Brenna Wagner


EP 124: Brenna Wagner (autogenerated)

Dane Reis: [00:00:00] you booked it. Episode 124. Alrighty, let’s get started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Brenna Wagner, are you ready for this Brita?

[00:00:13] Brenna Wagner: [00:00:13] I’m very ready.

[00:00:15] Dane Reis: [00:00:15] I’ll ride. Brenda is a Montana born, a Seattle-based, a singer actor, dancer, and voice artist. Her favorite leading credits include her award nominated performance of violet at Seattle’s arts West and Alice Murphy in taproot theaters.

[00:00:30] Bright star Brenna was also seen in the touring production of the little mermaid and various productions at the fifth Avenue theater. Village theater, Arizona theater company, and Arizona repertory theater. She can be found on Kumon and diamonds, original cast recording of the noteworthy life of Howard barns.

[00:00:49] Brenna graduated Summa cone loud from the university of Arizona with a BFA in musical theater and minor in pre law. She currently works in the field of health and wellness . Specializing in stretch therapy and is a proud member of actors, equity, Brenna. That is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:19]Brenna Wagner: [00:01:19] Absolutely. Well, thank you for the intro. I’m so happy to be chatting with you today. Um, Um, as you said, I am Montana born, so I was born and raised in Missoula, Montana, where I started dancing. Oh my gosh. Probably around four years old. And. Stuck through performance all the way into high school. And then when I got to college, I went to Wesleyan university in Connecticut for of all things, pre dentistry.

[00:01:42]Uh, at that time sidelined with a back injury that had me take a semester off to get surgery. And while I was down and out, I realized that I was making. A huge mistake for myself and not following my love of the arts. And I did a full pivot, um, and I transferred to the university of Arizona. Whereas you said I got my BFA in musical theater and, and my minor in pre law, because that was my backup plan.

[00:02:04] Obviously I’m not using that these days, but that’s okay. Um, and then when I graduated, I was originally planning to move to New York, but it wasn’t sitting quite right with me and I just dealt with that whole. Premise of what happens when you push yourself a certain direction, all, all, all the pre dentistry route and realized I needed to listen to where I actually want it to be.

[00:02:26]Um, and I started doing a little bit of research on the West coast for cities I wanted to live in. And Seattle just totally struck me with the number of theaters that are here, the amount of new work that comes out of the city and, uh, within. A month or two, I had a job and a home and I was living in Seattle, Washington.

[00:02:44] And I’ve been here for the last seven and a half years.

[00:02:47] Dane Reis: [00:02:47] Wow. That is

[00:02:48] Brenna Wagner: [00:02:48] Yeah.

[00:02:50] Dane Reis: [00:02:50] journey. And. Can you talk about the theater and art scene specifically in Seattle? A little bit, because I know a lot of our listeners tend to be, you know, concentrating on those stereotypically big hubs, the New York, city’s the Las, the London’s Vegas. Talk about Seattle a little bit.

[00:03:08] Brenna Wagner: [00:03:08] Yeah, totally. So I honestly did not know that Seattle had very much of a theater scene until I was doing a show, at Arizona theater company with Kendra Kassebaum, who you have seen in come from away and in wicked. And she was telling me that she was moving to Seattle and I was like, what’s in Seattle.

[00:03:25] So she’s the one who planted the bug and, uh, Seattle Cedar scene. There are. Oh, my gosh. I want to say over 50 theaters in Seattle, um, ranging from yeah. Ranging from smaller nonunion houses to larger houses like Seattle repertory theater, the fifth Avenue theater village theater, um, um, and shows like come from away were workshopped and partially created here and hairspray at the fifth Avenue.

[00:03:47] And so Seattle has been a little bit like, uh, the Chicago scene in that a lot of new works are developed here and then moved on to them of the larger markets.

[00:03:56]Dane Reis: [00:03:56] Okay. Very cool. Very insightful for so many people out there. Thank you for that.

[00:04:01] Brenna Wagner: [00:04:01] totally.

[00:04:02] Dane Reis: [00:04:02] And let’s move on to our first section here and Brenna, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote you’d like to share with everyone?

[00:04:14]Brenna Wagner: [00:04:14] Okay. I actually don’t necessarily have favorite quotes, so. I did a little bit of research on quotes that I’ve liked and admired in the past. And I’m going to break the rules and give you two.

[00:04:25] Dane Reis: [00:04:25] That’s all right.

[00:04:26] Brenna Wagner: [00:04:26] One is longer. Uh, and it is Helena Bonham Carter quote, and I saw it on the page niche the other day. And it just so spoke to me, especially for right now.

[00:04:35]Um, it is, I think everything in life is art. What you do, how you dress the way you love someone and how you talk, your smile and your personality, what you believe in and all your dreams, the way you drink your tea, how you decorate your home or party your grocery list, the food you make, how your writing looks and the way you feel.

