Nolan and I met when he transferred into the Belmont Musical Theatre program our sophomore year. He embodied joy and fun and I KNEW I wanted to be friends with him. Fast forward a theatrical contract together post graduation, pounding the pavement in the city, and continuing to meet for regular coffee and wine dates and even recently… co-parent a foster pup together! He is a true blue friend and a focused performer. We met at my favorite neighborhood coffee spot, Darling Coffee (IN APRIL) to reflect on the past and dream about the future. He just opened Mama Mia! at the Winnipesauke playhouse this weekend as SKY and I couldn’t be prouder! At the time we met for coffee he had nothing lined up for the summer and I am excited to tell you he has work at reputable theatres line up through December. That goes to show his mindset, positivity, and go-getter spirit came through!
Drink of Choice: French Press Coffee OR something sweet i.e. vanilla latte or frappuccinos.
AF: So Nolan, what are you drinking?
NB: Right now I’m drinking this New Orleans Blend Cold Brew…essentially it’s sweet coffee.
AF: It’s amazing. Incase you didn’t know Darling Coffee doesn’t have flavors you can add to your coffee or lattes.
NB: It was a bit of a rude awakening. I’m kind of extra…I typically go for an iced lavender latte….something floral. If they don’t have it I typically go for vanilla because I’m kind of a b*tch and I like to have sweet coffee. I can’t drink it black.
AF: Skinny vanilla latte was my drink of choice all through high school and college so…
NB: I started off with frappuccinos!
AF: What’s your drink of choice at home?
NB: If I’m making coffee at home it’s French press. I grind up those fresh beans, do French press with some sweet cream, or a little sugar… but if I’m out it’s iced. Iced all year long. Unless it’s really cold and I have to stand outside for an audition… it’s hot. My roommates don’t drink coffee… I don’t get it.
AF: It is one of the only things that can get me out of bed in the morning.
NB: I think I’m naturally a morning person… my alarm goes off and I’m like, “Good Morning!”
AF: haha Nolan’s like a Disney princess… “Hello little birds!”
NB: I just like the flavor! I was a barista at Caribou Coffee in college and that’s when I started liking it.
AF: So what’s your background story?
NB: I’ll give you the condensed version! When I start rambling tell me to shut up. I’m from Waverly, Iowa. My dad would always say I would hum myself to sleep as a kid, started singing in church really young… my first solo ever was “Happy Birthday Jesus.” So I always loved singing. I would do these talent shows in the summer. It was called the Bill Reilly Talent Show and if you won in your town you could sing in the Iowa State Fair… which was HUGE. I was a choir kid all growing up. I started taking voice lessons in seventh grade. In high school I started touring with the show choir in the summers called, Celebration Iowa. That’s when I really found my love for performing. We were slumming it! It was an audition group all through out the state. We toured throughout the summer. It was the best of the best of Iowa kids. We’d wake up in the morning, get on the tour bus, set up at the location, do the show, home with host families at the end of the night. I was on the costume crew an so we had to put up our costume tents, do laundry… There were twenty singer dancers, ten boys and ten girls and the jazz band. We had what looked like wooden coffins, separated by Soprano Tenor Alto Base, they were giant boxes filled with costumes. We’d have to Febreeze them every night because they got no air. It gave me that love and appreciation for adapting to any and all situations I was performing in. I was going home with strangers every night. It was always nice when you got an actual bed rather than an arm chair!
AF: Wow I didn’t know any of this… good thing we’re doing a coffee interview!
NB: Yes! I did that three summers. I didn’t get into Musical Theatre until later… I didn’t really know much about it. I didn’t realize how competitive it was… I was clearly very small-town minded. I grew up doing community theatre… and so I started looking into schools that had theatre. Yet I was not very informed. Growing up I was definitely a big fish in a small pond and thought, “I’m pretty good… and I’m a boy so I’ll probably get in some place.” I found out about Belmont.
AF: How’d you find out about the school?
NB: There was a girl that went to my church and she had gone to Belmont for Music Business. She worked on Glee with her husband! I read an article about it as well… We visited Milliken and it was a really dreary day. Then we visited Belmont and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Gorgeous campus. I decided I HAD to go there.
AF: What did you do for your audition?
NB: I chose the most basic songs. I sang “Giants in the Sky” and “Close Every Door” and I chose a monologue from the show “The Foreigner.” I had just done the show in school and I played Ellard Simms… the twelve-year old! It was a mess. I was also like one hundred eighty eight pounds at the time.
AF: You have had a total transformation!
NB: I know. Then for the dance solo that we had to do…I’d asked the girls on the dance team at my high school to choreograph it for me. And Ms. Halbert asked if I had been a cheerleader… All I did was leap around..
AF: I choreographed mine two nights before to “I Will Remember You” by Sara McLaughlin. It was very interpretive.
NB: Dead. Well… I didn’t get in to the Musical Theatre program… but I got into the Music program. I did Commercial Voice. That was cool. Every time I would sing they would say I sounded “too Musical Theatre.” So I thought…”Well what am I doing in this program?” So I tried out again… it went a little better this time. I made it in and started my second semester sophomore year! I learned more about what I wanted to do post college and how to actually achieve that in that one semester as an MT than I had in the previous three semesters. So I fell in love and from that point on I became super focused on my goals. I lost a bunch of weight and have become a go-getter. It’s been about “work, work, work.”
AF: You really have. It seems like you haven’t gone more than like three months without something on the horizon.
