Thursday, September 2, 2010

Journey Back to the South Pacific

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As most theater folks know, August marked two landmark events - the closing of the amazing Broadway production of “South Pacific,” as well as the live broadcast of the show on PBS’s “Live at Lincoln Center.” Many actors my age have a long history with the show, and I am no exception. I’ve done it twice, and prior to watching the PBS broadcast I thought it was 2 times too many.

I first did South Pacific when I was a senior in high school. From the beginning, it was wrought with drama. First off, just prior to auditions I somehow contracted chicken pox, even though I had had chicken pox in 3rd grade. I mean, c’mon- you’re only supposed to get that once! The day before auditions I was still contagious, because I still had these pesky little blisters all over my body. “When will I stop being contagious???” I asked my mother. “When you no longer have blisters,” she said. Hmmmm.... being ever resourceful, and even more determined to make it to the auditions, that evening I painstakingly popped all of the blisters. ALL OF THEM. The next morning, I presented myself to my mother, blister free, and she had no choice but to let me go to school, and to the audition. Little did I know, popping chicken pox leaves pretty deep scars. So, each time I look in the mirror I see evidence of how passionate I am about this business. :)

The audition went well...but not well enough. Despite starring in almost every show at school, this time I was cast as the offstage understudy (meaning: I didn’t even get to be in the show.) It was devastating. I spent 1.5 months sitting at rehearsals watching someone else play the role I was dying to play. But I have already given away the ending - I did end up playing the role. The original actress got a part in another production off campus, and with only a couple of weeks before opening I was offered the leading role. It was an understudy’s dream come true!
That's right- my natural hair color is brown!
The show was great- I got some fun reviews in the local paper, and I got my first taste of leading a major musical. But the themes of the show didn’t really resonate with 17 year old me ... and my fellow actors and I started calling the show “So Pathetic.” I swore that I would never, ever do the show again.

Fast forward 13 years and I was approached to audition for the show again. This time, I had no chance at the leading role because the role had already been cast. But I had been dying to work with this director so I was happy to take on the role of a nurse. Of course, throughout the rehearsal process I sat watching the leads rehearse and thought, “Man, I wish that were me!” I have an amazing memory for dialogue, so I would unconsciously mouth the words as our Nellie went through her scene work, remembering what it had been like to deliver those same lines so many years earlier.

Can you spot me? Remember that I used to be a brunette!
During our last tech rehearsal, the day before we brought in the full orchestra, I noticed that the production staff was huddled in the corner with worried looks on their faces. They were talking in hushed voices and looking around the room nervously. I saw the director look my direction, and when her eyes locked with mine a look crossed her face as though a light bulb went off. It wasn’t long before she called me over, and explained what the hub-bub was about. The actress playing the lead role of Nellie had unexpectedly left town - her father had fallen ill and she asked to be released from the show until his prognosis improved -- which could take hours, days or weeks. Trouble was, we were opening in 4 days (with an invited dress in 3 days) and the production did not employ understudies. They were in danger of closing the production unless they could find someone to temporarily cover Nellie... and quickly. So... why was I called over? Well, the director remembered that I had played the role before and she thought I would be the perfect person to bail them out of this sticky situation. And, of course, I said yes.

My first rehearsal as Nellie was the full orchestra rehearsal. The most nerve-wracking part of it was not the actual singing of material - that was easy. It was walking onto the stage, grabbing the microphone and dealing with the incredulous stares of the other principal actors... because the director had not yet made an announcement that the lead actor was out of town! So, it was quite awkward to stand there with these actors, with whom I had never rehearsed, while they wondered what the heck I was doing there. Once that was ironed out, singing through the show with the orchestra was thrilling! Rodgers & Hammerstein has created an amazingly beautiful score, and our large amphitheater (which seated almost 3000 people) sounded incredible.

