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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

When First Preview Doesn't Go As Planned

Mo Brady

At the first preview for the new Broadway musical Groundhog Day, something unexpected and magical happened. We wanted to hear about it from those on stage and in the audience. Stay tuned for more updates!

Michael-Fatica

"Last night was slated to be our first preview of Groundhog Day on Broadway. After months of intensive rehearsals, nearly four weeks of tech, and plenty of anticipation, we were SO ready to share this story with an audience. About 15 minutes into the show, we'd made it (ironically) to the moment Punxsutawney Phil had officially seen his shadow and doomed us all to six more weeks of winter, our complicated system of turntables malfunctioned and we were forced to hold show.

"Our director, Matthew Warchus, came backstage and cast and crew were called to meet upstage center after about 30 minutes.  He and our Stage Manager David Lober graciously explained the situation, and asked that if the problem weren't able to be fixed immediately if we would be willing to sit and sing through both the music and dialogue for the audience that had so patiently waited.

"Immediately, the energy shifted. The nerves of having to separate the words of the story from our heavily trained muscle memory set in. But, more importantly, we were excited to get out there and do SOMETHING. We had no idea if the audience would stay, let alone be receptive to a brand new show that the US had seen so little of. The crew scrambled to find literally ANYTHING for us to sit on, and came up with an eclectic mix of booths, stools, benches, and the like. Out we went!

"It's worth saying that by this time, our faithful and generous audience was lubricated from the free drinks our Producers had bought the house (GOOD MOVE YOU GUYS! Very classy). It's also worth saying that we are blessed with two very smart, calm, and talented principals. Andy Karl set us off with the most incredible poise as he woke up in his hotel bed (now a chair, I believe) and got us rolling. The crew ran our normal lighting cues, and our brilliant spot ops found each and every character in the show with such ease.

"I don't think we could asked for a better audience. From the first moment Andy spoke, they were attentive and completely involved in the show. As a cast, we were able to literally sit on stage and watch how Tim Minchin's unbelievable score and Danny Rubin's hilarious script was received in a way that exceeded all of our expectations. We were also able to watch the story of Rita (Barrett Doss) and Phil (Andy) unfold in a way that we are never able to in the run of the show. We got to laugh alongside the audience at our ensemble of misfits. We got to sit and listen to our orchestra shred through this beautiful score.

"What could have been a disaster ended up being a night that our cast/crew/creative team and our audience can never recreate, which is part of why live theatre is so special. Even better...we get another First Preview! How much more reminiscent of the story of Groundhog Day could we get?"

-Michael Fatica (Chubby Man in Groundhog Day)

"During this show, the ensemble is running around like crazy backstage, so there has never been a moment for us to really sit and watch anything. I never thought our first preview would be the time for that to happen, but during our performance (concert?) I was hearing lines I had never heard before, seeing some of the comedic bits and feeling all of the wonderful poignant emotions.

"I think it just speaks to how wonderful this show is because it is so meticulously choreographed and staged; that taking away all of that could have left a show with nothing. But what was still there was so much comedy and heart. We got to see, firsthand, how much the material stands on its own.


"Not to mention, last night would not have turned out half as well if we didn't have the audience we did. There was so much support. To look out and see an audience almost four hours into an impromptu concert still completely enthralled with what they were watching was so humbling. And entirely thrilling. I will never forget it."

-Katy Geraghty (Debbie in Groundhog Day)


Jordan-Grubb

"You hear about those "I was there when" theatre moments all of the time, but I never thought our first preview would be one of them. Prior to last night, we hadn't faced any major mechanical issues with our stage. It's mightily complex by any standard, with five turntables simultaneously running for the majority of the show. It's crucial to the staging, so any potential problem with them presents problems.

"Fifteen minutes into our first preview, in front of our first crowd, the show came to a grinding halt. As a swing, I was watching it all unfold in the back of the house, fighting off that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Upon coming backstage, it was soon realized that there was no simple fix in getting our stage optimally running. Needless to say, it was a situation none of us expected to face. They tried to lift the audience's spirits with...well...free spirits, but we all knew everyone was there to see a show.

"At this point, a decision had to be made. It was an audience made up of friends, family, lottery winners, and some of the most supportive people you could imagine. Taking that into consideration, it was decided that we would put on a concert version of the show. What unfolded shortly after was one of the most magical theatre experiences of my life. The cast and crew somehow managed to share a brain for the few 2 hours and presented Groundhog Day: in concert. The cast sat on various chairs and props, and with two amazing spot ops, some additional lighting, and our full orchestra, gave everyone a SHOW.

"Props appeared out of thin air, a fur hat doubled as a groundhog, a car chase happened on three chairs. It was nothing short of brilliance. Watching from the house, my heart was about to explode out of my chest. I was so incredibly proud of the dedication, imagination, fearlessness the company exhibited. It was the kind of moment that reminded me of why the theatre is irreplaceable and why I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

"Fortunately, the issue had been resolved and in true Groundhog Day faison, we will be doing our first preview (again) this evening. For one night though, this company and audience went along for an unexpected ride that should be told for many years to come."

