BWW Feature: At Home With Susan Egan
Susan Egan is one groovy gal, and she always has been. Right now she is being a groovy mom to two daughters, but as soon as she is able, Susan Egan will be back on the road with The Broadway Princess Party, one of the happiest inventions to come along in a long time. When Broadway World's Bobby Patrick caught The Broadway Princess party at 54 Below, he reported that people of all ages and demographics packed the club, fully dragged out as their favorite Princess (read Bobby's review HERE). For Susan Egan, who is actually TWO Disney Princess, the success of The Broadway Princess Party is one of the happiest things ever to happen in her life - and a lot of other peoples' lives. While at home during the shelter in place order, caring for her own princesses, Susan was more than happy to share with Broadway World Cabaret some of her thoughts and feelings about the times we live in, the work she does, and her brand of parenting.
This interview was conducted digitally and has been reproduced as it was received.
First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): Susan Egan: Wild and Reckless - The Cinegrill at the Roosevelt Hotel in LA - December 31, 1998.
Most Recent Cabaret Show: The Broadway Princess Party - Birdland - March 1, 2020
Website or Social Media Handles: @iamsusanegan, susanegan.net, broadwayprincessparty.com
Susan Egan! I'm so happy to be chatting with you today. Thanks for talking to Broadway World Cabaret.
Truly my pleasure! Thanks for having me, friend!
How's life with your family in isolation? You're out west, so you have the benefit of some room to enjoy the outdoors with your family, don't you?
We actually moved to Nashville last June, so we found ourselves quarantined in a new place. While isolation is a challenge for sure, we have been exceedingly fortunate - this community is pretty incredible - full of people helping one another - and we've needed it! Nashville had its tornado on March 2, later that week Safer At Home began, we had another storm that took power out for hundreds of thousands (our home included) for many days ... it's been quite the year! But I'm moved by the love and resiliency. Our teachers are heroes, our first responders are heroes, our health professionals are heroes. My kids and husband are pretty amazing, too!
The video of "A Million Dreams" has had so many views - how did that artistic endeavor come about?
Like all performing artists, Broadway Princess Party lost countless concert dates due to Covid-19. We were incredibly disappointed, but those cancelations don't change the fact that we are creative people - we just had to learn the new parameters. Our first video, "Keep Your Distance" was our initial reaction to social distancing. We each self-taped and Benajmin Rauhala (our musical director and favorite Fairy Godfairy), managed the music and editing like a pro! Next up, Disney Music asked me to film my song from "Hercules," "I Won't Say I'm in Love," for their Sing-a-long campaign. Naturally, the Princess Posse joined in (in full togas)! For "A Million Dreams," we wanted something beautiful. Our pal, Frankie Grande, reached out asking if we would film something for The LA LGBT Center's Rainbowthon that he was hosting in May. We immediately knew we wanted to sing this song. It's our favorite to sing in concert and we all miss each other so much. We each filmed outdoors, sent the footage to Benji and voila, he worked his magic. We are so happy it's reached so many and brought a little joy. Those lyrics mean more than ever, but we truly believe in dreams - they are the first step to changing our reality.
We've all seen online photos of The Broadway Princess Party events and the overjoyed fans - the organization is one of the most valuable in the business. Have the Ladies and Benjamin Rauhala been exploring ways to bring The Princess Party to the fans virtually, since live performing has been stopped during the health crisis?
Broadway Princess Party is a light in my life. I LOVE being artistic and business partners with this posse (Benjamin Rauhala, Laura Osnes, Courtney Reed, and Adam J. Levy) - we genuinely love each other and our various strengths really complement one other. I've ... uh ... been around the longest in our group and know what a rarity this chemistry is! Right now, a big commonality is how much we miss seeing our audiences. We each have solo careers, but something magical happens when we all get together to celebrate these princess characters and music - and an enormous part of that equation are the audiences. SO, we put our heads together and have come up with a new Virtual Collection on our website that includes: Royal Shoutouts, Private Coaching, Q&A events, and this month .... our first Virtual Concert! The reaction has been incredible - our "Quarantine Queen Q&As" (we've had two so far), have brought us a lot of personal joy, and fans have told us that it's been the same for them! In fact, we've all loved it so much, I think we will keep these kinds of opportunities in place post pandemic! It gives access to those who might not live near where we tour, it allows folks a chance to have more personalized experiences with the posse - it's been a really positive takeaway from a challenging time.
Did you dive into at-home projects with the family during isolation, or has the quarantine been more about baking and watching Disney Plus together?
Haha! BOTH! We definitely tackled some home projects - I have a full veggie garden taking over my little backyard! My husband takes a new and strange pride in mowing the grass ... multiple times a week. Our dog is sporting a mortifyingly bad home-groom haircut. The garage is CLEAN and ORGANIZED, people! The quarantine has gone on long enough that the kids have cleaned out their drawers TWICE with out-grown clothes. And ... we have re-watched Every. Single. Animated. Movie. Ever. Also, Harry Potter. Been reading some fantastic books out loud at night. I have slept little but have binge-watched an embarrassingly large number of series.
Tell me about your experience on the reality show Encore.
