"Measure in Love": Members of the Theatre Community Reflect at Thanksgiving; Words from Elaine Stritch, Jordan Roth, Lynn Ahrens, Lindsay Mendez and More

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28 Nov 2013

Nick Adams
Nick Adams

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Playbill.com reached out to members of the New York theatre community, including actors, musicians, writers, producers, ushers, front of house and backstage crew, to share with us what they are most grateful for this holiday season.

Actor Nick Adams, Priscilla Queen of the Desert:
This year I've once again been reminded how thankful I am for all the wonderful people theatre brings into my life. Every time I start a new project I walk away with incredible memories and new friendships. I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by creative, remarkable artists.

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens, Rocky, Ragtime:
I'm grateful (speaking lyrically) for thirty years with Flaherty,
For hits and flops and curtain ups, revisions over coffee cups,
For music making, storytelling, major fun and minor yelling,
Show by show and score by score (and knowing there’s much more in store)
This year, that's what I'm grateful for!

Actor James Barbour, A Tale of Two Cities:
Thanksgiving and the holidays have always been special for me. It brings forth a sense of community and family and reminds us of that bond. One special memory I have of Thanksgiving was when I was on tour with The Secret Garden (my first big show). We were on the road and had shows over the Thanksgiving weekend and as such were unable to return to our families. The producers prepared a special Thanksgiving dinner for all of us. I remember this large room with tables filled with food. The late Mary Fogarty got on an upright piano and just started playing the funniest tunes I've heard in my life. It was a wonderful cast, Audra McDonald, Douglas Sills, Roger Bart, Kevin McGuire, not to mention Nevin Steinberg, who was at that time our sound engineer and who is now one of the preeminent designers on Broadway. I remember that day as we all sat and talked and ate and laughed. It was and continues to be a special memory.

Time has passed, careers have grown and lives have changed since that tour in 1992, but what I am most thankful for and continue to be thankful for was not only the sense of family that was created from that tour but the fact that many of us are still connected to this day. Broadway to me really is just one big family.

Actor Steve Blanchard, How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
I'm most grateful for a magical life that has lead me for 55 years. The most loving, supportive wife and three daughters who never blink when it's time to pack a suitcase. The love of friends across the world you never could imagine. And blessed by a magical career to be proud of. Thank you Mom and Pop for letting this southern Maryland boy play make-believe.

Sierra Boggess

Kristen Blodgette, Phantom of the Opera musical director
(With Phantom since the beginning):
On a daily basis I am grateful to be able to walk through the stage door alley of The Majestic and go into the theatre where I have spent nearly half of my life. At Thanksgiving particularly, I take time to acknowledge the many blessings which being a part of the Broadway community, a Local 802 member and most specifically the Phantom community have afforded me.

For 25 years I have been able to be a part of a show that I have loved since the very first day I heard it. I work with people that are incredibly gifted; the orchestra, the actors, the crew, the ushers, stage managers. I am given the opportunity, daily, to try and do my job just a bit better than I did it the day before. I am able to try and give a paying audience something very special: An experience, or memory, which might just affect their day in a way that will resonate in their lives.

I am particularly and eternally grateful to musical supervisor David Caddick who first gave me this amazing position. Gratitude...

Actress Sierra Boggess, The Phantom of the Opera:
I am grateful to be able to sing Broadway music to my heart's desire! I am grateful that I get to be around extraordinary performers in this business! I am grateful that this is my community! I am grateful that my world consists of singing and dancing!

I am vegetarian, so I grew up eating Tofurky for Thanksgiving! Every year I adopt turkeys from Farm Sanctuary and I encourage anyone who's interested in saving a turkey's life to do the same!

Actress Ashley Brown, The Sound of Music Live!:
I'm so thankful to be a part of the theatre community here in NYC and to have met so many special people — who have basically become family — while doing shows. In this crazy business, we have to be away from our families on holidays, so it's nice to have a second family full of friends to spend them with. We are actually spending Thanksgiving with Gavin Lee (who played Bert with me in Mary Poppins) and his family this year! We always keep the tradition alive!

Actress Katie Rose Clark, Wicked:
This year I'm thankful for my husband, our theatre family and how it seemed to have grown so much recently. I'm overwhelmed by the new friendships we've made in the community this past year. Lindsay Mendez is like a sister to me now! Derek Klena, Carol Kane, Tom McGowan, Adam Gruper... I could go on and on because it's been a really rich year for us with new relationships. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it's time set aside to intentionally think through how you've been blessed. It's so easy to overlook and not take stock.

