Intrepid Spirit Blog
|Posted on December 18, 2016 at 3:10 AM|
I love to profile some of the fascinating and inspiring people I have had the honor to meet throughout my life. This month I present to you Erin Cronican who I met working as a standardized "fake" patient (for med students) many moons ago in San Diego. Erin was always a self-starter and from the time I met her was always working hard (and succeeding!) at the business of being an actor. An incredibly gifted actress, she currently is starring as Lady Macbeth in NYC. I find her story particularly inspiring for many reasons and so with no further ado I present to you our interview!
Jennifer Jonassen: Tell us about your upcoming production of Macbeth!
Erin Cronican: Our production of MACBETH is running in NYC with my company, The Seeing Place - an ensemble theater company that uses an actor-driven rehearsal process derived from the practices of the Group Theatre. We have an amazing cast of 14 people, and one thing we’re committed to with this production is giving more opportunities to women and, within those opportunities, break open the stereotypes of the roles to make the characters more dimensional than typically seen played.
I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to play Lady Macbeth in this production, and I also co-direct and produce. This is the second time I’ve done the play - I played Lady Macduff in college.
Jennifer Jonassen: Macbeth is definitely one of my all time favorite plays! I so wish I could see you play Lady Macbeth! And your marketing is brilliant.
Erin Cronican: Thank you! One of my favorite things about MACBETH is how complex and multi-faceted it is. But we rarely get to see that because there’s this performance standard of Lady Macbeth being a maniacal manipulative force, and the Witches being crazy and demonic. In our production, we try to examine what is actually going on in the story to make the women behave the way they do. Lady Macbeth has just lost a child, and we incorporate that into the opening moments of her first scene. We also invited our actors playing the Three Witches and Hecate to look at what their responses would be in the midst of a war-torn country that doesn’t support their pagan views, ostracizing them to the point that they have to take action. It made a huge difference in our audiences modern understanding of the play. And as an actor that self-produces, that’s very gratifying.
Jennifer Jonassen: You have so many talents! Talk a little about The Seeing Place and Actors Enterprise.
Erin Cronican: Thank you! The Seeing Place is a theater company I co-founded with my (now) boyfriend in 2009. The company is completely comprised of actors, and we make it our mission to train the next generation of actor-producers in a supportive, artistic environment. With that, we put a contemporary spin on published works by master playwrights, like John Patrick Shanley, Anton Chekhov, Marsha Norman, Rebecca Gilman, Christopher Shinn, Tom Stoppard, and Shakespeare (to name a few.) And we do all of it under our Affordable Ticket Initiative, where all tickets are $15 to make great theater more accessible.
The Actors’ Enterprise is my career coaching service which I launched in 2007 to help actors learn how to manage the business aspects of their career. The idea is that if actors understand how the business works, they’ll feel more empowered as they manage their careers and have solid, concrete steps to take to build to where they want to be. It’s the supportive day job I created to fill in the gaps from the income of my acting career.
I view my work with The Seeing Place and The Actors’ Enterprise as part of my personal mission - I like to leave everyone feeling more empowered, creative and inspired. I feel very lucky to be able to structure my life the way I want to, and I think everyone else should be able to do that, too.
Jennifer Jonassen: Have you ever dealt with stage fright?
Erin Cronican: Definitely! I think that if you aren’t afraid, there may not be enough risks being taken! Anytime I am asked to reveal myself before others, there’s always a fear of not being like or the art not being appreciated. This is especially challenging as a singer, because precision is necessary in music and the slightest illness or lack of energy can adversely impact all of your efforts. Not only that, but anxiety itself can also impact your instrument, not just vocally but throughout the body.
Jennifer Jonassen: How do you deal with fear? Where/how do you find courage?(personal and or professional)
Erin Cronican: I have all kinds of fears! I try to do is compartmentalize what’s going on to deal with my fears little by little. I ask myself - “is there anything small that I can deal with right, and put the rest aside?” If so, I try to just deal with that. This helps me reduce any anxiety I have and then I can keep moving forward bit by bit, step by step. For anything in my life, be it performing, producing or teaching, I try to remind myself that I’m only as prepared as I am, no more and no less, and that is going to have to be enough for now.
When it comes to stage fright, a big part of dealing with fear is relaxing my body so that fear doesn’t get in the way of my expression. You can actively relax all throughout performance by breathing, releasing your muscles, and putting your concentration on the task(s) at hand.
Jennifer Jonassen: If you are comfortable sharing about your journey with cancer, I’d love to hear a little about your journey...
Erin Cronican: In May 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no serious history of breast cancer in my family and I had no risk factors - and genetic tests showed that I did not have a genetic mutation that led to the diagnosis. It was just dumb luck that I got it.
Not only did it throw a huge curve in my day to day life, but it severely impacted my acting career as well. Because not only did I have to take about a year off just to handle treatments (surgery, chemo and radiation), the side effects of these treatments have had long reaching impact. Most notably, chemo makes your hair fall out and the steroids that combat other symptoms of chemo cause most breast cancer patients to gain weight. As an actor who relies on my body as a marketing tool for my career, this has been devastating. For many years I was known as the young leading lady with long wavy blonde hair and a slim frame, and when I was done with treatments I had gained 15 pounds and had hair that was growing back in patches. I also had 4 scars across my chest, courtesy of the cancer and lymph nodes being removed and the chemo port being implanted and de-planted. I looked and felt like a beaten refugee - a refugee from cancer.
This forced me to really look at who I am as an actor, outside of how I look. Hair grows back and weight can be lost, but that’s a future result I couldn’t count on right away. How could I reconcile the changes in my body and feel comfortable presenting my altered self to the world? I set about creating a whole new brand - I looked at the roles I wanted to play and went about finding how I could tell that story with the look I had now.
I also had to find some way to deal with the changes to the inner me - the emotional and psychological changes that take over when you face a life-threatening illness. I’m looking at roles through a new pair of eyes, and I realize now that I can no longer relate to characters that are naive or innocent. I have looked death in the face and am living to tell the tale, am I’m now learning to include that in my work as an artist.
What’s amazing is how cathartic it is to be able to share myself with the world through creating art. For however long I’m still on this planet I hope that I’m able to continue to create with freedom and love.
(For anyone who wants to know more about my story, you can read through my blog posts on the topic here: http://www.erincronicals.com/search/label/**Yes%20I%20Have%20Breast%20Cancer)
Jennifer Jonassen: Thank you for sharing so much with us Erin!
And if you're reading this & in the NYC area make sure to catch Erin Cronican in Macbeth--running with rave reviews at the Seeing Place Theatre through December 22nd