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The Ensemblist is an inside look at the experience of being a Broadway performer- from the first rehearsal through performing eight shows a week and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced theatre professional or a passionate fan, The Ensemblist will give you the opportunity to get to know new performers and the great work they do onstage, while also shedding light on some of the hidden innerworkings of the Broadway experience. Created and hosted by Mo Brady (The Addams Family, SMASH) and Nikka Graff Lanzarone (Chicago, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), The Ensemblist is the only podcast that shows you Broadway from the inside out. 

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"Pride Had the Final Bow on Broadway."

Jackson Cline

Podcast guest Eric Ulloa (On Your Feet!) shares his moving story of experiencing hope in the face of tragedy on Pride Sunday 2016.


"One year ago today, we were reminded that Pride still meant fighting for your life."

Eric Ulloa

Eric Ulloa

"A week and a half prior, a gunman had entered one of our safe spaces and took 49 of us in mid-dance. One year prior to that, we were celebrating the right to marry nationally, and now bodies lay on a night club floor in a reminder that, despite our advances, hate still runs deep in some. We grieved, we mourned, we shouted “Say their names!” outside of Stonewall as candles lit the night sky that we hoped they were watching from."

"A dear friend called me a few days later and asked if there was a way to have On Your Feet! sing the National Anthem at the Pulse memorial outside the 9/11 museum. This was an easy “yes” and soon we organized as many cast members as we could to pay homage to the lives lost. So, on a warm June morning, we sang our country’s anthem in tribute to people who could have been us."

"And it was tough. And it was painful. And it was sad."

"Yet we held each other up as we cried publicly on national TV, and in the end, the day allowed some of the burden of this tragedy to release."

"A week followed, and as we approached Pride, I remember it all felt so strange. None of the usual feelings that I held toward this week were coming to mind. I had so much anger and sadness within me, and every time I thought of these pour souls, I would fall apart. I kept having vivid dreams of being inside Pulse as a 22-year-old (I went to college in Orlando), and then it would steer itself into a nightmare as I envisioned what it must have been like that night. I would wake up to the thought of those mothers screaming into the newscaster’s microphone, begging for information on their son, when we all knew the news that awaited her."

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company at the Pulse memorial

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company at the Pulse memorial

"Pride Sunday saw us readying ourselves for the matinee, and our dressing room DJ, David Baida, had appropriately chosen RuPaul’s album as our pre-show soundscape. And of course, our room became the Drag Race runway, and each had their turn to strut before the “Places” call."

"The show came and went, and we were in the midst of the Megamix when those feelings of Pride finally kicked in, or should I say, knocked me on my ass."

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company at the Pulse Memorial

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company at the Pulse Memorial

"As I was waiting to bow, I see Josh Segarra breeze past me to enter for his “Turn the Beat Around” rap break and tucked into his back pocket is this huge Pride Flag spilling out over his right leg. I then see the ensemble men bow, and Marcos Santana and Luis Salgado are wearing rainbow Pride armbands, proudly waving them in the air. What is happening? Was there a memo on the call board I didn't read that morning? No, it was actually quite simple and deeply complex. Our straight cast members were openly showing solidarity for the LGBTQ community in this amazing moment of spontaneity on a Broadway stage. 1600 people from all walks of life were seeing those glorious colors of our rainbow fly proudly. A closeted teenager who came with his parents to the Gloria Estefan jukebox show now knew there was a future out there."

"And on the final downbeat of the music, Josh ripped that Pride Flag out of his pocket and waved it as high as he could in the air, and tears started pouring out of my eyes."

"Yes, a little less than two weeks earlier, 49 of us were physically taken from this world, but at that matinee on a Sunday in June, a little miracle happened. In front of a crowd made from all walks of life and all types of religions and various political affiliations… Pride had the final bow on Broadway."

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company sing the National Anthem at the Pulse memorial

Eric Ulloa & members of the On Your Feet! company sing the National Anthem at the Pulse memorial

Listen to Eric Ulloa on our Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Opening Night & Activism episodes.

"Values Instilled in Community Theater are the Most Important of our Craft."

Mo Brady

Podcast guest Jason Gotay shares with his why he chose to spend part of his summer directing Edges for his own theatre company, Exit II.


Jason Gotay

Jason Gotay

As a professional actor in New York, I've found that one of the ways I stay creative and inspired is by teaching. It has become one of my biggest passions, almost a secondary career path. A few years ago, I started teaching and directing young artists in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York. I had grown up doing community theater in my neighborhood, and always felt most at home when I was working alongside my friends as we put on a show, doing what I loved with others who loved it too. Now as a director/teaching artist, I get to inspire the next generation of kids from my neighborhood and allow them to experience the magic of coming together to tell a story. 

As of this year, I have my very own company, which I began with my best friend, Kristen. Ironically, we met doing community theater over a decade ago. After reuniting and returning to our roots in community theater, Exit II Theater Company was born. Named after the highway exit that takes you to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (the birthplace of where we first fell in love with working with young artists), we hope to develop a theater company that provides a range of opportunities for actors, both aspiring and professional. We believe that the values instilled in us by community theater are the most important aspects of our craft: teamwork, dedication, passion, and most importantly, a sense of community. 

Exit II Theater Company

Exit II Theater Company

This summer, we are producing our first "real" show: Edges, a song cycle by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. 

Pasek and Paul have recently skyrocketed to great success, but Edges was their first show together, written when they were Musical Theater students at the University of Michigan. It was the beginning of their brilliant collaboration, and since hearing these songs for the first time as a college student myself, I've followed their careers as they've continued to develop their style. I've always admired their honest and authentic approach to Musical Theater storytelling. Their songs are rich and thought-provoking, emotional and raw. It is the perfect material for actors who are developing their craft and exploring how to create a personal connection to their work onstage. It forces you to be vulnerable, to ask big questions, to be honest! 

Jason Gotay with Kristen Calabrese and Justin Ward Weber

Jason Gotay with Kristen Calabrese and Justin Ward Weber

Because I've fallen so in love with teaching and song study, Edges seems like the perfect first show for our company. It will allow us to be process-driven, to get inside of this material and connect to the songs and with each other. As an actor, I love getting opportunities like this, so I wanted to create an experience that would offer it to others. 

The show asks classic coming-of-age questions about identity, relationships, love, expectations...it forces us to confront how we interpret these ideas. It provokes real conversation about how we feel about these things in our own lives. It's the perfect vehicle to connect with other artists in a meaningful way, and there's no way I'd rather spend my summer. Our production will be sparse---no elaborate set or lighting design, just people telling their stories, asking questions, and dealing with all of the messy, complicated emotions that come with growing up. 

