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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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Blog

"Gratitude is the Attitude."

Mo Brady

by Lexi Garcia

 Lexi Garcia (right) on the set of  Scenario

Lexi Garcia (right) on the set of Scenario

On a Monday evening last week, I wandered to Brooklyn. (This is truly pretty adventurous for me.) I was there to meet my fellow cast members of a new dance film, Scenario. The coffee shop we were working in was honestly the cutest thing most of us had ever seen. ”Why can’t this exist in Manhattan?,” I thought as I entered. “I’d be here all the time.”

Scenario is a film about the vices and faults of humanity told from the perspective of a writer sitting alone in a cafe. The writer paints a picture of the day's happenings, the patrons serving as his muses. As he tells the stories of the vignettes occurring before him, bending and twisting reality to his will, he watches on as his control of the world slips through his fingers leading him to question: Am I the storyteller or the story?

It was a good thing the coffee shop was so inviting, because many of us would clock some hours there together that day. I was scheduled to be there for twelve hours - 6pm until 6am the next day.

Scenario’s creators, Moogie Brooks and Banji Aborisade, are an absolute dream to work for. They kept the momentum of the room moving and light. Treating us to many yummy desserts and of course coffee. I loved watching them work with the cast and crew. It was very clear they knew what they wanted, but weren’t working from their egos. These two individual artists came together to create in a room full of unbelievably talented broadway performers, and they nailed it.

 Lexi Garcia

Lexi Garcia

The cast of Scenario is an incredible ensemble including Tyler Hanes, Alex Wong, Karla Garcia, Ryan Steele, Amber Ardolino, Virgil Gadson, Max Clayton, Ryan Breslin, and the list goes on. There are over 35 dancers in the film.

Being in the ensemble of a film allowed me to quickly learn the importance of consistency. Sounds basic, but every little teeny tiny detail counts! Where you stand, how you stand, when you move, props around you (such as hiding a coffee cup, because it wasn’t there five hours ago).

In one scene we worked on that night, three of our male actors go on an athletic journey. Watching Alex Wong, Ryan Steele, and Max Clayton perform on set was ridiculously impressive. Without giving away too much, it’s a rolling, tumbling, straddle-leaping, partner-tossing kinda rumble. 

I couldn’t be happier with this being my first of hopefully many film experiences. I’m still geeking out that I shared the room with such extraordinary humans. This opportunity reminded me, yet again, why I LOVE this city so damn much. Gratitude is most definitely the attitude. 

Finding Balance

Mo Brady

by Amy Van Norstrand

 Amy Van Norstrand

Amy Van Norstrand

“OK, so I packed a change of clothes for Dean and put everything he will need for the day in his diaper bag. The stroller is in the car and ready for his walk. There is plenty of milk and his baby food inside the cooler. I laid out his sleeper and sleep sac, and his bath stuff is all ready for his tub. Bedtime is at 7pm. Please tell him I love him more than anything.”

Five days a week, that is the conversation I have with my mom, who watches my six-month-old son while I go to work.

Before I gave birth to my son, I got offered a job to head back to the stage when I was four-and-a-half months postpartum. I was thrilled. Dancing was where I received my greatest joy and sense of purpose and I already had a job lined up. I thought I would simply pick up with my career exactly where I left it, only this time with a baby. I said yes blissfully unaware to how my life, my career, and my relationship with myself was about to change.

After I had Dean, I dreaded every minute of going back to work. I almost didn’t go back to be honest. I hated every minute I was away from him. I actually couldn't imagine a time where I would feel any different. I was in a haze of changing diapers, trying to simply keep my tiny human alive, and in complete denial at how my life had been turned upside down.

It was around month three I felt a huge shift in my relationship with myself, as I am sure many new parents do. I didn't feel like me anymore. I was missing something and couldn't understand what it was. The love I had for my child was so overwhelming I was abandoning any time for me. I didn't feel like me, and I resented it. Thanks to many talks with family, friends, other moms and dads in the industry, and especially my husband, I decided I needed to go back to work as scheduled.

I’ll never forget my first day. I cried the entire train ride from Beacon to Grand Central. I felt like the worst mom on the planet. But the moment I stepped foot into the rehearsal studio, I knew I had made the right decision. When you have a baby, your life changes so dramatically that it’s easy to get caught up in all the change. I was lacking any sort of connection to who I was pre-baby. I knew finding it would make me a better and happier mother to my son.

 Amy Van Norstrand (third from left) in  Holiday Inn  on Broadway

Amy Van Norstrand (third from left) in Holiday Inn on Broadway

Theater has brought that consistency back into my life in the most healthy way. Sure, it’s a crazy life. I am basically working 24 hours a day, but what parent isn't? It has opened my eyes to how many parents there are in the industry. In my show alone, there are six parents and one expecting in March!

Being a parent in show business is an instant equalizer between fellow cast members. I’ll never forget sitting down for a break with my good friend Jeff Kready, who has two daughters of his own, turned to me and said, “It’s amazing how tired you are now, but how much more tired you would be if you were home.” I laughed in complete understanding, knowing how right he was.

Being a dancer and ensemblist in a show is hard - but it is nothing like being a parent. In fact, I would say that being in my show is a vacation I get paid for compared to my work as a mom.

My cast, creative team, and theater have been the most supportive of my growing family and new life. Whether it be finding me a private place to pump or letting my baby visit the theater during tech, I have never felt more support in my life. I have also grown enough to truly ask for what I need to make it all work and stand my ground for the needs of my family life.

My body was a different story. I had no idea how different my post-baby body would feel in comparison to my pre-baby body. At first, I was really hard on myself. I was easily frustrated by extra baby weight. It was annoying how I couldn't simply jump back into what I could do before. I compared myself constantly to other moms who bounced back easier than me. I hated that I felt bad for myself.

Through some tough self love and perspective, I have come to acknowledge that I created a human being and need to give myself a break. Miraculously, being back to work helped with that too. My heart, my mind, and my spirit have never felt better knowing that I am truly doing the best my body has to offer on each day. The human body is amazing.

 Amy Van Norstrand (fifth from right) in  Holiday Inn  at Paper Mill Playhouse

Amy Van Norstrand (fifth from right) in Holiday Inn at Paper Mill Playhouse

With all this joy comes a whole bag of other hardships. I have never felt more guilt in my life. MOM GUILT. The worst kind. Whether it be that Dean is having a hard day but I have to go to make half hour, or I miss some amazing milestone during the day because I had two shows. It never gets easier. I tell myself that he will grow up knowing that his mom followed her dreams and worked really hard and that is equally as important.

