I actually don’t drink coffee much. I recently started drinking coffee more…but only at work! I started when I was working at Ralph Lauren. Usually it’s with a little bit of half and half and two sugars or it’s iced… then I go hardcore like an iced mocha latte which is basically caffeinated chocolate milk!


AF: How are you drinking your coffee right now?

JB: I’m drinking a “Monkey-chino” with Skim Milk. I don’t know what it is… It’s just a Cappuccino. Extra strong!

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

JB: Passionate, driven, optimistic realist.

AF: Cheers to that! Speaking on being an optimist realist, how have your first few years in New York looked like and how has that characteristic helped you…?

JB: I moved here just over two years ago, July 2015 and then in the following month I was cast in a new play out in Brooklyn called, Patronage. While I was in rehearsals for that I was cast in a Theatreworks tour. The play finished and then I went home for the holidays and then rehearsals started for Curious George. I did that for 6 months…and that’s when you and I met at the van garage! When I first got here I moved in with some friends on the UES, literally sleeping on their couch. I would wake up and go to auditions. Since it was summer and auditions were slow, I went to EPAS and ECCS and got seen! One of the first auditions I went to was for Telsey, Diner the musical. They were doing an out of town tryout in DC. Justin Huff was casting. I’m bright eyed, green as can be. I went in and auditioned and felt really good about it and the following week I got a call from Telsey asking me to come in for Kinky Boots! I went in for one of the angels! Since I’m 6’4’’ I understand why they would bring me in for that. I prepared everything and felt ready but it was a weird season and my allergies went to hell. So I pushed through but of course the vocal track for the angels is stratospherically high. They had said if we wanted to, come in with some element of drag….so I go, “Okay…I’ll just put a little eye liner on.” I go upstairs, was the last appointment of the day, four guys in front of me in booty shorts and heels, and I was like oh… I go in and Justin’s like, “Let’s start the song…” I hit the notes and acted the hell out of it…but it just wasn’t the prettiest sound! I finish and Justin goes, “You know what buddy…this part is written for unicorns.” And the accompanist pops out and goes, “Yeah, alto unicorns…” and we all shared a laugh. So that was a whole experience. I actually just auditioned for him since that last time at the My Fair Lady EPA and it went really well and I felt like I redeemed myself!

AF: What attracted you to a career in the theatre in the first place?

JB: When I was a little kid I had crippling stage fright. I don’t know what it was…I grew up in a household- my parents are both ministers but my mom’s undergrad was vocal performance. My mom has a gorgeous mezzo soprano voice. Every time I listen to her sing it’s just, “the BEST.” And my dad’s undergrad was in History but they both did choir and did shows. So I grew up in this household watching Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and Brigadoon.  My mom was in Brigadoon in college and there’s an amazing picture where she’s playing Meg Brockie on this chaise lounge and she’s so sassy. I sang in the church choir and always stood in the back…also because I was one of the tallest kids but I was always terrified that people were looking at me! I was cast as the Nightingale in a Christmas pageant called, The Birds of ChristmasOne Saturday we’re having rehearsal in the sanctuary, nobody was there except for a few parents, some kids, and the choir director and I stand up to do my solo and immediately start hysterically crying and hide behind the narrator. My mom came up to me and was like, “What’s going on?” and I’m like, “I can’t do it!” So I kept the solo but I ended up singing into a microphone kinda hidden in the corner. This was in fourth grade. I don’t know what it is was but in my Middle School I auditioned for theatre troupe, an after school program that my older sister had done. My twin and I decided we would do it. So for our auditions, we had to go in and sing the National Anthem. I’m thinking I’ll just be in the ensemble. When they called us back in middle school, I don’t think it was for specific parts, it was just to hear us sing again…the cast list went up and I didn’t know I was even really being considered for any leads, and then I got Daddy Warbucks! I was the same height as Annie and we were both Sopranos. I don’t know what came over me after that but my mom said, “You have a job to do!” And then it clicked. The rest is history…

AF: What/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business?

JB: I want to be able to move people. I want to be able to share my voice and abilities. I want to have that intimate experience with people… just to know that they’re there and I’m baring my soul. It’s so interesting because as actors we’re so vulnerable but then we need to have this glossy exterior. I like to tell my family that I’m in it for the long haul… as long as it takes I’m here. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Some people are lucky and book Broadway or a TV show right out of school. I have a friend that’s been hustling for a long time and doing lots of great work but said, “I always do these shows that I never expect to be in…but I’ll never book something like, Hamilton.” Fast-forward to him booking Hamilton. You can just never expect where things will go.

AF: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date as an actor?