And so it begins! Shamless social media plug: follow us on Facebook and Instagram @exittwotheater to follow our journey. Or dont! Most importantly, let's keep making our own opportunities and creating that sense of community for one another. 

Listen to Jason on our 54 Below show here.

"One of those 'Only in New York' Experiences."

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast Colin Israel (Matilda) shares his journey of going from Broadway in Bryant park observer to Broadway in Bryant Park performer.


Colin Israel

Colin Israel

When you move to New York to pursue the Ancient Art of Musical Theatre, you come to recognize annual events which commemorate the theatre community. First off, the Tonys. which you watched before you came and, in all likelihood, is probably a major determining factor as to why you’re there in the first place. Then you discover Broadway on Broadway, Stars in the Alley, the Flea Market, and all of those “only in New York” festivities which enlist current Broadway casts to celebrate their shows and offer a sampling for those who have camped out to see them and those who just happen to pass by. 

I first caught Broadway in Bryant Park my second year in New York as I was grabbing lunch between auditions at the Equity Building (no cafe back then). The cast of “Spring Awakening” performed and I found myself thrilled (and a little melancholic, feeling so close yet so far away at that time) that a piece so powerful and a cast I admired so much were performing so enthusiastically for both the public and the groupies like me as we took a break in our days to watch before returning to work (or dance calls). 

Fast forward a decade later and I found myself performing with my own Broadway cast as a “student” in an equally riotous musical about breaking free from those who would hold you down (albeit with a much happier ending). To look out on the crowd at Bryant Park and see fans cheering you and your show on while mouthing along with your lyrics (which you’re grateful for: you’d be surprised how much a change of venue makes you second-guess what you’ve been singing for months) is a thrill all its own. Part dream-fulfilled, part geeky, and all fun. It’s like the talent show in high school, with the same high-fives and hugs backstage, but, like, bigger and on Broadway. 

And for what it’s worth— if you catch it between regional dance calls, it’s not as far off as you think. ;) 

Listen to our podcast episode on Broadway in Bryant Park here.

"The Crowd Showed Us So Much Love, It Was Almost Overwhelming."

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast Antoine L. Smith (Miss Saigon, The Color Purple) tells the tale of performing his understudy track at Broadway in Bryant Park last summer.

Antonie L. Smith

Antonie L. Smith

As a performer, any opportunity to perform is a gift. And I never take any of them for granted. Sometimes you get paid to do so, and sometimes you don't. But the ones that you don't get paid for can sometimes be the most rewarding.

Performing at Broadway in Bryant Park is one of those such free performances that you get so much out of. It's a very unique experience in the fact that you are first of all performing for a pretty packed park of "Broadway Enthusiasts". Far more people than your typical Broadway theater can hold. And the stakes are very low. Meaning you are just out there having a great time with your cast. For a mass amount of people that really want to see you. You can call on crowd participation if you want. There are no costumes, wigs, or makeup if you choose. Which makes it just a little more freeing and relaxed. But there is still plenty of sweat considering it's the dead of summer. But still an amazing time. And did I mention it's FREE TO THE PUBLIC????

Broadway in Bryant Park also gives the understudies or the standbys an opportunity to be out in front. Because they are usually the ones that step in for this event. Sometimes the stars of the shows will also come out and perform. I had the privilege to step into the role of "Harpo" with my co-star Carrie Compere (Sofia Understudy) as Sofia and sing the arousing "Any Little Thing" for our performance of The Color Purple. The crowd showed us so much love, it was almost overwhelming.

At this point the show was so well received that where ever we performed the people would go crazy. And Bryant Park was no different. The love of community that comes from this event is unparalleled. People are genuinely there to support the Broadway Community/The Arts. I mean they would have to be to let the sun beat down on them all afternoon....LOL!

I am truly grateful for this series that Bryant Park does. Not only to showcase the shows. But to show that people do love and need the ARTS!

Without art, the crudeness of reality would be unbearable.
— George Bernard Shaw

 

Listen to our podcast episode on Broadway in Bryant Park here.

Antonie L. Smith (right, with Carrie Compere) performing at Bryant Park

Antonie L. Smith (right, with Carrie Compere) performing at Bryant Park

The Playball Podcast:  Actors.Talk.Sports

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast Garth Kravits shares how his combined love of sports and theatre inspired him to create the Playball Podcast.


Garth Kravits  

Garth Kravits

 

I grew up in the theater. I also grew up a sports fan and anyone who went to high school will tell you, rarely do those two worlds intersect. Sure, there were the occasional guest star appearances by a football player or two in Guys and Dolls. There were always a few guys from the baseball team around during Damn Yankees. But, generally speaking, sports was sports and theater was theater.  

Once I got out and into the real world, however, I started to find that wasn’t always the case. Every show I did, and I mean EVERY show, seemed to have sports people in it. Somewhere in the cast or crew or wardrobe, there were sports fans. They didn’t come right out and say it. But during March Madness (a college basketball tournament), when you snuck out between shows to go to the closest bar and catch some of the games or at least some scores, and suddenly see your dance captain, the head of props, and your dresser all staring at the TVs, you realize… You are not alone!

My best friend and co-host of The Playball Podcast and I had often discussed this. Sean Dougherty is also an actor in NYC, and for years we’ve spent countless hours on the phone basically doing a radio sports talk show for an audience of just ourselves. We always joked about doing this where others could listen in, but it was just an idea with no momentum.  

Years later, I was doing a show at Bucks County Playhouse, and during one of those usual downtimes during tech, got into a conversation about the NY Giants offensive line (football). I found my sports guy in the show and was thrilled to get into some good sports talk, when suddenly a voice came out from behind the piano: “The offensive line is nothing without a solid tight end and a running game." Another sports person in our show??! It was a Broadway music director that I had done a few shows with and I never knew he liked sports. Turns out he only likes football, and mostly college football, but still… I immediately called my friend Sean and told him I knew how we were going to bring our sports talk to the airwaves. Theater + Sports + Theater fans + Sports fans! The venn diagram in my head was creating crossovers like crazy.  

Our first Playball Podcast was happening right before the Super Bowl (football) between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. We ending up having, as guests on the show, an actor from the Memphis tour in New England and some from the Dirty Dancing tour in Seattle! It was awesome.   

We mostly did sports talk radio style stuff, but ultimately decided each show would have a theme: Greatest players of all time, sports crowds/fans vs Broadway crowds/fans etc... You can download all our previous episodes at the iTunes Store.

The Playball Podcast:  Actors.Talk.Sports

Listen to our podcast episode on Broadway Sports here.

"A from the heart love letter to The Great Comet."

Mo Brady

Podcast guest Paloma Garcia-Lee (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) shares the unlikely story of how she was able to rejoin the cast of Natasha, Pierre an the Great Comet of 1812 for their performance on this year's Tony Awards.


