Cue & A: Young Fun Home Star Sydney Lucas on Alison Bechdel, Her Showbiz Family and Learning to Burp on YouTube

News   Cue & A: Young Fun Home Star Sydney Lucas on Alison Bechdel, Her Showbiz Family and Learning to Burp on YouTube
 
Eleven-year-old Sydney Lucas, reprising her acclaimed performance as Small Alison in the Broadway production of Fun Home, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Sydney Lucas
Sydney Lucas Photo by King Photography

Lucas received an Obie Award for her performance in the Public Theater's Off-Broadway run of the show, distinguishing her as the youngest recipient in history.

She has appeared in Verdi's Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera, and screen work includes She's Funny That Way, Skeleton Twins, Girl Most Likely, Fool's Day, "How & Why," "Law & Order: SVU," "Royal Pains" and "Saturday Night Live."

Full Given Name: Sydney Ellen Lucas. I'm the youngest of 3 kids. My mom asked my dad if he wanted to name me since he went with my mom's choices for my 2 brothers. I share a middle name with my dad's grandmother.
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Atlanta, GA, and my family moved to NYC for my dad's work when I was two.
Zodiac Sign: I'm a Cancer just like my dad, but I was induced at birth because I had the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. I identify with a lot of the Leo traits and feel that I could be both a Cancer and a Leo.
What your parents do for a living: My mom and dad started a software consulting company before my older brother Brock was born, and they still run that business.
Siblings:

I have two very talented brothers! My 17 year old brother, Brock, is in the Drama Studio at LaGuardia High School but could have opted for either the Vocal Studio or the Instrumental Studio if he had wanted. He was very lucky to get to choose a studio. He will be going off to college next year and has decided to major in songwriting. My 12 year old brother, Jake, is my very best friend. You can see him in The King and I at Lincoln Center playing Kelli O'Hara's son for the third time. The second time he was her son was when he played John Darling in NBC's "Peter Pan Live."

Who would you list as your main mentors/inspirations?

I completely admire everything that Meryl Streep does (but who doesn't?) and want to be just like her some day (I mean now!). As for my day to day mentors, my mom helps me the most with all of my auditions and with singing. My dad and brothers help me at times, too.


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For acting and singing, Diane Hardin and Badiene Magaziner, respectively, have been amazing teachers. You may not know that I've been involved with Fun Home for almost 3 years. Working with Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron and Sam Gold and the veteran cast, has helped me a bunch, too. There's nothing like the feeling of working people who are so smart and real pros.

Special skills:

I have some weird special skills like being able to lick my elbow or bend my legs and arms in ways that freak people out (I love their reactions!). I'm also a tough competitor when it comes to staring contests, and I'm skilled at remembering the unique handshakes that I have made up with the cast, crew and friends!

With my cast, I'm also working on pick-pocketing and put-pocketing (and getting pretty good at it). But don't worry, I always give myself up; it's all for the laugh and, besides, I'm so honest that I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I caused someone harm.

Something you're REALLY bad at: I really can't whistle like my brother, Jake (who has to whistle in The King and I). My dad, aunt and grandfather are all very good whistlers, too. I've been told it's because the connector under my tongue is too short.
First Broadway show you ever saw:

Xanadu with Cheyenne Jackson and Kerry Butler. I was 4 and remember the roller skating and trying to do the dance moves. We sat in the front row, house left, where a bunch of the cast were making entrances and exits. They smiled at me a lot and gave me high fives on their way past. At the end of the show, Cheyenne Jackson gave a curtain speech (which must have been during BC/EFA time, but I didn't know about that then).

He specifically pointed at me, called me out and said that I was a cutie. I remember thinking that he was really cute, too!

If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Well, to be honest, I've never thought of going back in time to see a show. I have thought of going back in time to get the correct answers on my tests before, and I do have Hermione's time-turner souvenir from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Current or recent show other than your own you have been recommending to friends:

I recommended Newsies to a lot of people before it closed and went on tour. Everyone from young to old and especially fathers and sons have loved that show. For obvious reasons, I recommend The King and I. I also recommend all of the shows I have friends in (Kinky Boots, Matilda, Lion King, A Christmas Story, etc.). I know so many of the kids that audition for Broadway and have created many, many friendships and am proud when they land a show.

Favorite showtune(s) of all time:

I never get tired of "King of New York" and "The World Will Know" from Newsies. I also love "Freak Flag" from Shrek The Musical. Christmas is my favorite holiday; so, all of the songs in A Christmas Story are fun to sing and have great melodies. I also really enjoy the songs I had to learn for a Tuck Everlasting audition. I don't remember the titles of the songs but the whole family sang them for weeks – very catchy and beautiful.

Some favorite modern musicals:

I'm sorry, but I have to throw Fun Home out there. As much as I've loved all of the shows I've mentioned above, the storyline of Fun Home is undeniably relevant and hits deep in your heart. The music and the story together make it an unforgettable experience. It's really remarkable what Jeanine Tesori, Lisa Kron and Sam Gold have been able to create from Alison Bechdel's book.

