Betsy Struxness is a performer and photographer based in New York City known for bringing the smash hit Hamilton from the workshop to off-Broadway to Broadway. We caught up with Betsy and got to ask her a few questions for this week’s #TiffinTuesdays.
What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite song?
I love far too much music to be able to pick even five songs as my favorite. Ha!
What is your favorite book?
You will discover in this list of questions that I’m not one for many “favorites.” I read so much I can’t possibly choose just one book. I love a series. Potter. Ken Follett’s “Century Trilogy.” Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” series. Almost anything Wally Lamb. If it’s an epic tome, I’m probably in love.
What is your favorite movie?
See above. My tastes are too varied to have a favorite. “Amelie.” “Dirty Dancing.” “Grease.” “The Three Amigos.” The “Kill Bill” series. Almost anything by Tarantino, Burton, Nolan, Spielberg, Wes Anderson. Sadly, there’s a distinct absence of women due to the distinct lack of women directing films in my lifetime.
What is your favorite thing about living in NYC?
The proximity to, and availability of, world-class art.
What is your most memorable experience from being a part of Hamilton?
Standing backstage, while 30 feet away President Barack Obama gave a speech from our stage. He was in OUR office. It was incredible.
What one obstacle was the trickiest to navigate when achieving your goals on Broadway?
To remain patient and diligent. I have never had a “break” in this business. My course has been one of baby steps, but forward moving upward mobilizing baby steps. Cruise ship, non-union regional, non-union tour, tiered union tour, union production contract (highest level) sit-down in Chicago, production contract sit-down in San Francisco, Broadway show, Tony Award winning Broadway show (“Memphis” as a replacement pre-Tonys), original cast of a Broadway flop (“Leap of Faith” and “Scandalous”), original cast of a Broadway hit (“Matilda”), bringing a show from workshop to Broadway (“Hamilton”). All of this has been ensemble work. My goals do not stop here, so I’m still playing the forward moving upward mobilizing baby step game. Recently I got to be in “Shakespeare in Love” at Virgina Rep in Richmond. My first principal role AND my first play. BUT…I’ve been performing amongst professionals for over 30 years and I’m STILL having to prove my worth to others. That’s the trickiest part.
What person do you credit most with helping you get to where you are today?
My parents. Without them I might never have been instilled with the love of arts that I have, and I might never have developed the work ethic I have today, which mirrors their own.
Who (not what) is your favorite character that you’ve portrayed?
Viola De Lesseps in “Shakespeare in Love”. She is unlike the women of her time. She is brave and unconventional, yet dutiful and pragmatic. She’s earnest and impulsive, smart and witty.
Since you will be speaking at Tiffin University during Women’s History Month, what woman is most inspiring to you?
As we’ve touched on favorites or mosts above, you might gather at this point that I’m not a person who easily chooses just one. I’ve never been taken by just one particular woman. Many women have touched my life and inspired me for many different reasons. As a child, I loved Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse and Gelsey Kirkland as dancers, but also my best friend Susie Gorman. She showed me what it looked like to be able to flawlessly morph from dance technique to dance technique, as if being trained in only the one being performed at the time. As a teen it was Daphne Rubin Vega and Idina Menzel because “Rent” was such a big deal when it came out and both those women sounded like a different kind of Broadway powerhouse. Also the women I worked with at Worlds of Fun (an amusement park in Kansas City) when I was 17 and they were in their 20s. Their voices were big and bold and unapologetic.
As an adult it’s Ava Duvernay, Beyonce, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris for pushing the dialogue about women and our capabilities forward. But it’s also my mother Randi Struxness and my sister Haley Stone, for their authenticity as human beings. My sister quit a full-time government job with one child in existence and another on the way so that she could start her own dance fitness business. What a baller. She hated sitting at a desk. My mother, busier in retirement than perhaps she was as a PE teacher (taught for almost 20 years), started her own ukulele group that performs in KC with my father joining in with the U-bass (bass ukulele). So as you can tell, I had no shortage of women to look up to. The most influential two being in my very own house.