How did you start dancing?
I was really little. I was eight I think, and I was always interested in dance. I started at a small studio in my town. It was in the basement of a woman’s house.
My mom was always interested in my passion when I was little. She helped me find the right classes. I grew up in Long Island, so there were always a lot of resources because it was so close to the city. By high school, I was doing so many plays and musicals that I actually stopped dancing for a couple of years and picked it back up in college. My parents were always wanting me to do well in school, so I had a lot of focus on academics, while still doing shows. I couldn’t do everything, so I had to pick one or the other. I decided to do only shows for a couple of years. During that time, I learned about musical theatre and fell in love with singing and acting too.
After high school, I wanted to go to a performing arts conservatory, but my parents wanted me to be focused on academics. They suggested Northwestern, because it has a really good theatre program and a good caliber academic program. They really didn’t want me to go to a conservatory. I also did a lot of summer workshops for performers when I was in high school, and all I wanted was to go there during the year. At the end of the summer, I had a lot of friends who ended up at boarding schools for performing.
So Northwestern was our compromise. I learned a lot there, although I think I would’ve fit better in a conservatory setting. It was just so much academics. Sometimes I’d be frustrated about it, but I also look back now and appreciate that I had friends outside of the arts, and that it wasn’t this intense environment all day, all the time. I went to football games and was in a sorority. I did the college experience while still training seriously in acting and dance. It was the best of both worlds. The teachers they brought in were all working directors with experience. A lot of them were connected with Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, and all those big theaters in Chicago. So I learned a lot there. I was a theatre major and a dance minor.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?
I always wanted to be a performer, since I was really little. I loved the community aspect of it and loved playing on stage. The stage felt like home for me. It’s the excitement of creating something totally new with people. I've had times where it was rough and rejection would get to me, but for some reason, I just kept going back to it. It’s what I love and the only thing I love. They always say if you have something else that you’d rather do, do that, because it’s so hard. I never found that thing. So it was always in me. My parents were hoping I’d get over it and do something else, which a lot of people do, but I’ve just been doing it forever, and it’s what I love to do.
How long has it been since you graduated from Northwestern?
About 5 years. After school, I came right back to New York. A lot of my friends, even friends from New York who went to school with me, decided to stay in Chicago. Chicago is a very different place. There’s a lot of new work, Shakespeare, store-front theatres, which are amazing. I think there’s just so much more musical theatre here in New York, and being close to my family was important. It just seemed like the right decision. Some of my friends from New York loved Chicago and stayed, but I never completely felt that. I always felt like I was taking a trip to Chicago and would be back to New York soon. So that’s why I decided to come back, and I definitely made the right decision.
How has returning to New York been for you?
It has been great. I feel like I identify with the energy of New York. Also, my family and friends are here. My mom lives on the Upper East Side; my dad lives on Long Island; all my friends are here.
Career-wise, it has definitely been hard. Auditioning is a totally different skill than performing, and it can seem out of your control sometimes. Although it is technically performing, it’s a lot different than when you have a rehearsal process before you go onstage. I mean, I’ve worked, but I haven’t worked as much as I have wanted to. But there’s a part of me that has faith that things are going well and going to be better. You see little signs of that happening, and you have to grab onto them. Any time you have a positive thing that happens in your career, you have to really celebrate that.
I think it’s all about how you look at things. If you can celebrate those positive moments, that can really help you get through all the rejection and competition.
What’s been your toughest moment since being back in New York?
I’ve had some moments where I was in final callbacks for things, and then you keep going in for the same people, and the same casting director, and you feel like, “I already showed you what I can do. You know I can do this. Why is this not happening?” You don’t know what they’re thinking, and sometimes, it has nothing to do with your talent. But, you just won’t know that. You won’t know that this person is getting the track you would’ve gotten because they worked with this other person before or they happened to be free for that contract. That part of not knowing and not ever knowing is the part you have to get comfortable with to such a huge degree. Even though I’ve been here for a while now, it’s something that I still am working on. Because we’re all human, we all want to be loved and accepted and do great things in this world.
I also feel like being around for a while has been really good too. I've developed a community of friends who are doing this. When I first came back to the city, I didn’t really know anyone. All my friends stayed in Chicago. Now, I feel like I can text my friends about auditions and class and feel more like we’re all in this together. Anytime I meet a new person who just moved to New York, I try to help them, make them feel comfortable, and give them any advice I can give them. Because I was in their place before. I’ve felt alone at auditions and big open calls too.
What keeps you going? Rejection is hard to take, and it’s easy to throw in the towel.
I think it’s the passion for it. It’s important to have theatre, to have entertainment, to have an escape for people, and to tell stories that are important. I just think it’s the coolest thing ever, and I am so jazzed on it all the time.
What’s your favorite part about living in Long Island?
I can’t believe I am admitting this, but recently, it’s been nice to get away from the city. I get off the LIRR and it’s a 10 minute walk to my house. At 8:30 at night, it’s quiet. There are houses around, and no crazy trucks or emergency vehicles. You can be with your thoughts a little bit here in the suburbs, where as New York - it’s amazing with such great energy - but sometimes, it can take you away from your thoughts. It’s easy to be distracted by everything that’s going on. So that’s been really nice. Nice to get away from the business and the buzz in your head. I guess I am lucky in that way. I have that separate world.
What’s your least favorite part about living in Long Island?
The LIRR at 7:30 in the morning [laughs]. It’s more comfortable than the subway, but it’s just as packed. Whenever I say I am from Long Island, people are like, “Wow, that’s so far. How do you come to the city? You come in everyday for auditions?” But there are a lot of people who do that. People commute from Pennsylvania and Connecticut for 9-5 jobs. It shouldn’t be any different for us. There are a lot of performers who make that commute.
What’s your number one advice?
Be able to look at things positively and grab onto the positive moments in your life and celebrate them. That’s true for any career.
Tell me about one of your positive moments
When I first got back from school, I submitted for a regional gig in Wisconsin, and I booked it. I just booked it right away. I was so happy. That was confirmation that this is what I should be doing. I went to Wisconsin and did five shows. I was just so happy that I was doing what I love to do. That was a super positive moment for me. I was working in the real world.
Any last thing you want to share with the world?
Like I said before, there are a lot of performers coming out of school that might not know things about how New York works, or how this career works. I’d just like to be an open book for those people. I actually started an actor’s meetup group last year on Sunday nights. I started it to bring community to my friends and help people if they have any questions, and to get my questions answered. I’d love to let people know about that. It's been a busy fall, but I'm hoping to start that again. It was really helpful for the people who were in it. Just getting together and talking about auditions and the audition process. It was a way to exchange information and give each other support. I think those things are really useful for us performers.