Kamille was recently in “CBGB,” with Alan Rickman (Snape!) and Malin Akerman.
“I consider this my residency year,” says Nickclette Izuegbu, 26. Nickclette and 11 others are current acting interns at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Every day, they get up and go to their dream job—acting. They don’t make sets. They don’t make costumes. And they definitely don’t make coffee (except maybe for themselves. Sleep is hard to come by!). All day every day, they’re surrounded by professionals, honing their craft and having a blast. Talking to them made me want to be an actor, or at least be in a play—they work incredibly hard and have a ton of fun. That’s our kind of job!
I got to meet with Nickclette Izuegbu (26) from Houston, Elyse Edelman (24) originally from Milwaukee, who had been living in Minneapolis, and Kamille Dawkins (23) from Savannah, Ga., originally from Jamaica.
People with Panache: What is your acting program like?
Elyse Edelman: It’s a nine-month internship, most years. We play small ensemble roles in a lot of shows, have some opportunities for featured parts, also understudy the entire season, and at the end do a showcase and Rep Lab, which is many plays in one evening. There are a few programs like this. This is one of the most well-known, and one in which our only job is to act.
Kamille Dawkins: Our showcase features a series of scenes and monologues performed for theaters and casting directors in Chicago.
Nickclette Izuegbu: We get housing, points toward our actors union, a little stipend, and you get to act all the time. Once I knew my housing was covered I was like, I could do this for a year!
I consider this my residency year. It’s intense, and it can be emotionally draining, but it’s really special to be able to work on different types of plays with different types of actors.
“You have to perfect your burger, so people love your burger and want your burger…” —Kamille Dawkins
PWP: What made you choose this program?
KD: I wanted to get work experience in a professional setting and be a full-on professional actor without quite as much responsibility. We’re still a little green so this is a great place to get that.
NI: You get all the training with no sleep, no nothing, and it’s really cool to meet people from across the country that are really good at what they do… seeing what they do as artists, but also professionally learning what not to do. And getting your endurance up is half the thing.
KD: Now that we’ve done this, everything else will probably be easy. We’ve had to understudy maybe three shows at the same time, as well as be ensemble in a show while doing that.
PWP: I know what you mean. There are certain experiences that have made me think after: Now I can do anything!
Last year, Elyse wasn’t in the same place for more than 2 months! She lived in Iowa, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Utah and traveled throughout the West Coast for 5 months.
EE: Understudying is definitely a different skill, a technique you need that we’re lucky to have. There are parts you understudy for that aren’t your type, that you would realistically never play, but you’re still getting the chance to take a stab at it. And then there are others that are right in your wheelhouse and feel really good to wear for one show even.
PWP: Do you get assigned your type, or do you figure it out?
KD: We get told because someone picks you for parts, but from it we can see what our types are. I’ve learned a lot more about what I should go for.
NI: And our strengths. For the first few years you will have a type, and then you can push the boundaries of that.
You gotta know your burger: What is someone going to see in you right off the bat? Like, “I see Nickclette. She’s kinda curvy, she can sing…” This is what I should work on continually. It’s what people see immediately. Like we were teasing Kamille about playing a boy, but she can play young.
EE: It’s also something you learn in school… Senior year was a lot about how you market yourself. We’ve trained you, we’ve tried to break you down before we build you up, do things against your type. But now it’s time to figure out who you are. The first years, you do “you” really well, and then it’s about knowing in your heart what you can also do and slowly adding those things into what others see in you.
I walk into almost every audition wearing glasses and curly hair. People see, aw she’s so lovable, such a loser. I’m like a lovable loser underdog. And then I show people I can also stand my ground.
KD: When we first came for orientation, our supervisor said you have to know your burger, so you can present your quiche. You have to perfect your burger, so people love your burger and want your burger, and once they’ve tried your burger enough, then they’ll trust you enough to say, “What is your quiche? Now that we’ve seen all your burgers, we definitely want some of your quiche.”
PWP: Did you have any trouble getting to know your burger, or realizing what it was and not wanting it to be your burger?
KD: I remember I was a little resistant to my burger, because my burger is adorable, spunky, peppy, sweet, patsy, just a sweet girl that you want to be like, “Aw, look at her!” …which I am sometimes, but most of the time I’m the complete opposite so it’s bizarre, but I’ve learned to embrace it.
Nickclette really looks up to Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes and Tyler Perry (among others) because they have literally created new work, new types of work, and are still performing in the things they’ve created.
NI: Primarily you notice it in your training program: feeling uncomfortable at first in the box you’re in, or seeing people resistant to theirs. For women I think sometimes the resistance is knowing that this is what I look like but it’s not who I am, just like with everything in life… but you own it.
As I’ve gotten older, I realize I could rock a mom piece. And I feel stronger as a woman and more confident. There are certain pieces that feel really comfortable in my skin.
EE: In my program, the other girls in my class were so beautiful. We’d be in movement classes, and I’d look in the mirror: “I have to find a way to look like them.”
But then my junior year I was like, wait wait wait—this is who I am, I’m the only girl in my class who’s me. Plus the best friend and character parts are more fun. I’m just going to own who I am. I found pieces that were better for me, and I became more confident and more comfortable.
PWP: How does this help you with auditions?
KD: You come into auditions with a great piece, you own it, and if they don’t want you, they must not want your type.
EE: It’s never a competition between the people you’re auditioning with. It’s a competition to get the person who’s picking you to change their mind about what they want.
KD: They might have an idea before you come in, but after they think, “Well actually, that’s a really nice way to go with it. We’ll totally call her back!”
Come back next week to hear more from Kamille, Elyse and Nickclette. They have so much more to say about their ensemble, why acting is their dream job, their future ambitions, weird jobs, dream roles and more. What’s your favorite play? If you were to be in a show, what would it be?
Part 2 here!
[Photos by Alysse.]
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