It’s hard to imagine actors with this much talent attributing their success to “perseverance” and “discipline.” But that’s exactly what Michael and Angela Ingersoll say when asked by Metropolis Insider. The husband and wife teamed up with actors Julie Burt and Steve O’Connell in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, Metropolis’ opening production of the 2006/2007 season. This was the second time in these roles for the Ingersolls, both having performed in Love/Perfect at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis. But to become such a successful husband – wife team, they had to become a husband and wife.
Six years ago at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival, the company manager made the announcement he makes every year to his company of actors, a profession that is particularly known for its- closeness. “Nobody touch each other.” Two weeks later Michael and Angela began dating. After a year together in Cincinnati and three in Memphis at Playhouse on the Square, they married “On a Monday,” says Michael. “Cause it’s the only dark day [known as dark days, theatres are traditionally only closed on Mondays].”
Michael: “One of the people we met in the theatre got ordained, to marry us. And yeah, we got married on a Monday so that we could-”
Angela: “So all our theatre friends could go. Our artistic friends built the set. When all of your friends are entertainers and party throwers, it’s the best wedding ever.”
Then there’s the matter of career.
M: “Here we were in our 20′s, and we wanted to take the next step professionally. We wanted to get in the union, so we took steps towards that.”
re:create: “You did one film there [in Memphis]”
M: “Yeah, I did Walk the Line when I was down there. I got to see Joaquin Phoenix a lot. Oh man that’s a great movie.”
At which point it was time to make the leap to one of the biggest theatre markets in the country. Coming to Chicago “wasn’t an easy decision,” Michael says. “We had jobs in a resident company [in Memphis], we were always in leading roles, we were paid a living wage, the voice over market there helped us make our living totally from the industry. We were big fish in a small pond… We were doing pretty much what we wanted to do.”
And they still are. Michael played the lead in tick, tick… Boom!, the hit musical from the creator of Rent, and was recently cast in the First National Tour of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys, opening December 1 in San Francisco. Angela played Nellie in South Pacific at Light Opera Works and was recently nominated for a JEFF Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Secret Garden at Porchlight Music Theatre. And as rehearsals of Love/Perfect give way to performances it becomes obvious why they get to do what they want. They have huge voices, tremendous talent and a ton of energy. Both of them. Put them with the equally talented Burt and O’Connell and this production takes-off.
In her book The Creative Habit, legendary New York Choreographer Twyla Tharp talks of getting up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to exercise and begin her days’ work. She speaks of creativity and talent not as this elusive thing one is born with, but as something one develops through hard work. The Ingersolls are evidence of this. Though I could barely get them to acknowledge their talent, it’s obvious they have plenty of it.
M: “We chose to totally start over, knowing that nobody would know us here. We didn’t have an agent. You know, but as soon as we got here we got hooked up with Alan Chambers (Associate Artistic Director, Theatre Building Chicago). He had come down to Memphis, there’s this huge audition conference every year.”
A: “He was really instrumental.”
M: “He got us into Josephine Tonight. They were small parts but we got to meet great people through that.
A: “What’s gotten the ball rolling for us, in my opinion, has had a lot to do with Elizabeth.”
M: “Elizabeth Geddes is our agent, and she is an amazing agent. And if you want to make a living in the business in Chicago, you have to have one. She’s been fantastic.”
re:create: “How long did it take you to fully make your living in the business in Chicago?”
A: “We haven’t had a day job yet.”
M: “It’s literally a full-time obsession to make that happen. Most actors don’t think of themselves as running a contracting business. Your goal is to get a contract. You are a contractor. So you have to be all your own departments of that business, in terms of making connections and self-promotion. We sent out headshots, mailings, letters-”
re:create: “What’s the single biggest factor that’s lead to your success?”
A: “Having a strong vision of what you want. A lot of artists and actors may be preoccupied with whatever might pop up in front of them. You’re not necessarily progressing because you don’t have your eye on the prize, you don’t have a vision of what you want for yourself and therefore the perseverance to make each opportunity what you want it to be: Every opportunity is whatever you make it. And everyone you work with is as great as you will visualize them to be. So there’s this self-obsession that you have and this collaborative cooperation that you have to have at the same time. And it’s exhausting, but necessary. And very rewarding.”
M: “It’s perseverance and discipline. They’re more important than anything else. They’re more important than talent, they’re more important than the way you look. I think they’re more important than ability. I think we can all agree that there are some actors that are making incredible livings that may not be the best actors in the world. But they worked it. They worked the business. My bet is that Keanu Reeves worked the business.”
A: “Yeah, you don’t have to be the most talented or beautiful or the smartest. You have to do everything you can to make it happen for yourself.”
M: “Which is not selling ourselves short or anything. Yes, [talent] must be a part of the puzzle, but it’s only a part in a much larger puzzle.”
A: “Because the business isn’t fair.”
M: “Right, I mean the discipline is just not to give up. The rejection is intense. All the time, it is constant. Constant.”
A: “And it’s necessary for the business to work. You have to accept the rejection. It’s normal.”
M: “But to not let that get in your head. To not let the rejection define you. To not let it cripple you, in terms of your effort. I think is the single most important thing. You have to keep doing it.”
re:create: “What’s a good batting average?”
M: “It depends. If you’re going to do theatre-Ok, if your goal-[stopping to think] Really it’s money. You can work constantly if you’re not worried about money. Because there’s so much theatre in this city. Hundreds of companies. You can work if all you want is work. If you want to make a living? In Theatre? I think a good batting average is one out of fifteen.”
re:create: “So what’s your batting average since coming to Chicago?”
M: “It’s a little better than that (laughing). I’ve probably gone on 15 or 20 [auditions], and I’ve gotten maybe five or six, and turned down the three that were not as good as the three that I accepted.”
A: “I haven’t gone on as many theatre auditions as you. I was a little pickier.”
M: “I was happy to get-What?!” (Both laughing)
M: “But the biggest thing, you can’t set rules for yourself. As soon as you say ‘ok if I haven’t done XYZ in two years, I’m done.’ You can’t do it. It doesn’t work that way. You have to say, I will achieve this no matter what.”
A: “The discoveries you make along the way of how you’re going to get there-that’s the exciting part. You just need to keep your vision alive.”
M: “What you’re selling is yourself. You have to be a product that someone wants to invest in. Part of the discipline is spending money to maintain your voice with voice lessons. It’s going to the gym. It’s going to bed early enough that you can get up early enough in the morning to go to your audition that you know you have a one in a hundred chance of getting. That’s what I mean, I guess, with discipline.”
re:create: “Michael, you just got cast in the National Tour of Jersey Boys.”
M: “I start rehearsal in New York the day [Love/Perfect] closes. The coolest part, is the first national tour is a remount by the original Broadway creative team. So the director, who won the Tony, everybody, the musical director, reassembles to do this thing. So that’s what’s really exciting…
If there’s anything else that’s interesting, it’s that we’ve really done this as a team. The way that we’ve leaned on each other, and supported each other through this because-In acting, or in any arts, the highs are higher, and the lows are lower. When it’s great it’s great, and when it’s bad-cause what you’re selling is you, and when you get, you know, no no no no no, it’s you they’re saying no to. I think it’s cool that, you know, Angie and I have done it together. That we met in the theatre. That we got married in the theatre.”