At the end of the rehearsal, the director and music director expressed how grateful they were for my help, and then gave me an update. The lead actress still had not returned, and they needed me to do the first full dress rehearsal the next day. The pressure was on - dress rehearsals involve so many things - costume changes, blocking, choreography, entrances & exits, and not to mention being off book. But remember that I had been watching rehearsals with an eagle eye, and luckily the blocking and lines came to me easily. I was on top of the world - talk about the illusion of the first time! The last part of the show, of course, was the curtain call, and Nellie has the final bow after all of the other actors. That day, after performing the role for the very first time with no prior rehearsal, I went down to the front of the stage to take my bow, and the enter company erupted into applause and cheering. They surrounded me with hugs, high fives, and huge smiles, and the production team stood in the audience, on their feet, and cheered along with them. I have never felt such powerful appreciation in my life, before or since. It was incredible.

The good news for the production (but bad news for me) was that the actress came back right before the show opened. I really wanted to be able to do the run of the show, but was so thrilled that I was asked to fill in last minute. And it really proved to me that I can do just about anything I set my mind to. I will never forget that production.

So, as you can see - this show holds a special place in my heart. Prior to watching the Lincoln Center production, I thought the show was far behind me. But after a bunch of people contacted me telling me how much they were reminded of me while watching Kelli O’Hara... now I am thinking that I’d like to play the role again. This time, I’d like to earn the role from the start! ;)

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nabbed a role

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At the tail end of 2009 I was fortunate enough to perform in the first ever revival of Subways Are For Sleeping, a Broadway show that had its only NY run in 1961-62. Through this show, I met lots of incredible people, including fellow actor, Lee Cavellier. One night after a performance we were enjoying one of the great benefits of working at The Duplex Theater - free drinks at their bar for the remainder of the evening. At some point, Lee turns to me and says, “ So, I’ve written this musical and I was wondering if you’d be interested in recording a demo for it?” Now, I meet a lot of composers and I have often said yes to proposals like this only to find that the recording never happens. So, I said yes even though I fully expected nothing to come of the idea.

Luckily for me, Lee is dedicated, talented and infatigable and, by golly, we did get that demo done! And, thus, an original musical was born, and it was named Nab-A-Date! (Check out some of the demos we recorded here.) The cast that Lee (and his producer, Steven Engelbrecht) assembled for the demo was so cohesive and winning that he has offered us the roles for the next phase of production, which is to shop the show to Off-Broadway producers. If all goes well, a commercial producer (or team of producers) will option the show with its current cast. From our website, the show is described as:

At a performance of Nab-a-Date!, you're viewing a "live taping" of the world's first and only musical dating show, where three bachelorettes battle for the heart of one lucky man through song, dance, and some very personal questions.

Smooth-talking host Kelly Lee is your musical matchmaker, inviting our bachelor, Tommy, to carefully assess the voices and vices of the lovely ladies to determine which of them can steal his heart and satisfy his longing for love. But of course, nothing's ever that simple... The show's producer has a burning desire for the spotlight, and things get ugly when he shows he's willing to sabotage the taping to get what he wants!

With side-splitting humor and jazzy, upbeat music by writer and composer Lee Cavellier, Nab-A-Date! will have you snapping your fingers and laughing till it hurts as you realize, along with the contestants, that it's all about love.

In the show, I play Meaghan, also known as Bachelorette #3, and the rehearsals have been a blast. The music is challenging and exciting, and we have all become very good friends, which is a crucial part of developing a strong ensemble. Of course, you can have a great show where the cast is merely cordial with one another, but an intimate cast makes for a special evening of theater.

If you’d like to be invited to the exclusive readings in November, go to their Ticketing Page. If you are a producer and would like to receive a promotional packet, please head over to their website and sign up.

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

100 Random Facts About Me

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A special thank you to Corina MacKay, who inspired me to do this 100 Random Facts list. Thanks, Twitter buddy!

Without further ado, here is a list of 100 Random Facts About Me:

1. My name was almost Colleen. It was my parents’ 2nd choice, and coincidentally, the nurses at the hospital randomly assigned me that name to me via the bassinet name card. But Erin won out.

2. My middle initial is Q. Stands for Quinn.

3. People always think I am taller than I actually am. And yet, I am almost always too tall for my musical theater scene partners. Murphy’s Law. (I’m 5’5“)

4. I was born a super dark brunette. With a widow’s peak. I looked like Baby Dracula.

5. I’ve owned 5 businesses, and been a mid-high level manager at 3 different companies.

6. I’ve owned 2 properties, the first before the age of 25.

7. I get really excited when the mail comes. And if my box is empty, my heart sinks.

8. I often sing songs to my dog, and put her name in the song. Like, ”Sweet Denver Dog, (bah bah bah!) Good Times Never Seemed So Good (so good so good so good!)"

