We hope you enjoyed President Greg Donathan’s walk down memory lane! Continuing on with #MyFirstMuniAudition Anna Maisenbacher, director of The Addams Family, shares her first whirlwind summer. (Exclusive photos attached!)
My first Muni audition took place at Congregational Church in March of 1995. I only have a vague memory of going to a Muni production one time prior to auditioning. My Godmother’s daughter and close friend of our family, Courtney, was the lead in a production of Me and My Girl in 1992. We went to support but we were by no means avid Muni attendees. My mom suggested I audition for Muni because I enjoyed singing at church. So we stood in the very long line of children auditionees in the church parking lot and filed down the stairs to get a number. At this point in time, there were no scheduled auditions. Everyone showed up at the same time and waited in line together. We went up to the front of the room in groups of 10 and sang “Getting to Know You” for the directors. I had practiced with my voice teacher (the lovely Sue Hamilton) a few times prior to the audition. I remember wearing this oversized yellow sweater with a pair of black leggings and white Keds. Hair was in my signature half up, half down, sponge rolled curls and sausage rolled bangs. Classic 90s. I remember someone reading the list of numbers that needed to stay for callbacks. There were three shows that had roles for children that year: The King and I, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Gypsy. I had callbacks for the latter of the two. I distinctly remember the warmthness of Phil Funkenbush during Gypsy callbacks. They look place in the upstairs of Congregational and he leaned over the piano as we took turns singing and dancing “Let Me Entertain You,” always offering his encouraging words and compliments, frequently saying, “Oh you’re all just so wonderful!” I had absolutely no idea who he was at the time, but remember thinking, “I want to do a show with that guy at some point.”
Following Gypsy callbacks, I went back downstairs to complete a callback for Meet Me in St. Louis. I had seen the Judy Garland movie previously, but I’d never read scenes for anything before. I remember one by one reading for roles of Tootie and Agnes and then doing a dance choreographed by Marj Berchtold. It was to the song “Banjos”, and I loved it so much. I can still do it to this day because I practiced it so many times after the audition. The following night, I received a call from the director, Steve Kaplan, casting me in the role of Tootie, and my life was never the same. That’s probably a bit dramatic of a statement, but theater, and specifically the Muni, has become such a HUGE part of my life. I cried so much, my mom had to take the phone from me and finish the conversation with Dr. Kaplan.
Everything about my first Muni experience was magical, largely due to the fact that the “adults” in the show were so incredibly caring and wonderful to me. They truly embraced the concept of “Muni Family,” took me under their wings, and guided me through the process. I knew every line in the show, watched every scene that I wasn’t in from offstage, and memorized every dance step. I idolized the featured dancers and leads of the production and remember thinking, “if I know every step of Skip to My Lou I could fill in if they needed me.” I was 10. That wasn’t going to happen.
I’ll never forget Micah Josephson graciously dancing backstage with me every night at intermission over and over again, even though he had just finished dancing on stage. It was probably exhausting and annoying, but he never complained. At least not to me. I remember thinking Missy Homa (now Cartwright) was SO COOL because she did the Dirty Dancing lift in a dance break with Tony Thrasher. I was in awe of everyone’s talent. My sister and I can still do the choreography to “Under The Bamboo Tree” because I made her practice with me in my bedroom. If you ask us to perform it for you after a few cocktails, we typically oblige. So to Paul, Barb, Angie, Susan, Tony, Lou Ellen, Don, Kevin, Missy, Elizabeth, Micah, featured dancing girls whose names I cannot recall 25+ years later…thank you. Thank you for being so kind to the new kid. Your kindness truly changed my life, and you were such incredible examples of how seasoned Muni people should welcome newbies into the Muni family. The Muni family truly is a gift and my family has come to include hundreds of new members. I hope you consider joining in any capacity this summer.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me! Anna (Bussing) Maisenbacher, Muni’s 1995 Tootie Smith signing off from under the bamboo tree.