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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. 



"There Is Definitely Room For Inclusion."

Angela Tricarico

by Anna Wehr

Erica Wong in  The Phantom of the Opera

Erica Wong in The Phantom of the Opera

Erica Wong is part of our photo shoot featuring Asian-American representation on Broadway. You may know Wong from the recent revival of The King and I, the long-running Phantom of the Opera, or M. Butterfly.

Through each Broadway production Wong’s been a part of, she’s been able to use her ballet training, which started out as a childhood joy. She didn’t expect ballet would carry her to Broadway.

“Not only has the style and knowledge of it been in every show I’ve done, ballet keeps me physically and mentally healthy,” she said.

Broadway has given her the opportunity to flex more than just her performance skills. In addition to performing as a Swing in M. Butterfly, she was also dance captain. It challenged and rewarded her in new ways. She noted the difficulty of stepping into a management position, as it differed immensely from her previous work.

With challenges also come rewards. She shared that “watching [director] Julie Taymor work with the cast and all the departments was fascinating because I got to learn what her vision was, and how each department came together to support that vision. Working with Ma Cong was also a pleasure, because not only was his movement expressive and tailored to each individual dancer, he is an extremely kind human and amazing dancer.”

Erica Wong

Erica Wong

Now, even though Wong has been fortunate in her career on Broadway, there’s still work that can be done to increase Asian American representation on Broadway.

“I can say for all Asian-Americans that auditioning as an Asian person of descent, born and raised in the United States, can sometimes make you feel like an ‘in between,’” Wong shared. “I don’t speak fluently in any Asian languages, but I also am clearly not Caucasian. This description fits a very large amount of people in the United States, yet it somehow suddenly decreases the amount of roles I am seen for.”

A suggestion Wong offers is for the people sitting behind the casting table to be more diversified.

“So often I find myself auditioning in front of the same demographic,” she said. “These people are all incredibly talented and qualified, but there is definitely room for inclusion. By increasing the number of different cultural points of view at the casting table, we increase the exposure of our perspective, allowing more light onto our image of American culture.”

Playing the Stage Manager

Angela Tricarico

by Alessia Salimbene

James Moye (second from left) as Carl in  Tootsie

James Moye (second from left) as Carl in Tootsie

James “Jim” Moye has had an expansive career on Broadway beginning in 2000 in The Full Monty. From there he’s created more original roles in A Tale of Two Cities, Bullets Over Broadway, On The Twentieth Century, and most recently as Carl in Tootsie

Not only has Moye created original roles on Broadway, but he’s also stepped into iconic roles like standing by for the Sultan and Jafar in Disney’s Aladdin. He swung in Urinetown and understudied as Sam Phillips in Million Dollar Quartet

Moye spoke about how Carl came to life: “The writers asked me to do an early act one table read of Tootsie, about four years ago.” And as many original ensembles roles do, Moye had a hand in solidifying the name Carl.

“Actually, Robert [Horn] let me name him,” Moye said. “I was in rehearsal one day, and told Robert I felt like a Carl. He liked it, and that was how Carl was named.”

The character of Carl is a stage manager within the show, and Moye reflected on the work it takes.

James Moye

James Moye

“Being a stage manager is such a tough job,” he said. “They have to deal with so many different aspects of the production”.

Even though Carl was manifested by Moye, he remembers the many stage managers he’s encountered in his time as an actor and the important role that they play: “The best stage managers I’ve worked with are incredibly organized, are great communicators, and have a wonderful sense of humor.”

Moye tends to pull little bits from his cast mates’ performances to shape his own. He specifically mentions, easter egg moments he loves with my cast mates that evolve in the rehearsal scenes and ‘I Like What She’s Doing.’” Something more noticeable that people might catch about Carl is the wonderful costume design by William Ivey Long.

Moye says, “In the first act, Carl’s always in the same costume, just a different shade of shirt. Carl’s costume during “Most Important Night” is an homage to our own production stage manager Scott Rollison. He loves wearing purple for his opening nights, so Carl’s shirt is based on Scott.” 

Moye has shaped his characters from his Broadway debut until Tootsie. Every character, from ensemble to lead has their own little story with some incredible backstory. Carl shines in his own light every night in the Marquis Theatre in Tootsie on Broadway thanks to Moye and his incredible work. 

"In Order to Look the Part..."

Angela Tricarico

by Sam Leicht

Sam Leicht (at the moment he got the call to join  The Lightning Thief  on Broadway)

Sam Leicht (at the moment he got the call to join The Lightning Thief on Broadway)

Seven months of traveling across the country with 25 co-workers absolutely could be a recipe for disaster, but we were lucky. The right people, combined with a great schedule, combined with the best show turned out to be the formula for an unforgettable, truly lovely adventure. 

Our last two weeks of tour with The Lightning Thief were in Boston. My boyfriend Jared was visiting for the weekend, and we decided to take a day trip to Newport for the day off. We walked the coast for a few hours in the morning - imagining different lives in each of the mansions that litter Newport. We got lunch. We got ice cream. We did a little shopping. Jared went to the restroom and I checked my phone for the first time that day. 

I had a missed call from our producer, Barbara Pasternack, and a voicemail saying to call her when I got the chance. 

I knew Barbara was going to be at the show in a few days so I guess I was thinking that this call was a thank you for tour, and it would be best if I called her when we got back to Boston because it wasn’t urgent. In hindsight, I realize that this seems a bit cavalier, and when I told Jared about the call he had a very different reaction than me. 

“Sam… you have to call her back right now. What in the world would your producer be calling you individually about but for something important?”

Needless to say, the call was important, and when I called Barbara back, she told me that our show was going to the Longacre Theatre in the fall. I was Sutton Foster playing Jo March in Little Women: astonished. I was flabbergasted. It was the best surprise I’ve ever received. I thanked Barbara, hugged Jared, and spent the ride back to Boston wondering if it was real life. 

Moving back to New York felt better than I expected. I like New York, but to some extent I’ll always be a suburban boy at heart. With six weeks before rehearsals, I needed to press play on my paused life. I thrive on the dichotomy of my two jobs. I love performing and I write how grateful I am that The Lightning Thief is moving to Broadway in my gratitude journal pretty much every day, but I love working in the health field as well. I love helping people learn and discover and work toward sustainable health. 

Which brings me to the topic I wanted to address; a topic that has been around, but may be hitting an all-time high in the age of social media. In my training, I make it very clear upfront that we will focus on sustainability over aesthetic, function over beauty. If you want a trainer who is going to appease your request to transform into Zac Efron, I’m not your guy. I am looking to give you the tools to be your healthiest self - and maybe that isn’t as appealing as me telling you that I can make you look shredded in 60 days, but that’s my training philosophy. 

