DEBUT OF THE MONTH: BLOODY's Maria Elena Ramirez
This month, as part of our "Debut of the Month" series, Broadway World is shining the spotlight on Maria Elena Ramirez, who is making her Broadway debut as Rachel Jackson in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which begins previews on September 20th and opens on October 13th.
Ramirez has been involved with Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson since 2007 and her other theatre credits include The Thugs, Living Out and Princess Turandot. She received her M.F.A. from New York University's Graduate Acting Program.
Entertainment Reporter Nick Orlando spoke to Ramirez about the musical, her Broadway debut and the production's journey from off-Broadway to Broadway.
Congratulations on your Broadway debut! We are very excited for the show to hit Broadway.
Thank you so much!
How did you prepare for this moment, for making your Broadway debut?
I've been with the show in many incarnations since 2007, so I guess there's been about three and a half years of preparation through workshops, readings, concerts, and two full productions. I never thought we'd get the chance to do this on Broadway, but it's especially nice to have this much history with a show if it's going to be your Broadway debut.
What are the biggest challenges when it comes to theatre?
Obviously, making a living at it is not always easy! But I also think it's challenging to create something that is unique without worrying if it has a commercial capacity. I think Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a good example of that.
Describe your role, Rachel Jackson.
Rachel Jackson is Andrew Jackson's wife. I love that she is described in historical literature as agood dancer and a great storyteller - a real coquette. She and Jackson were truly devoted to each other. In the show, we briefly hit upon the accusations of bigamy against her (she unknowingly was still married to her first husband when she married Jackson), and also how she died right after Jackson was elected President. She died before his Inauguration.
What is it like to play her?
It's a lot of fun to play Rachel. And Ben Walker is wonderful to work with. I like that in the show we create an arc for her that begins as a young woman meeting Jackson, their love affair, and then ultimately, her death. And within that, I love being able to go from very silly to very serious, and at times, combining them both. And it's fun to be able to rock out, too!
Have you been recreating or transforming your role in anticipation of the Broadway debut?
We just finished our last run at the end of June, so I've been thinking about the challenges of the last production and things I'd personally like to work on. And we have some new little tweaks. It's nice to know the show inside and out, at this point, but there are always things to work on.
Where were you when you heard the good news that the production will be transferred to Broadway?
I think I was here in the city. We had heard inklings for a while, but I was thrilled for everyone involved.
What are you looking forward to from the Broadway production?
I'm definitely looking forward to meeting fans of the show! And I'm very excited to be in the Jacobs. It's a beautiful theatre. I think it's really going to be transformed by our set and lighting design. In our last production, the set stretched out into the theatre. I'm eager to see how that is going to translate to a bigger space.
Has much changed from Off-Broadway to Broadway?
The show is basically the same from our Off-Broadway run. We've added some new lines, etc., just to keep things fresh and to explain some things a little better. And certainly we are tweaking things here and there. It's all about refining and details, at this point.
Have you ever had any embarrassing moments on stage?
Well, you really need to watch yourself in this show, because my colleagues are extremely funny, and sometimes you can't help but react. One of the most memorable on this show was during a scene when Jackson introduces me to the art of medical bleeding. I'm supposed to turn to the audience and say, "Isn't this a commonplace early 19th century medical procedure?" As I turned my head to the audience that night, I realized I had forgotten what the line was. All I knew at that moment was that it contained the word "medical" and some century. So when I finally opened my mouth I said, "Isn't this a commonplace early 21st century medical condition?" After that, I could barely keep myself together and laughed all the way to our duet. When you've been doing a show for this long, anything off the beaten track is fodder for your cast mates. And I didn't hear the end of it for days!
When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
I think I realized how enjoyable it was during elementary school to make a play about the Boston Tea Party, than make a diorama of it. When I got to high school, I definitely jumped into doing shows and taking drama class. I loved it. So by the end of high school, it was something I considered. I entered an actor training program in college, but was in denial for a bit and thought I should become a lawyer. Apparently, that didn't happen.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
The artistic rewards from this line of work can be so fulfilling. But the truth of the matter is that being an actor is hard -- emotionally, financially, mentally. I think you have to prepare yourself for the downtime, which for most actors, is often. So, you need to find those other things that fulfill you and bring you joy. You can get all the training you want, but ultimately, no one can teach you how hard the actual business is.
Which project/gig are you most proud of?
MER: Well, I'd say Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson takes the cake in terms of its journey! I love how fresh and irreverent it is, and I love the people involved. I also loved working on Adam Bock's The Thugs at Soho Rep, directed by Anne Kaufman. It was like a little 50-minute symphony. And also Chuck Mee's Fetes de la Nuit, directed by Les Waters at Berkeley Rep. So beautiful and sumptuous and ridiculous.
Do you have any hobbies or special skills you want to share with us?
I love music and reading. I'd love to learn how to play an instrument. I might have to get some of the boys in the Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson band to teach me how to play bass or something.
What kind of jobs were you doing while auditioning?
Oh, I'm one of those gals who do a little office temping when the need arises!
Zodiac Sign / Birthday:
I'm a Capricorn born the last week of December.
Salt Lake City, Utah.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will be playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.bloodybloodyandrewjackson.com or www.telecharge.com.
Photos: Maria Elena Ramirez with Cast of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson by Monica Simoes