Picture this: You’re standing on stage, you’ve taken the final bow, the audience is cheering, and when the curtain falls, you leave one continent on the stage and exit the theatre into another…neither of which are the one you call home. That’s my life.
I’m a musical theatre actress, currently performing in The Book of Mormon, a musical set in the fictional town of Kitgali, Uganda and I play Kalimba 8 times a week, in the real town of Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been a professional actress for 18 years, and a wander Phile since my first trip to France in the 5th grade, but I had no idea how perfectly my passions would align to bring me to the greatest experience of my life.
There are certainly ups and downs involved with pursuing a career in the performing arts. The opportunity to do what you love, the opening night parties, and the applause, is offset by the short-lived projects, the constant rejection, and wondering what your next job will be. For many musical theatre actors, the dreams of moving to New York and booking a big Broadway hit, are quickly met with the reality of affording rent, finding a side job that will allow you to audition and making enough money to take a few dance and voice lessons between your shifts and callbacks. When I first arrived in NYC, I was hit with another very real aspect of the job. Most of the auditions in New York were for gigs that were out of town.
For the first two years I “lived in NYC,” I only actually had an apartment there for about five months. I’d be in the city long enough to audition, and as soon as I got a job, I’d jump in my car and head out to the next location. And while the cities weren’t the most glamorous places I’ve ever been, I loved that two of my passions, performing and travel, had found a way to be together. From Quakertown, PA, Rome, GA, Galveston, TX, to Rock Island, IL, I was out there, living my dream. And then came the phone call I’d long awaited. Disney Cruise Lines was sending out a ship to the Caribbean, and I was offered the roles of Calliope in Hercules the Muse-ical and Nala in The Golden Mickey’s. THIS. WAS. IT!
Waiting to start rehearsals was the longest three months of my life! But when I landed in Toronto I knew I was in the right place. Sailing aboard the Disney Wonder, making magical moments for the guests by day and gazing out on the open seas by night was a dream come true. For many performers, life on a cruise ship is a great option. Because your room and food are covered, it’s a great way to save money while taking an adventure around the world. Contracts usually last between 6-9 months, and you’ll get to know the international cities where you port and build friendships with other employees from around the world. I’ve kept up with friends from Canada, Brazil, England, Czech Republic, South Africa, and Australia thanks to my time on a ship.
Post-ship life took me to Chicago. I wanted to be in a city close to my hometown, Indianapolis, but also with an active theatre community. But after a few years, I realized my heart wanted to be back in NYC. So after a few months in LA, and a few shows in North Carolina and Utah, I went back to The Big Apple, only to receive the next phone call. This time it was The Book of Mormon, calling to offer me a chance to go on the road with the best show ever* (*according to me). From 2012-2015, I traveled around the country staying in cities for sometimes ten months, sometimes seven days. And after an extended break of just over a year, I was asked to be a part of the Melbourne cast! And so here I am, an American woman, living in Australia, playing an African and grateful for every single moment.
Though my road is not a traditional one, and it has not been without its fair share of ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. And my new passion in life is helping aspiring artists realize that a career in the performing arts is a realistic, feasible and accessible possibility no matter where you come from, or where you’d like to go.
Once you are the best version of YOU you can be, audition for everything.
So my advice is this, take every opportunity you can to increase your skills. Sing in every choir, take every dance lesson, learn to read music. Once you are the best version of YOU you can be, audition for everything. If you can, get to New York! New York is where you’ll find most work, with February–April being the busiest time for auditions; but, be prepared to leave the city. Many theatres will send a casting representative to NYC, even though their theatre is in another state. Make sure that your passport is up to date. Often when casting for replacements, a valid passport can be the deciding factor between you and another candidate. And lastly, be patient. Rejection is 90% of this industry, so get ready for it. But when you get that call, know that it might be the one to change not only your location but also your life.