JB: Obviously Daddy Warbucks…where can you go from there? I was very fortunate in college. A major turning point was my fall semester Junior year…such a tough year. I was in the play, MARAT/SADE and played one of the leads, The Marquis de Sade. It was one of the most gratifying theatrical experiences. I remember in one of the rehearsals my director asked me to pick one word that embodied my character and where that would come from in my body and I thought of the word, “Passion.” He said focus on the word,  and take the time to embody that and something just dropped in me. All of a sudden I had this transformative experience. In school people would always jokingly be like, “Musical Theatre Boy” so to be in an intense play, I feel like I proved myself. Then after graduation and moving here, I got my Equity card. I did it on my own terms. I didn’t have representation and still don’t which is a little frustrating at times…but being able to do that solely based on what I brought to the table is gratifying. Taking your card is different for everyone…but if you know it in your gut… then it’s the right time. I wanted to be taken seriously for certain roles…I needed my card.

AF: What is the hardest and the greatest thing about living in the city?

 JB: The hardest thing is how expensive it is, how crowded it can feel, and the MTA. The amount of times that I have been late because of stupid train delays is absurd. It’s so easy to let that get to you. But the greatest thing about the city is that there is so much to do and I haven’t even tapped into it all! It can run you ragged but can also inspire you in a split second. Yesterday I was picking up one of the kids I babysit for at Lincoln center because her dad is the tech director there…and her mom is the standby for the mothers in Dear Evan Hansen– so I got there early and I sat down right outside the Lincoln Center Theatre building and I had a moment of sudden peace. You know how you have your place in the city? I thought maybe this is my place… where I feel the most zen and also the most inspired.

AF: How do you evaluate success?

JB: I feel like success can be seen in a lot of different ways. I think being successful professionally in this career is if you are continually called in for a casting office…even if you don’t book but are maintaining a good report. And then as a human… if you can survive here that’s success in and of itself. I need to remind myself often that I’m making money and working and making it happen. For the last nine months I’ve gotten no callbacks, received good feedback but nothing ever turned into anything. And then out of nowhere I was called in for called in for a casting office for a show I hadn’t even submitted or auditioned for.… so I thought I must be doing something right! I had a coffee date the other day with a friend and I was feeling really uninspired and I said, “I’m just not jonesin’ with it right now.” And she said, “What is it that’s keeping you attached to it?” And I said, “Because I know it’s what I’m supposed to do…it’s just there.” There’s no question that I’m not supposed to do this… there’s that inner voice that is like, “You’re on the right track!”

AF: It’s so important to tell yourself you’re doing everything right! It’s hard to remember that. What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve taken away from a contract or a role?

JB: I think technically with Theatreworks tours… it has really made me appreciate rituals and doing warmups and stretches and taking the time you need to feel show ready and really take care of your instrument as much as possible. When I was in college I was going 150 miles an hour all four years…I never stopped. I was a full time Musical Theatre student, student ambassador, RA…everything. With Theatreworks, I was prepared to do all of it but it was the first time I actually made adequate, necessary time to do my vocal warm-ups to a full extent…and in that time I felt like my voice was stronger than ever. I remember on tour we were in San Fransisco and we were running forty-five minute late and I was driving the van and just lightly warming up my voice because I didn’t want to compromise my ritual. I think specifically with Curious George I learned the importance of friendships. I mean after all… there is a song in the show called, “Buddy like you.” In order to survive the city it is so important to have those point people, especially if you’re naturally independent…it’s important to have those people to meet up for coffee, watch a movie with, and just be. I did a production of The Wild Party back in Buffalo right after I graduated… my first show out of college. It was such a cool production in such an intimate space! It was such an ensemble piece. I felt so much confidence and I thought my four years at school are being put to good use. You have to be free and open and ready for anything at any time. That was something they taught us at school too, in our training. An aesthetic they always tried to instill in us was, be ready for anything. I felt I fully realized it when I did the show… it wasn’t for an academic reason…it was that I was doing it in real life.

 AF: Walk us through your audition process for Curious George.

JB: I had gone in for their open call. So many people. I sang, “I chose right” from Baby and at the end of the month they called me in for immediate replacement for Fly Guy… I sang my song and Jason goes, “I’m so sorry, I forgot how tall you are so we won’t need to hear you do the sides, but we’d love to have you back for another role!” And I was like, “Okay yeah!” And then at the end of October they brought me in for Lightning Thief, did all the sides, and didn’t get called back for the fight call. And then I had just gotten off the train, turned the corner and got a call and they asked me to come in the next day for Man in the Yellow Hat for Curious George! I go back in for callback, and read the sides with Greg. We sat across from each other and literally stared into each other’s eyes and he’s chittering like a monkey in Curious George’s broken English. I sang a couple more songs…then reminded them I couldn’t go to the dance call because I had this temp job training. I get to the temp job and they’re showing me around the office, and after forty-five minutes we’re done after I had anticipated staying four hours! I told them I had a callback and they said I was good to go! So I’m running from the train, don’t have dance clothes with me, back to Chelsea Studios and make it just in time for the dance call. I do the thing…and by the end of the following week I got an email with the offer. At the time I was temping, auditioning and then bar managing at night. So I’m bar tending, had done all the inventory and was chatting with the ushers and other bar people and they asked if I’d heard anything and I opened my email right after that conversation and there was the offer! I nearly broke down! I was so excited. I just thought, “I get to leave this survival job… I get to travel.” Just the coolest moment! I knew that I needed to do it. No regrets.