Playwright, lyricist Joe DiPietro, Clever Little Lies, Memphis:
I'm thankful for every actor, in every theatre (large or small), who has ever took my words and memorized them, wrestled with them, and breathed new and surprising life into them. You have my eternal gratitude.

Jason Gotay

Andy Einhorn, music director/conductor of Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Since childhood, I've always loved Thanksgiving. From the smells in the kitchen to helping prepare the meal, it's been filled with tremendous memories. But what stands out the most is family and spending time with family – on Broadway, we have the chance to expand our family with our fantastic company of actors, musicians and crew. I am most grateful to get to spend almost every day with a terrific extended family and look forward to many more "families" in the coming years. Happy holidays!

Composer Stephen Flaherty, Rocky, Ragtime:
Each Thanksgiving I give thanks that I am able to do the thing I most love: telling stories through music. On this Thanksgiving, however, I am especially happy and thankful that my old college roommate, John Schiappa, and I will finally be doing a show together this year: Rocky on Broadway. John and I met in 1980 when we were both undergrads at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. We became fast friends (and I became his accompanist). We shared apartments on-campus, off-campus, in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. Over these many years he watched me struggle to become a "real" composer and I watched him become a "real" actor. We always wanted to do a show together and, though it only took 33 years, it was totally worth the wait!

Actor Jason Gotay, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark
I'm grateful for a lot of things about this community, but I find myself really thankful for those moments of "inspiration" lately. Whether it comes from a fellow cast mate, watching other actors do really great work, or the support of my friends/family, I live for those moments of being truly "inspired" by this industry and the love and passion people bring to it every day. Pretty cool.

Composer Adam Guettel, The Light in the Piazza, The Days of Wine and Roses:
A long time ago, I was lucky to spend three weeks writing with Craig Lucas at the Ucross Foundation. Deep winter in Wyoming. One day, fool that I am, I set off on my cross country skis over snowy fields to my writing room, dressed for the sparkling sunlight in just jeans and a thermal. By four o'clock, the sky had darkened with heavy, green clouds and the snow came in swirls of bitter wind.

Skiing back in the incredible cold I became comfortably sleepy somehow and thought it might be a good idea to take a little nap in a cozy drift. I stopped moving forward. But no, I thought groggily. Why don't I press on toward those little lights in the distance and the other writers there who understand what I do all day. (Mostly nothing.) Let me press on and see what comes of it. That's what my collaborators and friends in the theatre have done for me all these years. Saved me, that is.

Actress Ellen Harvey, The Phantom of the Opera:
Thanksgiving falls every year in the middle of our collection time for BC/EFA. And every year I am reminded how wonderful our cast and crew are for generously donating their time and efforts to help raise money for those in need. I'm so thankful to be a part of such a caring and supportive community.

Hunter Ryan Herdlicka

Actor Jeremy Hays, The Phantom of the Opera:
My career in acting has given me such a large extended family. I've become so close to so many people over the years. I'm thankful for all the wonderful relationships the theatre has given me the opportunity to enjoy.

Actor Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, A Little Night Music:
I'm thankful to be in the heart of the city that I have always dreamt of living in. I've traveled to seven different states this year and nowhere makes me as happy as the people and the energy of New York. I'm thankful for my friends and mentors here that inspire me daily to be a better human and a better artist and that this career allows me to meet and commune with so many people from so many different walks of life. Psalm 100.

Actress Marin Ireland, Marie Antoinette:
I'm thankful that I get to dress up and play make believe for a living. I'm thankful for the behind the scenes gladiators – stage managers, dressers, run crew, everyone who takes care of us actors – they see us at our worst and continue to give us their best. I'm thankful for the loyalty of this community. I'm not religious, but I definitely put my faith in that.

Craig Jacobs, production stage manager, The Phantom of the Opera:
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS!

Actor Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Family Furniture:
The thing I'm most thankful for in both my personal and professional lives are one and the same – my family. It's a lucky fact that's never lost on me. Having a shared passion with your siblings is wonderful in and of itself, but the fact that this community has embraced all of us is something truly special. I'm so proud of the work that Maggie, Celia and John have done in the theatre this year and I'm really looking forward to spending Thanksgiving dinner around the table with them.

