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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

Adventures on Pip's Island

Angela Tricarico

by Lola Clifton

Lola Clifton with her mom,  Pretty Woman ’s Ellyn Marie Marsh

Lola Clifton with her mom, Pretty Woman’s Ellyn Marie Marsh

This week, my mom and I went to go see the interactive children’s show Pip’s Island. When we entered, we were greeted by very nice gentlemen who checked us in. There are tables and chairs for waiting, and a snack cart with a gift shop. They sell notebooks, stuffies, lunch boxes, pins and much more in the gift shop. Then, a gentlemen greets you wearing an explorer vest and something around his wrist that looks like a colorful, light up Apple Watch. He takes you in the elevator. Once you get up to the top floor you get greeted by an expedition leader. I was greeted by a funny lady named Beatrice. She was also wearing the vest and the strange looking watch.

Then all the children are given a similar set of accessories; an explorer’s vest with the colorful watch. Then they explain the goal of the mission, which is: the island is in danger and we (the explorers) have to save it. Expedition groups go through multiple rooms, and each room has a task which give clues to save the island, and defeat the villain in the story!

Lola Clifton

Lola Clifton

There are a total of ten rooms. All are very detailed and each have an activity. For example, one room has fake grass, another has a leaf floor, another is supposed to be a bakery, and another is a ship of some sort. They ask for volunteers in every room and get all children involved. For example, in one room the task is a treasure hunt, in another it is to decorate a cake and in another it is a dance party. Every room is different and unique-it’s like you enter a new world in each room, you never know what’s coming next, and you meet new characters along the way. You meet Pip, Finn, Shelley, Pebble, and some others. The talented actors and actresses made all the children laugh, and even all the parents!

Great job Pip’s Island!

I recommend this show for people with children ages 4-10, but its pretty much for everybody. Even my mom had fun: she laughed at the grumpy villain! I give this show five out of five stars. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but there is so much to see and experience, you will have a great time. I think they did a terrific job!

"Welcome to Swing Life, Kevin!"

Angela Tricarico

by Kevin Raponey

Kevin Raponey

Kevin Raponey

“Kevin! Pilar just twisted her ankle! The Judge track is going to jump into Pilar’s track but the Female Swing is already on. Can you swing on for the Female Judge track for Act 2!?” - Stage Manager of the National Tour of Legally Blonde The Musical.

Welcome to Swing Life, Kevin!

Nine years later, in the men’s dressing room of the Tenth Anniversary Production of Rock Of Ages, my notes are open as I run through one of the seven tracks that I cover. This show is by far the most difficult show I have gotten to Swing because it is a smaller company and everyone is very featured but the four shows before this one have set me up for success. I have learned that knowing the show in and out is to everyone’s advantage and that literally anything can happen at any time.

Some examples of some “Super Swing Moments” in my career have been in the national touring production of A Chorus Line when I went on last minute for a role that I didn’t cover without a rehearsal. In Kiss Me, Kate at Shakespeare Theatre Company, I went into a final full rehearsal run through because a cast member missed his train back to Washington D.C. with no rehearsal. In West Side Story at Paper Mill Playhouse, I went on during Tech for a Shark Track because he missed the bus from Manhattan to the theatre and most recently at Rock Of Ages, just last week, I went on as the second cover for a principal role I didn’t yet get a put-in rehearsal for with only two hours notice before show time.

The life of a Swing is a stressful one, but a rewarding one.

Kevin Raponey

Kevin Raponey

As a Swing, your Dance Captain is your coach. Just like in sports, you listen to your coach so that you will win the game. They guide you to be a champion. Understudy rehearsals at Rock Of Ages happen every week with stage management, the Musical Director and the Dance Captain to make sure that you are as ready as possible in case of an injury or sickness within your company. This doesn’t always happen when you are a Swing on the road. The challenging thing when being a Swing on a national touring production is that there isn’t a lot of time to have rehearsals. You travel from city to city, sometimes every week. You are expected to be able to jump in at any time without having a full put- in. Those experiences have set me up for success here at Rock Of Ages and I am thankful for the times when my companies “shoved with love” and cheered me on as I jumped into the show.

I will continue to take opportunities to Swing a show because not everyone has the mind for it and not many actors want to do it. I love my job. I love sitting in the audience each night, studying my tracks and cheering them on during curtain call. It gives me joy to watch the show as a whole succeed day after day and when I do have the opportunity to be a part of the show, it is that much sweeter!

Speech and "Debate"

Mo Brady

by Jason Forbach

Mike Iveson (center, with Thursday Williams and Heidi Schreck) in  What The Constitution Means to Me  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Mike Iveson (center, with Thursday Williams and Heidi Schreck) in What The Constitution Means to Me (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Debate is a process which allows two opposing points of view to present and oppose their ideals in a dynamic, intelligent forum. The award-winning, hit Broadway play What The Constitution Means to Me, from Tony nominated actress and playwright Heidi Schreck, currently at the Helen Hays Theater, is a celebration of that. And next to her, sitting quietly in a chair stage left, is Mike Iveson. We spoke with Iveson about the importance of his supporting role in Constitution and what it means to him.

Schreck is front and center to wittingly analyze the duality that exists within the Constitution; a living, breathing document with hundreds of years of contradiction. From there, Schreck leads the audience on a personal journey through her family history, toward confronting the opposing dualities within the women in her family who helped raise her and shape her identity. It is a tour-de-force.

But, like any healthy debate, there is another voice.

Iveson is the one male actor who dutifully shares the stage with Schreck almost the entire 90 minute length of the play and his presence, too, presents a duality. In the program he is credited as “performer,” but he plays a series of roles: a Legionnaire, a guy named “Mike,” and a sort-of debate moderator. In these separate functions, he represents a friend and confidant, a positive male energy and also an authoritative, watchful, white male gaze symbolizing the very governing, ruling body typical to this country. He is the observer of rules and order. He is the ticking clock.

And, just like the hundreds of photographs of white men that surround Schreck on stage, Iveson presents a counter argument, a rebuttal to the points, the stories, the analysis that Schreck delivers.

Mike Iveson

Mike Iveson

“I think it's significant that those are all roles played by a man, “ Iveson said. “The first two, the Legionnaire and then “Mike,” are related. They ask the question: What if one of the guys on these walls that form the backdrop of the whole play reveals something about himself just like we have seen Heidi doing for the whole course of the play? A sort of inner question to that is: How much do these guys on the wall rely on not allowing themselves to be vulnerable? So you have to see both the living embodiment of the photograph and the person behind the facade to really activate that question.”

Iveson’s role is difficult to define. Is he a foil to Shrek, a co-star of sorts, or a type of “one-man-band” ensemble member wearing a variety of hats?

“I actually kind of view myself as a part of the set. And truthfully, the plant on stage with me-her name is Cordeline, by the way-is sort of my co-conspirator. Sometimes I am the antagonist in the play, but most of the time I am like Cordeline, providing a sort of living reminder of the life outside the walls that the play engages the audience to take part in.”

