Brittany Conigatti, Broadway Performer.
[Interview Date: December 20, 2020]
The Prom (Broadway), A Bronx Tale (Original Broadway Company and Dance Captain), Mean Girls First National Tour, Matilda First National Tour, Rock of Ages (NCL), Disney’s Beauty and the Beast First National Tour. A Bronx Tale First National Tour (Assistant Choreographer), A Bronx Tale Second National Tour (Re-stager Choreographer).
Where were you on March 12, 2020? And what was the week leading up to it like for you?
On March 12th, 2020, I (had) just flew home from Florida where I was with the Mean Girls 1st National Tour. I am their vacation swing and was out with the tour, performing my first track and learning my second track! I flew home from tour for my future sister- in- law’s wedding, which was on March 14th! The week leading up to March 12th was great! I was performing my first track with the Mean Girls company! It was thrilling to be able to perform in a new show, with a new company. It was also special, because my Mom flew from New York to be able to see me in the show. In hindsight, she was the only family member to be able to see me in it (so far!).
The week prior, while I was performing one track at night, I was rehearsing another track during the day. Before every evening show in the week leading up to March 12th, our company managers kept holding company meetings to let us know the day-by-day updates on COVID. It was a confusing time for everyone, because the severity of the virus was still unclear and what that exactly meant for our tour was unclear as well. Due to being on tour, the guidelines change city to city. With that, we were told to just keep going about the show until we hear differently. There were sanitizers brought out and placed all over the theatre, in dressing rooms, on deck before you enter and exit the stage. The Mean Girls stage management and company management teams did a GREAT job at doing whatever they could to keep us all in the know and safe.
What was the day and week after March 12, 2020 like for you?
The day of March 12th sort of felt like any other. I was home in New York, getting ready for the rehearsal dinner for my future sister-in-law’s wedding. I was getting text updates from some of the company members, as well as the stage management just to keep me in the loop while I was away from the tour for the weekend. The company was very transparent with me to keep me up-to-date on whether or not my flight back to tour would be as scheduled. On Saturday, March 14th, we celebrated the love of one of my best friends, and soon to be sister-in-law. The night before her wedding she got a few calls/texts from people who were no longer going to attend her wedding out of fear of the virus. Those calls and texts continued on to the next morning as well, with her having about 40 last minute “No’s.” This was the first time I actually realized how serious this virus was becoming. Come Sunday, March 15th, everything started to shut down across the country. By Monday March 16th, I was told by Company Management to not get on my flight to go back to Florida. They, instead, rerouted my flight to the next city! So, I thought, “Great, I just have a few extra days at home.” Those few extra days home, have now turned into well over 9 months at home. I never got to go back to meet up with the tour. Following the initial shut down, city after city started to postpone our show and move it to future dates. A good amount of my things are still out on that tour; sitting in the trucks that travel the show!
Being a vacation swing, I only go out to the tour when someone takes a vacation. While that member of the company is on vacation, I perform their track. With the indefinite shut-down, all of my scheduled dates of employment were slowly becoming less and less, until all of those scheduled weeks with the tour flew by and got cancelled.
Did you initially anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long?
Like most, I definitely did not anticipate Broadway and other theatre productions would be closed for this long. I thought maybe a week or two at most, but never thought it would continue for this long. Theatre has NEVER shut down like this before.
You ended up having to postpone your wedding because of the pandemic. What was that like?
Yes, I have been one of so many people who had to postpone their wedding, due to the pandemic. To be honest, at first it was truly very stressful! I felt like we were going day-to-day with just sitting in the unknown. I actually still feel this way. My wedding was originally going to be August 9th, 2020- we have since postponed it to July 18th, 2021.
It was around April when I seriously started to think about what we should do and the potential options we could have. I am one who doesn’t do well with not being in control and not having a plan. This entire pandemic, it has felt like everyone else is making decisions for us, instead of us having that choice for ourselves. With the wedding, I felt I needed to take control again. At first thought of having to postpone; I was gutted. I finally got engaged to the love of my life, and it seemed like things were starting to be stacked against us. I talked with my fiancé, Mike, A LOT and my Mom. I cried, got angry, got sad, went through the roller-coaster of emotions that, I feel, usually don’t surround a wedding. I expected joy and excitement, and it was turning into the opposite. It was starting to feel like the wedding was turning into a fleeting chance. Mike and I have been together for over 7.5 years (8 years in February). Our love is strong, and so COVID may have been the cause of postponing our wedding, but it didn’t postpone our LOVE!
