'07 Alum Stephanie Martignetti: Defining Moments and Insight

What is your most treasured moment working in the theater?

Of course making my Broadway debut with Nice Work if You Can Get It was a huge moment for me. As was performing on the Tony Awards and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. At this point I feel like it is moment(s), plural. Whenever my parents, boyfriend, teachers, or close friends come see me perform, that becomes a treasured moment. I feel like part of why I’ve been able to achieve any modicum of success is because of them; it is all for them in a way. I treasure having the opportunity to perform in large-scale productions for my loved ones.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I am so grateful for my family, friends, and boyfriend. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a supportive and beautiful community of people around me.

Catch us up on life since graduation:

Well, that was (ahem) a few years ago, so I’ll try to make this short. Fairly quickly after graduating, I booked the Broadway revival first national tour of A Chorus Line. It was a dream show for me at the time and my first production contract. It was thrilling to be in the original company and learn firsthand from Michael Bennett’s colleagues. Playing Maggie and singing “ At the Ballet” was an honor. That show will always have a very special place in my heart. After about a year-and-a-half on that I booked the first national tour of Mary Poppins and was a chimney sweep (and Mrs. Banks a few times) for about a year. After Poppins I did a few regional gigs and then booked Nice Work if You Can Get It. That felt like the brass ring I had been chasing in so many ways. I was in the original cast of an original Broadway show. I understudied (and went on a bunch for) Kelli O’Hara. It came with all the bells and whistles…Original Broadway Cast recording, performing at the Tony Awards and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It was thrilling! After that I did some more regional gigs, and then I went on tour again, this time in the original cast of the first national tour of Matilda. I was in the ensemble and understudied Miss Honey. I did some more regional gigs, and readings. A VERY slow 2016 for me (this career really is a marathon, not a race)…and then I booked Sunset Boulevard on Broadway! I’m a part of the original revival cast. My role was not in the original Sunset. I play a sort of ghost of young Norma Desmond (played by the incredible Glenn Close). So I get to originate a role AND I get to creep behind Glenn, which is pretty cool! She introduces me to people that come visit the show by saying, “this is my ghost Stephanie!” I also understudy the principal role of Betty Schaefer and recently went on for the first time! It was truly thrilling! Everything about Sunset Boulevard has been just sublime. The producers, creative team, crew, and cast are all so lovely. Glenn Close is a warrior (she’s 70!!!) and an inspiration. She is fierce on stage, and so emotionally available every single night. During act two the entire cast gets to sit on stage and watch her sing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” and even after months into the run, she still moves me. I often have “I can’t believe this is my life” moments during that song!

Describe a perfect day:

A few Sundays ago felt like a perfect day. I had been on for Betty Schaefer and felt really good about it. It was so much fun to do! I had dear friends in the audience that I got to see after and catch up with. Then my boyfriend met me at the theater and we went out for dinner at Ivan Ramen. Performing a lead on Broadway, good people, and good food. That was as close to a perfect day as I can imagine.

What is one of your favorite audition stories? Worst audition story?

When I was in callbacks for Nice Work, I was working at a theater in Washington, D.C., and I was going back and forth to NYC for the calls. I found out I made it to the final callback, but I would have to miss a performance to make it. The stage manager said I couldn’t have off. I really thought, “Well, that was it. My one chance to book this!” A few days later, I got scheduled for another callback for Nice Work on my day off. I was confused because I knew the final callback had happened. When I asked my agent who else was going in, he said, “I think it is just you!” *GULP* Sure enough, when I went in, it was the music supervisor, David Chase; the director/choreographer, Tony-winner Kathleen Marshall; and her associate, David Eggers. It was super laid back (even though I was freaking out inside). Kathleen asked, “Do you want to do some of the dance combination?” So I did it, just David in front and me behind him. Then I read some material, sang a bit, and left! An hour later I got a call to come to my agent’s office. I had booked it! I was originally hired to swing the show, actually. About a month later they called me back in to read the Billie Bendix material (the role Kelli O’Hara was set to play). I worked that material to death. A few hours after that audition I got the call that I had been moved to an onstage track and that I would understudy the role. That was a trip. I was over the moon! It just goes to show if something is meant to be, it will happen. I’ve never had a private, separately scheduled final callback before or since!

Thoughts/advice to share with current students/recent grads on auditioning? On how to create a long and healthy career in this business?

This career truly is not for the faint of heart. I’ve come to realize it’s more akin to a vocation, a calling, then a job or career. I think it needs to be that for you if you want longevity. Times will come when you aren’t working…those times will be painful and uncomfortable and you have to find a way to continue to grow as a person and artist despite not getting a paycheck for it. Having a strong support system of other friends/artists is the key, I think. Having a great therapist also helps a lot! So all that and believe in yourself and be fearless. The more fearless you are in an audition room, the more successful you’ll be. That is advice for myself as well. It is much easier said then done. I’m still figuring it all out!

What is one of your greatest accomplishments?

Graduating from Penn State! Honestly! I’m not just saying that for the alumni newsletter! I worked so hard in college, and it was not easy! I take great pride in having earned a degree at such a reputable program and university. I’m a proud alum for sure.

What is something you’ve always dreamed of doing?

I would really love to play a role on Broadway. My career has been mostly covering and I would love the opportunity to tell a story eight times a week and own it and grow into it.

Understudying, you only show a part of what it could be if you really did the role. I don’t think it’s something the audience is ever tuned into, but as an artist, that is one of the hardest parts about doing a few performances here and there. You just don’t know what it could grow into. Oh, and I’d love to book a series regular on a successful TV show…said every actor ever!

What is something you would go back and tell yourself when you were a student at Penn State?

So many things! “This career is not solely about talent.” You have to be talented to hang, but I wish I had understood the many other factors that go into someone getting cast. I think it would have alleviated a lot of pain, and self-doubt. I think I would also have said, “Start auditioning for plays and TV NOW so you don’t get pigeon-holed as a musical theater actor.” Also, if we are talking about me as a student, I most importantly would have said, “Relax and enjoy this time in your life!” I was so hungry to get out and audition and work, but in retrospect my college years were so precious. I wish I had taken that in more.

What is something you took away from your time at Penn State that was particularly meaningful or formative?

I think the biggest thing I learned at Penn State is how to learn. It really is a skill, to take direction and know how to adjust. Also, the work ethic I gained at Penn State to survive has really served me well.

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