Interview: Theatre Life with Erin Driscoll

The talented performer/educator on her return to the stage in Signature Theatre's current production of Ragtime and more.

By: Nov. 20, 2023
Interview: Theatre Life with Erin Driscoll
Erin Driscoll. Photo by DJ Corey Photography.

Today’s subject Erin Driscoll is someone you are most likely familiar with if you have been inhabiting productions in our area theatres for any length of time. Her memorable leading performances include the title character in Violet at Ford’s Theatre and Cloak and Daggar at Signature Theatre. You might be saying to yourself that you have not seen Ms. Driscoll onstage for a while and that you’ve been missing her superb soprano sound. Well, the wait is over because Erin Driscoll is back onstage in Signature’s current production of Ragtime where she is not only in the ensemble but also covers the role of Mother which she will be performing for both shows on December 10th. The production runs through January 7th in the MAX.

Over the years Erin’s talents have been seen in Miss Saigon, Sweeney Todd, The Witches of Eastwick, Titanic, and many more productions and cabarets at Signature Theatre. Elsewhere, you probably remember her Cinderella in Into The Woods or seeing her in A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre.

When not onstage, she can be found honing the next generation of theatre at George Mason University or teaching in her private vocal studio.

She is married to Signature Theatre’s Deputy Director of Marketing, Director of Creative Content James Gardiner. The couple has two children. Their son is eight and their daughter is six.

How does one balance being a performer with everything else in their lives? Read on to see how Erin does it.

For those of us that have enjoyed Erin Driscoll’s performances over the years, Ragtime brings us “Back to Before” as she triumphantly returns to the stage. Please grab some tickets to see Erin Driscoll plus 32 other pretty terrific performers in one of Signature Theatre’s largest productions to date.

Erin Driscoll is truly living her theatre life to the fullest. WELCOME HOME!!

After being offstage for a number of years, was there a particular point where you said to yourself “It’s time for me to come back to performing”?

Well, COVID helped make a lot of decisions for me and for everyone else for that matter. Right before the pandemic I accepted a full-time teaching position at George Mason University. I’m a part of Mason’s growing musical theater program. It was important for me to really focus on getting my footing as a teacher before committing to outside projects.

Some performers, when they return to the stage, ease back into it. Ragtime is like jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool versus dipping a toe in first. Was this a conscious choice to return to the stage in a musical so epic in size?

Once performances returned after the pandemic, I did some cabarets around the DC area and a few concerts including Broadway in the Park at Wolf Trap and Signature’s Sondheim tribute concert Everybody Rise. My last two musicals were Titanic at Signature and Into the Woods at Ford’s, so when I was offered the opportunity to join the cast of Ragtime it felt like coming home in many ways. Signature Theatre has always been my artistic home, so when they call, I don’t even have to think about it. I’ll say yes every time.

Interview: Theatre Life with Erin Driscoll
Far Left- Erin Driscoll with Maria Rizzo and Edward L. Simon at center and the company of Signature Theatre's production of Ragtime.
Photo by Daniel Rader.

Besides being in the ensemble for Ragtime, you are also understudying the role of Mother and will be performing that role on December 10th. How much harder is it to be in a production and understudy at the same time versus being able to watch the show as an understudy exclusively to get your track/tracks down?

I think being an understudy is a challenge whether or not you are in the show every night or not. That said, while I’m hearing the songs every night, my ensemble track keeps me very busy. The one thing that most audience members aren’t aware of when watching a show is the backstage traffic patterns and choreography. Since I’m in the show I never get a chance to see Teal’s backstage life and given the size of Signature, the puzzle and game of Tetris backstage is very intricate and almost as important as what’s happening on stage. Shout out to Joey Blakely, Julia Singer and Kerry Epstein, our amazing stage management team!

Interview: Theatre Life with Erin Driscoll
Erin Driscoll in conversation with Audra McDonald at George Mason University.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

How does a performing artist balance running a successful voice studio and a second career as a professor/director at GMU without going certifiably crazy?

Who says I’m not certifiably crazy!? It’s really about time management and setting priorities and realistic goals. I also have to sing the praises of George Mason’s theater department, especially my boss Djola Branner. They have been amazing and so flexible throughout this process, because they understand how important it is for their students to be taught by working professionals. I think my private voice students feel the same way and we’ve just had to be a little more flexible in scheduling.

Interview: Theatre Life with Erin Driscoll
The very cute couple of James Gardiner and Erin Driscoll.
Photo by Cameron Whitman.

Some parents want their kids to follow their career paths. Do you and your husband James want that for your kids?

I want what I hope every parent wants for their children. I want them to love what they do with their lives. I hope they will continue their appreciation of theater in whatever form that takes. But also, if they wanted to go into computer science or finance and support me in my dotage I wouldn’t complain.

Now that you are back working onstage, is the plan to continue performing?

Performing has always been a huge part of who I am and will continue to be. Nothing can take the place of collaborating with fellow artists and telling unique and important stories on stage. At George Mason, I’ve also been directing and writing, and I hope to continue exploring those avenues as well.

What would you say is the most satisfying thing about being back onstage in Ragtime at Signature Theatre?

There’s nothing like performing a musical of this scale in a theater as intimate as Signature, not to mention working with some of my favorite humans whether they’re on the staff, in the cast or part of the backstage crew. That’s part of Signature Theatre’s magic. It’s an incredible place to work and I never take that for granted.

Special thanks to Ms. Driscoll's representative at JG Management and Signature Theatre's Marketing Manager and Publicist Zachary Flick for their assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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