Paloma Garcia-Lee

Paloma Garcia-Lee

This year, I had the absolute pleasure of working on two new Broadway Musicals - Natasha, Pierre an the Great Comet of 1812 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Each of them in their own special way required me to expand myself as an artist in ways I never expected. 

I did not know much about Comet prior to joining them for their Broadway run Beforehand, I never could have fathomed what it would become for me: the family I would build there and how deeply I would evolve as an artist and a person because of it. 

I spent a little less than five months with Comet as their Dance Captain and Swing. I have never worked so closely with a creative team and company. Only a small handful of us were brand new to the family that had been working together for over four years. The show premiered at Ars Nova in 2012 and went on to have wildly successful runs (in tents Downtown and Uptown and at ART in Boston) before coming to Broadway. If you have seen the show, you know how incredibly unique it is; it's unlike anything I have ever seen, experienced or been lucky enough to be a part of. Each person who is involved is an exquisite unicorn. The demands of the show are different, how the family operates is different I would often reference it as being “Extraordinary Broadway” in every sense of the word. 

I could certainly write a book about my experience there. And maybe I will, or at least write a more in depth essay of my experience, though in my heart I know my journey with Comet and its team is long from over. 

Paloma (right, with Reed Luplau)

Paloma (right, with Reed Luplau)

I left the nest of Comet when I began rehearsals for Charlie across the street this past winter. I must add that both of my contracts had been negotiated and agreed to long before my first day of rehearsal with Comet in the fall. I went into the experience knowing I had an end date with it which is something I had never really done before. And although it was beyond impossible to leave the show when the time came and I was flooded with so many different feelings everyone at Comet was so incredibly supportive of my new journey and so kindly reminded me that I always have a home with them. 

The creative team, company management and the producers of Comet have been the most incredibly inclusive company I have ever worked for. The day that the Tony nominations came out I ran to the Imperial Theater and I couldn’t stop crying tears of total bliss. 12 Nominations. The most nominated show of the season. OUR SHOW! I darted in the stage door as soon as I could to find that they were about to start rehearsal with the singular Dave Malloy who was stepping into the role of Pierre that he wrote and originated - tears in our eyes we all embraced and cried and laughed and smiled. It was such a celebration. As soon as they found out that they would be performing on The Tony Awards, they reached out and asked if I would be able to join them and that they wanted the entire original company to be there.

It was such a dream come true. Being with family for important nights and experiences like that was and is everything I want with them. I believe in the show and its creators and every beautiful soul who is a part of it so much and feel deeply lucky that they include me in the way that they do. 

The Great Comet ensemblists out Radio City Music Hall

The Great Comet ensemblists out Radio City Music Hall

That night, it was like it was in slow motion and hyper speed all at the same time. I did the dress rehearsal in the morning then ran (literally) back to the Lunt-Fontanne to make my matinee of Charlie. Afterwards, I had a dinner break before having to be back at the Imperial to get ready. The girls made a spot for me in the dressing room and we got ready, listened to music, we popped in and out of rooms that were streaming the ceremony. Finally, we all met down in the house and then boarded the bus to Radio City a little after 9pm. The family welcomed me back with wide open arms and it was like I had never left. 

We had the unique experience of performing ALL OVER Radio City Music Hall: onstage and in the orchestra. We were giving a taste of the magic that happens every night at the Imperial. The adrenaline of performing on that night is one thing but nothing could have prepared me for what it would be like to be dancing out in the sea of tuxedos and gowns with my tribe. Looking so many familiar and well known people in the eyes and connecting with them and sharing the heart of our show with them. Running through Radio City spreading love. We celebrated every bit of the journey that night, and I still get chills when I watch back the video of the performance. As we passed each other throughout the performance we would look so deeply in each others eyes- everyone was 100% present and it felt so powerful. I wish I could explain it better, I just feel so lucky to have experienced it. 

This year has been beyond what I ever imagined - truly - with both shows that I have been a part of. I carry the love and the growth that I experienced at Comet onstage with me every night at Charlie and every day in my personal life. Ive never known camaraderie like I felt with Comet. I've never known acceptance and strength like what I've received from the ladies ensemble dressing room. I've never experienced heart and drive like that of the creative team. The friendship and trust I built with the stage management team and company managers was so beautiful. I left Comet a stronger, more open, better version of myself. I left a better dancer and artist. Everyone who has been a part of the Comet's journey is a unique, bright star and I still have to pinch myself that I am one in the constellation. 

The Great Comet performs on the 2017 Tony Awards

The Great Comet performs on the 2017 Tony Awards

Listen to our podcast episode on Awards Season here. 

"When There is Teamwork, Wonderful Things Can Be Achieved."

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast Jennifer Bowles (Matilda on Broadway and tour) shares how she fell in love with playing in the Broadway sports leagues.


Jennifer Bowles

Jennifer Bowles

I was never into sports growing up. I was always a little too shy, bookish, and focused on my ballet training to try out for a team. So, teenage me would be utterly baffled to know that I’ve been on two different softball teams and a bowling team in my adult years thanks to the Broadway community.

If you look up characteristics of a good team, you’ll find creativity, attention to detail, discipline, preparation, focus, and good leadership among many other traits. Those are all qualities that make exceptional theater as well. The Broadway community is a team in itself, so it isn’t a surprise that that translates well into our sports leagues.

American Idiot was my first Broadway show and my first time joining a softball league…Before I knew it, I had officially signed up to be a proud member of team “Idiot.” Full disclosure: I was pretty far out in right field and didn’t see much action (I quickly discovered a slightly severe issue with catching fly balls that season, a skill I very obviously didn’t hone as a kid), but I wasn’t terrible with a bat and enjoyed stepping up to the plate. Most of all, I loved getting together with my friends, both on my team and the opposing teams, for a little healthy competition, laughter, and sun. American Idiot gave me so much, but most importantly it welcomed me into this community and showed me what a loving family it is.

Podcast guests Travis Waldschmidt and Geoff Packard

Podcast guests Travis Waldschmidt and Geoff Packard

A couple of years later I began a two year long stint on team “Maggots,” this time rotating in as catcher (I learned a very sobering athletic lesson as an Idiot in the outfield!). Between softball seasons, though, we spent many a Thursday staying up late at the bowling alley, swapping our Maggots jerseys for “Trunchbowls” t-shirts.

