Meet Nora Fitzgerald – currently knocking our socks off as Amazing Mayzie in our professional production of Seussical The Musical.
Nora – Thanks for taking the time to allow us to learn more about you and your love for the performing arts. Honestly, you do it all — actress, choreographer, dancer, director — tell us what you are working on today.
Well, after taking a break from performing for several years, I am finding my voice again–Literally! The voice is a muscle and I gotta get back in the gym! Being a part of Seussical at Limelight has been a fun challenge. After directing/choreographing students for so long, it has been a humbling experience stepping into the student/performer role again!
Let’s talk about your performing life first – Tell us about your start — how old, dancing, acting?
I started dancing when I was four, continuing into high school taking ballet and jazz. My first show was Bye Bye Birdie in sixth grade. I joined the musical because my older sister did it and I wanted to be like her. I was in the ensemble but then got to play the part of Margie one of the two nights because two girls skipped rehearsal one day to go watch a volleyball match and as punishment, one of their performances was taken away. We had more auditions and I got the part. At age 11, it was terrifying. We didn’t have many body mics then so the song was done with hand mics. We had to hand it off after each solo. I only had two lines, trembled through each one and then it was over. My first night in the spotlight was pretty anticlimactic.
Not to mention terrifying. What are some of your favorite roles or memories from stage performing?
After college, I got to perform with some of my dearest friends from school for several years. We all stayed in the area and auditioned for the same shows. Favorite roles would be Velma in Chicago (twice–I loved it that much) and Anita in West Side Story. Also, my first big role was Winifred in Once Upon a Mattress in eighth grade so that will always hold a special place in my heart.
That’s great – What do you love the most? What is your true north when it comes to performing arts?
I truly love directing and choreographing teens. It is such a vulnerable age. I enjoy challenging them with movement and encouraging them to be brave, giving themselves permission to make choices that are not always comfortable in “real” life.
Let’s not forget your commercial acting career — you seem to be on every channel some days — how fun is that?
Commercial acting is a totally different medium and often looks more “glamorous” on screen than it is behind the scenes. Working in front of the camera taught me a lot about myself and gave me valuable experience to share with my students.
How did you know it was time to jump back in — besides knowing you’d be in the company of some of Philly’s finest?
When the notice came out that Limelight was doing an adult production, I hoped I’d have the chance to be part of something professional where I might have the opportunity to grow. I find as I get older that I welcome moments in which I can be a student again!
Every actor has a story — what was the funniest thing that ever happened to you on stage — planned or unplanned?
This is a tough one. There’s always so many stories, which one to choose? I guess one of the funniest things that happened was at Three Little Baker’s Dinner Theatre. I was a swing for the Easter Show. This means you understudy several roles and are ready to go on for any of them at any time. We knew I was going on for one girl who was going to miss a show so there was an understudy rehearsal ahead of time. I knew the general blocking and dance steps but I never had the opportunity to run the show with full tech—sets, props, lights. I got through the whole show with some lip syncing and faking of steps. The other actors push you around too if you are not sure where you are supposed to be. Just keep a smile on your face and the audience won’t notice. So we get to the last big finale number—an Irvin Berlin tribute. The girls are wearing long gowns with gloves and little black bob wigs and the men in tails and top hats. We hit our end pose and I think I made it, I’m in the clear. Baker’s stage was a very large thrust stage that had audience on three sides. I am all the way downstage at the edge. The furthest down you can be from the back of the stage. I am leaning in a pose extending my leg and leaning back with my hand flexed in my “tah-dah” pose. I smile and hold waiting for the final blackout. And wait. And smile. And wait. I start to subtly peek over my shoulder and see the stage has cleared. No one told me there is no black out and I have been holding my final pose and smiling for what felt like forever. Even the audience applause has started to fade, probably wondering why this girl is still standing on stage and what she is going to do. So I make a dramatic, intentional turn around and take my very long walk to exit the stage. At the same time the “host” of the show comes on stage clapping and thanking the audience and laughing as he looks to me and gives me an extra clap and thank you for my extraordinary exit.
Nora – that is both hilarious and horrifying at the same time — thanks for sharing that with us. Let’s change gears a little – I know you have a special affiliation with Dance – including forming your own dance company, Confidance®. How frustrating and rewarding has that endeavor been?
Thank you yes, I believe that everyone can dance. It can bring so much joy and release and does not have to look a certain way. Starting my own business has been a mix of emotions. I have many days when I say, “Why on earth did I do this?” and many days when that question is answered and I feel great about the positive influence I am trying to bring to my world. After one school visit I received a handwritten letter from a seventh grader that said, “We haven’t been together long but you made the biggest boost in my confidence. You are forever in my heart.” These are the moments that make it all worth it.
What is your philosophy when teaching dance?
Positivity and encouragement. If you don’t know the step, make it up and make it your own.
With respect to your directing career — every Director has their favorites – Tell us about your favorite directing experiences with your students?
Pippin and Kander and Ebb’s The World Goes Round with Twisted Art summer theatre program in West Chester were the first two shows I directed/choreographed with teens. I remember how much time and creativity I enjoyed putting into the productions. I never thought I would be interested in directing but all it took was an opportunity and I fell in love with the process! More recently my shows at Rustin High School have been my favorites specifically Les Miserables, which is probably the largest production I have ever put together and Peter Pan cause it was just so much imagination and fun.
At our West Chester Summer Stage program — you choreographed the Mainstagers for a few years. A program where teens literally put a full blown musical on its feet in roughly two weeks. What has that experience been like?
Awesome. The students come in with such enthusiasm and energy. It’s exhausting for sure but incredible how hard everyone works with the same goal of creating a major production in record time. I am always so impressed with how quickly the students memorize lines, learn dance moves and how dedicated the production team is to making it the best experience possible.
Tell us about your bucket list — the roles you want to perform, the shows you want to direct, the dances you want to choreograph.
I would love to play Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone and Kari in the play The Pavilion by Craig Wright. I always wanted to Direct/Choreograph Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for teens because it was my favorite show as a teenager.
Clearly some great choices there for sure. What’s on your horizon — after Seussical – what do you have in store?
I recently received my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training certificate and am currently teaching Vinaysa Flow yoga at Simply Yoga in Exton. I also teach a program called Let Your Yoga Dance® at the Yoga Barn in Kennett Square that combines yoga, dance and breath. I have taken a great interest in my own well-being and helping others to find their strongest self. I plan to use my training and Confidance® program to travel more and spread the joy!
Thanks again for sharing your experiences and wisdom — our young readers in particular will find this most helpful. In the meantime —break a leg on the Seussical The Musical – with only two weekends remaining. You are awesome in the show and your hard work has really paid off.
Tickets for this family friendly production can be purchased online at www.limepac.com – I encourage you to get your tickets today to see Nora and the rest of this amazing cast!