~ By Miguel A. Gastelum, Communications Specialist/Box Office Manager for the Department of Theatre Arts, photos courtesy of Actors Theatre of Louisville

Taylor Abels Rodriguez, a 2012 Fresno State Theatre Arts – Acting alumna, is getting into the holiday spirit for the third year in a row as she appears in the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Taylor Abels RodriguezWe were able to chat with Abels Rodriguez about her time at Fresno State and with Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Q: What is your favorite Fresno State memory?

A: My favorite Fresno State memory would probably have to be working on “T.I.C. (Trenchcoat in Common)” by Peter Nachtrieb. I got to portray a crazed-hippie murderer and it was definitely the first time I’ve ever played a character like that. The director, J. Daniel Herring, let me try new things and explore a part of myself I wasn’t sure I had within me. It was also incredible to get to work with Peter Nachtrieb and discuss this amazingly odd play he had written. I ran into him two years later in New York and he still remembered me, and the cast, and had so many wonderful things to say about his experience at Fresno State as well.

Q: Any particular professors that left an especially lasting impact?

A: This is a tough question!

When I came to Fresno State I had never done a monologue in my life. I was a musical theatre girl, so the thought of having to rely solely on my acting abilities was incredibly daunting. Brad Myers really helped me break out of that shell, as did Kathleen McKinley. I learned so much from the two of them.

J Daniel Herring also had a lasting impact on me. Like I said, he gave me the opportunity to play something unfamiliar and challenging and really let me try any and everything that I needed in order to really discover my character in “T.I.C.” He taught me to not be afraid to play and explore and to embrace the challenges that might come along the way. I am forever grateful for that.

Q: What did you do after graduating from Fresno State?

A: After Fresno State, I spent about nine months saving to move to New York City. I moved to the city in March of 2013 and have been there ever since! (Almost 5 years!!) I did take a nine-month leave from NYC to do an amazing apprenticeship at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky. (Look up this program, y’all! It truly changed my life.) In that time, I got to perform at the theatre, gain professional experience and perform in a showcase at the end of the nine months. The apprenticeship really focused on the business side of being a professional actor. My time in Kentucky was truly invaluable.

Q: Did your role as Mrs. Fezziwig in “A Christmas Carol” stem from your apprenticeship or did you have to audition separately?

A: I was fortunate enough to be in “A Christmas Carol” when I was an apprentice and I expressed interest in auditioning for the role when I knew it was going to be available the next year. On my last official day of the apprenticeship, I was offered the role and was told I was going to get my equity card. Needless to say, I cried like a baby and have felt incredibly grateful ever since.

Q: How many years have you returned to perform this role? Is it slowly becoming your new holiday tradition?

A: This is my third year playing Mrs. Fezziwig, and I love her so! This is my fourth holiday season in Louisville and I definitely have made some traditions here. Between holiday parties, great friends and fun show rituals, it’s been a blast. The thing with theatre is that nothing is guaranteed. So, while these past three years have been the greatest gift, I never assume that I’ll be back every year because you never know. What I will say is that I’ll be here for as long as they’ll have me.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: After this, I am back to the New York grind. I’ll go back to working full time at my day job (which happens to be nannying the cutest little peanut you ever did see) and auditioning my butt off. I just moved into a new apartment with my husband (s/o to Daniel Abels Rodriguez — also Fresno State alum and the best human on earth) so I imagine there will be a lot of building and crafting and making our new place a home.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to students trying to pursue a professional acting career?

A: Oh man! This might get a little long winded but here we go! I have learned A TON over these past (almost) five years, but a few things have really stuck with me. First off, being a professional actor is HARD. There is no way around that. Everyone tells you this, but you won’t fully get it until you are living it. You will have to get a day job. It helps if you find a day job that you love.

When I moved to the city, I was working in retail and it was soul crushing. I now nanny and I LOVE it! For some people, it’s working in an office, or tutoring, or walking dogs. Find something that makes you happy.

Find a hobby. I recently discovered that I love to paint so, I do that to relax. Find a way fulfill yourself when it feels like you aren’t being artistically fulfilled. Find your community. Create together. Learn from each other. Don’t let other people’s success define you. You are your own person! There is no one like you! Embrace that. Don’t let anyone try to change you.

If living in New York, or Chicago, or LA, or Fresno (or wherever) isn’t fulfilling you, try a new place! You don’t have to live in one of those major cities to be successful! Recently my husband and I have been exploring other cities around that country that have a great theatre scene. It’s okay to change your mind! Stick with it if this is what you really love to do. Days get hard. Auditions can be rough. But at the end of the day, I really can’t picture myself doing anything else.

Q: What would you tell students considering a Theatre Arts major at Fresno State?

A: I say, GO FOR IT!! Why not? The training I got at Fresno State was invaluable. The experiences and the people you meet will stay with you forever! Do what you love and do it 100%. If getting your degree in theatre is the thing that fuels you, FOLLOW YOUR BLISS!