I am exhausted all the time. The kind of tired I never knew existed. I have to miss things like big auditions or callbacks, because I have one day off and need to spend it with my family. The sacrifices are endless, yet always end up being worth it. But I would be lying if I said they are not hard.

I’m sure to many people on the outside looking in it looks like I have it all. I am 28, I have a great family, a healthy and happy six-month old, and a job I love. I am doing it all with a smile on my face. I am a mom and a dancer. All those things are true. But what is equally as true is that most days I feel like I am operating all facets of my life at 20% and nothing at 100%. Something I am not used to. I am spread thin. I think what has changed the most for me is my need to be present at all times.

My appreciation for my family, my son, and my work has increased tenfold. When I am with Dean, I strive to be present and be the best mom I can be. Nothing can distract me from him. When I am at the theater, I never complain and I show up ready to work the best I can that day. I am overwhelmed with the joy and honor I feel to have a job and have the ability to call this my career. I have an appreciation for it I never had before.

Finding balance is what my biggest goal is these days. I am nowhere near perfect. But until then I'll just be the fifth girl from the left tapping her heart out. A mom who showed up at half hour with her son’s toy in her purse.

Back to Broadway

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

 Mary Antonini

Mary Antonini

For stage performers, making your Broadway debut can feel like the major milestone - even if it was never an actor’s goal. Once you’ve made that debut, it can be a long and trying process to make it back to Broadway - particularly if your first outing is a limited run or closes quickly. For The Prom’s Mary Antonini, that patience has paid off after more than seven years.

The fact that Mary even made it to Broadway the first time was the result of surprising circumstances. In the summer of 2011, she was a member of the company of Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Canada. “I never thought about Broadway before that show,” remembers Antonini. “As a Canadian, it wasn't part of my trajectory at the time. When the producers decided to bring it to Broadway and the entire cast along with it, it was shocking.”

When the show closed after 116 performances, Antonini decided to take on the challenging task of getting her Green Card to continue working in the US. Becoming a United States citizen was not only a requirement for her to work in the country, but also simply to pursue jobs. “It's only when you have to fight that ECCs (Equity Chorus Calls) become a privilege,” notes Antonini.

“When I was approved to be permanent resident, everything changed,” she says. Antonini became one of the scores of talented actors seeking employment in New York City. “I did the hustle every day: lashes on before 9 am, hamstrings warm, headshot ready, 4,000 different shoes in your bag.”

From those auditions, Antonini began booking work across the country, including the world premiere of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The production reunited her with director Des McAnuff, as well as her now-partner Jaz Sealey (who was also in the Stratford and Broadway productions of JCS).After nine years, our relationship is still going strong,” she notes.

 Mary Antonini in  West Side Story

Mary Antonini in West Side Story

While Sealey opened the original company of Aladdin, Antonini traveled the country for work. She got the opportunity to play Anita in West Side Story twice, first at Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida during the fall of 2015 and three months later at the Paramount Theatre in Chicago. The second of those productions earned Antonini a Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for her portrayal: “It was in that show that I proved to myself that I was a true triple threat,” she says.

However, it was before either of her experiences with West Side Story that the seeds of her next Broadway show were planted. Early in 2015, Antonini worked for the first time on what was then called "The Untitled Prom Lab.” This led to her being cast in the show’s world premiere production at Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. While the production received strong reviews for its out-of-town tryout, it was more than two years after the closing of that production that the show made it to Broadway.

 Mary Antonini and Jaz Sealey in  Aladdin

Mary Antonini and Jaz Sealey in Aladdin

During this time, Antonini took on one of the most fulfilling jobs of her career thus far, performing in the ensemble of Aladdin’s first national tour. Working in the company for more than a year and a half allowed to her perform across the country from Seattle to Minneapolis. In addition, she was working alongside Sealey, who joined the tour after working in the Broadway company for almost three years.

Now back on Broadway after more than six years of hard work, Antonini feels more balanced in her approach to the work the second time around. “Having been part of this process for a long time, I understand better what it takes to have a show open on Broadway,” she reveals. “I also have a better understanding of what I need physically, mentally, and emotionally to be proud of my work eight shows a week.”


"But What About The Trip?"

Mo Brady

by Cara Cooper

 Cara Cooper in  The Prom

Cara Cooper in The Prom

What’s the quickest way to get an audition or maybe even book a job? Plan a trip. A couple of months ago, I decided to do something I had never done before: take a three-day vacation with my closest friends for my 40th birthday. The year leading up to this momentous birthday had not been the easiest.

Nothing overtly bad happened, but I was really grappling with my identity. I had given birth to my second child and moved to the suburbs. My previous life as an actor was blurring with the daily tasks of taking care of two small children, settling into a new house and finding a community in my new hometown. So I decided to do something to celebrate my birthday rather than lament it, something to help lift me out of what felt a bit like depression.

Of course everyone’s first reaction was, “What if you book a show?” To be honest, that felt so far from my reality that I didn’t think it would be an issue, but the cancellation policy was a full refund if made more than three days prior to departure. Great. Surely, if a job were to come along, I would have plenty of notice and time to change plans if need be, right?

Three days before I was scheduled to leave, Broadway called (well, emailed actually). The Prom, which was still in previews, needed a temporary replacement because someone had been injured, and the job was mine if I wanted it.

Now the logistics of having two young children, one of whom is autistic and has a rigorous schedule of therapies, living an hour outside of the city and having a husband who is also on a show schedule are not easy. Adding an eight-show week to my schedule was no small task. But the moment I read the email, I knew I needed to say yes, to be back onstage, to find that part of myself again. My husband knew it too, and immediately said, “If you want to do this, we will make it work.”

 Cara Cooper (right)

Cara Cooper (right)

But what about the trip? I couldn’t cancel on my friends. It would cost them way too much money, and all those months back, I had asked them to commit to this time with me. I couldn’t say no to The Prom, and I couldn’t cancel the trip. So I asked if I could still go to Mexico and get into the show on time, and ya know what? They said yes.

I found out about the job on a Thursday, had a fitting and learned all my music on Friday, learned all the choreography and staging on Saturday, and I boarded a plane for Mexico with my girlfriends on Sunday.

While on vacation, The Prom was never far from my mind. In the mornings before we went to breakfast, I rehearsed the numbers in my room. While on the beach, I went over my music. I was pinching myself that somehow all the pieces had come together to allow me to celebrate with my dear friends and then return home to Broadway.

I made my debut in The Prom on Tuesday, November 20, a week and a half after starting rehearsals (and hopping to Mexico for a few days in between). Being put into a show is such a wild experience. Here’s this machine with all these moving parts, onstage and off. You need to slip into it without being a wrench in the works, but also bring your creative self to the stage, making it your own. It’s an awesome challenge, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it.

