Ahead of his return to the stage at New York City’s Hidden Cabaret on 10 February, I spoke with Stephen Miller.
What took you so long to return to center stage?
After spending about 17 years of my life devoted to the theatre industry, I felt that I needed to take a break. There were many things going on in my life – and many questions in my mind – so, I decided to take the leap and take some time to try new things. I ended up working as a paraprofessional in special education, which was a very special time in my life. I was appointed the chair of the Drama Program of the middle school that I was working at and I transformed a non-existent program into a thriving program. The new program brought so much happiness to the children of the school. Our first show opened with 60 of the 400 students at the school, and it progressed from there. We completed 6 shows in total while I was at the helm.
I then produced a show Off-Broadway and moved back to New York, leaving my position at the school after 5 years. After completing my first “producer” experience, I then produced several shows as well as directed and stage-managed shows. This led to my admission to Actors Equity, which was a life dream to gain. I met my boyfriend Brian Geldin who has changed my life forever. He introduced me to the incredibly talented Craig Horsley of the Hidden Cabaret, and I made the choice to jump ship of my hiding behind the scenes to center stage. Life changing as it might be, I am extremely thankful to those that support me in this transition and here I am – center stage – again!
How are you feeling about the big comeback?
It’s kind of funny because I look at the term “comeback” in reference to Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard. She always referred to this as her “return” to the screen, and while I may be nowhere near her stature, I do feel that my experience is relevant to this experience. I do call it a “return,” because I performed for 17 years, from Off-Broadway to across the country, including my work with many named people.
Some performers find work out of the spotlight more difficult than others. Did you miss being on stage?
Every aspect of “work” has its own challenges. As a lifelong member of the theater and film industry, no matter what project or job one is working on or with, there are going to be challenges. It’s more a matter of whether or not we feel that we are up for that challenge. Ultimately, even though I took this break from being center stage, I do miss being on the stage, rather than being behind the scenes. The experience of being in the spotlight is the most rewarding of all. Often times when we work those 9-to-5 jobs, we are not the center of attention, whereas being on the stage, you are the center of attention and bringing something special to someone’s life.
Who inspired you while you were growing up?
My great aunt, Alice Kean Stockwell, was the reason that I started my career. She was a musician and teacher at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She knew when we would visit her two-floor New York City apartment, and I would crawl down to her 3rd floor apartment to listen to the “boy” sing, this references the “Faure Requiem.”
Another person who inspired me a great deal was my uncle Ronn, who was the writer of his dream play “The Cover of Life.” It’s a production he spent a majority of his life writing. When he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s, he continued to fulfill his life dream of having his show on the New York Stage. That dream of his came true in 1994.
My favorite performer is CeCe Peniston. She sang the iconic “Finally” song which was featured in the film “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” Coincidentally, the musical director of my performance at The Hidden Cabaret is Terry Burrus who played keys and mixed the song, this alone makes this “return” that much more important to me.
What musical and role would be your ultimate fantasy to perform?
There are two dream roles that I would give anything to play, one is Albin from La Cage Aux Folles. The other is one of the performers in When Pigs Fly – ultimately, Carol Ann Knippel and Miss Roundhole. Both shows have had a truly profound effect on my life.
What sort of professional training have you had over the years?
My theatrical training career started when I was three at the Delcroze School of Music. I then continued my work at The Rudolf Steiner School. I also took classes at Kaufman Music Center where my main focus was Musical Theater. My experience at the Metropolitan Opera House was enhanced with the brilliance of our vocal director, the late Elena Dore. Elena had a career spanning more than three decades corralling 50 students and making them superstars.
My ultimate goal is to continue to remain in the spotlight as I enhance my career as an Actors Equity Stage Manager.
My love for theater has always been in my heart, all I needed to do was learn more about who I was. Now I have returned and it’s as if I never left.
I will be furthering my search for more opportunities in the cabaret industry – Stephen Miller, Vocal Queen for hire!