Broadway Bowling’s casual vibe was right up my alley (terrible pun intended). Despite my sometimes super strong desire to get right to bed after the show, I bit the late night bullet many times and stayed all the way through both games. There’s always a huge turnout at bowling with friends at almost every single lane; so much of the joy I found there was in catching up with old pals. Whether it was cracking jokes and reminiscing at the bar with my buddy Andrew, getting into deep conversations over french fries with my best dude Oak, chatting with our jet-lagged creative team visiting from London, or somehow magically getting a spare and celebrating with my teammates…there was never a dull moment. Those fun and lively late nights unfailingly made the next day’s fuzzy brain and bleary eyes worth it.

When you first move to New York to pursue a career in the arts, it all seems so vast that you oftentimes feel alone or small. If you stick with it, though, you’ll carve out a space for yourself in this community…one of the most welcoming and inclusive groups of people I’ve ever had the great fortune to know. The Broadway bowling and softball leagues are an outstanding reminder of that comradeship.

Unity is strength… When there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.
— M. Stepanek
Matilda's "Maggots" softball team

Matilda's "Maggots" softball team

Listen to our episode on Broadway Sports here.

"Pre-production is Unbelievably Valid Time."

Mo Brady

Podcast guest Sarah O'Gleby shares why pre-production rehearsals can be the most fruitful time of a rehearsal process.


Sarah O'Gleby

Sarah O'Gleby

Pre-production might be the most valid time in a creative process regardless if it's for a corporate event, the Tony Awards or a Broadway Show. 

It's the time where you sit around maybe for the first few days and talk about the deeper meanings of each moment, challenging each other to maybe even see a different point of view: What do we want the movement to look like, how will the number build? Is the number the palette cleanser, the 11 o'clock number, the first time we learn something about the character.

Eventually we then get on our feet, and start creating the movement. A lot of the time we will play the music and start dancing to create the language of movement first and become inspired by each other. 

Just recently for Frozen we did a "double pre-pro" so to speak. First, Charlie Williams (my fellow associate on Frozen), choreographer Rob Ashford and I had time in a studio with the music department to create the foundations for all the big numbers. Then we did a second layer, where we taught a skeleton crew of six dancers and saw where things really worked or where it wasn't as successful as we thought it might be and could make changes quickly. Therefore when we start rehearsals with the cast we are already one step ahead.

On corporate events, I have to work very quickly so pre pro is even more important. I have to have a super solid plan of everything that needs to be achieved as you only have a few days to create the magic.

Pre-production is unbelievably valid time and should always be budgeted in, there is no doubt that a much better product is always created.

Listen to our podcast episode on pre-production here.

"You have to be prepared for whatever is thrown at you at any given moment."

Jackson Cline

Friend of the podcast Heather Tepe is competing on season 2 of NBC's Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge as a member of Team Showtime alongside Mike Cannon, Yurel Echezarreta, Katie Huber & Samantha Zack. We asked her how performing as a Broadway swing helped her prepare for this challenge:


Heather Tepe

Heather Tepe

"Being a swing on Broadway I'd say is what really helped in preparation for a race like this. Going into it, we had very little information on what it would consist of. We could watch the previous season, but we knew it was going to be very different. As a swing, you have to be prepared for whatever is thrown at you at any given moment. Things were sure being thrown at us during this race! You also always have to be aware of your surroundings. There was so much going on and lots of people around with not as much room as you'd expect. We had to look out for each other and make sure everyone was doing ok while making sure we weren't going to interfere with another team. I've also gotten very good at staying calm when it feels like everything is going wrong. I've been thrown on for tracks I don't cover and have had to learn it as I go, playing children and men at the same time. I've grown to love that kind of stress. Having those experiences was very helpful in the heat of the moment on the course. Basically nothing was guaranteed to go right. We were touching all of the obstacles for the first time, we were soaked and freezing - oh and it was in the middle of the night! Being a dancer did help with that. We often have to improvise, and we know how our bodies work and can adapt pretty easily when something feels strange. It was a thrill for sure and an experience I will cherish and never forget!"

Team Showtime

Team Showtime

Season two of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge premiered on NBC on Monday, June 12.

"I Feel Like I’m Living the Dream!"

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast Jeffrey C. Sousa shares his feelings about joining the Broadway ensemblists of Aladdin.

Jeffrey C. Sousa

Jeffrey C. Sousa

"It's a Thursday morning in June, my mind is racing before the alarm has even gone off. I toss in bed with the sun glowing in my window. It's too warm for the comforter to stay on. With a little more spring than usual, I exhale to let nerves go as I stumble out of bed. It's my first day at Aladdin on Broadway as a new vacation swing, and the idea of the possibility and adventure ahead hasn’t set in. Nor has the workload learning potentially 12 tracks (ensemble men) in a prop-heavy show with multiple costume changes. But mostly excited for joining such a magical cast on Broadway!"

"Did I mention Aladdin plays to full houses every night on 42nd Street?! It's kind of a Broadway dream come true. This is my third Broadway show, and if I can say anything about my experience so far, it's that it's always been last-minute and when I’ve least expected it that the phone rings. It's taught me to be an adaptable and formidable actor that has to think fast and be quick on my feet. Being a swing is the hardest job on Broadway."

"For the past four years, I’ve auditioned for Aladdin; as an Aladdin understudy, for the ensemble and even for the most recent company of Aladdin that is located in Chicago. So finally booking the show here in NYC and seeing it all happen is a truly incredible feeling. It's a show I’ve always dreamt of coming to Broadway. People have always told me I look like Aladdin,, and on top of it all, it's one of my favorite Disney movies, if not my favorite."

"The animated movie that I grew up watching on repeat inspired this stage version, and I think the changes are smart and add new life to the show. It's for sure lived up to my expectations of what I imagined in a Disney musical. What’s most cool about being in Aladdin is joining this group of storytellers who still believe in the magic of live theater as much as I do. Bringing a Disney classic like Aladdin to life is all a guy could ask for right about now, I feel like I’m living the dream!"

Listen to our episode on Replacements here.

"The Process was the Most Rewarding."

Mo Brady

On Sunday, the Drama Desk Awards bestowed the cast of the off-Broadway production of The Wolves with an award for Outstanding Ensemble. Today, Obie and Drama Desk winner Lizzy Jutila shares what it felt like to work as a member of that award-winning cast.

Lizzy Jutila

Lizzy Jutila

"Earning this award has made me feel so respected for my work as an actor and so respected to be a young woman. Yes I think I am lucky to have had the experience I did with my extremely talented cast and crew but I think we definitely earned the honor. Everyone involved put in their heart, passion and pain into this story. I have been wanting something like this since I was a little girl and now that it's here I have to keep going and reach farther. I am inspired to do more collaborative and ensemble work. The process was the most rewarding."

Listen to our episode on Ensemblists in Plays here.

"I Was Seeing Art Being Made."

