Raised in the suburbs of San Francisco in Palo Alto, Calif., Elizabeth McCole, grew up in the high-pressured environment of Silicon Valley, where she was expected to graduate from a top college and get a job as a highly-paid professional. Instead, she decided to move to the East Coast to pursue her dream of becoming an actress. Now a senior Theatre and Communication double major at Seton Hall University, McCole has proven herself time and again on stage.
Payton Seda: What was your first introduction to theatre?
Elizabeth McCole: When I was really, really little I was super sporty. I was in fourth grade. I was doing soccer, karate, ballet, and swimming, all at once, and I ended up having an issue with my knee. I had to wear an immobilizer for a year, then I had to get surgery and be on crutches. It was summer time and I couldn’t do any of my sports. So, my mom was like, “You need to be doing something. Let’s find you something you can do.” I did my first show at our Palo Alto Children’s Theater. I played Perdita in “101 Dalmatians.” It was super fun. So, I just didn’t go back to any of the sports.
PS: When did you know you wanted to pursue acting as a career?
EM: It was between my junior and senior year of high school. I was a founding member of this youth theatre company back home. We got to create a new work with our playwright and director, and it was such a different experience. A lot of times when you’re doing school shows you end up with a lot of people who don’t want to pursue it as a career. It’s a totally different vibe when you’re creating something brand new for yourself with a bunch of people who want to do that as well. It’s a totally different energy where everyone’s committed to doing their homework and coming in and creating something, using the time you have together to do something together.
PS: What is your favorite play or musical?
EM: My favorite play is probably the “History Boys” by Alan Bennett. The “History Boys” is interesting in that its set in the 80s and they use a lot of 80s music around it, but its not really in the script that its set in the 80s which I think is cool. There are so many layers to it that I like, and in the end its just about a bunch of boys in high school. My favorite musical is always really hard. I like “Heathers” the musical and “Something Rotten” and “Catch Me If You Can.” They would definitely be my top ones.
PS: What was your most memorable audition?
EM: The audition for “Steel Magnolias” was really cool. Our director, Marni Raab, would get up out of her chair and come to us and really work with us in the audition. A lot of directors will give you direction to see how you take it, but she got up and almost had a mini rehearsal with us. I think “Steel Magnolias” is just a really powerful work. Being in a room with all women working with this cool, powerful script. You could tell it was going to be cool even when we were auditioning.
PS: Have you ever had a bad audition?
EM: My freshman year I auditioned for the musical, which I don’t do anymore. I grew up doing musicals, and I really like musicals, but its not what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. But I auditioned freshman year and totally bombed it. The song. I forgot the words. I was not in the right key. It was a mess. I left, and I was just like, “Well, that’s the end of that.”
PS: What do your look for when you decide to audition for a specific production?
EM: It’s funny because my first instinct is usually to go for the “bit” part, the funny girl, just because that’s something I’m comfortable doing. I was actually talking to my professor about auditioning for “Twelfth Night.” My first instinct was to go for Mariah whose kind of the funny girl who hangs out with all the guys. But then I looked at it again and thought it’d be fun to be one of the bigger roles. I’d say I usually look for a female role that has kind of an edge which I think Viola has. There’s usually one girl in all of Shakespeare’s shows that’s got this edge to her. I don’t know if that’s a really definable quality, but a girl with an edge.
PS: Are there any actresses or performers you look up to?
EM: Gina Davis is a big one and Sigourney Weaver. They’re just these tall, strong, kind of off the beat women. So, to be able to kind of follow the way they’ve built their careers would be really cool. I think a lot of times in the industry the Gina Davis-Sigourney Weaver type isn’t really the type that’s going to make it big and they did. And their choice of characters is not your typical ingénue.
PS: What has been your favorite role at Seton Hall?
EM: M’Lynn last year. Definitely. It’s such a broad, farcical kind of comedy, but then each character has their own moment of dark emotional turmoil. All the characters are realistic where they use their humor to not talk about real stuff. To be able to crack a big joke and then go to crying about something was really, really fun, and our director worked with us to make sure we could go to those places on a dime.
Payton Seda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.