WESTMINSTER, CA - "I love the theater atmosphere; working together towards the common goal of putting on a show for other people, and having an outlet in our busy lives to be creative," Melissa says about what attracted her to the life of a performer. Growing up doing theater in San Diego, Melissa ultimately found her home in television and film while studying in college. Originally working as an animal trainer at SeaWorld San Diego, Melissa moved to Los Angeles where she most recently worked on the TV show America's Got Talent. Currently, Melissa can be found performing at the Disneyland resort.
Excerpts from our chat:
How do you prepare for an audition?
I'm the type of person who practices constantly for weeks ahead of time. I better be able to recite the words to the song in my sleep! I'll sing in the car, in the shower, really anywhere that I can!
Do you have a dream role you'd like to play?
I would love to play any of the leading ladies in the musical SIX. I think the musical is up and coming, and I'd love to be a part of it here in America! All of the SIX leading women represent strength and sass, something that I think would be so much fun to be able to portray.
What is your process like in preparing for a role?
Practice! I'll make sure to spend time practicing my dances and harmonies. As part of the ensemble, we each have to individually be our best to collectively make the show its best.
Speaking of practice, how important do you think training is as a performer?
Training is important no matter what, but it's especially important if you have a dream of playing a certain role. If that role is dance heavy, taking dance classes is key. If that role requires a strong belt, voice lessons will help you strengthen your voice. I've taken both voice and dance classes, but focused more on dance since that's where my interest lies.
What is the most fun role you’ve ever played?
I've been lucky enough to have been cast in the Rockette style Kickline in CCT San Diego's Traditions of Christmas three years in a row. We had 8 different rockette style tap numbers, including an iconic tap number with 33 high kicks. It was the most difficult dancing role I've ever had, but also the most exciting.
On the flip side, has there been any role that you found particularly tough to play?
In college I had the pleasure of playing Penny in Godspell. I had the solo "By My Side" which was a very emotionally charged song with difficult harmonies.
Do you have a favorite actor or performer?
I love Sara Bareillies! I love that she's known as a pop singer but also made it on Broadway. Not only is she incredibly talented at creating songs for her own albums, but she created content for the musical Waitress and then starred as the show's lead, Jenna, on Broadway.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
I've actually enjoyed being more involved behind the scenes and learning about the other aspects of creating a show. I've been able to use my knowledge of acting to help with working on the production side of different community theater shows in San Diego, as well as on a few different TV shows in Los Angeles.
What is the most frustrating part of being a performer?
You want the show to be perfect which means practicing your dances, lines, and songs outside of rehearsal. But life is busy, especially as we get older, so it's very difficult to find the time to perfect your part.
How do you handle rejection?
I recognize that I won't get every part I want and that's ok. As cheesy as it sounds, there are no small parts in a show, and receiving a part that I wasn't expecting gives me the chance to work on performance skills I might not have used had I been cast as something else.
Any fun facts about you that people wouldn’t be aware of?
I'm an animal trainer! I've trained everything from zebras and lemurs, to dogs and cats. I used to train and perform in the show "Pets Rule" at SeaWorld San Diego.
Is there anything that motivates you as a performer?
Knowing that there are people I care about in the audience motivates me. I want to be able to give them the best possible show I can, so that means giving my all at every rehearsal!
Do you have any advice for other actors or aspiring performers?
If you love theater but think you're too busy, audition anyway! You'll be surprised at how you can find time for something you love!