Actress Celia Keenan-Bolger, The Glass Menagerie:
I'm so grateful to have a job (The Glass Menagerie) that was a joy to rehearse, a thrill to perform, and that we created a production that people seem to genuinely love. And I'm grateful to be old enough to recognize that when an experience like this comes along you can't take it for granted.

Tammy Kopko, dresser at Cinderella:
Over the holidays we often have to say, "I can't come home because we have a show." That can wear you down. Then you have your second family... your theatre family. The way we take care of each other, it's amazing. That's what I'm thankful for.

Liz Larsen

Actress, Anika Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical:
I am thankful for my colon, or as I now affectionately refer to it, my semi-colon. In August, four days into rehearsal for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, I had to have emergency surgery to have 8 inches of it removed. If I'd waited 5-10 hours to go to the hospital, my colon would have burst and I would have died. So I'm also grateful to be alive. And incredibly grateful to everyone involved with Beautiful, since they helped make it possible for me to recover on the job. But as your turkey and stuffing successfully pass through you this year, you should take a moment to be grateful for your colon, too.

Actress Liz Larsen, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical:
All my son (who is now 17) ever wanted to do was play sports and I couldn't have been happier. But about eight months ago, he got involved in a teen theatre company that does very high-end productions, called kidz theatre. (The talent and the work ethic are both off the hook.) Being an actor is now all he wants! So, what I'm most grateful for this year: BEFORE kidz theatre: "Mom, if you are so talented, why aren't you rich or famous?" NOW: "No one can believe you are actually my mom!"

Luciana Lenihan, head usher, The Phantom of the Opera (With Phantom since the beginning):
I have been an usher for Phantom since the beginning at The Majestic Theatre over 25 years ago. I still marvel at the artistry of the show: The haunting music and lyrics, the dark and mysterious lighting, the amazing sets, the wonderful choreography…

At the end of the show each night, I continue to be touched by the audience's reaction. They come from all over the world and speak different languages, but they all understand the universal language of Love. They are moved by the story of the Phantom and his love for Christine.

Phantom is a must see when in New York City along with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. And I count myself fortunate to be part of this wonderful Broadway production.

Actor Telly Leung, Godspell, Allegiance:
Thanksgiving is often thought of as a "family" holiday, and when I think of "family," I think of the many people that are in my theatrical family. I am an only child and I think deep down, I love being an actor in the Broadway community because every cast I join is a whole new bunch of brothers and sisters that I get to add to my ever-growing theatre family. I'm thankful for all the brothers and sisters that have enriched my life on stage and off - and all of the ones yet to come. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kara Lindsay

Actress Kara Lindsay, Newsies:
I am very grateful to be a part of the theatre world for many reasons! They have become my family here in NYC. This community is the strongest and most fearless bunch, who inspire me each and everyday. We take great pride in our work and we do not take any job for granted. That next performing gig we book is like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc., all in one. Pure bliss and gratitude! There is a great love and appreciation for creativity. We encourage one another to think outside the box and maybe do something that scares us. The people in this community make me want to live fully and presently. They make the impossible possible. I am so very proud and grateful to be a part of it. They're my heroes. And, by the way, nobody knows how to party like theatre folk! Just sayin'.

Actress Ellyn Marie Marsh, Kinky Boots:
I'm thankful for being in a hit show! Let me explain. There is so much uncertainty in our business and so many projects you LOVE that just don't click (anyone catch me in Enron?) that when you get to be in a show that you love, that involves amazing people, a wonderful creative team, it's all about how your show is received. And I'm so grateful people have loved Kinky Boots as much as we, on stage, love performing it every night. A steady paycheck is hard to come by, so color me grateful!

Actress Michele McConnell, The Phantom of the Opera:
I am thankful to be a part of an industry that truly helps create special memories and bonding time for families that come to see the shows!

Producer, composer and pianist, John McDaniel, Leap of Faith:
Ever since I saw my very first Broadway show, The Magic Show, at the Cort, I had dreamed about working amongst these theatres. My Broadway debut finally happened in 1994 at the Eugene O'Neill with the first Grease revival, and I've been a proud Local 802 member ever since. There is simply nothing like going to work in this neighborhood that has such a rich history!

Actress Lindsay Mendez, Wicked:
This year, I'm most grateful for the incredible family at The Gershwin Theatre. The staff, cast and crew there are simply wonderful. It is hard sometimes, as a Broadway actor, to always spend the holidays at work and away from your loved ones, but when you are lucky enough to be in a building like the Gershwin, you have an adopted family and it makes going to work a joy.