(As) I mentioned above, things felt like they were being stacked against us for other reasons than just COVID. We got engaged in February of 2019 and started the wedding planning ASAP! I wanted to get as much of the planning done, so that I could enjoy being engaged to Mike. By the end of April, we had all of the big vendors booked and took our parents to see the venue we had chosen. Little did I know, that would be the only time my Dad would see our wedding venue. My Dad passed away very suddenly on June 19th, 2019. He was only 53. It was a severe shock to my entire family. With that weighing heavily on me and how the wedding I envisioned was no longer going to be picture-perfect without him there; throwing in this pandemic just truly shook things up even more. I became a lot less excited about the wedding, more anxious, and overall, just unsure of how that day would turn out.
I now see postponing our wedding as truly a blessing in disguise. Having to postpone our wedding, I believe, has allowed my family to come more to terms with the fact that my Dad won’t be present, physically. There are special and unique things I have incorporated to make sure he is with us on our wedding day, but now, having it a year later than originally planned actually is allowing me to get excited again for the wedding.
We officially made the decision in May of 2020 to postpone our wedding to July 18th, 2021. With the wedding vision already having to alter with my Dad not being there, I couldn’t picture our wedding with everyone having masks on, unable to dance and truly enjoy themselves on a day that should be so special, exciting, and one we’ve waited a long time to have. I also did not want people feeling uncomfortable if they were to attend the wedding and feel unsafe, so I felt it was a better choice to postpone. Luckily, the venue and all of my vendors were available as well for the new date, so that part was actually the easy part about having to postpone!
I am starting to get really excited for the wedding this coming July, but of course still am a little weary! I just hope that we can be surrounded by all of our family and friends as we tie the knot as husband and wife!
What have you been doing over the past year or so to stay sane? What has kept you grounded?
Staying sane and grounded during quarantine has not been easy! During the past year, I have tried to upkeep my yoga practice. I have found that has always been a place to help me feel grounded and connected with myself. I actually will begin a yoga teacher training in January to earn my yoga certification.
In addition to practicing yoga, I joined a workout group with a Broadway performer, Synthia Link, and she has truly helped me to keep my body in shape. She provides a really positive space to get a workout in and has an online platform of her workouts that make it easily accessible. When things started to reopen a little bit, I was assisting Phil Colgan’s dance classes at Steps on Broadway once a week (if you are a performer, take from PHIL!), which also helped keep me in a studio dancing. I REALLY appreciated and needed that! I would say having these classes have been a great outlet during this time.
What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?
I think the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown is just all of the uncertainty and all of the contradictions, I keep hearing, regarding the virus- what to do, how our government will help us, etc. It already is a confusing and stressful time because there truly is no answer. So, to battle that, I have just been doing a lot of research, myself, and making personal decisions based on what I read. Doing that has helped me feel more in control. I do not think our leaders within New York are doing a great job, so it is hard to find trust in a government that consistently is changing their tune, which, again, is why I am just making decisions that personally are best for me and my immediate family and friends. These are decisions I know I can live with, and I know sit well with me.
What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?
I try and always look to the positives, so I have definitely found some during this time of quarantine. One positive is having the time to dedicate to the yoga teacher training I am about to embark on. It truly is a practice I know will help me sustain strength, both in the mind and body, and that I am excited to share with others. Another positive has been the amount of family time I have been able to spend. Since my Dad passed in June of 2019, and with my career being on Broadway and National Tours, sometimes having that time at home isn’t long enough. This time home has sort of forced me to be present and actually deal with the grief I have been suppressing because I was distracted with other things. I have been happy to be at home and happy to be able to help out wherever I can.