Mo Brady

Friend of the podcast and The Great Comet investor Mike Rognlien shares his thoughts after his show won two of the twelve Tony Awards it was nominated for this year.

A handful of people have reached out to offer "condolences" that The Great Comet didn't win more Tony Awards last night. I hope to re-frame that thinking a bit.

First and foremost, I hate awards shows. Of course, I'm happy when people are recognized for doing amazing work, but awards shows lend towards the belief that if you don't win awards, you didn't do great work or your work was lesser-than when compared to others. It's why we roll our eyes at people who say - even earnestly - what an honor the nomination was. They're not joking - most of the thousands of people working in the theater world in NYC are not nominated for anything, ever. It IS a significant achievement to be nominated. 

19 out of 20 (or thereabouts) shows that make it to one of the 41 official Broadway theaters don't recoup their initial production costs, and fewer still win -any- awards. If making money or winning an award or even selling a set number of tickets was the only measure of success, Broadway and the arts wouldn't exist. For every Hamilton, there are a thousand ideas that never see the light of day because they weren't seen as being commercially viable. Or they came at the wrong time (I'm looking at you, The Last Five Years). Or they got crowded out by something that created more buzz.

Mike Rognlien

Mike Rognlien

I invested in Comet, but I also saw most of the nominated shows this year. I saw shows like the stunning Significant Other that didn't last or get any Tony nominations but should have. I saw shows that I thought were bad or not nearly as good as I'd been led to believe by word of mouth or marketing. 

But in all cases, I was seeing art being made, live, by real people with incredible talent. These people - both on and off stage - who have the courage and the drive and the ability to withstand years of (sometimes petty) rejection and withering feedback, increasingly obnoxious audiences, complaints about ticket prices and availability and a million other things do it because THEY LOVE THEIR ART FORM. They wear themselves out physically and emotionally and even mentally for our entertainment, and even when they hit the 'bigtime' many of them still live check to check (when they're actually working) to put on 8 shows a week for the rest of us. Every single show that was nominated for a Tony - and every one that wasn't - had that in common. And despite the pettiness of the press or fans about who wins or loses on awards nights, these artists also overwhelmingly support each other in their work, even or especially when they're in direct competition for dollars and praise.

I have learned a lot about the theater world (and, by proxy, the corporate world) in the last couple of years, and awards or no awards, I'm deeply grateful for the work and for the people who make it. And this year, I'm especially grateful to the people who brought the Comet to life on Broadway. And I especially can't wait to see how it evolves and grows and changes when Okieriete Onaodowan takes over the role of Pierre on July 3.

I hope you go see it (and everything else). ♥

Listen to our podcast episode on Awards Season here.

Five Moments When Ensembles Ruled The Tony Awards

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

The cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at the 2017 Tony Awards

The cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at the 2017 Tony Awards

1. The Opening Number's Bevy of Talented Men

Opening numbers are often an excellent chance to see veteran dancers who AREN’T currently on Broadway strut their stuff, and this year was no exception. Accompanying host Kevin Spacey was a slew of male ensemblists, including podcast guests James Brown III, Marty Lawson, Adam Perry - as well as Michaeljon Slinger and Charlie Williams. (How Michaeljon and Charlie were able to perform in the opening while also being in the casts of Hello, Dolly! and Miss Saigon, respectively, is beyond my pay grade. But I loved seeing their handsome mugs on my TV screen.)

2. Best Director wins by ensemble-led shows

Sure, Best Director winners Christopher Ashley and Rebecca Taichman looked as pleasantly shocked as I was when their names were announced as winners for Come From Away and Indecent, respectively. However, it should come to no surprise that these two productions specifically were heralded for their direction. The companies of each of these show shine as ensembles where every actor is responsible for moving the action of the story forward. Helming this kind of theatre is not an easy feat - which is why Chris and Rebecca are worthy winners of their awards this year. 

3. Hello, Dolly! Storms the stage

Sure, the major news outlets were all over the story of star Bette Midler’s extended acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Musical. But my favorite Hello, Dolly! moment was watching the steady stream of cast members hit the stage during producer Scott Rudin’s acceptance of the award for Best Revival of a Musical. The lauded revival of the Jerry Herman classic features a huge cast (33 onstage actors plus four swings), and it seemed that every single one of them took to the stage of Radio City.

4. Bandstand Almost Tumbles

It’s undeniable that the ensemble of Bandstand brilliantly showcased the most thrilling choreography of the telecast. Andy Blankenbuehler proved why he was bestowed his third Tony Award for choreography with the show’s performance of their Act II opener, “Nobody.” But the most exciting moment for me was  watching the cast save leading lady Laura Osnes from a near fall. No one person should apologize for this moment, as the circumstances of performing on a new stage with limited rehearsal in front of an audience of 5,000 would throw anyone for a loop. But to watch cast members Max Clayton, Corey Cott and Laura Osnes keep their cool in a moment of potential stress was the epitome of professionalism.

As a side note, I’m gonna need this moment of Jessica Lea Patty as a screensaver on my phone.

5. Catching the Comet

Major props to the company of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 for taking advantage of the expansive space inside Radio City Music Hall. Viewers were treated to an  electrifying performance that is sure to inspire potential ticket buyers to lay down their credit cards. From the number’s opening and closing moments highlighting a chandelier high above the balcony, to the bringing the red banquets of the Imperial Theatre onto the stage of Radio City, the number was masterfully staged.

(btw, anybody know why the show was referred to only as “The Great Comet” during the telecast? Was CBS afraid taking too much air time by saying the full name of the show.)

My personal favorite moment was me holding my breath as Reed Luplau performed a dizzying number of barrel turns on the passerelle of the stage. I may have had a heart attack watching that moment, but Reed seemed to perform it without a hitch.

Mo Brady is co-creator and host of The Ensemblist podcast.

"Dancers are amazing athletes."

Jackson Cline

Podcast guest Mike Cannon is competing on season 2 of NBC's Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge as a member of Team Showtime alongside Yurel Echezarreta, Katie Huber, Heather Tepe & Samantha Zack. We asked him how performing as a Broadway ensemblist helped him prepare for this challenge:


Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon

"I had initially received a call from the show to be on a team of dancers to compete. They had seen my audition video for Ninja Warrior.  I asked who the other dancers were, and they said they had a few in their files. Then I said, "Well, I think I can put one hell of a team together from my friends on Broadway." They said, "You have four days." So, I Facebook- blasted and got a bunch of responses from dancers who love competing and love working out. After a few weeks, they called and said we were on the show and would leave in three weeks!!!!"

