The twelfth profile in the Cleveland Performing Arts Examiner ACTOR PROFILE series features actor, singer, designer and director, ALISON GARRIGAN. This series (in interview form) is in process to “get to know” some of our own northeastern Ohio talent. Profiles will feature equity and non-equity actors, stage and screen actors, as well as young, old and in-between actors. These are your peers and your neighbors – please enjoy!
Full Name: Alison Garrigan
Years acting: 46
“Day Job”: Acting, Designing, Directing
Resident city: Cleveland, Ohio
Kate Miller: Ali – You’re an actor, singer, designer and director. Which came first?
Alison Garrigan: Professionally, I was an actor first (though officially I’ve always had a love affair with singing), then a singer, designer and director.
KM: And where did you train to be an actor?
AG: North Carolina School of the Arts, several different conservatory programs.
KM: You sing.
AG: Yes. Frequently. Aside from doing a lot of musicals, I’m also the front woman for a steampunk band called Queue Up.
KM: Tell me about Queue Up and explain how your acting background helps you with that.
AG: Queue Up started out as a Gothic/Industrial band in the early 90’s, and has morphed into being inspired by Steam Punk (a clothing style, actually) – a sort of meld between Glam, Punk and Goth. We were recently described as “the perfect marriage between Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Judas Priest.” All of the genres that we represent are sensationally theatrical, and so my stage background plays into each performance to a great degree. Our songs all have character, and each character is fueled onstage by my acting background.
KM: Do you dance, as well?
AG: I used to dance, but now I’m an “actor who moves.”
KM: What’s your favorite role that you’ve ever played?
AG: Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.
KM: And what is your dream role?
AG: I’ve already played my dream role (see above), but I would love to do it again. And now there is another role out there I’d love to do: the mother in Next to Normal. Honestly, there are quite a number of roles I would love to play, but those two really are dreamy.
KM: Have you done TV or movies? How does acting for the screen differ from the stage?
AG: I’ve done several industrials, and some commercials and small indie film work. I’m not crazy about it. I love the energy, psychology and the heart of live theatre. There is something about the relationship between an actor and an audience that is priceless and very vital. I don’t like the vacuum of working as a performer without that.
KM: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AG: An actress, a singer, a designer and a director.
KM: Why did you start acting?
AG: My parents would say about 5 minutes after I was born, but technically, I got my first real part at age 6.
KM: Are there any other actors in your family?
AG: Both of my parents belong to Actor’s Equity. My mother is now deceased, but both of them made their living in theatre. Dad did some long stints on Broadway and a couple of soap operas, and mom did the national tour gig. We originally came to Cleveland because they were both hired as part of the Cleveland Play House company in the 1970’s.
KM: Any particular venues where you work primarily?
AG: Cleveland Public Theatre.
KM: Why do you love acting?
AG: I love the constant renewal, the boundless creativity, the never-ending learning curve, the risk, the “LIFE” of it all. I never feel more alive than when I’m on stage.
AG: Doll and mask making, reading, video games.
KM: Tell me a little about how you got into doll and mask making and why you like it.
AG: I am a published fantasy illustrator, and between that and my costume sketches, I think that doll-making only followed logically. I loved the idea of making my faeries 3-D. I do a lot of soft-sculpture stuff for theatre, anyway, so why not do it for myself, as well? Mask-making became a passion after my introduction to Commedia d’ell Arte – making the masks for Zani just blossomed into masks of all theatrical sorts.
KM: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?
AG: So many…and so many are from the “old school.” I am in love with those phenomenal talents who so shaped the theatre into what it is now, and had the vision to know that it needed to be ever-growing, ever-expanding to remain vital and fresh.
KM: How do you prep for an audition?
AG: Find out all I can about the director, the venue, the play itself, and then look into my repertoire of monologues and see if they are warranted, or if something new would be better. Then I spend many hours getting comfortable with my voice and my body to provide the best I can be for the audition. I try to keep my mind open so that I can alter what I bring to the audition table, should the director so request it. It’s a fine line between bringing YOURSELF to an audition, and bringing what the director needs to see.
KM: How do you reward yourself for getting a role you wanted?
AG: By throwing myself whole-heartedly into learning everything I can about the character, about the world of the play, and about the director’s vision. It makes me incredibly happy to do this.
KM: What do you do to get through a rough tech week?
AG: Meditate, draw, focus… drink about 300 gallons of coffee!
KM: How do you take your coffee, other than in gallon form?!
AG: Black and strong! NO FLAVORS!!! A smooth, rich, strong cup of coffee is an amazing reward. (And I’m from Seattle, originally, so coffee sort of flows through my veins.)
KM: What’s the hardest part about acting?
AG: Being overly critical of myself – learning to get out of my own way and just let be.
KM: Random – do you have any pets?
AG: Two cats.
KM: Finally, why do YOU think Cleveland rocks?
AG: The arts community, the lake, the neighborhoods, the nightlife, the cost of living, the people.
Ali is currently directing Kill Will at Cleveland Public Theatre. Find out more about it at:
Ali in steampunk band Queue Up by Mollie Ayers
as Frank-n-furter in Rocky Horror Show by name unknown
as Kent in King Lear by Derek Koger
as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd by Cathy Sandham
as Yitzak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch by Beth Yurich
as Susan in The Secretaries by Steve Wagner
Do you have a Cleveland performing arts related story or event that would be of interest to our readers? If so, contact KATE MILLER at [email protected] with your pitch!