Interview: Theatre Life with Liz Mikel

The actress on the relevance of 1776, playing Benjamin Franklin on tour, and more.

By: Jul. 05, 2023
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Interview: Theatre Life with Liz Mikel
Liz Mikel

Today’s subject Liz Mikel is currently living her theatre life on tour playing Dr. Benjamin Franklin, delegate from Pennsylvania, in the Roundabout Theatre Company production of 1776. The show is currently running through July 16th at Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre.

Before taking her 1776 frock on the road, Liz appeared in the Broadway production as John Hancock. She was also seen on Broadway in Lysistrata Jones.

Off Broadway credits include Lysistrata Jones at Transport Group and Fruit Trilogy at Abingdon Theatre.

Her regional credits include V to the Tenth at Louisiana Superdome, Spring Awakening at TUTS, Seussical, Hairspray, and All Shook Up! At The Muny, and Little Women at Old Globe Theatre.

Liz has also appeared internationally in both Switzerland and Paris.

She is a resident company member of Dallas Theater Center.

You might have also seen her on TV or on the big screen in Friday Night Lights, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Get On Up!, and Miss Juneteenth.

If you have seen 1776 before, you should consider taking in this fresh take on the material. Liz’s performance as John Hancock on Broadway was excellent and I have no doubt her Benjamin Franklin is equally as fine.

Look sharp and sit down!! Liz Mikel is living her theatre life to the fullest to be sure.

At what age did you know that working in the theatre was going to be your chosen profession? 

I was in my early 20s. And I had been working full-time job as a sales rep for a telephone company. My boss came to see me in a community theater production. The next Monday she called me into her office and asked me, "Why are you here?" 

I was confused. She said she saw me on stage and that was where I belonged. Not long after that, my whole department was laid off. I ended up being cast in my first professional show. That paycheck (which wasn't huge) was more than my full-time job. I decided then, theater was my job! 

Where did you receive your training? 

I started my formal training at 5 years old in dance. Ballet, modern and jazz dance. I attended the performing arts high school in Dallas. I changed my Major from Dance to Theatre while in college. But the majority of my theater training was on the boards! I landed at Dallas Theater Center in 1991. The Acting Company embraced me and I was like a sponge, absorbing everything in the rehearsal room and on stage. That's where I started to flourish as an actor. 

What was your first professional performing job? 

My first professional play was Blues In The Night in 1990. The director, Akin Babatunde advised me to sign the Equity contract that I was being offered. He became my mentor with that show and personally took me to Dallas Theater Center, where he was an Acting Company Member and I've been there ever since. 

For those not familiar with this version of 1776, can you please talk about the differences from a “traditional” staging of the show? 

In 1969 when the show was first produced and in the other Broadway revivals, the show's cast was all white males, with the exception of Abigail Adams and Martha Jefferson.

Our production features a multicultural cast. We are all female identifying, Trans or non-binary actors. 

Interview: Theatre Life with Liz Mikel
Liz Mikel as Benjamin Franklin in the National Tour of 1776.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

On Broadway you played John Hancock. On tour you are playing Benjamin Franklin. Did you want to play another role on tour or did someone on the production team come to you? 

Actually, I understudied the role of Ben Franklin on Broadway and got to go on a few times. I had never understudied before and was nervous, but I had a BALL. When the actor, Patrena Murray, who was Ben Franklin decided not to come on tour, my castmates encouraged me to say something before the role was cast from outside. I asked the directors. Little did I know it was already being discussed! That's how I ended up being Franklin on tour. 

Interview: Theatre Life with Liz Mikel
L-R Liz Mikel as Benjamin Franklin, Nancy Anderson as Thomas Jefferson and Gisela Adisa as John Adams in the National Tour of 1776
Photo by Joan Marcus.

What do you think are some of the underline themes in this version of 1776 that you feel were not present in the original version? 

In my opinion, the fact that there are different ethnicities on stage telling the story is NEEDED. Our audiences can see themselves. Americans from all backgrounds. We are all a part of this country, and this story is OUR story. 

In 1776 Benjamin Franklin is part of a few songs does not have a solo in the show. If there were a song for him, what do think that song would be? 

I think a good solo for Ben would be "Witty, Wise and Wicked". He was all three. 

After the tour finishes in August, what does the rest of 2023 hold in store for you workwise? 

I will return to Dallas and take on 2 more traditionally male roles! I will play Eddie and Dr. Scott in Rocky Horror at Dallas Theater Center. Additionally, I have a cabaret performance scuffle scheduled and I will resume hosting a weekly open mic and one of Dallas' premier Jazz clubs. That will take me into the new year.

In 2024, I will be in a World Premiere play, a one woman show, and I'll FINALLY play Ursula in The Little Mermaid!!!


Special thanks to Kennedy Center's Director of Public Relations Brendan Padgett for his assistance in coordiating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.


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