Carley Ingold Chats The International Tour of West Side Story, First Love and the Joys of Performing

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By Noel Knostman

Carley Ingold sits across from me exuding the kind of confidence only poised young women can. With grand hand gestures painting a picture almost as articulate as her words, she speaks with sparkling eyes about a strong past, a promising present and a future that is itching to become reality.

 Don’t get me wrong Ingold by no means is stiff, rather, she seems to be the most fun-loving, kind-hearted, intelligent and genuine human in the bustling diner. I don’t think a second went by where we weren’t grinning from ear to ear or laughing about something. Ingold has a contagious joy for and a genuine sense of adventure for the life she is leading. Trust me, Carley Ingold is the kind of girl you want the be best friends with. To paint you a picture of Ingold’s character, I must note that her preferred means of transportation is a longboard–she is a self-proclaimed avid wolf T-Shirt collector, the sister of a nun and an art history major, and now a professional dancer. Needless to say, the girl has spunk. The life Ingold has already lived at a mere 22 years old is more than some people will ever live in a full lifetime.

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Ingold was born and raised in Cresson, Pennsylvania; she’s youngest of three girls; she studied Jazz at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 2 years prior to booking the international tour of West Side Story. Ingold and some of her peers on a whim took a trip over spring break their sophomore year to New York where they hoped to simply audition in the effort to get some audition experience. Little did she know, she and her friend Ryan Cyr were in for a much longer ride than just an audition. Of course, Carley in her relaxed fashion did her thing at the audition and then moved on; to her surprise, a month later she received a life-changing email that announced she had been cast as "Minnie" (a Jet girl) and the understudy for "Anybody's.”

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She just recently returned from the 2-year stint on tour. She sits across from me chewing on Avocado toast and nursing a hot coffee–black–all the while painting the picture of her past two years abroad with illuminated eyes. We're talking about falling in love with a fellow cast mate while walking through a winter market in Italy, exploring the most wonderful of cuisines from all over the world first hand, sightseeing in 20 different countries and 22 cities, press events and of course immersing herself deeply into a tale as old as time, “West Side Story.”  Ingold follows this image with a slight narrowing of her eyes that reveals a slightly more serious side. Ingold admits that she adores performing. She really truly feels as though this is what she is meant to spend her life doing and intends to do it as long as she can.

As for the present day, Ingold is currently performing at a dinner theater–called Midtown Arts–in Fort Collins, Colorado. She plays the role of “Cha Cha” in their rendition of Grease for the summer. Ingold, who has been all over the world, takes a moment to note that Colorado is one of the most stunning and wonderful places she has ever been to. She is in love with the place and is grateful for how this job has brought her and the state together. But most notably, Ingold is so grateful for the way in which this job has brought her and her most recent castmates together. In her quirky way, Ingold stops her train of thought to comment on the fact that she loves serving. She has found while living in New York and working at the dinner theatre, that the fast-paced and social nature of serving suits her personality well.

With a final discussion about her castmate-turned-boyfriend who is awaiting her return to New York at the end of this summer so they can tackle their first apartment and new auditions by each other’s side–ummm… power couple!–the conversation comes to what feels like a close. Together we walk out into the hot Colorado sun and, before parting, she turns to me as the corners of her mouth slightly turn upward into a warm smile. She gives me a bear hug goodbye. 

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Tell us about you as a child? What are some of your fondest memories? How has your childhood shaped who you are today?

As a child, I was always being obnoxious running around singing and dancing. I started taking dance and performing in musicals when I was about 6 years old. I was homeschooled my entire life up until college, so that gave me a lot of time to focus and get involved with the performing arts. My entire family (except my dad haha) are performers, so they really inspired me and got me started with musicals. Some of my fondest memories were performing in shows with my grandpa, my mom, and my two sisters all at the same time. Sometimes we would have three generations of my family onstage. It was wild!

What qualities in yourself present the biggest hurdles for you professionally and personally? What qualities in yourself would you attribute to your success?

I would actually give the same quality as an answer to both of those questions. I am a very chill person when it comes to auditions and the performing industry. I don't get very nervous at auditions or upset when I don't get roles because I have a lot of other goals and passions besides performing and I realize that it really isn't the end of the world. I try very hard not to compare myself to other people's timelines of success because we are all on our own paths and timetables. I realize that everything happens for a reason, and if something doesn't work out, it is because something else that might be better is coming along. These qualities can hinder me professionally and also really help. I know that it is good to always have an open mind and a positive attitude, so for that, I am grateful. But also sometimes I really have to push myself and focus on attaining my goals, and not being too chill and relaxed haha! You really do have to work for what you want, and I am always trying to remind myself of that.

What was the audition process like?