-Jordan Grubb (Swing on Groundhog Day)


"Last night was a once in a lifetime experience, and there is no other way I would've wanted to make my debut. Nobody knew what was going to happen next, so the audience and the cast truly felt the weight of every second. Whether you were on stage, backstage, or in the house, you couldn't help but feel the beauty of this random magical moment. Like a shooting star.....that sings and dances, and makes you laugh."

-Taylor Iman Jones (Lady Storm Chaser in Groundhog Day)

"What a story for the books. You think you've seen it all in this business and then the Universe decides to surprise you again.

"Our revolves stopped working 24 minutes into the show. I was down in spirits because we had been rehearsing our show without any stops and also because we have all been busting our asses to bring this incredible show to life. 
Over 40 minutes later a decision was made to do a concert version, so we all came out onto that stage ready to do the material as much justice as we could. 

"The magic on that stage was incredible. We all locked in energetically and I think we even had fun last night. From the amazing spot-ops and crew, to the brilliant orch, to our wonderful creative team, the fantastic and generous producing team, and to the rockstars at BeSpoke and Jujamcyn who kept everyone's spirits up, we had a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll be talking about for the rest of my life."

- Raymond J. Lee (Ralph in Groundhog Day)


"Talk about a lotto win! I had won tickets through the Groundhog Day Musical lottery they hosted to see the first preview and I definitely got more that a free ticket. 

"The show was going on for 15 minutes before the announcement came over the house telling everyone they were going to have to hold the show momentarily. The audience did NOT want this show to stop because everyone was so engaged and sucked in even only 15 minutes in.

"10 minutes go by before we get another announcement saying they were working hard to sort out the problem and that it was still going to be a moment before they could resume the show. They also offered the audience a complimentary drink at the bar!! I have never see so many people jump out of a seat and bolt as fast as they did. 

"The show was stopped for 55 minutes all together. 

"The director, Andy Karl and the head producer walked out on stage to deliver the bad news that the show could no longer go on. As soon as he finished his scentence the audience was already shouting "just sing it!" "can you just sing it?!". Lucky for us, that was already the plan. They told us that the company was okay with coming my out and doin the show "concert style". The audience erupted in applause and cheers. You could just feel so much support for the company and this show. 

"The curtain rose and revealed the company (in full costume) sitting on prop benches, sofas, chairs etc. They finished the first act like true pros. We took a 10 minute intermission and then the company sang 5 songs and the final scene from act two. Let's not forget to mention that every sound cue and light cue still went on during this "concert" (shout out to the crew) The audience went NUTS! I think I can speak for everyone in the house and say that we are all so appreciative of the company for doing what they did. I couldn't be more excited to come back and see the show! The music was amazing! The company sounds amazing! Definitely something you won't want to miss. 

"Maybe the company just wanted the audience to live like the story and live that day all over again."

- Jack Sippel (in the Groundhog Day audience that night)


"I had the fortune of having some good friends and family in the house last night, and it was really neat to watch them, and the audience as a whole, enjoy our concert version of the show. There was a communal energy onstage and in the house that was electric. It was my Broadway debut and, while unorthodox in many regards, it was a perfectly imperfect way to start things off."

- Vishal Viadya (Larry in Groundhog Day)

Michael Scirrotto's Backstage Pics

Mo Brady

When we saw these backstage pics from Chicago ensemblist Michael Scirrotto, we knew we had to share them with you. The spirit that Mikey is able to capture is enough to make you fall in love with the show all over again.

Barrett Martin (Bailiff/Court Clerk)

Barrett Martin (Bailiff/Court Clerk)

Check out more of Mikey's pics at on Instagram.

James T. Lane (Harry/Martin Harrison)

James T. Lane (Harry/Martin Harrison)

Peter Nelson (Sergeant Fogarty)

Peter Nelson (Sergeant Fogarty)

David Bushman (Swing/Dance Captain)

David Bushman (Swing/Dance Captain)

Brian Spitulnik (Swing)

Brian Spitulnik (Swing)

Danny Paschall (Aaron)

Danny Paschall (Aaron)

Heath Saunders & the Great Letters of 2016

Jackson Cline

Great Comet ensemblist Heath Saunders' prop letters are taking Instagram by storm. We were blown away by his beautiful illustrations and asked him to share some of his inspirations for our blog:

 

 

The letters have been a thing in Great Comet since its original Ars Nova production, and they’ve provided these little letter cards and ballpoint pens for people to write with. 

