There was never really any one moment where I knew I wanted to be an actor. My parents will cite various impromptu performances as evidence for my coming career, but as I see it, acting has basically always been a part of me. I really can’t imagine my life without it. In an age where human interaction is so limited by technology and emotional depth is terrifying to most people, I get to fall in love, make meaningful connections with people, and expose my heart every single day. How many people can say that about their jobs?
I was lucky enough to stumble on Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s website around this time last year. I had been searching for acting internship/apprenticeship programs in order to bridge the gap between my college experience and my professional career. This program has given me so much confidence and experience to begin my professional career and I am happy to call this theatre my home for the year.
You may be wondering why Ensemble is still called Ensemble when they don’t have a resident company of actors anymore. To answer that question: it really doesn’t matter whether they have a resident company or not. Ensemble is a family. Everyone they welcome into the fold shares an unparalleled love of theatre and storytelling that bonds them together. After working at Ensemble for nearly four months, I can really see and understand the bonds that grow here. Just take a moment and watch Shannon and Brian (our resident sets, lights and props team) work together. Lynn (our Producing Artistic Director) likes to joke that Shannon and Brian can basically communicate without speaking because they have worked together for so long. And within the world of acting, the bonds built between Ensemble’s actors are strong as well. The type of actors that Ensemble attracts are giving with their time and talents, which makes working around them exciting and easy.
During my time at ETC, I have spent both An Iliad and Hands on a Hardbody understudying and working backstage. Both experiences have been meaningful and challenging to myself as a young actor. In true ETC fashion, I found myself surrounded by support during our Hardbody understudy performance. The entire cast spent most of the performance cheering and screaming as though they had just seen a Tony-winning production starring Elvis. Every cast member wanted us to enjoy ourselves on stage that night and it definitely meant so much to all of us. This amazing support never stopped in our next show. Both Bruce Cromer and Michael Haney immediately showed appreciation and support for each of the interns during An Iliad.
For Sleeping Beauty, I get to play a slightly different role! I will be appearing as Stem—a part of the ensemble. This is my first professional production and I have to say I was a little nervous to start rehearsals the other week. However, once again ETC’s family has made the rehearsal process so safe and supportive. It’s pretty hard to be nervous when you know every single person in the room wants you to succeed!
If you can’t already tell, my main take away from ETC thus far has been the overwhelming feeling of being welcomed by a family. Whether it be by my fellow actors or Brandon (our lovely Stage Manager) or Lynn herself, I have never felt not at home at 1127 Vine Street.
Natalie Joyce Smith