From ETSU to Broadway
Graduate returns to talk to students
By MADISON MATHEWS | PRESS STAFF WRITER | October 05, 2009***Published in Johnson City Press on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009.***
JOHNSON CITY, TN — Allison Guinn always wanted to be an actor.
The Erwin (Tenn.) native graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2004 and moved to New York City with aspirations of acting on the stage.
After years of making rent by waiting tables and working other odd jobs, including a short stint with a singing telegram service, Guinn is finally making her Broadway debut by appearing in Hair, a rock musical set against the backdrop of the 1960s.
"When you're six years old and you're taking dance lessons and singing in your living room, you think that's absolutely something that can happen. Then you grow up a little and you try to find sensible alternatives to such a lifestyle and then this happened. I was pleased to know that I didn't have to compromise any of those childhood dreams," Guinn said.
Guinn, a self-proclaimed blue-collar actor, spoke to a group of ETSU students Friday (Sept. 25, 2009) about life as an actor, moving from East Tennessee to New York and what it's like to be part of a Broadway production.
After acting in a number of other plays and musicals, Guinn was cast in Hair as a "tribes member" when it ran as a three-day concert in Central Park during the summer of 2007.
"I remember seeing Romeo and Juliet that same summer and just being in awe and thinking, "I want to do this one day,' and then that very same summer I was in that same theater," Guinn said.
The show was such a hit, it was brought back the following summer as one of the main stage shows.
"It was a lot like summer camp for the past two years. We got to go out and play in Central Park," Guinn said.
The show's popularity grew even more and it was revived on Broadway in March.
Although she's thrilled to be part of her first Broadway production, Guinn said the life of a working actor isn't as glamorous as others would like to believe.
During those rough times, Guinn said it was her friendships that kept her going.
"It's comforting that a lot of us were actors trying to make it. ... We all went through this together, so it's a lot like a family. It was very nice to go through that experience with a large group of people," Guinn said.
Guinn said her time as a student at ETSU helped prepare her for a career as an actor. Above all else, Guinn said her time at ETSU prepared her to be a professional, even when she faces tough times.
"It's very easy to get disheartened, especially in this business, because it's 90 percent rejection. You have to really, really want to do it and make up your mind to do it, because if you have a fallback plan, you'll fall back on it. There really isn't alternative for me. I have to do it, you know, and if you feel like you have to do it, then, by all means, do it," Guinn said.
After Hair, Guinn is unsure what will be next for her. She looks forward to doing more straight theater, rather than musical theater, but she's enjoying her time on Broadway while it lasts.
"That's the beauty of being an actor. You never know where your career is going to take you," Guinn said.