Similar to understudying and swinging, both of which I have done a lot in my career, it’s an adrenaline rush like no other. It’s a test, a test during which you are under bright lights with new faces dancing around you. All the while, an audience watches and shouldn’t have the faintest idea that it’s your first time onstage. It’s sounds crazy. In a lot of ways it is, but man, is it fun.

The Prom has been such an unexpected gift and I am so grateful for every moment I am there. The “kids” in the show, most of whom are making their Broadway debuts are these incredible balls of energy, dancing their hearts out onstage. Watching them reminds me of my younger self, of a simpler time when I had much less responsibility, no children, and Broadway was my only passion. They are joyous and humble (a good mix right?), and I can’t wait to see where their futures take them. Then there are the Broadway vets, many of whom I have known for years, who are giving a master class in musical comedy. Everything you have read is true - they are incredible.

It is such a treat to share the stage, and continue to learn from them. But honestly the best part of The Prom is its message of love, inclusion and acceptance. With all the turmoil, unrest and division in our society, this show is exactly what the world needs right now. Somehow, the universe knew The Prom was exactly what I needed right now too.

 

“Release the Safety!”

Mo Brady

by Jena VanElslander

 Jena VanElslander

Jena VanElslander

“Jena, don’t forget to release the safety!” was the running joke as I headed into my Broadway Debut in King Kong. As a swing for the King’s Company (our team of incredible athletes who do the puppeteering for Kong), this show has taken the role of ‘swing’ to a whole new level..

Working on Kong is not something that can be rehearsed on your own, and though I’ve watched, tracked and visualized the scenes a hundred times over, there is nothing like being in there, breathing with Kong and the other nine puppeteers, remaining calm while adrenaline is pumping in order to rig, de-rig or launch off Kong’s shoulder. Or knowing the precise moment to get your wrist out of the loop before Kong goes from standing to laying down, otherwise you’ll head straight up to the gantry dangling by your wrist (Yes, this happened to me.) There is just no preparing for what it feels like, knowing our lives rest in each others’ hands, and one mistake could be super dangerous or stop the show.

“Safety, launch, go” is what Jacob called (our incredible Kong Captain) as I released the safety, took a breath and launched off Kong’s shoulder during Airwar (what we call the final Kong scene in the show).

Three days prior to my debut was my first time rehearsing this scene before I’d perform it. I was feeling pretty confident. I thrive off any physical challenge or rush of adrenaline, so I was pretty pumped. I caught the launch line that was flicked into me, wrist through loop. “Launch, Go” and I jumped - definitely forgetting to release the safety! I shot right back and dangled by my wrist alongside Kong’s face, the only thing crushed being my pride. All I have to say is that I will never forget to release the safety again. It’s a damn good thing that happened in rehearsal and not the show!

 Jena VanElslander (second from right) in  King Kong

Jena VanElslander (second from right) in King Kong

Something about King Kong was so magnetic to me from the beginning. Maybe the combination of artistry and athleticism I knew would be required: the unique set of skills, tumbling and aerial work. Then there was director and choreographer Drew McOnie, whose choreography was so grounded and raw and resonated so deeply within me. It just fit and felt so right, and somewhere my superhuman strength could be utilized!

I auditioned late May for the project and was brought onto the team June 18. As a King’s Company swing, I cover the only two fierce warrior Women on Kong, as well as our five beautiful women ensemble members, and also two men just on Kong and loving every second of it!

Going on for the first time was completely thrilling and pretty sure the hardest I’ve ever sweat in my whole life (and I workout hard). A planned swing-out was generously offered the week before which enabled my parents a chance to fly in from Canada! It was a really proud moment. The entire Kong team was so completely supportive and excited for the debut. I made sure to soak up every flash of a smile, giggle of excitement, all the hugs, kisses, words of encouragement and mega love that day both on and off the stage.

To top it all off, after the cast had taken our final bow, Marty Lawson (my fellow King’s Company member) lifted me right up and the cast celebrated while the curtain came down. Talk about a dream made - and I even remembered to release the safety!

 

Jacqueline B. Arnold - Ensemblist Award Recipient

Mo Brady

by Marialena Rago

 Jacqueline B. Arnold

Jacqueline B. Arnold

“Leads need ensemble and vice versa. We are all the ensemble. We bow together at the end for a reason. The story can’t be told without all parts working in sync.”

Jacqueline B. Arnold is one of the 2018 Ensemblist Award winners. Since 2014, The Ensemblist has celebrated talented artists that embody the ensemblist spirit with this honor. With the artistic talents of Justin “Squigs” Robertson and The Lights of Broadway Show Cards, The Ensemblist Awards are presented each winter to actors who have shown dedication, courage and kindness in their careers on Broadway.

Arnold was recently in the pre-Broadway run of Moulin Rouge! The Musical in Boston. The show shows off ensemble members through crazy dance numbers and belting out songs like “Lady Marmalade.” Arnold told us how she stays in tip-top shape for a show that is both physically and vocally challenging. “Moulin Rouge has been an experience like no other,” she says. “Physically speaking, it’s a lot of routine and diligence in warming up. I definitely do a 30-40 min. vocal warm-up every day and about 40-50 min. physical warm-up.” 

Arnold got started in show business at a young age. At 13, she was a demo singer in Los Angeles while also going to school to study dance and drama. “It wasn’t until I was in college and I auditioned for the musical, that I realized that I could do all three avenues and get paid relatively well. With that, I was in for the long haul. The live arts have always been my thing. Holding the attention of an audience is powerful and hard.”

 Jacqueline B. Arnold in  Shrek

Jacqueline B. Arnold in Shrek

Being a part of the ensemble has “absolutely” made Arnold a better performer: “Every story needs detail and background in order for it to come alive. That is what the work of the ensemble is. To be able to create a lifelike experience for the audience without drawing too much focus. Every story/situation needs it.”

This ensemble work is the nuance work that really brings a story to life. Arnold says that getting to build relationships onstage is her favorite part of being in the ensemble. “Oftentimes, there are awesome stories and connections that are forming in the ensemble. Details that help the life of the show.”

Oftentimes, audiences don’t see the hard work ensemble members put into their characters and into the work they do. Arnold says that audience members should know that ensemble members are a part of the rehearsal process for the same amount of time as the leads. “The work of the ensemble is to be valued and celebrated just as much as the leading players. Especially in a musical. Try to imagine a show without the ensemble. Often the favorite parts of a musical are the big ensemble-filled numbers and scenes.” 

As for that elusive Tony Award, Arnold believes adding a category for ensemble members would draw attention to the ensemble. “I think people can disregard the ensemble and they shouldn’t. Perhaps the Tony would make people pay better and more attention to the ‘background’.”