 AF: We’re both babysitters…what do you think of this as a survival job? What’s something you gain with this that you wouldn’t necessarily gain with another?

JB: I think with babysitting…not only can you make great connections in the business…but it also keeps you on your toes! When you take the time to remember how inspiring children can be and imaginative they can be, and how free they are…I have to remind myself of that because this is what we do…we play. And yeah they have temper tantrums from time to time and it’s not the easiest thing to work through when you’re tired or running from an audition… but it’s special. I think if you’re good with kids…you should do it.

AF: What are your words to live by?

JB: Patience is a virtue…as cliché as it is. But also…remember who you are and remember there is value in that. You can pull value from where you’ve been.

AF: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

JB: Ideally I see myself on Broadway in less than 10 years…I think and hope in the next five it’ll click for me. Tony nominee?! I want to do it all! TV, Film, straight theatre…I love it all. I’m all about it. Please, hire Jamie Boswell! I see it! The thing I’ve been told a lot is to be kind and be nice because it takes you a long way. I think that is true. I wouldn’t have a a lot of the relationships that I do in the business if I didn’t have a positive attitude. Of course if you have a crappy day…feel those feelings but don’t let it dictate your work, don’t let it dictate how you’re gonna move forward. There’s validity in feeling it all but positivity goes a long way.

Ben Davis: Just Live! Simple.

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On Friday September 29th, aka NATIONAL COFFEE DAY, I met with a former cast-mate and long time friend, Ben Davis. We grabbed one cold brew and one pour over coffee at the Coffee Project downtown to go. The shop was filled with hanging light-bulb fixtures, exposed brick, and cozy seating. Since Fall weather was in our favor, we ventured to Washington Square Park where we sat, sipped, and then stopped at Big Gay Ice cream for a cone before bidding “adieu.”

*Ideal cup of coffee: I usually do pour over at home. I have my own grinder. Right now I have Blue Bottle beans. But I’ve taken to Gimme Coffee…so I’ll get my coffee, my beans and then walk over the Elizabeth Garden

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AF: What a whirlwind of life events that led us here. You’re back in the city! How are you drinking your coffee right now?

BD: My coffee’s black which I usually take with Half and Half but I wanted to taste his pour over and not sully it with cream since he worked so hard on it. It’s very satisfying.

AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

 BD: Curious. Stubborn. Passionate…there you go. Maybe a little hot-headed goes along with the stubbornness.

 AF: Tell us a little bit of your back story….where are you from?

 BD: I’m from Indianapolis. Born in Iowa… raised in Indianapolis. I was kind of a jock all through High school then quit basketball in High School because I was hot-headed. I was mad at the coach… I got mad at him because he benched me for a game. I had missed practices to go to my Aunt’s funeral so F him…I showed him and quit! But quitting Basketball led me to my first audition Junior year which was West Side Story. I used to sing in the back of the bus to get girls. It never worked…I just annoyed them. So I auditioned for West Side Story my Junior year and got Riff… the most non dancing Riff you’ll ever meet! And then in what would never be allowed these days, my Senior year I played Lun Tah in the King and I…spray painted…basically orange…I looked like an oompa loompa… with dark black hair. You couldn’t do it now…people would have an uproar! But that’s another conversation…

AF:Where did you go to school?

BD: I went to Butler University for two years for Voice…and then I left it because I was wasting my parent’s money. I just wasn’t ready for school. I wanted to do the things I wanted to do but not have to take the classes I didn’t want to take. So then I went to work at a brokerage firm, became an assistant to a Financial Advisor in Indianapolis, had actually gotten cast in Beef & Boards theatre as Rolf (in Sound of Music) and turned it down and decided I was just gonna give up the business. And then mom got me the Chicago Performing Arts Trade Paper that had all the auditions in it…we didn’t do online back then! I’m old… This was 1997. So then I went to Chicago for a Phantom open call and was called back for Raoul. I didn’t hear anything and then about 6 weeks later the same casting director said they were coming for auditions for Les Mis and they’d like to have me come up. And so I flew back up. And then they flew me to New York the next week for another audition…that was my second trip to New York…ever. And then I flew back and I was sitting in the office one day and they called me and said, “Hey Ben we didn’t see how high you can sing and there’s a role that’s open- we need to see if you can hit this note.”I had never hit a high A in my life and I left the office and called him and somehow hit it twice and two weeks later I was on the road with Les Mis. That’s luck. That’s like having a horseshoe up your ass… it’s just lucky.

AF: What is your view on pursuing a degree in Theatre?

BD: For me, and I think for a lot of people…I say, instead of going into debt…if you have the discipline and you can do it, use your money and just come to New York, take class, learn from other people, work…because you’re gonna learn so much and see where you’re at. I think that you can really benefit from that. But if you need the structure of school I think it’s fine. But I think every summer you should come to the city and live and check it out!

