Broadway’s newest hit musical Fun Home — based on the graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel — officially opened to rave reviews this season. Currently, Emily Skeggs plays teenage Alison (called Medium Alison) in the production, which explores the confusing, strained relationship between a father — a veteran, English teacher and funeral home director who struggles with his sexuality — and his daughter (Alison, portrayed by three different actresses, including Skeggs) a lesbian and professional artist who takes theater-goers on a complex and emotional journey through her childhood memories.
In her debut role, Skeggs, a New York City native, is Tony-nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. As she preps for the big night, (“I’ve actually never been to Radio City Music Hall — crazy, right?” she exclaimed) Skeggs talked about the musical and the city she calls her home.
Where were you when you found out you were nominated for a Tony?Smushed into a Subaru! I’m part of a group called The Shakespearean Jazz Show; we mold the rhythm of Shakespeare with New Orleans jazz. I sing and dance in the band, which we formed at Emerson College. I was traveling with my bandmates on the way to a middle school assembly and we live-streamed the nominations on my friend’s iPhone and just started screaming when my name was announced. I didn’t think I’d be nominated! I’ve lived on the Upper West Side my whole life, except for college, and people who watched me grow up in the neighborhood have been congratulating me, which is so nice.
You graduated from LaGuardia High School. What did you love about it?LaGuardia attracts students from all over the city and is incredibly diverse. You get a cross-section of interests and everyone has a passion for something. The school keeps you focused during a time in your life when it can be hard to live in New York City while figuring out who you are as a teenager, and what you want to do. LaGuardia can help you with that; it’s a really cool place.
When Fun Home first ran off-Broadway at The Public Theatre, you replaced the original Medium Alison. How was the audition process?I already knew about the show; the Public Theater just knows how to nurture young, new shows that just need love — they give them a platform to do what they need to do. When I had the chance to audition, I was in a good, confident place in my life and I was ready to go. I auditioned on a Monday and went on stage that Wednesday. I took over role halfway through the run and I haven’t stopped working since. It’s been a whirlwind. Fun Home came along at a time when I was just ready.
What do you want people to know about Fun Home, if they haven’t seen it yet?I think that there is a huge place in this world for big, glitzy, glamorous, entertaining shows. There are times we need to just laugh and enjoy ourselves and have something make us feel happy. However, there’s also room in this world for shows that make you think a little bit differently about the world around you. Fun Home is a real story, it’s someone’s life brought alive on stage and is something you’ve never seen before on Broadway.
“Fun Home” sounds like this jubilant, upbeat show, but it’s much deeper than that. The story is about truth and honesty and being true to ourselves and what happens when you don’t allow yourself to be who you are — and who can’t relate to that? Hopefully, after the show, people walk away having learned something about the world and themselves. It’s socially and politically changing the face of commercial Broadway theatre right now, and it’s exciting to meet people who feel changed in a way they wouldn’t necessarily feel if they saw something else.
OK, native New Yorker — tell us about your favorite hangouts in the city.I get my morning coffee at Plowshares Coffee Roasters and sometimes stop by this great bar called the Dive Bar. It used to be the epitome of a dive bar, but now it has all this fancy artwork on the walls for sale. The Upper West Side is constantly changing, which has been exciting to see over the years. I also love walking around Riverside Park where I spent lots of time as a kid.
Fun Home is playing at Circle in the Square Theatre. To learn more about Emily Skeggs, visit: www.emilyskeggs.com