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In the Chair Podcast: Dance? Ten. Looks? Schmur.

Welcome back to In the Chair!

In the latest episode of the LSTFI podcast In the Chair, Samantha Vita and Will Brockman are joined by dancer, choreographer and NYU Tisch at Strasberg alumna Theresa Burns. Theresa drops by the studio to talk all things musical theatre, as well as how she worked her way up the industry ladder to her Actors Equity card. Fellow LSTFI alumni Bella Harris and Knox Van Horn join in to discuss industry standards and body positivity. Tune in to Episode 3 wherever you find your podcasts!

Becoming a True Triple Threat

In this episode, Theresa Burns give us an inside look at her journey in musical theatre. People can find their way to a career in the arts at any stage in life, but Theresa got started when she was just five years old. She began taking formal dance classes when her parents were looking for a way to help correct her turned-in feet – and harness her excitable toddler energy. Through dance, she found her way to musical theatre and continued performing throughout high school. When it finally came time for college auditions and her NYU Tisch Drama interview, Theresa was prepared. She recalls, “I did my monologues and [my auditioner] asked me, ‘Oh what studio do you want?’ and I literally whipped out a spreadsheet that I had created with questions.” While NYU doesn’t allow candidates to pick their studio placement, Theresa knew she wanted Strasberg:

I [felt] l like I need[ed] the most training in acting. I [could] take dance classes outside, and I would still get to dance and sing a little bit, but my focus would really be on acting.

Theresa Burns

As an aspiring musical theatre actress, she knew that she needed to hone all of the skills involved in the craft – dancing, singing, and acting. At the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, she was able to take classes in all of these areas while still developing a strong foundation in a renowned acting technique.

The Danger of Holding Yourself Back

Since graduating from NYU and LSTFI, Theresa has had an expansive career in musical theatre, both in New York and nationally. She shares with us one of the biggest things she’s learned along the way: never count yourself out. As the sports saying goes, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.” The same is all too true when it comes to auditions.

Theresa recalls an audition she went on for My Big Gay Italian Wedding, which was opening off-Broadway here in NYC. She couldn’t have been more excited about the show. “If anyone doesn’t know, my mother is from Sicily and [the show] takes place in Bensonhurst [where I grew up]. Like, these are my people!” Theresa submitted on Actors Access, was called in for an audition, moved through to callbacks, and then… never heard back.

When Theresa came across another casting call for the production, months later, she was conflicted: “They didn’t want me last time. Why would I submit again?” But, a voice in her head told her to go for it again – and she is very glad that she did. Ultimately, Theresa was offered the role – giving her both her off-Broadway debut and her Actors Equity card.

The experience taught her not to make decisions on behalf of casting. Theresa stresses that, in an industry where so much is beyond your control, you cannot be the one to hold yourself back:

Self-imposed limits are a real thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to someone that was like, “Oh I didn’t go to that audition because I didn’t think they’d cast somebody without X, Y, and Z on their resume.” And then that theatre company goes ahead and casts someone without X, Y, and Z on their resume!

Theresa Burns


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