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  • Natalie Wisdom

Heidi Friese Saldaña, Professional Actress.

[Interview Date: February 2, 2021]

Matilda National Tour, Flashdance Tour, How the Grinch Stole Christmas Tour and more.

Where were you on March 12, 2020, the day Broadway shut down? And what was the

week leading up to it like for you?

I was holding down the fort in our apartment in Woodside Queens, New York while my husband was in Kansas City for a big business meeting. The week prior, we were debating how he should handle his upcoming flight amidst this “unknown virus” beginning to make its rounds. We quickly ordered a mask for his trip, just in case. He was the only one wearing a mask on the way to Kansas City, but sure wasn’t the only one wearing a mask on the way home that week. The news broke on March 11th that one of the Utah Jazz NBA members had tested positive for COVID during their away game in Kansas City against the Thunders. It was announced the NBA was shutting down completely. Then, it was a frantic race to try to find an earlier flight back to New York. We were worried that all flights would be cancelled out of Kansas City. If the NBA just shut down, I had a bad feeling theatre wouldn’t be far behind. It wasn’t.

What have you been doing over the past several months to stay sane? What has

helped you the most?

Setting a schedule for myself and trying to look at the “new found time” as a gift. I am trying to read through the entire Bible cover to cover, write music, improve on my Baritone Uke and guitar skills, and I took a certification course to become a Postural Alignment Specialist. Also, my dear friend, Ashley, has been such a blessing, holding weekly ballet barre classes at the same time every week. This has been paramount in not only staying in shape, but staying connected to other artists/lovers of dance and the joy it brings us all. I also re-took up pointe- because why not?!

You recently had the opportunity to be a part of a socially-distanced workshop. What

was this experience like for you? Did it give you a sense of what live theatre might be

like when it first comes back?

It was glorious. I felt “human again,” as they say in Beauty and The Beast. The masks were less than ideal, and I really wanted to hug my friends; but it was a gift to just be in the same room with people again. It reminded me of the importance of face-to-face communication and collaboration. I think it was a great look into what the transition back to in-person collaboration might look like, for sure.

You have branched out and started working more on your education during this time.

Can you share a little about that and what that has been like so far for you?

My mindset prior to COVID, about what it means to be an artist, was unhealthy. It was that “if I did anything else outside of my art, I wasn’t a true artist.” I’ve since gathered that that is a very common mindset. Nonsense! I decided to be proactive about creating opportunity for myself (after spending a good amount of time throwing myself a pity party) and look at other options. Options that would give me the ability to financially sustain myself between shows, while giving me the tools to heal my injuries, and help others. I took my passion for dance, the human body, and helping people overcome pain, and enrolled in a Postural Alignment Specialist certification program. A career counselor (and my husband) helped me realize that learning more skills was an addition to being an artist- not a subtraction from being an artist.

What has been the hardest thing about the past months since the shutdown?

Isolation. It’s just not how we were created to exist and interact with our world. It’s been so hard to not be able to hug my friends and connect with people face-to-face. We are meant to live in community!

What positives, if any, do you think have come out of this time of quarantine?

I was able to spend the first year of marriage by my husband’s side, as we built the foundation of our marriage. I was able to spend more time with my family. The circumstances also nudged me into expanding into areas of my life I probably would not have pursued, given “business as usual” -like becoming certified as a Postural Alignment Specialist and becoming a staff member of my church.

What do you miss the most about live theatre?

Sharing an in-person experience with friends and fellow humans that can’t be replicated in any other way.

What’s your favorite theatre memory?

Meeting Natalie Wisdom. (I'm not kidding, Natalie!) I was a stressed, immediate replacement swing on tour, and Natalie allowed me to bombard her dressing room (not having any idea who I was) gave me the best advice, smiled her warm smile, and told me it was going to be ok…in about 6 months ;) I never could have imagined meeting someone on tour like her who would change my life and become family- even after the show was closed.

Second favorite memory is my first performance in Matilda- Act 2 during “When I Grow Up,” lying on the floor, looking up at the lights (and taking the first breath of relief that I made it that far in the show remembering what character I was) and thanking God for the opportunity to be there and share his light.

What is the thing you’re most excited to do when live theatre is back?

Support each other as we all figure out how to share in this special industry again.

What advice do you have for young Broadway hopefuls during this time?

Don’t miss out on the journey of who you are becoming in pursuit of where you want to be.

Lightning Round:

Favorite Broadway Musical: 42nd Street

Favorite Broadway Play: The Play That Goes Wrong

Favorite role you’ve played: Gloria in Flashdance the musical

Dream role: Glinda in Wicked

Favorite style of dance: Tap and Musical Theater Jazz- athletic and spunky!

Favorite dance icon: Gene Kelly

Favorite Movie Musical: Mary Poppins

Movie that you think should be a musical: Hercules and That Thing You Do

Favorite Broadway Theatre Ritual and/or tradition: I love writing and receiving notes upon the closing of a show. I love being able to express my gratitude and love to the other cast and crew members. I also love going home with the lovely notes from others as a special keepsake from each show.

Favorite city on tour: Toronto

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