CUE & A REVISITED: When Did You Know You Wanted to Perform For a Living?; 60 Actors Respond

By Playbill Staff
November 10, 2012

The editors of Playbill.com have combed through the past seven years of our popular Cue & A feature to select some of our favorite answers to the question, "When did you know you wanted to perform for a living?" Sixty responses from Broadway actors follow.

(Clicking on a name bolded in blue will take readers to that actor's entry in the Playbill Vault.)

Josh Gad
I was four. My parents dragged me to a comedy show in the Catskills and I laughed harder than anyone. I was so awestruck that I knew in that moment I wanted that power- the power to make people laugh. In hindsight, the show was horrible and the performer was like a bad 40's Borscht Belt comedian.

Matt Cavenaugh
Seeing West Side Story at my local high school.

Jay Klaitz
I have no idea. I've always been afflicted.

Amy Spanger
Amy Spanger
Always

David Harbour
Playing the Tin Man at 5 years old

Jackie Hoffman
When I got a laugh in The Prince and the Pauper

Michele Pawk
Michele Pawk
After my second year at a liberal arts college in PA where they force you to declare a major. My dad encouraged me to pursue a career doing what I loved most in the world. How lucky was I? Great advice.

Lisa Brescia
When I saw Randy Graff as Fantine in Les Miserables. Her performance was vocally stunning, but what really moved me was her acting: honest, simple, gut-wrenching. At that moment, I understood the power of live theatre. Ironically, Randy is now a close friend and lives down the hall from me in NJ.

Gregg Edelman
Doing an imitation of Dean Martin during a third grade recess in front of my friend, Marty Feldman. I killed.

Sarah Stiles
Sarah Stiles
The minute a musical director at a summer camp I went to as a ten-year-old pressed on my diaphragm and said "sing from way down here!" That's when I learned to belt and it was something that felt that right. I knew I was never gonna be able to give up!

Alexandra Socha
I think I was just born knowing, because I don’t remember any specific moment. It’s all I ever wanted.

Rachel de Benedet
Sophomore year of college, sitting in the chemistry lab, making up a mid-term because I had opened a play the night before the real test date.

Chester Gregory II
Chester Gregory II
When I saw Michael Jackson’s "Thriller"

Nicole Parker
Actually it was the same recital where I realized I could sing. I just remember hearing laughter and that immediate exciting response from the audience and I realized that's where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

Yul Vazquez
I never actually knew anything else.

Forrest McClendon
Forrest McClendon
Playing Colonel Fairfax in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard... while I was working as an engineer for United Technologies.

Adam Godley
The first time I walked onto a film set, aged 9. It was the most magical place I'd ever been.

Nina Arianda
At a poetry recital at age 4

Anthony Warlow
Christopher J. Hanke
When I was in London watching a play on the West End, I knew that was the job for me.

Anthony Warlow
When I began at the Conservatorium, I realised it would be a career.

Rebecca Luker
When I gave teaching a shot and hated it. Well.... and when I first performed in a musical at college. That pretty much hooked me.

Nick Adams
Nick Adams
I saw a show when I was 9. I knew it at that moment.

Sarah Uriarte Berry
I can't remember a time when I didn't know I would be a performer. I really remember being around 3 or 4 and knowing that when I grew up I would do musical movies or shows, like the people on all the records I used to listen to.

Jennifer Damiano
Somewhere during the Next to Normal Broadway run I found myself learning more about myself onstage than in real life and I truly realized the beautiful, tremendous, extraordinary gift that is performing. It will always be just as much for the audience as it is for me because there is no point to it otherwise.

I think I was waiting for myself to not feel like a brat for being so lucky. When I felt like I was truly working hard to make money and was giving myself to the audience as opposed to just soaking IN myself onstage is when I knew something was right and I was meant to be here.

Lauren Molina
Lauren Molina
My freshman year of college. I was undecided in my major, taking a smattering of liberal arts classes, but doing tons of extracurricular student-produced shows.

I got up the courage to audition for the music school as a voice major, then transferred into the Musical Theatre Program at University of Michigan the following year.

Bryce Ryness
My freshman year of high school I had a baseball career-ending injury. So I poured all my energy into singing. That spring, with a cast on my arm, I sang "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" with Wendi Bergamini. She was a senior.

The rush I got from singing with Wendi (also smokin' hot), who was a SENIOR (and I the lowly freshman), and the roar of laughter and joy from the audience when I dropped into the hook sent me over the edge.

Ari Graynor
There was never another option.

John Leguizamo
John Leguizamo
When I performed in the East Village in a tiny performance art place called Home, and the crowd understood what I was trying to say and dug it. I knew this was my thing. I was testing out Mambo Mouth characters one by one.

Randy Graff
My father took me to a matinee of Gypsy with Angela Lansbury and we had box seats. I could see the actress playing Louise make all of her strip changes in the wings.

How fast this little, stocky man zipped her in and out of her gowns, and how he just plopped her hat on her head and she just held it there. All the time, the performance going on on the stage as well. That was it! I wanted in on that world!!

Francesca Faridany
Not so much a moment but a gradual dawning that there was nothing else that I really wanted to do. This was in high school.