Aesthetic is a short term, unsustainable goal for health. It’s the demon goal that is almost never achievable and almost always discouraging. When we adhere to a “In order to book the part, you need to look the part” mentality, we perpetuate a belief that health has an ideal image. Or in our industry, we perpetuate a belief that Broadway has an ideal image. I’m interested in the health of our community, not the size of our clothes.

In fact, I’d like to change the mantra to a slightly more wordy, but much more accurate message of: “In order to book the part, you need to be incredibly hard working, you need to be working toward the healthiest version of yourself, and the stars need to align.” I realize that this slogan wouldn’t fit in an Instagram bio as well. 

Everyone needs physical activity to be healthy. Whether that physical activity is walking, yoga, dance, CrossFit, Barry’s, biking, etc. we know that physical activity is a key component to health. With physical activity we are able to prevent chronic disease and injury. We’re able to promote proper muscle patterning for basic movement in old age like sitting on the couch or picking up groceries. 

I understand how aesthetics can be an exciting reason to get healthy. But I’m hoping that upon deliberation one can see just how much more exciting (and less disappointing) it is to focus on health over aesthetics. When we look at health as a lifelong journey of discovering exercise, nutrition, sleep, mental health, and relationships, it seems ludicrous that aesthetics were ever even on the table. 

I would love for us to stop letting aesthetic based companies take advantage. Promises are made on social media all the time about how to get shredded fast, how to look the part, and how the healthy versions of ourselves aren’t enough. And in order to combat these demons, we need to band together and encourage sustainability over aesthetic. Health over “ideal.” 

I want you to feel good. I want you to have a positive journey with health throughout your life that doesn’t turn you off of taking care of your body altogether. I want us to rid our minds of the “Broadway Body” because the only Broadway body that we should be working toward is the healthiest version of ourselves. And I can promise, you deciding to work toward your healthiest self will be so much more interesting and “marketable” than you deciding to work toward someone else's. 

It’s easy to read this and say “easier said than done.” If you feel that way, I highly encourage you to find a trainer, or a workout partner, or a family member, or anyone who can keep you accountable on your quest to prioritize health over aesthetic. I didn’t say it was easy, I said it’s important and it takes a village of support.

Sam Leicht as Percy in  The Lightning Thief

Sam Leicht as Percy in The Lightning Thief

"It’s All About Who Would Be Best For The Telling Of That Story.”

Angela Tricarico

by Marialena Rago

Satomi Hofmann

Satomi Hofmann

“It’s the job of the arts to study humanity and hold up a mirror and in our globally-connected world, humanity comes in many colors.”

In recent years, there has been a great expansion of the types of actors cast in roles on Broadway. Actress Satomi Hofmann is of both Asian and German descent and says that her journey has been “interesting.” Currently, Hofmann is in The Phantom of the Opera. She has played the roles of the opera singer Carlotta, Madame Giry and currently, Wardrobe Mistress/Confidante. She has performed in the show both on Broadway and on tour.

“At Phantom, we have the unique opportunity for a long-term ‘phamily,’” Hofmann says. “I’ve never seen a more supportive cast and some of my dearest friends are in the company. Because it’s a long running show, you can’t rely on adrenaline to keep the show alive and fresh. We still have weekly rehearsals, both for incoming cast members as well as established cast, to keep the show tight; as a cast member, you definitely need that special skill set of keeping the show fresh for yourself.”

“It’s a very special experience to be a part of something as iconic and long-running as The Phantom of the Opera,” she explained. “First off, this show makes a gloriously active effort to be diverse, even though the show is set in the late 1800’s. Ethnicity doesn’t seem to have any place in their casting – it’s all about who would be best for the telling of that story.”

However, according to a 2019 report from the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), 66.8% of actors on Broadway were Caucasian, while only 7.3% were Asian American. The lack of diversity can be felt as soon as you step in the audition room.

“I was constantly getting ‘you‘re too ethnic’ or ‘you’re not ethnic enough.’ I was typed out of every single Asian casting call before they even heard me sing or saw me act; most of those were for stereotypically Asian roles, all that was available to Asians at the time. At the Caucasian and unspecified ethnicity auditions, I’d be the black-haired girl in a sea of blondes. I even had a commercial audition where I added a little dance. When the commercial finally aired, there was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl doing the dance I had done at the audition.”

It wasn’t just on the stage that Hofmann felt like she was cast out. Even the shows she watched seemed to ignore her and her story.

“Until “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Always Be My Maybe,” I’d never seen an Asian American romantic male lead or an Asian American female lead who simply happened to be the subject of the story,” she said. “While growing up, I only saw male Asians in entertainment as an evil mastermind or comic relief and female Asians as exotic sex symbols or demure, powerless victims of circumstance. None of them talked like me or my fellow Asian Americans growing up in America: which is to say, with an American accent and acting like an American. It’s true that we have the specific experience of either having immigrant parents or the cultural trappings we grew up with, but so does every other ethnic group in America.”

Feeling the lack of representation, Hofmann remembers the first time she felt seen from Broadway.

“Like many of my peers, Lea Salonga was the very first Broadway star I had ever seen who looked remotely like me,” she explained. “And then she opened her mouth and sang like I wanted to sing and everything changed. Up until then, like many Asian American children, I had been training to be a classical pianist. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved it. I am deeply grateful for my classical music training and I still play, but seeing Lea Salonga find success on Broadway meant that maybe, just maybe, I could do it too. Even though she was playing an Asian in a show about Asia from the perspective of White America, she was a trailblazer.”

After the success of Hamilton and the fact that it showed diversity and ethically ambiguous casting, Broadway is starting to get the hint that it needs to be open to more actors of color and actors of different heritage on the stage, and that it needs to show different people’s experiences on stage. When asked why she thought things are starting to change, Hofmann didn’t quite know.

“That’s a big question, and one I don’t think I can answer accurately. I’m sure there are many factors that go into changing trends.”

She does realize that a lot of it can be driven by money and wanting to appeal to one market, but she thinks companies are doing a disservice to themselves by only focusing on one demographic. She does know where Broadway and the arts community needs to start; at recognizing there is a problem.

“I don’t think many of the people making casting decisions even realize it’s there,” she said. “An Asian American man can absolutely be strong or goofy or desirable and sell tickets. An Asian American woman can absolutely be curvy or independent or crass, and sell tickets! And an Asian American actor can simply be an American actor bringing their own universally relatable self to whatever role they take on. Recognize the prejudice and ask if that’s a factor before passing on a qualified Asian American actor or actress.”