The whole audition process took a total of two days in New York City. I went into Pearl Studios in NYC on my spring break at the time in March. I think I remember there being over 250 girls there total. We handed in our headshots and resumes and waited to be called into groups. When my group was called, we went into the room and one by one did an 8 count combination that was taught to us across the floor. After everyone went, they called out a few names of the girls they wanted to stay. During the next round, only about 30 girls were kept. We then learned another combination from the show that was ballet style. After we learned and performed that, they cut us down to about 15 girls. The next round was a combination from the song "Cool" in West Side Story. When that was over, they only kept about 7 girls to sing. We all grabbed our books and waited to be called in one by one to sing our own songs that we had prepared for a panel. After I was done singing, they asked me if I could come back in two weeks for a callback. I said of course, even though I live 7 hours away haha! I came back two weeks later and did the ballet and jazz combination again with only about 5 other girls. We were then asked to sing a cut from the show and read a scene from the show. After that, I waited for about a month, and after I had given up hope I got an email saying I was cast as "Minnie" (a jet girl) and the understudy for "Anybody's". I was elated and immediately started crying!

What was the rehearsal process like?

The rehearsal process was three weeks long and took place in Ampflwang Austria. We stayed at and rehearsed at the Robinson Club resort there. We rehearsed every day except Sundays from about 9:30 AM to 5 PM. It was very intense and tiring, but also wonderful to be doing original Jerome Robbins choreography and making such incredible friends.

Could you describe for our readers an average day on tour?

An average day on tour, when there weren't any cleanup rehearsals, put-ins, or press events, we usually had the entire morning/afternoon off before our call at the theatre. I loved using that time to explore whichever city we were in at the time and learn about the culture, eat, and sightsee. We were called at the theatre two hours before the show for an hour warm up, which alternated between a ballet class and a stretch class. We then had an hour to get into our microphones, costumes, wigs, and do our makeup. We would do the show, get out of costume, and usually all go get food somewhere and hang out at the hotel haha!

Did the choreographer hold true to the original choreography or was it modified?

The choreographer and director, Joey McKneely, actually worked with Jerome Robbins and learned the original choreography from him. He then choreographed the Broadway revival and has been doing tours since. So yes it was all the original choreography!

How did you keep the story fresh in front of a different audience for 2 entire years?

Honestly, it was tough trying to find new ways to keep the show fresh and alive after 15 months on tour. For me personally, sometimes I would really have to step back and remind myself of the bigger picture and meaningful story that was being portrayed outside of my few dance numbers and scenes that I was in. That really helped remind me of what was important for the story.

What was the most wonderful place to visit/perform in?

One of my favorite places to visit was Muscat, Oman. I walked to the theatre every day on the most gorgeous beaches, and the people there were so friendly and kind. The best audience we had thought was in Dublin, Ireland. The people there were so vocal and their applause was unreal! We had the loudest standing ovations there every night.

Has the casting evolved since the original movie we all know and love was produced in 1961?

I would say the casting is pretty much the same. The roles are very specific so the types are usually similar.

What should a dancer on tour always have in their bag?

I always have to have a snack in my bag. Some dancers like to perform on an empty stomach, but personally, I need fuel before I can perform. And if I'm hungry I can't concentrate on anything. I also always carry warm-up clothes to stay warm after warm up and before the show, and it can get cold backstage.

Do you feel like the story of West Side Story is still relevant?

Yes, 150%. Honestly now more than ever. I feel so lucky to have been able to bring such a powerful story of love, acceptance, racism, and violence all around the world because it is still relevant everywhere. With what has been going on in our world today with violence and hatred, I think it's very important to take the messages of West Side Story to heart.

What was your character development process?

Of course, there is preparation with blocking and character choices, but I like to try to keep it fresh onstage and work off of the others onstage and their acting choices.

How often were able to go home?

Over the 15 month tour, I had three 2-week layoffs in which they flew me home to be with my family.

If you don't mind me asking how much did you make- how did payment work?

I'd rather not say how much I made, but we got a weekly salary that was directly deposited into our bank accounts, and also a weekly per diem in the currency of the place we were in for food.

How did you begin to prioritize your personal life when your passion has become your career?

It's hard when you are so busy with crazy rehearsal schedules and performances to make sure you keep in touch with your friends and family. But I always make a point to call my family members and friends on a regular basis, because that is truly what makes me happy and is a top priority for me! I try to be very conscious of that.

Tell me about your creative process? How did you go about developing this process?

I try to live in the moment when onstage because I think that's what portrays as the most real. Also, different people onstage will try different things different nights which can be exciting and keep the story fresh, so staying focused on just being the most real version of the character is important to me.

Where do you typically seek inspiration?

I find inspiration in the most random places. I will be inspired by things from beautiful architecture I see on the street to a random video on Facebook of a singer. I just love seeing art and pure talent in all of its different forms.

What in your career so far makes you the proudest?

Definitely the tour of West Side Story. I remember being asked in college what my dream job was, and I replied "A tour of a musical that takes me all around the world." And that was my first professional job! It was a very literal dream come true and the absolute time of my life. I'm forever grateful!

What is your next move?

After I finish my current summer job in Colorado, I'm going to move back to New York and keep auditioning for anything and everything! I love performing and can't wait to see what my next job will be. It's a crazy industry and nothing is ever the same which is what I love about it.

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