 Jacqueline B. Arnold (left) with the cast of  Moulin Rouge

Jacqueline B. Arnold (left) with the cast of Moulin Rouge

Jenifer Foote - Ensemblist Award Recipient

Mo Brady

by Alessia Salimbene  

 Jenifer Foote

Jenifer Foote

Jenifer Foote is one of the 2018 Ensemblist Award winners. Since 2014, The Ensemblist has celebrated talented artists that embody the ensemblist spirit with this honor. With the artistic talents of Justin “Squigs” Robertson and The Lights of Broadway Show Cards, The Ensemblist Awards are presented each winter to actors who have shown dedication, courage and kindness in their careers on Broadway. 

Jenifer has had a wondrous theatrical career for almost 20 years. Some of her over fifteen ensemble credits include Dracula, A Wonderful Life, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Chorus Line, Follies and the list goes on. Fifteen shows and over thirty-two different characters either named as a swing, a dance captain, or an understudy - Jenifer has done it all.

From her Broadway debut in Annie Get Your Gun, Foote’s career began rolling and still hasn’t stopped. “I did the (Annie Get Your Gun) tour for about 6 months and then auditioned for the Broadway company of the show. The show had been running for over two years and was nearing the end of it's run when I received that once-in-a-lifetime phone call to say that they'd like me to join the Broadway company and then started the whirlwind process of being a replacement.” A little over a week later, she was stepping out onto her first Broadway stage.

 Jenifer Foote (Left) in  Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Jenifer Foote (Left) in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Something that is too special not to share are her words about that day: “For the majority of the theatre, it was an average Tuesday evening performance of a Broadway show that had been running for a few years. But for me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience of making a far-off dream that I had been dreaming for as long as I could remember come true. It was a magic moment of being granted a dream, a wish. I simply felt overwhelmed with gratitude. It's the continued feeling I have this many, many years later each and every time I get to walk through a Broadway stage door.”

Foote was nominated for the Ensemblist Award by her former costar Linda Mugleston. “Jen is one of the most talented folks I have ever come across in this biz,” notes Mugleston. “She actually is more than a triple threat. She is incredibly versatile: a fantastic actor, singer, dancer. She is calm, focused, funny, kind, specific and dependable. She’s a performer who can do whatever is needed at the drop of a hat. It has been an honor to share the stage with such a high caliber performer and person as Jen Foote.”

People tend to have the perception that ensemble members want to be more than just the ensemble, rings false for a lot of people, like Foote, “I feel like it's often assumed that being in the ensemble is a ‘stepping stone’ in my journey and that I must feel frustrated or less than as an ensemble member. To me, working on Broadway is my continued goal. I love theatre and I specifically love working in New York City within the walls of those coveted Broadway houses. It is a magical privilege to me.”

Her magical privilege as she calls it hasn’t stopped there. “My sights are set on Tootsie right now, and I am loving every moment of it.” Her dedication to each character ensemble or principal is remarkable, “I approach each character I've played as a member of the ensemble the exact same way I approach the times when I've played principal roles.  I am becoming and creating a character that serves the story of the show.  Each have been inherently unique and a joy to create within the varied worlds of each.”

 Jenifer Foote in  Dracula

Jenifer Foote in Dracula

Aaron Kaburick - Ensemblist Award Recipient

Mo Brady

by Marialena Rago

 Aaron Kaburick

Aaron Kaburick

“While it’s a challenge, getting to create many different roles is fun.  I love thinking about how the different characters will walk or talk or even dance. In one show, I can play  a TV news reporter, a police officer, a slick nightclub emcee and and lawyer. Just looking at those four characters alone, you can see the opportunities for different accents, attitudes and postures.”

Aaron Kaburick, who recently closed the acclaimed Broadway revival of Hello, Dolly!, is one of the 2018 Ensemblist Awards. Since 2014, The Ensemblist has celebrated talented artists that embody the ensemblist spirit with this honor. With the artistic talents of Justin “Squigs” Robertson and The Lights of Broadway Show Cards, The Ensemblist Awards are presented each winter to actors who have shown dedication, courage and kindness in their careers on Broadway.

While Hello, Dolly! was Kaburick’s third Broadway musical, his journey to being an actor was not a straight shot. While at Boston University, he studied Economics with the idea that he would work on the business side of ‘show business.’ “My last couple of college summers, I had been interning in the production office at The Muny,” says Kaburick. “I drove actors to and from housing, got coffee, made copies, formatted scripts, designed program title pages, organized anything and everything.”

 Aaron Kaburick in  Something Rotten!

Aaron Kaburick in Something Rotten!

After he graduated, Executive Producer Paul Blake hired him to be the Associate Producer at The Muny: “I helped with all of the casting, as well as negotiations. I worked on all the budgets for the individual shows. I always referred to myself as a troubleshooter. Every artistic decision went through our office and I helped facilitate all of that.”

Though Aaron loved the ‘business side of show business,’ he missed performing. When he was in New York, he would work on the business end in the day and take voice and dance lessons at night. “My big break came when I got cast in the national tour of The Full Monty. I never dreamed I would actually book the job.” After being behind the desk for for four years, he toured with The Full Monty and Annie before making his Broadway debut in Billy Elliot.

Aaron takes pride in being an ensemble member. “We help each other and support each other, whether it's in a rehearsal process while learning new things or in a long-run while juggling life. We have each other's backs. It's like having another family in life. There's something that is so satisfying and rewarding about being a part of team that aims to be better together.”

 Aaron Kaburick in  Billy Elliot

Aaron Kaburick in Billy Elliot

That pride and camaraderie is palpable to Kaburick’s coworkers. Beth Johnson Nicely, a 2017 Ensemblist Award winner who nominated him for this year’s honor, says, “Aaron is the most positive person anyone can have in any show. He’s full of light and love on and offstage. He truly enjoys being in the ensemble and you can see that in any performance he gives.”

Even the hard parts of being in the ensemble don’t faze him. “Personally, I love it when I'm an ensemble member who gets to play many different roles. It is fun for me to switch hats throughout the evening. I've also been fortunate in my career to understudy some very fun roles. As a result, my job rarely gets stale or boring because one night I might be singing and dancing behind Bette Midler, and the next night doing a scene with her!”

“Aaron gives 150% to every performance no matter what he’s doing onstage,” continues Nicely. “You can look at him onstage at any moment in a show and know that his heart is in it. That’s a true ensemblist. He’s always a team player and one of those performers that you always feel is your cheerleader.”

“I remember when I first moved to New York, I simply dreamed of doing a national tour as the second spear-holder from the left,” remembers Kaburick. “I'm truly grateful every time I open the stage door to go to work. I love what I do. Heck, I get to play dress-up for a living. I win!”

