Penn State Musical Theatre Alums Making a Splash in London!

Vanessa and Emily
On July 1, 2016, ’02 alum Emily Miller opened in a London Fringe production called Savage, and ’05 alum Vanessa Reseland opened as the Witch in Into the Woods at Menier Chocolate Factory. Here’s a little inside scoop from these two fabulous Musical Theatre grads:
What is it like to work in London?
I’ve done four Fringe shows since moving to London but Savage wasn’t a Fringe show—it was my West End debut! It was also the first straight play I’d done in London; all my other Fringe work had been musical theatre. 
What has it been like working on Savage?
I’m very grateful to have done Savage for several reasons, both professionally and personally. It was fascinating to work on a piece that was based on a true story. A little over a year ago the playwright read an article in The Guardian about a man named Carl Peter Vaernet, a doctor during World War II that thought that he had come up with the “cure” to homosexuality. To do the research, however horrifying, and discover all the lives this man destroyed with his belief was incredible. He was never tried for his crimes, which I think is another reason the playwright felt this story needed to be told. It was an honor to help bring the story to life and get the word out to so many people. The play was published already and I will say it’s quite a cool thing to see your name listed as the original London West End cast. Savage is over now, but it’s definitely not the end for this special play. I’m thrilled to have been a part of the very beginning.
What are some things you’ve learned from your experiences working in London, and how does it compare to working as an actor in the United States?
If I had to sum up the major difference working here vs. working in the United States, it would have to be the lack of opportunity to audition here. London used to have a lot of rep theatre about 10 years ago, but sadly it’s not around anymore. Open calls here simply don’t happen. Since moving here I’ve seen only two. It’s one of the reasons it’s important to do as much Fringe as possible because sometimes it’s the only way you can be seen by a casting director—they will go see your work if invited. I got offered Savage after the director saw me in a Fringe show, actually. 
The lack of opportunity to get in the door, however frustrating, has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve had to step up my game with networking and self-promotion—something I’ve never really been comfortable with. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be here, but I am so thankful for everything London has taught me in a short amount of time. It has been one hell of a ride so far.   
Here is the article that inspired Savage.
How has it been working in London on this production of Into the Woods?
For the last month-and-a-half, London has been an extremely welcome home away from home. The audiences have been so willing to take the emotional journey required for the depth of this show. It pushes our work further into the heart of what is captured so astutely and eloquently in the writing of this piece.
Into the Woods is sold out until the end of the run. How is this show impacting audiences?
Fiasco is a company willing to open their individual and collective hearts to remember why we were all drawn to the theatre in the first place. I have never felt so connected to the soul of an audience in my life. Every night, this show strips us all bare and reminds us of the hope humanity is capable of with honesty, trust, and levity. I look out into the crowd, witnessing their vulnerability every night, and it is a gift I hold sacred.
What does playing this iconic role mean to you?
Playing the Witch is a dream come true. Playing the Witch with Fiasco has been a lifesaver. I am honored to impart this show's wisdom to an audience of varying demographics, all connected through the power and responsibility of love and ambition in a realistic, although fairy tale, world.
Read more about Into the Woods at Meiner Chocolate Factory. 

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