Amanda LaMotte, Broadway Performer.
[Interview Date: December 28, 2020]
Matilda, Hello, Dolly, Kiss Me Kate
Where were you on March 12, 2020, the day Broadway shut down? And what was the week leading up to it like?
The week before, I was in between theatre jobs. I was auditioning and had some auditions coming up the next week. And my husband is in Book of Mormon, so on March 12th, he woke up and was like, “I don’t feel very good. I don’t think it’s this Coronavirus thing, but I’m going to stay home from work.” So, he called out. And we never have days where we’re both home at the same time, just chillin’. So, we were like, “Netflix Day! How exciting!”
Leading up to this, everyone was like, “Is Broadway going to shut down?” And they had meetings at the theatre, and they were like, “We’ll just stop signing at the stage door, and it will be fine.” And we were like, “Maybe they will shut down, and if they do, we should go to New Hampshire.” His parents have a house there. and we could be there for two weeks! It would be like a two-week vacation! And so, we already had a plan in place, a packing list, and had planned on jumping in a rental car if they shut it down. Because we wanted as much time as we could in our ‘Special Magical Vacation,’ we never get to have. And there was a press release that said Broadway was going to be shut down. We found out from everyone texting each other, and the producers hadn’t called yet; no one had said anything. And we were like, “Should we do it? You’ve already called out; let’s just get the rental car.” And at 1:00 or 2:00, they were like, “The show is canceled through the rest of the weekend. We’re going to have a phone meeting with everyone at 6:00 PM.” And so, we were like, “We can do the meeting from the car.” So, we just left at 4:00. And at 6:00, they said, “We’re going to be shut down for four weeks.” And we were like, “What? Four weeks?! We didn’t bring enough clothes for four weeks! We didn’t clean out our refrigerator; this is nuts! But we get a month in New Hampshire!” And nine months later, we’re still here!
I remember driving out of the city, seeing outside the Trader Joe’s near our house, and it felt like the apocalypse. It was really scary, and I remember feeling so anxious and so unsettled. I knew something was really wrong, but I didn’t’ know what. It felt eerie.
Did you initially anticipate that Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
I never thought it would be this long. I remember them saying, “Everyone should quarantine for two weeks, when they get sick.” So, I was like, “The four weeks makes sense, because if everyone quarantines for two weeks, everything should be fine.” But as things started going on, I was like, “We’re not going back” And I remember, the next date was June, and that felt shocking. I didn’t buy it then.
What have you been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has helped you the most?
Dancing. When it gets hard, the only thing that makes it better is to dance. I mean, I’m baking sourdough bread, and I’m knitting, and whatever. But the thing that quells it, is to dance.
What has teaching been like for you during the pandemic, in regards to the online adjustment etc.?
I think, initially, I was teaching a lot more group classes, because all the schools that I taught for were online. And as we moved into summer, summer programs were going online. And it was so weird and strange, because I am a very hands-on teacher. I like to do a lot of corrections; that’s what drives me nuts about class nowadays. You pay all this money, and no one tells you how to get better. So, I feel very passionate when I’m in class, to think of something to work on. And on Zoom, it’s really hard to zero in on people and see what they’re doing. It feels like you’re teaching in a void. I think that the connection with the students is what I miss the most, but I did figure out a system of, “Ok, I’m going to sit and watch you now, so I can give some feedback and corrections.” And I’ve been doing a lot of private lessons lately, and I love it. Because it is all about corrections, and progressing, and seeing growth in a student. I kind of said I didn’t love teaching, but now, I look forward to my lessons with my students, because I see them grow in a way that I don’t always get to do in a group class.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
I think, just the unsettled feeling. I think it’s hard to plan. And I often wish I could say, “I’m just done,” but in my heart of hearts, there’s not a single bit of me that feels that. And so that actually makes it more difficult, because that means I’m just waiting for this thing that doesn’t exist.
What am I going to do with this time? Should I get another job? Just not knowing what to do is so hard. My father-in-law keeps saying, “You can’t work your way out of this.” And that’s the hardest part. Usually, you’re like, “Ok. I’m going to work my out of this period of unemployment.” But you can’t work your way out of the fact that the industry doesn’t exist. My job is teaching, and I’m making as much money as I can, but my job is also to make sure I’m ready. So, I’m trying to stay in class and trying to stay fit and all of that. But sometimes its exhausting.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
A lot, actually. The first one is that I know this is really what I want to do. And if I was questioning it before, I’m definitely not now.
We got a lot of family time this summer, which we never get. We’re always rushing back and forth and exhausted when we get here, from driving through the night. We’re always sacrificing family time, and right now, it’s just my husband and I here. And we are so excited to have time to just be together! Having the time to focus on each other is really cool. I also think a thing I’m so passionate about is cooking and living low-waste, so this has been a time when I have been able to cook so much. My mom was this amazing cook, and I learned to cook at a young age. I was in elementary school and making Cornish hens and stuffing, I loved to cook as a kid. But she didn’t love baking; baking was break-and-bake cookies! I’ve been baking a lot. I’ve been baking bread, so that’s been fun to experiment with and learn. It feels creative, in a different way, which I think also feeds a part of me that isn’t getting sustenance right now.
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
The people; onstage and in the audience and backstage. Just our people. Our community.
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
My favorite theatre memory is my Broadway debut, when I was in the dark void of, “I don’t know what’s happening! Just get me from point to point!” It was Matilda, and we got to the playground line-up and I was standing next to Clay Thompson. And in the middle of the scene, he just leaned in to me and said, “Hey, you’re on Broadway.” I don’t remember a single moment from my Broadway debut except for that. And after the show, he was like, “I hope it’s ok that I did that. I didn’t mean to distract you. I just know I don’t remember anything from my Broadway debut, and I wanted you to take a second to realize it.” And I do cherish that. Because I remember that moment; looking up and being like, “Holy crap. “I’m on Broadway.” And thinking it was so cool. So, he made it special, which was really neat.
What is the thing you’re most excited to do when live theatre is back?
Theatre! Just… do it! I want to go to rehearsal, and I want to be in the weird, gross dressing rooms. And the things we don’t always look forward to, I want those too.
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Just be ready. In the same place we all are; we don’t know when it will be back, but be ready for it when it does. Because if you’re hungry for it, it’s the greatest thing that you’ll ever fight for. But you have to be ready to fight for it, and the fight is going to be harder than it ever has been before, so you’ve gotta be super, super ready for it.
Favorite Broadway Musical: Once.
Favorite role you’ve played: Serena in Legally Blonde
Dream role: I just want someone to let me open my mouth and sing onstage.
Favorite Movie Musical: The filmed version of Into the Woods with Bernadette Peters!
Favorite Dance Icon: Cam Adams is everything! She’s my friend, but I am so impressed by her!
Favorite Dance Step: I like turns. Just let me turn.
Favorite Choreographer: I think Peter Darling is so brilliant.
Favorite NYC Restaurant: Cotta on the Upper West Side, and also, Bea on 43rd Street. It’s where my husband and I had our first date.
Favorite Dressing Room Item: Usually, my slippers. I can’t be bothered to put shoes on. That and my tea.