Hi readers! Today, we have a new exclusive interview with Timothy A. Fitz-Gerald. Mr. Fitz-Gerald has been a part of both the Chicago and 1st National Touring productions of WICKED, where he is in the ensemble currently and understudies the role of Fiyero. Check out his thoughts below!
Tell us a little about yourself outside of performing – what kind of hobbies do you have; where did you grow up, etc.
I grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Albany. In high school, I had two loves: theater, and sports. Growing up, I played basketball, football, baseball, golf, tennis, and lacrosse. As I got older, I was forced to decide between my two passions, and therefore only played basketball to the varsity level. I still am a huge sports fan, (especially for my alma mater—Syracuse University), and love to play the sports I grew up with. As an adult, it’s easiest to play golf on a consistent basis, and I travel with my clubs and have been able to play some of the most beautiful courses around the country.
Being in “Wicked” actually helped me discover my other hobby. I was first hired to be a part of the Chicago company in 2007. I rented an unfurnished apartment, and filled it with whatever furniture I could find on the cheap. I really wanted an ottoman, but wasn’t willing to spend hundreds of dollars for one. So I decided to build one. As a result I discovered a love for carpentry, and have since built dozens of pieces of furniture for family members, friends, and myself.
What made you decide you wanted to pursue being a performer as a career?
I always did the school play. But when I started middle school, I went to a private, all male, Catholic, military school—obviously not a hotbed for artistic expression. While my school did have a drama program, I decided to start auditioning for local community theaters as well. My first was a small production of West Side Story, my sophomore year. It was the first time I had acted, sung, and danced, all at the same time. From then on, I was hooked, and theater was no longer just a hobby.
What was your first professional performing job, and what did you learn from the experience?
I guess I would call my first professional experience, the first time I got paid. Going by that standard, my fist show would be a production of Brigadoon I did at Park Playhouse in Albany, NY the summer after my freshman year in college. I think I got paid $130 a week. It was a great experience because it was a huge outdoor amphitheater, and my best friend was in the show with me. They brought in two union actors from New York to play the leads, which was helpful for me, in that I started to see some of the differences between professional actors and folks that do it for fun.
What has been your favorite performance job to date?
I often think about what has been my favorite job, and frankly there’s not one absolute favorite. I’ve been very lucky to be part of some wonderful artistic experiences. What has surprised me in my development as a professional is that it’s not always the shows that you expect to be the best, that work out that way. Sometimes the smallest, shortest, (and least paying gigs), end up being the most fulfilling. I will say there have been four differents hows that have helped shaped me as an actor. They are The Rocky Horror Show, (which I did in LA), the first national tour of Titanic, and The Boy from Oz, on Broadway. And perhaps the production that I still hold dearest to my heart is “Arcadia”, which I did my senior year in college.
Of course, the most important job I ever did was the national tour of “Joseph…” because that’s where I met my beautiful wife.
How did you come to audition for Wicked? What was your process like?
I booked “Wicked” in February of 2007—the second time I auditioned for it. It was a very typical replacement audition. My agent called with the appointment. They were seeing guys for my part for just an hour. I was the last to be seen, and could tell immediately that I had a very good chance of being cast. Less than a week later I was in Chicago starting rehearsals.
When you got word that you would be joining the ensemble of WICKED, what was your initial reaction? Who was the first person you told, and how did they react?
When I booked “Wicked” I was thrilled that I would be part of such a successful show, and have a stable job, (which can be very rare in this business). I immediately called my then girlfriend, (and now wife), Brenda Hamilton. I had been visiting Brenda who was on tour with “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in Florida at the time. I had to cut my trip short, in order to fly home for the audition. It’s ironic that here we are, 6 years later, and now Brenda and I are both on the first national of “Wicked” together.
What was your rehearsal process like for the ensemble? What about as Fiyero?
Any time you start rehearsals to replace someone, (especially in a big show like “Wicked”),it usually goes very much by the numbers—meaning you have to learn the choreography, blocking and music as quickly as possible. You are expected to fill in the artistic blanks on your own.
Tell us a little bit about your first performance in the show.
Frankly, I don’t really remember my first performance in “Wicked”. But I do remember wanting to get through it without causing too many problems. One of the biggest challenges of being in this ensemble is figuring out all the various and complicated traffic patterns. If your timing is wrong or you’re in the wrong spot, it can have a domino effect on the rest of the company.
What was your favorite part of the show to perform in the ensemble? As Fiyero?
My favorite part of the show while performing in the ensemble is probably the very beginning of the “Ozdust Ballroom”. I enter as part of a trio of guys, along with a trio of women mirroring us on the other side of the stage. We start what becomes the biggest dance number in the show, doing various “oz-like” poses and freezes along the way. I’m always paired with phenomenal dancers, so it makes me, (someone who is primarily a singer); feel just a little like a badass to be dancing with them.
My favorite part of the show when I go on for Fiyero is undoubtedly the lion-cub scene, (after Elphaba steals the cage in act 1). In my opinion, it is the best scene in the show. And it is the scene where everything changes for Fiyero—it’s a great scene to act.
What are you favorite costumes that you get to wear?
There are so many fun costumes to wear in “Wicked”. But I’d have to say my favorite is the Fiyero costume in “Dancing Through Life”.
What has been your favorite city to visit on tour?
Once again, it is very difficult to choose a favorite city. There is a big difference between a great city to live in or even vacation in, as opposed to a city to tour through. On tour, our main focus is always work. So things like quality and location of housing, ease of getting to and from the show, and how user friendly the theater itself is, are usually our priorities for a city. Having said that, there are a few that stick out for me. I really love Portland, Denver, and Chicago, to name a few. And also, the tour went to Honolulu for 8 weeks this past year, which was pretty remarkable.
Do you have any memorable or humorous onstage bloopers from any show you’ve done you’d like to share?
My favorite “Wicked” blooper of all time happened when I was still in the Chicago company. The gentleman who was playing Fiyero, (who was one of our most seasoned veterans), rode into the “Dancing Through Life” scene on the cart with Averic as he always did. But this particular night for some reason, the cart stopped very short very fast, and Fiyero flew out of the cart and landed face down on the deck. I didn’t see it happen, but when I looked, he was flat on his face, with his cheek against the floor still pretending to be asleep. I was lucky to have the notebook as a prop to hide my face—I couldn’t take it!
What would you like to be doing with your career short-term? Long-term? Any dream roles?
I’ve been a professional in this business for 15 years, so my short and long term goals are quite different than someone just starting out. I’ve learned over the years that remaining employed, and being able to carve out a living for yourself, consistently can be both very challenging and rewarding. One thing that has always interested me, even when I was a student myself was teaching—specifically at the collegiate level. I love the college atmosphere especially in the artistic sense. With that in mind, it is my hope that at some point I’ll earn my MFA, and then land somewhere, where I can help guide the next generation of actor sand singers.
As far as dream roles go—of course there are shows that I’ve always wanted to do. But I’ve found that the roles that are most rewarding are ones that are brand new, and you get to create yourself.
What advice would you give to aspiring performers?
It is my firm belief that every young actor must find his or her own way, and figure out how to survive the business in a way that suits their own unique needs. Having said that, there are a few key principles that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. They are:
1. Work hard. Simply put, the people that work the hardest, work the most.
2. Compare leads to despair. Don’t line up your successes and failures next to your friends and classmates. This leads to a career full of insecurity and heartache.
3. It’s easier to start a good habit, than it is to break a bad one. Start thinking and acting like a professional now.
4. Save your money.
5. Learn as much as you can about your craft. Get training!
6. Work Hard!