This year, Amanda Jane Cooper will grace the EXPO stage as our Keynote Speaker! Amanda grew up just outside Philadelphia in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. She holds a BFA in Acting/Musical Theatre from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. On July 31st, 2017 she made her Broadway debut starring as Glinda in WICKED. Almost a year and half later, starring as the show’s 15th Anniversary Glinda, she opened NBC’s A Very Wicked Halloween with “One Short Day” and closed the special with “For Good” alongside Kristin Chenoweth. Taking her final bow at the Gershwin on December 9th, 2018 exactly three years after making her re-debut on tour, she is now one of WICKED’s longest running Glinda’s!
Recently we had the opportunity to interview Amanda to get to know her a little better before EXPO. Read on to learn all about this year’s speaker!
Why are you a performer?
I think there’s such great joy and power in storytelling. It brings me to life when I do it, and when I see how much it does the same for those watching (especially in a story like WICKED), it’s just…it’s a gift. I also love creating like that with a team of unique individuals, coming together to create something beautiful.
What’s something on your bucket list?
I WANT TO BE IN A HALLMARK/NETLFLIX CHRISTMAS MOVIE. ALL CAPS. Haha, really it’s a dream of mine. I’d also love to see more of the world, create stories across all mediums, and serve in parts of NYC that I haven’t yet.
What’s something that makes you unique?
I have kooky curly blonde hair that has a mind of its own each day. And personality-wise, hmm, I have a tendency to get into conversations with strangers on the daily, whether it’s on the subway, sidewalk, in a cab – it’s exciting to watch how God works in those moments. I’m reminded that He is constantly pursuing our hearts no matter where we are.
How did you get involved in theater?
I was a really shy kid (like sooo shy!), but auditioned for the 5th grade musical at my public elementary school in Pennsylvania. I got the role of Steamboat Sal (thanks to music teacher Mrs. Messner!) and wore a fancy red dress with feathers in my hair while belting out a jazzy tune – from then on, I was hooked! I’d perform in every musical and play my school offered through middle and high school, and then ended up at Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA in Musical Theatre and Acting.
What is your dream role?
Praise God, I just finished playing one of them! Glinda in WICKED. I’d seen the original cast twice in NYC as a teenager and the seed of that dream was planted. I am deeply honored to have played her for close to 4 years of my life, first when I was 22 and then again 5 years later. To get to represent the show as the 15th Anniversary Glinda on Broadway was a dream come true that I didn’t even know I had! It came full circle when I got to perform with original Glinda Kristin Chenoweth and original Elphaba Idina Menzel on NBC for the anniversary special. Pinch me! As for the future, I hope to originate roles on stage and screen. I’d also love to play Little Red Ridinghood (Into the Woods) in a professional production, and Charlotte in The Princess and the Frog if that’s ever adapted for the stage.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Oo la la, Paris please!
What’s the craziest mishap you’ve experienced on stage?
One time as I was descending the Kiamo Ko steps, which are very steep stairs stage right, in my 20 pound bubble dress in one of the final scenes as Glinda, I completely went up on my lines. The only other character on stage at that point is Elphaba who at the time was played by the legendary Jessica Vosk. There was nothing she could do to help me. It’s supposed to be a super urgent entrance but I stood on the steps stuttering for what felt like forever trying to come up with something, ANYTHING to say. I finally blurted out, “they’re just shoes!” (phew) and the show went on. In reality it was probably a 7 second pause, but it sure felt never-ending. #livetheatre
If you weren’t performing what would you do?
I really enjoy creating experiences of joy and hope for people, so perhaps something in event or wedding or nonprofit or gala coordinating. I love endeavoring to bring a little bit of heaven to earth in whatever I’m doing. I also love audition and acting/singing coaching – it brings me so much joy when I see students gaining confidence and skills! And finding their own unique expression in a piece.
What has been your most memorable audition?
My Jessie audition for Disney. I was filming a Hallmark movie up in Simi Valley, CA when I got the call for the appointment but since I was on set, I couldn’t make it. I called a friend who helped me whip together the fastest self-tape I’ve ever made. I had to film it ASAP so I printed the sides, made a bold ridiculous character choice for a Broadway diva named Susan Channing, threw on my sunglasses and decided to say theatre like “thea-truh”. It was such a fun whirlwind and I ended up getting the job. A good lesson in getting out of my own way and listening to my acting instincts, especially the playful ones!
Do you have any pre-show traditions?
Yes! The first thing I do when I get to a theatre is my makeup. I sip on hot water (not tea) and then have physical and vocal warmups that take around 15/20 minutes. I usually listen to some kind of music, most times it’s worship to get my mind and soul aligned to what’s most important. Then I connect with as many people as I can (sometimes there are even pre-show dance parties in dressing rooms). The last thing I do before I enter onstage is pray for the audience and the cast and crew. I recite scripture to myself and thank God, then away we go!
What do you do when you get nervous?
Pray and breathe. Give it to God.
We can’t wait for Amanda to speak at EXPO! Not only is she our speaker, but she will also be doing a Student Workshop. You won’t want to miss it!
Haven’t registered yet? Don’t worry, it’s not too late. You can still sign up at cyt.org/expo!