Courtney Balan, the brilliant actress & comedienne in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, shares her insights!
I grew up right outside New York City in suburban New Jersey. My parents love Manhattan and we spent many weekends of my childhood in the city seeing shows. Pretty soon I discovered that Broadway had a profound effect on me. I was always asking for tickets and cast albums at every birthday and holiday. Finally, through theatre, I found a place where I could harness all my eccentricity and personality.
At first, I thought I just loved watching and listening to musical theatre, but pretty soon I discovered that I could sing. I would learn every song and sing along to the albums in my room.
My parents, who are very supportive (and my biggest fans), enrolled me in theatre classes and voice lessons. Eventually, my mother found a theatre sleep-over camp, Stagedoor Manor, that I began attending at age 13. I returned every summer through my high school years. There is where I met one of my mentors, Michael Larsen, who taught me to be fearless and vulnerable. He focused my abilities and challenged me continuously, giving me very adult roles and convincing me that I could accomplish anything (whether I could or not!). After that, I was absolutely hooked.
Sometime in those early teen-aged years, I realized that theatre is something people did for a living. Up until then, I thought everyone was just donating their abilities to Broadway like I was to the local JCC. Once I heard that, forget it. With my parent's support, I decided to continue my training and I majored in musical theatre at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Since graduating college I have been challenged in roles that are classic in the musical theatre like Ado Annie in Oklahoma! And Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, but nothing excites me more than new musicals. There is something so special about working on a piece with the writers in the room and with nothing established and no one to be compared to. I think a dream role for me is defiantly Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, but that role is so associated with Barbara Streisand. If I could pick anything for myself it would be something that is brand new so I can put the stamp on it. That is my dream role.
Doing I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a dream experience too. First of all, I will always have an affinity for the piece because it was the first show I ever did in New York. Also, the role itself is a huge challenge, switching from ingénues to characters, from young women to older. Getting to sing beautiful ballads like “I Will Be Loved Tonight” and then being a total goof in “A Stud and A Babe” or “Driving” and of course getting to breathe life into the incredible words of Joe DiPietro in the beautifully vulnerable “Rose Ritz”. With all that to choose from, I cannot really pick a favorite moment. I do really love the moments when we are all 4 onstage together.
I have been so lucky to make my living at the theatre. When I first moved to New York and started pounding the pavement I worked in the office of a hedge fund management company and then was a nanny for 2 1/2 years. I am also a licensed real estate salesperson through the state of New York, but I have been focused on theatre as my number one career. It really is a full-time job, even between shows when I am working on getting the next gig. My free time is filled with family, friends and my incredible boyfriend, Jason. Since my family is close by, we spend a lot of time together and Jason and I enjoy the perks of having New Jersey (especially the beaches) to escape to when the crazy pace of New York City gets the best of us.
I think the most important thing is to have balance. I love my job but I have lots of other interests. I love being outside, playing games, doing crossword puzzles, being creative and doing art projects and just slowing down to read and listen to music. I have an eclectic mix of music on my iPod. I love listening to my friend’s demos and women rockers like Pink, Regina Spektor, Alanis Morissette, but mostly I listen to talk radio podcasts as I walk through the busy streets of New York.
For more information or to get in touch with me, please visit my website/blog at www.courtneybalan.wordpress.com.