Down the hall from the men’s ensemble dressing room is Nick Belton, Paul Pinto, and Scott Stangland (Andrey, Balaga, and Pierre Standby, respectively), and they started doing these beautiful letters, constantly trying to outdo each other. At first, we were all like, "Dude, those are out of control, none of us can do anything like that," — not to mention, they kept one-upping each other by bringing in different tools. It started with really nice pencils, pens, different colors, markers, watercolors; Scott even started tangentially learning scrimshaw (which is LITERALLY WHALE BONE ETCHING). All the while, I was doing little cartoons of beavers as one of my letters, just little cute line drawings from my head, and calling that good. Always with the ballpoint pen.

I was annoyed, though, because my cartoon beavers tended to look to me like squirrels (Side note: The trick is really in the head and tail shape, not the teeth, which is what I had originally assumed.), so one day between shows, I decided to look up pictures of real beavers.

Much to my shock, they’re crazy looking creatures. At first, I tried to alter my cartoon beaver to read more beaver-like, but that sort of failed, so eventually, I just drew the picture based on the picture. A direct copy in ballpoint pen.

Well, that’s when I discovered I have a really cool skill, which is drawing whatever picture I’m looking at. Since then, I’ve been putting that skill to the test with different crazy photos and images, different amounts of complexity and simplicity, different pictures and blah blah blah.

But I always do them in ballpoint pen.

And thus my Instagram was taken over by these photos, and my style has gotten more and more consistent, and anyway, it’s just fun, so this is what I do with my downtime between shows.

beaver

So this beaver was my first “intense” illustration attempt. Looking back on it now, I already find it wildly underwhelming, but it’s sort of cool to see how I’ve evolved — for example, I don’t do text-art in the illustration letter anymore. I shoot for the text to be as simple as possible and just in my normal handwriting. The other sign of its early-letter status is the caption came first. I had the caption and drew a beaver to fill it in.

chess pieces

This day, I wanted to try something still-life-y. “chess pieces” seemed like something that might create a fun love note, so… Also, my cast mate Alex Gibson has become my go-to caption dude in the downstairs gondola— After I finish an illustration, I’ll often give it to him, and we’ll come up with captions together. If it’s ALL HIM, I’ll credit him on the Insta pic. This caption was all him.

hot air balloon

I really loved hot air balloons as a kid, so there was that, but also, hot air balloons are really fun in perspective — those curved lines make for some interesting challenges, especially because I don’t sketch anything out with pencil first. I’m working exclusively in pen! This caption, though... it seemed so obvious to me, it had to happen.

pie

Sara Bareilles was at our show — often, when celebrities come, stage management will go to the cast member whose letter-giving path takes them near to that celebrity and request that they’re given a letter. When Sara Bareilles was here, it was unclear whose path was actually most accessible to her, so there was a miscommunication, and two of us were told to prep a letter for her. The pie thing seemed obvious to me, AND THEN IT TURNS OUT THEY DECIDED TO GO WITH THE OTHER PERSON, so I just had a picture of a pie that I needed to make a non-Sara-specific caption for.

puzzle piece

This is one of my favorite illustrations. There’s something so charming about the little nonspecific cartoon dude, although I do regret a little not giving him my man bun. I just love the whimsy of it all. I think this one is closest to my real life personality in a weird way. It just fits! #wowsorryaboutthat

Why Ensemblists Are Marching Today

Mo Brady

Across the country today, women and men are coming together at public marches to make their voices heard. We asked some friends why they are participating in the Women's Marches taking place in Washington D.C. and in other cities.

Cam-Adams

We must all march forward and never look back! We can't let one man pull us back in time. I am very proud to be a smart, strong women surrounded by men and women who show constant support and encouragement. And people who speak up for what they believe. I refuse to look back!

Cameron Adams (Dance Partners and Cameron Adams: Unedited)

Chloe-Campbell

 

We need to march to stand up for the rights of women. Equal pay, maternity leave, reproductive rights. The suffragettes fought for similar rights over 100 years ago, and now we must make the stand again. I truly believe we can and will be heard. It is our responsibility to stand up and be counted.

Chloë Campbell

Dionne-Figgins

There have been so many marches in Washington, DC, but never one that has brought together the women in this nation.  A march that allows women to show just how strong, and resilient, and patient we have been.  Well, our patience, or pleas for equality have not been heard.  Now is the time to show up, and make those people that hold our rights at arms length finally hear us.  We will no longer walk behind.  We will no longer be quiet and "stay in our place."  Our place, our station, our role is whatever we say it is, and we will not be put in any boxes any longer.  The box is open, and there is no closing it again.

Dionne Figgins (Ensemblist Essentials: Pre-Production, Ensemblists Give Back)

Lili-Froehlich

We are all just humans on this planet- we are of equal value and importance, made of the same matter, and therefore should be afforded the same rights. However we know that is not the case for many, and when someone falls down you must help pick them up, for when one person suffers we all suffer. I am marching not only because I am a woman, or a member of the LGBT community, but also because it is my duty to march with and for the rights of all other disenfranchised women. Showing up, being a small part of a large entity, and marching is the least we can do and is just the beginning of a much greater social justice fight for equal rights for all.