 AF: And what did your first years in New York look like…?

BD: I was on the road for three and a half years and then I came to New York with Les Mis. They hired me as Enjolras on Broadway. I opened on Broadway September 10, 2001 the day before the attacks. Yeah…yeah it was crazy. We cancelled for 4 days. During Les Mis I auditioned for La Boheme so I went right from Les Mis into La Boheme. So this was stupid…I went from Les Mis to La Boheme to Millie to La Boheme in LA…and then things abruptly stopped! I had a manager at the time…so I stayed out in LA thinking things would happen since I’d had success in theatre but it didn’t matter… I didn’t do the work that I should have done out there; going to classes and learning what it meant to be a TV actor. I went to Baz and said, “I want to do TV/FILM” and he said “If you want me to help you I’d be happy to make calls” and I was like 28 at the time told him I’d do it on my own. If someone is willing to help you…take it. His advice to me was get on camera and I didn’t do it. So…youth’s folly taught me thirteen years later not to do that. So all that said…my first years in the city were hyper idealized.

 AF: What attracted you to a career in the theatre in the first place?

 BD: I loved having this feeling that I could move people. That was kind of the seduction of it was like…something I did would make people feel something.

AF: How fitting then that Les Mis was your big break…that definitely moves people! What/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business?

 BD: My dad. The faith and trust that my dad had in me that I would always be okay…that is the biggest thing to know that he had this undying faith. Yeah. It was a steadfastness.

AF: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date as an actor?

 BD: Just being able to work. I’m not a star…but I’ve worked. And that to me is important. I want to work with amazing people and continue to be stretched. That’s all.

 AF: We did Sound of Music together in 2012…how do you think you’ve changed as an artist/as a human since then?

 BD: Well…my dad died, I got divorced. There’s a couple things right there! I’m definitely more confident. I feel a greater sense of self and it’s interesting because I don’t know if that happened because of my divorce…but to have to rediscover my own identity was vital to my growth as an artist and as a human being. They were the two anchors in my life and I lost both of them within 3 days of each other so all of that happening kind of reshaped my whole life. I was incredibly blessed to have had an ideal childhood…I wasn’t an angsty kid. But I do feel richer in my experience now having had some knocks in life… not that you have to have those… but it’s definitely deepened things a lot. It’s just experience as human beings… we should get as many experiences as possible. As artists it’s our job to reflect the human experience.

 AF: How do you evaluate success?

 BD: Working and having good people want to work with you and feeling like there’s always someone better than you in the room and that you’re always being put in those situations because that means someone thought you belonged there even if you fooled them into thinking that…and hopefully by the end of the experience you will have proven you belong there. So that’s success to me… We all have that fear of failing as actors…that first week of rehearsal you’re like “Oh God, I’m getting fired.” But I think you have to go there…so success to me is being able to push through that and at the end of that you’re like, “I kinda killed that.”

AF: What has been the biggest life lesson you’ve taken away from a contract or a role?

 BD: You have to be happy with the work you’re doing. You can’t look for anybody else to validate your work because everybody has a different opinion…even the people that are employing you…that doesn’t mean it’s the right opinion. You need to be honest with the appraisal of your work… and if you can be honest and are happy with it…that’s all that matters.

AF: How do you prepare for auditions/appointments?

 BD: I like to be memorized because it just gives me more freedom to play if the director gives me any adjustments. For TV/FILM I told Paige- I’m never going in to another TV/FILM audition again without having gone over it with you on camera to see how it looks. Just the way you turn your head…the technical things of what helps the audience and see the story you’re telling better…how big you can be… I just went in without having done that and I hated every second of it. In the middle of it I’m just thinking, “I’m sucking, I’m sucking…” So frustrating.

 AF: Walk us through your audition process for the Sound of Music tour.

 BD: Telsey had cast me in the Paper Mill production, so they knew me in the role and brought me in for the tour. I was in twice for them before they cast me. After I’d been cast they brought me back in to read with the final five Maria’s who were all so wildly different. And before I went in Jack O’Brien said to me…there’s one in there that’s a ringer…I’m not gonna tell you who it is…but I want to see what it’s like. And it was Kerstin!

 AF: When did you start your donut adventures?

 BD: It was the summer before I went on tour…and I was living near Long’s Bakery and I thought it’d be a cool way to document my travels and then the press department at Sound of Music caught on and started booking me on press events so I got all these free donuts! It also made for very early mornings…but it was fun!

 AF: What are some of your other hobbies?

 BD: I love sports still, riding city bike, I love exploring the city, love restaurants. My ideal day is city biking around eating and drinking.

AF: So- if I were to plan a day with Douglas and wanted to go to a romantic breakfast place in the morning by the river…and then for a pasta dinner and a nice glass of wine…where would we go?