[00:04:53] Life is art. And that has resonated with me in the middle of this pause. Oh my gosh.

[00:05:00]Dane Reis: [00:05:00] that’s so good. I’ve never heard that before. I really liked that quote.

[00:05:04] Brenna Wagner: [00:05:04] Yeah, it felt when art is not necessarily as accessible these days, it really sat with me in a really grounded way because I’m finding art in the day to day and having to find my creativity in different outlets.

[00:05:19]So. That feels very true to my soul at the moment. Uh, and then the other is a more standard. It’s a migrainer quote. Uh, if you want to reach every person in the audience, it’s not about being bigger. It’s about going deeper.

[00:05:28]Dane Reis: [00:05:28] Oh, so true. You got to drill down.

[00:05:31] Brenna Wagner: [00:05:31] Yeah. And I think we’re so often taught to go for the spectacle and more often than not, it’s simplifying and it’s finding the heart of the matter. So those are my two. I broke the rules.

[00:05:43] Dane Reis: [00:05:43] Oh, I love that you did. Those were so good. Thank you for sharing those. And let’s move on to this next section here. And Brenna of course you are an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. And I think that you’d agree. This. Industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries in existence.

[00:06:05] And you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while. Yeah, there is an outrageous amount of fun and excitement being an entertainer, doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures.

[00:06:26] We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us, what is one key challenge stick or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.

[00:06:39]Brenna Wagner: [00:06:39] Yeah. So as you said, there are a lot of obstacles in this career from rejection to the direction of your career to getting out of your own way. But the one that I am, I will say I’m currently in the front of my mind and I’m currently dealing with is. Who am I when I’m not working? And how do I measure my growth when I am not as necessarily as active in a more normalized sense in the arts.

[00:07:06]So, you know, like, so often I feel like we measured our work from what audition we got or what callback we booked or whatever we booked, blah, blah, blah. But

[00:07:13]Dane Reis: [00:07:13] right.

[00:07:13]Brenna Wagner: [00:07:13] how do you measure where you’re at when you don’t have those standard, that standard yard stick. And that’s something I don’t necessarily have an answer to at this time, but.

[00:07:20] I think the really positive part of it is it’s asking me to go deeper and look at myself on a, um, in a clearer way about who I am as an artist and who I want to be as an artist.

[00:07:30]Dane Reis: [00:07:30] Oh, that is so good. And so introspective and I think your sentiment is also being felt by so many people, artists, everyone, especially in this industry right now, because. Everything’s been flipped on its head. Everything has disappeared and evaporated or something has come back. And it’s a, it’s a very different form or version that we’re used to.

[00:07:51] And we’re getting used to what the new thing is. Right, right. Right, right. How do we identify with ourselves again? How, what makes us us   I’m so glad that you brought that up because I think it’s such a broadly. Felt thing from so many people that I don’t believe, many people have even really been able to articulate that.

[00:08:08] And I think you just did that for them. And I think it’s so wonderful. Thank you.

[00:08:12] Brenna Wagner: [00:08:12] Yeah, and I thank you. Uh, and I, I think that we get, we define so much of who we are based on what we’re doing. And we define so much of our self worth based on the work we’re booking or what we’re doing. And this is really stripping everything back and asking us to do hard internal work. This is not easy.

[00:08:34] It’s not easy.

[00:08:35]Dane Reis: [00:08:35] absolutely.  uh, and let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for or living or maybe it was, yes, this is what I need to be doing as an entertainer. Tell us about that.

[00:08:58]Brenna Wagner: [00:08:58] Once again, I have two answers. That’s that’s going to be theme with me. The first one, my first spotlight moment was in the first grade, we were doing a class presentation of a song called I love mud. It’s a little known, but very, uh, you know, very unique, strong piece. And. They’re very dirty. And I just, what March the front of the room, everyone, the whole class was singing and my mom was there watching it and I built it out in the beginning, in front of the room.

[00:09:26] I see the holes. I’m like mud, mud, mud. I love mud. And I just sang the crap out of the song and. My mom afterwards, like, you really liked that, didn’t you? I said, I loved that and that’s when we get clicked for me, that I wanted to try performing. So that’s number one that I love mud moment. Um, and then I miss it.

[00:09:44] One that’s a little more specific to my professional career, uh, was actually was the opening night curtain call of my first union show here in Seattle. And it was my . First professional gig out of college, and it was the production of village theater’s production of Mary Poppins upstage, right right in this amazing hot pink and blue dress with a Dolly part and blonde wig with bright blue highlights and all of the supercalifragilistic number, very quirky.

[00:10:09] And I remember taking that back now and just being so filled with joy and gratitude and knowing in that moment to remember this feeling. You’re here. This is what you’re supposed to be doing. And it totally made me tear up. And just everything about that production from the audition to the rehearsal room, to the technical process, it just felt like magic.