Actress Mary Michael Patterson, The Phantom of the Opera:
I am thankful for The Phantom of the Opera for employing thousands of actors, stage managers, designers, crew and front of house staff for the last 25 years! We get to go to work and tell an iconic story with generous, talented people every night. I feel remarkably fortunate to pay the bills doing something I love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Laura Osnes
Photo by Nathan Johnson Photography

Actress Laura Osnes, Cinderella:
For some reason, Thanksgiving will forever remind me of my Bonnie & Clyde family. That cast spent three Thanksgivings in a row together over the three-year development of that special production. I'm also particularly thankful for my dressing team, Tamara Kopko and Carrie Rohm. These gals are such dear friends, collaborating on three Broadway shows together and counting! Tammy and Carrie have tirelessly taken care of me, cried with me, laughed with me, lived with me and lost with me over the past five years.

Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, A Christmas Story, James and the Giant Peach:
We are grateful to the many writers who have come before us, not just for the brilliant works they've given us and the stellar examples of musical storytelling they've provided, but for the time they have given back to nurture younger writers like ourselves. We are continually blown away by how many of our songwriting heroes take time out of their monstrously busy schedules to speak to folks like us who are new in the industry and still very much learning the ropes. Whether it's giving business advice, notes after a first preview, or just a cup of coffee when things are looking bleak... We are so blessed to have these relationships. And we are not alone - we've watched these artists spend countless hours teaching classes, attending workshops, and giving critical feedback to the next generation of songwriters, passing down a tradition and a passion for a uniquely American art form. It is inspiring and overwhelming, and we're grateful to know these extraordinarily talented - and generous - men and women of the theatre.

Thelma Pollard, production make-up supervisor, Phantom of the Opera:
On June 7, 2013, I left the theatre, stopped at the store to buy some make-up in preparation for the weekend of the Tony Awards. I got off the bus [and] waited for the light to change. I look left, then right, to make sure that there was no traffic. I stepped off the sidewalk, got half way into the crosswalk [and] I observed the police car at the other [side] of the crosswalk. The next thing I knew, I was struck by a drunken driver. I said to him, "Did you not see me? I had the light." As I sat in the street with the rain pouring down on me, I was in complete shock. I pondered if I would stay alive or die in the street and never say goodbye to my family or friends.

On my way in an ambulance to the hospital, I remember that I promised I would attend the Bronx Theatre High School Career Day later that day to speak and demonstrate my work to them. As I lay in the hospital bed, I wondered if I would stay alive to make it to the school. How would I tell them I cannot make it? How disappointed the children would be!

I arrived home from the hospital, rested a bit. I knew that I could not walk up the stairs at the subway. I lay there hoping that someone would call so I could tell them I cannot make it. No one telephoned. I heard a voice within say, "You could take a taxi." I did. The presentation to the children went well. They were inspired. The smiles on their faces inspired me to go on.

Today with all the therapies I am doing better. This Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful to be alive and for the strength to persevere. I am thankful for my job at The Phantom of the Opera. Thankful that being in this job has allowed me to touch so many lives. I am thankful that I am a part of the founding members, who got together to start the Broadway Division 798 Hairstylists and Make-up Artists. I was appointed by the board and sat on the board of trustees as the Broadway representative for many years. I am also on The Negotiation Committee and am a delegate for the union. I am thankful for all my family, friends and loved ones.

Bill Russell

Actress Marni Raab, The Phantom of the Opera:
I am incredibly thankful for our comprehensive Equity health coverage. I see friends and family in many different professions struggle with dire faults in their plans. Surely, ours isn't perfect, but at least our coverage is good once we qualify for it. I also continue to be thankful for BC/EFA, The Actors Fund and affiliated organizations for the amazing work they do to provide for members of our community.

Steve Reineke, music director, New York Pops:
I am thankful to be able to wake up every day and do a job that I love more than anything and that I feel I was born to do. I love living in New York City where I am surrounded by incredible friends and artists that inspire me every day."

Jordan Roth, producer Clybourne Park, president of Jujamcyn Theaters:
This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for the passion and creativity and commitment and love of the remarkable people I get to work with every day. In our theatres and in our offices, we are blessed with a team who derive great joy from creating joy for others – for our audiences, for our artists, and for each other.

