From fighting off zombies in Evil Dead: The Musical, to rocking out to teen angst in Spring Awakening, Musical Theatre major Anthony Sullivan has played a variety of roles during his four years at Ball State University. Anthony has just recently graduated and is now moving on to conquer New York City. Before he heads to the Big Apple, I asked Anthony for his insight on the big city, college theater, and what being an actor really means to him.
Why did you decide to become an actor? Was there a defining moment or show for you?
I decided to be an actor the moment I saw the movie Twister in kindergarten. My aunt and uncle brought me to see it in theaters and I was immediately sold on the idea. I thought to myself, “These people get to run around and have fun and play pretend and make a living off of that, of COURSE that’s what I want to do.” Now that I’ve actually studied it, I realize it’s a lot more work than that, but it’s still my favorite thing to do.
What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your major?
I think the hardest part is knowing that what works for some people doesn’t work for others. For all I know, the performance I give in a show to one person can be brilliant while someone else might think it’s the complete opposite. I can only hope that it’s always the “brilliant” option, but I know that it can’t always be that way. The most rewarding part about the major is that I get to learn a myriad of different topics. My diploma says “Musical Theatre,” but the subjects I studied have allowed me to learn and think about so many other things.
What was it like performing in Ball State’s New York Showcase? What should actors expect when performing in front of agents?
I was surprisingly not very nervous about performing in the showcase. I remember as a kid, I got the chance to ask Patrick Page (The Lion King, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark) a question at a talk back. I asked him “Do you still get nervous on stage?” He said that once you get to a point in performing, it becomes so comfortable that nerves don’t get to you. There are still nerves, don’t get me wrong, but they’re the kind that make you want to go out there and show the audience what you got.
To actors performing in showcases, the best advice that anyone will give you is to be yourself. It’s so cliché, I know, but it’s so true. Agents are looking for new and unique people to represent. I think at first, actors want to be who exactly like who they know is successful in the business. But if you look at those people who have found success and critical acclaim, their careers and “types” weren’t based exactly on someone else’s before them. They found their success by being themselves. Agents can’t represent a million of the same type of people; what they want are true, honest people.
How did you get the internship with Stephanie Klapper in New York, and what did you take from that experience that helped you as a performer?
To get my internship with Stephanie, I had to go through two rounds of interviews: one at school and one in her office in New York City. There were COUNTLESS experiences from that summer that I learned from. One of my jobs that I performed while working with her was monitoring the holding room. I never realized how important the holding room is. An audition starts the moment you walk outside of your apartment. You never know who is watching you prepare your sides in the holding room or who is watching you say “thank you” (or not saying it) at one of the thousands of Starbucks before your audition. Casting directors are not only looking for talent, they are looking for people who their clients will want to work with. Stephanie would always ask me after a long day of auditions how I felt about people in the holding room. If certain people had bad attitudes in the holding room but a great attitude in the audition room, she knew about it.
After living there for a summer, what were the upsides and downsides to living in New York City?
The Upsides: Living in the city is AMAZING. My favorite part was the history. It’s EVERYWHERE! I would take time by myself to go visit interesting places like Governor’s Island, the museums and libraries, and Tin Pan Alley (my favorite). You also realize that all of the “stars” we idolize are actually normal people who still walk around and run errands. It’s very humbling.
The Downsides: At first it was really hard to find friends. Luckily I was rooming with a friend from school and another friend interned with me. But besides that, for the first few weeks, I would only have two people to hang out with. Luckily there are millions of people in the city, you just have to not be afraid to strike up conversation.
What role and/or show has been the best experience for you at Ball State and why?
The best experience I had at Ball State would without a doubt be Guys and Dolls. I felt that playing Benny Southstreet I finally had the opportunity to take all three areas of my training at equally apply it to a role. Not only did I have a decent amount of singing and acting, I also got to dance! It was great to close out my four years at Ball State with a role that allowed me to use everything I learned. Plus, there was always a lot of food backstage.
What advice would you give to incoming freshman wanting to major in theater, especially with a concentration in acting?
Journal. It’s something I wish I did when I started at Ball State. Life in theater is so crazy that sometimes you forget about why you really started doing it in the first place. Especially in a liberal arts setting when you’re not only focusing on acting, but you’re also trying to write a paper on whether or not school uniforms are beneficial and attempting to pass your physics class. It’s tough! But in between all of the chaos I would remember certain memories that made me realize why I do what I do. Write, create a scrap book, make a video blog. Whatever it is, it’ll keep you sane. And it’s great to look at after school is over to see how far you’ve come.
What do you plan to do now that you have graduated?
Now that school is over I get to spend a few weeks at home in Naperville, Illlinois with my friends from high school and my family. I’m spending the summer performing at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio in their newest show “On Broadway.” After that, the plan is to move to New York City in September and find a job that will allow me to keep a roof over my head and something a little healthier than Ramen Noodles in my stomach. During my free time I plan on auditioning like there’s no tomorrow and start writing songs and drawing more.
Most Embarassing Moment Onstage: In Les Mis, after all of the students died, we were supposed to climb down the barricade in complete darkness while a scene happened in front of it. When climbing down, I accidentally sat directly on a spike in the barricade and was stuck hanging from it. Not only was it embarrassing, but it was PAINFUL!
Best Song to Sing in the Shower: “Bring Him Home”
Dream Role: Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys
If You Had a Catchphrase It Would Be: “…but I’m a good person!”
Be sure to catch Anthony this summer in “On Broadway” at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio and make sure to follow him on Twitter @nthonysullivan.