I am very thankful for one job that came during this shutdown, which was definitely a positive! When the TV & Film Industry started to slowly get things back up and running, I was lucky enough to be able to land a small role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I played Maria Ferraro, a foreign exchange student, who was murdered. The entire episode revolves around trying to solve my murder (Remember Me in Quarantine: Season 22, Episode 3). This was an extremely positive experience. COVID testing happened DAILY and the team at Law & Order were very on top of making sure all of its actors and crew felt safe while preparing to be on set and while filming happened. Their protocols were diligent, and they did not take anything for granted as filming started. This was my television principal debut!
Have you made any big life decisions that you think you wouldn’t have made, otherwise, had things stayed normal?
The only big life decision I wouldn’t have made without this pandemic happening would have been to postpone my wedding. We have been together, in February, for 8 years, so we didn’t plan to have a long engagement. We got engaged on February 15th, 2019, and were to be married August 9th, 2020. In that time, my Dad passed, COVID ensued, and in the end; postponing was probably the best thing that could have happened. So again, with these crazy decisions, I still try to find the positive. We now are set to be married July 18th, 2021 and CANNOT WAIT!
Another big decision that is sort of slowly trucking along is buying a home with my fiancé. With Broadway shut down, I don’t nearly have the same income as I did. I am currently on unemployment, and trying to make any side cash I can with survival jobs. Going from a six-figure salary on Broadway, to now having a much different income, switched perspectives on what we can and can’t do right now. Luckily, my fiancé Michael has a stable job as a teacher with the Department of Education here in New York. The school system, itself, is dealing with their own uncertainty with trying to figure out new models of teaching for both in-person and remote learning, but this virus truly destroyed the economy, overall, in my opinion. Since we are looking for houses within New York and the Tri-state area, prices of homes have increased significantly. We are continuing to look around for our dream home, but only will buy when we feel it is a house we just can’t live without. We are hoping the housing market within New York drops back down soon, so we can move on to that next chapter in our lives.
What is your biggest worry right now?
My biggest worry right now is truly how the entertainment industry will bounce back after this hit. I have worked in theatre since I was 17. I went to Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S for Music & Art and Performing Arts (The FAME School) and studied Dance, I went to college at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and studied Musical Theatre, and finished my BFA in Musical Theatre at the New School. I have been studying and working within this industry since my teenage years, and to, truly, now in my late twenties, have to question my career and all I worked for and trained for is heartbreaking and truly worrisome.
I don’t think many people understand what it takes to be in the positions we are. I have been in dance classes since I was 2.5 years old, taking voice lessons, master class workshops, attended conventions; so many things to get to where I am. The amount that’s been given up by not only me, but also my family, to be able to help me achieve my dream is endless and rarely gets spoken about. Things such as family time, holidays, parties, hang-outs with friends, small things so many people take for granted are just a few of the sacrifices that have been made. I could only attend one of my two college graduations, because I was on tour with Matilda at the time of the graduation. There are so many things we, as performers, and those within the industry give up to be able to do our career, because it took so much to make it. It is one of the hardest jobs out there, but personally I think reaps one of the best rewards!
What do you miss the most about live theatre?
I miss EVERYTHING about live theatre. I miss the family and community live theatre comes with. I miss walking in and out of the stage door. I miss watching the audience reactions, the applause, and the thrill of the show each time you get to perform. I miss the backstage hangouts, the little rituals you start, the escaping into another world. I miss purely going to “work,” living at the theatre, sleeping under your station, chatting with all of those who work within your theatre (shout out to the Longacre Theatre staff and PMP family!). Ironically, I miss my commute to and from the theatre. I miss the hustle of auditions. I miss being tired and sore from performing 8 shows a week, on top of the rehearsals you take part in. I miss the thrill of learning a new show, the excitement to watch fellow performers. The list, honestly, is endless!
Is there anything you wish people outside of the live entertainment industry understood better about what arts workers are going through right now?
I think a lot is misunderstood about our theatre industry. It isn’t so easy to start or find another job. With so many people out of work, the “normal” survival jobs actors have when they are unemployed, waiting tables, teaching their craft, etc. all are businesses that are constantly shutting down. There are no tables to wait on because there is no indoor dining, for example. Businesses that were able to employ a lot of people are now struggling to make ends meet and have cut their staff.