9. I have an irrational fear of grasshoppers.

10. I adore alphabetizing. And sorting of all kinds.

11. I am really good at hanging pictures perfectly straight without a ruler or tape measure.

12. I have a crapload of family I have never met.

13. I love buying cosmetics. Doesn’t matter how many bottles of lotion or tubes of mascara I have, I always want to try more.

14. I have been a Mac user since 1995, and I am a diehard fan. I don’t yet have the iPad, but I have an iPhone, MacBook and an Apple TV. And my old iPod, which I still use.

15. I am extremely introverted, which no one guesses because I can be very personable, expressive, and attentive. But I then disappear for days because I have to recharge. This is why some of you have yet to receive return phone calls and emails. Oops.

16. I’ve finally realized that I have been lying to myself all of my life- I DO want to be swept off my feet like in the storybooks.

17. However, I don’t want kids.

18. My dog is nearly 15 years old, and I have had her since she was 10 weeks old.

19. I feel things very quickly, and very deeply, but have a huge wall that appears when I am with others. Over the years I have slowly been able to lower the wall bit by bit.

20. Spaceballs (Mel Brooks) is my favorite movie. Ludicrous Speed- GO!

21. I had a basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) removed in Oct 2009.

22. People look to me for guidance and direction, but most of the time I am just making shit up.

23. I have a tendency to fold things when my hands are idle. Give me a napkin and I will fold, unfold and fold again without even noticing it.

24. Shows/movies about redemption makes me blubber like a baby.

25. I write 2 blogs, and am a contributing writer to 4 more.

26. I’m really behind on those blogs (see #15.)

27. My mother knows just about everything about me.

28. I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so I will probably write all 100 of these things in one sitting. (Postscript: It took me 3 hours, but I did it.)

29. I want to donate my organs, because those who outlive me will be able to see me live on in others, and it is the only way I can guarantee that I will make a difference in this life.

30. My left eye is much stronger than my right eye.

31. You can’t see it in most pictures, but my eyes have a brown ring around the pupil, and depending on my mood or what I am wearing, the rest of my iris can be green, blue/green or hazel.

32. I am incredibly intuitive/empathic and take on the feelings of those around me. Thus, people who get really angry or upset can inadvertently make me feel those things too. It makes me a good coach but bad when I’m near people who are fighting.

33. It kills me that my father never got to visit me in New York before he died (his birth place and my home.)

34. I was horribly unpopular when I was a child. I was routinely bullied and often beat up.

35. I find filling out surveys like this strangely therapeutic.

36. I’m a lot older than I look.

37. I don’t believe in God, but I love that other people do.

38. My sister has big boobs and it was devastating when I realized I would not grow up to be like her.

39. I love camping, but only where there are outhouses. I will not do my “business” in the woods. It’s just about the only girlie thing about me.

40. I dated someone with kids once- I am not sure I can do that again.

41. I always paint my apartments with bright colors.

42. One of my acting jobs is as a standardized patient (SP)- I do improvised scenes with medical students to help them practice their clinical skills. These SP exams are required elements for medical school, and I’ve been doing this for more than 7 years.

43. I’ve never had a nickname, but I’ve always wanted one.

44. I taught myself graphic and web design in the late 90s, and now I offer these services to actors.

45. “Groove Is In The Heart” (Dee-Lite) is my theme song, and would be in the opening credits of the movie of my life. “Happy Phantom” (Tori Amos) would be the closing credits.

46. My brother and sister both have intense ADD. So does my nephew. I don’t.

47. I enjoy reading astrology descriptions. Not predications, but the personality outlines. (PS: I’m a Scorpio.)

48. Red meat gives me massive stomach ache, but I’ll suffer it for a good Philly cheesesteak with mushrooms and cheese whiz.

49. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to sit with coffee and cherry pie and watch Twin Peaks.

50. My sister (see #38, #47 & #49) has disappeared, and no one knows where she is at. Worse than that - her disappearance is intentional.

