Emily Skeggs plays Medium Alison in the the Broadway musical Fun Home. The Tony-nominated actress shared with NewYork.com an epic 24 hours traveling to Orlando with her Fun Home family to perform in an emotional one-night-only benefit concert to support Equality Florida and Orlando's LGBTQ community.
Ever since she can remember, Emily Skeggs was a voracious storyteller, connecting with people through her imagination. "I would make up languages," says the actress. "I claimed that I could speak Wigglish or Wiggie." Growing up in New York City, her parents always encouraged her creativity and often took Skeggs to see shows. "I always knew performing was in my blood," she explains.
In the first grade she even co-wrote a play called Star Girl with her best friend Emma, which they performed with their entire class. "Emma was the star, and I was the girl," shares Skeggs. "The star would come down at night and have adventures with her." She was also interested in marine biology, psychology and teaching, but she ultimately learned that those interests held their allure in other ways. "There's a storytelling to science, teaching and learning that I have found through acting," she adds.
While a drama major at the famed LaGuardia Arts High School, she began working professionally, like acting in the musical Take Me Along at the Irish Rep. She then studied theater and writing at Emerson College. A year after graduating, Skeggs was cast to be an understudy in the Off-Broadway production of Fun Home at the Public Theater. "I got to watch the show every night, which was incredible," says Skeggs about understudying Joan and Medium Alison. "It's an amazing way to understand the importance of the story you're telling. I entered Fun Home with a gratitude for the material which can be harder to get when you're inside it." She ultimately took over the role of Medium Alison, reprised the part for the Broadway production and was nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway debut.
Based on Alison Bechdel's graphic memoir, the Tony Award-winning Best Musical centers around the Bechdel family's journey through the eyes of Alison at three different ages -- as Alison tries to understand the mystery of her father. "People always ask, 'How do you let go of it at the end of the day?' But there's so much laughter backstage, and we have created a community," says Skeggs. "When I feel really down or angry, I know I can always go to the show and feel better by the end. The words, story and music grab me and take over. And the people around me grab me and take over too. In this industry it's very rare to find a group of people who are close and have each other's back."
On September 10, after more than 600 performances, Fun Home will close on Broadway as the North American tour launches in October. "I'm sad that Fun Home is closing, but I'm excited for what's to come," says Skeggs, who next plays activist Roma Guy in the ABC miniseries When We Rise, written and executive-produced by Milk writer Dustin Lance Black and directed in part by Gus Van Sant. "Fun Home has opened up new doors in musical theater and shown what's possible to be a commercial run and draw acclaim and audiences."
In July, because of the generosity of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the show's producers, co-producers and the Wyndham Orlando -- the entire cast, crew members, musicians, creators and many others associated with Fun Home flew to Orlando for a one-night-only benefit concert performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Proceeds from the concert will support the future work of Equality Florida and the victims of the horrific Pulse shooting. "It was the most incredible experience I have ever had as a performer," says Skeggs. "I have struggled feeling that I want to make a difference in the world and help people. Fun Home and specifically that performance in Orlando made me feel it was more possible to do that with theater and art."