We have all worked the majority of our lives to make it to the positions we have within our industry; the hours put in are countless, the training is never-ending. We are an industry that can’t just start over at the drop of a hat. The live entertainment industry doesn’t get severance packages. We don’t get furloughed. When you don’t perform, for example, you don’t get a paycheck.
With this shut down, immediately all funds paid-out are non-existent. Our health insurance is calculated by WEEKS WORKED! With no industry alive to be able to gain worked weeks, we literally have no health insurance. When Broadway shut down, for us, EVERYTHING stopped. At this point, even the SMALL amount of unemployment only SOME have been lucky to get, is coming to a close, and even that was a job, in itself, to get.
Every time I hear someone saying that we should just look elsewhere for work, I want to say to these people, “those shows that you are watching on Netflix, on any television platform, on YouTube, all of those are made with those actors and crew that you so easily are suggesting should just go find something else to do. Everyone’s escape and guilty pleasures of binging the latest show, or listening to the latest album, all come from artists who are struggling to make ends meet. We are still one of the only industries completely shut down.” It is so heartbreaking.
What’s your favorite theatre memory?
My favorite theatre memory was the first preview of my Broadway debut! It was November 3rd, 2016 with A Bronx Tale. I had well over 65 close family and friends in the audience that night. The energy was absolutely INSANE! The show was getting applause at every moment (mostly from my family), and it was as if, not only did I achieve my dream of being on Broadway, but all of my family and friends did too! My Dad surprised me, and everyone, with a HUGE banner that took up an entire row in the orchestra seating in the theatre during the curtain call. The last number happened, blackout, and as soon as the lights came back on for the start of bows, there was my Dad and family BEAMING with this huge banner for me!! It still makes me tear up every time I think about it! That night will forever be something I truly cherish.
What is the first thing you’re going to do when live theatre is back?
The first thing I am going to do when live theatre is back is hopefully work! I also will see as many shows as I can and support my fellow artists! I pray the shows I was supposed to be a part of, get their chance to be seen and put up too!
What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?
Advice I have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time is: do not stop training and reaching for your dream. Broadway is a tough industry for many reasons, but for as hard as it is, it is so rewarding to be a part of this incredible family. I say ‘family’ because, truly, that is what we are! My other advice that I always like to instill in young Broadway hopefuls is to remain true to who you are. Go into auditions and into the industry being truthful, honest, and open. Be confident in who you are and embrace your individual journey. No two journeys look the same.
Favorite Broadway Musical: Wicked, Memphis, The Prom
Favorite show you’ve done: Oh! All have been so different! I would probably say The Prom, Rock of Ages, and A Bronx Tale! BUT I loved performing all 22 tracks I covered in Matilda as well!
Show you haven’t done, but want to: WICKED!!! So bad! It was the show that pushed me to go into Musical Theatre, and I have been auditioning for them since I was 17! I will not stop until I am in that show! Haha!
Favorite Movie Musical: The Prom!
Movie that you think should be a musical: Oh this is hard! I honestly don’t watch many movies, but I would maybe say A League of Their Own.
Favorite Broadway Theatre Ritual: Taking in every seat in the theatre at the end of the show- seeing the audience and remembering, that’s where I used to sit and watch the shows that I dreamt to be a part of. Keeps me humble, grateful, and grounded.
Dance bag staple: SNACKS!
Favorite NYC Restaurant: There are too many to count honestly! Briciola has insane homemade pastas that usually were a staple for me between shows for dinner! They also have sister restaurants close to one another, so you can always get a table with their delicious, homemade Italian food!
Favorite city on tour: HMM—Seattle and Denver jumped out first in my mind, but I have been so fortunate to see 47 of the 50 states, as well as majority of Canada from touring, and each city has their own special memory!
Favorite Theatre Superstition: Watching the ghost-light get placed onstage at the end of every performance! Each theatre has their own ghost light, and it is one of the coolest things to see each theatre’s.
Favorite Dressing Room item: Photographs of my family and friends
Favorite pair of show shoes, of all time: Hands down, my “Loud” heels from Matilda! My shoes for that musical number in Matilda were stunning! Picture a peep toe, electric blue and green in color, with a silver heel! I also will add, they are the most comfortable pair of custom character heels I have ever worn in a show!