Iveson’s contribution is far more active than his humble description suggests. With furrowed brow, downturned mouth and a constantly gripped left fist, his “Legionnaire” character is constantly engaged with the telling of Heidi’s story. It is a masterclass on active listening as moments unfold on the stage.

“Even though I know where the story is going, I have no idea how we are going to get there. Heidi is a dynamic performer who could take a quick narrative side trip or catch some unexpected feels at any point in the show. I don't want to miss a second of that.”

Iveson has spent much of career honing these skills as an ensemble member in the prestigious Elevator Repair Service, an experimental theater company based in New York, since 2006. His experience with that company has helped shape who he is as an actor and how he creatively contributes as a company member.

“It has been invaluable for me to have the experience of negotiating the ensemble thing through that work,” Iveson said. “John Collins [Elevator Repair Service’s founding Artistic Director] works extremely intuitively and visually, which only doubles the actor's responsibility to remind herself that she doesn't have the whole picture. She is one piece in the puzzle. But also, especially in that kind of work where potentially everything is up for grabs, the actor has an equally serious responsibility to show up with some strong ideas because what we make in the room is more or less the whole of the show. Figuring out how to hatch a huge vision that you can quickly adapt, or detach yourself from if necessary, is something that's valuable in all acting realms. I am grateful for the many opportunities I have had to keep attacking that problem.”

Jesse Green of the New York Times referred to Constitution as “nothing less than a chronicle of the legal subjugation of women by men, as experienced in the day-to-day injustices of living while female and in the foundational American document that offers paltry recourse.” And, yes, this relationship between Schreck and Iveson is incredibly charged and nuanced as the debate of living “while female” broils on.

Mike Iveson (right, with Heidi Schreck) in  What The Constitution Means to Me

Mike Iveson (right, with Heidi Schreck) in What The Constitution Means to Me

“There are a lot of strong women in my family, and I am beyond lucky that I got exposed to that from an early age, to the idea that powerful women are not a threat but a boon,” Iveson said. “It's so dumb a sentence like that even has to be said out loud, but in this grueling and awesome period of reckoning we are going through in America, it has become painfully clear that a lot of men are deeply threatened by women and have constructed gigantic systems to deal with their panic. And, really, most of us are implicated.”

Constitution marks Iveson’s Broadway debut. It is a generous, thoughtful and collaborative performance in an original American play that has gone on to win Best American Play from the New York Drama Critic’s Circle, the Obie Award, a Tony nomination and been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Iveson explains how his involvement came to be.

“Heidi and Oliver Butler [Constitution’s director] asked me to join the show when the original Legionnaire was not available. Heidi and I have worked together a number of times over the years and I have always been kind of obsessed with her acting and writing; how could you not want to be a part of that? She is freaking amazing.”

When Iveson sheds the ill fitting suit of his Legionnaire for the hipster t-shirt of “Mike” we see a man reveal his duality: shedding layers, exploring honesty. He becomes the embodiment of the “counter argument” to the man he initially presented. He shows us vulnerability that the photographs that surround Schreck on that stage do not. It is a wonderful moment in the play and a thrilling opportunity for Broadway audiences to be introduced to, and enjoy, the subtle, varied nuances that are Iveson’s performance. He reveals something of himself, something unexpected and his quiet contribution makes this play all the more brilliant for it.




Mike Iveson (right, with Heidi Schreck) in  What The Constitution Means to Me

Mike Iveson (right, with Heidi Schreck) in What The Constitution Means to Me

5 Debut Questions - Ain't Too Proud's Jamari Johnson Williams

Mo Brady

This week, we welcome Ain’t Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations’ Jamari Johnson Williams to the Main Stem and learn about his journey toward making his Broadway debut.

Jamari Johnson Williams

Jamari Johnson Williams

1. What is your name and hometown?

Jamari Johnson Williams from Gifford, FL

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

I’m a new male swing! Specifically covering Eddie, Melvin, David and others.

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

I literally got the phone call at work and broke down crying on a Brooklyn sidewalk. I never returned.

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

This show specifically calls for so much stamina and swag. It won a Tony Award for Best Choreography for a reason - these boys do not stop twirling. I definitely can’t wait to be in the best shape of my life ! And my God, the book! Author Dominique Morisseau really outdid herself. From the dialect choices to the heartbreaking scenes. It’s a full journey.

Jamari Johnson Williams

Jamari Johnson Williams

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

The growth. I’m stretched in all possible directions. And though at times it can feel overwhelming, I have truly the most prepared, welcoming team that has made it known they got my back. That’s all I can ask for.

The Spirit of the 90s

Mo Brady

by Anna Altheide

The cast of  Aladdin  at Broadway at the W

The cast of Aladdin at Broadway at the W

The spirit of the 90s was alive and well at the W New York Times Square Living Room Bar on Sunday night, as the ensemble cast members of Aladdin and Come From Away performed an intimate medley of memorable 90s bops. Whether you lean toward 98 Degrees or Brian McKnight, the night included something for everyone, from kitchy pop hits and grunge classics to soul ballads plucked straight from VH1 Divas.

90s Night is the latest addition in Broadway at W’s ongoing series in partnership with 42 Seven Productions. Hosted by Ain’t Too Proud’s Jelani Remy, the evening kicked off with crowd-pleaser “This Is How We Do It," followed by guitarist and music director Alex Ortega’s acoustic rendition of “…Baby One More Time.”

Aladdin’s Deonté L. Warren, who can be seen at Birdland on July 27th, stepped up to the mic and spoiled the crowd with his soulful performance of Anita Baker's “Rhythm of Love." Nathan Lucrezio, also in the company of Aladdin, followed up with his cover of Mariah Carey's “My All," seductive enough to “produce and birth a few babies in the audience.” (Jelani’s words, not ours)

Q. Smith of Come From Away brought some always-welcome Cher energy to the mix with “Believe,” before performing “Make It Last Forever” (Keith Sweat) with stage company manager Dave Ehle. Ehle later took to the stage and performed Radiohead’s seminal classic “Creep,” followed by fellow Come From Away ensemblist Tony LePage’s grunged-out performance of Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit."

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Additional highlights of the evening included Jelani Remy’s performance of Brian McKnight's “Back At One," Alex Ortega’s cover of SVW's “Weak," and Just Laugh’s Julian Diaz-Granados’ rendition of 98 Degrees' “True to Your Heart." Interwoven between songs was Remy and Ortega’s hilarious name-that-tune-style riffing with the audience, which included spontaneous performances of the Spice Girls, O-Town, and countless other numbers.

