Shannon O'Bryan is thrilled to be playing one of her favorite roles, (Kathy Selden) in SITR. She stopped the show every night as Peggy Sawyer in 42ND STREET here last season!
I was a bit of a tomboy so my mom put me in dance class and I just fell in love with it. I went to a performing arts high school and my mentor there was actually a Peggy Sawyer in the original 42ND STREET on Broadway – she guided me into musical theatre. I continued with it in college and my first audition out of school was 42ND STREET in Moscow – I booked the job.
As a kid I didn’t realize this was something you could do professionally. In high school it became more of a reality. It is hard to imagine getting paid for something that you love to do so much – but of course, when you are not working, there is nothing more difficult.
My family have always been very supportive even though the arts do not run in our family. For them they use every show I am in as an opportunity to go on vacation and come to see me.
I think 42ND STREET was my big break – it was my first audition. On the closing night in Moscow I received a call from the director Randy Skinner who told me they were replacing Peggy on Broadway and I needed to get back into town the next day. I went to the audition, booked the job and started working two days later. That was my first B’way job - it is amazing how big a part this show has played in my career.
I think people don’t realize how difficult the audition process is – you can go from audition to audition and constantly need to deal with rejection. It is hard to keep from getting into your own head and doubting yourself as a performer. You have to keep yourself motivated, keep positive and keep moving forward and that is much more difficult than people realize.
I think what changes is your level of confidence and security - they get stronger over time. So the rejection doesn’t get easier, it is just that your sense of self increases with each job you get. Ironically it can be easier to perform every night in front of 1500 people in a large theatre, than it is to audition in a small room in front of 15 people.
Working on the three-quarter round stage took a little getting used to – it is an interesting way to work. It is funny how it starts out feeling awkward but then suddenly is so much more natural way to be and is more realistic in how you would really talk with people. You move and stand normal and are less concerned about cheating out front. Now that we have been doing it I love it.