Meet "The Cockeyed Optimist", Haley Swindal
We asked Haley Swindal who plays Nellie Forbush in our production to tell us a bit about what got her to the SOUTH PACIFIC!
"Like Nellie, I left home pretty young. As she says, "I wanted to see the world and meet different kinds of people." I grew up in Tampa Florida, a very southern town. I left home at fifteen to go to Culver Military and Culver Girls Academy in Indiana, where I met people from all over the world. Then, I went onto college back in the South at UNC-Chapel Hill. I have a wonderful, supportive family who put up with me singing and dancing nonstop around the house from an early age. My family loves music, but I am the only one in my entire family to become a professional artist. They are all in the sports industry though, which is entertainment in itself!!! In college I majored in both theatre and history, so this show has always been on my "wish list." It is also special to me because my grandfather Fred Swindal fought in the Pacific as a Marine and earned a Bronze star.
Gosh! So many people influenced me to become an actor! My teachers along the way, John Huls, Kathi Grau, Richard Coven, Julie Fishell. I remember a specific moment in college when my professor, Julie Fishell, was pushing me to overcome my fear and go further in a particularly moment in a play she was directing me in. I went to the place I needed to go, I was playing a mother defending my son, and it she pushed me to a "breakthrough moment" where something clicked for me. From then onward I vowed that, although I knew I could sing, I wanted to be first and foremost an actor. I am still learning and growing. I don't think I'll ever stop. As my high school teacher Kathi Grau said, "be a sponge." Absorb and learn everything. I have been blessed to work with some amazing talent since I graduated: Stacey Warren, Ted Neeley in JCS, Robert Cuccioli, and, currently, getting to fall in love with George Dvorsky every night!!!!
Haley as Nellie Forbush with George Dvorsky (Emile)
I have never done the show before, but I have always wanted to! This is my third show at WBT. Westchester broadway theatre is an incredibly special place for me. I got my equity card here with "Nine", with a cast of women who remain some of my nearest and dearest friends. I also appeared in "Home for the Holidays" a few Christmases ago. I love working here. It feels like home every time I get to! It's such a supportive, wonderful environment that Bill, Bob, Lisa, Victor, and everyone here create... I feel so excited and grateful to come to work every day!!!
I grew up watching the movie, and all the great movie musicals of the Hollywood Golden age of musical theatre. I love movie musicals!! Today, I am so glad they are making a comeback as it is pulling people into it who might not have had exposure to musical theatre. For example, "Into the Woods". Sondheim. Brilliant. But many, many people in this country have never heard of it. With this Meryl Streep version coming out, that will change. It's bringing it to a larger audience, which I believe will ultimately help the theatre community thrive even more.
Nellie always has been a dream role! So I'm living it! But other than this one? Gosh. Well, I think "Gypsy" is the perfect musical. I would love to play Mamma Rose one day, for sure. I'll have to wait a few years, though. In the meantime, I would loveeeee to play Eva Peron in "Evita" Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes." Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl". Lilli/Kate in "Kiss Me Kate."
I love to travel!!! Whenever I have been on tour I take the time to explore whatever city I am in, as every city has something special about it. In the break we have on this show in December, I will go to visit my boyfriend's family where he is from in Scotland, so I am excited about that! Last year he and I dressed up in Santa suits and did a Santa run on the beach in Scotland with about three hundred other Scottish people and it was a blast!!! So really, traveling, history, or anything outdoors-hiking, swimming, skiing, random adentures, and exploring!!!
What's on my Ipod? Literally every genre of music I think. I go through phases. Right now I've been listening to a lot of Doris Day, Dinah Shore, and Rosemary Clooney backstage before the show with Joanne, my brilliant and lovely dressing roommate who plays Bloody Mary. Right now, I'm obsessed with Frank Sinatra and Brandi Carlile, who couldn't be more different but both are fantastic story tellers!!!! "
Aspiring Nellie Forbush My amazing acting teacher Julie Fishell and
musical genius Mark Hartman, UNC alums as well!
My grandfather Fred Swindal Machu Picchu, May 2014 In the Ensemble of NINE