Emily Skinner took a break between rehearsals and performances for James Joyce's The Dead, currently playing at the Belasco Theatre, to bring a warm ray of sunshine into an otherwise below freezing New York City day. Backstage at the Belasco, she is once again sharing a dressing room with her Side Show "twin," Alice Ripley. Emily's eyes sparkle with childlike vulnerability as she speaks of her personal hero, her admiration for other people's talents, and her favorite song lyrics.
Where were you on the night of December 31, 1999?
I was at St. John the Divine, listening to Stephen Spinella, who's in our show. He read something Frank Rich wrote. And other people sang. It was wonderful.
So, you didn't do the Time Square thing?
I wanted to stay as far away from Time Square as possible. I think all the people there must have been tourists. Nobody who lives in New York would want to be in the middle of that!
What is your favorite song lyric from a musical?
Oh, God. That's so hard! I guess "Who Will Love Me as I Am?" from Side Show. I think it's so incredibly universal. Nobody cannot relate to that song.
Who is your personal hero?
I guess my mother. She is everything I would like to be. She's a terrific parent, plus she has her own separate identity away from being a mom and a wife. She's one of those people who are able to balance everything--which is sickening (she laughs). I'm so unable to do that. It's one thing at once for me! But she can do a lot at once. I aspire to that.
What's your favorite sound?
A nice, rich baritone.
If you were going to have three guests to dinner, who would they be and why?
That's really hard. Michael Berresse's questions were much easier! (she laughs) Let's see, I'd have Blair from our show because she's really good at talking to anybody. People really warm up to her. And she can pull things out of people. Gosh. See I never have to think about this because I live in a one-bedroom apartment with no kitchen table so I will never have a dinner party at my house. But if I did I know Blair would be there.
When was the last time you opened your mouth, inserted your foot, and chewed it thoroughly?
I can't answer that question, because it will be very bad. I'm very outspoken if I think someone is doing a wrong to someone else.
What was your favorite childhood game?
Twister. In fact, I went to Toys R Us to get one this Christmas and I couldn't find it, so maybe they don't even make it anymore. I'd like to think it was just sold out, because I can't imagine that they don't make Twister anymore!
Who's your favorite Simpsons character?
The little sister. I relate to her having a big brother who terrorizes her.
Does your brother still terrorize you?
No, but he did when we were little!
Do you have a pet peeve?
I think, work wise, it would be people who are overtly in the business for the wrong reasons. People who are in it only for their egos. A lot of my friends and I are drawn to theatre for the familial feeling you get from being a part of a group of people doing a creative thing together. But, sometimes, you run into people who are only in it for themselves. That's sort of a pet peeve of mine.
What's your favorite theatrical memory?
That's so hard, because there is one in every show. I really liked doing the workshop of Side Show; I almost liked doing the workshop more than the production, because we really felt like we built that show and were part of the creative process. We really contributed to every little nuance, which was incredible. That was a gift.
What skill that you don't already possess would you like to wake up with?
I would love to be able to write music. Alice (Ripley) writes music, and I'm so in awe of that. I'm a big appreciator of people's talents and gifts, especially in our business. Everyone is so good at what they do.
Of the four elements--fire, water, earth, and air--which describes you?
I think I'm more earth. I'm maternal and grounded. I sort of have a calm quality that people relate to.
Coffee or latte?
Morning or Night?
Alone, or part of a group?
Oooh. That's hard. Alone, I guess. Is that bad?
East or West?
Boxers or briefs?
(she laughs:) Boxers.
See that wasn't too hard, was it?
That was easy!