NB: Yeah… I’ve been lucky. The longest since 2014 I’ve gone without a job is six months.
AF: That’s nothing.
NB: It’s great. It’s not always the most advancing things but I’ve been artistically fulfilled!
AF: You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. You’ve grown to be a lot more grounded this year!
NB: It’s been a game changer. I think there’s been an awakening with everything that I’ve been through in years post-college. There’s more to this life than just this industry. I can’t put all my value in worth in “what I’m booking.” It’s amazing that we get to do what we do.
AF: It’s Thursday and we are drinking coffee right now…
NB: In the greatest city in the world. Cheers.
AF: So we’ve talked about your time in the city thus far…
NB: Been in and out for three years… I did a ship for a bit.
AF: What has been the biggest thing that you’ve learned since moving?
NB: For me personally it has been to be versatile. I think something I’ve prided myself on is that I can sing a variety of genres. There’s always the best of both worlds… if I was more specific maybe I could book more consistent work… but as a Non-Union boy they need you to be able to do it all and fulfill multiple tracks so I feel I’ve been able to do that. Honing those different abilities and being able to offer that on the table has been something very important for me on my journey.
AF: In your situation you’ve been called in for roles all over the map.
NB: I try to be well-rounded. We all have our strengths and abilities. I take more care into my voice and sound. We should all be in class…me included! Nolan- get into class! I’m called in for a lot of ensemble… so I see those skills I need to work on.
AF: Your work ethic stands out. You’re a quick learner. You are malleable. You’re able to shift…
NB: Having a good work ethic is something we developed in school. Being able to give one hundred percent all the time… goes so much farther than holding back. It’s about being a person that somebody wants to work with. One of our directors at Matt Davenport (I worked there a summer during college), said it’s all about the “Encore Effect.” It’s about being a performer and person that makes people want to come back for more. You’re on that stage… give the performance that makes them want to see you perform again! It applies backstage too…
AF: What has been your proudest moment in the city??
NB: I think one of my proudest moments was performing at Actoria. Singing in the city, being here… being able to showcase what I do IN New York.
AB: Low stakes but equally magical…
NB: I feel very lucky. I feel things have fallen in place for me. It’s never been a struggle for me to find a place to live… or be with people I like. Finding side jobs… God’s orchestrated it all. The things haven’t all necessarily been what I think they should be but it’s always been just right.
AF: Trusting the plan.
NB: That’s what I need to have faith and trust I’m exactly where I need to be and keeping an open mind. I guess my proudest moment was probably booking Carnival Cruise Lines. I’d always said in school, I wanted to book a ship so I could pay off my loans and travel so that was so amazing so quickly after graduation to achieve that goal. The most discouraging moment… the city’s hard. I think the most discouraging thing is that the city can easily distract you. I think there was a phase where I allowed myself to be negative. I wasn’t plugging into people, situations, or environments that mattered. I went a couple months allowing myself to be happy. This was last Spring. I wasn’t actively pursuing positive outlets. It wasn’t me to live in a “mopey state.”
AF: It made you realize that you need to be surrounded by positive people to be in the proper mindset.
NB: During audition season I never wanted to get up, I wasn’t as hungry, I wasn’t bringing a light into the room… and yet I booked three different contracts. It’s funny. God works in mysterious ways. He was laying out for me the path that I needed.
AF: I’ll never forget you were the reason I booked Magnolia in Showboat. The day before I had found about a contract I really wanted to book, I was distraught. It was the first time a big theatre called me and I had a great callback. I remember texting you and being so sad and saying, “I don’t know…” and you said, “Well… want to go to an audition with me this morning?” and the only reason I went was because I hadn’t seen you in so long! We caught up that morning, and you put me at ease, and I booked it!
NB: What an amazing day. That was the first time we’d seen each other in so long.
AF: It was magical. I came out of that room and told you, “I just had kind of a crazy experience.”
NB: Well I remember because I was up at six am to get on that Non-Union list and this Equity star waltzes in and is seen before noon and we are all quickly dismissed to come back after lunch but you know what…keep your chin up!
AF: You were my good luck charm!
NB: You’ve got to find those people who bring light and positivity to your life. My mindset has always been “got to book.” I’m finally in a place where I’m ready to start planting some roots. Contracts are great but it’s hard to be taken out of the city. If you put all the time together that I’ve been in the city it’s probably a year because I’ve been in and out so much. I just know I need to be here because if I’m constantly away I’m taking myself out of those opportunities.
AF: On that note…what do you see for yourself in the next ten years?
NB: The dream would be Broadway. I’ve always said…I would be content if I could make a living doing what I love to do. I hope that I can do it in many facets. If I’m able to use my gifts and have a financially stable life then great! I love the city and I love the community I have here but I’m open-minded. If it’s been years and it’s not working out here… I am open to moving to other cities!
AF: The world is your oyster!
NB: Right now I’m really giving New York a try. As actors we’re bad about putting ourselves on a timeline. That’s just not how it works.
AF: There’s no race to the finish line.
NB: I want to keep giving it a try. I don’t think I would be here if I wasn’t supposed to be here. I don’t think God would have given me these talents if I wasn’t supposed to pursuit this.
AF: Last but not least… what is a quote you love to live by?
NB: I guess this could be a theme throughout my life… find your community. I’ve always been very close to my family. I started doing Theatre in community theatre. I was always singing in a choir. Then I moved to New York and had my instant Belmont community. The alumni are so caring and likeminded.
AF: Well I’m so glad you joined me! Cheers.
NB: Cheers! Love you.