Q & A With Jenifer Foote
BB: Where did you got to college for theatre and/learn the trade in order to move to NYC to pursue theatre as a career?
JF: I attended The University of California at Irvine and graduated with BA's in both Dance and Drama with an Honors in Musical Theatre.
BB: As far as schooling/training what were some great attributes to studying there and/or some negatives if you are willing to offer that?
JF: I grew up in Sacramento, California with very well-rounded training in all aspects of Musical Theatre. (Equal parts training in dance, acting, voice, and lots of performing in local productions). I applied to UC Irvine as a Dance Major. While their highly ranked Dance program was exceptional, I quickly realized that what I was actually hoping for was more Musical Theatre training. At the time UCI didn't offer a Musical Theatre degree, so I cobbled together my own discipline and made the school fit MY needs. I added a Drama major and became part of the first batch of students creating an Honors in Musical Theatre. I also took full advantage of their New York Satellite Program, in which select students live and train in NYC for a month. Among my teachers in NY were Uta Hagen, Ann Reinking, Chet Walker and on and on. It was an incredible gift to taste NY that way.
BB: What is one thing that you learned while actively pursuing a NY stage career that you wish you would have known/learned before moving to the city that you could impart to others?
JF: It took me a while to understand the value and power of a Casting Director. I didn't realize that Casting had such a broad net in terms of casting multiple shows and working with various Regional Theaters. The theatre is so connected. That can certainly be a wonderful thing in terms of connecting with other actors and Directors/Choreographers, but it took me a bit to realize that the impression I was making on a Casting Director for a specific show would have an impact on a future show with that same Casting person. And as for more "practical knowledge" that I'd wished I'd had when first auditioning in NY, I wish someone had explained the specific protocol for an ECC audition experience. I remember it being so foreign to me to learn about signing up for auditions at the Equity building and then going to the call to have your name read off the sign up sheet a half hour before the audition and then figuring out how to fill out an Equity card with your credits. I needed ECC 101.
BB: How was the transition from going from college to pursuing a NY career?
JF: I was fortunate to have received my Equity Card the summer I graduated from college before moving to NY a few months later. I had also worked in a few reputable Regional Theaters in California and in Summer Stock and had made some applicable connections with working actors and Directors/Choreographers in NY, which was a nice transition into the NY theatre scene. I landed in NYC with 2 over-stuffed suitcases and hit the ground running. I auditioned, auditioned, auditioned. I learned and grew through pure trial and error. I made so many audition mistakes, of course, and tried to learn from each of them. I happened to fall in love with NYC instantly, as well, and truly could not get enough of all things Manhattan and Broadway. I tried to take advantage of any free NY/theatre offering and saturated myself in this world as fully as I could.
BB: How/when did you get your first Broadway job?
JF: I was lucky to get the National Tour of “Annie Get Your Gun” 4 months after I moved to NY from attending an open ECC. I toured with the show for about 6 months and then joined the Broadway company making my Broadway debut. As has been the case with much of my success in this business, I'm sure I had a big helping hand in getting that show from having a close friend who was a part of that production put in a good word for me. The cliche about "it's all about who you know" has many times rung true. Connections in the business can certainly help open doors, and then you have to deliver on what that specific show might need. In those early years before I had built a real resume, I was very thankful for friends and colleagues who helped open doors and speak on my behalf.
BB: Can you offer a piece of audition advice?
JF: I’m not always successful in doing this, but my audition advice would be to simply take it ALL with a grain of salt. Sometimes you're celebrated, sometimes you're not. Sometimes you have callback after callback leading to booking the job, and sometimes you're cut immediately without a second glance. I try to let it roll off of my back as easily and swiftly as possible. There's a line in a song that I often quote in my head that says "don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either." I certainly celebrate any success I have in this business, but I try to take it in stride and know that so so much luck and timing and a million other factors out of my control have led to each success. You can't pat yourself on the back too long. And that same principle is true for every "failure" or rejection in this business. I can't take it too seriously and let it get me down. The ONLY thing I have control of in an audition scenario is to be prepared. To prepare myself as well as I can. And that's truly IT. Beyond that, it's about doing the best you can in the moment while navigating the myriad of variables that come into play in every audition room. ...That being said, a good sense of humor (with an emphasis on laughing with/at yourself) can certainly go a long way.
BB: What was/is your day job/other ventures in between gigs or do you do both simultaneously?
JF: In my early years in NY, I spent many nights as a hostess, a cater-waiter, and the ever profitable position as a coat-check girl during the spaces between employment in theatre. As my career has gained more consistency as an actor, I have worked hard in the last several years to create work to fill in the space between acting jobs that feeds and aligns with my artistic self. I love theatre. I love Broadway. I love this business. I want to be a part of it for many many years to come. So, with that goal, I work to keep myself as "broad" as possible within it. I have worked as an Associate Director/Choreographer on several projects in the past few years. I also teach for various theatre groups and schools when I have time to do so.
BB: Do you still train/work on your craft? How? Where?
JF: I continue to train and work on this craft first and foremost by keeping myself saturated in this business. I see as much theatre as possible, I read books about it, I find colleagues to discuss it with, I listen to it, I continually study and learn about it. I remain a fan of this business, which has helped keep the joy of studying alive. My more "specific training" has ebbed and flowed through the years between dance class, voice training and coaching, scene study, etc. I am currently studying with Craig Carnelia in his weekly Musical Performance Class. His class feels as much part "therapy" as well as acting/singing technique some days which has proven to be so fulfilling for me. I love being a part of a group of actors supporting and learning with and from each other's ability and experiences. I couldn't be a bigger fan of this class.
BB: Any words of inspiration or anything else you want to say/impart?
JF: In life and specifically in this business the most important thing I can offer is the principle in which I live my life: Live gratitude. To truly LIVE gratefulness in every moment. Living in that specific way has informed the way I experience life in a profound way. I am grateful for all of it. The ups and downs and twists and turns. It's an incredible thing to LIVE the dreams that you've had from such an early age. That will never be lost on me. I am grateful every every day.
BIO: Jenifer has been a fixture in the Broadway community for the past 15 years as an actor and Associate Director/Choreographer. Associate Director/Choreographer credits: 1st National Tour of Rogers and Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA, SWEENEY TODD at Lincoln Center starring Emma Thompson, THE CRADLE WILL ROCK at the Acting Company starring Patti LuPone. As an actor, she has appeared on Broadway in SHE LOVES ME (upcoming), ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (starring Chita Rivera), FOLLIES, ROCK OF AGES, A CHORUS LINE, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, Frank Wildhorn’s DRACULA and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN. Touring credits include DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (Jolene Oaks) and THE WIZARD OF OZ. Other favorite stage credits: 42ND STREET, as Anytime Annie (Goodspeed Opera House), Tom Stoppard’s ROUGH CROSSING (Yale Rep.), SECONDHAND LIONS (Seattle’s 5th Ave.), FIRST WIVES CLUB (The Old Globe), BROADWAY: THREE GENERATIONS (The Kennedy Center), SINATRA (Radio City Music Hall), and two years as a Radio City Rockette. She has been seen on PBS’ LIVE FROM THE CAPITAL (tap feature with Tony Danza), in the animated Feature Film, THE KING AND I (Warner Brothers), and in the Feature Film adaption of THE LAST FIVE YEARS. Jenifer is a proud graduate of the University of California at Irvine. She has taught master classes in Vocal Performance, Scene study, and Dance for Broadway Classroom, Junior Theatre Festival, Manhattan’s Professional Performing Arts School, and UC Irvine’s acclaimed New York Satellite Program.
Mystery of Edwin Drood