"A Tiny Part Of Tiny History."

Angela Tricarico

by Holly Butler

Holly Butler

Holly Butler

About a year ago, my boyfriend mentioned this cool NPR series. “Wait, how have you never heard of Tiny Desk?”

He immediately pulled up a few videos on his phone, and I thought, how cool. They have this private room where NPR just lets people make music and hang out, but most of the performers were musicians or recording artists, so I didn’t give it much more thought. Little did I know I would get to be a tiny part of tiny history.

Being a vacation standby is already a strange experience. You are completely entrenched in a community for a set amount of time, and then just disappear until the next time you’re needed. You’re never 100% a part of the company (even when the company is as welcoming and warm-hearted as Come From Away) because you know you’re transient. You don’t expect to be included in show parties or company outings unless you’re in the building. I hadn’t been in the show in about a month, so you can imagine my shock when I got the call asking if I was interested in going to Washington D.C.

Holly Butler

Holly Butler

We rehearsed one day in the basement lobby of the Schoenfeld Theater. Our music team had put together a selection of songs from the show for us to perform, along with some small speeches to connect them. Our music supervisor, Ian Eisendrath, was on hand to make sure the blend was good for a small acoustic performance.  We had five musicians and 11 performers - one of the biggest groups to perform at Tiny Desk!

The day of the performance, we met at Penn Station at 7 am. We took the Amtrak to D.C., and then a bus straight to NPR Headquarters. We were taken to a waiting room and given last minute time to prepare. When it was almost time to start, they took us upstairs to the performance space and… it was in the middle of a bunch of cubicles! It’s open on two sides and all the various NPR workers come out to be your audience for the presentation. After crunching ourselves into the space, getting very close and comfortable, we ran through our material once for them to see what we were doing and to get some audio levels. Then, it was time. More and more people were crowding around the performance area, and we got to do the actual performance for a strangely huge, very excited crowd of NPR staff. When it was over, they applauded and thanked us, and we headed back to the bus. Just like that, our magical day was over.  

On the train ride home, we all had drinks, chatted, and talked, and for me, it was like no time had gone by. I had shared another magical day with this magical group of humans, and I was so grateful. Being a part of this special camaraderie made me curious as to how Tiny Desk began. Come to find out, it had its humble beginnings because two NPR music employees went to see a concert at a venue where it was so loud they could barely hear the music. They joked that they should just have concerts at their desk. The heart of Come From Away is echoed in this origin story - it’s about connection to something greater whilst in an intimate setting, away from the noise of the outside world. I love that part of this beautiful show gets to be shared in this way - this tiny, intimate performance for a larger audience. Tiny Desk has a big impact, and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. 

Holly Butler and members of the  Come From Away  company

Holly Butler and members of the Come From Away company

"Why Am I Called To Be An Artist?"

Angela Tricarico

by James T. Lane

I’ve been thinking a bit about being an artist and having a dream, but I don’t know if this post will go where you think it might.

James T. Lane

James T. Lane

When you look around at almost everything made by people, you see their name or a brand name on it. Like Nike or Starbucks, the 100-dollar-bill with Ben Franklin’s face on it, even NASA was someone’s dream at one point. Even the names we assign to insects and diseases were named by or for people.

These are all people’s dreams. Their visions, the very real evidence of something they’ve made or discovered or figured out in some amazing way, or even stole, let’s be honest; it’s their passport to eternity, or more appropriately: legacy. Simply lasting past the present moment.

I wonder what that must be like to have something I created last past the two and a half hours of a show? What it must feel like to have your bottle of wine known all around the world, or to be Johnson & Johnson or Ebony Magazine sitting in every waiting room and supermarket across the U.S.

How do I outlast the moment?

I know I have power but does it last?

I know as artists we are powerful. We are alive in hearts and minds and nurture new ways of thinking for people when they leave the theatre. But what I pass over the footlights is no longer mine anymore. It’s yours, to interpret in your own way. To keep and change and transform for your own experience on this globe. It’s not really mine once it leaves my lips or twinkles out of my toes.

I guess one could argue about the different disciplines we get to play in. Because of television, film, the Lincoln Center Archives, the Tony Awards: it lasts forever so be on your leg, kids! If you’re lucky enough to be in a hit TV show and syndicated, you can last forever in reruns.

In my case, I endlessly watch “Clue” and “Airplane” nightly before I fall asleep. There’s something in the combination of the actors’ talent, the writing, and the time that soothes my little soul and instantly puts me to sleep. Familiarity, maybe? These actors last to me. Is that what I want? For folks to be familiar with my work? To soothe and lull them to sleep nightly. Am I seeking a “Seinfeld” syndication legacy? The check would be cute, but I think I’m asking a deeper question.

Why am I called to be an artist?

Why am I comfortable living on the edge night after night and having no real guarantee of job or salary or even if people will like what I do?

Why am I okay with it lasting for a moment when all the rest of the worlds’ visions and dream-grabbing folks have their names or their brands plastered across their product for all time and I am absolutely unashamedly throwing myself into the void nightly with no net when the clock strikes 8:05 pm or 7:35 pm depending on the day of the week or location of the theatre?

Why do I do it?

It’s because I don’t have a choice.

I am built for the moment. That’s where God is, by the way. I have been uniquely built to throw myself headfirst into the fray. I always raise my hand to be first and jump in even when I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. That’s what an artist does. We get to the other side of the night and crash into bed, and at the start of the day begin to plot our next high wire act. I’m in the shower at 8 am warming up for an 8 pm show.

We do it with loads of others doing the same act and we trust and we learn and we cry and we live. We live and we live.

Artists are under attack because we are brave and living in the moment when we are doing what we do. And the evidence of what we do is gone after two-and-a-half hours. It’s scary to people, the bravery we have, and the safe spaces where we can be who we are. A lot of us have no idea how powerful that is. We are built for the present moment. Most people are not built like that. But we are. It’s our strength. Our superpower.

So in a world where all around us the dreams of Ben Franklin and Jeff Bezos of Amazon abound, and a lasting legacy seems the only way to secure success, please remember that you are an artist and the present moment is where your power is. How brave it is to live that dream when you know it’s over in two-and-a-half hours. And you have poured years and years into this moment. That’s pretty miraculous if you ask me, and pretty brave.

Helping Dreamers Restore The Light

Angela Tricarico

By Calli McRae

Pip’s Island

Pip’s Island

Working at Pip’s Island is unlike any theatrical experience I have been a part of. It is not just a show. It is not just a series of musical numbers. It is not just an adventure for children. It is an all-inclusive, multi-faceted immersive experience that transports you into another world where you play, create and witness the power of harnessing everything you have within you to restore the light in the places that need it most.

