Robin Morse made her Broadway debut at the age of 17 starring opposite Chita Rivera and Donald O’Connor in the musical Bring Back Birdie. During her career she has appeared in Broadway and off-Broadway productions, including the original company of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, the World Premiere of Lee Blessing’s Patient A and the award-winning Arena Stage production of Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa! (for which she was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress) and in film and on television. Over the past twenty years, she has been teaching and coaching actors and singers, and in 2011, she founded The Robin Morse Studio in New York City to provide “an artistic environment built upon collaboration and support” for students of all levels of accomplishment. In addition, she is on the Musical Theatre faculty at Manhattan School of Music where she teaches acting.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit with Robin Morse at her studio in Manhattan for this Conversation.

STAY THIRSTY: You made your Broadway debut at the age of 17 playing opposite Chita Rivera and Donald O’Connor in the musical Bring Back Birdie. How did appearing in that production influence your views of the theater? As you look back on those days, what advice do you have for young actors when they encounter their first big break?

ROBIN MORSE: Coming from a family of theater artists, I’d been exposed to the theater my whole life, not only as the child of working professionals, but also as an avid theatergoer and from years of my own experience acting in school plays.

Bring Back Birdie was my first professional theater experience and influenced my views of the theater rather dramatically. Being thrown into the big leagues at the age of 17, and working alongside a team of theater veterans, I immediately developed a deeper appreciation and respect for the hard work that the job requires.

The advice I would give to young actors encountering their first big break would be… Enjoy it! Every single moment of it. Stay humble and open to learning, from everyone around you. And refrain from complaining. There’s that old expression, “If you want to hear an actor complain, give him a job.” Count your blessings and remain grateful for the opportunity. Make something of it, and come to rehearsals each day with the attitude, “what can I contribute today.”

Robin Morse
STAY THIRSTY: Apart from being on Broadway and off-Broadway, you have also appeared in film (First Wives Club and A Woman Named Jackie) and on television (Blue Bloods, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and As The World Turns). Does your work as an actor change depending on the medium? Are you more comfortable before a live audience or before the camera?

ROBIN MORSE: I am for sure more comfortable in front of a live audience, and I enjoy that process more, with weeks of rehearsal and the chance to grow in a role. Also, there’s nothing like a live audience to work off of. That being said, I can say that I grew more and more comfortable working on camera, as I matured in my career. At first, I was so uncomfortable with the intimacy of the camera, and all the crew being there, working sometimes 1-2 feet from you. In addition, I disliked the fact that there were most times no rehearsals, so you’d show up, wait around for hours sometimes and then you’d get a couple of takes and that was that. As I said before, as I got older, I allowed myself to approach it more as an opportunity to learn a new way of working, accepted it as a different medium and embraced the challenge of it.

STAY THIRSTY: You have studied and taught the Meisner Technique of acting. How does it work and how has it helped you and your students?

ROBIN MORSE: The technique’s foundation is based upon a series of exercises called repetition, which teaches one how to truly listen and respond, moment to moment. Through repetition, you begin to let go of the thinking mind and begin to work off your impulses. As in life, we aren’t only listening and responding to the “words” people say, but “how” they are saying it, so it’s really about getting back to the basics, like when we were children, before we developed so many of our defensive habits which defend us from truly listening and letting things affect us. There’s a lot more to the technique beyond these exercises, but it’s what’s at the heart of it. I had the great good fortune of studying with William Esper and he, along with the training, changed my life. After two years of study, I not only became a better actor, I became more awake, alive and engaged as a human being.

In a nutshell, these tools are used to help the actor become more engaged in what they’re “doing” in the scene and helps focus their attention on something other than themselves, forcing them to act from their heart and guts, rather than their head.

The Robin Morse Studio

STAY THIRSTY: You come from a famous acting family. [Her father is the Broadway, film and television star Robert Morse and her mother, Carole D’Andrea, appeared on Broadway and in film as a dancer.] Has it helped or hindered your career?

ROBIN MORSE: I don’t think it’s hindered it at all, at least not that I’m aware of. Has it helped my career…? I’m sure it hasn’t hurt at times, maybe it gave me that extra edge when casting directors and directors knew where I’d come from; however, as we all know, you’re not going to get hired on the basis of your lineage when it really counts. It’s going to come down to your talent. Period.

I was really driven from a young age, took all kinds of classes and worked really hard. I never, for a moment, depended upon my family’s history to get a job. I’m really proud of the success I’ve had, as an actress, and can take pride in how hard I worked to get where I did.

STAY THIRSTY: Your mother eventually became an acting and singing teacher and coach. You have followed in her footsteps with your own studio for actors and singers. Has your mother influenced you in this work? What are the differences between your methods and hers?

ROBIN MORSE: My mother is a gifted teacher, and an equally generous and gifted human being. She was originally a dancer, so she comes from a very disciplined work ethic. She also studied with Stella Adler, so she has this great combination of respect for language and text as well as experience with storytelling through movement and song.

We are similar in that we both teach with our hearts and are rigorous and passionate about teaching in general. I believe the differences lie in how we approach the work, and what tools we use based on our own individual training.

STAY THIRSTY: How do you approach a student who has very little talent but lots of ambition versus one with enormous talent but not much discipline?

ROBIN MORSE: I love working with students who are willing to grow, who have a lot of drive and are interested in the process of hard work. I am not very interested in working with students who are in the business to become a star, with a sense of entitlement, no matter how talented they are. Most of my favorite actors talk about how they always show up for the next job, no matter how many awards they have acquired, open to learning and with a beginner’s mind. I like actors who are scared and unafraid to admit it, because that’s where the work can begin, when you’re just outside your comfort zone.

Robin Morse in Class

STAY THIRSTY: In addition to your private studio, you teach acting at Manhattan School of Music’s Musical Theatre Program. How important is it for students to be exposed to Broadway veterans early in their careers? What are the benefits?

ROBIN MORSE: I think it’s tremendously important and inspiring, especially to hear from the ones who’ve worked hard to get where they are and have experienced the highs and lows. I was a bit spoiled early on, working rather consistently for several years into my mid- to late-twenties. It was humbling for me, especially after being on Broadway so early on, to experience a lull in my career. My ego was not too happy about it, but there was rent to pay, so I had to humbly find a job other than acting for the first time since I’d graduated high school, and it taught me humility. I’m very grateful for it.

STAY THIRSTY: What three pieces of advice do you have for aspiring musical theatre students?

ROBIN MORSE: I have more than three, but I’ll try and whittle it down.

The first one, of course, is practice daily. Take classes and stay in shape, so you’re ready when the opportunities present themselves.

Apart from that, I suggest the following to all my students: Slow down, go to museums, read books, wander around in nature and daydream, hang out with people other than actors, read poetry, find a hobby, meditate, become a volunteer.



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.