 Aaron Kaburick backstage at  Hello, Dolly!

Aaron Kaburick backstage at Hello, Dolly!

Christian Dante White - Ensemblist Award Recipient

Mo Brady

by Alessia Salimbene 

 Christian Dante White

Christian Dante White

Christian Dante White is one of the 2018 Ensemblist Award winners. Since 2014, the Ensemblist has celebrated talented artists that embody the ensemblist spirit with this honor. With the artistic talents of Justin “Squigs” Robertson and The Lights of Broadway Show Cards, The Ensemblist Awards are presented each winter to actors who have shown dedication, courage and kindness in their careers on Broadway. 

From White’s Broadway debut in The Scottsboro Boys to his work today in the creation of Broadway Legacy, he has carved out a special place amongst an incredible group of people. With four Broadway shows under his belt (The Scottsboro Boys, The Book of Mormon, Shuffle Along, and Hello, Dolly!) and countless roles performed, Christian Dante White is a seasoned professional dedicated to his work.

White explains the camaraderie of the ensemble in The Scottsboro Boys and how making his debut felt natural. “When I made my debut, I felt secure in the show because we’d worked so hard as an ensemble of actors on the piece. It was so ingrained in our bones we were ready to share and honor the men within this story.” He focuses so much on the ensemble as a whole when talking about his debut: “There were tons of Broadway debuts in our show. I remember taking it in first bow, just being grateful that my dream had come true being on Broadway. Even more special that I made a debut that was in an important piece about my history.”

 Christian Dante White (right) and the cast of  Hello, Dolly!

Christian Dante White (right) and the cast of Hello, Dolly!

Christian was nominated for an Ensemblist Award by last year’s recipient John Eric Parker of The Book of Mormon. “Christian and I worked together the first time in The Wiz at City Center,” remembers Parker. “Since that time, we’ve become great friends and have worked together on many projects supporting each others artistic endeavors. Christian is a multi-talented, multi-faceted artist with an incredible work ethic and sprit. He’s a sponge in the company of showbiz veterans and is dedicated to leaving his stamp on the business of show by making it better for all that come behind him.”

White discussed the common misconceptions people have about ensemble members, “Some people look to being in the ensemble as being ‘less than’ but I know that I've worked with some insanely talented ensemble members that I believe to be superheroes.” His statement constantly proves correct. In Shuffle Along in particular, led by George C. Wolfe, made sure that everyone had a character name with a specific intention and background. If you were onstage, you were in the scene being specific. There was no room for ‘being general.’ Everything was precise, clear and detailed.”

Christian started a wonderful company called Broadway Legacy. “Broadway Legacy was created to celebrate African Americans in theater. I was extremely frustrated with lack of attention on POC in this business and I decided to do something about it,” he explains. “The best part about the project was experiencing the fellowship and celebration of coming together to be photographed.”

Christian Dante White is a wonderful force with a future he welcomes openly. “I don't have my sights set on a specific show. I always let the universe led me to where I need to be and see what happens. I just work hard and let whats meant to be come to me.” His passion for being in the ensemble is contagious and radiates in his favorite parts, “I love the moments offstage being in an ensemble. The moments the audience will never see.”

When "You Happened"

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

Behind any successful pair of stage partners is a collaboration between artists. In navigating the plot of a show, performers must have a person they can rely on to give them the support and motivation they need to tell the journey of their character. While this necessity is obviously true of leading characters, when it is applied to ensemble roles it can make their performances feel just as truthful as those headlining the story.

 Becca Lee

Becca Lee

Two of the most vibrant ensemble characters in Broadway’s new musical The Prom are Kaylee and Nick. Both students at James Madison High School in Edgewater, Indiana, they work as foils for leading lady Emma (played by Caitlin Kinnunen). However as played by Becca Lee and Teddy Toye, the characters are not simply antagonists, but fully conceived characters.

At the beginning of the show’s story, Nick and Kaylee start as well-meaning but sheltered students. As a high school jock and captain of the cheerleading squad respectively, their empathy for Emma grows, in part, thanks to a visit to Edgewater by four well-meaning, but bombastic Broadway actors.

Part of the reason Nick and Kaylee feel so lived-in is that actors Lee and Toye have been collaborating on The Prom together since 2015. Working together since the musical’s first lab in 2015, they have been building their characters - and the relationship between them - through the musical’s run at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and its pre-Broadway workshop earlier this year. While the role of Nick didn’t come along until the 2018 lab, Lee and Toye have been playing  dance partners and prom dates in the show since 2015.

“We’ve been lucky enough to work on this show together for a long time,” says Lee and Toye. “So the more we’ve gotten to know each other, the more well-rounded our characters have become on stage as a pair.”

 Teddy Toye

Teddy Toye

That’s not to say that the roles haven’t been developed since the show’s first lab. “Kaylee used to be called Mandy, but the character has remained the same,” reveals Lee. “The writers thought the name Mandy was a little outdated.”

The role of Nick went through significant changes more recently in the show’s development. “Nick didn’t really exist until the latest version of the show,” admits Toye. “His promposal to Kaylee at the beginning of the song ‘You Happened’ was a change made after the musical’s out-of-town tryout in Atlanta.” “Since that song is new, it’s clear that the ensemble role Teddy created had some influence on the lyric,” adds Lee.

This longtime collaboration between Lee and Toye has influenced some of the show’s staging as well. The Act II song “Love Thy Neighbor” includes one of the team’s favorite “Easter Egg” moments: “Nick and Kaylee are standing together after a tambourine dance section. Kaylee starts miming a fake tambourine and tells Nick she wants one for her birthday and Nick emphatically tells her absolutely not! If you look for the silly argument happening onstage, you will find it.”

In both small interactions and major plot moments, Toye and Lee’s partnership has shaped not only their performances but their personal lives as well. “Over the years, we’ve become really close friends,” they say. “We’re really comfortable around each other and that certainly helps create a more organic feel when we’re on stage.”

 Becca Lee and Teddy Toye (third and fifth from right) and the cast of  The Prom  (Photo by Deen van Meer)

Becca Lee and Teddy Toye (third and fifth from right) and the cast of The Prom (Photo by Deen van Meer)

"So... What's With The Mustache?"

Mo Brady

by Ryan VanDenBoom

  Ryan VanDenBoom

Ryan VanDenBoom

Grow a mo’, save a bro. You’ve probably seen the ads on the subway or maybe they’ve popped up on social media here or there, but that is the tag line for Movember, an organization that has set out to change the face of men’s health. For someone like me, who will gladly sport a mustache just for the humor of it, it’s no surprise that I’ve taken to this campaign. Always trying to follow in the footsteps of mustached men, including my own father - Next to maybe Burt Reynolds, King of the Mustache.