As an actor, I am continually excited by the challenge of balancing many facets of the show. Ultimately it is my responsibility to advance the story, stay true to my character, and integrate the explorers in the adventure so that they are the true heroes. This is especially exciting because I have the privilege of using the kids’ ideas and suggestions to advance the plot line. Since I play Shelly, who harnesses the Imagine Spark, I get to use my imagination to fit all the puzzle pieces together. I can always find a way to use what the kids say to earn the Imagine Spark. I see them believe in power of using their imagination to solve problems and to create in a way that is intriguing to them.

Another interesting challenge is meeting the different needs of the children. Some children have high energy and are very vocal while others are more reserved and mild-mannered. It is important for me as an actor to know what the kids’ needs and how to tailor my performance to them in a way that is enjoyable, entertaining, and non-threatening while still maintaining authenticity as a character. Ultimately, I remain true to the character that I have developed while still allowing flexibility to adapt.

Calli McRae

Calli McRae

In some shows, particularly in very large groups, I need to stick to the key points to keep the story moving along, while in others, I have more room to improv and play and try on different hats as my character.

As a stationary character, I remain in one room for the duration of the show. I do not travel with the group. As an actor this is particularly interesting because I’m not with the group for the entire time, so I do not see the story from start to finish. Usually when I’m a part of a more traditional theater show, I experience the entirety of the performance even when I am offstage. There is something special about experiencing a show from start to finish, but what’s unique about performing as a stationary character in an immersive experience is that I get to interact with every group that comes through. This also means that I get to work with a variety of different actors and combination of actors who are traveling characters. In that regard, I get to find special moments and interactions with each of those actors, which are ever-changing and developing. It’s really fun to have a unique relationship with the actors who cover the same character.

Pip’s Island is for the dreamers, the seekers, the adventurers, and the innovators. While it is an experience primarily for young people, it is not only for kids. As an actor, I get to play to the kids and the adults. I’ve seen adults come alive and reconnect with their child-like spirit and inner spark. To say it is fulfilling would be an understatement.

5 Debut Questions: Hadestown's Damani Van Rensalier

Angela Tricarico

Today we welcome Hadestown ensemblist Damani Van Rensalier to the Great White Way and learn about her journey to her Broadway debut!

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Damani Van Rensalier and I was born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey.

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

I am one of the vacation swings for Hadestown, covering Worker 1 and Worker 2!

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

My agent called me the day after the final callback and informed me that I had booked the role. I was thankful enough to be in the comfort of my own home at the time. I fell to the floor first, then cried and then proceeded to run around my house like a crazy woman. 

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

The most surprising thing about preparing for the show was seeing how involved everyone is to the story. Every principal and every ensemble member (and obviously every other company member behind the scenes) contributes to the show whether it be physically on stage, the vocal harmonies or just in telling the story. Teamwork really does make the dream work in Hadestown.

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

I am very excited to see what other roles I get to play in the future (God willing) and how they’ll help shape who I am as a performer. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people in the community!

Damani Van Rensalier

Damani Van Rensalier

Damani Van Rensalier

Damani Van Rensalier

The Trip to Pip’s… or How Saying Yes Changed My Life

Angela Tricarico

By Peter Michael Marino

Pip’s Island

Pip’s Island

About three years ago, I was recommended to audition for a workshop of a new kids’ show called Pip’s Island. I was provided sides for three characters, two of which were in my acting wheelhouse and one, the menacing villain, seemed like… well, a reach. But, I said “yes.” 

I began my audition with the most obvious fit for me and my style of performance – a jolly, likeable Park Ranger. Piece of cake. Then onto the next one… a nerdy badger-inventor. Okaaaaay. I hoped they would stop there, but they asked me to continue and read for the villainous Joules Volter. I was terrified, and decided in that very moment to throw away any stock character ideas I had chosen in my pre-audition preparation and make him a clown. An idiot. And funny.

I scurried around the audition room, in and out into the hallway, hopping up over the accompanist to the top of the piano (sorry Simple Studios), and delivered my evil words with a blend of madness, helplessness, and ridiculousness. My final threatening lines were delivered from underneath the long coffee cup-littered table of the director, writer, and producers. They offered me the role of Joules Volter on the spot. I might have still been under the table. I recall saying, “Really?!” And my journey on this enchanting island began.

The workshop lasted about two weeks in a church rec room on the Upper West Side. We used our imaginations to work with a treasure trove of found objects, fabric scraps, ladders, dollar store trinkets and cardboard boxes. The sound effects came from Bluetooth speakers in each “environment.” The lighting was daylight streaming through whatever windows there were in our semi-subterranean toy box. As a team, we dreamed up creative ways to bring this immersive story to life using what we had. A ladder became a lighthouse. A box became a boat. A bed sheet and a flashlight became a shadow play for a fight sequence. The creators created an atmosphere where everyone’s ideas were important and everyone was heard. Together through improvisation, clown, and team-building exercises, we made the story clearer, added more details and back stories to the characters and filled out the plot. Then we had a few invited performances - but unlike a typical workshop, the audience members were 3-10 year olds. Not sitting in seats but walking through a maze of ingeniously-themed areas separated by simple rolling walls. And they bought it!

Peter Michael Marino

Peter Michael Marino

The kids and their guardians gleefully took the journey – interacting with us, cheering for the heroes and booing my villainous character along the way. We had something but I don’t think any of us know exactly what that something was. Was it a play? A theme park attraction? A Sleep No More for kids? What we did know, was that it was really fun. We all felt like kids again.

About a year later, we had a lengthier workshop downtown at 3-Legged Dog where cardboard boxes and flashlights were replaced with imaginative set pieces, interactive video cycloramas, soundscapes, and fancy lighting instruments. The characters were becoming clearer. The adventure story was making more sense. I played around with crazy accents for my bad guy character and worked on different ways to move. Then the costume designer Fabio Toblini showed us sketches, and I knew exactly who this bad guy was. More kids were invited and changes were made in between each performance – sometimes within an hour of the previous performance. There was a collective spirit of “Yes, and…” from everyone on the team.

This was truly an improviser’s dream. I had been an improviser for years in small, sweaty comedy venues but never in a situation like this. I knew I needed to stay with this weird thing as long as I could. I was disappointed to not be available for the next iteration a year later which upped the ante into a 10-week production. I went to see the show (which coincidentally played across the street from Sleep No More) and was taken by how far the show had come and I was proud to have been a part of its development. When it concluded its run, I assumed it was the end of Pip’s Island.

