Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 


New York, NY
USA

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. 

Blog02.jpg

Blog

Fearless: Navigating Mean Girls

Mo Brady

by Patrick Garr

Patrick Garr in  Mean Girls

Patrick Garr in Mean Girls

As a swing, each track has its own mental and physical preparation, as well as challenges that differ from track to track. I cover seven male ensemble tracks in Mean Girls and each of the performers who play these roles are insanely talented, all the while making eight shows a week look seamless.

One of my favorite aspects of our show is that each ensemble track is a named character that has been fully developed by the actor that portrays said role. Each track that I cover is similar, yet slightly differs from the others. Thus, modifying how I prepare for each role that I swing.

Our show is more of a marathon than a sprint - always high energy. Not only does Mean Girls have beautifully calculated athletic choreography, but also many of the set pieces are moved by the ensemble, making each track a little more rigorous than it seemingly appears to the audience’s eye.

However, there are sometimes small nuances that are unrecognizable even from the wings. It isn’t until you step onstage into a specific track that everything sinks in.

1. SHANE OMAN - played by Kevin Csolak

Shane Oman is a physically rigorous track in the show, because it requires a large amount of heavy lifting and he moves numerous set pieces by himself. The Shane track does the bench choreography in “Apex Predator” as well as many scene transitions throughout both acts. What makes this track exciting is that he’s in all of the ensemble dance numbers and is also featured as the lion in “Revenge Party.” I love to constantly be moving and active, which makes this track fun since it keeps me on my toes.

2. JASON WEEMS - played by Curtis Holland

For this specific track, my preparation requires a mental check-in with myself. I always say that the top of the show feels like we’re shot out of a canon and off to the races. There is very little time to think between the top of show until after “Meet the Plastics.” I spend at least 15 minutes before the show checking in with my body, reminding my muscle memory of my onstage quick changes, specific prop moves, and table shifts. My favorite part about this track is the featured interaction with the plastics in “Meet the Plastics.” It’s a great character moment for his track.

Patrick Garr in  Mean Girls

Patrick Garr in Mean Girls

3. MR. HERON - played by Brendon Stimson

For this track, I do several features, including Mr. Heron at the top of the show and the bench choreography during “Apex Predator.” In addition, the quick change out of Mr. Heron into the high school hallway for “It Roars” is an incredibly fast change. This track is very physical; responsible for a great deal of set moves. Before each show, I have to prepare for the quick change and center myself mentally. The Mr. Heron features are one of my favorite parts about how this track was created. He is a really fun character to portray on stage and it’s always exhilarating to interact with Cady and Mrs. Heron during the show.

4. MARWAN JITLA - played by Nikhil Saboo

Marwan is one of the Mathletes in the show and has a demanding track because not only is he in the Mathlete scenes, but he also does the bench choreography in “Apex Predator.” Sliding under the bench was a little nerve-wracking the first time I went on for this track, simply because he has about three counts to slide under the bench and come right back to standing. This track is exciting because of his features in the Mathlete scenes and also because I get to beatbox in the talent show. I was terrified to do this feature the first time I went on, but it has, oddly enough, become one of my favorite moments of the show. However, I could never top the incredible Nikhil Saboo - I still don’t know how he does it.

5. CHRISTIAN WIGGINS - played by DeMarius Copes

The Christian Wiggins track is physically rigorous because of the different set transitions that he has. One of the hardest moments for me in this track was getting used to the quick transition out of “Whose House” and moving the stairs into “More is Better” as Cady hops onto them. The whole time I was repeating the spike color in my head since it was such a fast transition and I had never seen it in stage lighting. The other moment I always have to remind myself of is to catch the trays when they are slid to me in “Meet the Plastics.” I definitely didn’t forget about those trays after the first time. My favorite part about this track is the multiple interactions the character has with other ensemble members during the show - especially the Shane and Marwan tracks on stage during “Stop.” It’s one of my favorite scenes. I also always joke that my favorite part of this track is throwing the poop as the Zebra (but I’m also totally not joking - it’s the perfect way to start the show).

Patrick Garr in  Mean Girls

Patrick Garr in Mean Girls

6. TYLER KIMBLE - played by Ben Tyler Cook

Tyler Kimble is one of the Mathletes and is actually the track that I debuted in. What makes it challenging is that this track doesn’t have as much offstage time because he is in the scenes with the Mathletes, but the number is an exciting moment in the show and not too rigorous, which makes the role exciting. As Tyler, I get to interact with many other ensemble members on stage and have honest character moments, which is one of my favorite parts about how he created this track. Tyler always feels like home base and brings back a plethora of memories from my first night on stage at the August Wilson.

7. GLEN COCO - played by Myles McHale

Glen CoCo is such a fun track, as he also doubles as the Mathlete moderator for “Do This Thing” and the school nurse who is featured in several other scenes. What makes this track tricky is the set moves that I do by myself and the elephant during “It Roars.” As you can imagine, the elephant is much larger than I am and took multiple attempts to walk straight in the costume. In addition, this track moves multiple large set pieces such as escalators and the pretzel cart by himself during the show.


Every track in our show is special and has its own mental preparation and physical challenges. However, each time I go on, they become even more a part of my muscle memory and begin to each feel like a home base. It has been special coming into a show where all of the actors created characters that felt like themselves and that I have been given the opportunity to work alongside them to bring to life a beautifully individualized ensemble.



The Cast of Moulin Rouge! Is Going To Blow Our Minds

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

Paloma Garcia-Lee in  Moulin Rouge!  (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Paloma Garcia-Lee in Moulin Rouge! (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The news of a Broadway musical finding its original company is always exciting. Looking through the roster of names announced, your mind begins to imagine the world of the show and how it will be populated. To be fair, any cast announcement is exciting. But when I saw the full cast announced for the Broadway mounting of Moulin Rouge!, one thought superseded all others:

The ensemble of Moulin Rouge! is going to blow our fucking minds.

The cast of any Main Stem musical includes a variety of Broadway veterans and newcomers with a mix of talents and skill sets. But what makes these 22 actors in Moulin Rouge’s ensemble stand out can be summed up in three words: age, experience and uniqueness.

Ericka Hunter (Photo by Holly James)

Ericka Hunter (Photo by Holly James)

Age

It’s a fact that Broadway is a young person’s game. The lifestyle of a performer combined with the toil the industry can take on actors means that most ensemble actors are younger than 30 years old. The Moulin Rouge! ensemble bucks that trend, with much of the cast having worked on Broadway for decades.

