"This seems terrifying! How am I going to provide for myself?"
Lyndsay Ricketson never intended to be an actress. In fact, she was once afraid to perform. Hard to believe with a growing resume that now spans over twenty-five roles as a soloist and an artist in professional theatre. Along with her faith in God and the encouragement from AMTC, Lindsay currently enjoys a career as an actress in Atlanta. Working steadily in musicals and plays, and even consulting for AMTC from time to time, Lindsey brings a fresh perspective on the importance of pursuing excellence and stewarding the talents the Lord has given us.
You graduated from Berry College with a B.A. in Musical Theatre. Obviously you’re serious about performing. How did AMTC help you take what you’ve learned in school and apply it to a career in professional theatre?
My college education was really great, but it only gave me some of the pieces to succeed. I went into AMTC right after I graduated, which was Divine timing. I was able to work with the coaches to take all of the pieces that I had discovered and begun to hone in college, and string them together. As a performer, if you’re an actor, your job is to audition, and you need to be able to audition well. If you can’t, you will not get work, and it’s not because you’re a bad actor. You can be the best actor out there and not audition well. So in many aspects, AMTC really helped me learn to audition, because their coaches were great at helping with that audition process. This is what it looks like, this is what it feels like… it helped me get comfortable with auditioning, and as an actor you will be doing that ninety per cent of the time.
How long have you been singing and dancing?
I started singing when I was three (laughs). My parents say that I came out singing. I was always humming; they actually lovingly called me the mosquito around their house (laughs). The first performance I did as an actor, I was probably five. I really didn’t start taking a lot of dance classes until college. This is going to sound really bad: I had no desire to be in this profession. I had no desire to be a singer, or an actor, or a dancer, none of it. I think the reason I didn’t was because of a lot of fear. I was living in the fear of, No, this seems terrifying! and, How am I going to provide for myself? Well, the answer was obviously I’m not doing the providing for myself; it’s not actually up to me. When I got into college, I went in undeclared, and halfway through my first semester, I had a dawning realization where I felt God told me, “That choir class and that theatre appreciation class that you’re in? Those are the two classes where you feel the most fulfilled and connected to Me, so maybe you should think about this.” And I was like, “Oh man, this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.” So I went and declared my musical theatre major that day, surrendered it all, and I haven’t looked back.
You have had leading roles, both in plays and musicals. Do you prefer one style of theatre to the other?
I prefer musicals. Singing is like breathing to me, and I feel my life is like a musical. I talk to other actors who say, “Musicals are such fluff and blah-blah-blah,” and I get it, I do. They’re feel-good. But I’m very passionate about bringing hope to people, and bringing a lot of life into them, so that they leave uplifted. That doesn’t mean that a musical can’t have a message. Sometimes the message can be, Hey, believe in yourself! or There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! At the same time, in straight plays, you’re challenged to keep the audience’s attention in some ways a little more. Straight plays can be very boring (laughs). But they can also be incredible. What I think is so powerful in a musical is sometimes the reason you’re singing a song is because you literally cannot express it in just words. And that’s the reason you do a musical. It’s because the emotions you are expressing are beyond language; you must sing them instead of speak them.
You were a puppeteer in Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. How cool was that?
Yes! It was so cool! I ended up doing a little bit of puppetry in the musical Shrek at the Alliance Theatre. One of the people from the Center for Puppetry Arts happened to be there, saw me in that show, and so they called me in to audition.
They wanted to steal you from the other theatre?
(Laughs) Well, as an actor in Atlanta, you’re never working at the same theatre, you’re usually bouncing all over the place. So I auditioned, and they offered me the role of Hermey the Elf. I will say it’s maybe the most challenging work I’ve ever done. Puppetry is a very different skill set than acting because you are not the forefront. You can’t have an ego in puppetry; the audience doesn’t know who you are. The art is about the puppets and the story we’re telling. But it’s very articulate; you have to turn the puppet’s head one direction, or motion with its hand to communicate an idea at the exact moment that you’re speaking. In school they tell you not indicate with your body as an actor. You know, “don’t indicate that phone over there.” But with a puppet, that’s all you’re doing; it’s all indication.
What is your favorite production you have been in?
One that sticks with me the most was Next to Normal at the Alliance. It was a musical with a very strong message, and that message is a message of hope. That’s why I do theatre. While some of the content was very difficult and hard and people were in the audience crying, from a performer’s standpoint, you felt like you were changing lives. You’d have people come up to you after the show and say, “Hey, let me share my life experience with you, because you’re show reminded me of that.” Or, “I was you, I was in your position.” And it was just like you were connecting on a very different and beautiful level. That’s really powerful, and that’s what I think theatre should always be.
You’ve worked as a Broadway soloist several times, notably on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign and at Luther Rice University graduation convocation. Do you every get nervous performing such prestigious events?
Yeah! That was really fun. That was actually through an AMTC consultant, who’s my vocal coach. She was in charge of putting out one of the song medleys for the Let’s Move campaign in it, so I got pulled into that, and it was awesome. We didn’t get to meet first lady Obama unfortunately, but I did get to see her very close. But no, I don’t get nervous. And that sounds really bad… maybe I don’t recognize it as nervousness anymore, I just instinctively feel that feeling as excitement, almost like a heightened kind of awareness.
As a Christian, how have you experienced God opening doors for you in your career?
One of the most monumental ways that I’ve been able to visibly see Him do that is at one point I got to be an understudy at a particular theatre, and then the next thing you know, I’m getting to perform at that theatre. And I just know that He’s opening those doorways so that as I walk through them they’re leading to other opportunities. But on the flip side, He clearly closes doors too. And even if sometimes that’s really frustrating, or painful or sad, the more it happens, the more I just decide, “Okay, well there is a reason this door is firmly shut. So I just need to start pursuing the door or window that’s open, and not having to open the window myself.
What’s the most awesome thing about AMTC, in your opinion?
I really think they care about you as a person. One thing that I love is that I know if I need something, I can go back to them at any time. I mean, we’re having this conversation now, and I graduated from AMTC many years ago. But I still get to go back and be a part of that family; it feels like the trunk of a tree almost. We’re all little branches, and we’re all growing and spreading out everywhere. Probably is their most powerful thing, aside from the training is that you really have someone who is in your corner, and they believe in you. They don’t want you to compromise, and they don’t want you to drop your standards. They want you to be right where you need to be.
What advice would you give to a performer who is going through AMTC and wants to work in musical theatre?
Know your music. If you don’t know music theory, you should try to learn. There are resources out there. And I say that, not because you have to know it, but because your music directors will recognize that in you, and you will work because of it. People will say, “Oh, I know he or she can pick up this music in a minute, so let’s just call them in because we can send them the sheet music and they’ll be able to sing it.” So know your sheet music. But also, when you sing, you are acting. Don’t just sing to hear your voice. It doesn’t have to always sound pretty; sometimes it’s a matter of communicating more than just the beauty of your voice. You’re going with that connection to the audience, and you’re giving your fellow actors something to work with. And that’s huge. It’s all about giving. If all the actors on stage are giving to each other, it’s magic.