This past January, I got an email from the creator Rania Ajami with the subject line: “We want you back.” Pip’s was moving into a permanent venue on 42nd and 9th for an open-ended, Off-Broadway, commercial run. I must be honest, I was skeptical about saying yes. I knew the hours would be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (“Like, a real day job?”). I knew it would be repetitive (“What? 12 or more shows a day?”) And I knew that doing the show would take me away from creating my own shows and touring the world with them as I’d been doing since 2012. I thought long and hard about whether or not to jump back onto the island.

I talked to fellow performers about my dilemma. I recalled the process of creating the character and the collective, creative experience I was a part of. And the answer all came back to the number one rule of improv.

I said, “Yes, and… let’s do this.”

Our previous makeshift sets are now museum-worthy pieces of art. Our fantastically odd characters are now fully-fleshed and dare I say, believable. Our story is completely engaging, thrilling and original. The entire team from front-of-house, to the backstage tech booths, to the incredibly diverse cast members are on the same magical page. Everyone says “Yes, and…” to any challenge. And so does the audience. Every day, I witness the joy and wonder that imagination, creativity, and theater brings to young faces.

Being a part of Pip’s Island has been incredibly rewarding as a performer. It tests my creativity, stamina, and above all, my authenticity and honesty. You can’t phone it in for 500 audience members a day when more than half of that audience is kids. Even though we are approaching our 1,000th performance, every show (or expedition, as we call it) still feels new. I still have lots of room for improvisation which comes in handy on a second-by-second basis as my silly-evil character is booed, cajoled, and questioned by three-year old kids and even their 63-year old grandparents. 

In the show, the kids find “sparks” to take them to the next part of the journey. And this unusual, unique show has sparked something in me as a performer, creator, artist and human being. I’m more empathetic, patient and authentic. I smile more. I laugh more. I’m happy to go to work every day to see what adventures await. And, I am so glad I said yes.

Saving The Island One Pulse At A Time

Angela Tricarico

by Bebe Tabickman

Pip’s Island

Pip’s Island

“Expedition 12! You made it! My name is Dottie and I will be your Expedition Leader!”

This is the first thing I say to our audience the moment they step off of the elevator, and then our adventure begins.

When I first got involved with Pip’s Island I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My friend told me about the open call and said it was a new interactive children’s show and since I have a huge background performing theater for young audiences and working with children, I thought: why not? Little did I know that this project would change my life for the better, as it combines two of my favorite things: children and improv.

I play Dottie the Expedition Leader, which is the character that is with the audience from the very beginning of the show until the very end. I serve as the “tour guide” to help lead the audience through the adventure and serve as a constant point of reference. I get to meet every Explorer (what we call every child in our audience), and I get to know every Assistant (what we call the grown ups) before we start our journey. Then we adventure through ten different rooms and complete a different task in each one as we travel to Pip’s Island, collect our five sparks, and save the day!

Bebe Tabickman

Bebe Tabickman

What makes this show so exciting and so fresh is that it’s a completely different show every time. Because of the nature of our show being interactive, every thing that one of the Explorers or Assistants say gets used in our show. If an Explorer introduces themselves as Spider-Man, then you better believe we’re going to get their help to shoot spider webs later in the show. If we’re trying to find the Park Ranger and an Explorer says, “he’s hiding in the ceiling,” then you know that I’m climbing on logs to search for him above our heads. And if we’re trying to bring Pip back to life and an Explorer says the only way to bring him back is sushi, then we are for sure having a sushi dinner party to bring him back.

Pip’s Island is such a unique and exciting playground for any actor. It’s a huge lesson in how to listen and take in everything around you to apply it to the script. Another exciting element about our show is that because we do one-to-three shows an hour we have a giant company of actors. It may sound cheesy but we have all become such a beautiful family. I feel so safe and loved by my company on and off stage.

I’m so thankful for this job and I recommend everyone should come see the show. Even if you don’t have a child to bring, you can come and unleash your own inner child!. And if you have a child to bring then you will have a magical time watching your little one gain the confidence to transform into a hero.

Bullying the Broadway Community

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady and Angela Tricarico

Lara Spencer

Lara Spencer

The theater community is just that: a community, a group of tight-knit people with similar careers, goals, and experiences, who are massively supportive of one another. Nothing proves that more than when performers come together to make a point, especially when that point involves defending the very basis of their career. 

Most recently, members of the community have taken to social media and beyond to speak out against Lara Spencer, a host of Good Morning America on ABC, for insensitive comments about Prince George of England she made on Thursday, August 22 during the PopNews segment of the show. 

"Prince William said Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you Prince William: we'll see how long that lasts," Spencer remarked, laughing casually at the thought of the six-year-old Prince taking ballet classes. 

The remark was not just insensitive, but as actress Alysha Umphress stated in a Tweet directed at Spencer, “Contributing to toxic masculinity.” 

Alexandra Silber pointed out that in addition to publicly shaming a child, Spencer “diminished the value of the arts.” 

Daniel Quadrino, who has multiple Broadway and National Tour ensemble credits, posted a photo of him and a group of Newsies on Instagram with a caption directed at Spencer: “Without ballet I wouldn’t have been able to dance on Broadway with a bunch of other BOYS who took ballet.”

This dismissal of men in ballet is especially unacceptable given that Spencer made the comment sitting in a television studio in the theater district, where. In the last six Broadway season, 1003 men danced in Broadway ensembles. Today, 255 men will dance on a Broadway stage. These include young boys, older men, black and white men, gay men, straight men, fathers… Some male dancers on Broadway had their dancing beginnings in ballet, and some still make a career of it today. 

Ephraim Sykes got his start dancing in Broadway ensembles, and this year, he earned a Tony nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Ain’t Too Proud.

Additionally, musicals like 1975’s A Chorus Line, 1957’s West Side Story, and 2015’s Hamilton all have ballet as fundamental basics of their choreography. All three of those musicals were nominated for Best Musical at the Tonys; two took home the award. A Chorus Line and Hamilton were both awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. What would these great works be without ballet? Billy Eliott, which won the 2009 Tony for Best Musical, is about a young British boy who takes ballet lessons. That story ends on a hopeful note, even when Billy’s dreams of ballet are threatened by the culture around him. 

The biggest lesson from this, however, should be that a person in a position of power, such as Spencer, shouldn’t abuse that power by bullying anyone, no matter their gender or age, no matter if they play sports or take ballet lessons, no matter if they’re a normal citizen or someone in a position of nobility. In the political climate we’re currently living in, kindness has to win.