While a lady never reveals her age, four of the show’s female ensemble members have been working on Broadway for more than ten years. Ericka Hunter’s seven Broadway credits include the original company of Flower Drum Song in 2002. Bahiyah Hibah has a remarkable ten Broadway shows to her name, including playing Velma Kelly in Chicago. With experience, comes wisdom - which will no doubt be present in their performances.

Experience

Look at the previous credits of these performers and you can see a connective tissue among their professional experiences. They are “the weird ones,” some of the most unique pieces of commercial theatre of the last decade. Moulin Rouge!’s ensemble helped develop such out-of-the-box theatrical pieces as Hamilton, Here Lies Love and Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. The cast includes former Bette Midler Harlettes (Jacqueline B. Arnold), Rihanna backup dancers (Olutayo Bosede) and company members of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival (Jennifer Florentino). Oh, and one of the show’s swings was a Fulbright scholar. (We see you, Dylan Paul.)

All of that non-traditional experience is layered on top of their incredible dance technique. Choreographer Sonya Tayeh’s company includes performers who have worked with the Kirov Ballet, the Radio City Rockettes and Stephen Petronio Company. Their technical experience combined with their atypical theatre backgrounds means that they are sure to bring skilled and layered performances to the Al Hirschfeld stage.

Kyle Brown and Max Clayton (Photo by Holly James)

Kyle Brown and Max Clayton (Photo by Holly James)

These are also much sought-after performers. Of the 22 performers, six of them are on Broadway this season in other musicals. Four are performing in the ensemble of Rent Live on Fox later this month. In between Moulin Rouge!’s Boston tryout and Broadway bow, Max Clayton will have been in two other Broadway musicals AND A Chorus Line at New York City Center. These are some of the hardest working ensemblists in the business today.

Uniqueness (a.k.a. Star Quality)

This is not simply a company of talented performers. This is a company full of the ensemblists who have stood out in almost every musical of the last five years, assembled into one mind-blowing cast. It’s Bandstand’s Morgan Marcell AND American Psycho’s Holly James AND Head Over Heels’ Yurel Echezarreta AND The Great Comet’s Reed Luplau, all on stage together. The Moulin Rouge cast is like the X-Men of Broadway ensemblists brought together to change the world, one production number at a time.


There are many reasons to be excited about Moulin Rouge!’s ascent to Broadway: director Alex Timbers’ track record of fantastically storytelling, Sonya Tayeh’s visceral choreographic style and Derek McLane’s indulgent scenic design are just the tip of the iceberg. However, included in that list are 22 ensemble actors who are sure to blow the roof off of the Hirschfeld.

Moulin Rouge!  (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Moulin Rouge! (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

"I've Decided To Do Both."

Mo Brady

by Hernando Umana

Hernando Umana

Hernando Umana

In a profession where you, the actor, are the product, manager, marketing team, and wear every other hat possible, even the strongest will have to learn to overcome crippling anxiety. I struggled with anxiety day in and day out. I did everything I could think of to help - therapy, anxiety medication, you name it. Finally, I turned to my mentor and friend, Angela Ardolino, and she helped me discover the incredible benefits of CBD Dog Health.

I was so fortunate to learn about CBD when I did, because it completely changed my life. I was able to treat my anxiety without addictive medications. I found a whole new confidence in myself. I walked into my auditions with my shoulders relaxed, breath was strong and steady, and I was able to focus on the work I did to prepare for the audition instead of the nerves. How did I not know about this before? Why hadn’t any of my doctors talked to me about this? It’s infuriating. 

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid component found in the hemp plant and is extracted from the flowers, leaves, and stalks. CBD made from hemp can have a range of benefits, including treating anxiety, auto-immune diseases, cancer, tumors, seizures, and more. CBD made from hemp has less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive component associated with feeling “high.” Mammals have whats called the Endacanabanoid system. A system that is specifically made to accept CBD! I think its just as important as vitamins. This past December, the Fam Bill was passed, making CBD from the Hemp plant Federally Legal! A huge victory.

The next challange? My dog’s crazy separation anxiety while I was on tour. I’d leave for the show and get calls from the hotel with major complaints about her barking. One hotel even kicked me out. I tried everything. Sprays, thunder jackets, collars. Nothing worked. Guess what I found out? Dogs have TWICE the receptors for CBD than humans. I started her on CBD and the complaints suddenly stopped. I’d walk into my hotel room and she would be quietly sleeping in her bed. I couldn’t believe it. 

Angie, who had turned me on to CBD, had just finished getting her degree in medical cannabis from the University of Vermont and was in the process of starting her own line for pets. She happens to own grooming shops and a dog rescue farm, so there was no one better to lead the industry. I found my second passion: sharing the healing benefits of CBD. I began researching and working with Angie to formulate CBD products for dogs, which can calm anxiety, ease joint pain and allergies, and heal cancer, seizures, and tumors. I threw every penny I had saved in the last few years on Broadway and National Tours and a few months later we launched CBD Dog Health. We’ve been running for about six months right now, and we are so happy with how well we’re doing. I’m temporarily living in Tampa on the dog rescue farm, and I’ve seen dogs who couldn’t stand up, run. Seizures, anxiety, tumors completely disappear. It’s life-changing. Its time to take our dogs off of chemical medications and start healing them naturally.

So where does this leave me in the theatre world? I’ve decided to do both. You see, I LOVE theatre, but I don’t love depending on it as my only source of income. It takes the joy away from me and its become more about money than passion. I want to do shows because they inspire and challenge me! Setting myself up with parallel careers has reignited my love for theatre. I’m not looking at how much the contract pays but how bad I wanna play that role. My life now revolves around theatre, dogs, and cannabis. I couldn’t be happier. 

“They Did Not Do It Alone.”

Mo Brady

by Todd Buonopane  

Todd Buonopane

Todd Buonopane

I’m a big Broadway nerd. Those men and women that write Broadway musicals are my idols. I’ve looked up to Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim, Ahrens & Flaherty, etc. since I was a very young nerd. These writers created stories and songs that have given me a hobby, a livelihood and a career.

But they did NOT do it alone.

Tevye became the iconic musical character he is because Bock, Harnick and Stein created it with Zero Mostel. Danny Burstein, Alfred Molina and Stephen Skybell couldn’t be more different. But they are all traveling down the path carved by Mostel. 

Christina Applegate and Sutton Foster are both one of a kind. But Charity was created by Gwen Verdon. Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields wrote for and were inspired by Ms. Verdon’s one of a kind talent.