BD: I would send you over to the World Financial Center and grab some sandwiches by the Le District and then you could go and walk by the river and look at the Statue of Liberty. And then for dinner if you wanted pasta and a nice glass of wine…I would send you to Tribecca to Max’s or I would send you to Buvette in the West Village…Via Corota is right across from Buvette. But I’ve been gone for a year and a half and so there are so many new places so I’ve got to explore!

AF: What are your words to live by?

BD: There is a quote that I’m getting tattooed on me…I’ll condense it but it’s, “Take me out to the Cyprus Hill in my car. And we’ll hear the dead people talk. They do talk there. They chatter like birds on Cyprus Hill, but all they say is one word and that one word is, “live,” they say, “Live, live, live, live!” It’s all they’ve learned, it’s the only advice they can give. Just live. Simple! A very simple instruction…” I’ve got several tattoos… I have “perspective,” something in Latin for my dad, his signature…and “Now.” I Just think that’s a good way to live. “Do it now.” I can’t put it off any more!

AF: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

 BD: I have no idea. I could plan that and it probably wouldn’t turn out that way…happy!

Katie Ladner: Nice Goes So Far

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On Wednesday September 20th, I met with a fellow Belmont alum turned Broadway performer, Katie Ladner. She and the dog she was watching at the time, Gail, greeted me at her Harlem apartment. We walked to Tsion Café for an iced almond milk latte. The shop was super trendy complete with a back patio, soothing plants, and an inspirational chalkboard that read, “We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give!” We brought the latte back to her place, chatted on her couch, and lulled Gail the dog to sleep with our in depth conversation about growth, Broadway, and words to live by.

*Ideal cup of coffee:  I actually rarely drink coffee! But if I had to choose it’d be the typical basic vanilla latte. I’m more of a soda person so like… Diet Coke!

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AF: Describe yourself in 3 words.

KL: Funny. Whenever I’m asked these questions I’m like do I do the positives or negatives? Because the negatives define you as well… Determined. Loyal.

AF: So now you’re blonde…when did you go red?

KL: When I was in high school I used Sun-In to lighten my hair but the first time I actually dyed my hair wasn’t until Freshman year of college. I decided to do a little bit of strawberry blonde. And then I decided I really wanted to be a red head so I dyed it a crazy red color.

AF: Do you think this hair change helped you discover your type?

KL: I think so! I never really was the typical “Belmont” person. I think sometimes Belmont didn’t know what to do with me. I love Belmont. I owe them a lot. I was red all through college, up until I auditioned for Heathers. That was the first time I changed my hair for a job. They were like, “We love you but your character doesn’t really lend itself to red hair.” And when I auditioned they said my self-tape was very rockstar-esque… little did I know I was going in for the sad down trodden girl. The next thing I did was Gigantic. They decided to dye my hair purple and the salon messed up and so they just ended up wigging me with the same hair color I auditioned with! I’ve been brunette through those and then Freaky Friday…my hair needed a break. I’ve been dying my hair since I was 19 years old so I had to cut off like 6 inches to get it to being healthy again! Now I’m back to my natural hair color and she’s pretty healthy.

AF: In school you were always finding fresh/weird new rep and learning it all very quickly. Do you think this knack led you to the many original shows you’ve tackled? Talk to us about your time at Belmont University and how you believe it prepared you for this career?

 KL: I think it had a hand in it for sure because I lended myself to being so not the typical Belmont person so I always wanted to continue to find stuff. Erik helped a lot with rep actually! He’s great at it. I think I was determined to find new stuff because I wanted to be different. Learning new stuff really quickly has always been a thing for me. It’s so interesting…I couldn’t ever memorize history facts for a history exam but lyrics I’ve got em and melodies I’ve got em. It’s hard to explain that to your parents.

AF: How was your time at Belmont? How did it shape you/contribute to your growth?

It was definitely developmental and full of discovery. I was always the curvy girl so at Belmont I was always doing crazy diets to fit a certain mold because I thought I was supposed to be the ingénue. It took someone telling me, “No…they want to hire YOU. There’s no one like you so why would you want to be someone else?” I didn’t know there were other people like me on Broadway. College was not only developmental as an artist but learning about me as a person…what I thought I needed in the moment. As far as discovering I could belt…thank you Nancy Allen! She was the one that told me I could push it a little higher! I remember my audition for Belmont. We drove eight hours that morning and that night. I was so nervous about the dance call because it wasn’t my strongest point. I had someone choreograph my audition piece and after it was all over I cried my eyes out to my mom and slept the whole way home.

AF: What attracted to you to a career in the theatre in the first place?

 KL: I liked being someone else. I liked pretending. I grew up an only child so I had a lot of experience entertaining myself and my parents. I thought it was cool you could combine singing with pretending. I was always in the church musicals…that’s kind of where I started. I didn’t really decide until high school that I could turn it into a career. There was a small period of time I remember my parents saying, “If you major in Musical Theatre you probably need to major in something else.” They wanted me to do both so I could have something to fall back on. That was virtually impossible with our college schedule though. Knock on wood everything’s going really well so far!

