Professional actress and CTA alumna Ezra Freeman — known as Emily Freeman during her CTA days — reminisces on her time at CTA and how it led to performing in college and, today, a successful performing career with Princess Cruises.
Where did you go to high school, and what shows/roles did you play at CTA?
I went to Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, and I didn’t actually start CTA until my junior year of high school with Legally Blonde. I played Brooke Wyndham which I never thought I would do, but absolutely loved it! I was then a member of CTA Second Stage, the traveling troupe, for two seasons. My senior show was Shrek The Musical, and I played Fiona.
Where did you go to college, and what was your major?
I went to Elon University in North Carolina. I double majored with a BFA in Acting and a BA in Arts Administration with a minor in Business Administration. I ended up just shy of a third major, and took over 100 extra credits!
Elon is fabulous in that they allow you to double major and pursue things outside of the arts while training in a conservatory-style setting. You really are allowed to push yourself as hard as you are willing. There were semesters where I was taking 27 credits, working as an RA, and performing in main stage productions. It was very intense, but I made it out alive! ️
Tell us a little about your experiences performing in college.
While I was at Elon, I performed in a student production of The Vagina Monologues before I actually declared the BFA Acting major. I ended up transferring into the program, meaning I auditioned once I was already on campus pursuing a Communications degree (...that wasn’t bound to last long.) I then performed in a student-directed one-act by Tennessee Williams, which I think is really how I got accepted into the program.
Throughout college I learned that there is a mid-century Southern belle living inside of me. I revisited her when I performed as Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Other college credits include Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, the absurdist play The Memorandum, the musical Little Women, and the classic Crimes of the Heart. I’m very lucky that I was able to perform in such a plethora of styles and explore so many scopes of my ability.
Are you currently performing as a career?
I am so thankful to say that I am currently a Resident Guest Entertainer on the Royal Princess with Princess Cruises, cruising Alaska, the Californian Coast, and the Mexican Riviera! I spend a lot of time (*wink, wink*) with two very lovely ladies named Fortuna Luck and Joan Brewer. Fortuna is a spritely redhead who loves all kinds of games and dancing, and can be seen doing such all around the ship. Joan Brewer is a Pirate Queen, and she is not as nice as Fortuna. Joan lives in the casino on board, interacting with guests by teaching them her new game Queen Sea Poker to find her first mate. It has been a life-changing contract, and I am beyond grateful for this opportunity.
What was the audition experience like for the cruise line?
Funnily enough, I was living in New York City, going on auditions every single day, and I ended up booking this from a video! I had and still have a subscription to Actors Access online, where companies post casting breakdowns and you can self-submit for auditions.
I read the breakdown for this track, and it was all INSANELY specific and very much in my wheelhouse. It was one of those things where I was thinking, "if I don’t end up doing this, then I need to regroup." Not in a bad way, but just because on paper it was a perfect fit. I was invited from my submission on Actors Access to send in a video reel performing a monologue from one of the interactive scripts, and I remember memorizing it on a bus from a callback for an equity theatre in Philadelphia back to New York by writing it down over and over again for two hours.
I sent it in along with some other footage, and a week later was invited to do a Skype callback with the corporate office. The callback consisted of the same monologue plus an improv segment for the other character, and a demonstration of card-handling. It turns out I way over-prepared the cards bit, but hey! Now I have a special skill!
What did you learn at CTA that prepared you for becoming a professional performer?
I really do think — no, I know — that CTA was pivotal in my career. I’ve been onstage since before kindergarten, but CTA had the biggest impact in my pre-professional career because it gave me the confidence and community that I needed right when I needed it.
Jason Kimmell [CTA's Theatre Operations Manager and Legally Blonde choreographer] casting me as a fitness guru challenged my own perception of myself and showed me that I had been placing limits on myself as a performer by only going for certain kinds of roles that I thought I was bound to. During Legally Blonde, Second Stage, and Shrek, I also made the best friends of my life. They are STILL my best friends to this day.
The environment at CTA is so lovely in that you make incredible bonds with people while you’re still working hard. The CTA kids work extremely hard. I look back now and think, "Wow, we really took those auditions seriously." I remember I had a special arrangement done for my audition song for because I wanted it to be the perfect cut! Who did 17-year-old me think she was, right!? Hahaha.
Additionally, CTA is ultimately what led me to Infinity Theatre Company, where I made my Equity debut in “Baby." That was major as it earned me EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) points, which is the only reason I survived audition season in New York City. So basically, to sum it up, yeah I owe CTA pretty much everything. I’m very grateful to be a part of the CTA community. My mom still has her CTA bumper sticker on her car!
Are you a CTA alumni who is performing in a professional capacity? Email CTApublicity@gmail.com to be featured on the CTA website!