Updated: Nov 30, 2020
Inspiring Artists Stories
Today we'd like to introduce you to Garrett Engle
Current Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Garrett, thank you for taking the time to share your story. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?
It’s so funny because if you ask most people around my age this question almost all of them are going to tell you that their first true exposure with live theatre and what set them down this path was seeing, Wicked for the first time! I saw it on Broadway with my family and can still vividly remember every single detail of that performance from almost 15 years ago. I had no idea in what capacity I was going to be in show business, but little seven year old me sitting in the Gershwin Theatre at intermission having just watched Elphaba “Defy Gravity” for the first time, I knew that this was my world.
It wasn’t until I was in seventh grade that I actually was able to comprehend this is a real thing I can do, and be a part of! I started in local children’s theater around that time and because of that I began taking voice and dance lessons which led me to the Academy for the Performing Arts, or APA. APA essentially was a four year crash course in everything music, theater, dance, and art. If it wasn’t for the Academy, with my professors being my biggest allies, in addition to my voice teachers working with me every week to help me grow, I would not have gotten through college auditions. Having all of my teachers believing in me really was the driving force that helped to get me into my dream school, Emerson College.
I could write 10 pages about moving to Boston and what it was like to go through one of the most intense and fulfilling Musical Theater departments in the country, but I will leave that to my therapist to help me continue to unpack... haha! All in all, it was a life changing experience and I grew more as an actor and as a person in those four years than any other time in my life and I am very proud to have been one of the 12 members of the graduating class of 2019 in the BFA Musical Theatre Program from Emerson College!
Can you tell us a little more about what you've been working on recently?
It is interesting to be a young professional in this field fresh out of college with a degree specializing in an industry most people would deem “dead” right now. I was actually supposed to be on a plane to New York City for an audition just a few hours after Broadway closed down. With that audition cancelled, my upcoming showcase cancelled, and all future shows and auditions cancelled, this moment in time has truly become an example of how, as an actor, you don’t wait for opportunity - you make it happen on your own.
I did drag pre pandemic when I lived in Boston and have continued to perform here in SoCal since I moved back. When the pandemic began and the theater industry went on hold indefinitely, I was able to channel all my artistic creativity into my drag and have been able to perform pretty consistently throughout the entire shutdown, via online shows. I don’t know what I would have done if I wasn’t able to use drag as my outlet during this crisis. I have even been able to produce my own shows and benefit events online- one of which featured Rose Center artists and my dear friend Katherine Chatman- and have been able to raise money for some fantastic organizations all because of my drag career!
The road of the artist is a sometimes long and bumpy road, what are some struggles you've faced along the way, and how have you overcome them?
I would love to meet an actor that has actually answered this question with a, “Yes it has been a smooth road,” haha! Sometimes it feels like this industry is made to purposely throw obstacles down our path, but that in turn separates people who are on the fence about acting from people who live, sleep, and breathe acting. For me, not fitting a cookie cutter chorus boy look and sound has been the most challenging because if you don’t fit into a box in this industry, you have to work twice as hard to make your own! Overcoming roadblocks like that comes down to patience, putting in the work, and establishing a brand. Once you are able to establish your brand you become able to market yourself better through your audition book, website and social media presence. For example, my brand is that of a dark leading man/villain, mixed with a high camp physical comedian, who is best suited for mega musicals, golden age comedies, and contemporary musical theatre. Once you are able to walk into an audition knowing exactly what you excel in and what you bring to the table, you are able to gain a ton of confidence and it shows to the people sitting across the table.
Are there any lessons that you've learned along your journey so far? Something that you'd want to tell your younger self?
A lesson that took me a very long and frustrating time to figure out is actually very simple - you can’t please everyone. I have always been a people pleaser and I still am. Although that may work in real life, in the industry art is subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinions and we can’t take that personally. It’s not personal - it’s just business. What I bring when I walk into an audition is either going to be what the table is looking for, or it’s not and that’s okay! At the end of the day as an actor our ego is so important for knowing our worth but this is a business and you can’t let rejection bruise your ego every time. It’s just business and nothing more!
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
The best advice I’ve ever been given is definitely, “The work never stops and neither should you.” Art is constantly evolving and we have to always be willing to put in the work so we can keep up with it! You should never find yourself at a point where you settle. The second you decide to stop working to improve yourself is the second you lose your edge in this industry. Even when people make it to Broadway, they still keep themselves in voice lessons and dance classes because, “The work never stops and neither should you”.
Can you tell us about an inspiring life event? Something maybe that inspires you to pursue a life in the arts?
It sounds cliche but I get so inspired watching my peers perform and do work that they are passionate about. I think seeing someone perform a song, role, show, or monologue that they are so personally invested in is infectious to watch and experience as an actor! It makes me want to go home and search and search until I find a new song that I am just as passionate about and speaks to me in the same way. I think anyone who is brave enough to stand up in front of a crowd of peers or strangers to share art with them is admirable.
What do you consider your proudest moment?
Okay I have three so I won’t bore you with all the details but I will just give a little snippet on each! All three happened because of some incredible opportunities gifted to me by my Alma Mater, Emerson College
I got a chance to do Titanic the Musical in the historic Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston with fellow Rose Center Artist Devin Cortez! What made this experience such a proud and special moment for me was that Maury Yeston, the Tony Award winning composer of Titanic, came to see our production and gave us the kindest and most reaffirming speech about our work after the show. Getting to perform his show in front of him and then having him give us his stamp of approval was next level!
My Junior year at Emerson College, I was lucky enough to play my dream, Albin/Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles! La Cage has always been my dream show because it incorporates all of what I love about Musical Theatre into one show - It’s high camp mixed with heart, mixed with a Jerry Herman score, mixed with a book written by Harvey Fierstein, and to top it off it's a show about drag queens led by a baritone! I grew a lot as an artist during that show and I can’t wait to strap on my heels and play Zaza again one day!
In my senior year I was lucky enough to perform in the Cutler Majestic once again but this time in Working the Musical. Working is based off of the book by the same title from the author Studs Terkel in the 70’s and it is a song cycle in which each song focuses on a different working class American talking about their job. What made this experience so special was that Christopher Jackson, Tony Award winner from Hamilton and In the Heights, came to see our show because he was going to be a part of another production of the show playing at the New York City Center’s ENCORE Series in the Fall! Getting to talk shop with him post show about my character and process, and how I found my way into the material was one of the coolest and most special moments in my career.
The mission of The Rose is to make the arts accessible in the community. What purpose do you think the arts and artists play in today's society?
I love this question! I think that the arts, especially Musical Theatre which is the first uniquely American art form, have always acted as a commentary for what society is going through at the moment. Art is informed by what is happening in the zeitgeist of the particular moment it is being written in. What fuels that is when actors or other artists come in and are able to interpret the work through their own lens and life experiences! I also think that because of those reasons, art can be looked back on as a mini time capsule from the period in history it was made.
What are your hopes for the future of the arts?
I hope art continues to evolve and people continue to invest in, and celebrate it. When I look around and see so many theater’s closing or in trouble I look to The Rose and their outdoor concert series as an example of how art and theater can evolve during difficult times full of uncharted territory and survive through anything. I spoke about it a little bit ago but it still rings true, as artists we have an obligation and need to be just as willing to evolve and change with theater and the industry as the art does itself and the Rose Center Theater is an example of that.
Contact & Other Info:
Personal Instagram: @garrettengle_
Drag Instagram: @missclairvoyance