How did you start dancing?
I started dancing at a small dance studio five minutes away from my house in Indianapolis where I grew up. I started when I was 4 years old with a tap class. I remember what my parents say when they tell the story: it was one other thing to keep my brother and me busy growing up.
Your brother danced as well?
My older brother, Chris, he started at the same time. He was 5; I was 4. We grew up dancing together. We tried other things like sports growing up, but for the longest time it was between soccer and dance. When it got to the point where we were basically living in our cars eating fast food from one rehearsal to the next soccer practice, we had to make a decision. We both, oddly enough, said that we didn’t want to stop dancing. So it was really cool that both my brother and I shared the same passion growing up.
Does your brother dance professionally as well?
He’s a dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet right now. He’s doing great. He joined back in 2013.
What are you up to now?
Right now I am on a break, which is nice. I just finished doing the Off-Broadway revival of Once Upon a Mattress with Jackie Hoffman and John “Lypsinka” Epperson, which was great. It was a really fun production with a really good group of people. The show itself is very wacky and upbeat, so it made the whole process of putting it together very enjoyable. Right now, I am just hanging out and about to attend iTheatrics Junior Theatre Festival this weekend and then back to the audition circuit.
You were on On the Town on Broadway for about a year. Is it weird to go from performing on a Broadway stage to auditioning?
It’s strange. I say this in the humblest way possible, but I was the only company member of On the Town that never missed a show, which is crazy. To literally have the show have been my life for an entire year on an 8-shows-a-week schedule and then to go into kind of nothing is weird for sure. To be honest, I’ve only had two weeks to breathe between On the Town and Once Upon a Mattress, so it’s nice to have my body and mind take a breath for a second. It has been good. I can already tell my body’s thanking me for that [laughs].
How did you feel when you first found out that you were going to be in On the Town?
It was just crazy. I did the reading and the dance lab of it the fall before, and they were hopeful that it was going to have a future. We did a presentation and just left it up in the air. And then it was March 28, 2014, the magical day that I got a call from my agent. They were all on speakerphone, and I had no idea what they could call me about, because I had had a conversation with them a couple of hours earlier about something else. They happily told me that I was going to make my Broadway debut in On the Town. I tried to keep my composure, but as soon as I got off the phone with them, I jumped around my apartment like a crazy person and was just freaking out, yelling, so happy. And then I tried to coordinate with my family too later that day to do a conference call with everyone at the same time. I was thrilled. A dream come true.
What are your aspirations?
One of the big ones, which I can check off the list now, was performing on Broadway. That was a dream of mine for many, many years. I am so grateful and feel very fortunate for the fact that that has already happened. I had a blast working on On the Town, so going back to performing on Broadway would be great. To put it simply, I just want to keep performing in any capacity. Whether it’s here in the city or if it’s film and television, I don’t care about that. As long as I am out there giving and performing for people. That’s my dream.
When did you find out that you wanted to be a performer?
For the longest time, I just thought I was going to be a dancer because that’s all I did growing up. But I also attended a couple theatre events like the Junior Festival that I’m going to this weekend. Those events are where I realized that musical theatre could be fun. But I didn’t really think of becoming a musical theatre performer until high school where I got to start performing in plays and musicals. I realized I could sing and act too and not just dance. I was really enjoying it. It was my senior year of high school that I thought I could do musical theatre for a living and go to school for it, which I did at University of Oklahoma.
How was your experience at University of Oklahoma?
It was good. I didn’t really audition at many schools. I only auditioned at four schools. Three of those were within driving distance of Indianapolis. From that, you can tell that my mother was the one that set up my auditions to keep me close [laughs]. Of course, I picked the odd one out, which was a 12-hour drive away. University of Oklahoma just impressed me the most. I remember at the dance audition that I broke a sweat and felt like I could further my dancing there while learning how to sing and act. It was great. Four years went by. It had a really small class size, so I got to really know my peers—they’re like second family out there for me. With flexibility in scheduling, I could work around whatever I needed personally to help myself grow as a performer. It was really helpful. It got me very prepared for that fall in the city.
How long have you been in the city?
I got here in September of 2013. I couch-hopped from place to place and stayed with different friends of the family and relatives. It was a really nice way to get introduced to the city compared to finding a place and signing a lease right then and there and being stuck with it. It forces you to get out and figure out the subway and everything. The people I stayed with, for being gracious enough to take me in on those first few months, also helped me out getting situated. Coming from Indiana and Oklahoma, it’s a huge transition for sure.
What is your favorite moment from your career?
That’s tough to pick just one. I would say that one of them would have been the first preview of On the Town. Just the fact that I was on Broadway stage and got to share it with an audience for the first time was so exhilarating. There were so many friends and people that we knew at that first preview. It was just a great crowd. It was one of those pinch-me moments.
Also, performing on the Tony Awards was incredible. This past year in particular was a little different from what they normally do from years past. Normally, the performing shows would just go to Radio City with just enough time to stand backstage, go out there on stage and do your number, and get right on the bus back to your theatre. This past year, all the performing shows were asked to do In Memoriam with Josh Groban. So after we performed, we got to go upstairs in the big rehearsal room where the Rockettes normally rehearse. Everyone just hung out there and watched the ceremony on the TV monitors. In this business, the longer you’re in it, the more and more people you get to know, so that was really neat. Again, it was one of those pinch-me-now moments.
When was the toughest time you’ve been through as a performer?
My toughest time was getting adjusted to performing eight shows a week. Even though I never called out, there were ailments and things that I had to deal with. There was one time where I hyperextended my left hamstring, and I had to deal with getting therapy and manage performing without making it worse. I had to stay on top of some other bodily things. That’s one thing about being a dancer—as long as you have a good pain tolerance, you can do this for a living [laughs]. So that’s probably the hardest thing. But because there’s so much love and passion for it, it doesn’t seem that bad.
You never missed a show. You never had any vacation.
No. It’s actually funny because I put in my first personal days to finally take off Labor Day weekend to go home and just be with the family. Then we found out we were closing that weekend. So I had to take those personal days back because there was no way I wasn’t going to be there for closing weekend. I just pushed through and made it to the end. To justify it, it was one of my biggest dreams that I’ve had. So the fact that I got it so soon and for that show to be so dance-heavy, I personally couldn’t have asked for a better show. I wanted to go to work. There wasn’t a day where I was dreading it. If I had a voice, and if I wasn’t injured to the point where I couldn’t do the choreography, and if I wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t get off the couch, which I never was, I just wanted to come to “work.” It doesn’t feel like work to me.
Number one advice?
Don’t take yourself too seriously with it. It should all be about fun. There will definitely be days that test you and challenge you both physically and mentally in this business. Remember why you’re doing it. It should all be about fun. If you’re not having fun, then don’t do it. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t become just a dancer. I got to perform with this ballet company run by hardcore Russian ballet masters—no matter what you did, it was just not enough. They would be really strict and firm about how to correct you. So remembering that and having so much fun with the shows in high school, that was the turning point for me. I could keep dancing and also do other things too. There’s more to life than torturing your body and making other people happy. You should make yourself happy first.
Last thing you want to share with the world?
Perfectionism isn't healthy. There are times I still fall into that trap. While striving for excellence is a wonderful thing, I wish I had instilled on my younger self to be nicer to myself. We're all human. Not everyday is going to be perfect, but when you do make progress, don't forget to pat yourself on the back. If you crash and burn trying something, learn to forgive yourself and figure out how to try it again rather than dwelling on the negative. At the end of the day, love, happiness, and sharing that with others are all that matters. Just take a deep breath and go for it.