If my math is right, there are currently six productions of Hamilton right now. And those women playing the ensemble track created by Sasha Hutchings are dancing steps that were inspired by Ms. Hutchings’ unique, extraordinary abilities. 

Mr. Mostel, Ms. Verdon and Ms. Hutchings helped make Fiddler on the Roof, Sweet Charity and Hamilton into the great successes they are today.

I hope you see what I’m getting at. When actors and stage managers are a part of developing a new show, we directly affect the immediate and future success of that show. And if that show goes on to be a hit, we deserve to share in the profit participation.

That’s what #NotALabRat is all about. And that’s why Actors’ Equity Association is striking all developmental contracts and agreements with the Broadway League. Until our producing partners choose to acknowledge the intellectual and artistic contributions of actors and stage managers, we will no longer help them create their shows.

(Along with profit participation, we are asking for a raise, extra stage management and guaranteed lengths for Broadway rehearsal, so producers don’t use development salaries as cheaper Broadway rehearsals.)

New musicals are my favorite. I’ve been in some great ones. I’ve been in some real stinkers. But the exciting process of creating a new musical is when I feel most like an artist. I’ve had writers take me to lunch and ask, “How do you think it would be best to get your character to this emotional moment?” I’m happy to participate. When a joke isn’t landing, I’ll recommend a reordering of the words to fix the comical rhythm. Again, I’m happy to participate. I’m currently in Atlanta working on a new musical. I’ve improvised a few lines to help a musical number. The writer/lyricist then said, “I like that idea. I’m gonna write you something good to say there.” I didn’t write the final line, but I inspired it. I participated.

And if I am going to participate to help make a show, I should participate financially when it is a success.  We all should!

Actors are not the paint with which the writers, directors, choreographers and designers paint. We are fellow painters. We make this art together. We all know it. Now, let’s acknowledge it.

——————————

Todd Buonopane is an Eastern Chorus Councillor for Actors’ Equity Association. While this essay aligns with the stance of AEA, his views are his own.

LABRAT_DNW_1170x400.jpg

"Are You Willing To Admit?"

Mo Brady

by Kayla Davion

Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 10.14.26 AM.png

Where do I begin? The year of 2018 was a year of exponential growth for me. I had a lot of growing to do that had both everything and absolutely nothing to do with theatre. I think it’s important for people to be truthful in the moments that messed with their sanity and the moments that brought unspeakable joy. I’m usually a very secretive person over my own battles, so bear with me.

Here goes nothing…

2018 started very real for me… I started right where I needed to be, which was in a church. Truth is, I was dealing with more than I thought I could handle in 2017. I landed my first Broadway show, which was amazing. Yes, but that also came with a bunch of struggles and setbacks. Let me be clear in saying that I left school and went straight to Broadway. That means “booked and blessed!” That also means everyone is counting on you to “not screw up.” I’ve been a pretty good ‘grown-up’ since before I left for college; most people would say I was one of the most grown up, stable people they knew. However, now I was in this new city trying to be a grown-up completely alone.

In the first year that I had been in New York, a couple of things happened; I lived in mice-infested sublets. I completely lost all insurance that I had, which led me to covering things like dental surgeries out of pocket, I had a full-on vocal scare and had to retrain the way I sing and talk, and I ended a five-and-a-half-year relationship. So, things were not going well for me.

Kayla Davion

Kayla Davion

This is where I broke down, but also began to rebuild myself. 2017 ended in depression, and 2018 for me was this adventure of figuring out who Kayla was again. This meant taking accountability for my thoughts and actions and forcing myself to take ownership of my own self-care. 

Now I don’t want to make this sound like it was an easy thing, because it wasn’t. And it’s difficult to believe that it was hard, because, I mean again, I was on Broadway. The main question that I was hit with was, “You’re just living the dream, aren’t you?” But to be honest, it didn’t feel like I was living any kind of dream I had dreamt about when all of the things that I characterized myself as were all being taken away from me. I didn’t feel stable, I didn’t feel like my talent could withstand anymore, and I didn’t get to have the person I considered my best friend and love of my life on the journey with me. So in turn, I actually felt completely and utterly lost.

There were times I couldn’t even imagine getting out of the bed to go live this idea of a dream. The thing that pushed me onto this journey of accountability was honestly my faith. Now I know that is even harder to believe, but I am not joking when I say I kept hearing a voice that said, “Wake Up.” And boy, was I in for an unexpected treat of what waking up really meant. So now I’m on this journey in 2018 trying to figure out how to “Wake Up.”

Naturally, I thought that meant figuring out how to forget the B.S. that has happened and figuring out how to move on. What I learned that it actually meant was to admit. It meant to admit the wrong that was done to me, the wrong I did unto others and to admit the feelings and outcomes that it all created.

Screen Shot 2019-01-15 at 10.16.41 AM.png

I began to be real with myself while speaking affirmations into my own life. I admitted that I was heartbroken, but I spoke learning how to love my own skin and being alone into my life. I admitted that stability for me looked like money and a name, but I started working on how to be emotionally and mentally healthy. I admitted that my talent felt like a crutch when it came to being accepted, but I spoke remembering that I am my own identity without my voice simply by the way I move on the earth and that no one can take that from me.

I admitted a lot, more than I thought I was ready for. What I admitted brought me to an understanding of who I was and led me to an even greater future than I could’ve imagined.

I got to make history as the FIRST African-American woman to debut in the role of Dawn in Waitress, I landed my first co-star role on the TV show The Good Fight, and while on set, I also landed my first original Broadway show, King Kong. My future seemed brighter than it had ever been and only continues to move forward. 

What I realized is that sometimes losses teach you how to be a more whole and healthy person. The question is: “Are you willing to admit?”

"A Very Deep, Joyful Part of Me."

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

Michael Berresse in  The Cher Show

Michael Berresse in The Cher Show

Once a dancer, always a dancer. Even when that dancer goes on to great success in a variety of other capacities. Few embody this idiom as succinctly as the multi-talented Michael Berresse.

Michael Berresse’s illustrious Broadway performance career has spanned almost four decades with ten shows on the Main Stem to his credit. He was last seen performing on the Rialto in 2008, spending most of the last ten years helming shows from the other side of the director’s table. However, this season, Berresse returns to the New York stage after a ten-year hiatus in Broadway’s newest spectacular, The Cher Show.

In the new musical, Berresse plays three of the iconic diva’s most influential collaborators, including designer Bob Mackie. He created most of her iconic looks, from her costumes on The Sonny and Cher Show to the infamous dress she wore when she won her Oscar Award for Moonstruck.