A day after the initial comment was made, Spencer issued a “sincere apology” on Instagram, writing, “From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain-and love every minute of it.”

An apology online can not and does not change the fact that there were countless little boys and girls who watched Good Morning America with their parents or guardians on Thursday morning and heard Spencer’s remarks. 

As a community, we need to expect more from our media professionals. As someone who is expected to share news with the American masses, Spencer should have been able to make levelheaded judgements about fact or fiction in a split-second; once live on air, whatever is said can’t be taken back or even amended easily. 

And in that moment, Spencer proved that she is not able to make that judgement.

Walking On Your Feet Across America

Angela Tricarico

by Linedy Genao

"Who'd have known way back when, we'd ever have this chance to do it all over again." – “De Nuevo,” from the new musical Passing Through.

Eric Ulloa and Linedy Genao

Eric Ulloa and Linedy Genao

From doing the conga on stage together eight times a week, to making his written words come alive, working with Eric Ulloa again has been an incredibly exciting experience. I would've never imagined that from making our Broadway debuts together, I would've ended up being part of his own artistic expression as writer of new musical, Passing Through. It's so incredible to think that just a few years ago, we were two young artists living our dreams and now, we have the chance to do it again in a different and exciting way. Also, we get to have another mini On Your Feet reunion every day working with our choreographer, Marcos Santana!

As I said before, Eric and I made our Broadway debut together in On Your Feet. I was the baby of the entire company, both in age and experience, and Eric, along with the other cast members, took me under their wings and taught me a lot of what I know of this business today. When I tell you that we're all a very tight knit family, I mean it! We all still keep in touch all of the time, make cafecito and support one another every time we can.

Eric has been supportive of me and my dreams since the day we met. When I was presented with the opportunity to work with him again, but this time with him as a writer, I immediately jumped at the offer. Already knowing him, his heart and artistry, I couldn't wait to be a part of it! Also, I read his play 26 Pebbles and already knew the incredible writer that he was. After this experience, I can honestly say Passing Through is the most beautiful piece of theatre I have ever been a part of.

Our shared past has obviously made the entire process of creating his new musical that much more fun. I thought it would be a little intimidating with him being the writer of the show, but it couldn't have been more normal. We laugh hysterically, recall many hilarious memories from On Your Feet while creating new ones, and reflect on how our lives have changed since. We often love to go back to when he rode a flamingo while playing trumpet on live TV for the opening of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and I led a group of cheerleaders. The only thing that has changed is the amount of respect and admiration I have for him now being on the "other side of the table."

Besides all the fun we have together, our friendship and collaborative process have allowed me to explore my characters freely, continuing my growth as an actor. It's been extremely gratifying to reunite with Eric to help take his show on the next step in its journey. Most importantly, as Latinx artists, we get to represent and celebrate our heritage with the show. For example, one of the many amazing characters I play is Carmen, a Mexican immigrant traveling through the desert and across the border with her husband Diego (played by Ryan Duncan) for a better and safer life in the United States. We sing a song called "De Nuevo," written by Brett Ryback, which means "again," while Diego teaches her English so that they can both find work.

I'll never forget the first day we ran through this number. I completely lost it. We all lost it. All of a sudden, it all hit me. I thought about the current events happening in our country right now, the racist legislations, the people risking their lives in the desert to have crossed, are crossing and will cross the border for a better life, and my own grandfather, who flew to this country with not a single penny in his pocket to provide the life my family and I have today. I celebrate my heritage all throughout our show, but it's this beautiful song and scene I get to perform with Ryan every day that I take most pride in. Ryan said it beautifully in his blog post here that "we feel it's important to present a truthful account of their intentions and struggles to achieve success."

Right before we enter the stage for our scene, we hold hands, and Ryan says, "digamos la verdad,” which means "let us tell the truth." That's what we aim to do every day, that's what Eric has intended, and many times after our number, we can hear the gasps in the audience.

In the end, to reunite and collaborate with Eric in this way has been a rewarding and growing experience. I saw this both as an opportunity for me to grow as an artist creating new and impactful work, and a way to contribute and support my friend’s artistry and the development of his work. To reunite after so many years full of growth and maturity has been such a beautiful experience. We continue to be supportive of one another, personally and professionally, and I am forever grateful to Eric for this incredible opportunity, and for continuing to believe in me and my dream.

"You're always going to be in my top list when I'm looking to write for people and create roles for those I fully believe in... like you."

I love you Eric and que siga la tradición para siempre!

When Broadway Called (feat. Holli' Conway)

Mo Brady

With full company rehearsals beginning today for the Broadway production of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, we welcome debut ensemblist Holli’ Conway to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way.

Holli' Conway

Holli' Conway

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Holli’ Conway and I’m from Louisiana.

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

Ikette and Ensemble in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.

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

I was Miss Louisiana at the time, doing a face mask and getting ready for an appearance. My Agent Lauren @blocnyc called a little before they opened (which gave me a mini panic attack lol). She put me on speaker with the Bloc team in the room, played "The Best", and told me that I was "simply the best" because I was going to be on Broadway! I then proceeded to intensely cry through my face mask.

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

The challenge -- which is ironically my biggest fear lol. One of my favorite sayings is "It's only impossible until it's done". Sometimes we don't realize what we're capable of until someone or something pushes you to it. I think this experience and this story is going to challenge me until I'm the performer that I didn't know I could be.

5 Debut Questions: Wicked's Celia Hottenstein

Angela Tricarico

Today, we welcome Wicked ensemblist Celia Hottenstein to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way.

Celia Hottenstein

Celia Hottenstein

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Celia Hottenstein and my hometown is Kingston, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles southwest of Scranton and across the Susquehanna River from Wilkes-Barre.

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

I am in the Ensemble and I understudy Glinda.

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

I got a call from my agent, Anna at DGRW, the day after my final dance callback. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon and I was in my kitchen making dinner.

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

I was challenged a lot by the amount of dance in this show. Dance is not the strongest for me and I remember being completely overwhelmed at my very first choreography rehearsal. Thankfully, we have two wonderful dance captains who taught me the show and were patient along the way. I never thought I would be dancing this much in anything. My goal is to continue working on improving my dance in classes outside the show. I am up there with a group of unbelievable dancers.

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

I am really excited to go on as Glinda at some point. This has been a dream role of mine since I was a little girl. Putting on those costumes at my first fitting was surreal. I’m also looking forward to having a job on Broadway that I get to go to every night! That cannot be overstated and I will never lose my appreciation for that privilege. As a friend said, it doesn’t happen for a lot of people, but it happened for me, and I am reminded of that every time I walk into the theater.