[00:10:30] And even though it was hard, it was where I wanted and felt like I needed to be. So I just have such a perfect mental image of what the audience sounded like, what the lights felt like. And. I actually hadn’t thought about that moment until I was kind of until, until you brought this up. So it was really fun to run, right?

[00:10:48] Dane Reis: [00:10:48] Oh, brilliant. And let’s piggyback on that real quick and talk about your number one, booked it moment. Walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks. If they happen to be a part of it. Well, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment? Makes it your favorite? What did moment.

[00:11:10] Brenna Wagner: [00:11:10] Sure. So I, it was for the touring production of the little mermaid that I did back in 2018. At the time I was doing a production of paint, your wagon at the fifth Avenue theater. And. I’d already received a no for the little mermaid. I just flat out, got to know, uh, and I had a couple of callbacks and I really thought I was going to book it and got my note.

[00:11:30] And it was, it was really hard. It was like, man, I think I’m perfect for this Disney show. That’s okay. I didn’t go my way. And I was coming out of rehearsal and the casting directors pulled me aside to Brent. I want to chat with you and. She said, you know, um, things have changed a little bit. Mind you, this is two months after I’d gotten my note for a little mermaid and she pulled me aside and said, we would like to put you on hold for the little mermaid things have changed.

[00:11:50] Is that all right with you? And I kind of looked through like, is that all right with me? Yeah, that’s all right with me. And she said, I can’t give you a firm offer right now, but I’ll get back to you within 24 hours. And. Within 24 hours. I had my, yes. And, uh, about a couple of weeks later, we found out it was going to be a tour.

[00:12:06] It was originally only going to be produced by the fifth Avenue theater. And we didn’t know that it was going to extend on beyond. And so I had, uh, during production kind of fall in my lap. And my favorite part about that moment was that. Uh, no is not always a no. And this has happened to me twice in my career where I have received nos on productions.

[00:12:24] And then a couple months later, something changes and I got a yes, and it was one of those don’t give up on things, you know, don’t hold onto something because you got to know for it, but it turned to a yes, but, uh, it was a really nice reminder to keep showing up. And even if you get an a, no, it doesn’t mean that you didn’t do great work.

[00:12:40] You may just not have been the right fit at that time for that specific puzzle that they were filling.

[00:12:46]Dane Reis: [00:12:46] Don’t give up and that is, or you said keep showing up. That’s

[00:12:51] Brenna Wagner: [00:12:51] Both. Both.

[00:12:53] Dane Reis: [00:12:53] there we go. But that is so true. You have to keep doing the good work and keep putting yourself out there. And that’s, that’s what attracts all of that stuff to you. All of the good

[00:13:04] Brenna Wagner: [00:13:04] Yeah. And in spite, even if like, even if you get that, no, you got to keep showing up. You got to find that next bright spot. So if you get to know, cried out, feel your feels, and then find that next thing to work towards and keep moving forward. Uh, Because you don’t, you don’t know what’s going to come back around your way.

[00:13:20] You never do. You don’t know what connection you made in that audition room that may become something else a year down the line or 10 years down the line. Yeah,

[00:13:27]Dane Reis: [00:13:27] right. And so cool that it turned into a tour.

[00:13:30] Brenna Wagner: [00:13:30] I know. I know. I never knew I wanted to tour until I got an offer for a tour.

[00:13:35] Dane Reis: [00:13:35] Yeah.

[00:13:36] Brenna Wagner: [00:13:36] Yeah, Yeah,

[00:13:38]Dane Reis: [00:13:38] Amazing. Well, let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And it’s a weird time. We were admitted this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:13:57]Brenna Wagner: [00:13:57] I was in kind of an interesting position when the theatrical and just world in general shut down. I was at the opening night of a show. I was in was also the closing night based on a Washington state shutdown. So. Currently I am, or I guess I should say prior to shutdown, I was in the middle of working on two new musicals, one that was closed on opening night and then another, that was supposed to happen in June.

[00:14:19] So I am patiently waiting for the day. We get to return to those rooms into those scripts. So I don’t necessarily have anything currently going on at the moment, but I’m looking forward to that work as things start to open up again. But at the moment I am working in the health and wellness field. I work as a stretch therapist, so I’m getting to.

[00:14:37] Keep my body in check and keep me up and ready for dance. When that comes back around in a more, in a broader sense. Um, and then where I let’s say where I see the industry going, you know, this is actually interesting. I’ve had a conversation with a few friends recently watching this trend towards filmed musicals and live stream musicals.