Berresse brings a impish joy to his performance as Mackie, in part because of his admiration for the man himself. “He has given the world such color and life,” Berresse notes. This admiration for the real-life Mackie is no more apparent than when he wows audiences in the show’s second act showstopper “The Beat Goes On.”

The Cher Show utilizes one of her early hit duets with Sonny Bono, “The Beat Goes On,” as a montage chronicling Cher’s film career leading up to her Oscar win. Berresse as Mackie, along with ensemblist Taurean Everett as Mackie’s assistant, flank Babe (played by Micaela Diamond) throughout the number.

Michael Berresse

Michael Berresse

“The Beat Goes On” is arguably the most traditional musical theatre section of the show, in part because of its Jack Cole-inspired choreography. Staging Broadway musicals from 1934 to 1972, Cole is credited as the father of modern theatrical jazz dance. His incorporation of East Asian-style movement into American dance vocabulary influenced many of the dancers he worked with, including future choreographers Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse and Alvin Ailey.

As the trio performs these contained Cole-inspired movements, Berresse brings a grounded, smooth energy to them that is almost magical. He endows the shoulder rolls and head nods with a specificity that combines both weight and ease, all topped with Mackie’s signature glee. “In the number, I get to dance,” Berresse reveals. “That always brings out a very deep, joyful part of me.”

One of the reasons Berresse brings such expertise to the number is his experience with this vocabulary of movement. His Broadway dance career has included performing in the style of Robbins (Fiddler on the Roof) and Fosse (Chicago). While those experiences influenced his approach to the number’s staging, Berresse says the closest he has come to performing this style of choreography was in Rob Marshall’s “Who’s Got The Pain?” in the 1994 Damn Yankees revival.

What Berresse brings to “The Beat Goes On” is more than just choreographic expertise. In this sequence, we witness his aptitude for imbuing movement with meaning. “All movement is dance if you think like a dancer,” Berresse believes. “The way you hold a cigarette, drink your coffee or brush the hair out of someone’s eyes tells a unique and very informative story about a character.”

Berresse’s career influenced not only his role, but the construction of The Cher Show as well. When “The Beat Goes On” sequence was being created before the show’s out-of-town tryout in Chicago, Berresse‘s experience was a contributing factor to how the show was written. “(Choreographer) Christopher Gattelli and (Book Writer) Rick Elice both knew me first as a dancer,” remembers Berresse. “When I was cast, I think they always had some dancing Mackie moment in their back pocket.”

“Dancing taught me that we communicate first with our being, our hearts, our eyes,” he concludes. “Then our gestures. And finally our words.”

Michael Berresse (second from right) and company in  The Cher Show

Michael Berresse (second from right) and company in The Cher Show

"We Need To Realize That This Is A Business."

Mo Brady

by Lindsay Nicole Chambers

LABRAT_DNW_1170x400.jpg

I have to admit I was a little surprised to read the news that Actors’ Equity is on strike. I’d been attending meetings about the negotiations for the Lab contract between Actors’ Equity Association and the Broadway League. People have been phone banking and talking to audience members  waiting in line at the TKTS booth. We’ve been talking about this issue non-stop since the Hamilton cast won their fight to get participation. But I couldn’t believe we actually pulled the trigger for work action. I’m so proud.

Lindsay Nicole Chambers

Lindsay Nicole Chambers

It’s about time we, as a union, stood up in a way that will get the attention of these producers. It’s easy to shout into our echo chambers (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, probably some new thing the kids are using that I haven’t heard of…) about change, but hopefully this work action will give us the the power to demand the change we want. We’ve got to start working as a unit instead of individual artists afraid that we’ll never work again.

We need to realize that this is BUSINESS. This is the business end of an artistic industry. Producers treat it that way and we need to start seeing it that way, too. We have to put on our big-kid pants and start standing up for ourselves and respectfully declining to work until we get what we need to continue to live in this city- a wage that goes up with inflation, guarantees that our work will be attributed to us, and that we’ll get a monetary piece of the pie if the show makes any pie. (Pie here is money.)

I love that we’re getting DO NOT WORK notices from AEA. Let’s keep that up. Let’s stick it to the man just a little for all the times we’ve had it stuck to us. Let’s fight with, and for each other. Let’s keep up the work action - it seems to be the only thing that really gets the attention we need to get our basic needs met. Let’s keep growing balls and swinging them (respectfully) around.

"My Main Goal Was To Make My Company Proud."

Mo Brady

by Jennifer Noble

1-+Jennfer-Noble+-Actor+-Headshot-Web+.jpg

I have a bad habit of hitting the snooze button. On this particular Wednesday, I was still at home when I got the call from our stage manager around 12:15pm asking if I felt “safe enough” to go on as Ann Darrow. The reason being - King Kong is such a tech heavy show and my put-in was still two days away. 

“Um... you mean this afternoon? Sure.” *Runs to the train*

Surprisingly, I was relieved not to have advance notice. It didn’t give me the chance to worry and overanalyze. Perfect! So, I get to the theatre and we run through some lifts and safety checks. As soon as we finished, the backstage speaker blares “15 minutes to places.” Now is when I start to worry and overanalyze! At this point, I still had no makeup on, no hair prepped for the wig and honestly, not really properly warmed up vocally. It was crunch time, people! Will Vicari, our hair and makeup supervisor, graciously stepped in to do my makeup because my hands were shaking.  

Here’s the thing: there are huge chunks of time where the only characters on stage are Ann and Mr. Kong; So my worst fear was that I was going to somehow cause Kong to break (that’s impossible) or that I was going to skip a line and inadvertently throw off the King’s Company cues (they are the performers who bring Kong to life) OR that I would forget my lines entirely, which would leave me standing there staring blankly into the eyes of this massive puppet until I slowly tiptoe off into the wings to check my script and act as if no one noticed… Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But since Kong is a non-speaking character, I had joked with some of the King’s Company that I might need them to throw me a cue from where they’re positioned (just in case). 

image3-2.jpeg

Luckily, I had some prior rehearsals and a stumble-through of sorts of Act 1 a few weeks before. But as of that morning, I still had never run through the entire show from top to bottom. 