Frank Wood
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Frank Wood
I know I wanted to act when I saw my sister play Puck in excerpts from A Midsummer Night’s Dream when I was in sixth or seventh grade.

Marlo Thomas
When I was seven years old I would go to the studio with my father and I knew then that I wanted to be an actor.

I loved it there - the costumes, the getting quiet as they readied for a take, having lunch in the commissary sitting next to a man dressed as a pirate. It was all magical to me then, and it still is.

Jeremy Davidson
Still not so sure about it!

Jenn Harris
Jenn Harris
I was 5. My family was on its annual trip to Daytona Beach. We got into the hotel and turned on MTV. The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of These)" came on. I stared at that TV for 3 minutes and 35 seconds... knowing what I had to do.

Jason Tam
Watching my sister tear it up in And the World Goes Round at Carnegie Mellon University.

Matt Shingledecker
After getting paid to do a regional production of Bat Boy the Musical as Pan. Nothing's better than getting paid to do what you love. Everyone should strive for it and know that it's never impossible.

Petula Clark
Petula Clark
When I was about six, I went to the theatre with my dad to see the great English star Dame Flora Robson and that made me want to be an actress.

Carla Gugino
My first acting class in Los Angeles. I was 13. It was a "cold reading" class. In that first moment of getting to see the world through someone else's eyes, I was hooked.

Van Hughes
I saw a children’s theatre production of Mother Goose by the Hurrah Players when I was 8. After the show, I told my mom, “I can do that.”

I later joined the Hurrah Players and became very inspired by Hugh Copeland to fall in love with theatre.

Emma Hunton
Emma Hunton
Birth. There was never a moment it wasn't a question for me.

Celisse Henderson
You know the real truth is I never thought (seriously) that I would do anything else. Other than a very short-lived time when I was in 6th grade on “bring your parent to work day.”

My friend’s dad, who was a lawyer, wrote on the board what he makes a year. I thought to myself that that number could buy me A LOT of Pogs. I wanted to be a lawyer for a hot second, but beyond that... ALWAYS a performer.

Josh Young
I always knew I wanted to perform. I knew I wanted to perform for a living when I found out I didn't have to do it for free :-)

Kevin Daniels
Kevin Daniels
I got to play John the Baptist in a church play when I was 7. I never looked back.

Bryce Pinkham
My sophomore year in college, I performed in a Moliere one-act called The Flying Doctor and later that year as Valere in La Bete.

I've never had more fun or done anything as physically exhausting as those performances. I remember thinking at that time that I would regret it if I didn't at least take a shot at turning my serious hobby into my profession.

Michael Cumpsty
I had been accepted to medical school, but also wanted to act. I overheard a colleague of my father's ask him what I was going to do. My dad said I would either be a doctor or an actor. His friend asked him which he'd prefer, and he said actor. I was astonished and asked him why. He said because I'd be happier.

Elizabeth A. Davis
Elizabeth A. Davis
Sitting in my dorm room, spring semester of Freshman year. I loved theatre so much it seemed like a trick to actually get to pursue it as a career until that moment.

Spencer Kayden
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.

Jayne Houdyshell
When I saw Mimi Hines in a road company of Funny Girl.

Tracee Chimo
Tracee Chimo
When I did my impression of the Cowardly Lion for my dad at dinner one night when I was 5.

Anna Chlumsky
Watching Mercedes Ruehl serve it in The Goat.

Ivan Hernandez
After a couple years at school I realized I wasn’t taking anything except theatre classes.

Oliver Chris
Oliver Chris
When I realized that you could actually get paid for shouting.

Ashley Spencer
When I was as young as 4 years old, watching old movie musicals with my mom. She says singing and dancing is all I have ever wanted to do for as long as she can remember. I can't imagine doing anything else, and I feel so lucky getting to do what I love for a living!!

Graham Rowat
Singing "Dentist!" in my high-school run of Little Shop of Horrors.

Christine Lakin
Christine Lakin
I don't know if I knew it, but I've done it since just after I was on my parents' fireplace "stage" singing along to my Annie record at age 3. I don't think I had much choice in the matter... I guess it's always been a bit of a blessed curse that this is what I'm drawn to do.

Erin Mackey
My 3rd grade production of Mary Poppins. I was painfully shy, but I wanted to play Jane so badly, so I braved the auditions. It was about then I decided I wanted to dress up and tell stories for my job.

Andrew Varela
When I played the lead in a 4th grade production of Hubbub on the Bookshelf.

Sharon Washington
Sharon Washington
The Christmas Pageant in church when I always wanted the little piece of paper with the most lines on it.

Michael Cristofer
Reading fairy tales out loud in the third grade... made me dizzy with power.

Brynn O'Malley
When I was in high school, my voice teacher gave me her old record of Sunday in the Park and I copied onto a cassette tape (!).

I remember listening to it on the way to school and being totally late for class because I was crying in my car in the parking lot. I remember thinking, "If I can be a part of shows like this, I want to do it forever."

Cut to me getting my audition appointment for the revival and trying to cancel it because I knew if I didn’t get it, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.