by Matt Smith . . .
Who doesn’t love a heartwarming finale? As vaccination rates rise and theaters in New York and across the country announce their grand reopenings, we look forward to getting things moving in a new, progressive direction, led with love, light and hope for the future. So, we’re wrapping up our Quarantine Questionnaire series with a final set of queries following those very ideals. We’ve called back almost all of our original 24 panelists, who’ve come together once again — on the heels of opening up after a year of relative dormancy — to share their thoughts on moving forward, using the best advice they’ve ever received (and from whom!) as a catalyst for their actions. From beloved family members and Tony-winning superstars to pop culture icons and lifestyle inspirations, these gurus run the gamut… but no matter where it came from, one thing is certain — the advice is top-notch across the board! Curious as to who said what and to whom? Itching to glean exclusive wisdom from our panelists and their mentors? We’ve got it all… and we’re doling it out in two “doses” (get it?) over the next few weeks! So, scroll through below, expand your mind, become enriched and enlightened, and then, check back later for more! And, of course, get pumped, get psyched, and of course, get vaccinated, ‘cause that curtain’ll be rising again soon enough. After all, we told you it was #onlyintermission.
ACT I: THE QUESTIONS
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received – career or otherwise – and how will you use that advice to fuel yourself as we come out of the pandemic?
ACT II: THE RESPONSES
Christina Bianco (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice):
1. To just be myself and never try to be like someone else. I realize that’s ironic as I’m known for doing impressions. But doing those impressions — and seeing where it’s taken me — has helped me to find my own voice and niche in my professional life – and made me more confident in my personal life. I used to be upset that I didn’t fit into a box. I never had a roadmap to follow in my career. Now, I love that I’ve created my own path and I love being unique.
2. This pandemic really helped put into perspective what was most important to me and what makes me the happiest. Prior to lockdown life, I had been traveling so much that I really didn’t have a home and I rarely saw my family. If anything positive could come from a pandemic, the “forced” time at home was a gift and a joy… and I made a decision to stay closer to my family. Post-pandemic, that will mean sometimes saying “no” to work and making different choices than would be expected. Once again, even though it’s a bit scary, I’m setting my own rules and paving my own new road… and that new road is taking me across the pond to relocate to England for a while! (I know… not the most conventional path for a performer born and raised in NYC!) But I’m not going to worry about what’s usually done or fitting a mold. I’m just going to be me and trust that if I’m true to myself, I’ll never fall.
Todd Buonopane (All Washed Up):
1. This is kinda basic, but it all comes back to RuPaul. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an Amen?!”
2. I’ve wasted too much of my life with low self-esteem. When I’m confident, I perform better. When I’m confident, I get hired. When I’m confident, more fellas find me attractive. I’m done wasting time. No more wasting time with my own insecurities. No more wasting time with negative people. I’m going to spend my time with people I love… with people that inspire me… with people that make me better. That time in quarantine has to be worth something. We cocooned away for a year, so now let’s be freakin’ butterflies!
Kevin Chamberlin (Seussical, Disaster!, Wicked, Ratatouille):
1. From my father: “Always go the extra mile. Most people give 75-80%. Give 110% and people will remember you and want to work with you.”
2. I always use that advice to this day — and hopefully it will bring me work for the rest of my life. I’d like to think that I’m an actor who people enjoy working with again and again.
Evie Dolan (School of Rock: The Musical):
1. Something my older brother likes to say: “Life is short. Eat dessert first.”
2. I feel like this advice applies to my post-pandemic life in many ways: first, I feel like it’s okay to break the rules and do things in the way they feel right to me. Second, we have all seen how precarious life can be, so it is definitely important to do the things we love and that make us happy!
LaVon Fisher-Wilson (Chicago, Newsies, SuperYou):
1. My friend, Tony Award winner LaChanze, lovingly told me, “Make your children the priority, but not the excuse.” Best advice that I adhere to, to this day. If others don’t make your kids an excuse, you didn’t really need to work for them in the first place. But when I do get a job, I show up on time, learn my lines, and am more on point than the actresses that don’t have kids because I don’t want them to DARE blame my kids for me not being up on my game! And I don’t use them as an excuse to slack, but rather, to push harder. Period!
2. The pandemic has shown me that my time with my children is important and vital. And when I return to Broadway, I will still give them the time they need, even if I’m dead dog tired at the end of the day! Our children are worth it! After all, you are only a kid once and tomorrow isn’t promised.
Kelsey Fowler (Grey Gardens, Mary Poppins, Bonnie & Clyde):
1. Know how to tell your story really well — and be prepared to tell your story — because you never know who might really need to hear it.
2. People long to be inspired and I feel like [knowing] your story is the best way to be able to do that. And when I say your story, for different people that may look like different things. Sometimes it’s the story of your life, sometimes it’s the story of your faith, sometimes it’s the story of your family, or it could be any combination of any of those things. Storytelling is our job as actors and knowing my story really well and knowing each part of my story intimately will only serve to make me a better, stronger actor. So, that’s how I’ll plan to use it going forward post-pandemic.
Jenn Gambatese (Mrs. Doubtfire):
1. To pay attention to my own inner GPS — noticing my emotional reactions in life and receiving the gifts they contain. If I am feeling positive emotions, I am in alignment. Yay! If I am feeling negative emotions, I am out of alignment, but I am learning that this is also actually a “yay!” – even though it can temporarily feel uncomfortable. This is because I can investigate those negative emotions, following the breadcrumbs they are leaving me towards some sort of limiting belief I have been operating under in order to begin to let that belief go. It is very liberating!
2. This advice is fueling me big-time post-pandemic. First of all, it makes me value my emotional sensitivity rather than wishing it away. It’s a step further towards really loving and accepting myself just as I am, which helps me love and accept others (and any current conditions) just as they are. From that place of love and acceptance, creating anything new is possible!
Sophia Gennusa (Matilda the Musical):
1. Something my mom told me. Whenever I get nervous about something, I remind myself to show up, participate, do my best, and let go of the results.
2. I think a lot of things are up in the air right now, and we don’t have a true sense of what normal even is. As we come out of the pandemic, I’m probably going to be nervous about a lot of things I used to do so casually. That being said, I’ll remind myself of that advice and power through!!
Robyn Hurder (Moulin Rouge!):
1. Best advice I’ve received (when I really needed it) was about having a baby in this business. Kelli O’Hara and I were doing Nice Work in 2012 and I was extremely torn between my career and wanting to start a family. My clock was ticking loudly. She said to me, “It will never be the right time. You will never feel like you have enough money. There will always be a job that you’ll miss out on.” And I just said, “You’re right.” I got pregnant a few months later. Now, we have Hudson and my career is further along than it was pre-baby.
2. If you want something deeply, just do it. Go for it. Get what you truly want. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that life is so incredibly precious and too short. We truly don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so in the words of my sweet friend, Nick Cordero…. “Live Your Life”.
Maree Johnson (The Phantom of the Opera):
1. There are countless moments and words of advice that have inspired, challenged, and supported me throughout my life and this past year. I try to always remain open and accepting of what life presents.
2. Hopefully the continuation of this openness becomes my fuel. As we say in theatre, “it’s a work in progress.”