Podcast guest Rashidra Scott shares her secrets for staying joyful and engaged during her nearly four years in Beautiful: the Carole King Musical on Broadway.
As someone who was a part of three show closings in a nine-month time period, I used to pray and dream for a “government job.” I got my first sense of it with 16 months at Sister Act and it was an absolute blast. Being in the ensemble can get stale at times because of the repetition, but there were enough places where we nuns could make each other giggle or spice things up. It also helped that I understudied a principal so my version of the show changed depending on which track I was in, but I also was constantly in “study” mode. Understudying an Olivier and Tony-nominee opens one up to a world of choices from which to borrow and are inspiring.
I thought Sister Act was my “government job,” then along came Beautiful. Between August 12, 2013 and July 2, 2017 I have no idea how many performances I personally did, but I have a newfound respect for those who can manage to constantly find contentment for years in ensemble tracks. What I learned about myself in the last (almost) four years is that I need to constantly keep myself creatively challenged. I've always understudied when in the ensemble and that’s kept me on my toes and fulfilled in ways I didn't realize until there was no one for me to understudy- there was no point in time when my show changed… and that slowly left me feeling more and more unsatisfied.
Don't get me wrong, I loved going to work. We were a family at that theatre and that made coming in such a joy. But it became abundantly clear that my creative spirit needed to be fed and I was starving it. So I took (was graciously granted) a leave of absence to re-visit Deloris van Cartier- the joy was back. I also finally got to watch the Broadway show I'd been a part of from the beginning. The fire and passion was re-ignited and I thought I'd go back to Beautiful refreshed and renewed. It was a slightly short lived spark.
Then I got the chance to do another leave of absence for a role I never dreamed of getting a chance to play- Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes (Danny Goldstein, what were you thinking?? Thank you)! I grew up as a member of a competition dance studio… I don't remember the last time I got to show off my dance skills as much as my vocal chops on Broadway. Playing Reno was an unrealized dream come true. I got to belt out some classic Cole Porter tunes, act in a genre completely new to me, and dance some amazing choreography (thank you Kelli Barclay!) And while I was always grateful for the paycheck and stability, coming back gnawed at my creative happiness even quicker than the first time.
I don't claim to know all about how to last in a long-running show, but a few things I learned are:
- Keep yourself challenged any and every way possible; take acting, dance, and voice lessons to constantly keep your mind working and spirit fulfilled.
- Find your passion outside of your eight show/six days week; do you like to write? Do that. Do you like doing readings/workshops/labs? Do that Have you been toying with the idea of creating your own show, whether for yourself or others? Stop making excuses and do that (I'm speaking to myself here, too). Been interested in learning an instrument just because? Do that. Keep the creative flame burning in whatever way possible.
At the end of the day, we are humans executing repetition in a way that can drive any sane person crazy - no matter how many approaches you give yourself to freshen up your performance. For me, the key is balance. Live all the life you can outside of the theatre (as long as you can still do your show. Most importantly, know when it's time to walk away. It's not quitting if leaving fulfills your soul. At the end of the day, if our creative wells aren't replenished we're left to fetch water from dust. And there's nothing fresh about that.
Listen to our episode about Long Runs on Broadway here.