Today is October 15 and the Navigate the Chaos post to consider is “how often do you learn everyone else’s part?” On March 19th, 2018, with both primary and understudy actors out sick, Theresa (Tee) Boyich made her Broadway debut as Janice in "Mean Girls" -- a role she doesn't understudy -- with only 3.5 hours to learn the role. As Amy Marie Stewart wrote “This could have been a nightmare -- instead, she was a massive success.”
At the time Boyich was only the standby for Cady Heron, Gretchen Weiners, and Adult Women (Mrs. Heron, Mrs. George, Ms. Norbury) in the Original Broadway Cast of Mean Girls. To recap, the lead was sick, the first understudy was sick, and the second understudy was also unable to go on. Enter Boyich and 3.5 hours to prepare!
In an April 18, 2018 interview Boyich provided insight on how she navigated the chaos of preparing to go onstage in less than four hours and said “Directors want quick, smart, talented actors. I think there is absolutely no reason not to be as prepared as you can possibly be. The more prepared you are, the higher chance of success. And trust me, you never know what will happen. You could find yourself making your Broadway debut with three and a half hours’ notice and in a role you did not study.”
As director Nyk Sutter-Downs noted in his Facebook post about Tee Boyich’s remarkable performance on such short notice “Coming into rehearsal prepared is your gift to the cast, it is not the time to learn your part, it is the time to learn everyone else’s part. Boyich’s experience just goes to show that just because you were not cast in a particular role or as an understudy for a particular role, it does not mean an opportunity won't arise for you to go on. Pay close attention in rehearsals, learn the entire show and not just your role. Congratulations to Tee Boyich for making her Broadway debut in a role she does not cover with 3.5 hours’ notice. INSANE!”
Here is a perfect example of chaos in action and how one person responded in such a way to navigate her way on to Broadway and translate one of her dreams into reality. We know how Boyich went from the cast of Mean Girls to making her Broadway debut, but how did she get to even be a part of the cast itself?
Boyich originally enrolled at DePauw University Indiana, in the school of music for vocal performance, where she attended for two years. Boyich transferred to Kent State her junior year to follow vocal coach Jay White as he took a position as associate professor in the university's music department. Boyich's first lead in a college production was performing as Mother in Ragtime in her junior year at Kent State.
The commencement speaker for Kent State in 2013 was composer and Kent State alum Jeff Richmond. Richmond, husband of actress Tina Fey, needed a female vocalist and reached out to Kent State faculty for recommendations. Theatre professor Terri Kent recommended Boyich, as Richmond needed someone "who could sing any style... and not intimidated to be working with Tina."
Boyich recorded a few demos, including the theme song, for a show intended for NBC under the working title "Tooken", which eventually became the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She recorded the female vocals for the opening theme as well as the various female vocals for seasons 1-3.
Boyich maintained her professional relationship with Richmond and Fey. That relationship resulted in Richmond and Fey inviting Boyich to test and record demos for their workshop of Mean Girls.
As if we needed further evidence that Boyich navigated the chaos to Broadway, she also openly discusses suffering from anxiety disorder. So the next time you feel anxious about doing something you have never done in order to translate one of your dreams into reality, recall Boyich who, while managing anxiety, had three and a half hours to prepare for her Broadway debut.
How often are you doing everything you can do be prepared and learn everyone else’s job in case you need to step in and help?