PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Don't Dress for Dinner Tony Nominee Spencer Kayden

Spencer Kayden, a 2012 Tony Award nominee for her performance in Roundabout's Don't Dress for Dinner, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Spencer Kayden
Spencer Kayden

Kayden originated the role of Little Sally in Broadway's Urinetown, earning Tony, Drama Desk and Lortel Award nominations.

Regional work includes Don't Dress for Dinner (Jeff Award) and Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

She has appeared on television's "MADtv" and provided the voice of Mrs. Pepper on "Blue's Clues."

Full given name: Spencer Lemon Kayden
Where you were born/where you were raised: Born in Kansas City, MO. Grew up in Costa Mesa, CA.
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
What your parents did/do for a living: My dad’s company wrote, illustrated, and did the paper-engineering for children’s pop-up books. My mom is a psychotherapist.
Siblings: Three older brothers
Special skills: Dirty, dirty cross-stitch
Something you're REALLY bad at: Buying things that aren’t on sale
First Broadway show you ever saw: I’m pretty sure it was Cats
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Ethel Merman in Gypsy
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor? In high school my drama teacher was pals with many of the actors and directors at South Coast Repertory. I remember seeing loads of new plays there and being blown away by the diversity of material and the range of the acting company.

Advertisement


That was probably when it occurred to me that being an actor was a viable profession.

Current show you have been recommending to friends: Once and One Man, Two Guvnors
Some favorite musicals: I grew up listening to the soundtrack of A Chorus Line and memorized all the lyrics well before I knew what they meant. I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but it always has a special place in my heart.
Stage or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Peter Sellers, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Jefferson Mays in I Am My Own Wife
Music that makes you cry, any genre:

Anything from The Light in the Piazza. The music is exquisite — so full of longing. There’s also the fact that my husband (Mark Harelik) was in it and our son Haskell was born during the run in New York. I am a puddle whenever I hear it.

You personal acting idols: Irene Dunne, Peter Sellers, Frances McDormand, I’m sure there are many more.
MAC or PC? Always MAC
Most played song on your iPod: "On the Radio" by Regina Spektor
Most-visited websites: Hmmm... eBay?
Last book you read: "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene
Must-see TV show(s): "Girls" on HBO
Last good movie you saw: "Pina" (in 3D)
Some films you consider classics: "Safety Last"
"Room With a View"
"Roman Holiday"
"The Jerk"
"Philadelphia Story"
"Being There"
"Blazing Saddles"
"Some Like it Hot"
"Cinema Paradiso"
"Life of Brian"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Eddie Izzard
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Haskell and I have Justin Bieber dance parties in the living room
Favorite cities: New York, Chicago, Barcelona
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: Foreigner's “Double Vision”
First stage kiss I was 34 and I giggled the whole time. The scene was eventually cut from the play, probably because of me.
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living:

Apparently my arm knew before I did. When I was 8 years old, I was tagging along with my brother to an audition for "The Hobbit." They were auditioning people in groups and asked for a volunteer to read the King of the Elves. My mom tells me my hand shot up straight into the air.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t lucky enough to do it for a living until I was in my thirties.

Favorite pre-/post- show meal:

My friend Kristie Dale just took me to the Japanese BBQ next to Birdland on 44th. We went in between shows and it was hard not to order everything on the menu. So delicious, especially the avocado salad. Post-show I’m becoming addicted to the warm beet salad at Lillie’s on 49th. Though I’ve also been known to devour their pulled pork french fries. Yup. That’s right. And there’s melted cheese on top.

Favorite liquid refreshment: Water, water, water
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

One night during Urinetown, I was in the basement watching "American Idol" and over the speakers I heard Jeff McCarthy (Officer Lockstock) onstage screaming, “Little Sally! Little Saaaalllly!” waiting for me to show up. Not long after that, my dog Wallace escaped from my dressing room, ran down five flights of stairs and wandered onto the stage during the love duet. Luckily he didn’t pee.

Worst costume ever: I was in Mr. Popper’s Penguins when I was nine. I’m pretty sure I looked more like a nun than a penguin.
Worst job you ever had: Making deep fried cheese balls at company picnics
What drew you to this project? I get to do two of my favorite things: be completely deadpan and also completely ridiculous.
Most challenging role you have played onstage: A nun (not a penguin) in a drama. It may be surprising, but I just didn’t have a natural affinity for that part.
Favorite screen or commercial gigs: I was the voice of Mrs. Pepper on "Blue's Clues." I enjoyed being made out of construction paper.
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. I would love to do it with my husband. He’d be a fantastic Henry Higgins.
Something about you that surprises people: Many, many years ago, I won a trip to China on the "Wheel of Fortune." I’m not kidding.
Career you would want if not a performer: Something crafty, like bookbinder or origami specialist
Three things you can't live without: My family, my friends, my tweezers
"I'll never understand why…" ...same-sex marriage bothers people so much. Last year, Manhattan Mini Storage ran a subway ad that said in big block letters, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.”

Advertisement


I thought that was so pithy and brilliant.

Words of advice for aspiring performers: Having other skills and interests besides acting will help keep you sane.