"We were all in shape, but we knew we would need to work as a team for the show. So the next day we got together to work out. First, we ran the West Side Highway together with weighted back packs. One day, we took a CrossFit-style class. Then, we went to Central Park and did some trail running and bodyweight exercises on whatever we could find. We were actually doing pull-ups on trees using gym towels. It actually might be illegal to climb the trees there, but we were fast so we didn't get caught. Luckily, I also found an amazing gym called Obstacle Athletics in Deer Park.  They specialize in these kinds of races. The owner gave us workouts and taught us specific techniques. He was impressed by our stamina, our agility and, of course, our flexibility.  It was good to use equipment that simulated what we might see on the show. Also, we really came together as a team there. Carrying a 200lb tire together while running will bring you close!"

"I definitely think the core strength and athleticism that we have as dancers helped us tremendously on the show. However, that competition pushed us further then we thought we could go. I've never been more exhausted or worked harder in my life. The only reason I kept going was because I had four other amazing teammates that needed me. I was so proud of what we accomplished. We set out to prove to ourselves and the world that dancers are amazing athletes, and I definitely think we did just that."

Team Showtime

Team Showtime

Season two of Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge premieres on NBC on Monday, June 12.

"It's All Fleeting, So Enjoy What's in Front of You Now."

Mo Brady

Podcast guest Marty Lawson shares his feelings about performing on tonight's Tony Awards.

Marty Lawson

Marty Lawson

"Tomorrow I have the opportunity to perform at the Tony Awards for the 7th time in ten years, three times with shows nominated for best musical and four times in the opening number. My favorite memories are of sharing the rehearsals and the stage with best friends, ex-girlfriends, and cast mates that will be part of my life forever. Its the extra rehearsals on a 16 show straight stretch. Its the early mornings spent waiting in a bus outside Radio City or the last second hugs right before you go onto the stage to do a number you've done a thousand times and yet somehow this one always feels different."


"As I look back, there's a good chance that I took the eight years and six shows I spent on Broadway for granted. Its where I "expected" to be so I wasnt cherishing every second. It seemed natural and omnipresent so it was something I felt would never go away. Now, its been a minute since Ive had the honor of being a name on the boards and I can look at it and appreciate it with a perspective earned. With that perspective I'm sending everyone participating in the Broadway season congratulations and love and hope they all enjoy tomorrow as a celebration of their lives, creativity, and opportunities; nominated or not. It's all fleeting, so enjoy what's in front of you now."

"Look around, breath, and soak it in. Don't get so caught up in doing it "right" that you miss the ride."

Hear Marty on our very first episode - about Dance Partners!

Why Ensemblists Are Excited for The Tony Awards

Mo Brady

As Broadway ensemblists are gearing up for tomorrow's Tony Awards, podcast guests and friends share with us why they are excited for tomorrow's celebration.

Performing at the TONYS is the most exhilarating experience. I start to giggle just thinking about it. I’m excited to give the world a taste of our completely original show and cheer on my friends to celebrate this incredible season.
— Max Clayton (Bandstand)
There’s this one section of choreography that is utterly exhausting but my absolute favorite because it requires you to LIVE! For me, it’s a quintessential part of our show and I’m so excited to do it on this stage representing this beautiful show on the Tonys (!!!!!) that I made my family watch every year and now they’ll get to see me on them!
— Erica Dorfler (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812)

Listen to Erica share the development of The Great Comet in her Rehearsal Reports episodes.

I’m so excited to get to be onstage at Radio City Music Hall and perform for a bunch of incredible artists I’ve idolized for so many years!
— Alex Gibson (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812)
I’m most excited about performing on that legendary stage with this amazing cast. We have been through so many ups and downs as a company and I can’t wait to celebrate our show and our 7 nominations by performing alongside my ridiculously talented castmates and representing our brilliant show. It’ll truly feel like a celebratory “WE DID IT!” moment. CHAMPIONS ADJUST!
— Raymond Lee (Groundhog Day)

Hear from Raymond on our Broadway Parents episode.

I’m excited for the world to see Eva Noblezada perform and for a new generation to discover ‘Miss Saigon’. Also, I’m excited for the people who love Broadway but might not have the chance to get to NYC to see some of the incredible shows and performances happening this year.
— Paul HeeSang Miller (Miss Saigon)

Hear from Paul on our Theatre Neighbors and Awards Season episodes.

I’m most looking forward to the actual live performance! It’s a whirlwind and it happens in a flash. But for those 3 minutes you are getting to perform your heart out in celebration of our industries highest honor in front of your colleagues, your friends, your family, the fans & at Radio City Music Hall no less! It’s like a dream and I can’t wait!!
— Jessica Lea Patty (Bandstand)

Listen to Jessica share the development of Bandstand in her Rehearsal Reports episodes.

I’m really excited to bring our wonderful show that celebrates all of our weirdness into the iconic space of Radio City Music Hall. History has been made in that space and I can’t wait to toast to everyone in their tuxes and ball gowns as our company invites them to join our band of gypsy lovers!
— Celia Mei Rubin (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812)

Hear from Celia on our Spilt Tracks episode.

Im looking forward to dancing my ass off with my partner Ericka Mansfield and this unbelievable group of dancers that im humbled to work with every night. And.... that feeling when the curtain comes up and my heart switch leaps out of my chest and does a cooter slam centerstage :-)
— Keven Quillon (Bandstand)
1. Knowing that my mom will be watching from home as she does every year, but this time she’ll be looking for her daughter :)
2. Having our show introduced by Lea Salonga, who I looked up to as a distant star when I was a kid, and got to become friends with when we did Allegiance on Broadway together.
— Catherine Ricafort (Miss Saigon)

Hear from Catherine on our A Chorus Line and Containing Multitudes episodes.

Since I was a little theater nerd, I dreamt about performing on the Tony Awards. Im excited my family will be watching my Tony performance on TV. And it’ll be televised from Radio City Music Hall, no less!! Dream come true.
— Travis Waldschmidt (Groundhog Day)

Listen to Travis on our Broadway Sports episode.

I’m most looking forward to sharing the magic with my cast. This is truly the closest, most magical show family I’ve ever been blessed to create with. They are some of my dearest friends, and there are so many debuts and firsts and dreams coming true in our company. It’s a joy we can all celebrate and share together as a family, no matter what happens Sunday night!
— Lauren Zakrin (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812)

"This Weekend is for EVERYONE Who Loves the Theatre."

Mo Brady

Broadway Historian and podcast guest Jennifer Ashley Tepper shares with us fifteen hidden gems of this Broadway season.

Jennifer Ashley Tepper

Jennifer Ashley Tepper

"As Tony Awards weekend is upon us, here are 15 things I really appreciated this season that people aren't talking about as much, which I want to give a shout-out to: 

1. The non-Linney and Nixon actors in The Little Foxes who are ALSO doing the show in two different versions.

2. The dressers at Hello, Dolly! (and everywhere)- for lightning-quick invisible work in pretty much every scene, making the most lavish show of the season look terrific.

