See as much as you can: you’ll be inspired by acting choices you see onstage or on screen, spot trends in what gets produced, and be ready to hobnob with industry colleagues with your thoughts on the latest movie or musical.
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in theatre, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Emma Taylor Miller.
Emma Taylor Miller is an actor, clown, and theatre maker based in NYC. Some of her favorite credits include Cecily Pigeon in The Odd Couple (Cape Fear Regional Theatre), Actor 1 in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abr.), Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None, and CT in her original clown show CT Meets Her Match. Additionally, Emma is a competitive pun comic and a regular at Punderdome in Brooklyn. She graduated with a BFA from NYU, where she studied at the Playwrights Horizons Theater School and the Experimental Theatre Wing. Fun fact: she’s a citizenship triple threat (American, British, and Canadian).
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I am the actor daughter of a marine biologist and an engineer. I was raised in Maryland, where my academic and artistic sides were nurtured. In middle school, I dominated the science fair circuit and the history fair’s individual performance category. But by high school, I was all in on acting and theatre. In the summers, I went to acting intensives and began to crave more conservatory training. For my senior year of high school, I attended UNCSA’s high school drama program where I spent more hours in acting classes than calculus or chemistry.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have been obsessed with theatre and comedy since before I can remember. My breakout performance was doing stand-up comedy for my 1st grade talent show. I felt like the new host of The Tonight Show, while in reality I was confidently reciting my favorite joke book gags. But I was hooked.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have always been a driven performer, and I mean this literally. My parents chauffeured me to every rehearsal, shuttled me to each far flung summer programs, and supported my move to UNCSA’s high school. Their confidence in me has buoyed me through highs and lows, and their support has been instrumental in my growth as an actor.
You probably have a lot of fascinating experiences. Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Stand-up comedy got me into trouble in middle school. My searing takes on locker assignments and character-building classes made me unpopular with the principal. My script was censored in 8th grade, pulling me out of the talent show completely. 15 years later, my routine had its world premiere at a Brooklyn cabaret.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At a drama school audition, I was asked “Who is your favorite actor?” I gave a quick spiel about Kenneth Branagh, saying I would love to perform as much Shakespeare as he had and to work with friends and favorite colleagues. Well, he went to a rival school and admiring the work of a competitor wasn’t the best look in an interview setting. I learned to be more savvy in the audition room.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I have the distinct pleasure of playing the titular character in the new comedy The Jester’s Wife running September 23-October 8 at the 36th Street Theater (aka the Chain Theatre). After we close, it’s back to puns. I perform a brand new pun-filled monologue at “It’s Always Punny in Philadelphia” on October 14th at Helium Comedy Club. You can also see my improvised puns (and pun costume contest submission) at Brooklyn’s “Punderdome” when I compete on October 25th at Littlefield.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of rejection, lack of support, or failure?
You determine how much fun you have. How others behave or what you book is outside your control, but you decide how much joy you bring into the audition room. It’s easy to feel powerless in this industry, but leaning into the fun helps keep you in the moment and rooted in your craft.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in the live performance industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Listen to what pumps you up and what takes away from you. Everytime I go to classes with NYC’s “Clown Gym,” I leave happier. On the other hand, endless scrolling on my phone eats up my time without giving much in return. Our time and energy are finite. I’m working on dedicating more of mine to phone calls with people who brighten up my day, dreaming up new clown routines, and landing the next role as fulfilling as The Jester’s Wife.
Thank you for all that. This is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in Broadway, Theater or Live Performances” and why? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- See as much as you can: you’ll be inspired by acting choices you see onstage or on screen, spot trends in what gets produced, and be ready to hobnob with industry colleagues with your thoughts on the latest movie or musical.
- Stay alert: My inbox is full of theaters’ e-newsletters and Google Alerts I’ve set for my favorite plays. This helps me know what auditions are coming up and what my favorite artists are doing.
- Stay ready: Timeliness is key in this industry, so make your life easier by having your materials ready to go. Keep comic and dramatic contemporary and classical monologues at the ready for whatever audition that may come. Set up your self-tape equipment so you can film yourself at a moment’s notice.
- Do your research: Look at the resumes of performers you admire, and see how to apply their path to your life. What were some of their early credits? Those plays might have an audition monologue for you.
- Lifelong learner: take or audit classes whenever possible. There will always be something to improve, something to learn, and someone to meet.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I want to talk to producers ready for the next Mr. Bean. My clown character, CT, delights audiences because I reframe life’s petty irritations as opportunities for laughter. The sketches are ready but the final piece is missing: someone to navigate a shooting schedule or line up a venue for her return to the stage.
How can our readers continue to follow your work online?
You can see my materials at www.emmataylormiller.com and follow me on IG @emmataylormiller.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!