I had been made aware of the Movember campaign probably four or five years ago and yet I hadn’t gotten involved until recently. The month-long charity event (which involves growing a mustache during the month of November) aims to to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer and depression. Participants are encouraged to grow and/or rock a mustache during the month of November, and through the Movember website/app, accept donations to the organization to continue their work helping men get access to proper health care.

In the past year, there have been many instances coming to light in which the behavior of the men in our country is being brought to task - and rightfully so. With developments in the #metoo movement and the seemingly countless episodes of gun violence plaguing our country (most often times at the hands of men), I’ve become increasingly concerned about the long standing definitions of masculinity. I’d like to work to rewrite those statutes and teach young men that there is great power in vulnerability and communication. That asking for help and being vigilant about one’s mental health is not a sign of weakness, but of great strength. Movember is a great platform to get these conversations going and bring visibility to the world of men’s health.

I’m always proud to rock the mustache because it makes me laugh at my own face, but now it’s taken on a whole new meaning. When someone asks me, “So…what’s with the mustache?” I respond by saying that I’m raising awareness for men’s health. Let’s keep that engagement going. If you’d like to help check out my fundraising campaign.

  Ryan VanDenBoom

Ryan VanDenBoom

“I Had No Idea We Had Become This Close.”

Mo Brady

by Zurin Villanueva

 Zurin Villanueva in  Mean Girls

Zurin Villanueva in Mean Girls

Leaving a show is like moving to a different state or breaking up with someone. I had no idea we had become this close.

I looked up the last week with Mean Girls and realized how much of a family we had become. After all, we had been doing this show for exactly a year. We had all gotten sick together, messed up changes together, nailed changes and gotten sad (though mostly happy) over cuts together. We called Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw our Dad and Associate Director Casey Hushion our Mom. We cried together, lost weight and had meltdowns. It was everything we needed to do to get ready. We played with dozens of Tina Fey's scenes and still recall some of the funniest lines that didn’t make the final script. It was priceless.

 Zurin Villanueva

Zurin Villanueva

But then, I was offered another incredible opportunity. Playing Dionne in Clueless the musical was a huge chance for me. Yet I still couldn't believe that doing Clueless meant I had to leave the family at Mean Girls. Like, what I was even doing? It was surreal until that last day.

It's one of the greatest gifts in this business to build that bond that you can only create with your cast mates in a long-running show.

The inside jokes, the spats, costume mishaps, the mistakes make it memorable. And if you're lucky, you have dozens of family members all over the business that you will always have those memories with. You grow up a little every time you do a new show. They help make you the artist you always wanted to be and the artist you never thought you could be.

 Zurin Villanueva in  Mean Girls

Zurin Villanueva in Mean Girls

When we finished bows on my last show at Mean Girls, my cast mates pulled me to the center of the stage. True to our tradition, they all began to joyously shout my name. But then, much to my surprise, they started giving me the biggest group hug I've ever been a part of. Ever had 35 people group hug you? Get into it. It. Was. Awesome.

If it wasn't for Mean Girls, I wouldn't have found out what it is to be a dancer on Broadway. It’s a job although often not honored as much as it should be; there's a pride in it that no one can take from you. I've always been a hard worker and Mean Girls tested me. For that, I will always be grateful.

“Opportunity is All Around.”

Mo Brady

by Alexia Sky

 Alexia Sky

Alexia Sky

I recently found a journal entry from just after my first audition for Hamilton. I was fairly new to New York and had never been to an Equity Chorus Call before. I was not part of the union and had heard what an ordeal the day can be for non-union dancers. Since all Equity dancers must be seen before non-union performers, dancers who aren't in the union begin lining up to sign up hours before the actual call starts. I arrived around at 8am and fortunately had a friend that signed me in. There were what seemed like hundreds of dancers on that list, but he had placed my name there here, so I was in the 70s.

Sitting in the waiting room watching Equity members roll in hour after hour, a lot of doubt started to creep into my mind. I wondered if I would even get the chance to audition that day. However, I was determined. I was “willing to wait for it.” At 6pm, casting announced they only had time to see the first 20 people on the non-equity list. As I left the waiting room without getting the chance to audition, I felt discouraged and frustrated.

Months later, I got the chance to audition again through an agency call. Luckily, this meant that I knew I'd get the chance to be seen by the creative team. From that audition, I was called back twice for the show, but wasn't offered a role. It wasn't until a year later I was called in again, which led me to join a Hamilton Bootcamp.

 Alexia Sky

Alexia Sky

Like a few other Broadway musicals with multiple companies, the Hamilton creative team offers some auditioners the chance to participate in a "Bootcamp." This extended audition is a week of learning and performing material from the show. My opportunity to attend Bootcamp was at the same time as I was performing in On Your Feet! on Broadway. It was an exhausting but exciting time, and I could taste the sweet victory of my next journey. However, Bootcamp ended and I did not hear anything at all from the Hamilton team. Shortly after, On Your Feet! closed and I was back in the audition rooms. 

I had an opportunity to work in some pre-pros for upcoming projects with a creative team member from Hamilton.  This is where my lesson of time, patience, trust and hard work truly set in. I was asked back into “the room where it happens” to audition for the Hamilton. This time, I was offered a role in the show. Yes, that audition that changed my life, but it happened, in part, because of all the work I had put in over the months and years beforehand.

Now that I'm performing in Hamilton, one of my favorite lyrics I hear everyday is, “I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait.” Just as Burr tell the audience, I've found that the journey is just as important as the destination. Soak it in. Be present. Be grateful. Opportunity is all around.

The Ensemblist's Lights of Broadway Showcards - Autumn 2018

Mo Brady

In conjunction with Justin "Squigs" Robertson and The Lights of Broadway Show Cards, we celebrate Broadway artists twice a year. THE LIGHTS OF BROADWAY SHOWCARDS™ pay tribute to the new and notable on Broadway, as well as the legendary and revered. Actors and actresses, writers, directors, designers, personalities, organizations, theaters and related locales, theatre lore, traditions, and tall tales.

The Autumn 2018 edition include actors selected in conjunction with The Ensemblist: Aaron J. Albano, Donna Marie Asbury, Jennifer Cody, Rosena M. Hill Jackson, John Jellison, Jess LeProtto, Lance Roberts and Jennifer Smith.

Hola, Dolly!

Mo Brady

by Jason A. Sparks

 Jason A. Sparks

Jason A. Sparks

How do you lead thirty eight actors, over twenty creatives, countless crew and staff, and an audience of thousands, all who speak a different language, live in a different country, and grow up with a culture other than your own? 