Ultimately, my main goal that day was to do my company proud. They are some of the hardest working people I have ever met, and I was hell-bent on not letting them down. It was truly a whirlwind day, but I will never forget how much love surrounded me: Texts from friends and family blowing up my phone and my cast mates checking on me before and during the show. When the curtain finally came down, I turned around and my cast was there showering me with hugs (see my Instagram for reference). That was honestly the best part of the day.  And if 9:30 am, Jen would have known what was in store that day… well, I definitely wouldn’t have kept snoozing. 




image1-2.jpeg

Five Ensemblists Crushing It As Broadway Leads

Mo Brady

by Marialena Rago

We love ensemble members, but we also love it when those members get to go on to leading roles! Transitioning from ensemble to lead shows how well these actors can adapt when needed. Here are five ensemble members who have made the switch.

DnpTWYlX0AE56b-.jpg

Justin Collette – Dewey in School of Rock

Justin made his Broadway debut as an ensemble member and understudy for the rockin’ prep school teacher in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock. Now, he has taken on the role-full time! Before he was shredding the guitar eight times a week, Justin was a writer and is still a voiceover actor who can be heard in Netflix’s upcoming Cupcake and Dino: General Service.

102543-2.jpg

Christiani Pitts – Ann Darrow in King Kong

Christiani is making history as the first woman of color to play Ann Darrow in the new musical King Kong. She made her Broadway debut in A Bronx Tale as an ensemble member and then replaced fellow ensemblist Ariana DeBose as Jane.

maxresdefault.jpg

Ben Crawford - Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera

Ben has jumped in and out of leading roles and ensemble positions in six Broadway shows. This time, he takes on the iconic role of the Phantom in Broadway’s longest running show. He has previously taken on comedic roles like Mr. Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Shrek in Shrek: The Musical, and understudied both Bruce Granit and Max Jacobs in On the Twentieth Century.

46283160_329661664542073_6815625330365754934_n.jpg

Constantine Germanacos – Gleb in Anastasia

Constantine has been in Anastasia since the show opened in many different ensemble tracks, like Tsar Nicholas II and Count Ipolitov, but now he has taken a principal role as Gleb. He was previously the understudy for the character and before stepping into St. Petersburg, Constantine was an ensemble member in the recent revival of Evita.

Syndee Winters – Nala in The Lion King

This is Syndee’s second time as Nala, but in between her two stays at the Pridelands, Syndee could be seen as an ensemble member of Motown: The Musical and Pippin. She was also a standby and replacement for all three of The Schuyler Sisters in Hamilton. Besides the stage, Syndee can be seen in Jesus Christ Superstar: Live with EGOT recipient John Legend.

Not A Lab Rat

Mo Brady

Why It’s Time For A Change

by Barrett Martin

LABRAT_DNW_1170x400.jpg

Let me begin by saying that I believe in the process of developing new theater. It takes blood, sweat, and tears from EVERYONE involved. From the Producers to the Creatives to the Artists… it takes all of them to bring a piece of theater to life. Everyone takes risks to create something new. They risk money, other career opportunities, time away from their family, etc. all because they want to help be a part of something meaningful and successful. We ALL want to create a piece of work that will not only benefit us all with success, but ultimately entertain audiences for years. Therefore, I believe there is a world in which we can all agree on how to fix the “Lab Agreement.”

[Disclaimer: Because this is an ongoing negotiation, I am not speaking on behalf of Actors’ Equity Association and cannot speak on specifics other than what has been reported in the press. I will, however, offer my opinion based on my experience as someone who was a part of one of the first Labs when the contract was created.]

Barrett Martin

Barrett Martin

In my career as a member of the ensemble, I have been a part of various levels of development from workshops, to staged readings, and labs. My first Lab contract was for The Addams Family. I took part in a dance lab for the choreographer. There wasn’t even a full script or score at this point, but the lab gave the choreographer an opportunity to explore the world he was going to create, and we were hired to help create that world with him. We were compensated $1000/wk for 2 weeks, and most importantly (as dancers), we were protected under our union for the work we were doing and, most importantly, protected in case we ever got injured while on the job. (This is NOT the case when dancers agree to do “pre-pro” in a studio for a week or two with a choreographer.) In my opinion, this was a wonderfully crafted deal that helped all parties involved achieve what they wanted. We had a few two-week readings as the script was developed and even a Puppet Lab to work through some of the puppetry that would be used in the show.

2019. So here we are more than a decade later, and I can say without hesitation the lab contract has definitely evolved. Most Labs are fully realized productions being done in a studio space with set pieces, costumes, sound, five-piece bands. etc. However, the contract for Equity members has not changed. Wages are still $1000/wk, and the League of Producers has found more and more ways to abuse the agreement. For example, they will get around the four-week limit by holding a three-week lab, taking a week off, and then holding another three-week lab. They also have used the Lab agreement as a substitute for rehearsals of an incoming Broadway Production at a cheaper rate (i.e. Instead of four weeks of Production rehearsal at a rate of approx. $2000/wk, they schedule a lab a month or two earlier and rehearse the show at a rate 1/2 of full Production. Then, they cut two weeks of rehearsal from the start of the production.). Undoubtedly, there are many more examples, but I don’t want to bore you any more with specifics.

So, this leads us to what are we asking for and why. Again, I’ll reiterate that it is an ongoing negotiation, so I can’t really say what the final outcome will be. However, I can give you the basics:

  1. A pay raise for developmental work. The pay has not increased since the Lab contract was created.

  2. Some protective “fences” that address the main abuses that the League has gotten away with while using the Lab agreement beyond what it was intended for.

  3. As creative artists, we are looking for profit participation after a show has recouped and initial investment has been returned. This small payment would recognize the creative, CREATIVE contribution that the artists have given to the development of a project. (Most shows don’t recoup, so this will almost always cost the Producer nothing.)

Simply put, the Lab Agreement is no longer being used in the way it was intended to. Therefore, we are ready for a change. We have been ready for a change for more than two years. We have waited patiently, but it seems clear that our colleagues at The League seem unwilling to commit to making any change. Therefore, we have found ourselves at a work stoppage. I’m proud of our union for taking a stand and listening to the membership. I also believe it can be resolved fairly soon. Until we figure it out, I think Equity should give The League the opportunity to use the Workshop contract in its place and take it off the Do Not Work list.

 In the end, we all want the same thing… to create magic!

So, here’s to a swift and cordial resolution agreed upon with bright light and love.

It's the Circle of (Broadway) Life

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

GettyImages-948493234-1200x800.jpg

The cycle of Broadway openings and closings ebb and flow differently each season. Some years, every single Broadway house will be full of audiences. Other seasons, the glow of Midtown’s marquees will be considerably darker.

Today, four shows will shutter on Broadway: Head Over Heels, Once On This Island, The Play That Goes Wrong and Torch Song. Each of these shows launched onto the Great White Way with hopes of being the next theatrical juggernaut.