In true 90s-style New York, the Boys of Agrabah’s (feat. Nathan Lucrezio, Stanley Martin, Deonté L. Warren, Jacob Gutierrez, Malik Akil, Angelo Soriano, Travis Ward-Osborne, and Charles South) heartthrob medley was cut short by an actual NYPD intervention. The crime? In theory, tearing up our hearts. In actuality, a sketchy police investigation just outside the Living Room Bar, which prompted a highly unscheduled, surreal 15 minute intermission. The boys eventually jumped back on stage to wrap up their performance, which featured “Tearing Up My Heart,” “Backstreet’s Back,” “This I Swear,” “Motownphilly,” “MMMBop,” and even “The Thong Song.”

Last but not least, 90’s Night closed out with the Ladies of Agrabah (feat. April Holloway, Katie Terza, Kathryn Allison, Lauryn Ciardullo, Gaby Gamache, Olivia Donalson, Alicia Charles Owsley, and Tiffany Evariste) performing a powerhouse medley of 90’s female empowerment bangers, which included “Jumpin’ Jumpin’,” “Genie in a Bottle,” “Always Be My Baby,” and “The Boy Is Mine.” 

Thank you to the companies of AladdinCome From Away, and 42 Seven Productions for a lively and memorable evening of laughs, libations, and great music.

The cast of  Aladdin  at Broadway at the W

The cast of Aladdin at Broadway at the W

5 Debut Questions: Mean Girls' Aaron Alcaraz

Mo Brady

This week, we welcome Mean Girls’s Aaron Alcaraz to the Main Stem and learn about his journey toward making his Broadway debut.

Aaron Alcaraz

Aaron Alcaraz

1. What is your name and hometown?

My name is Aaron Alcaraz and I’m from Los Angeles, CA.

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

I am a swing and understudy for Kevin G in Mean Girls on Broadway.

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

I was doing In The Heights (one of my favorite shows) in Michigan and we were a week into performances when I got a call from my agent saying that Mean Girls needed a swing pretty quickly and they wanted to know if I’d be willing to come back to New York early to do it. Thankfully everyone at my theater was super gracious and supportive and in maybe just a little over 12 hours it was all set. I spent the next few days helping to train my replacement during the day and doing the show at night, did my last show on July 4 so I got to watch fireworks with my cast outside our theater after, and then I flew out the next morning to start rehearsals for Mean Girls in the afternoon!

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

I’ve gotten to go on a few times now and besides how much work goes into learning each track, I think the hardest part for me has been being kind to myself throughout this ongoing process. I’m a person who likes/wants to do the best job possible and when I make a mistake or God forbid hinder what someone else is doing in the show, it’s been difficult for me to not feel horrible after. But I’m learning to breathe those things out, tell myself it’s ok and make the note to do better the next time. Which honestly is something I’m looking to do more of in my normal life as well.

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

I’m excited to get to the point where I can find out last minute that I’m going on for one of my tracks and it not be a problem. I’m in awe of the other swings in the show who are such pros and already know their tracks and who truly are ready to go on for any of them at a moment’s notice. I admire them so much and I’m looking forward to hopefully getting to their level one day.

Aaron Alcaraz and the company of  Mean Girls

Aaron Alcaraz and the company of Mean Girls

A Room of Ringers

Mo Brady

Road Show at City Center Encores! Off-Center

Review by Mo Brady

Raul Esparza, Brandon Uranowtiz and Jin Ha in  Road Show  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Raul Esparza, Brandon Uranowtiz and Jin Ha in Road Show (Photo by Joan Marcus)

For those out there like me who have never seen or heard Road Show, it’s truly a delight to hear what feels like a new Sondheim score. The musical language he created through Company and Sunday In The Park With George are evident in this later score which first debuted in 2003. You can easily imagine how exciting it must have been for musical theatre lovers to hear Sondheim for the first time. 

With a book by John Weidman and composed by Sondheim, Road Show tells the tall tale of two entrepreneuring brothers, Addison and Wilson Mizner (played by Raul Esparza and Brandon Uranowitz). The show follows their adventures through the Yukon gold rush to a Florida real estate boom of the 1920s. This Encores! Off-Center is the show’s largest presentation in New York City to date, after being produced at the Public Theatre as well as in major regional mountings.

Unlike Encores! main season of productions, the summer Off-Center series returns to its roots by letting the actors keep their scripts with them. While not an ensemble-driven show, Road Show is one where the ensemble is strongly present. Even as the show is performed with scores in the actors’ hands or on music stands, the small moments of staging are strongly delivered. 

For such a small cast, this ensemble of actors breathe life into the plot of Road Show. While there are only ten performers in the ensemble, they create a necessary company for the plot to enact upon. And even though there are less than a dozen of them, they fill the theatre with Jonathan Tunick’s lush vocal arrangements. 

The ensemble is filled with strong featured characters that act encounter brothers Wilson and Addison’s journey to the middle. Matt Moisey (Fiddler on the Roof) and Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) play delightful foils for a variety of Addison and Wilson’s schemes throughout the show, and Liz McCartney (My Fair Lady) is practically perfect in her brief cameos as Wilson’s wealthy wife, Mrs. Yerkes.  

Marina Kondo is a pitch-perfect spokeswoman for the newly formed town of Boca Raton. The trio of Rheaume Crenshaw (Groundhog Day), Shereen Pimentel (The Lion King) and Sharone Sayegh (The Band’s Visit) each play delightfully disdainful heads of households in the town. Plus, any ensemble to include Broadway’s next Maria in West Side Story (Pimentel) has to be one full of ringers. 

There’s a problematic sequence in the show’s first third called “Addison’s Trip” where Esparza takes on the stereotypical accents of Indian, Chinese and Guatemalan people. While director Will Davis pokes for at the cultural appropriate with commentary from Vaidya and Daniel J. Edwards, the montage certainly feels ripe for restructuring in 2019.

The emotional heart of this production is Jin Ha and his performance as Hollis Bessemer. The show grows in its emotional depth with the entrance of his character, and seems to fully bloom in the montage “You.” In addition, his duet “The Best Thing That Ever Happened” with Uranowitz is where the story seems to drop in its emotional depth.

At a quick-moving 100 minutes Road Show keeps a brisk pace, even with its heavy share of emotional closeups on characters. With its delightfully witty score and strong performances across the board, what’s not to love?

Chuck Cooper and the company of  Road Show  (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Chuck Cooper and the company of Road Show (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Becoming a Bounty Hunter

Mo Brady

A conversation with Broadway Bounty Hunter’s Jasmine Forsberg and Jared Joseph

by Craig Donnelly

broadway-bounty-hunter.jpg

CRAIG DONNELLY: Hi guys! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! Let’s get started. First of all, Jasmine, congrats on your off Broadway debut! Does performing in New York for the first time feel different than you had expected?

JASMINE FORSBERG: Thank you so much, Craig! Performing in New York City for the first time has been a more positive experience than I could have ever imagined, and that has everything to do with the wonderful company that I am surrounded by every day. At the beginning of the process, any feelings of nervousness or intimidation were quickly replaced by warmth and a sense of welcoming. I now understand why they call it “Joe Iconis & Family”.