Those are the questions I faced when I had the honor and pleasure of directing and choreographing Hello, Dolly! at Teatro Insurgentes in Mexico City this past fall. 

What I learned: storytelling, in its most basic form, is absolutely universal and has the power to connect us all. 

This was my first experience creating a show in a country outside of the US. Going in I realized that I was facing many challenges, but I didn’t realize that those challenges would ultimately provide the biggest learning experiences. (Disclaimer: I did work on the recent Broadway Revival of Hello, Dolly! so I was very familiar with the material.) 

Let me start off by saying I do not speak Spanish. I mean REALLY do not speak Spanish. My abilities end at around “hola!” and “dónde está el baño?” So you can imagine my anxiety the first time I opened the script for the Mexican production. What we all use as a roadmap for storytelling was as useful to me as a AAA map to a millennial. Additionally, two of the biggest stars in Mexico were set to play Dolly and Horace Vandegelder.  How was I ever to direct, choreograph, and lead this company when I couldn’t even orally communicate with them? 

When I asked myself this question the answer became very clear- there are many other ways to communicate. My version and subsequently the Mexican version of Hello, Dolly! had to have a dramatically different approach.

While working on book scenes with the actors I quickly realized that the storytelling, the action, the intention had to be so clear that it transcended the Spanish language. So clear that an English speaker who knows very little Spanish could not only understand what was going on, but be invested and moved by the story. Collectively we all realized that the only way to do this is out of the mother of invention: necessity. 

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We started where I always start- the text. But because much can be lost in translation the text had to be only a springboard. It had to influence every thought, step, and nuance, but if we relied solely on the Spanish text then I’d have no idea what was going on. Duh, right? 

But I (and without speaking for my colleagues but many other theatre creators) never realized how heavily the oral text is relied on as a driving force of communication in modern day theatre storytelling. As rehearsals got moving, soon every scene and production number started to unroll like a silent film. Not only the body, but the space between the bodies and their relationship to everything around them was heightened and a force telling the story equally if not surpassing the verbal text. This resulted in a very physical production with incredibly complex characters and extremely thought provoking scenes and ultimately a new way took look a this material. What was born was a fresh Hello, Dolly! and an inherently Mexican Hello, Dolly! We created a traditional show in a very untraditional way. 

Ultimately I took away many things from Hello, Dolly! in Mexico City, most in a way only theatre can teach: a new found love of a culture and people who are amongst the most giving and caring you will ever meet, strangers who became new friends and friends who have become family, and a new way to approach how we tell stories, how we communicate and ultimately in world and more specifically a country that perpetuates isolationism, a new way to connect. 

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Why You Should Put Swings On Your TV Performance

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

  The Prom  on the Macy’s Parade

The Prom on the Macy’s Parade

You could see the joy on every actor’s face. Even while braving record low temperatures, performers from four Broadway musicals couldn’t contain their excitement. This was their chance to perform on television at the 2018 Macy’s Parade.

That is, some of the performers got this chance. Conspicuously left out of some productions’ numbers were their swings.

Swings already get the short end of the stick. Even when we work hard to celebrate them, they will never be championed in the same way as performers who are in their own track every night. They don’t get to be onstage for first preview or be reviewed on opening night. Performing in press events is a small gesture from a production that can mean a lot to these performers.

At this year’s parade, you could see the joy on many swings’ faces as they performed. The Prom’s Gabi Campo and Jack Sippel glowed as they led the ensemble into their number. My Fair Lady’s Minami Yusui twirled elegantly on camera, while Summer’s Judith Franklin and Jody Reynard beamed performing shoulder to shoulder with their fellow cast members. Their inclusion in the performances only added to the spectacle of their numbers.

It’s not as though these swings aren’t adaptable. A production’s swings are often their most adaptable performers, able to perform split tracks or jump into a performance midshow. Even with the minimal rehearsal alotted for Parade performances, these actors can easily join a show’s number in a way that kept the integrity of the piece.

In essence, performances on the Macy’s Parade are three-minute long commercials for Broadway musicals. Each participating production pays for the opportunity to show potential ticket buyers why their show is worth $140 tickets. Why wouldn’t a production use as many assets as possible to make their show look worth that price?

Yes, performing on the Macy’s Parade gives actors a small pay bump. But it also ensures that they are part of the show’s legacy. Along with cast albums, televised performances are how productions are remembered. But it’s hard for swings to feel valued when they aren’t seen as a part of their show’s legacy.

As one ensemblist performing this year told me, the Macy’s Parade is not just a staple for the Broadway community but also the nation. “It is insane to think families all over the country are watching, like I did when I was little,” she said. “Not everybody watches the Tony Awards, but everyone watches the Macy’s Parade.”

This weekend, we are all thinking about what we are thankful for. Broadway productions are no doubt grateful for the swings in their rosters. Let’s hope that in the future, all productions share that gratitude with their entire casts.

Win Tickets to Mary Poppins Returns!

Mo Brady

The Ensemblist is partnering with Walt Disney Studios to giveaway passes to an advance screening of Mary Poppins Returns in New York City. Join us on Monday, December 17 in Manhattan before the movie premieres on December 19.

  Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns

To enter, post a photo from Mary Poppins Returns on Instagram between Monday, December 10 and Friday, December 14. Caption your post with one of the reasons you’re excited to see the movie, tagging @WaltDisneyStudios @TheEnsemblist and #MaryPoppinsReturns.

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Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns stars Emily Blunt as the practically-perfect nanny with unique magical skills who can turn an ordinary task into an unforgettable, fantastic adventure. In this all new original musical and sequel, Mary Poppins is back to help the next generation of the Banks family find the joy and wonder missing in their lives following a personal loss. The enigmatic nanny is joined by her friend Jack, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an optimistic street lamplighter who helps bring light—and life—to the streets of London.

No purchase necessary. Entry period runs December 10, 2018 to December 14, 2018. Winners will receive two (2) passes to an advance screening of MARY POPPINS RETURNS on Monday, December 17 at 7pm. Passes have no cash value. Passes are subject to availability. Passes are non-transferable. Travel, Lodging, and Food accommodations are not included. Not for resale. Must be 18 years or older to enter. Winners will be chosen at random and notified on December 15, 2018 and must confirm prize within 24 hours from the initial confirmation email.

  Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Poppins Returns

“I Don’t Take It For Granted.”

Mo Brady

by Marja Harmon

 Marja Harmon

Marja Harmon

When an actor finds themselves in that rare position of being in a long running show, certain questions can start to manifest. Such as, when is the right time to leave? and how to sometimes maintain a positive attitude once the shine of your new job wears off.