3. The producing and publicity team at Oh, Hello (and everywhere) for getting different high profile guests for every performance, an incredibly difficult hamster wheel of a task, that brought buzz and fun to the season.

4. The musicians at Sunset Boulevard (and everywhere) for making the music in every musical shine to an outstanding degree, being the backbone of the performance, and in some cases like this one, even being on stage. 

5. The stagehands and stage managers and staff at Groundhog Day (and everywhere)- for getting that technically complicated set to run at a theater that is almost 100 years old and not made for automated turntables and other 2017 devices.

6. The associates!!!!!!!!!!! One of the least thanked groups, who make Broadway RUN. The associate directors! The associate scenic designers! The associate producers! ALL Y'ALL. BRAVO.

7. The house staff at The Great Comet (and everywhere) - for navigating the unprecedented nature of this immersive show and working hard so that audiences are accommodated, safe, and having a great time.

8. The understudies - who have KILLED the game this season, from Stephanie Umoh hopping on as Trina in Falsettos as the second cover with zero rehearsal and script in hand, to Andrew Call jumping into Groundhog Day to blazing acclaim when Andy was injured, to those very special swings, covering many roles in one of the hardest jobs there is.

9. The casting directors at Come From Away (and everywhere)- for creating stage pictures that look more and more like the world looks, and taking the initiative and being proactive in advocating to cast actors of every race, body type, sexuality, gender, age, nationality, ability, and more. 

10. Every cast or team member who has taken extra time to sign a Playbill, answer a tweet, or take a selfie on the street- especially those who have to navigate a bonkers insane stage door each night to do so (I'm talkin to you Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen)... where 95% of the fans are lovely and 5% are wildly rude. In how many non-theatrical professions do people spend an extra hour, right after getting off work, doing something they're not required to, to make people happy, even though it's often challenging? 

11. The sound designers and technicians at The Encounter (and everywhere) for doing 100 things that no one understands, which are absolutely essential to a positive theatre experience. Barely anyone not in the sound field comprehends the specifics of each sound design and all of the skill and technological know-how and navigation of elements that goes into it. ("Can't they just prevent the staticcc? Can't they just turn on the micsss??") You are heroes.

12. The digital teams - you are breaking new ground for the theatre, and keeping our art form up to date with others... something essential to Broadway in 2017. One of the reasons theatre is hot right now in the way it is, and as many people have jobs as they do, and as many theaters are filled? It's not just the live TV musicals, and Hamilton. It's twitter and facebook and instagram and snapchat and tumblr and youtube and digital lotteries and mobile platforms and web design and theatre sites and google ad words. #DigitalTeamsFTW

13. The press folks who are at every opening, every event, every roundtable - taking photos, taking videos, writing articles, crafting content. They never sleep, they are rarely thanked, they are incredibly talented, and they should all walk down the red carpet while we shoot pics and applaud.

14. Every intern in every theatre office who is workin' 8am-midnight, doing all the grunt work, hoping to be a bigger part of this world someday. Keep working hard. You will be.

15. The audiences- especially those going to see shows that aren't based on recognizable brands, or didn't get the best reviews... because they sound interesting and worthwhile. Especially those seeing their first Broadway show, or those who saved up for months to afford to see one. Especially those who come back year after year, and don't text during the performance. We love you.

This weekend is for EVERYONE who loves the theatre, not only the nominees!! HAPPY TONY AWARDS WEEKEND!!!!!!!!!!!!"

"An Ensemble Award Could Recognize Those Unsung Heroes."

Mo Brady

As the New York theatre community finds itself in the middle of Awards Season, The Ensemblist is often asked about the possibility of a Tony Award for Best Ensemble. However, since we center our coverage on New York, we wanted to give our readers a look at why other great theatre cities choose to recognize ensembles with awards. Today, we hear from Tahirih Vejdani, a Toronto actor about the benefits of the Dora Awards' Outstanding Performance - Ensemble award.

Tahirih Vejdani

Tahirih Vejdani

"I had the honour this past year to serve as a Juror for the Doras in Toronto. I watched and assessed over 30 productions in the categories of Opera, Musical Theatre, and Touring. I then got to nominate them on the extraordinary work these colleagues have accomplished. I can't officially speak about those productions as a juror for the Dora’s but I can talk about how the Dora's do have a category that is awarded to Best Ensemble. I find it surprising that the Tony's, an award that has been in existence longer than the Dora's, do not even have an award for Best Ensemble. As someone who has spent a lot of her professional life in the ensemble, I know how hard ensembles work to create a seamless environment for the main action. Ensembles truly deserve some form of recognition. Especially shows that are 100% ensemble-based where members play so many roles it’s hard to isolate a leading lady or leading man. Yes, the show that wins best Musical or best Play obviously acknowledges that overall cohesion of the artistic team and performers, but it sometimes doesn’t do justice to acknowledge the hard work of the ensemble. A separate award, however, would do that. The Tony’s do have Best Performance by Actor/Actress in a Featured Role, which recognizes those supporting performers. But again, that’s just one supporting performer from the ensemble."

"I’m currently in the ensembles of HMS Pinafore and Treasure Island at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season and I am just in awe of my fellow ensemble performers here. Kudos to our director Mitchell Cushman of Treasure Island for not only developing a play that takes the audience, young and old, on an epic journey but also for creating and emphasizing from day one the importance of having a strong and invested ensemble. This show is full of an amazing team of actors who can fight, act on silks, repel from a catwalk, and carry a tune. Aside from my own shows, I do have to mention and sing the praises of my fellow company members who are in Guys and Dolls. The leads are amazing, but the ensemble? Seamless and stunning. The guys especially. Their Crap Shooters sequence is impressive and meticulous and just knowing the amount of work they have put in these last four months during rehearsals and previews is mindblowing. If that production was on Broadway right now, it would definitely be nominated for Best Choreography by Donna Feore. But that choreo would not be what it is if it wasn’t for the amazing ensemble able to execute the choreographer's vision."

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival cast of Guys and Dolls

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival cast of Guys and Dolls

"Having a Best Ensemble award would also acknowledge the insane amount of work these ensembles have to do behind the scenes in prep as swings and understudies. Here in Stratford, sometimes swings and understudies end up going on even before their understudy run. I can only assume the same for Broadway, and odds are that some of those jurors have been in the audience when an understudy or swing goes on. The Ensemble award could serve as a way to also recognize those unsung heroes. "

"As with the award for Sound Design that got reinstated, hopefully there is room for the committee to take into consideration creating a Best Ensemble award. And while they are at it, maybe they could consider reinstating the award for Best Conductor and Musical Director? Either way, I’m looking forward to watching the Tony Awards this Sunday evening at The Musical Stage Company’s Tony viewing party where I’m sure we will all be rooting for our fellow Canadians and Come From Away!"