CRAIG: And what’s it like working with composer Joe Iconis and producer Jennifer Ashley Tepper again? Like, how is this process different from working on Love In Hate Nation at Penn State University?

JASMINE: Despite a change in scene, working with Joe and Jen again has been very similar in many ways. In both a professional and educational environment, they challenge the artist with direction, choreography, and music (down to the underscore) that is rooted in circumstance and intention. I think that speaks volumes about how Joe and Jen have always fully embraced one of the core messages of Broadway Bounty Hunter — Age does not define talent, or wisdom, or one’s contribution to an artistic process.

CRAIG: Jared, tell me what the audition process of the show was like.

Jared Joseph

Jared Joseph

JARED JOSEPH: The audition process was great. The room was so warm. (My fellow actors know what a gift that is.) They asked me to sing a song from my book- which is great because it offers me a chance to have a grounded audition moment. They also requested that I prepare a cut from one of the big numbers in the show, “Red.” This song is infectious. There’s a magic in soul/funk music; it lives in my body. The joy I felt singing it was palpable, I would imagine. That audition led to a callback to do more sides and dance for Jen. Jennifer Werner- our director and choreographer has a style that I think I understand. Joy is at the center of it. And, the one superpower I have is tapping into my joy. So, longer story shortened, it was all good vibes in the room. Everything seemed to be in alignment. I had the audition I intended to have. Even if I didn’t get the show, I was proud of myself... and, Thank God, I got it.

CRAIG: And what are the different roles you both play in the show?

JASMINE: I play Cortnie Jessica Davies, Indigo, and others.

JARED: I play so many people; Audition Monitor, Felipe, Kevin, a Fetish Ho, Another Director, Sexy Algebra Teacher... I can barely keep up.

JASMINE: Come see the show to see all the other roles I can’t give away just yet!

CRAIG: Oh, I definitely will be! Now Jared, I know you were in The Book Of Mormon on tour. Did the comedic tones from The Book of Mormon help build your character in this show?

JARED: The Book of Mormon certainly informed some of it. It’s one of the smartest musical comedies ever. But, for this show, honestly, it’s Robert Townsend, Eddie Murphy, and Martin Lawrence that shape my approach to a lot of the characters I inhabit. Hollywood Shuffle, Harlem Nights, and the tv show ‘Martin’ are genius source materials: they influence me greatly, nightly.

CRAIG: Totally, so, with all of these characters, how would you say the ensemble helps tell the story in BBH?

Jasmine Forsberg

Jasmine Forsberg

JASMINE: The ensemble serves as a vehicle for pushing Annie down to rock bottom, as well as lifting her up to defy society’s ageist opinions. Also, you can’t become a bounty hunter without proper training.

CRAIG: Makes sense!

JARED: The ensemble helps tell the story by setting the tone of every scene that we’re featured. We’re there for the entire ride of the play. We know this story. The story is always being expressed in our body language, our reactions, and our costumes- so brilliantly designed by Sarafina Bush, I must say. If there is ever any confusion on what’s happening, look at us, we got you.

CRAIG: That’s a great way to put it. So Jared, how has opening a show off-Broadway differed from your experience opening Holler If Ya Hear Me?

JARED: Being a bit more seasoned in the business, the difference lies in what I’m paying attention to these days. Today, I’m much more focused on the business of theater- how it works. I’m asking questions. (Thank God, I work with producers and a creative team who are open to sharing a bit of what they know.) The process of getting to opening, though, is the same for me. I love collaborating. I love being a part of the ground floor of new works. Much of my career has been rooted in developing shows. The biggest collaboration most recently was Ain’t Too Proud (and I am extremely proud of my contribution to that project.) It’s like being a part of a start-up company. It never gets old, always exciting. I love telling stories. Whether it’s a Broadway show like Holler If Ya Hear Me or an off-Broadway show like Broadway Bounty Hunter, I feel extremely blessed to do what I do.

CRAIG: And Jasmine, I heard that you’re still in school! Are you going back in the fall? 

JASMINE: Yes! I plan on returning to Penn State University after the run to continue pursuing a BFA Musical Theatre degree. I can’t wait for the next time I’m working in New York City!

CRAIG: That’s incredible! Well guys, thanks for chatting with me and can’t wait to see the show!

The Company of  Broadway Bounty Hunter  (c) Matthew Murphy

The Company of Broadway Bounty Hunter (c) Matthew Murphy

Team Zeph

Jackson Cline

By Jackson Cline

Duckling, Disco & Diva Donna.

Babe, Lady & Star Cher.

Little, Teen & Grown Zeph.

22.jpg

Three actors inhabiting the same character at different stages of their life is nothing new, but has been a very prominent storytelling device recently. My killer lip-sync to “Believe” and love of shiny jumpsuits may not have won me the role of Lady in The Cher Show, but I have been given the opportunity to have the experience of sharing a character with two other actors in 22, premiering in New York City this August.

22 tells the story of Zephry Davis, a young man struggling with anorexia. The audience follows Zeph’s journey, as told through three versions of himself, seeing how this terrible disease take control of his life.

Gevi Dimitrova, Benjamin Romanelli & Jackson Cline in rehearsal for  22

Gevi Dimitrova, Benjamin Romanelli & Jackson Cline in rehearsal for 22

I must admit that I was quite nervous before our first read-through. I hadn’t performed in a straight play since high school, and the idea of playing the same character as two other actors in the show intimidated me. Would I be too different from the other Zephs that the audience would have trouble believing I was the same character? Would I unintentionally turn my performance into an imitation of Ben’s or Gevi’s?

I quickly discovered that these would not be issues and that we would instead become our own ensemble.

Ben, Gevi, and I are different people, so our life experiences inherently color each of our Zephs in a different way. By giving ourselves permission to approach Zeph with the truth of who each of us are and who he is at each point in his life, the audience gets to see him change before their eyes from both a storytelling standpoint and physically.

Jackson Cline

Jackson Cline

As each Zeph brings out different qualities in their performances, we’re able to discover more about this character by watching each other in rehearsal. Even though Teen Zeph is at a totally different place in life than Little or Grown Zeph, Ben and Gevi’s performances have inspired and influenced mine, and I’ve learned new things about Zeph through them.

However, my favorite part of being a part of Team Zeph is the unique bond that has been created. Even though we are small in number, we are our own ensemble, telling the story together. Team Zeph rarely interacts onstage, but we are constantly passing the baton to one another as each of us steps into the spotlight to give our Zeph a voice, contributing to the greater story — free of ego, serving the play and Zeph with integrity and our whole hearts.

Come see 22 this August. We are ready and excited to share this incredibly special story with you. 


22 makes its New York City debut from August 6-11 at the New York Theater Festival. Tickets and additional information are available at www.22theplay.com.