AF: What/who is your biggest motivator to keep on going in this business?

KL: I wouldn’t say it’s been luck but I’d definitely say it’s right time and right place and I’ve worked really hard to get where I am. I feel like you have to be your own motivator. I also draw inspiration from people like my roommates, Erik, Neal, and Jamie. When I get down on myself for my weight…I think back to Heathers. I don’t remember seeing bigger girls on Broadway, as a kid. I think it’s cool to be part of that percentage. We all know each other. I draw inspiration from my friends and from myself. If a cookie’s gonna make me happy one day…eat the cookie.

AF: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment to date as an actor?

KL: As far as caliber it’s pretty crazy that I was in Sunset Boulevard. If you had told me my Broadway debut would be a revival of a classical musical I would have laughed in your face! This is gonna sound so posh but Glenn Close and I are actually friends. She sent me a congratulatory text when I booked Wicked, I’ve been to her home. I’d have to be an idiot to not see her as a mega star but she literally is one of the chillest people I know and she genuinely gives until she can’t give any more. I’m also proud of Heathers. We worked through a lot and it’s weirdly become like this cult hit! I’m proud of Be More Chill because that show was not appreciated enough and it was bomb-tastic! I like that I can go into auditions and change the minds of people. There’s been multiple instances where I’ve been the mold. Now you see breakdowns that describe me and it’s very odd and very strange.

AF: I’m proud to know you!! As someone who hasn’t been on Broadway yet but dreams of it…I view that as the height of success in this business. How do you evaluate success?

KL: It’s interesting that you say Broadway is the top… you learn so much. I cried my eyes out when I booked Sunset Boulevard…I cried when I booked Heathers! It’s crazy to see actual dreams come to fruition! During the run, I had a moment of “the grass is always greener…” You always want to have someone to share it with. All of my friends are married…so it’s like is this what I want? I’ve missed a lot of weddings, funerals, birthdays… Weddings are where it hits me the most because that’s such a pivotal time. I asked myself, is this really what I want to do? It took my mom being like, “Katie it’s always gonna be that way.” I had to reevaluate what I thought success was. Obviously I want a family one day but I would also love to be nominated for a Tony, I would love to originate a role on Broadway. Success changes every time so I feel you are being successful if you are enjoying your life.

AF: What was the biggest life lesson you took away from a contract or a role?

KL: Be nice. Be nice, be nice, be NICE. Being a nice person goes so far. Learn from other people. I’ve learned from each contract what I should be doing and I what I shouldn’t be doing. Also- be yourself. If you are a sad, lonely person…change yourself! Nobody wants to work with that.

AF: How do you prepare for auditions/appointments?

 KL: There is value in auditioning whether you book the job or not… there’s value in building those relationships. I always get there early. If I can afford it I meet with an accompanist or my voice teacher before. If it’s a movie I’ll watch it. I’ll always memorize the sides. I like to write them down because it helps with repetition.

AF: You are a recent cast member of Sunset Boulevard and current cast member of Wicked. Walk us through both of those audition processes!

 Sunset Boulevard– Before this appointment I had been asked to go on the Freaky Friday tour and I was like yeah! I’m ready to leave! I was in DC at the time and got the appointment for ensemble in Sunset Boulevard. But when someone says Ensemble on Broadway I think dance, dance, dance. But anyways, I went…I got up at 6 am, took an Uber to the bus station, was on the bus for three hours, got into Penn Station 15 minutes late, I ran to the audition and changed and was fine. They had me sing the Soprano part of a song. I messed up the lyrics and they said, “Those were some interesting words.” And I said, “When I sing that high sometimes I blackout” and they rolled on the floor. Then I got back on the bus to go to DC. Two days later I get a call from my agent telling me I got a callback. Getting back was going to be crazy and very expensive and so Heidi Blickenstaff actually covered my whole trip and I was back in time for the show. It was over a two-week period where I had to wait to hear.

Wicked– It was ON my birthday. We sang first, then did sides for the tape. Then I went and celebrated my birthday! My agent calls me and says, “Don’t drink too many margaritas! You have to dance tomorrow for Wicked.” The next day I have a dance call with one other girl and we learn the choreography. Then I found out the next day at 9:15 am that I booked it. It was over three days and I started rehearsals a week later! It was a weird thing because it felt right. I was like, “Well Happy Birthday to me!” The fact that I’m understudying Madame Morrible is still hysterical to me. Also thanks Belmont for casting me as “Mrs.” roles. It prepared me!

AF: What are your words to live by?

KL: It may be right but it may not be right now. For example…I auditioned for a reading 4 years ago. I had prepared the music, I was getting ready, I was really excited and my agent emails me and says they’re cancelling my appointment because another person accepted the role. Then recently, 4 years later, I get an email from my agent saying they’re offering me the role. So…it may be right but not right now!

