By Kate Anslinger
Winthrop may seem like a small Town to some, but it has produced one pretty big star. Broadway performer, Emily Cramer’s success, is the result of the Town’s dedication to theater arts and education.
Cramer grew up on Somerset Avenue and attended the Children’s Corner Preschool, E.B. Newton, N.E. Willis School and the Middle School and High School, before she set out to obtain her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. In an interview, Cramer has shared a bit about her life on the stage as well as her small town beginnings…
Were you always involved in theater?
I was unquestionably theatrical from an early age, especially if you count throwing on a Little Mermaid costume and matted-up wig, marching down to the beach at the bottom of Somerset, and sitting on my favorite rock to yell “Part of Your World” in its entirety at the runways of Logan Airport. Apart from that, it always seemed to me that performing was one of the only things I could do with some semblance of skill, so I gravitated towards any artistic opportunities we had available to us in school. Karen Calinda’s drama class became my immediate favorite. I also took acting, dance, and voice classes at The Winthrop School of Performing Arts, where I was lucky enough to get to perform in class, as well as in the majority of their summer musical productions. Training there definitely helped me to develop skills and form friendships that I carry with me now.
What Broadway shows have you been in?
I graduated college in 2009, and began working on the road in 2010 with the Broadway touring companies of Shrek the Musical, and then Mary Poppins. After a year on the road with Mary Poppins, I was transferred to the Broadway Company at the New Amsterdam Theater, where I made my official Broadway debut in 2012. We closed in 2013, and I was immediately transferred back to the road company. After finishing the tour in Alaska, I moved back to New York and opened the 2014 revival of Les Miserables at the Imperial Theater, and stayed until October of 2015 when I left to originate my role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock, at the Winter Garden Theater.
Do you still get nervous on the stage?
Absolutely! I’ve understudied in every show I’ve done, and anyone who says they aren’t even a little nervous when they go on as an understudy is pulling your leg. It’s thrilling, and it can be crazy fun, but I definitely still get nervous when I go on. I trust that I’ve done my work, and that I thereby know what I’m doing, but when it’s not the part you’re used to doing eight times a week, it requires extra concentration. That being said, I even get nervous sometimes when I’m in my regular part. But that happens specifically when I have friends or family in the audience, simply because I’m so excited to have them at the show.
Is working on Broadway a dream come true?
It is. It was my dream while I was growing up, and I still pinch myself to think that it’s come true. It takes some acclimating, for sure, because eight shows a week with only one day off and rehearsals on top of that might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy the schedule and the structure, and more importantly the energy. Going to work every night knowing I am part of a community that has the capacity to bring joy to so many people at once is what I cherish the most. School of Rock is the best job I’ve ever had, and I intend to be here until they kick me out or the next thing comes along!
Who were your role models growing up? Any today?
I was very much all about Groucho and Harpo Marx early on, thanks to my Dad. There’s a photo somewhere of me dressed up as Groucho for first grade Halloween where I not only painted on the eyebrows and mustache, but the glasses as well. My Mom is definitely responsible for Michael Caine becoming my very favorite actor. Role models for me today still consist of the people I identify with or admire, and range from actors, writers, and musicians to activists, politicians and drag queens. Lots of drag queens, though.
Any advice for kids who want to follow in your footsteps?
It’s going to sound hackneyed, but I don’t care because I’ve found this to be truer and truer as I’ve continued to work: you can only be exactly who you are. That might seem contradictory for an actor to say, because we are asked to be many things other than ourselves for a living, but what it means is separate from what we’re doing. Be okay with yourself first. The truth is that working as an actor can be nuts, and unless you have a positive and peaceful understanding of who you are, it is difficult to move through the uncertainty of the artistic world with confidence. That is not to say that every artist has it all figured out, and can plow through challenges with an unshakable resolve of identity. Quite the opposite. Many people come into the entertainment industry with the idea that grandiose recognition in a lucrative artistic career will define their happiness. However in reality, the only thing any of us can actually do is to find out the truth about who we are, and what our own unique gift is that we can offer into the world. That is a long way of saying that if you do choose to chase your dreams, take the time to recognize who you really are, and do the work to embrace that truthfully, because the foundation you build for your own spirit is priceless.