In January, our touring theatre company, the National Players, welcomed three new members who were tasked with learning tracks for three full productions in a matter of days. They blew us all away with their talent, work ethic, and joyful attitudes. They have now been on the road performing for close to two months. Last week, I had the opportunity to catch up with the three of them:
Emily Dalton is originally from Charlottesville, VA but has been living and working in NYC for 7 years. She plays Viola in Twelfth Night, Anne Putnam and others in The Crucible, and ensemble in Around the World in 80 Days.
Adanna Paul is from Bowie, Maryland. She plays Feste in Twelfth Night, Tituba and Mercy Lewis in The Crucible, and ensemble in 80 Days.
Katie Grindeland is from Boston. She plays Antonio in Twelfth Night, Betty and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible, and ensemble in 80 Days.
jkj: You’ve had to jump into a pretty intense schedule and lifestyle. Why did you decide to take on this tour and all of its challenges?
A: I love a challenge. I love to grow and stay busy. When I saw this opportunity, I felt like I could do this and do it well. I have also been having this itch to travel so when this opportunity came along it was like ‘WHAT? I get to travel in the states AND do what I love to do?’
E: My reasoning started out the same way as Adanna’s. Now, being in the tour, I’ve learned more about the real reason. Right now, my life is different than I expected it to be and I’m trying to process that and find the proper roads. But being on tour, the physical roads have provided me with the time and clarity to sort out these changes happening in and around me. And to really ground myself in who I am. I’m learning a lot about my family and my past on tour. I’ve never been to these places before. But my parents got married in Louisville and my brother was born there. I’ve found that I needed these touchstones from the past to develop who I am now.
K: This has been my dream job for the past three years. I just recently quit all of my jobs to take an acting job. I got an email from Jenna and a part time temp job on the same day. And I was like, ‘all right, this is it.” I am a big believer in the “yes, and.” I also took this job because I believe in its mission: I believe in accessible theatre. And I believe theatre doesn't have a purpose otherwise. At the same time, I felt set in Boston in a way that almost made me feel stuck. It wouldn’t have allowed me to grow the way tour has. On a personal level, when you’re on tour, you are the only constant. Day to day life varies so much, it requires you to really stay grounded in yourself.
jkj: This is reminding me of those moments in life when you feel stuck and you take a chance to do something that forces you to unstick yourself. I miss traveling and being on tour. I remember feeling like ‘This is it. This is the best job. This is the life I want to be having right now.’ I knew that couldn’t last forever. But life is traveling and if you can embrace that fact, there is something amazing about embracing the place that you are in the moment.
jkj: what has surprised you about this experience? From the mundane to the profound.
K: Somewhere between mundane and profound, I am from New England and really identify within that bubble. The only time I came to the south was for a service trip. Getting to see other parts of the country—especially the smaller places— has been so important for me. It’s weird to say given the political climate, but I really love America. I love the geography of this country. On tour, I have faced different viewpoints and upbringings. I’ve been in a liberal echo chamber for my whole life. But tour has helped challenge my own worldviews and communication skills. I’m understanding people more— people that I did not seek to understand before. Because I know them now.
A: I’m surprised by how I feel about the job itself. I was expecting it to be way harder than it is. Coming in and actually doing it, it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable amount of work, because I love it. It’s fun. I was also surprised by how accepting everyone was, especially as a group that was already established. So I was surprised in very positive ways.
E: I was surprised by how easily I fell into the travel lifestyle. I was expecting it to be difficult, and it is sometimes, but I have also adjusted to it as the new normal. I’ve also found myself more aware in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement. Working closely with Adanna and CJ and Deirdre has made me aware of the inherent racism in this country in a way I wasn’t before.
K: I really love lighting! It still stresses me out. But I love the new challenges. Jamie and CJ are incredible and it’s an honor to get to work with them. I’ve decided that when I go back to Boston, I want to do work as an electrician.
A: As a person of color, I am surprised by how welcome I have felt in some of these locations down south. It’s definitely not perfect, but we’ve gotten into a lot of communities that have felt accepting.
jkj: I grew up in southwest Missouri. I connect to that spot in the word. And I miss you all.
jkj: What’s the next thing on your journey in life and how is this helping you?
K: The journey for me to acting was a long one because I thought I wasn’t good enough. So I did everything in theatre but acting. Since October, all I have been doing is acting and I feel like a self sufficient theatre artist in a really empowering way. I’m not sure if I'm going to stay in Boston but I’m submitting to equity theatres in a way that I didn’t feel I deserved to do. I feel worthy of at least trying now. This is what I want and I deserve to want it.
A: I still want to move to LA to pursue film and television acting but I am working more now to solidify my plans and take the initiative to make it happen. I’m also submitting my writing to different play festivals.
E: It has become clear to me that I’d rather be doing theatre than TV. New York is a TV and musical theatre world. I’m not sure if I belong there. I think by next January, I have to have a new city. I think that will probably be DC. And like Katie, I have found a better understanding of how worthy I am.
jkj: Thank you so much for your time. It’s so good to hear from the three of you and I feel incredibly lucky that we have you on tour with the National Players. Our journeys together aren’t finished. I know that.