Lili Froehlich

Sasha-Hutchings

The women's march is important to me because it stands for a larger resolution. It should inspire and incite action. We are so used to easy social media hashtags, retweets, and likes, but Snapchat feeds fade away. Real resistance and progress requires real interaction. Organized activism. It's time.

Sasha Hutchings (The History of the Ensemblist: Hamilton)

Michelle-Kittrell

I march because I wish for a country that chooses love over hate.
I march because I hope for a land that spreads peace over violence.
I march because I am a woman and I respect my fellow man.
I march because I am female and deserve to be treated as a human being.
I march because I have nieces that should only know the meaning of equal pay for equal rights. 
I march because I should be the only one who decides what can happen to my body.
I march because I can not tolerate intolerance. 
I march because I love the United States and we are better than what is currently happening. 
I march because I choose to be part of the solution. 
I march because women can change the world.

Michelle Kittrell (Containing Multitudes, Part 2)

Nikki-Long

I am not able to make it to D.C., but I will be marching in the Women’s March on Seattle in solidarity.  As a mom, I walk for my children and for the future they deserve.  As a person of mixed race, I walk to honor the work of my ancestors and civil rights leaders.  It is more important than ever, as a parent, to raise good human beings who believe in equality, justice and kindness, and to teach the importance of standing up for what is right.  For those reasons, I will march proudly.

Nikki Long

Matt-Meigs

I love being an American. But I am disheartened by the incoming administration's positions and ideals when it comes to mass incarceration, women's rights, charter schools, race relations, foreign allies, healthcare, lgbtq rights, etc. I have never protested in my life, but these past few months have pushed me to a breaking point. We, the people, must use our might to force our leaders to listen to us. This is not the time to stay quiet.

Matt Meigs

Vasthy-Mompoint

I am marching because, enough of women being in tribes. White, Black,Christian, Muslim,gay, Latin, Asian women need to stop the division in our gender. We have a lot of work to do and we can not do that separated. It's time for women all over the world to stand up, and let our strong,complicated, messy,fragile voices be heard.

Vasthy Mompoint (Ensemblist Essentials: As Cast, Ensemblists Give Back)

Sara-Shepard

Marching is important to me because to march as a people, is to remind our government that they represent the people. That it is their duty to enforce and protect our civil rights. I want to  be a part of that cause and pledge to fight for equal rights in this country. I want to show I am an ally to every single human no matter their race, religion, disability, sexuality, or gender.

Sara Shepard

Molly-Tynes

Unfortunately I will not be able to march on Saturday, but I stand behind the many people who will. It is important to remind our President-elect that it is not only an obligation but his sworn duty to serve ALL the people of this country - not just those who look like him or agree with him. Nothing short of that will be tolerated.

Molly Tynes (Special Skills, Molly Tynes: Unedited)

Amy-Van-Norstrand

I think being a New Yorker is tough. You have to be extra strong, extra motivated, and extra sound of mind and heart. Being a NYC woman is even harder. And the women's march offers a sense of sisterhood. A safe way for women to come together and express themselves. On a grander scale the women's march is a unifying force in the struggle for equality of all people. Unity is power. Being a woman is powerful.

Amy Van Norstrand

Alena-Watters

America's recent political climate has been a whirlwind of massive negativity. Indecency has been allowed to run rampant in our nation, and people in power are allowing it to become normalized- this is not acceptable, to me. I march to take a physical, peaceful stand for civility and human decency within our country- to stand for the protection of our collective civil and human rights. I march to demand basic human kindness, tolerance, compassion, dignity, freedom, and to encourage us all to lovingly continue creating equality for all citizens.

Alèna Watters (Listener Questions 2013, Aléna Watters: Unedited)

Paige-Williams

I'm marching because I'm tired of being angry, scared, or disheartened, alone in my apartment staring at a screen. I'm ready to be inspired and encouraged, outside, in the fresh air, looking into the faces of allies and friends.

Paige Williams

Libby-Winters

I'm participating because the theater has always been a safe place for artistic expression in my life and I want to renew my commitment to keeping it that way and making it a welcoming place for everyone in the years to come.

Libby Winters

Kirsten-Wyatt

I march because I want to protect my rights as a woman, as a union member and as a citizen of the United States. I march because our country was founded on the principles of inclusivity not exclusivity. I march because policy is not something you create 140 characters at a time. I march because our democracy is fragile and the only thing that can strengthen it is the voice of the people.

Kirsten Wyatt (Life on Tour)

Happy Swing Day!

Jackson Cline

Happy Swing Day! To celebrate these showbiz heroes, we asked some of our podcast guests to share what has made their swinging experiences unique:

Jesse Swimm.JPG

When I moved to NYC, I wanted so much to be a part of this community, to contribute in some way to the people attending those shows the joy, love, and exuberance that I felt when I saw a Broadway show. I have been fortunate enough in my career to have been a swing 7 times, and the opportunity to swing Mary Poppins and School of Rock on Broadway has been some of the most fulfilling work in my career. These pictures represent just a fraction of what I have been able to portray onstage as a swing with these shows (32 tracks in total from both), everything from a tap dancing chimney sweep to a hardcore rock 'n' roller, and stepping into a new and different track each time is a rush and a thrill beyond words. I love my job, I love that I get to experience a show in a way no other actor gets to, and I love that I have been able to contribute to this community after all these years. Go Swing Nation!