5 Debut Questions: Mean Girls’ Morgan Harrison

Mo Brady

This week, we welcome Mean Girls’s Morgan Harrison to the Main Stem and learn about her journey toward making her Broadway debut.

Morgan Harrison

Morgan Harrison

1. What is your name and hometown?

Hey! I’m Morgan Harrison, and I am originally from Jacksonville, FL.

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

I am playing Dawn Schweitzer in the ensemble of Mean Girls.

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

I auditioned on a Friday, and the very next day while standing in a Panera, my agent called me and said, “Morgan...you got it!” The server was handing me my mac-n-cheese while I was screaming! I started that Monday...it was a 72 hour whirlwind!

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

It’s amazing how fast they can put people into a show. My dance captains were THE BEST and taught me the show in four days! After that I spent time studying spacing, backstage choreo, and the specifics for all the numbers. Also..when wardrobe told me they even provided the undergarments I was like... no way!

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

My mom and I moved to New York City in pursuit of this dream seven years ago. Joining the Mean Girls cast is such a blessing! The amount of support and kindness I have received from the Mean Girls family has been such a gift! I’m so excited to get to perform and do what I love eight times a week, with people who are so incredibly warm and welcoming, and who push me to be the best I can be. It’s so fetch!

Morgan Harrison

Morgan Harrison

5 Debut Questions: King Kong's Elyse Niederee

Angela Tricarico

Elyse Niederee.

Elyse Niederee.

This week, we welcome King Kong’s Elyse Niederee to the Main Stem and learn about her journey toward making her Broadway debut.

1. What is your name and hometown?

Elyse Niederee. Originally from Salt Lake City, UT.

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

I'm a swing for the female ensemble in King Kong.

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

I had been in a pretty intense two-day audition and callback process for King Kong the week before I was supposed to leave for two months to work at Sacramento Music Circus. I didn't hear anything from King Kong so I went to Sacramento. My first day of rehearsal at Sacramento I received an email from my agent saying that the King Kong team wanted me to come watch a rehearsal at the theater, so I took the red eye back to New York City and was there for five hours to watch this rehearsal and then I flew back to California.

I waited a few days (it was painful) and on a Monday, our day off from Sacramento rehearsals, I was lying in my bed at the Holiday Inn Express and I knew that the offer would be going out that day. It was 7 am California time and I checked my phone and there was a voicemail from my agent. I called him back and he said "Looks like you'll be coming back to New York City earlier than you thought because you'll be making your Broadway Debut in King Kong." And then I spent the day on a pontoon boat with my Sacramento cast and it was the best.

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

Everyone in the cast and company of King Kong is so helpful, friendly, and open. It's been a wonderful experience so far and I've received so much support and guidance. It can be intimidating to join a cast who has gone through the whole process together, but I've been so welcomed and I feel at home at the Broadway Theater!

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

Soaking up every moment. Sadly, we're closing on August 18 but I feel very lucky for the time I get to spend with my new King Kong family.

This show is truly amazing and so innovative; the artists, cast, crew, and company of King Kong are a new level of badass and I feel very lucky to work alongside them and bring this show to life eight times a week!

Elyse Niederee.

Elyse Niederee.

19th on the 19th

Mo Brady

by Kyle Weiler

Kyle Weiler

Kyle Weiler

During college, just like everyone in New York City, all of us dancers and actors at Juilliard kept hearing about this new show called Hamilton happening “downtown.” I never got the chance to see it at The Public, but it ended up being my college graduation present to see it once it came to Broadway. I remember sitting in the back of the mezzanine and thinking, “I feel really connected to this choreography and think I might have the skills to do this amazing piece.”

After I saw it, I didn’t really think about the show again until much later when I was in Asia while with the international tour of West Side Story. I decided to stay in Japan for a week to explore after we played our final performance in Tokyo. I was hiking mount Fuji and started talking a man in my tour group who was exploring Japan as well. I quickly found out that he was the brother of Hamilton’s associate choreographer. What a crazy coincidence! When I found that out I literally blurted out loud to him, “Oh yeah, for some reason I feel like I’m supposed to do that show next.” He laughed at me then. He was then one of first people to congratulate me when I booked the show!

I got the the job as a Universal Swing on my birthday in February of 2018 - what a great gift, right? At that time I had no idea what a universal swing was. I learned that I was hired to cover six tracks for each of the five US productions of Hamilton. Contractually, with only 24 hours notice, I can be flown anywhere to do any track.

Kyle Weiler

Kyle Weiler

I started out swinging all the male ensemble tracks in Chicago for 11 months. After, I moved on to complete all my tracks for the two touring productions. The crazy part of the Hamilton world is that every company is different. The show has/continues to evolve and each company has different tracking. In the next three weeks I will be with three different companies of Hamilton (Broadway, Angelica, and Philip) performing three slightly different versions of the show. 

My Broadway debut will be as Samuel Seabury and my 19th track! 19th track on July 19th, 2019! I’m so thrilled I get to perform Seabury in NY because it was my first track, and returning to it always feels like Hamil-Home. 

Honestly, over the last few weeks, my eyes have been welling up with tears at random moments because I think about all the people who have helped me reach this goal. As an artist, I am pretty hard on myself and quite often don’t feel truly proud of my work. I can honestly say at this point that I am so proud of how hard I have worked while in Hamilton. I truly believe I have earned the opportunity to be in the beautiful Richard Rodgers Theatre.  

I am in the Playbill of every Hamiton production in the US. My face has been on Broadway for a year and half though my body has not. It's always funny getting texts from friends saying, “We’re here!” I’m always like, “Where?” I had a funny moment walking into the Richard Rodgers for the first time. I found my name on the cast wall and asked the doorman if he would take a picture of me next to it. He said, “Congratulations, when do you start?” I giggled and said, “A year and a half ago! But I haven’t stepped foot on this stage yet!”

Kyle Weiler

Kyle Weiler

An Onslaught of Closing Notices

Mo Brady

by Mo Brady

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 10.29.38 AM.png

Next month, five new Broadway musicals will close. Most of them are musicals with large ensembles: The Prom (with 23 ensemble actors) as well as The Cher Show (with 21), King Kong (34), and Pretty Woman (22).

These closures will happen just after two other large-cast musicals that have closed in the last month: My Fair Lady (which employed 29 ensemble actors at its closing) and Kiss Me, Kate (with 15). Along with Be More Chill (which has no chorus contracts and, therefore, no ensemble actors), seven Broadway musicals will have shuttered their doors between June and August.

Add this to the just-announced closures of long-time Broadway tenants Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (with 15 current ensemble actors) and Waitress (with 14), and it looks like it's going to be a quiet Autumn on the Great White Way.

What does this mean for the community of performers who generally work in Broadway ensembles? Potentially nothing. As theatre lovers know, a crashing wave of closing notices is not unusual. Eight musicals closed in the first three months of 2015, including shows with healthy runs like Once and Rock of Ages.

