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Cole to be honored with ’A Chorus Line’ cast

Kay Cole, an assistant professor at Emerson College Los Angeles who was an original cast member in the 1975 Broadway musical A Chorus Line, will be honored with other original cast members on April 16 at The Public Theater in New York City.

A plaque will be unveiled and put on display in the Ford Foundation Lobby of The Public Theater, where the show opened.

A musical about dancers auditioning for a spot on a chorus line, A Chorus Line won nine Tony Awards and redefined musical theater. Set on a bare stage, the original production of A Chorus Line ran for more than 6,000 performances, holding the title for longest-running musical in Broadway history until 1997.

Cole originated the role of Maggie Winslow.   

Kay Cole

Kay Cole, an assistant professor at Emerson College Los Angeles, was an original cast member in A Chorus Line, and will be honored in New York City on April 16. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

How did you land the role of Maggie?

Cole: I was in a show that was on Broadway called Sammy Cahn’s Words and Music. [A Chorus Line director and choreographer] Michael Bennett saw me in that show. When they started auditioning, he asked me to come in.

What’s one of your favorite memories about performing in A Chorus Line?

When we were down in the Newman Theater at The Public Theater, which is where we opened, we were fortunate enough and the success of the show was so quick that many celebrities I had admired all my life came backstage after having seen the show: Gene Kelly, Laurence Olivier, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Shirley MacLaine. They were all very generous and very sweet and very engaging.

Why do you think A Chorus Line was so successful?

It speaks to issues that everyone has doubts and fears about—fitting in. For dancers, it’s being too fat, too thin, too short, too old. But as we see, as time has gone by, those are universal issues that everyone feels. The design of the show was very inviting to the audience because we were always looking at them. We were always talking to Zach, the director in the musical, who was in the audience. There was an engaging energy that really had not been used before.

How excited are you to be returning to The Public Theater to celebrate the 40th anniversary?

We’re very excited. We all love each other. We get together as often as we can, but we all live in different areas. When we’re invited to be together, it’s like a very large extended family.

As someone who teaches Acting for Film and Television, does anything about your experience performing in a musical about auditioning inform your teaching?

The goal for teaching is for people to celebrate their artistry. Every time someone gets a chance to audition, remember it’s really a way to show the true self, the true artist’s self, and to not think about getting the job. It’s an opportunity to do the work that you love even if it’s for 10 minutes in the audition room. That’s the part of it that I would like to instill in young people and future performers.

Since you’re attending the anniversary, you’ll be missing Emerson Los Angeles’s student-produced acting showcase, which you directed. What excites you about this year’s showcase?

The group of people is wonderful in this year’s showcase. First of all, we have 10 ladies and one gentleman, which is an unusual combination. I think what that’s made us do is choose scenes that are versatile, unique, and specific for each individual personally in more ways than other showcases.

The title for this year’s Emerson Los Angeles acting showcase is On the Verge: Boldly Going Where Many Actors Have Gone Before. Why that title?

We felt that it was a celebration of the ELA building being kind of like a spaceship, going to a new environment. For the students as actors, that’s how they feel, that they are on the verge of going into a new world. They are coming out of college and going where no one has gone before because everyone is unique.

If you’re interested in attending this year’s acting showcase, scheduled for April 16 at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles, RSVP by calling 213-761-5079 or emailing EmersonShowcaseRSVP2015@gmail.com