 - Jesse Swimm (School of Rock Rehearsal Reports)

Aaron Albano.jpg

In my three times swinging – Here Lies Love, The King and I, and now Cats – what I've learned most, aside from knowing the show really well and feeling the thrill of being thrown onstage at a moment's notice, is that nothing... NOTHING bonds a group of people more than when that group of people has to cover a show together. My swing families hold very special places in my heart. We've laughed together, been overwhelmed together, vented together, and, in the best of all moments, celebrated together. I know I can count on them for anything, and even after the show is over and done, that feeling of closeness remains. I have their backs, and they have mine. Love all these guys, and woe to whomever crosses them, on or offstage! 

- Aaron Albano (Out of Town Tryouts)

Polly Baird.jpg

The life of a swing sometimes entails being nominated as the pageboy of the day by the ballerinas! 

- Polly Baird (Replacements, Again! & Unedited)

Respect For Understudies

The Ensemblist

by Mo Brady

Last week, producer Cameron Mackintosh issued a memo asking understudies in his UK productions to stop announcing their performances on social media. His theory is that these tweets and status updates could be “commercially sensitive” and therefore “need to be controlled by management.”

As a staunch supporter of the working artists filling Broadway’s ensembles and understudy ranks, I just have to ask: “Really?”

Mr. Mackintosh’s shows are most often long running hits that don’t rely on their principal actors’ fame to sell tickets: Les Miserables, Mary Poppins. It is doubtful that potential audience members will choose not to see a show when a specific Phantom or Grizabella calls out. A few more tickets might be sold to the family and friends of a performer when they go on in their understudy track. The larger issue, however, is about treating understudies with respect and gratitude.

Yes, understudies are employees, but they are also artists who bring their unique talents and skills to the roles they cover. By asking them not to announce their performances, understudies are told that they aren’t as worthy of performing the role as the actor they cover. However, understudies are often hired not because they are less qualified for a role, but because they possess additional skills that make them even more valuable to a production in an ensemble or swing track.

Allowing understudies to share their performance dates is also an issue of company morale. While it’s true that producers are responsible for the financial viability of a show, and monitoring a production’s expenses is part of the job, company morale is also important to that financial viability. Not every show can spend money to subsidize their show’s Broadway Softball League jerseys, throw annual Holiday parties (please, SOMEONE invite me to that Book of Mormon Holiday party - the photo booth pictures are amazing), or keep everyone in swag. It’s expensive.

But you know what else is expensive? Auditioning replacement actors. Renting space, hiring accompanists, and making sure the dance captains are available to rehearse them. Keeping enough swings in the building to cover those dance captains running rehearsals. Building costumes. Paying crew members to run automation at a put-in. And what isn’t expensive for a producer? Showing appreciation. Making actors feel valuable and supported. Conveying to actors that they are good at their jobs, and that their appearances are worthy of announcement. This doesn’t cost a dime, but it can make company morale infinitely better.

Actors in long running shows like Mr. Mackintosh’s stay in said shows if they’re happy at work, and one of the easiest ways to make an ensemble actor dread going to the show (and eventually put in their notice) is by treating them without respect.

It’s easy to become jaded doing eight shows a week, month after month. Even with the immense gratitude that comes with knowing how few people work as theatre professionals and how incredible the theatre community is, the work itself is inherently repetitive. Every job can be tedious, but who other than theatre actors stand the exact same place, saying the exact same words and executing the exact same movements every day (twice on matinee days)? One of the ways to break up that monotony is when a company member goes on in their understudy role. Everyone in the building, from actors to stage managers to technicians can get a boost of excitement when an understudy goes on. To squash company members’ excitement by asking them not to share it with their followers and supporters seems short-sighted.

Right now, Mackintosh’s decree is limited to his West End and UK touring productions. However, he is also a producer of Broadway’s Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and the upcoming revival of Miss Saigon. Let’s hope he listens to his employees and their champions and doesn’t make a similar ruling here in the States.

 

Mo Brady is the co-creator and co-host of The Ensemblist Podcast, container of multitudes, and former Broadway understudy. 

Creating Characters: Josh Daniel Green

Jackson Cline

We asked Josh Daniel Green to share his experiences creating the characters he plays in the ensemble of Wicked:

 

I’m Josh Daniel Green, and I have been in Wicked on Broadway since December 2014.  Here are some of the many characters I play in the show.