[00:14:55] And it’s reminding me so much of the 1950s movie musical and kind of hearkening back to that time. So. I will not be surprised if more things go the direction of, uh, Hamilton and Diana, which is going to be live streaming on Netflix and like a month or something like that. And, uh, in the Heights, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:15:14] So I’m realizing I need to work on my on-camera skills because it seems like our musical theater live performance world might be going the direction of screen.

[00:15:22] Dane Reis: [00:15:22] Yeah, which would also be kind of cool as well. I think I love those big MGM movies,

[00:15:29] Brenna Wagner: [00:15:29] Oh, me too. I just love them. Yes. That was what I grew up on. So that would be a pretty exciting to have things go back that direction or forward that direction, I should say.

[00:15:40] Dane Reis: [00:15:40] Exactly. And also what I love about that kind of medium. It also makes what we do so accessible to the masses. And I’m not trying to take away from live theater, but it will, in my opinion, it will only strengthen the live theater scene because people see stuff on. If people are gonna watch Hamilton, for instance, on Disney, plus they go, Oh, I think maybe we need to go to a Broadway show and go see that live.

[00:16:06] Not now, obviously, but you know, when, when it becomes

[00:16:08] Brenna Wagner: [00:16:08] Someday when I think

[00:16:11] Dane Reis: [00:16:11] going to happen.

[00:16:12] Brenna Wagner: [00:16:12] and I think there’s room for both there’s it’s not one or the other there’s so there’s. An infinite amount of room for all forms of creativity. So let’s expand it. Let’s make things more accessible for people let’s make more work for actors.

[00:16:27] Dane Reis: [00:16:27] For sure. And it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightening round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you ready?

[00:16:46] Brenna Wagner: [00:16:46] I think I am

[00:16:47] Dane Reis: [00:16:47] All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:16:55] Brenna Wagner: [00:16:55] the idea of what I quote unquote should be doing. And the concept of should not first, not what I want or need to be doing.

[00:17:02]Dane Reis: [00:17:02] Hmm. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:17:08] Brenna Wagner: [00:17:08] I love this question. I feel like I’ve received a lot of good advice. Uh, but my favorite and most recent was that the people behind the table, people, people auditioning. You want you to be the answer to their problems. They are not against you. They want you to make their lives easier.

[00:17:22]Dane Reis: [00:17:22] Yeah, here’s the thing. No one really wants to run auditions.

[00:17:27] Brenna Wagner: [00:17:27] No, it’s a lot of work.

[00:17:28] Dane Reis: [00:17:28] you could just give everybody a call that you know, would be great for your show, you would do that. Because it’s a pain in the butt to audition people. It’s also very expensive. And if you could call people that, you know, you know, are great, that you know, you know, are fun and easy to work with.

[00:17:42] That’s what you’re going to do most of the time. So you’re right. the panel wants you to be that puzzle piece for them. Like you

[00:17:52] Brenna Wagner: [00:17:52] Yeah, , they want us to make their job easier. Not harder.

[00:17:57] Dane Reis: [00:17:57] Yes. Yes. And the third question, what is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause.

[00:18:11] Brenna Wagner: [00:18:11] Yeah, uh, pre everything going on, pause preparation, knowing my materials inside and out, whether it be for an audition for a table, read for a first rehearsal, doing the work before you’re even in the room.

[00:18:24]Dane Reis: [00:18:24] Hmm, so true. And the fourth question, what is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or a piece of technology that you found is helping your career right now.

[00:18:39]Brenna Wagner: [00:18:39] All things. Brenae Brown books focused on vulnerability and emotional growth. And in emotional intelligence just opened me up, make me vulnerable Renee Brown.

[00:18:52] Dane Reis: [00:18:52] Done and the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:19:08]Brenna Wagner: [00:19:08] I would travel more and expand my realm of auditions. I’ve primarily stayed in the Seattle scene and I would have expanded. I would expand and probably will continue. I will start to expand to LA Chicago, New York, et cetera, et cetera, and just broadening out that market, taking barriers down.

[00:19:26] Dane Reis: [00:19:26] Yes. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:19:38]Brenna Wagner: [00:19:38] Be a good person. Be kind, treat those around you with respect. Um, there is so much vulnerability, hibernate Brown. There’s so much vulnerability in this field. And I think we often forget that. The person next to you is basically walking around with their skin, turned inside out, right. As we’re just baring our souls and to re have tenderness and care for the people around us.

[00:20:00]Dane Reis: [00:20:00] Yes, such wonderful advice to wrap up this interview, Brenna it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:20:15] Brenna Wagner: [00:20:15] Yeah, you can find or on Instagram at, at miss Brenna Wagner.

[00:20:23]Dane Reis: [00:20:23] Beautiful. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything. Brenda just said into the description of this episode. So you can easily connect with her. Brenda, thank you so much

[00:20:35] for being here today. It has been an absolute pleasure to have you on

[00:20:39] Brenna Wagner: [00:20:39] Thank you so much for having me.