Tahirih Vejdani (left) and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival cast of Treasure Island

Tahirih Vejdani (left) and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival cast of Treasure Island

How to Honour a Show By the Sum of Its Parts

Mo Brady

As the New York theatre community finds itself in the middle of Awards Season, The Ensemblist is often asked about the possibility of a Tony Award for Best Ensemble. However, since we center our coverage on New York, we wanted to give our readers a look at why other great theatre cities choose to recognize ensembles with awards. Today, we hear from Dave Carley, a Toronto playwright, about the benefits of the Dora Awards' Outstanding Performance - Ensemble award.

Dave Carley

Dave Carley

"June is busting out all over, mostly with awards ceremonies. The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) doles out its Doras on the 26th. The award’s divisions range from dance to musical theatre and opera, with a whole lot of theatre in between."

"Six years ago, TAPA changed things up. A new 'Ensemble' category was added, giving producers three avenues by which they could have their performers considered. The cast of a show can be still be entered as individuals. But it is also possible to enter the full cast as an 'Ensemble'; or create a blend of those two, with some of the cast competing as an Ensemble and some as Individuals."

"It is a typically Canadian compromise, with a couple of drawbacks. The added categories make the awards ceremony last longer than the NHL Playoffs, but with slightly less bloodletting. And, if a big ensemble wins, it can cost TAPA big dough (albeit C$) for the requisite statuettes for every member."

"But the Ensemble category also addresses an inherent deficiency with the traditional best-actor/best-actress system. It is a perfect fit for many dance shows, and musicals that are strongly choral in nature. In the theatre division, it acknowledges plays that use a lot of doubling or otherwise step outside traditional, defined role or performance styles. And it solves the problem of how to honour a show that begs to be seen as the sum of all of its parts, rather than just some of them." 

Statuettes at the 2016 Dora Awards

Statuettes at the 2016 Dora Awards

"My Teammates: That’s the fuel."

Mo Brady

On Sunday, the Drama Desk Awards bestowed the cast of the off-Broadway production of The Wolves with an award for Outstanding Ensemble. Today, Obie and Drama Desk winner Jenna Dioguardi shares what it felt like to work as a member of that award-winning cast.

Jenna Dioguardi

Jenna Dioguardi

"I first encountered The Wolves in March of 2015, over 2 years ago now, when I was still kinda-sorta a student at Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU. I had finished my coursework a semester early, and was essentially just loitering around Playwrights until I officially walked at graduation in May of 2015. Clubbed Thumb, an outstanding downtown theater company, had just taken up residence in the same building as PHTS and needed nine young female actors to read the play aloud for a week so that our marvelous playwright, Sarah DeLappe, could continue developing it. To give you the abridged version of my journey with this project, after that week-long workshop came a reading, a short workshop production, and another reading, over the course of a year or so, all before we even began our “professional” journey at New York Stage and Film last June."

"I thought it was important to share this history, because before the ensemble – this wonderful, powerful, deeply special group of women – you saw up there accepting the Obie and Drama Desk, there were several other magnificently talented genius women who played a large, invaluable role in making the play what it was. The re-casting process from developmental stages to whatever comes next can be trying and deeply difficult for actors, especially young ones early in their careers, as we were…and still are. Actors have virtually no control whether or not they continue forward with a project, and a lot of times it can feel unfair and – to be frank – very, very sad. I say all of this because for me, specifically, these awards that we’ve been so privileged to receive resonate as recognition for every brilliant woman who has ever touched this project."

"So often, people don’t talk about the development of new work. That’s what I went to school for! It’s all I knew for four years, and it’s all I hope to continue knowing. I wasn’t really trained on “the classics” per say, and I’m happy about that. I performed in almost entirely brand new work when I was in school, and the process was always about the ensemble; it was about the team of creators. So much goes into getting a play produced, especially at the professional level, and going to these awards ceremonies has really given me a chance to take stock of my entire journey with The Wolves. It was a long one, and it was a profoundly charmed one."

"The ensemble-focused nature of this play, to me, is exactly what is at its very core. It’s certainly about so many things – the young female experience, the American experience, privilege, identity, to name a few – but stepping out to do the show every time I did it, in every iteration, I only had to focus on one thing to propel me: my teammates. That’s the fuel. As an actor, there is nothing better than trusting in your cast-mates with all your might. It’s rare! It doesn’t always happen, so when it does, you hold on tight. When I first worked on The Wolves, I was working with some of my best friends who I had just spent four years in the close quarters of acting school with. I knew I trusted them. When the cast changed a bit, I was worried…who would these new actors be? Would I be able to trust them in the same way? By some miracle (and wildly attentive, smart casting by Karyn Casl and Will Cantler at Telsey & Company), I found myself in yet another group of women I trusted, from day one, with every part of myself."

The off-Broadway cast of The Wolves

The off-Broadway cast of The Wolves

"I can’t imagine doing this play with an ensemble I trust any less than 100%. Not only did we have the very literal challenges of managing a temperamental soccer ball and lightning-speed, overlapped text, but also we needed to make sure the truths of the story and these characters were coming forward. It’s easy to see a cast of nine sixteen and seventeen year old characters and say, “okay, they’re just super bitchy and silly and dumb, because that’s what teenagers are.” We actively fought against stereotypes – both in character and story – with every read and performance. And if not everyone was on board to advocate for her individual character as a three dimensional, sensitive human being, we weren’t going to get the job done. Every time I’ve done this play I’ve known that my fellow actors are going to walk on stage in the bodies of complex, passionate young women, and that I was going to have to bring the same to the table if we were going to serve Sarah DeLappe’s story. It’s no easy feat to fight stereotype as an actor. To be recognized for the work we put in every second of every performance is tremendously special."

"At both the Obies and the Drama Desks I was approached by people in the theater community who asked me, “who are you guys?!” They just seemed astounded by this gaggle of young actresses traveling around these ceremonies in a literal pack, chanting, “WE! ARE! THE WOLVES!” upon accepting the awards. Observers have no idea where we came from, but suddenly we popped up, not as one or two recognized artists, but as an entire ensemble. That’s really what it’s about for me. We’ve done every part of this process together, onstage and off. We’ve held each other up. And I hope we’ve done something, somehow, to encourage the creation of more ensemble-based work. In my opinion, it’s the best kind."

Listen to our episode on Ensemblists in Plays here.

The off-Broadway company of The Wolves at the 2017 Obie Awards

The off-Broadway company of The Wolves at the 2017 Obie Awards