Some favorite classic musicals: I saw The Mystery of Edwin Drood not long ago on Broadway and really enjoyed the way that show incorporated the audience. Stephanie J. Block was incredible.
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Bruno Mars, Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Pharrell Williams, Kelli O'Hara, Jessie Mueller, Alex Gemignani, Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster and Idina Menzel immediately come to mind as people I love listening to.
The one performance – attended – that you will never forget:

I will never forget going to Newsies for the first time to see my brother, Jake, make his Broadway debut. I had never seen the show before then, but ended up seeing it 23 times in all (obviously because my brother was in it), but it truly is a great show. I never ever got tired of seeing it or singing the songs. They had a way of sticking with you like "Let It Go" from "Frozen."

Music that makes you cry, any genre:

"I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables and "Days and Days" from Fun Home both make me cry because the lyrics and music are so heart-wrenching. Oh, and the very first audition I ever had for Broadway was for The People In The Picture and I had to sing a song called "Saying Goodbye." I was 8 years old then and ever since, I won't sing that song because it's about losing a mom – so depressing.

MAC or PC? We have both and like both, but if I had to choose one, I'd lean toward MAC because it's more portable.
Most played song on your iPod: I don't have an iPod. But I do listen to a lot of Mozart and Beethoven from YouTube when I do my homework. It helps drown out the family noise and helps me concentrate to get homework done quickly.
Most-visited websites:

The videos on vat19.com are really cool and funny, but to be honest, YouTube.com has consumed a lot of my life! I've learned how to knit, draw cool stuff and much, much more on YouTube. It amuses me to watch people like the Shaytards live their life and post it on YouTube. You can even find tutorials on learning how to burp, which I've watched because an audition I had was looking for someone who could burp on cue.

My mom and I were never able to do it, but, of course, my brother, Jake, (who can whistle, juggle and touch his nose with the tip of his tongue) was able to learn to burp. Seriously, Jake!

Favorite Tweeters: @LauraBenanti is a must-follow.
Last book you read:

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is the last book I read and I'm on "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." I love everything Harry Potter including Daniel Radcliffe (who I got to meet last year - squeal!), the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which I visited in December; and I have been longing for another Chocolate Frog and some more Fizzing Whizzbees.

Must-see TV show(s):

"About a Boy" with Minnie Driver is really terrific; it's my go-to show when I need to laugh. I'm also still into the Disney channel, but most adults don't want to hear about those shows. Awhile back, I auditioned for "Orange is the New Black" and my mom helped me research the part. So, again, with mom-censoring, I watched about four episodes. It was very hard to stop watching that show; it's very addictive and I really wanted to watch more but my mom said no.

And strangely, not long after that, I was at the Lortel Awards and saw Uzo Aduba (who plays "Crazy Eyes") with a group of her Broadway friends. I walked up to her, but she thought that I was there to talk to the other people and moved out of the way for me. I then had to walk toward her again and let her know that I was there to meet her and that I loved her in "Orange Is the New Black."

She was a little surprised, and it was a funny moment because, of course, she wasn't expecting to have a conversation with a 10-year-old about that show.

Last good movie you saw:

Eddie Redmayne was amazing in "The Theory of Everything," and "The Imitation Game" is also a must-see. And you know, it just dawned on me that people who appreciate "The Imitation Game" will likely appreciate the story of Fun Home. Of course no one is trying to stop a war in Fun Home, but I still see similarities concerning the human side of things.

I may have found my next essay for school homework. Ha!

Some films you consider classics: Any film before I was born is a classic to me, but "Elf" with Will Ferrell is my favorite.
Three favorite cities:

1. I really want to go to Paris because I want to see the Eiffel Tower, the glass pyramid at the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame Cathedral. 2. Hawaii is a state that I would visit any time; so, any city there on the beach works for me.

3. I also want to go to Sydney, Australia, to see if it lives up to its name. (That's a joke!)

Performer you would drop everything to go see: Don't know about the "drop everything" part of the question, but I would love the chance to meet Ellen Degeneres, Meryl Streep and Will Ferrell in person.
Pop Culture Guilty Pleasure:

I love, love, love playing the game Heads Up with friends using my iPad. I also like to keep up with "The Voice." I already said I watched the Shaytards on YouTube; so, I think they count as a guilty pleasure.

First CD/Tape/LP you owned: I don't own any songs yet. I just listen to songs on YouTube.com.
Favorite sport/team/player:

I don't have the time to watch a lot of sports on television, but I do love swimming and playing soccer or basketball. The only sport I've watched a lot of most of my life is professional tennis. My mom is a huge tennis fan and we've gone to the U.S. Open for many years. My favorite tennis players are Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, John Isner and the Bryan brothers.

They are all so nice, particularly the Bryan brothers who know how important it is to a kid to get an autograph!

