One of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had as a performer – one of the times in life I’ve felt most useful – was in the hospital room of a dying man, surrounded by his family, singing his favorite Gospel songs.
I began singing and performing leading children’s roles in musical theatre as a very young child – initially because it was fun, interesting, and something I was good at (Annie was the first dream role I performed). While enjoyment is still a motivating factor, my passion for the work I do (and the way I try to live) stems more from a desire to influence people’s lives for the better – even if only momentarily.
The ability performing endows us with to make someone happy, raise awareness of an issue, or present a world different from one’s own are key motivations for me.
Though it is thrilling to perform in large-scale, big-budget productions, I often find more fulfillment in opportunities to share the arts that allow me to connect with individuals, as at retirement homes and children’s hospitals, or in underserved communities who may not otherwise have exposure – not only to theatre, but also to the openness and vulnerability many performers are willing to share with strangers.
The beloved Julie Andrews’ musicals I grew up watching shaped my preferences and the way I developed as a singer. In adolescence, I was steered toward classical music, which is the direction I continued with my undergraduate degree. Though I enjoy classical music and have continued to work as a classical soloist, I prefer work that emphasizes storytelling and more engagement with an audience. The musical theatre training I received while completing my Master’s at NYU Steinhardt has provided me with an incomparable grounding and tools to continue exploring and expanding as an artist.
I particularly enjoy family entertainment, which has comprised a significant amount of my work, and loved performing for Disney Cruise Line, where I was able to portray another dream role, Mary Poppins. In addition to that role, I also played Mrs. Potts and understudied six principal roles, including Belle and Cruella (I performed five of those roles multiple times). I enjoyed interacting with guests offstage; several were beneficiaries of the Make a Wish Foundation. Some were multigenerational families who had long saved for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation together – and seeing the eagerness of children when meeting favorite characters and the gratitude of the adults at the comprehension of a shared, ephemeral moment of pure joy made that work humbling and incredibly fulfilling.
Developing new works with writers has been an especially inspiring process; my favorite has been The Fall of the House of Usher (Sarah Hirsch and Molly Fox; inspired by Poe’s short story), with its complexly-developed, eerie characters, and luscious, harmonically-intriguing score. Playing Madeline, the female lead, and working with the writers and mentors for over a year to establish her character more deeply was incredibly broadening as an actor; and my classical vocal technique and strong musicianship were crucial for this demanding piece. Usher is one of the productions I’m most proud to have been a part of, and I hope to continue to work with its creators to take the show further. I am very interested in working on new show development and have found my acting training at NYU particularly helpful when originating a new character (as well as when seeking to bring a unique approach to an established one).
I have supplemented performing work with musical direction, voice-overs, and teaching private lessons. Several years ago, I began receiving requests to arrange and record music, to sound design shows (creative, rather than technical aspects), and later, to compose (for Shakespeare productions, for which I’ve won several San Diego and DC awards). I enjoy helping tell a story and establish a mood through sound.
Recently, I’ve had increased demand for cabaret-style one-woman shows. I’ve used existing music or my own arrangements, as in this performance. I carefully crafted my accompaniment, transitions, and dialogue for continuous flow within the strict 40-minute timeline. Partly inspired by that performance, one of my goals is to develop a program incorporating my original Shakespeare music (currently seven songs) with other related elements, like extant Shakespearean melodies, monologues, and background. I would further like to package my sound design and compositions for theatres to use in their productions, which I have already done for a school production of Midsummer (the director contacted me after finding Titania’s Lullaby on YouTube; I have posted weekly videos for more than three years at Ashley Wagner Arts).
Some of my strengths include my ability to connect with others on and offstage, creating a more engaging performance and making me easy to work with. My life experiences and interest in other cultures (augmented by extended periods living abroad) contribute significantly to the artistic choices I make and add depth to each character I portray. My detail-oriented nature, appreciation of feedback, and persistence in doing the work it takes to get something “right” make me a committed and reliable performer. My vocal timbre and training suit me ideally for legit and Golden Age roles, which often differentiates me from other musical theatre performers. Additionally, my strong skills as a musician lend accuracy, ease with difficult harmonies, and make me a quick study.
Dance is the area needing the most development (both technique and speed of picking up choreography, especially at auditions). Though I dedicate whatever time necessary to learn and skillfully execute choreography when in a show (for example, I understudied a very dance-heavy role for Disney, and practiced extensively outside of rehearsals to learn and consistently maintain the numbers throughout my 9-month contract, seeking correction from dance captains as needed), my ability to dramatically improve through outside practice is not something I can demonstrate at an audition. Also, though I have developed a healthy belt/mix and pop sound (and worked in these styles), they’re still the areas vocally that are most challenging for me and which I would like to strengthen.
My overall goal is to explore and further develop my talents and abilities to their greatest potential throughout my lifetime, becoming the most skilled and versatile artist I am capable of being. I seek to continue creating work that inspires, educates, and connects with audiences, and to help others achieve this goal as well. I am eager to collaborate with others, to learn helpful techniques and knowledge I can share, and to better understand all aspects of producing a show so that I am equipped to fill any role for which I may be called upon, on- or backstage.