 

 

 

Sometimes called Mystery or Stitch, this is my monkey character. I open and close the show with him (and several scenes in between), so I feel that he gets to see the whole arc of the story. Along with the movement that is choreographed for monkeys, we have some room to individualize our monkeys- mine is influenced by the spirit of my dog, Punkin the Frenchie. I know it sounds a bit odd, but I connect with the innocence and discovery he experiences. As you may have seen, Stitch was recently engaged onstage.

 

This is my Shiz student character. He goes by many names, but one that has stuck with me is Tommy. I take inspiration from the costume design - I’m the only character with an untucked shirt, and I wear a cap for a few scenes. So I think of him as a little laid-back, maybe a little sloppy and not the most focused on academics, but secretly tries very hard. He is known for napping in class and has a special connection with Madame Morrible. He gets his chance to come out of his shell when all the students head to the OzDust Ballroom.

 

And finally, this is my Emerald City citizen character, Xavier Charles IV. He has recently come into his inheritance and attends only the most fabulous events in the Emerald City. I carry a magazine prop in "One Short Day," so I tend to think he’s a bit of a gossip. He also may have a green-fur French Bulldog.

 

All photos by Kevin Hucke, Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor

Broadway Babysitters Q&A: Emily Hsu

Jackson Cline

Get to know several members of the Broadway Babysitters team this week in our exclusive Q&A series. You can learn more about Broadway Babysitters by visiting their website and listening to our latest episode.

What is your name? Emily Hsu

What neighborhood of New York City do you live in? I live in Upper Saddle River, NJ.

How many children do you have, and what are their ages? 2 girls: Cassidy (9) and Taylor (6).

Has being around the theatre business been a good thing for your children? Yes, of course… they see how music and theatre and dance can transform people. They’ve seen what it is to follow your passion and do something with love and commitment. They have also seen what a community it is and how the girls in my dressing rooms are like my family. There is a warmth and bond amongst the Broadway community that doesn’t compare to anything else. Unfortunately, they’ve also gotten spoiled; whenever we see a show they expect house seats and a backstage tour!

What about your career as an actor has prepared you for parenthood? I’m not sure anything can prepare you for parenthood, but one thing I think being an actor and parent have in common is that at some point you have to relinquish control. You have to learn to let go, cliché as that sounds. No matter how much you prepare for an audition or feel you’ve done well, certain things are completely out of your control and you have to be able to walk away knowing you’ve given it your all and that is good enough. The same thing with being a parent… you try to teach your children all the right things, give them confidence and expose them to as many possibilities as you can, but in the end they are their own little individuals and have to find their own path, their own way, and you just hope that they do it knowing you love them and believe in them.

How has your self-definition expanded since you became a parent? This is a toughie, because I guess I don’t like to try and define myself in one way. Some days I’m the class mom organizing the school field trip, other days I’m a yogi or ballet student. I’m a girlfriend to my fellow moms, and, on days I audition in NYC, I’m an actress. I’m a business woman and designer. And there are days when I have no idea what I’m doing and have no milk in the house and I’m just a mess! But I think it’s ok to be many things at once. No definition necessary. Just me trying to be the best me I can be!

Broadway Babysitters Q&A: Cara Cooper

Jackson Cline

Get to know several members of the Broadway Babysitters team this week in our exclusive Q&A series. You can learn more about Broadway Babysitters by visiting their website and listening to our latest episode.

What is your name? Cara Cooper (full name Caroline, but was only called that when I was in trouble as a kid)

What neighborhood of New York City do you live in? I actually live in Hoboken, NJ, which is a 7-minute ferry ride from Manhattan. It’s the perfect fit for us as a young family, not ready for the burbs, but have a wonderful community and a quick commute.

How many children do you have, and what are their ages? We currently have one daughter, Elin, who will be 3 in July, but we are expecting a little boy in October, so things are about to get crazy up in here.

Has being around the theatre business been a good thing for your child? Being a theater kid is so special.  Every time our daughter comes to either of our theaters (my husband is in Book of Mormon), she is surrounded with loving, engaging people who genuinely care about her.  I can’t imagine any other workplace, where children are not only welcome to visit, but encouraged. There are so many people with kids at Jersey Boys, you frequently hear the pitter-patter of little feet or young voices coming from the dressing rooms in between shows. They are all a part of our theater family. There is also the added bonus of our schedule. While Elin was young, I was able to spend most of my days with her, getting to nurture her and watch her grow, while working full-time. It was hard not to put her to bed at night for sure, but such a privilege to basically get to be a stay-at-home mom and a working mom all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, it was really, really hard. There were days that I was unsure where the energy to do the show was going to come from, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it and I am so grateful to have had the experience.