But for each of these shows, something didn’t click and the audiences didn’t come. Or they came, but they didn’t tell their friends to come. Or they came, but not enough came to make the show financially solvent. It is called “show BUSINESS” after all.

97757-11.jpg

As a theatre lover, it’s hard not to mourn the closing of a Broadway show. Each one’s story will never be told in quite the same way once the production shutters. Yes, there are sure to be regional, student and community theatre productions of each of these shows. Yes, each show will reach generations of new fans through their cast recordings and YouTube clips (and podcast interviews!) But the show’s quintessential Broadway production will live only in the memories of those who saw it.

For the company of a show, closing is even sadder. No longer do you have the steady paycheck of a production salary hitting your bank account (or, half a production salary after federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, agent fees and 401k contributions.) No longer do you have a convenient, private Midtown restroom to use whenever you’re running between auditions.  

No longer do you have the glamour of being on Broadway, even if it only seems glamorous to your family back home, the occasional waiter and the 8-year-old version of yourself still living inside you. No longer do you have the tight-knit community of people you sit next to backstage in folding chairs to talk to while you put on wig prep or play on your phone between scenes.

And that’s sad. But it’s also life.  

93822-18.jpg

One of the beautiful, tragic things about Broadway is that shows have to close for new shows to open. Broadway is a vibrant artistic community not because every show stays open for years, but because there’s always new show coming just around the corner. A new show that will push our art form just a little bit further and that will affect audiences in new ways.

Each of these four shows were special. But the next shows to fill Circle in the Square, the Hayes, Hudson and the Lyceum Theatres will push our art form forward a little further. In ways we can’t even imagine now.

New groups of artists will come together as family to sit on folding chairs playing on their phones. New groups of audiences will see themselves in new stories (or in new interpretations of old stories in revivals). New fans will listen to new cast albums and obsess over new Broadway stars, who were once 8-year-old Broadway fans themselves.

It’s the circle of (Broadway) life. And that’s not sad, that’s magnificent.

photo-mobile-2.jpg

"The Mayor" of 44th Street

Mo Brady

by Maria Briggs

Maria Briggs

Maria Briggs

The New Year has started, and I have had a little more time to process my 2018 theatre experience.  It was such a unique opportunity to get to perform four Broadway shows within a year.  After closing Cats, I had just hoped to get another shot at Broadway.  

Within five months, I went from a swing at Frozen, to ensemble at Hello, Dolly!, back to Frozen as a vacation swing, and then took over a permanent track at Anastasia. The final callbacks, for all three shows, took place within one week. I prepared with several coaching sessions with my teachers and a lot of late nights with my boyfriend running lines.  That week, in particular, taught me to do my absolute best, leave it in the room, and then focus on the next audition.

I booked Frozen a few hours after my callback, and started rehearsals the next day.  I learned ten tracks in about eight days and debuted six tracks.  While in my first run at Frozen, I started double duty at Hello, Dolly! Hello, Dolly! was my first time on Broadway in an onstage track and covering two principal roles.  This was a very special time too, because my parents were in town and were able to see me perform in two Broadway shows. I performed in Hello, Dolly! on Saturday and that Tuesday I went back into Frozen.  They have always been supportive of my dreams. Anastasia became my new home and was my first onstage permanent track.  

None of this could have happened without the countless hours from the stage management teams and my amazing dance captains. I’m thankful to the swings, who attend extra rehearsals, and the cast and crew who come in to help with put-in rehearsals. They spend their entire day at the theatre. Every cast was welcoming and supportive. I’m fortunate that I still get to walk down 44th street and see familiar smiling faces. I’m the luckiest!

image1-2.jpeg

Maria Briggs (Photo by Jacob Smith Studios)




Playing "the Instagram Game"

Mo Brady

by Collin Baja

Three years ago I was told that I needed to start playing "the Instagram game" if I wanted to continue working. The modeling and acting worlds were changing and now casting directors were requiring the amount of followers you have be listed every time you went in. Social media has changed the game. It is now a fact that a deliciously curated and filtered existence on social media can lead to bigger and better work, possible sponsorship, or even full time careers. However, what is real? How much of yourself do you reveal to the masses and how much of the desired content actually represents who you are?

As I spent time reflecting on 2018, I was struck with the difference between how my year TRULY was versus how it APPEARED on Instagram. I post sensual photos with near nudity for my modeling presence. It is what people comment the most on, “like” more, and it brings my followers up to a non stellar but respectable number that lets me still sit in those casting rooms. However, my exterior shell is literally one of the least interesting things about me or my past year. I spend time on it and am proud. I am also insanely grateful people enjoy it and that it allows me to work. However, it does not make me who I am. I put it up on social media as an offering but also a protection from exposing too much more of my life. Yet, this year was the most challenging year of my entire life and my “top nine” did nothing to honor the struggles that truly made me grow. I imagine many of you have similar discrepancies. 

Collin Baja (with Balu)

Collin Baja (with Balu)

This year brought me heartbreak in the form of unexpected deception and divorce. It saw my finances fluctuate in terrifying ways. I lost a family. I lost a dear friend way before what should have been his time. I had to start all over again and build a new home for myself and my pup. Above all else, I had to keep on moving and hustling just like the rest of you, because we know life in this city requires it. Did my social media presence showcase any of this? Perhaps in the tiniest of ways but it lacks the weight and thanks deserved to a multitude of people. 

So, as I look back on 2018 and move forward into the new year, I want to give thanks for all the beauty that surrounded me the entire time, even in the deepest darkness. My chosen and given families without whom I wouldn’t be standing and smiling. My insanely adorable dog who is the ultimate healer and kept me from being self destructive. The joy of being an artist on Broadway and working with the incredible people at Hello, Dolly!. There was an army of people supporting me and an insane amount of personal work not seen in the tiny squares of instagram. Those spaces in between and the things unseen are what truly make us who we are. Whether my feed shows the depths of my personal story or not, I hope we can ALL remember it’s just a small slice of the game. Every one of us has more value than any picture, caption, or all the “likes” in the world. 

An American in Paris... in Japan

Mo Brady

by Dustin Layton

Dustin Layton (right, with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon)

Dustin Layton (right, with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon)

An American in Paris...  in Japan. I truly had NO idea what to expect on the first day of rehearsals. I’ve never worked with a translator before, much less a primarily non-English-speaking cast. I was nervous, but I think things got a little better after I told the cast a few times, “It’s a joke! You’re allowed to laugh!” 