What’s strange about this culling of Broadway offerings is that there’s relatively little announced in the pipeline to take their places. So far, nothing has been announced to take up residency in Brooks Atkinson, Longacre, Lyceum, Nederlander, Neil Simon or Stephen Sondheim Theatres. Other houses that are often home to musicals, like the Jacobs, Studio 54 and the Vivian Beaumont will be housing straight plays this fall.

In the nine musicals closing between June and January, there will be 173 actors working under Actors Equity chorus contracts out of a job. Of the 549 actors who have worked on Broadway under chorus contracts so far this season, 26% will have found themselves filing for unemployment by Labor Day.  

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The newer shows that are sticking around are those with small ensembles (Hadestown employs nine) or without an ensemble at all, like Come From Away, Dear Evan Hansen or Oklahoma!

Of course, there are 38 ensemblists are announced to join them this fall in the companies of Jagged Little Pill and West Side Story, in addition to the 26 ensemblists currently employed by Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Plus, the upcoming production of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical will employ an unannounced number of chorus contracts as well (the still-running London production has 18 actors credited as ensemble or swings). That’s approximately 82 jobs to replace the 173 we are losing.

This winter, there will be almost 100 fewer jobs available in Broadway ensembles than there were when summer began. In an community where there are less than 600 actors working at any given time, that decrease is significant.

This ebbing and flowing of Broadway offerings is not unusual. Shows open, shows close. It’s the circle of (Broadway) life. But with so few musicals announced to be opening this season, it could be a very rough year for actors who make their living in ensembles.

“Five Weeks Of Normal, Boring, Day-To-Day Life Together.”

Mo Brady

by Abigail Charpentier

Cameron Hobbs (left) and Stephen Christopher Anthony

Cameron Hobbs (left) and Stephen Christopher Anthony

Cameron Hobbs and Stephen Christopher Anthony have learned about the strains long distances can put on relationships, especially when both actors are touring the country in different shows. Despite the different time zones, different sleep schedules and different show schedules, the pair have stuck it out and will reconnect for five weeks in Washington D.C. while their shows play at the Kennedy Center.

Hobbs, an ensemble member and understudy for the role of Babkak, joined the tour of Aladdin in February of this year and Anthony, who plays Evan Hansen at matinees, launched the Dear Evan Hansen tour last September.  

At the Kennedy Center, Aladdin will play from July 17 to September 7 and Dear Evan Hansen from August 6 to September 6, giving the couple five weeks to be together in the same city.

“We’re over the moon about being at the Kennedy Center together,” Hobbs said. “No matter how often we talk every day, and try to meet each other’s cast mates on FaceTime, we haven’t gotten to fully share in each other’s tour experience until now. It’s kind of surreal and we are incredibly grateful.”

This is the only overlap in their tours, but Hobbs did happen to be visiting Anthony in Costa Mesa when he first got his Aladdin offer. “Before I even got off the phone, Stephen had discovered the D.C. overlap, and we’ve been counting down the days ever since,” he said. 

Stephen Christopher Anthony

Stephen Christopher Anthony

When the two have managed to spend time with each other on tour, their visits are often short and hectic, so their current plans in D.C. include plenty of time cuddling in their Airbnb.  

“To have five weeks of normal, boring, day-to-day life together... that’s all we want... to walk each other to work, binge Netflix shows.” 

The two were set up on a blind date by Noah Ricketts, who currently plays Kristoff in Frozen, and have been together for almost five years. Hobbs and Ricketts grew up together in Louisville, Kentucky while Anthony and Ricketts worked together at summer stock during college. 

Besides missing loved ones and family members, the lack of routines while touring the country is difficult for Anthony. 

“I crave routine. I miss walking into my favorite breakfast spot and the waiter asking if I’m having ‘the usual,’” Anthony said. “I miss that comfort and familiarity so I do my best to create a little routine for myself in each city.” 

Despite the difficulties, traveling the country has been quite the experience for both of them. 

Cameron Hobbs

Cameron Hobbs

“Being in a new city every couple of weeks keeps touring exciting and refreshing,” Hobbs said when talking about his favorite part about touring. “Nice to explore new places. And the food. Always the food!”

“Also the camaraderie! Life on the road is such a unique experience, it’s so much more than just a job, and it’s hard to fully explain to someone who’s never done it. So the people you spend your time with become your family,” added Anthony. 

For couples in similar situations, the two explained that communication is key, and admitted that they are still in the process of learning how to effectively do that. 

“It can definitely be an extra strain on the relationship. But we make each other laugh every day. We lean on each other and find joy in lifting the other up. If one of us is sick the other one orders soup to their hotel. No matter what other tour craziness is going on, we put each other first.”

“Don’t give up! Love wins!”

What's It Like To Have An Unruly Heart?

Angela Tricarico

by Angela Tricarico

An important piece of the rehearsal process for members of an ensemble is building a personality and backstory for the character that they’ll portray nightly once the show begins performances. 

Fernell Hogan

Fernell Hogan

Most commonly, the process begins by giving characters a name, backstory, and a relation to other people around them. In other words: who are they, and why are they here? 

Fernell Hogan, who is currently in The Prom, says that you have to use your imagination to fill in all of the details that aren’t given. 

“A lot of it comes from improvisation. Then you keep the moments that work and throw out the ones that don’t,” he said.

Hogan’s main character is Noah, a student at James Madison High. He says that he and some of the other Ensemblists in the show have created a family with their characters. 

Jerusha Cavazos, also in The Prom, says that her main focus is to find a way to have her characters “add to, compliment and move” the story. In developing her main character, she followed director Casey Nicholaw’s instruction to find props that their characters may find useful. 

“I saw a giant stack of books and it clicked!” Cavazos said. “During our lunch break that day I ran down to CVS and got a cheap pair of nerd glasses for fun and never turned back.”

Jerusha Cavazos

Jerusha Cavazos

For Cavazos, Hogan, and the rest of The Prom ensemblists, they’re more than just students at James Madison High; they’re also placed in scenes as Applebees workers, attendees at a Broadway opening night party, and members of the non-equity tour of Godspell. In Act Two, they each become another character: a teen somewhere in the world who is affected by “Unruly Heart,” the song Emma posts online to share her story with the world. As the music builds, more members of the ensemble fill the stage, until they’re all singing in unison. All of these characters have backstories too, that the actors created and shared with each other. 

Cavazos recalls that during a lab of the show, Nicholaw asked the company to think about what it’s like to have an unruly heart. 

“Long story short, we all had a beautiful cry and the number was never the same,” she said. 

Cavazos’ character now is a combination of different versions of the show; as her lines were changed and rewritten, she was able to keep things, but also change them to fit the current version of the lyrics. 

“I have personally taken all the versions we had and made them mean one thing for me,” she explained. “My character in “Unruly Heart” is a lot more ‘me’ than anything else. I am the most alive in that number. Sometimes, I end the number in a big smile and sometimes I end it with tears running down my face.”