This was an amazing opportunity to re-visit "Beauty and the Beast" and share stories of how the show developed, with a beautiful and talented cast. "Encore" and Kristen Bell are putting a spotlight on the school productions that are enormous milestones in students' lives. They are demonstrating the emotional growth, the confidence building, and the sense of community that these productions nurture. We are seeing every-day heroes in the theatre teachers who are often mounting these productions with few resources or support, yet changing young people's lives. The life I lead is because of such teachers! It was an honor to be a part of that episode, learn their stories, and watch them revisit the show that impacted all our lives!
You are a mother to two young daughters - what do you find is the best way to talk to your children about worrisome but important issues that must be discussed like coronavirus, black lives matter, and the me too movement?
This is the good fight, right? But how do we navigate it? Ideally, I start with the broad strokes - the history. You have to put everything into a context. History is tough for kids because they have a hard time relating to it, so then it's important to immediately show the parallels from history to right now. Today. This headline. This post. Then, and this is where it matters most, you have to get super specific on how we (myself, my girls) fit into the story. This takes humility, right, for #BlackLivesMatter. It may take confronting fear for #MeToo. No matter what the issue we do play a part. Last, I try to talk about moving forward - where we go from here? What choices we can make - daily and over time. Kids are amazing. They are sophisticated. The initial shock of situations is rough for them to comprehend, but breaking it down - while it doesn't always quell their emotions - helps them place and define aspects into pieces they can analyze and ponder. It's important to keep the conversation open-ended - to follow up. Ask them what THEY think throughout. I really want to nurture souls who can look at the world and not parrot what is thrown in their face - messaging isn't trustworthy on its own - but rather look at things in their complexity and then recognize the messages that align. I don't succeed at all this, by any means, but it is my intention.
You've branched out into directing in recent years - how did that broaden your experience as a theater artist?
I've actually directed quite a while now that I think about it! Just after "Triumph of Love" closed on Broadway in 1997, I directed the West Coast premiere at my alma mater in California. I enjoy directing, but also find it all-encompassing. It takes over my mind 24/7 and ultimately that's not sustainable for me! Ha! But I love directors, I love collaboration, I love dissection of a piece and characters, I love dramaturgy. The problem with me is that I love way too many things in this world, and am only satisfied if whatever I do, I do with my full self. So .... I want more hours in a day! I would say that directing has broadened my experience as a theatre artist in that I now fully understand process and the complexity that informs great theatre. But honestly, planting and arranging rows of veggies in the garden pulls the same fascination! I think what's really happening is this: my mind and heart work in a certain way .... and I was DARN lucky to FIND theatre because theatre embraces those kinds of people.
Susan, those of us who have known you since the '80s and the '90s are longing to know -- what is the secret to your unchanged physical appearance, and what can we learn from your personal fountain of youth?
OMGOSH. You are sweet, but I am aging like everyone. NO photo posted is without filter. I am 50 and I look 50 up close. But there are worse things .... Like not turning 50. I'm trying to embrace the aging, but it's a major ego-check. I try to tell myself as I exercise (which I don't love) that if I'm LUCKY I might grow to an age when I will look back on the LUXURY of having a body that can do these things - cycle, run, lift weights. I'm 50, but if I'm lucky, I'll grow to an age where I think 50 is young. Why wait? Think of it as young now - everything else is a waste of time. Also, I wish I'd stayed out of the sun.
What are your daughters' personal favorites, when it comes to Disney characters?
Early on they liked princesses, then they didn't, and now they are good with them again. Their favorite - Moana. But their absolute favorite Disney character is Yzma from "Emperor's New Groove." Gotta love Eartha Kitt!
Susan, in our lives we've seen some pretty messed up things, and this time is one of them; what is the personal philosophy that sees you through life and gets you through times like this?
I have no magic to make things better, but I am happy to be alive at this time to bear witness and participate. Times are challenging - but that is always true when great growth happens - the challenges are the catalyst for growth - so I look at that and see opportunity, not despair. I feel lucky to be here now, to self-examine - see hard truths - and make personal and global changes. I am grateful for the opportunity that freedom affords me to speak my mind, and better yet, today, to step aside and amplify the voices that need to be heard most. I am hopeful because I feel a wave, a shift. I subscribe more to the power of kindness than violence but recognize that good fights may require both. I have been very loud and brash in the past, but trust my instincts that my role today is to be gentle. I'm not always successful, because I get impassioned on things, but I've grown better. I would like to gather those who might not see as I do - gather them in a way so they don't feel threatened and become defensive - then listen to them, be open to learning something of the paths they walk, and finally show them things I have learned, or simply share a larger perspective. When people feel heard, they are far more ready to listen. I need to stay open that I might not be right. And I need to stay calm and patient when I might be right, to help others move forward. I want everyone to have the opportunity to be better, and while loud voices are necessary, so are soft ones. There is power in both. We need them all. I won't stop speaking, I won't be silent, but I will be gentle, approachable, and willing to discuss.
Susan, thank you so much for sharing yourself with Broadway World Cabaret and all your fans today. And if I may speak personally for a moment, thanks for always being such a kind and sweet friend to me and my household. You're a rock star in a Princess crown.
I adore you, Stephen!
That is definitely mutual.
All photos provided by Susan Egan.