Coon Rapids native Maria Briggs is spending the summer in Connecticut as she pursues a professional acting, dancing and singing career.
Briggs is appearing in Goodspeed Musicals’ production of “Carousel,” which opens on the main stage at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., this evening (Friday, July 13) and runs through Sept. 23.
Her journey to the professional theater began growing up in Coon Rapids and taking dance lessons at Debra Miller’s World of Dance, while performing in dance shows.
“I have been performing since I was a young girl,” Briggs said.
Briggs attended high school at the St. Paul Conservatory of the Performing Arts, from where she graduated in 2009, and also performed with the Continental Ballet Company, which is based in Bloomington.
It was at the St. Paul Conservatory of Performing Arts that she began to take acting lessons and a career in acting began to take hold, according to Briggs.
Besides appearing on stage as part of her studies at the Conservatory and with the Continental Ballet Company, Briggs also won roles in musical productions staged at the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul, including “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Singing in the Rain.”
“I didn’t want to be just a dancer, but an actor, too,” Briggs said.
And in the last two years, she has been taking singing lessons to that add to her resume, she said.
While at the Conservatory, she took a college in the schools class at the University of Minnesota and after graduating from high school, she took classes at Anoka-Ramsey Community College while continuing to perform in Twin Cities stage productions.
Then Briggs took the plunge and moved to New York City, enrolling at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, from where she received a two-year certificate in 2011.
She focused on the musical theater in her studies – acting, singing and dancing.
And she landed a part in the ensemble for a production of the musical “The Music Man” last summer for two months in Maine.
“It was my first long running show after college and it was exciting,” Briggs said.
Then she traveled to Hilton Head, N.C., for more ensemble work in another musical, “Dreamgirls.”
And from November to Christmas last year, Briggs was cast in the “Radio City Rockettes” show in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Again, it was an ensemble part – she is too small at 5 foot 2 inches to play the role of one of the Rockettes, who have to be 5 feet 7 inches tall, Briggs said.
“I have been doing a lot of traveling,” she said.
Briggs continues to train and study for her career as an actress by taking online courses at The New School.
In addition, she is also taking voice training every week to hone her singing ability, according to Briggs.
And she has continued to take college classes and will earn her bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater at the end of the year, Briggs said.
Auditioning for her part in “Carousel” was the first time she has been in an Equity union production, although she has not yet got her Equity card, Briggs said.
Indeed, being cast in the “Carousel” production was “very exciting” for Briggs since the casting call involved more than 100 women and she beat out actresses who have Broadway credits to their name, she said.
Rehearsals for “Carousel” started in Connecticut two and a half weeks prior to opening night, July 13, Briggs said.
According to Elisa Hale, public relations manager at Goodspeed Musicals, Briggs has been cast in a “Swing” role.
When an understudy from the ensemble has to step into a lead/supporting actor’s role, the swing fills the open spot in the ensemble, Hale wrote in an e-mail.
“What is most impressive about swings like Maria is they must learn all the female parts, all the songs and all the choreography, because they never know what track they might be asked to fill,” she said. “It is most demanding.”
In her case, she has had to learn five different ensemble parts, Briggs said.
“I have to learn all details of the role, including placement and blocking, and be at every rehearsal,” she said.
“I have to be ready to go on at a moment’s notice.”
“I am absolutely enjoying the show in every way. It is a very heartfelt show.”
During the run of “Carousel,” there are matinee and evening performances Wednesdays and Saturdays, evening shows Thursdays and Fridays, a matinee on Sundays and some select performances at 2 p.m. Thursdays and 6:30 p.m. Sundays.
Briggs, who will be getting her Equity union card, only has week off after “Carousel” closes its run in late September before she heads to Nashville, Tenn., to work on the “Radio City Rockettes” musical again until Christmas.
“It’s nice to have a job lined up,” Briggs said.
Her long-term goal in her profession is to keep working, according to Briggs.
And she would like to broaden her acting horizons beyond musical theater to “straight plays,” Briggs said.
“I would like to do it all – musicals and straight plays,” she said.
Her mother, Michelle, has been to every show in which she has had a role and her father, Lance, has also made most of them, Briggs said.
Both her parents are planning to travel for East Haddam, Conn., to see Briggs in “Carousel,” she said.