51. I HATE the sound of people eating. Chewing, slurping, smacking of lips. It gives me all-over body convulsions and it makes me want to get violent.

52. I could eat eggs at any hour of the day. I love breakfast!

53. I stay up until 3am most nights (mornings?)

54. I am rather addicted to thrift store shopping.

55. I lived in Brussels, Belgium for kindergarten, 1st & 2nd grade while my father worked at NATO.

56. I have a strange affinity for marketing, and have lots of creative ideas for promotion. These ideas often keep me up at night (see #53.)

57. I inherited my observational humor and penchant for puns from my father.

58. Being from SoCal, I should have taken Spanish in school but instead I took French. (see #55)

59. I avoid most political conversations, but the issue of gay rights makes me nearly militant. I endorse love between consenting adults.

60. I adore singing in harmony.

61. I giggle every time I hiccup. The more I hiccup, the more hysterical the giggles get.

62. Unlike many actors, I like to watch myself on film and listen to myself on tape. I will no longer feel bad about this.

63. I have had braces twice, had my jaw realigned and had 10 baby teeth pulled when they wouldn’t fall out on their own. I don’t heart the dentist.

64. I won the high school talent show singing, “Somewhere” from West Side Story.

65. Unless I am on stage, I hate having the focus on me in public. HATE. So, please never sing Happy Birthday to me or propose to me with people watching.

66. Alec Baldwin once told me I have beautiful eyes.

67. I am close friends with most of my ex-boyfriends. I chose them for a reason- they were good people and worthy of keeping in my life.

68. I am particularly sensitive about people being taken advantage of (especially me.) I am normally pretty low-key and easy going, but if I think someone is trying to use/disrespect me or my friends, my blood boils and I get into fight mode.

69. I love spicy food, and am afraid for the day that I get too old to eat it.

70. I own a lot of DVDs that I have never watched.

71. I did a 2 month European tour when I got out of college.

72. I’ve been engaged, but never married. Thank the baby Jesus.

73. I adore watching baseball, but have backed off the game since moving to the East Coast because I can rarely watch my Padres and it depresses me.

74. In my first play (at age 9), I played a Gander in “Charlotte’s Web.” Then I played Grumpy “Snow White.” I went on to play many, many more male roles until well after college.

75. I look better in skirts and dresses than I do in pants.

76. I named my dog after a character in the book, “Beloved“ by Toni Morrison. Her name is Denver.

77. If there is cheese dip on the menu, I’m ordering it.

78. The first inspirational quote I ever put to memory was the Chinese proverb, ”Talk does not cook rice.“ It really speaks to me about motivation and action.

79. I really, really like things to be even. Like, if things come in pairs, do not separate them. I skim ice cream evenly in the carton. And I’ll straighten anything that is askew.

80. I have never smoked cigarettes.

81. I find it immensely satisfying when a cat likes me... even though I am allergic to them.

82. One of my favorite words to use is ”delicious.“

83. I have no tattoos, partly because I am deathly afraid of needles.

84. My very first official job (besides babysitting) was at a double feature movie theater.

85. I am an amazing parallel parker, but I am still terrified of rolling back on a hill with a manual transmission.

86. It has never mattered to me how much (or how little) money my boyfriend makes.

87. The first thing people tend to notice about me are my eyes, and I really like that.

88. In high school and college, I took summer school to get ahead- I wanted to take as many classes as possible. I also took a ”zero period“ weight lifting class in high school, which happened before school started every day. Super geekdom.

89. I was the best girl’s tennis player in my high school for 3 years running, and the only freshman varsity player. It must have been all of the weight lifting (see #88.)

90. Italian food is my very, very favorite cuisine, but I crave smoked salmon or salmon sushi almost daily.

91. I am super, super, super liberal, but came from super, super, super conservative parents. Strangely, my mother is more liberal now that she is retired.

92. I’ve never had a one night stand.

93. I am right handed, but I shoot pool left handed.

94. For my next big vacation, I want to take a road trip and not plan where to stay until I find a town that I want to stay in. It terrifies and excites me all at the same time.