Your timeline within a show definitely depends on your personal goals or what your body and heart are intuitively telling you. Before I booked The Book of Mormon in January of 2014 I had been in an almost three year work drought. At that point in my career I had played Aida on the North American Tour, made my Broadway debut in A Cat on A Hot Tin Roof directed by Debbie Allen, and then landed Nala in the National Tour of The Lion King. I was sure that my momentum would keep going once I returned ro NYC, but it took a respite. For years I did temp work and took catering and event gigs. I was starting to panic that maybe I wouldn’t work again , and then I got a call from my agent to audition for Mormon. When I found out that I would be joining the Broadway company a weight was lifted. Not only would I be making my Broadway Musical debut, but in one of the best shows in theater history.

Mormon became my family, my home. It was the fastest I had ever learned a show (two weeks). The most fun I’ve ever had on stage with some of the most incredible and hilarious people you have ever met. I was performing eight shows a week on Broadway, I was financially stable again, and enjoying myself immensely. I was still auditioning and doing more TV work, which was exciting.

Of course after a couple of years I wondered when I would leave, what other opportunities there might be for me, and I was yearning to be stimulated again creatively and do something new. At the same time I also enjoyed my job and knew what a privilege it was to walk through a stage door on and perform on Broadway in a hit show where you aren’t worried you’ll get a closing notice at any moment.

 Marja Harmon

Marja Harmon

Some actors are very fortunate to move from show to show maybe after a year’s time. Others it may take some time to find a new project. Some may love the company they are in so much that they’ll take advantage of the opportunity to explore other endeavors besides performing, make financial investments, have families and stay for years.

As we grow as humans and performers our perspective and goals continue to change. For me, it was a joy to go to work everyday. And after a period of time where I really struggled without work I wasn’t about to leave an incredible show without another opportunity. And not just any opportunity, but one that would feed me artistically and luckily I was in a position to wait.

Early this fall I was asked to audition for Hamilton, the one show I’d been coveting since I saw the original cast on Broadway. It was my fourth time going in. I found out two days after my final audition that I gotten the Principal Standby for all three Schulyer Sisters on the new “And Peggy...” tour that would be going to Puerto Rico and then San Francisco.

I put my notice in with Mormon with a heavy heart. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to be a part of three game changing musicals in my career: The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, and now Hamilton. I say “lucky” because this business is not always merit based and so much of it is intangible.

I had someone tell me once “How lucky are you to be able to perform on Broadway!? Someone other than your family thought you were talented and are paying you for it. What’s better than that?!” I honestly couldn't agree more.

I got to leave a dream job to go to another dream job. There’s not a second that I take it for granted. Whether you stay in a show for one year or 20 years, it’s your business and all reasons are real and valid. Just never forget how fortunate you are to have had the opportunity so many dream about.

 Marja Harmon (center)

Marja Harmon (center)

“Give the Gift of Health.”

Mo Brady

by Bridie Carroll

 Bridie Carroll

Bridie Carroll

As theater people, we are pretty creative and love spending our outside time on hobbies and other things we are passionate about. 

Various health issues I've encountered and been forced to deal with has evolved into a passion for heath and wellness as well as safer skincare and make up. I suffer from three autoimmune diseases and for four years on the road in Wicked I carried an entire kitchen in my car to keep myself as healthy as possible.

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I also spent my Mondays off in either a Sephora (my former love) shopping for make up or Whole Foods prepping my meals for the week. I learned after I got off the road, that what is in our skincare and make up is actually pretty terrifying. In fact, I learned that 1938 was the last time any regulation was passed for skincare or make up. Currently two pages of legislation regulate a $62 billion dollar industry, and sadly companies can advertise to us however they want, and many of them are advertising false information. In fact, the European Union has banned 1,400 known harmful chemicals while the United States has only banned 30. Yep 30.

For me, with my own health, and the concern of the health of my family, this was really shocking and scary! Cancer, infertility, birth defects, neurotoxicity and hormone/endocrine disruptors are in most of the products we use everyday - even the ones we think are safe! THAT IS SO NOT OKAY.

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From shampoo to mascara, it's time we are advised and become aware of what is being put in our products and demand stricter regulations to keep us safe and healthy.  That's where Beautycounter comes in!  The company's products are free of over 1500 harmful chemicals and toxins and prides itself on education and advocacy.  And beyond that, their incredible products have improved my skin in a dramatic way and I've now thrown away all my old scary stuff.

We had our first event this past summer and it was so much fun we decided we needed to do another one and let everyone know about it. I'm passionate about bringing awareness to safer skincare and I will have some amazing products with me on Sunday at Broadway Brands by Broadway Hands. 

Broadway Brands by Broadway Hands

Mo Brady

by Jenny Florkowski

 Jenny Florkowski

Jenny Florkowski

Along with my passion for performing I've always found great joy in creating my own jewelry but never thought of it as more than a hobby. It was two years ago while out on tour that I began to feel the urge to turn this hobby into something more serious and that's when Found Minerals Jewelry was born. I opened my Etsy shop and quickly began putting all of my extra time and energy into my company. Starting my own business is one of the most difficult things I've ever done (only second to making it to Broadway) and also one of the most rewarding.

I create men's and women's jewelry using an array of natural materials such as copper, leather and gemstones. One of my favorite pieces to make is called a mala. Malas are meditation beads made up of 108 stones, hand-knotted cord and finished with a tassel at the bottom. Traditionally these were used in eastern meditation practices. Today they are still used for this purpose but can also be worn as necklaces or wrapped bracelets. I love making these because the process feels like my own form of mediation.

 Jenny Florkowski In  Wicked

Jenny Florkowski In Wicked

I've been performing in Wicked for the past six years. My journey with the show began in 2012 when I was cast as a swing and Nessarose understudy in the Broadway company. Since then I've had the opportunity to perform in the role of Nessa, as well as a swing on both national tours. I'm currently a vacation swing, performing in the Broadway company and the national tour when, coverage is needed.

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I recently created a custom mala for Wicked's own Jessica Vosk using healing gemstones that promote throat and singing health. It was a blast working with Jessica to make a unique piece just for her! I'm also excited to announce that I'm working on a Broadway inspired collectible bracelet line that will feature Broadway shows from the past and present. 

My goal is that my jewelry inspires my customers - guys and ladies alike - to like themselves. My intention behind every piece I make is to create a reminder of how fabulous, brilliant, beautiful, handsome and awesome each one of you are. I'll be selling my handmade pieces alongside other fantastic artists from the cast and crew of Wicked at the Broadway Marketplace this Sunday, November 18. I hope you'll stop by, do some shopping and see what we're creating behind the scenes.