What about your career as an actor has prepared you for parenthood? As an actor, you constantly have to learn how to go with the flow. The phone can ring and you have to be on a plane the next day to go to do a show you auditioned for months ago, or the Broadway show you thought was going to be a big hit gets its closing notice. The only constant is change, and I think that is the biggest lesson of parenthood. It’s always a reinvention. Right when you think you have things under control, your child grows and evolves and his/her needs change and everything is chaos again. I also think because of this, theater kids learn to be adaptable as well. Whether it’s doing a last-minute pass-off because Daddy has rehearsal and Mommy has an audition, or even going on tour with one or both of your parents, theater kids learn the art of adaptation pretty early and I think that is a very useful life skill for the future. Creativity plays a huge part as well. When things aren’t working, you gotta think outside the box, which is par for the course in our industry (lessons learned early on, ie: how am I gonna pay my rent when I am constantly auditioning and trying to make it in this biz?).

How has your self-definition expanded since you became a parent? It is my self-definition now. First and foremost, I am a mother. It is my most important role in this world. I am an actor and an artist, too. Being a mother has deepened my understanding of the human condition and also grounded me in a way I never expected, and that in turn, has made me a better actor and artist.

Broadway Babysitters Q&A: Nili Bassman

Jackson Cline

Get to know several members of the Broadway Babysitters team this week in our exclusive Q&A series. You can learn more about Broadway Babysitters by visiting their website and listening to our latest episode.

What is your name? Nili Bassman (Nili Bassman Hayden, married name)

What neighborhood of New York City do you live in? Inwood, the northern tip of Manhattan.

How many children do you have, and what are their ages? One daughter, Ever, age 19 months.

Has being around the theatre business been a good thing for your child? Absolutely. She is surrounded with music, creativity, and people who play and love passionately for a living. Our daughter thrives alongside these people and lives for music and dances constantly. (Can’t imagine where she got that?) Ever has special needs and music opens up her world and has most certainly been a gateway to her learning. I can’t imagine who she (or for that matter I) would be without theatre and music in our lives. In addition, the theatre community is one of the most open minded and accepting and loving communities in the world. She has the coolest friends! What a gift to grow up in that environment! We all should be so lucky.

What about your career as an actor has prepared you for parenthood? Being a parent of a 1-year-old means providing all the basic human needs and…. basically entertaining a tiny person 24 hours a day. It takes a lot of creativity to keep that up! Also, as actors, we are used to reacting in the moment, listening, juggling a million things, and thinking on our feet. These are key skills for parenthood! Not to mention the fact that no other profession that I know of in the world forces you to show up in the same way no matter what is going on in your personal life, how you feel emotionally, how little sleep you have gotten, how sick you are…. As they say, “the show must go on." And as a parent, that is true 100 times over. We get no sick days at ALL and no time off to recover no matter what. You are on the job night and day and must show up for your tiny person even when you’re at your lowest.

Acting is also about human connection and seeing the world through others’ eyes. Because of this, I believe actors have an innate compassion that not all folks have access to. Clearly that is a generalization, but I know that every time I play a role, I’m able to relate to someone in my life in a different way that I couldn’t see before. This makes me a better person, which in turn makes me a better mom (and a better actress). Also, having a passion that I love so dearly and having committed so much of my life to that passion… Well, that’s practice for parenting as well. Our profession is not just “a job” for us. It is a calling like parenthood. It is our hearts and souls and blood and tears and sweat and joy. Over and over, pursuing this career means experiencing the highest highs and the lowest lows. Parenting is that as well, times a million.

How has your self-definition expanded since you became a parent? Wow. In every way. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in quantifying your value by your job. And I’ve always been an actor. A dancer. A singer. A performer. I’ve received praise for that, so at times confidence and self-worth can get wrapped up in that. Every priority shifted when my daughter was born. Now, first and foremost, I am a mom. A wife. A family. Especially while my daughter is still so young. And whereas before, I could stop at a moment’s notice to work on an audition or take whatever job I wanted to take or leave town if I needed to, 99% of the career decisions I now make are about whether it would be good for my daughter and for my family as a whole. In general, actors’ lives can be rather selfish. We are forced to focus on ourselves, because we are our instruments. We must stay in shape– physically, emotionally, psychologically. We must feed and nurture our souls and hone our skills and continually put ourselves out there to be judged. Yes, we serve something larger than ourselves, but the tool of our craft is literally our person. So there is great focus on that– good or bad. Since becoming a mom though, the time I have for myself is next to none.  It’s sometimes easy to forget that you ever had a life before being a parent– and when I do catch a moment, even though I’m exhausted, it is so important to keep a connection to myself prior to parenthood. It makes me more whole and a better wife and a better mom and a better friend and, again, also a better actress. Being a mom helps me appreciate the small things in every aspect of my life and makes me realize how important those small things are in the bigger picture. I know it sounds silly, but even a five-minute commercial audition now gives me a needed boost and reminder of who I was before and helps me remember my passion and refuels me for my family. I feel like I am in a constant search for balance, and 99% of the time it feels like I fail miserably. But in some way, I’m succeeding. There’s not necessarily a way to “have it all” right now, but I’m finding a path to have all the things I need. And I’m hoping that as my daughter grows and I grow along side her, that said path will become clearer and clearer.