95. I am terrible at remembering jokes, but most people find me extremely funny.

96. I really, really love taking pictures, but I am afraid that if I get a good camera and learn how to use it, that it will be yet ANOTHER thing that occupies my time and I may never sleep (see #53.)

97. I think Twitter is just about the most amazing networking tool that actors have at their disposal.

98. I have a ”Wizard of Oz“ Barbie in my living room because I once played Glinda.

99. People LOVE my coffee-making skills.

100. This list has just helped me formulate 100 things to talk about when I start dating again...

And... a special section of questions from some folks on Twitter & Facebook

@KevinScottT asks: What made you leave CA?

A couple of reasons. 1) I wanted to know what it was like to pick up and move to a new place, because I’d spent nearly my entire life in SoCal. 2) I needed to be in a larger acting market than San Diego, and because I had already lived in LA, I decided to try the next best option- New York City! Moving here was like coming home.

@JenPonton asks a few questions: Favorite flavor of ice cream? Biggest pet peeve? Biggest simple pleasure? Favorite thing about Denver?

  1. I love Coldstone’s cheesecake ice cream with Butterfinger as a mixer. That is, when I eat ice cream, which is not that often (I am more of a salty snacker.)
  2. I have a hard time with people who are mean to others.
  3. My favorite simple pleasure is waking up with my dog and snuggling with her, and kissing her dry nose before she wakes up and it gets wet again.
  4. That dry nose is my favorite thing about her.

Ed Hofmeister asks: Where were you born?

I was born in Virginia - my father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Langley Air Force Base. We lived in Newport News for the first 2.5 years of my life. (city of birth withheld - lots of places use it for security purposes.)

Ashley Wren Collins asks: What is it that makes you feel like you definitely should have been born a blonde?

People definitely talk to me more as a blonde, which forces me to be more social and helps me stay engaged and connected to people. I also find that I seem more complex, because they expect me to act like a blonde and instead I act like a brunette. I also love telling people about my natural hair color (see #4.) And finally, it just feels right.

Rich Fromm asks: Who should win the epic battle between Werewolf and Vampire? More importantly, who would win in a fight between Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning?

  1. I think the vampire would win because all he would have to do is thrown down Beggin’ Strips and the werewolf would lose his shit.
  2. Who would win a fight between Kristen and Dakota? The men watching, that’s who.

Mary Lahti asks: Is there anyone else in your family that does what you do? When you aren't so focused on your business/craft, what do you like to do for fun? Do you have any A/C yet?

  1. No, there are no other actors in my family anywhere. My brother may argue that LARP is like acting, but I really don’t think it is.
  2. This is a tough one, because so many of my hobbies are related to my career (watching movies, singing, etc.) I like to go thrift store shopping, take pictures, hang out with my friends at wine bars or the park, and playing with my dog.
  3. Yes! I have AC! =)

Chris Ritter asks: Cake or Pie?, Puppies or Kittens?, Batman or Joker? Favorite place outside America? Barbie Dolls or Rock em Sock em Robots? Favorite Body of Water? Number of degrees you are from Kevin Bacon...? Favorite Ethnic Slur?  Any Civil War Ancestors? The most unusual celebrity you ever met was...? The volume of Cheese-Whiz you've consumed in your lifetime is...?

  1. Cake, usually.
  2. I want to chew on both of their paws equally.
  3. Batman. He’s hot.
  4. Edinburgh, Scotland or the beaches of the Caribbean. 
  5. The answer will always be robots.
  6. A spa.
  7. My Kevin Bacon number is 2, because I did a movie with David Straithairn, who did a movie with Kevin Bacon.
  8. I don’t have one- they make me feel really bad.
  9. Nope, no Civil War Ancestors. My ancestors were over in Ireland.
  10. Oooh... good one. My college had a professional theater on campus, and Helen Reddy came through doing ”Shirley Valentine.“ I worked for the theater, and was selected to be her ”personal assistant“ for the production, which means I obeyed her every whim. This included being her dresser, and I would help her put her pantyhose on. She seemed really old to me at the time, though she was probably only in her late 50s, early 60s. Still, there was no reason for me to be that close to her crotch.
  11. Should I answer in gallons or pounds?

Anyone else have questions? Post a comment and I’ll answer them. If you have responses to my random facts, please leave them! =)

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit

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