Celia Hottenstein

Celia Hottenstein

Fancy Maids

Angela Tricarico

Fancy Maids at the Rave Theater Festival

Review by Anna Altheide

Fancy Maids

Fancy Maids

Fancy Maids, a one act play written and directed by Harold Hodge Jr., has returned to the stage as a part of Ken Davenport’s Rave Theater Festival. Starring Madeline Grey DeFreece (Idabelle), Essence Brown (Pinky), Chinara Stroman (Queenie), and Kayland Jordan (Louella), Fancy Maids centers around the lives of four black women living and working in a Delaware brothel in 1853, twelve years prior to the abolition of slavery.

Hodge’s production is a raw, provocative glance into the intersectional abuse and treatment dealt to black Americans, particularly women, in pre-abolition America. In the present day #MeToo landscape, Fancy Maids seeks to not only inform its audience of the obvious historical atrocities, but the parallels between slavery, prostitution, and a woman’s right to free bodily agency.

When Idabelle, Pinky, Queenie, and Louella are caught up in an intense dilemma which questions their views of life, death, and revenge, Hodge’s script takes unsettling but justifiable leaps. Set during the Fugitive Slave Act, Fancy Maids stands out as an outcry and reclamation of the past, daring to allow four woman — especially four black women — to stand up to their oppressors, regardless of consequence.

The four main leads (DeFreece, Brown, Stroman, and Jordan) deliver intense and authentically stripped down performances, each dauntless and confident in their characters’ strengths, convictions, and vulnerabilities. Amongst Brown, Stroman, and Jordan, there is a settled, lived in camaraderie between Pinky, Queenie, and Louella, even in moments of household tension. Meanwhile, DeFreece’s more timid Idabelle, our eyes and ears into the world of Pinky’s brothel, is compelling, graceful, and the heart and soul of the whole production.

The cast is rounded out by Reed Pike (William), Isaac J. Conner (Richard), and Dave Polgar (Auctioneer/Man in Brothel/Principal Understudy). Newcomer Pike, a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, gives a likable performance as William, Queenie’s most frequent hustle. Conner’s portrayal of Virginia slave owner Richard is effectively revolting. Polgar is given little to do, but the jarring segue from the production’s carefree opening scene to the auctioning sequence is impactful.

Though far from lite fare, Fancy Maids, the recipient of the Gerard Cannon Writing Award, is also infused with humor, warmth, and a sisterhood element, especially as Idabelle settles into Pinky’s Pleasure House. Hodge paints bold and compelling strokes and leans into not only each character’s appalling past, but future ambitions and aspirations. These women aren’t simply ruminating on what’s behind them, but leaping toward brighter futures.

A Day In the Life Of A Six-Foot-Tall Munchkin

Angela Tricarico

by Kaleb Van Rijswijck

Kaleb Van Rijswijck

Kaleb Van Rijswijck

A Theater for Young Audiences (or TYA) contract is a hoot and a half. It is such a joy to witness small minds being exposed to the theatrical arts for the first time. I love watching them make connections in real-time. It is not something you get to experience as an actor all the time. However, a TYA project can be taxing in many ways. You are essentially producing a full-scale musical with all of the elements to be performed in 75 minutes. It is straight cardio twice a day for 80 minutes.

For The Wizard of Oz at Chicago Shakespeare Theater specifically, I have about 11 costume quick changes, which doesn't seem like a lot, but when the show is a short one-act and you're also singing backstage it all adds up. We have a dresser backstage that helps us get in and out of our clothes as quickly and safely as possible. I think my fastest quick change is around 60 seconds, maybe less now that we have perfected it. If you do the math and include me changing from my street clothes into my costumes before and after every show, I change my clothes about 30 times a day on our two show days.

Kaleb Van Rijswijck

Kaleb Van Rijswijck

Performing nine shows a week is really tough on your body and injury or illness is inevitable. This last week we lost one of our lovely ensemble members due to an injury that would not heal properly if he kept dancing on it, so our external swing is filling in permanently for the rest of the run. For this show, we only have one external male-identifying swing that covers all three ensemble men. This morning, the cast received a notice that another male ensemble member would be out today due to a recurring injury that he has had. If you caught on, that means we have too many people out. Our dance captain came in with a contingency plan and we put together a modified “cut track" show. The show was going swimmingly until a costume malfunction caused us to lose our external swing right before the MunchkinLand sequence.

What happened next seemed like a fever dream but also some of the best ensemble "yes, and?" work I have ever witnessed.

I should start by saying that MunchkinLand is probably one of the most energetic moments of the show because it is the audience's introduction to the land of Oz. The director (Brian Hill) and choreographer (Kenny Ingram) pulled out all the stops with this one. Giant dance breaks, big prop handoffs, large scenic moves, and an entire Kazoo chorus. All and all, a giant production number.

We stepped out onto that stage knowing very well that we were already down a couple of bodies and now our contingency plan was no longer valid. We had no idea what would happen next. We smiled, re-spaced the dances as best we could, passed props around, changed blocking and picked up the slack wherever it was needed. It was like the most dramatic game of hot potato, you could ever experience. The pinnacle of the experience topped out when I realized I was now the lone standing Lollipop Guild member. I am normally joined by two other members, however, due to the circumstances, it was just me. I grabbed my lollipop and made eye contact with another ensemble member who mouthed, "Say 'I'."

I nodded my head and I proceeded to sing more confident than ever, "I represent the Lollipop Guild..." instead of "We."

The rest of the show flew by with other little blips here and there and we came out, in the end, a stronger ensemble than ever.

I crawled into my bed that evening still reeling from the day's events, and Dorothy's infamous line, "There's no place like home," truly rang loud and clear.

Members of  The Wizard of Oz  company

Members of The Wizard of Oz company

5 Debut Questions: Hamilton's Amanda Braun

Angela Tricarico

This week, we welcome Hamilton’s Amanda Braun to the Main Stem and learn about her journey toward making her Broadway debut.

Amanda Braun

Amanda Braun

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Amanda Braun and I’m from Warren, New Jersey

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

I am a Universal Swing.

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

I originally booked the original company of the Angelica Tour in November 2016! I had gone in for my fifth callback and my agents told me the next day that I was on hold until I finally got the call the day before Thanksgiving that I was going to be launching the First National Tour. After almost two years of being with the Angelica Tour I went back to New York City. Seven months later I was offered this new and exciting position!

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

There are many small details in Hamilton that make the show so captivating. It is truly incredible that I get to learn every female track and be able to discover those details.