Technically, I’m here as the assistant choreographer, responsible for teaching the choreographic elements to this company.  If you’ve seen the show, you know it’s no small feat. In addition to dancing award-winning choreography, the ensemble moves most of the set pieces. Chaînés with a chair over your head? Duh. Jetés from one countertop to another? Sure. We had a six-week studio rehearsal process before moving to the theater for technical rehearsals. And that’s where we are now.

Heavily based in ballet technique, the show is very stylistically specific. No matter where or who you teach, it takes a lot of time and care. As challenging as the show is, though, we try to keep it close to the original Broadway production. With any new production of a show, changes are usually made for that company. So, there have been some changes.

Like the text. It’s in Japanese. That’s kind of a big one.

An American in Paris will always have such a tender place in my heart. It challenged me and gave me the opportunity to grow as an artist. Seeing the Japanese company start to make it their own is really remarkable. From having heartwarming (and sometimes hilarious) flashbacks to the Broadway creative process, to seeing them beam with pride through beads of sweat after finishing the final ballet for the first time, to my crying at the end of the first full studio run-through... it’s a process. It’s a special, beautiful process, and I can’t wait for opening night to cheer them on. 

And probably give notes after. 💅

Dustin Layton rehearsing  An American in Paris  in Japan

Dustin Layton rehearsing An American in Paris in Japan

"Life Threw Me The Best Curve Ball."

Mo Brady

by Heather Makalani

Heather Makalani and the Australian company of  Aladdin

Heather Makalani and the Australian company of Aladdin

After my put-in as Jasmine, the associate director said, “Heather, welcome to Broadway!” I had the biggest excitement rush into my stomach. I felt like a giddy little girl. That was the “Oh my gosh, this is crazy! This is actually happening!”

I grew up on the island of Guam and did not leave till I was 21. I wanted to further my training, and the owner of the dance school I went to suggested I look at some of the schools Australia had to offer. In my research, I found the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth where Hugh Jackman studied. The music theatre program only takes 10 girls and 10 boys every year, but I decided to fly to their Sydney round of auditions anyway to give it a shot. I got in, moved to Perth and got my Bachelors of Arts in Music Theatre.

In my graduating year, I was debating whether or not I should move to the States. At the same time, Aladdin was auditioning for their Australian production. I was in the Australian production for two and a half years in the ensemble, as well as understudying Jasmine. And when my visa to stay in Australia was coming to an end, I emailed the associate director and casting director of Aladdin asking if there were any opportunities to audition for the tour or Broadway and to please keep me in mind.

Right before my contract was ending in Australia, they replied. There was a temporary opening on Broadway, so they asked if I was interested in auditioning. At that point, I FLIPPED and I hadn’t even booked the job yet. Long story short. I sent in a self test of me doing some material for the show. About a week later, I found out that I booked the job. I couldn’t believe it! 

Heather Makalani

Heather Makalani

Aladdin is such a wonderful show to be a part of. It’s so beautiful to see the show transcend and touch people from all over the world. And it’s really special because each production is a little bit different from the other. Costume, plot, and set are mostly the same, but there a different magic tricks and lines that are changed slightly. For example Jasmine says ‘royal nappies’ in Australia, and on Broadway she says ‘royal diapers.’ And some of the choreography differs where it’s a right arm up first instead of a left arm, or its a flexed hand instead of a straight hand. After doing it the same way for two years, the habits were a little hard to break .

If you were to have told me earlier on this year, “Heather: this year you’re going to move to New York and make your Broadway debut in Aladdin,” I would’ve laughed in your face.  Life threw me the best curve ball and gave me an opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true. I’ve always told myself that I wanted to be on Broadway, and now here I am getting to do what I love and seeing people enjoy themselves in the audience. Nothing beats that.

Heather Makalani and the Australian company of  Aladdin

Heather Makalani and the Australian company of Aladdin

"An Added Dimension to Our Marriage."

Mo Brady

by Rebecca Covington Webber

Rebecca Covington Webber and Donald Webber

Rebecca Covington Webber and Donald Webber

Donald and I met while doing a reading of Motown the Musical in 2011 and then we both made our broadway debuts when the show opened in 2013. We started dating later that year and got married in 2015.

When we were building Motown, we weren’t dating so it was a very different experience for the two of us. Working together this time feels like a dream because we have spent a lot of time a part, due to our work schedules. So, to be together at work AND at home is such a blessing.

I also get to now watch Donald’s work process, which I find to be extremely inspiring, as a fellow artist, and...well...hot, as his wife! Lol! We also get to support each other at work, set boundaries for work, set boundaries for home, and actively decide when work is work and when fun is fun.  It’s truly an exciting added dimension to our marriage.

Going from a Hamilton “in-law” to a Hamilton cast member has been such a seamless transition.  So many of the Broadway cast members reached out right away. For me personally, it was such a trip to be on the other side of the “turntable.” I had seen the show so many times, so it was almost surreal to start to dig my artistic self into the material.  

What has been most surprising is feeling like I knew the show so well from seeing it multiple times, to learning it now and realizing what an onion of a show it is.  It has so many layers and nuances that I never saw, or heard, as an audience member.  And, let’s keep it real, there’s nothing easy about walking off that turntable while it’s moving - I most definitely look nuts every time I do it- I’m really hoping that improves as we do it more often!  Most of all, I’m excited and thankful for this new adventure with this show and my incredible husband.

Rebecca Covington Webber and Donald Webber

Rebecca Covington Webber and Donald Webber

5 Debut Questions - Aladdin's Heather Makalani

Mo Brady

Today on our blog, we welcome Aladdin’s  newest ensemblist, Heather Makalani, to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Rialto.

Heather Makalani

Heather Makalani

1. What's your name and hometown?

My name is Heather Makalani and I was born in Hawaii but grew up on the beautiful island of Guam.

2. What is your role/track in your Broadway debut?

I am part of the ensemble and I also understudy Princess Jasmine.

3. How did you find out you had booked the part?

I got an email from the general manager of Disney Theatrical Productions about a week after I auditioned.

4. What's been the most surprising thing about preparing to perform the show?

Since I did the Australian production of Aladdin for the past two years, it was cool to see and learn the little differences in set, choreography and staging between the two productions.

5. What are you looking forward to most about your experience on Broadway?

Getting to live my dream of doing what I love for a living, and sharing the stage with such a talented, welcoming and sweet group of people.

Heather Makalani

Heather Makalani




"Ferociously Fierce, But Different."