Side Show lyricist and book writer Bill Russell:
I always feel grateful to be part of the theatre community, especially in New York, but also world-wide. I have just returned from two months of absolute bliss with the new version of Side Show at the La Jolla Playhouse. To work in such a wonderful environment with such enormous talents as Henry Krieger, Bill Condon, Anthony van Laast, Sam Davis, Greg Jarrett and our incredible company leaves me overwhelmed with gratitude. I've generally had great experiences in my career but this has been particularly special. It simply does not get better – and how often does one feel that?

Actor George Salazar, Godspell:
I'm sure I speak for all of my colleagues in the theatre community when I say that I'm most grateful for theatregoers everywhere. Whether you're paying $200 to see a Broadway show, or $15 to see something at your local community theatre, you're supporting artists from every discipline, giving us a reason to do what we love and allowing us to do that in front of people and not just in our living rooms by ourselves.

Elaine Stritch

Record producer, Rob Sherr, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, How to Succeed...:
There's only one Broadway, and it's here in New York City. A sound that is truly New York and to its theatrical community. Broadway is an original and will continue to be so, thanks in part to local 802 (AF of M), Actor's Equity and AFTRA, not mention from my end, NARAS (The Grammys). All of these parts make my job so much easier and rewarding when producing a cast album for the ages.

Stage manager Matthew Silver, A Life in the Theatre:
My cloistered gypsy bloodline burns with gratitude for there existing a community of people that are stranger than I; a community of people that demonstrate daily that one can come from any background, and be welcomed in the dusty halls of dress up and make-believe; a community of storytellers that day after day reinvent ways to discuss truth; and most of all, a community of people that try, and fail, then dare to hold their heads high and try again. I am inspired by you all, and ever thankful to have been allowed to play a small part in keeping lit the gypsy flame that burns within us all.

Actress Elaine Stritch, Company:
For my new life in Birmingham. My family and the wonderful people around me that have embraced me here - and Hunter, Rob, Julie, Chiemi - everyone that comes from New York to visit and plot to steal one (or three) of my Emmys when I leave the building.

Actress Holland Taylor, Ann:
At this point in my life, I'd say the most comforting [thing] in being a grateful denizen of the theatre is the long-term friendships: the actors, directors, crews one has worked with again and again, overlapping families from shows – maybe decades' worth - and that spreading warmth in my chest as we reunite, and perhaps feel that other self we once were, and what our times together meant. For me, it's now from a span of nearly fifty years. Our runs were not "work-a-day," but rather heightened by uniquely intense labors, and the often comical times we had. Memories might be as complex, even painful, as thoughts of battle, or filled with rue, like old graduation pictures. (An actor, instantly recognizable, from my first Broadway show, popped up at the very end of Ann's run.) What is true is, no history has the provenance, the patina, of the packed, long memoir, always ready to burst into life, that is the perennial reunion of the theatre.

Actor Wesley Taylor, Little Miss Sunshine:
I'm thankful for my onstage lover in Little Miss Sunshine, the genius that is Josh Lamon.

Actor Michael Urie, Buyer & Cellar:
I am thankful for my Buyer & Cellar stage managers, Hannah Woodward and Sam Horwith. It's a one-man show, so they're all I've got! They are cheerful, easy going, terrific at their jobs, and most of all keep me laughing. Whether cat videos from Hannah or the requisite pre-show joke from Sam, I always walk onstage happy! Thanks, you two.

Alex Wyse

Will Van Dyke, associate musical director, Kinky Boots:
I'm grateful for my Kinky Boots family. It's so wonderful to work with a group of people who care so passionately about the show, from the actors and musicians to the entire crew! I'm also really excited about all the new musicals that are opening on Broadway this spring. It's going to be a very exciting season.

Actor Max von Essen, Evita:
This year I'm grateful to have known the marvelous Erick Medenilla, most recently a dresser at Big Fish. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know him during my time in Evita, where he was Michael Cerveris' personal dresser and had been for many years and many shows. The man had a beautiful soul, an incredible sense of humor, and a sense of style that would blow your mind. He lost his life suddenly on Nov. 24th, and I for one am SO grateful I had the honor of knowing him and being a member of his extended theatrical family.

Bethe Ward, stage manager, The Phantom of the Opera (With Phantom since the beginning):
I am thankful to the theatre community for their sense of humor.

Actor Alex Wyse, Wicked:
I'm thankful for my sisters Stephanie and Emily for showing me the definition of "cool." And I'm thankful to be in a show like Wicked that gives voice to disenfranchised character actors like me.