During a previous version of the song, Hogan actually used to say his character’s name. 

“My line was ‘Hi Emma, Jake here in Evanston. Loved your video.’ In the rehearsal process, those lines changed a lot and sadly Jake was cut, but he lives on in my head,” Hogan said. 

He also explained that Jake is inspired by the reactions people had to seeing the first same-sex kiss on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, happy to see themselves represented on TV. 

The company of  The Prom .

The company of The Prom.

“There was something so sincere and simple about their responses that it only makes sense for Jake to have the same reaction,” he said. “He is a young guy who has struggled with his sexuality and the reaction that he knows his parents will have if they knew. Emma serves as his inspiration to accept himself and not let anyone else define him.”

Though Jake and the rest of the “Unruly Heart” ensemble are fictional, the response The Prom has gotten would certainly prove that, if they were real, they wouldn’t be alone.

Back At The Bourbon Room

Mo Brady

by Anna Wehr

Katie Webber in  Rock of Ages

Katie Webber in Rock of Ages

Not many Broadway performers are given the opportunity to reprise a past role from their favorite Broadway show, but Katie Webber is an exception to the standard. After performing in Rock of Ages on Broadway and in Las Vegas, she returns to New World Stages to reprise her role as Waitress #1.

Rock of Ages is one of Webber’s many Broadway credits. Audiences may have seen her in Charlie in the Chocolate FactoryHoneymoon in Vegas, Jersey Boys and more. Not only is she a full-time performer, she is a wife and mom with a fantastic website where she shares plant-based recipes and a look into her life. 

The story of how Webber was cast is quite simple.

She shared, “Kelly Devine sent me a text that said ‘How would you feel about bringing Waitress #1 back to life at New World Stages?’ I texted her back within about two seconds and said, ‘I’m in, when do we start?’ Not even a second thought!”

Webber didn’t have to think twice about seizing this opportunity. She said Rock of Ages, “lights me up and makes me feel like a really good version of myself.” 

Katie Webber

Katie Webber

Everything came rushing back to Webber as she stepped into the show for the third time. It even felt fresh.

She said, “It feels better than ever to be back. I get to improve on things that maybe I wasn’t as strong at before, and I also get to work on some things that used to be easy for me that are more of a challenge now.” Not many people can say they’ve done that. 

Her role as Mom is helping her gain new insights too and breathe new energy into the production.

“Being a mom is so grounding and puts everything into perspective. I push less in my role now. I feel confident just being me, and it feels so good!”

She is continually working to stay present on stage and make new connections with her fellow cast members. Returning to the show gives her the chance to experience the show with a new set of actors. Her favorite memory of working on Rock of Ages on Broadway was the people, and her show family will only continue to grow with the current production at New World Stages. 

 

Judy Turner (x4)

Mo Brady

by Julia Freyer

Julia Freyer

Julia Freyer

A Chorus Line is a musical about twenty-four dancers auditioning for eight roles in the ensemble of an upcoming Broadway musical. One of those auditioning dancers is Judy Turner. Over the past nine years, I have had the joy of playing Judy in four different productions of A Chorus Line.

I was 22 years old and one week from college graduation the first time I was cast as Judy Turner. It was a National Tour directed by Baayork Lee. I was so excited and SO YOUNG. The character of Judy is relatively easy for me to “tap into.” I consider Judy to be an amplified version of myself...she shares her quirkiness a little more readily and her ankles are a little looser. Learning the show, the iconic choreography and the history from Baayork was an experience I will never forget. As an actor, A Chorus Line is a dream show. You say the words and the Pulitzer Prize winning book does the emotional work. But, being lucky enough to have landed this job even before graduation, I had yet to legitimately experience unemployment or my mortality as a dancer, in the great debate of “what to do when you can’t dance anymore.” Candidly, I found myself more aware of my nerves regarding (the dreaded) ‘turn, turn, out, in’ than anything else.

After tour, I moved to New York City. When I was 24 years old, I was cast as Judy Turner again, this time at Paper Mill Playhouse, directed by Mitzi Hamilton, another legend in the A Chorus Line family. I had not worked in theatre since the tour closed one year earlier. I was floored by the caliber of the company; I was so proud to be present and standing on the line with artists that I so admire and respect. When we faced out during “What I Did For Love,” I was overwhelmed with a feeling of ‘oh my god, I am working again AND I am working with THESE people.’ I rode the emotional wave of the show in a different way than I had previously.

Julia Freyer

Julia Freyer

Two years later, at 26 years old (Judy’s scripted age!), I played Judy at Sacramento Music Circus, directed by Stafford Arima with the original choreography reconfigured for the round by Randy Slovacek. We formed the traditional line only once, at the end of the Montage. Instead, we stood in a circle, alternating between facing out and facing in towards each other, while the stage slowly rotated on a turntable. As an artist, that experience was incredible. In its traditional staging, A Chorus Line can, at times, feel isolating. It is just you and the voice of Zach while standing in that line. Experiencing the show in a circle forced each actor to be present in a completely different, collaborative way. For example, as Judy, I typically never communicated with, or even saw, actors who stood on the end of the line because Judy stands near the center. In the round, we faced each other much of the show. I experienced the show in a completely different way: A Chorus Line somehow felt vulnerable and safe all at the same time.

Last month, I had the opportunity to play Judy at Transcendence Theatre Company, directed by Amy Miller with choreography by Jim Cooney. I am 31 years old and have been in New York City for almost ten years. I have now experienced unemployment in theatre for long periods of time. I have been in final callbacks for Broadway shows. I have injured myself and wondered if I would be able to dance again in the same way. I have seriously considered changing career paths—wondering just like Sheila, “Am I copping out? Am I growing up? I don’t know.” A Chorus Line is a gift to performers at any age, but I am so grateful to have experienced it again this summer. As artists, we are shaped by experiences and those experiences help create richer characters and the ability to trust our instincts as storytellers. While I proudly own my previous incarnations of Judy, I can say this was the first time I fully trusted myself in the role, owning the Julia inside of Judy. Life experience is an incredible gift and it allowed me to finally trust myself as a dancer and storyteller in A Chorus Line, which was WILDLY freeing. I hope I have not said goodbye yet to Judy Turner. I would love to see where she lands inside of me again in a few years.

A Chorus Line has always made me proud to be a dancer and even more so, proud to be an artist. It makes me so proud to reflect back upon what I do, and have done, for love!

Body-Mind-Spirit An Actor's Journey

Mo Brady

Joe Rosko

Joe Rosko

I grew up as a three-sport athlete in school. My dad made me a make-shift barbell and pretended to have me olympic lifting in his garage at the age of one. Theatre introduced itself to me when I was in the seventh grade. Faith was a big part of my family while growing up. Body, Mind, Spirit. I started Built For The Stage sometime around mid to late 2017. I can't quite put my finger on the exact date because truly, @builtforthestage started at birth. It is something that I feel like I truly was destined to create. Having these rare experiences as an all-state athlete, division-1 college football player (the only one in the nation majoring in Musical Theatre), personal trainer, CrossFit coach/competitor, triathlete, and all while being a professional actor and director gave me the deep knowledge and abilities to truly marry fitness and theatre together. The more gigs I did, the more actors that wanted to train with me. I stepped away from acting for a bit as I concentrated on competing in fitness. But, all the while I continued to work with actors and my passion to help them continued to grow. As the passion grew, the road leading to BFTS neared, and now, here we are.

