Jazz Alumna Annie Gagen Performing in National Tour of Broadway's Tony-Award Winning Best Musical Hairspray Alumni Profile
Meet Annie Gagen '15
- Job Title & Employer
- Lou Ann, Understudy Velma, Hairspray
- Dance (jazz)
- Musical theatre
- Lakewood, Ohio
- High School
- Hathaway Brown School
- Now Living In
- New York City
- Hobbies & Interests
- Reading, organizing, coloring. I'm learning how to embroider this leg of the tour!
"At the time I was looking at schools, Point Park was one of the few that offered a concentration in jazz, rather than just ballet and modern. That was one of the first things that drew me there, aside from the excellent reputation that both the dance and musical theatre departments had."
Why did you choose Point Park University for dance and musical theatre?
At the time I was looking at schools, Point Park was one of the few that offered a concentration in jazz, rather than just ballet and modern. That was one of the first things that drew me there, aside from the excellent reputation that both the dance and musical theatre departments had. I also was not accepted the first time I auditioned as a senior in high school and had to re-audition. I took a gap year to study at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City as part of their New York Trainee Program and then re-auditioned during that program and was accepted. So, if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying!
Annie Gagen '15. Photo | Mallory Pattee
Tell us about your career path since graduating from Point Park.
My career path has definitely had its ups and downs. I was lucky enough to have a job performing at Cedar Point that started just two days after graduation.
Working at a theme park taught me how to take care of myself during a very long and intense run of a show. Doing a Can-Can show six shows a day, six days a week was no easy feat, but it gave me a lot of perspective going into my subsequent jobs.
I also did three cruise ship contracts and they are still some of my favorite memories. There is a stigma that ship shows are dated or are not artistically fulfilling, but I believe that some of my most challenging and satisfying performances came from my time on ships. I performed in incredibly versatile shows and got to travel the world and save a lot of money! At the time, nothing could’ve been better.
I’ve also done regional work before this tour. Between those I’m usually in NYC working, auditioning and taking class. I’m not sure where my career will go after this, but I’m excited to find out!
How did you land your role in Hairspray and what are your key responsibilities?
I auditioned for Hairspray in 2020 before the pandemic shut down our industry and postponed the production. When the second year of auditions came around for this leg of the tour, I submitted a video audition that included some choreography, vocal cuts and audition sides. I had an in-person callback and an offer a few weeks after that! I play Lou Ann, one of the kids on the Corny Collins show and I cover the role of Velma.
Why is it an exciting time to pursue a career in the arts?
I think our industry is in a unique place right now. With the push for change socially and politically in the world, the industry is aiming to become more inclusive. But at the same time there still are and will always be barriers and pushback. We are also still in the process of figuring out what our industry is in a post-pandemic world with regards to auditions, working conditions, and what we, as humans, might be willing to and not willing to do. It’s always exciting to be around change and progress.
What advice do you have for prospective Conservatory of Performing Arts majors?
Aside from my earlier advice to keep trying, my best advice would be to create your own path and listen to what feels right to you. What is right for someone else might not be right for you. I struggled a bit in school to figure out what I wanted my path to be but once I did, I pushed forward forcefully and unapologetically. I graduated in three years with a B.A. in dance and a minor in musical theatre, something no one else at the time had done.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My other piece of advice to prospective or even current students would be to find something else you might be passionate about and invest in yourself in those realms. The hustle for performing jobs never stops. Even Broadway performers sometimes need side hustles to sustain themselves between gigs.
Having a side job (or what I like to call a parallel career) you enjoy will help massively when it comes to your general well-being and mental health. I started a virtual assistant company, Assistance by Annie, during the height of the pandemic that not only helps sustain me between gigs as my side hustle but also allows me additional income (and stability) while I’m on contracts. I feel very lucky to get to say I love both my jobs. I don’t feel like many performers get to say about their side jobs.
More About: musical theatre, alumni, Conservatory of Performing Arts, Honors Program, dance, success story