By Kelli DeWalt
A 22-year-old drama major scores her dream role.
As a junior, Missy Dowse saw an ad online for open auditions to a touring production of Gypsy. She thought, “I’m tall and brunette….” Why not go for it? She never really expected to get the part. But sure enough, she was chosen, and from there her career just took off.
Now a Hofstra senior she is starring in a dinner theater production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in Hudson, Florida. In reference to returning to Hofstra after the show, she says, “absolutely, I only have one semester left. It would be foolish of me not to.”
Q: How did you get cast in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”?
A: I actually didn’t audition. It was complete luck. The people from the show saw me on tour in “Gypsy” as well as a video of me playing Millie at Hofstra’s Gray Wig Theater. So, they hired me from that.
Q: When did you first get bit by the “acting bug?”
A: I can’t ever remember a time of wanting to do something else. I always wanted to be a singer and I started dance when I was about two. I remember being seven and thinking to myself, ‘I can do all three of those things!?’ Not necessarily that I’m good at all those things, but how fun would it be to do them all. I had an amazing high school drama teacher that I still keep in touch with, but I never studied acting until I came to Hofstra. Everything sort of clicked. The professors don’t realize how much how a quick comment has affected the way I approach certain things theatrically.
Q: Do you ever get stage fright?
A: All the time. I’m always nervous before a performance but I think that helps keep my energy up and motivates me to improve.
Q: Have you ever had a disaster or an embarrassing moment on stage?
A: There have been so many. One moment that stands out was when I was playing Sandy in “Grease” and during the last scene when I’m supposed to be “Sexy Sandy” my leather pants ripped in the middle of a dance. Luckily, it was only a final dress but the cast and director definitely had a good laugh.
Q: Why did you choose Hofstra?
A: Well, I’m originally from Long Island. I saw some of the shows at Hofstra and because I’m a homebody, I wanted to be close to home. But I’m really glad I went because when you audition for the BFA the professors really get to know all the students from being in class with them.
Q: Who would you say has been your most influential professor at Hofstra and why?
A: I would say all of them. The great thing about this department is that everyone’s cohesive. They agree to not teach all the same method. Some of the other schools you only learn one method such as Stella Adler. But the way Hofstra works is like listen, here’s a bunch of beliefs and you put them in a tool box and you take out what you need to get to the place you need to. I really like that about the program. Even breathing methods trigger a certain emotion in a person. I know it’s funny, but those things really work.
Q: What has been your favorite Hofstra performance?
A: I did a staged reading of “Agnes of God” with Hofstra Entertainment. There I got to work with Talia Shire and Susan Sullivan who’s great. Talia was nominated for an academy award and Susan who is I believe is a Hofstra grad was Emmy nominated. They’re both crazy talented. I also did Millie at the Gray Wig. I feel as though Millie was a personal breakthrough for me. I was actually not the first choice for the part. It was a very long process and it was my dream role. And luckily I got the chance to actually get the part and perform it. It was the first time I was able to show other people and myself things I was capable of doing.
Q: Which character have you played that’s most like you and why?
A: As corny as it may sound, I think there is a little bit of each person in every role they play. That’s what makes each performer’s interpretation special. If I had to pick one that I most related with, it would be “Louise” in Gypsy before she becomes “Gypsy Rose Lee.” I am very shy and don’t always have the best level of self confidence. She also loved animals and so do I!
Q: Why do you think people don’t go to the theater as much as they used to?
A: A lot of it is convenience. And I don’t think a lot of people know about the theaters out there in their community and on Long Island where you don’t have to spend $100 dollars per show.
There’s something about a live performance. You’ll never see that exact performance again. While I’m not a huge fan of “High School Musical,” I’m grateful for how they’re getting kids interested. There are tons of programs now such as teen theater and acting camps that are thriving because the kids are interested.
Q: What would be the greatest praise you could receive?
A: Oh, dear. That is tough question. I think a lot of actors dream of receiving a prestigious award for their work or being complimented by someone they respect. I dream about those things too but I am grateful for any positive feedback I receive. If a performer were to receive a compliment from Meryl Streep, they could die happy.
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I like to exercise if I can, eat and watch Sex & the City.
Q: Who do you look up to and why?
A: At the risk of being cliché, I admire my parents and my brother a lot. None of them perform but they’re so great and so supportive of me. They, along with my boyfriend and friends have been selfless with the sacrifices they’ve made to help me to do what I want to do.
Q: Any funny backstage moments?
A: A lot. I can’t think of any specific moments but I will say this…a lot of the entertainment happens backstage.