Built For The Stage is a family of actors located across the globe, with the common goal of bettering their fitness so, that their desire to make art on stage can come to complete fruition. I work with actors in close to 20 Broadway shows, U.S. tours, international productions that transferred from Broadway, regional productions, musical theatre college students, and actors who are auditioning daily seeking the next booking. I am so fortunate to be entrusted with my actor-clients' fitness. I aid them in enhancing not only their aesthetics but, their abilities to do their jobs better on stage. Whether that's simply being durable enough to maneuver a giant gorilla puppet 8 times a week in King Kong without getting injured. Being in good enough condition for a client to sound good singing while performing the Genie's extremely physically demanding song, "Friend Like Me," in Aladdin. Or, helping program single-leg stability to increase turning abilities for dancers. The list goes on. As we say in the business, "Our body is our instrument." However, what we don't say or, give enough recognition to in this business is our minds.

Joe Rosko

Joe Rosko

I don't consider myself a trainer but, a coach. For me it gives greater depth to the meaning of my relationship with my clients. It's no secret that being an actor is an extremely tough life to pursue. Through my experiences as an actor myself, to the daily discussions I have with my clients and guests on Built For The Stage Podcast, mental health is a huge issue with actors. Actors are rejected constantly. Actors are closing shows (also known as losing jobs) constantly. I don't care how thick your skin is, this type of lifestyle will take a toll on anyone's psyche. It's my goal to equip my actors to love themselves, love others, all the while loving the pursuit of their goals and dreams. But, regardless of what the current status is with their goals and dreams, that they always love themselves and love others. We must love ourselves whether we are in a show, not in a show, booking a role, not booking a role, etc. The person on the stage with a gig or, the person waiting tables without a gig is the same person! We must truly love ourselves! Not love ourselves only when we are in a show, or when we get our Equity card, or when we are on Broadway. We must love who we are and not what we do. It's not, "I must perform greatly." It's, "I am a great performer." It's not, "I have to book this show." It's, "I am enough with or without this show."

Some of the most rewarding feedback I get from clients is what their new-found fitness has done for them outside of the gym. The gained confidence, the new peace of mind, the newly discovered energy, and the multitudes of other effects that a well built body does for your mind and spirit. My ultimate goal for Built For The Stage is to allow every one of my clients to know that they are enough through empowering them with physical abilities that they never believed they were capable of. And through this physical empowerment, it will in-turn better their mental and spiritual health so, that they can fully allow themselves to succeed in their pursuit of being performers. Whether you feel that your body, mind, or spirit is holding you back from your success, I believe I can help because they all are one in the same. One is nothing without the others. It's my desire to help any actor that I can.

Joe Rosko (with Blaine Krause of  The Cher Show )

Joe Rosko (with Blaine Krause of The Cher Show)

The Red Ponytail Pass

Mo Brady

by Courtney Iventosch

Courtney Iventosch (right, with Sterling Masters) backstage at  Wicked  in 2016

Courtney Iventosch (right, with Sterling Masters) backstage at Wicked in 2016

2010 was a very special year for both Sterling Masters and me. Each of us got an amazing gift that year... the opportunity to join the National Tour of Wicked. For Sterling, it was in April and she joined the First National Tour in the Witch’s Mother/Red Ponytail track. For me, it was August and I joined the Second National Tour as a swing. We didn’t know each other at the time, but we would soon find out that our paths would fortunately cross for many years.

In February of 2012, we had our first of eight replacements (so far). This first one was a sort of switch-aroo, when she became a swing and Dance Captain on the Second National Tour and I went into her track on the First National Tour. Funny enough, the first time I met Sterling was after our first replacement, when I flew from the First National Tour of Wicked (in Denver at the time) to Durham, where the Second National Tour was playing. I was on a quick trip to surprise our dear friend Haughtie (Lauren Haughton) for her 30th birthday party.

Courtney Iventosch

Courtney Iventosch

Everyone had helped me out, including Sterls, and I showed up at a restaurant downtown to join the birthday festivities. Before Haughtie came back from the bathroom, I quickly ran outside to where the cast and crew were hanging out and found a few folks I knew to sit with. As I walked toward them, I met Sterling! We had a quick exchange of hellos and introductions before I surprised Haughtie. From that moment, we were connected:) I knew that she was as awesome as everyone had said she was. A gorgeous, loving, darling, beauty. I am very humbled that I’ve gotten to replace her and be replaced by her time and time again.

When I left the First National Tour in 2013, she came in to replace me until my permanent replacement was ready to go into the show. And then in 2014, I was cast in a production of Sweet Charity, and for a moment I wasn’t able to do it, so Sterling took my place; then circumstances changed and I replaced her and ended up doing that show!

A few years later, I finally got to be in a show with Sterls for the first time ever! I joined the Broadway Company of Wicked to cover a maternity leave (our dear friend and Dance Captain Antonette Cohen), and in that transition, Sterling became the Dance Captain and I went into her track! I’ll never forget getting a text message from Sterls once she found out I would be coming into the company. We were both so excited to finally get to work together! Once Antoni was back in the show, Sterls replaced me to resume her track.

Sterling Masters backstage at  Wicked  in 2010

Sterling Masters backstage at Wicked in 2010

Now, several years later, she is getting ready to become a Mama and taking a maternity leave. I am honored to replace her this time, as she takes time away from the “Witch’s Mother” track to become a mother to sweet little baby boy Deeney!

It is truly a magical thing what we get to do, and Sterling and I both feel so lucky to get to do what we love for a living. The fact that we’ve been able to share so many incredible moments on stage and off, in our work and personal lives, is an extra special gift.

The Red Ponytail Pass Off of 2019 is probably the most fun one yet, though they have all been wonderful. I am so thrilled for Sterling and her husband Mike in this next chapter, and so grateful to get to cover her time away. I think of her during every performance, and I channel her as I “dance through life.” And although neither of us still quite understand why it is that we keep replacing each other (after all, we don’t look much alike), we are very grateful and happy about it, and it always brings a smile to our faces. And I take it as a huge compliment!

Next up: projected replacement #9 for us as I hand the Red Ponytail back after Sterling has become a Mom! We are all so excited to meet baby boy Deeney, and we are thrilled for Sterling and Mike as they embark on this next chapter in their lives together.

Courtney Iventosch backstage at  Wicked  in 2012

Courtney Iventosch backstage at Wicked in 2012