Favorite pre-/post- show meal: Chipotle or sushi anytime!
Favorite liquid refreshment: Water is my drink, but I enjoy an occasional soda, juice or Fizzy Lizzy.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups:

The kids of Fun Home do a dance warm up to make sure we don't pull a muscle and we do a vocal warm up with the Music Director, Chris Fenwick, of some of the numbers from the show and one of my solos. When Fun Home was Off-Broadway at The Public Theater, I would give everyone a pre-show hug.

What has been the biggest challenge and the most rewarding aspect of the Fun Home experience so far?

I think adults think more about "challenges." For me, a hard math test is challenging. Being in Fun Home is the complete opposite of challenging for me. It's just so wonderful and fun! I'm doing what I love with a bunch of people I love, and I'm having a blast. Ok, now that I think about it, the hardest part of this process is getting the school hours in. After we open, if I have to go back to a regular school while still performing at night, getting up in the morning will be very, very "challenging."

What sort of research/preparation are you currently putting into this project?

I've been involved with Fun Home for nearly three years starting right after I turned 9 years old and have had numerous discussions with Sam, Jeanine and Lisa over that time about Small/Young Alison. I did read through a mom-censored version of Alison Bechdel's graphic novel at the beginning and have gotten to spend a good amount of time with the real Alison Bechdel when she's been in the city.

I never really felt that I was so different from Alison. We both love to draw and since I have two brothers like she does, I'm really more of a tomboy which is essential for this role. From day one, the part fit like a glove.

What do you love most about performing and being in theatre?

It's an adrenaline rush to perform and see or hear the reactions of the audiences. At The Public, people would greet me after the show and were so sweet with such kind words. All of that was great and such a treat for getting to do what I love to do, which is act. That's really the best part of theatre for me: I get to have fun playing make-believe/dress-up and it's appreciated.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

Oh gosh! This was a big deal but the audience never knew the chaos that was going on. Okay, here's the story. I went to work like normal; we only had four more shows of Fun Home to go to complete the Off-Broadway run at The Public in January of 2014. Just as I was getting ready to go on stage for my first cue, I started to feel a little nauseous. I looked directly at my wrangler with concern and then asked him to get Sawyer, my understudy, ready just in case. He told stage management, and the crew knew within several seconds that I wasn't feeling well (since they're all on headsets).

As the show went on, I slowly got more sick to my stomach. About half way through the show, I went off stage and the assistant stage manager handed me an ice pack because she knew I wasn't feeling well, but she didn't know what the problem was. As she was walking me to the other side of the stage for my next entrance, I felt the strong urge to get sick into a trash can along our path.

The ASM immediately alerted the crew that I had just vomited, and they put out the word to rush Sawyer to the stage. But since I had just emptied the contents of my stomach, I felt soooo much better.

My next cue was within seconds, so I told the ASM that I was going on. She said to at least take a drink of water, which I did, then I ran and slid into my position in front of the 70s style T.V. I got through the show so well that my castmates and the creative team weren't even aware that I had gotten sick mid-way through the show.

First stage kiss: Really? I'm 11 years old. I've never been asked to kiss another actor, but I'm open to it. LOL!
Leading lady role you've been dying to play (current or in the future): I don't think I have enough life experience to answer this question yet!
Something about you that surprises people:

I continually surprise people and always have. My parents never knew what would come out of my mouth and whether they should laugh or cringe when I was young. I have a pretty active imagination and love playfulness. I'm spontaneous and that always leads to surprises. But I think it's very surprising when people learn that I had open heart surgery at the age of six. I'm all good now. No further fixes required.

 

Something you are incredibly proud of: I'm very proud of my grades. I put a lot of time into getting great grades and I probably obsess about it too much because it can cause me to worry sometimes.
Three things you can't live without: I can't live without a comfy pair of jeans, paper and a writing instrument. I love to draw and write. I write stories constantly and if I couldn't do that, I'd go crazy.
I'll never understand why…"

… people think acting is hard. I just don't get it. Just disappear into a character and simply be the character. My parents say I've always been uninhibited. One day when I was six, I told my mom that I was only going to speak in a British accent all day just like our church choir director.

We went several places that day bumping into friends who asked why I was speaking that way. Mom would say, "It's Sydney's Speak British Day." I never cared what people thought; I was just doing what's fun.

Best advice you've ever received when comes to performing/the theatre business:

To just keep looking forward. Don't look back and worry or get worked up about auditions. If it's meant to be, it'll happen. I think I do this pretty well. But I have to confess that it's hardest to do with Broadway auditions because you put in so much time preparing for them compared to other types of auditions. And when you've gone to 7-11 callback auditions for a particular show, you've put in a lot of time toward getting that job.

Like the original Matilda audition. I was down to the final group of kids and then didn't get it. I was devastated; but had I gotten it, I never would have gotten Fun Home.

Playing Small Alison and representing Alison Bechdel has been the most important and most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life. I feel a great sense of purpose with this show and gratitude to have been entrusted with such a great role.

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