Amanda Braun

Amanda Braun

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

I am hoping I get the chance to make a Broadway debut with this dream show! Being a Universal Swing means that my home base is the New York company but I can be sent to any of the productions in the country at any given time. This is such an awesome opportunity to get to know everyone who is a part of the HamFam and I am looking forward to telling this story with so many wonderful people around the world!

5 Debut Questions: Beetlejuice's Katie Lombardo

Angela Tricarico

Today we welcome Beetlejuice ensemblist Katie Lombardo to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way!

Katie Lombardo

Katie Lombardo

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Katie Lombardo and my hometown is Franklin Square, New York.

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

I am the female vacation swing!

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

I had been involved with the show for a long time (a lot of pre production, lab, helping with auditions, etc.) and didn’t end up booking the out-of-town in D.C. or the Broadway production. The rest of the cast was already a month or so into rehearsal with one week left in the studio before heading to the theatre for tech. I went to a random audition one Monday morning, and when I came out of the room and checked my phone, I had a missed call from the choreographer, Connor Gallagher. I called him back and he said “Has anyone called you yet?” and I said, “No...” and he said “You’re joining the company as our vacation swing and you start tomorrow morning! You’re making your Broadway debut!” I started crying, and naturally, he started laughing at me. I will never ever forget it. Phone call in the hallway of Pearl Studios. Classic.

Katie Lombardo

Katie Lombardo

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

I don’t know if “surprising” is the right word, but I would say one of the most wonderful parts of preparing to perform the show is how welcoming the cast and the team have been. They have this way of making me feel so special and so excited, without making me feel like I’m less than or below them. A lot of them are people I’ve looked up to for so long, and to think “I’m sharing a dressing room hallway with so and so” makes the 16-year-old Katie who drove to high school listening to Broadway soundtracks want to cry tears of joy.

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

First of all, Beetlejuice was one of my absolute favorite movies growing up, and if you know me even a tiny bit, you know that Halloween is my all time favorite holiday. There is truly nothing more exciting for me than being able to perform a spooky show on Broadway. Aside from that, I’m looking forward to having my family and friends come see the show. They’ve supported me from the very beginning, no matter what, good times and bad times, sometimes really bad or sad times. I’m so happy and grateful that I can finally get up there and make them proud. I really couldn’t have made it here without them.

In the words of Beetlejuice... “It’s Showtime.”

5 Debut Questions: King Kong's Lissa deGuzman

Angela Tricarico

Today we welcome King Kong ensemblist Lissa deGuzman to Broadway and learn about her journey to the Great White Way!

Lissa deGuzman as Ann Darrow

Lissa deGuzman as Ann Darrow

1. What is your name, hometown, and when did you make your broadway debut?

My name is Lissa deGuzman and I’m from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

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

I’m an ensemble/Ann understudy in King Kong. I made my official Broadway debut as Ann and then three days later, I debuted my ensemble track.

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

I was in the shower and I missed a call from one of my agents. I realized he didn’t really have any reason to call me unless he had some sort of good or bad news. As I’m soaking wet and still in a towel, I called him back. He asked how my Memorial Day was and I just remember my heart beating so fast and the anticipation was killing me. Then he said, “How would you like to make your broadway debut in King Kong?”

I yelled “No way!” at him approximately 20 times while pacing around my room. Then I galavanted around my apartment in a towel in disbelief and utter happiness.

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

Lissa deGuzman

Lissa deGuzman

The most surprising thing has been the challenges of working with a 2,000 pound puppet. I learned the Ann track first and many of her scenes are with him. A story is being told between the two of them, but the only actual words spoken are by Ann. Rehearsals with the puppet, KiKo, require the ten actors who move his body and the three VooDoo operators who move his face and shoulders. I felt it necessary to use these actors’ time very efficiently and wisely because more than 13 people were coming in to put me into the show. It was a unique but awesome experience learning to do scenes with KiKo so early in my process.

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

I’m looking forward to getting to know the people in this show. They are incredible performers and to be able to be with them eight times a week will be an honor. I’m also looking forward to finding some sort of routine in the city. I’m excited to go to work everyday and call this my job. 

From James Madison to North Shore

Angela Tricarico

by Abigail Charpentier

Susie Carroll

Susie Carroll

Since this spring, Susie Carroll has attended both James Madison High School and North Shore High.

On March 5, 2019, Carroll made her Broadway debut when she joined The Prom as a vacation swing, covering all female ensemble roles whenever cast members had vacations or personal days scheduled. By the end of her time at The Prom, she had performed in seven tracks: six female teen ensemble tracks and one adult female track.

She departed from The Prom in mid-July and opened in Mean Girls on July 23. In the other Casey Nicholaw-directed-and-choreographed musical, Carroll is also a vacation swing, covering the ensemble ladies and learning their tracks as their vacations come up. 

“Joining two Broadway shows in the course of a year has been both the most rewarding and most challenging thing that I have experienced in my life thus far,” Carroll said. “It has required an ample amount of dedication, determination and focus. It has come with just about every emotion imaginable, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for even a second.”

Carroll auditioned for The Prom lab in December 2017 and was hired a year later. Similarly, she auditioned for Mean Girls in May 2018 and joined the company in July of the following year.

The moral of the story: you may not get the job right away. 

Susie Carroll in  Mean Girls

Susie Carroll in Mean Girls

“Sometimes you might get so close to booking that ‘dream job’ and then you don’t. Sometimes they tell you, ‘We will keep you on file’ and you leave feeling discouraged because you never believe that to actually be true. However, sometimes, it is true,” Carroll explained. “Sometimes you must continue on with your head held high, continue to work hard and sometimes when that dream job is meant to be for you. It will be there for you. It is possible.”

While Carroll was playing high school students onstage at the Longacre Theatre, she was an actual student at Pace University earning her BFA in Musical Theatre. While her training has helped prepare her for the past few months, especially transitioning between jobs, she said that “there is only so much homework I can do until I need to just do it on stage.”

One of the most challenging parts of changing shows was departing The Prom because it was the where she experienced all of her firsts: first Broadway costume fitting, first Broadway cast, etc.  

“My departure at The Prom was made exceptionally difficult for me because of how special the company and the story we were telling was,” she said.

Since starting her career on the Great White Way, Carroll has experienced “really special moments” that she will treasure forever, such as sitting in Beth Leavel and Angie Schworer’s dressing room and getting life advice from them, leading a Broadway wedge and going to the Tony Awards for the first time.

Another aspect of her job that has been special to her is signing Playbills and meeting fans at the stage door.

“If I am onstage I try to never miss a night of going to the stage door to sign. Connecting with others and making them happy or inspired is truly one of the best gifts I can receive and makes it all worth it for me. Because I was once that kid.”