AF: What is your dream role?

KL: Originating. I think it hasn’t been created yet and I think that’s so cool.

Alie B. Gorrie: Quiet Confidence

ALIE BOn Thursday I met with one of my best friends at an adorable French coffee shop right in the heart of audition land; 36th and 8th. By Suzette has a clean, bright, and European aesthetic. The walls are lined with succulents, the chairs are bright red, and the baristas wear berets. It is the perfect shop for us to meet since Alie B. is basically New York City’s real life Eloise at the Plaza with her spunk and zest for life.

Born and raised in Birmingham, AL Alie B. moved to NYC just under three years ago to tackle this city. She has performed Off Broadway and all over the country, inspiring everybody she meets including me…on a regular basis.

*Ideal cup of coffee: “Black coffee with brown sugar. It takes a long time to settle but it’s better for you!”

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ABG: I’m so excited that you’re doing this.

AF: I’m so excited to connect with friends old and new…everyone has something to offer! So one word that comes to mind when I think of you is JOY. But I want to know…what are three words you would use to describe yourself?

ABG: Spunky, resilient, and optimistic.

AF: Let’s go back to the beginning…what was your earliest memory in the theatre?

ABG: I was very lucky that my parents always supported me from a young age. In 5th and 6th grade I didn’t go to elementary school, I was a part of the Birmingham Childrens’ Theatre. We’d get our homework at 7 am and then go and sing all day!

AF: So now you’re living in the city… and writing your own show!

ABG.: You’re not gonna get roles created for you unless you create them for yourself you know? It allows you to show the world what you do instead of being put into a mold of showing the two things you do well… We’re bigger than any character and can bring so much more. At the end of the day it’s so nice to not keep any parts of yourself hidden.

AF: I’m so inspired by you. You’re constantly reinventing yourself as an artist and human.

ABG:  I’m reading Artists Way right now and it talks about Crazy Makers and not only do we have them in our lives were really good at being them ourselves. I know that I can. You’re your own worst critic. I’m also cooking more…it helps me de-stress. You have to be so focused! I think it’s important for actors to have a lot of activities that require your full attention because…you don’t wanna burn the peppers! Reading it a second time around… it’s actually helping me write my show. I’ll use my morning pages to write memoirs! It’s fun having a writing goal. It’s very spiritual.

AF: What is your safe haven in the city?

ABG: In college we had the luxury of a ton of coffee shops to choose from and we just lived there…but that taught us to always find a place to hunker down…sort of “to be small.” We spend so much of our time being “on”…and I think it’s cool to go to small places and be a dot. I go at least once a week to City Bakery on 18th street and go upstairs where there’s a little corner booth and I can hang out there for hours.

AF: In my first blog post I talked about how a cup of coffee is a ritual and a routine. What are some rituals that you look forward to that gives you joy?

ABG: My essential oils. Every night I look forward to it. I love taking all my makeup off, lathering up with my essential oils, and then reading Artist Way.

AF: I compared theatre to a cup of coffee. It can be dark and can burn you… I feel you give off a consistently happy vibe. How do you conquer the darkness of the unknown?

ABG: I am a self-proclaimed cockeyed optimist…I’ve been taught that resilience is the only option. My parents always encouraged me to try things. This week I had a pity party day. I was having some sight related issues and brought that into my callback and assumed they cut me because of that place I was in. It’s a trap. I’d be lying if I told you that didn’t happen to me. The good news is that I was able to recognize it. I used to spin my thoughts. It’s all in our head. We’re human! Writing a lot has helped me get out of my head. One thing I’ve learned is what I need to ground myself. For me, it is Yoga, which connects me to God and connects me to prayer and spirituality. I do simple things to wake my senses up to where I am. Also…wine.

AF: So…most people wouldn’t know that you’re visually impaired. How has it worked against you and how has it worked in your favor?

ABG: Well I recently put it down in my special skills on my resume. The first thing says Legally Blind. Some casting offices know that I am visually impaired and we are on that level. Others that don’t have asked flat out, “What’s going on with your eyes?” That’s hard to be hit with right in the moment. But the worst is the people that recognize that something’s off and avoid asking. It’s like an elephant in the room. I am really open and would love to educate as many people as I can and explain that it’s not a hindrance for me. Representation has been hard for me because they see you and think that you have something but you’re in a big room and you can’t explain yourself. Some days you can notice it, some days you have no idea. It depends on things that are not in my control. But now that it’s on my resume I’m hoping people will ask. Yeah I do things differently…but I still give you a product. As a positive…my last director thought of my lack of vision as a superpower. It’s really cool to take the experience of seeing differently and bring it to characters that feel ostracized. Like for example…Carrie in Carrie, doesn’t have a vision problem but she does feel alone… It gives me a deeper insight to a character that wasn’t even written. You’re digging a little deeper into their brains.

AF: I think it’s amazing that you naturally gravitate towards characters that have this inner battle. How long do see yourself in NYC?

