Playwright David Mamet has been credited with the aphorism “If you have something to fall back on, you will.”
Currently in living and working in New York City, actress Lexy Fridell agrees.
“It’s true, it’s really true,” said the spry 23 year-old during a recent trip home to her native Sonoma.
“I keep thinking I should learn to be a trainer or this or that, but then I think ‘No. Work at a restaurant if you have to. You can leave when you want, nothing is holding you down.’”
Fridell’s early experiences in Sonoma working with such local theater organizations Broadway Bound Kids! as well as Sonoma Charter School’s Jean Barnier primed her for a life onstage.
“Jean Barnier was a big influence on me. She was really into Shakespeare and every year we would go to the Ashland Oregon Shakespeare Festival,” Fridell recalls. “Growing up in the valley surrounded by the arts here was very supportive.”
Nothing, however, could have prepared Fridell for the grind of auditioning on the Great White Way.
“It’s completely different and I don’t think anyone can tell you what’s it’s like until you do it yourself. It’s horrifying,” Fridell laughed.
The notion that such a confident young woman would be remotely nervous when auditioning at first seems odd, but, as Fridell reminded “It’s just a whole different world out there. There’s a million people in the city all just trying to do this.”
Fridell’s advice to herself comes in the form of a question: “What do you do to stand out and make yourself different?”
“I have an interesting voice and a different look – sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad – but I’m not ‘cookie cutter’ thank God,” Fridell self-assessed with her signature voice, perhaps more piccolo than flute. It is interesting, ear-catching and most certainly a distinguishing asset.
“I’ve been working my way up which is great,” she said, adding that one must “Find your little niche, use your own quirkiness.”
Such maxims preclude Fridell from feeling the need to be competitive with her contemporaries when at auditions.
“I just think that everyone is different,” said Fridell. “It’s pretty crazy. You get there at seven in the morning, then you wait for hours and hours and hours. Then you finally get in and they see you for about 10 seconds. And then you’re out.”
Fridell recently attended an audition for a touring adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel “Little Women” despite the fact that her agents didn’t think she was a appropriate.
“They said ‘You’re not right for that,’ but I said ‘I think I am’ and went to the open call. They really liked what I did and called me back five times,” recalled Fridell. “I didn’t end up getting it, but it goes to show that you can get in that way. Sometimes you have to work for yourself. You have to push, you have to know what you’re right for and really go after what you want, knowing who you are.”
And Fridell knows who she is – she is a born performer. It runs in the family: her father Squire Fridell has clocked time portraying, among other roles, iconic burger clown Ronald MacDonald. He is also an accomplished playwright. Likewise, Fridell’s mother is a dancer. The family business notwithstanding, Fridell’s parents initially tried to dissuade her from the performing arts.
“My parents tried to keep me out of it,” Fridell recounted, but try as they might to interest her in such things as “computers” it was all for naught, the kid had the bug. She attended Idyllwild Arts Academy, a private performing arts school in Southern California and went on to prestigious Carnegie Mellon University where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater.
“Carnegie Mellon really prepared me for the Big Apple – though you really can’t know what it’s like until you get there. We did showcase in New York and Los Angeles, we met with casting people and agents,” said Fridell who is represented by a commercial agent, voice over agent and a theater agent. She is also a member of Actor’s Equity, the trade union for stage performers
So, the moral of the story is that working hard and going to college pays off, right?
“Pretty much,” Fridell laughed, then added, “I’m not on Broadway yet. But I have been off-
Broadway doing a couple of things.”
Fridell’s recent credits include a run in “The Great Big Radio Show” a paean to the glory days of live radio for which she will enter the recording studio for a cast recording sometime this month. The actress also appeared in “Henry Sweet Henry,” the musical based on the Nora Johnson comic novel “The World of Henry Orient” which finds a pair of teenage girls stalking an avant-garde composer.
In the meantime, Fridell is busy auditioning and hoping to land in, as she says, “Comedic anything – anything funny.” In fact, she just auditioned for the hit musical “Hairspray” inspired by the campy John Waters flick of the same title.
“I haven’t heard back from them, so who knows,” she says cheerfully. “I think people are most happy when they are consistently working. There’s a lot of people that are nominated or win Tonys, but then you don’t hear about them for years, they can’t get arrested – or they do,” she laughs.
Fridell would eventually like to add a sitcom and an animation gig to her resume, but is satisfied, for the moment, honing her craft and working her way to Broadway.
And what sage advice does Lexy Fridell have for young performers interested in a life on the floorboards?
“Stay away!” she laughed. After a moment, she softens the notion and says “Absolutely go after it if it’s the only thing you can do, but if there’s something else that piques your interest a little bit more go after it because this is really hard.”