Mo Brady

by Travis Waldschmidt

Travis Waldschmidt backstage at Met Opera’s  la Traviata

Travis Waldschmidt backstage at Met Opera’s la Traviata

Considering how close the two districts are—a mere stone’s throw away—the Opera and Broadway are two separate worlds. Both require a commitment to performance of the highest calibre but are quite distinct animals—ferociously fierce and beautiful, but different nonetheless.

The most obvious difference is that in the Opera, you have only two performances a week. Yes, TWO, as opposed to eight shows a week on Broadway. That’s if you’re only performing in one opera that season. The Broadway eight show schedule is harder than anyone can possibly imagine—so, a light work week for the win!

Another surprise was how we are called to the stage. On Broadway, the performer alone is responsible for making his or her own onstage entrances. At the opera, each member of the ensemble is called individually to stage when it is time for their entrance. I gotta say it’s quite nice being called and something I could really get used to. I worry about my return to musical theater - the opera has spoiled me!

This surprise still has me in awe about the Met: they don’t use microphones. Yes, you read that correctly: no mics!  When you attend the opera - which you should - all of the singers onstage are singing without amplification. They’re singing over the orchestra and filling the Met performance hall which holds 3,800 seats! To say I’m impressed would be an understatement.

Lastly, performing at The Metropolitan Opera in La Traviata is wonderfully magical and to be a part of this creation has been a thrill beyond words. Also, working alongside director Michael Mayer and choreographer Lorin Latarro has been amazing. What an honor and privilege to work in an establishment that I’ve always deemed as the pinnacle of the arts.

Travis Waldschmidt (second from right) in  Met Opera’s  la Traviata

Travis Waldschmidt (second from right) in Met Opera’s la Traviata

When Broadway Called - feat. Kiss Me, Kate

Mo Brady

Today on our blog, we welcome the two ensemble actors from the new Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate to Broadway and learn about their journeys to the Great White Way.

JESMILLE DARBOUZE (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: ELMONT, New York

darbouze-smith_jesmille3242RT.jpeg

“My agents had called to let me know that an offer would be coming my way for the Broadway production. After having done the benefit concert two years ago, I couldn’t believe it. I just cried and cried. A lifelong dream fulfilled in a way I never imagined was possible. 

“I’m looking forward to learning from the many seasoned artists within the cast. The opportunity to share the stage with some of the most brilliant performers on Broadway is such a gift, and I will be soaking up every minute of it.

“I am also looking forward to sharing this experience with my family and friends, who for so long have supported me and not allowed me to give up. I tear up just thinking about my daughter one day saying, ‘My mom was on Broadway.’ To be able to share this with her is a blessing beyond blessings.”

SHERISSE SPRINGER (ENSEMBLE)

HOMETOWN: BRAMPTON, ONTARIO

Sherisse Springer

Sherisse Springer

“I got the phone call that I had dreamt of all my life.  I was at Astor Place, very pregnant, and fell to my knees on the sidewalk in tears.  Frightening for everyone around me, but one of those moments I will never forget.

“Not only is this my Broadway debut, but it’s also the first time I’ll be a working mother, so what I’m looking forward to most is being an example to my son as to why you should never give up on your dreams.”

"Exchanging Lessons in Love."

Mo Brady

by Autumn Hurlbert

Autumn Hurlbert and son

Autumn Hurlbert and son

The saying, “It takes a village” could not be more apropos for my little family for the three weeks after Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas. It took a suitcase full of toys, six babysitters, two sets of grandparents, a visit from my husband, a theater staff member (for an early student matinee), the most generous and loving cast and crew, and immeasurable mommy hours of negotiation/bribery to facilitate childcare for my rehearsal, tech, and performance schedule for an out-of-town job during this season of thanks. 

‘Tis the season of thanks, indeed. I accepted a contract at a brand new theater in Atlanta to play Jovie In Elf the Musical for five weeks leading up to the holidays; yay, employment! My husband is a psychologist, and the holidays are a delicate and hectic time for him and his clients. We decided it would be best for our 3 1/2-year-old son to spend the week and a half before Thanksgiving at home with Daddy, then come down to Atlanta with Mommy for the final three weeks (and a few days) of my contract. City Springs Theatre is run by generous, big-hearted folks, and with their help and permission, I was able to fly back to NYC during Thanksgiving week to be with my family before bringing my little one back down to Atlanta with me. It was a whirlwind week - a mixture of frenzied packing (and negotiations over which toys and lovies would make the trip), and cherished time spent with our NYC “family” for Friendsgiving. It was the perfect concoction for a fuel of thankfulness to get us prepared for our time away from home and away from best-friend-Daddy in Atlanta. 

My little dude and I survived our flight down south and had a couple of days to adjust before I went back into rehearsals. The kiddo and I had some special mommy-kid time at one of the BEST aquariums in the country, plenty of time at his favorite place - Target, and some quality time with our incredible host family. My housing for this contract was graciously donated by board members of the theater; we affectionately called their home “the castle,” as it was a sprawling, gigantic house and our “little” apartment above the garage was three times as big as our apartment in NYC. Our host family, the Berrys, took us on as part of their own, and now we are all bonded for life. They pitched in and helped care for my kiddo when babysitters cancelled or when I was running late. They also loaned us literal baskets of toys and opened their home to us as if we’d all known each other for years. Thankful seems an inadequate description for the gratitude I feel for their warmth and generosity. 

Autumn Hurlbert in  Elf

Autumn Hurlbert in Elf

City Springs Theatre and our director, Steve Bebout, created an environment within the production schedule for me to be a full-time mommy and a full-time guest performer. The cast and crew treated my little one like a member of the company, and they entertained him and loved on him in the ways that only creative, magnanimous theater folk can do. Family is a word that has many connotations for me. My family is comprised of my relatives, my in-laws, my friends that I call my family, and… my theater tribe. The very essence of theater, to me, is family. A group of seemingly mismatched personalities, gathered together to exchange lessons for love. We are masters of empathy - in exhibiting it ourselves, in teaching it to others through storytelling, in eliciting change leading by example. What better group of people to help raise a child and to be our village? My cup runneth over.

Having a child while maintaining a career in this business is no easy task, but the rewards are overwhelming in the amount of exposure my child receives to people from literally every walk of life. To be thankful is to be humble, and I am truly humbled this holiday season by the generosity and love within our incredible theater tribe, wherever we may encounter them in the world. Happy holidays and cheers to a new year of gratitude! May you feel this season of thanks as fully as we have been afforded to!

IMG_3439.jpg