ABG: I have no plans to move. I see myself here. All I want to do is be in it. I want to have a show that is mine and create. Doing new works all year I realize I am most fulfilled when I am part of or creating new works. It’s that part of me that loves to write and create scenarios in my head. I’ll go to Columbus Circle sometimes and make up voices for people in my head. Creating a character gives that extra element of choices stemming from me rather than stage directions. It’s hard because yes there are roles that I want to play…but there are more roles that aren’t there yet.

AF: You have been doing original shows nonstop since you moved here…

ABG: Flight School, Dragons Love Tacos, Bastard Jones

AF: What’s the biggest lesson you took away from a contract? Let’s talk about Bastard Jones.

ABG: I think as actors we have to make very conscious decisions on how we want to live because this industry will try to shake every corner of our foundation. I remember the first week of rehearsal I was so intimidated and then the second week I had to make the decision to believe I belong. One of my favorite quotes is, “Assume your Competence.” I was like, “Alie B., you have to assume that you are competent and you can do this!” I had to switch my focus and train my brain to do that. Once you make that choice you can’t not go for it.

AF: Because we both did a TWUSA tour what is one thing you took away that made you a stronger person?

ABG:  That tour is where I learned my yoga practice was not an option. Rituals are KEY.

AF: How do you prepare for auditions/appointments?

ABG: I have to do something physical. I get up in the morning and run for 10 minutes and warm up my whole body for a little pick me up. It gets the gunk out of your throat and gets you in your body!

AF: I feel like the city is bringing out all new facets of Alie B!

ABG:  In this city you don’t have to limit yourself! I’ll go take African dance…and the next day I’m like I need a neck brace! In the city you’re around creative people…it motivates you! For any artist or person…be around people that motivate you and share beliefs with you.

AF: How do you evaluate success and how has it changed since college?

ABG: I want to hug everyone in college and let them know that success in college is so small in the grand scheme of things. I viewed success as getting a role or a lead or getting summer stock jobs. I thought that was it. I was constantly feeling like I was scrambling. At the end of every day there was a bigger to-do list. And now I get in bed and light a candle and think, “Well I did everything in my power to make today great.” Success doesn’t even look the same here. “Confidence is quiet and insecurity is loud.” Some of my favorite actors are not blowing up social media. They keep their achievements to themselves.

AF: Yeah why do we feel compelled to post all of our accomplishments?

ABG: I’m not shaming anybody but I’m trying to reevaluate and not over share. Is success getting to create? Is success getting to wake up and sing? Or is success a credit? I don’t think it’s a tangible thing that you can ever quite grasp. Until you learn to be okay with where you are…you’ll miss a lot. Now that I’m here my senses are open and processing life in a different way because I have the space and time and my heart is in a different place.

AF: It’s easy to get caught up in comparison.

ABG: We need to remember “that journey is not mine.”

AF: I feel like I’m learning to accept and get excited about the unknown rather than fear it.

ABG: I can’t imagine not being in this field. I want to create right now…and that’s okay.

Giddy

Hello and welcome to my blog!!

I thought I’d start with a proper introduction of myself and the idea behind this blog before my first actor interview TODAY!

I discovered my addiction for performing when I was 11 years old. I auditioned for the title role in the musical Annie, won the role, and never looked back. There was a rush of adrenaline. It was thrilling. I wanted more.

Performing made me giddy. Standing on stage looking out at a smiling audience while I belted out,”Tomorrow,” a magical tingling in my soul confirmed that this is what I wanted to do with my life. This had to be my life’s purpose.

I continued doing musicals and plays, taking class, and falling in love with the craft through high school. I auditioned for 9 different colleges with Musical Theatre programs and by the grace of God got into Belmont University. The giddiness continued.

After four years of incredible friendships, two lead roles, and impressive growth I moved to New York City to continue on this path… creating in the real world.

I am lucky to had such a rich career right out of school performing Off Broadway, regionally, across the country on a National tour, and in various workshops and concerts in the big apple. I’ve found that in between contracts I crave connection, creative outlets, and comraderie the most. I think other actors can relate.

I got the idea for this blog after several cups of coffee. The idea took shape following an amazing run as Kathy Selden at a gorgeous outdoor theatre in Connecticut. I was anxious approaching this next chapter of unknowns. A career in theatre is uncertain, unpredictable… yet so thrilling at the same time.

A career in theatre is like a cup of coffee without the routine. The career can be dark and can burn you with rejection. Yet it can also make you giddy and excited and hopeful.

I see coffee as a routine. Every morning I get up eagerly knowing I get to drink this warm, delicious liquid. The smell is routine. My mugs are routine. It is constant and it is good.

Theatre is constantly taking new forms, emitting different smells, and is not always easy…but it makes us eager.

It encourages us to constantly set the bar higher, and find the giddiness.

I can’t wait to explore the highs and lows with New York actors.

Stay tuned, sip along, and ask yourself… what makes you giddy?