This Spotlight focuses on Elizabeth Adabale, a dedicated musical theatre entertainer who studied public health and theatre at the University of Southern California and taught high school biology with Teach for America, until the stage pulled her elsewhere. I first met her in 2013 when she began to audition for productions in Los Angeles and knew with her talent and stage presence, Elizabeth was destined to “hit it big” on stages across the country! I reached out to her to find out how is she dealing with the cancellation of her national tour in The Color Purple after 111 performances.
Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your own theatrical background?
Elizabeth Adabale (EA): My musical theatre career has been a windy road, beginning with my claim to fame, "starring" as Passenger #3 in my middle school's production of Anything Goes. From the age of 11, I realized that my happy place was on stage singing and dancing in front of an audience. So much so, I begged my parents to let me go to a performing arts high school, but instead went to a medical magnet school that would prepare me to study medicine at the collegiate level. I was still able to participate in some children's theatre in high school, and went on to study public health and theatre at the University of Southern California.
During my time at USC, I realized that there were a lot of opportunities I missed out on because I wasn't a theatre major. I was able to perform in a few shows, but felt I didn't have the training to pursue a career right out of college. Though I was pre-med throughout my time there, I decided at the last minute to pursue another career and joined Teach For America as a high school biology teacher. During the day, I would teach 11th graders about photosynthesis and eventually helped found the theatre program at my school. At night, I would audition and pursue regional theatre in the greater Los Angeles area.
(SB): I do remember you were teaching during the day and doing theater at night when I first met you when you walked into the Westchester Playhouse to audition for Little Shop of Horrors in 2013 and blew us away with your voice and stage presence. As I recall, it was one of your first community theatre shows in Los Angeles.
(EA): And my first paid performance was in the ensemble of Queenie Pie, a Duke Ellington opera, with the Long Beach Opera. Realizing I could get paid for my passion lit a fire in me to take things to the next level. My turning point was participating in a musical theatre competition called LA's Next Great Stage Star. It was a 6-week process where 19 contestants and I sang audition cuts to a panel of judges (think American Idol) that included casting directors, agents, and directors.
I signed with Across the Board Talent Agency in 2015, and went on to book shows at various regional theatres in LA such as 3D Theatricals (Parade and Oklahoma), 5-Star Theatricals (Evita, Children of Eden, and Hunchback of Notre Dame), Performance Riverside (Sister Act), The Cupcake Theatre (Little Shop of Horrors, Hairspray, and Urinetown) and the Taylor Performing Arts Center (Sister Act and Joseph...Dreamcoat).
In January of 2019, I took the big leap and moved to New York City to further pursue my career, and waking up at 5am to stand in mile-long lines in 30-degree weather paid off! Within 9 months in the city, I made my Off-Broadway debut in Revelation The Musical, played Jan in Grease at the Fingerlakes Musical Theatre Festival and played a Dynamite in Hairspray at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre. I also made my national tour debut as a Church Lady and Sofia in The Color Purple. It was a dream job, working with Tony Award-winning director John Doyle and the original set and costumes from the Broadway revival.
(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be postponed or cancelled?
(EA): I was on the beautiful island of Key West, Florida and had just completed my 111th performance of The Color Purple. We were making the drive to Cutler Bay, our next tour stop, when our company manager notified us, first by email and then later in person, that we would be laid off for a month. Our tour bus was pretty silent as the weight of the situation dawned on all of us.
Truth be told, we hadn't felt the effects of COVID-19 yet because Key West was such an isolated place that hadn't put any stay-at-home measures in place as yet. It wasn't until we stopped at a Walmart on our way into Miami that we realized the severity of the virus, amazed that lines were irrationally long and it was impossible to purchase simple things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and gloves.
Our company of over 35 people were on planes home 2 days later. Originally, we were to resume performances in mid-April and finish the rest of our tour, which was due to run until the end of May. But 2 weeks later, we were informed that Key West was indeed our final performance and the rest of our tour dates had been cancelled. It was devastating to say the least. But while I am unaware of any plans to pick the tour back up in the future, I would love the opportunity to continue telling this story across the country as part of a future touring company.
(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?
(EA): I was in the audition process for a lot of projects that would have started after my tour ended in May. It's so difficult to be unsure of when I'll be able to perform again, but know that everything will work out exactly the way it's supposed to!
(SB): In the meantime, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?
(EA): I am so grateful for the wealth of resources that have been available to artists during this difficult time. I am in a Facebook group called No Marking which is led by casting director Kate Lumpkin. From Tuesday-Friday, the group provides various Zoom calls on topics ranging from audition tips to meditation to financial literacy. 3D Theatricals also has a similar program called 3D+U that provides virtual classes geared at supporting the artistic community. I've also been a part of a few virtual cabarets and readings that have helped raise money for The Actor's Fund. But then sometimes, I need to just unplug and take the time to rest. But I am grateful that I know where to go and get resources should I need it.
(SB) Any other thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?
(EA): Stay strong! These are unprecedented times and it's easy to find the bad in all this, but focus on the good. I am using this time as an opportunity for self-reflection and preparation. I've been ruminating on why I've chosen this profession, and what I want to accomplish. I've also been taking the time to update my resume, fine-tune my self-tape skills, read, and network. We will get through this, and can't wait to see how our industry evolves once this is over.
This article first appeared on Broadway World.