In short, the fact that I created a human being and naturally brought her in to the world gives me a power that booking a role never could. And watching my daughter surprise us all and learn/achieve something new or laugh with abandon gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride and celebration that no opening night ever could. That’s not to say that those roles and opening nights are not important to me. They are, and I’m super proud of them and hope to have many more. But becoming a parent has changed my self-definition in that I realize how much more vast my abilities, accomplishments, and “resume” really are…. Not to mention how very much I can do on no sleep and accomplish before 9am.

Broadway Babysitters Q&A: N'Kenge

Jackson Cline

Get to know several members of the Broadway Babysitters team this week in our exclusive Q&A series. You can learn more about Broadway Babysitters by visiting their website and listening to our latest episode.

 

NKenge.jpg

What neighborhood of New York City do you live in? I grew up in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and I’ve lived all over NYC in Harlem, Murray Hill and Lincoln Center. Now I live on the waterfront in Newport, Jersey City and get to have the fabulous view of NYC.

How many children do you have, and what are their ages? I have one 19-month-old little girl named Jahzara Martina.

Has being around the theatre business been a good thing for your child?She loves it. I think she really appreciates music and is more social because of it. She gets upset when the babysitter doesn’t let her sit and watch me teach voice lessons to my students. It’s very funny.

What about your career as an actor has prepared you for parenthood? As an actor, you learn to wear many hats and seamlessly shift through different scenarios. I think because of that, the transition to parenthood wasn’t so foreign.

How has your self-definition expanded since you became a parent? You see the world so differently. Being a mom has opened me up to so many more possibilities. I feel like a warrior. Hear me ROAR!!!

5 Things You Should Know About Your Resident Director

The Ensemblist

In honor of our Director Spotlight, we asked our friend Kasey Graham to give us some insight on what it's really like to be in his position, and what he thinks it's vital for actors to know.

 

A resident director is charged with maintaining the artistic integrity of a show, as set by the director. It includes noting the performances, rehearsing understudies, rehearsing and putting in new cast members, as well as preparing press performances as needed. On some shows the associate director is also the resident while on others it is a separate position. Currently I am the resident director on The Phantom of the Opera national tour and the associate director/resident director on the national tour of Dirty Dancing.

 

Here are five things I think everyone should know about the position:

1. I’m on your side. I have never worked on a show I didn’t want to succeed. This goes double for how I feel about actors. You’re not my children, but you might as well be. I love rehearsing new actors and putting them into a show. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t beam like a stage mother watching you go on for the first time, even if there are a stumble or two along the way.

2. I love actors. I can’t always let your choices onto the stage, but I adore that you make them. Coming into an established production can be tricky. Your job is not to replicate the performance of the actor you are replacing, nor is it to re-interpret the role. When rehearsing a new cast member, I give the bones of what needs to be there. “You have to be down of this wing or that drop will take you out.” Or “Enter, cross directly to him, and challenge him.” What I won’t ever say is, “Enter. Take 3 steps toward him. Yell your line at him and stress the first word.” When the bones are in place I collaborate and let the actor play. The reality is, you’re stepping into a world that has been created. Embrace that world with its limits and its possibilities.

3. I’m not fair. I try, but I can’t always be. Whether it is which cover goes on, or a one-hour rehearsal on a sunny, Friday afternoon. Please know there is a reason for every decision, and it’s never personal. I can promise you that.

4. My eyes are not everywhere at once. Some weeks I may be working in the office or the rehearsal studio more than others. If there is a moment you’re struggling with, or an issue on stage, come to me. The worst possible thing you can do is stew about it. There is a caveat of course: please make sure it’s your issue or moment.

5. I do not have unlimited sh**s to give. This may seem in direct conflict to #4. However, you will be much happier in this business if you pick your battles. Any given day there are thirty questions, concerns, notes, and issues. Is yours worth becoming number thirty-one? Or is it something you might realize tomorrow isn’t really an issue. I mean this with the utmost respect to the craft of acting, but prolonged exposure to the same show can drive a person mad. The tiniest variance or misstep by another actor can rattle you. Sleep on it. If it’s still annoying you the next show, please see #4.

I’m Kasey RT Graham, and I approve this message.

Cameron Adams on Winning the Gypsy Robe

The Ensemblist

We asked Cameron Adams, a 2016 Ensemblist of the Year and multi-time Gypsy Robe winner, to share a few words about what winning the Robe means to her:

photo by Walter McBride for BroadwayWorld

photo by Walter McBride for BroadwayWorld

"Receiving the Gypsy Robe is something I am beyond proud of and such a reminder of what a special community I am lucky enough to be a part of.  Opening night is already so exciting but taking a moment to recognize the ensemble in such a special way is just wonderful.  She Loves Me is my 10th Broadway show and third time to receive the robe and I have wept like a baby every single time! I'm the biggest sap of them all.  Very thankful to be a small part of the Broadway community!"

 

Do you want to know more about the Gypsy Robe, its traditions, and why it means so much to Broadway ensemblists? Check out Episode 11 here!