'The thrust' of ensemble acting thrills M. Toogood
For Hippodrome actress Marissa Toogood being selected to play Bart Simpson in the Hippodrome's current production of Mr. Burn's: A Post Electric Play was a dream come true.
"Bart Simpson is a social icon, and I get to pretend I'm Bart at work every day, That's amazing," Marissa exclaimed with a look of disbelief.
That's the way it goes for this upbeat, positive 24 year-old graduate of the University of Florida School of Theater and Dance. Marissa has been lucky to work consistently here in Gainesville since her graduation, but that luck was bolstered by years and years of hard work and dedication. At an early age her parents saw her knack for acting and singing. In a household where music was encouraged, Marissa saw herself more and more wanting to participate, and find her own voice.
"My mother would sing at engagements like weddings, retirement homes, and other functions all the time. She was connecting with strangers and touching their hearts through song, and it wasn't long before I wanted to do the same thing."
Living outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Marissa's mother realized her daughter needed more encouragement and education in the arts. At the age of fifteen, Marissa left her family in Pennsylvania and moveded across the country to pursue her dreams.
"That's when I took the big step of leaving home to live with relatives so I could attend an awesome magnet school in Orlando that focused on music, theatre, and all the things I really wanted to be a part of," Marissa said.
While studying and honing her skills at Florida School of the Arts, Marissa was cast in an incredible play called Kindertransport. "I had to learn German! As if learning monologues in another language wasn't hard enough, I had to reflect the mentality of a nine-year old child being pushed through the effects of the Holocaust and age into a young British adult. Talk about having a role to really sink your teeth into," Marissa said. "It is still one of my all time favorite parts."
Unique parts are something Ms. Toogood knows quite well as she has played talking bears in the hipp's Avenue Q, a girl thrown into the world of video games in Leveling Up, and the walking dead in Zombie Town.
"I've been lucky to have a lot of great parts in my past, but what I love about Mr. Burns [her current production at the Hippodrome Theatre] is the interaction and creativity this ensemble cast puts together. Working with Hipp Artistic Director Lauren Caldwell and so many passionate actors is truly a blessing and it has been nothing short of a splendid journey."
Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play does some really avant garde theatrical things insofar as time travel, character aging, and societal shifting. In the midst of the change Bart Simpson and Mr. Burns remain the same.
When being asked if it was ever hard to keep composure during the show, she admitted to one moment that kept her on her toes. "There is a part when Matthew Lindsay portrays Mr. Burns and he breaks into a very funny rap." Marissa says. "Matthew Lindsay is such a good actor and when he breaks into that rap I always feel like I am going to laugh out loud, but he hasn't gotten me yet!"
Citing Bernadette Peters as an actress she admires, she appreciates how Ms. Peter's has her special, unique style of delivery with a very strong voice. "She is definitely someone I really look up to. I think it is important to have role models and I can only hope to inspire other children the way she has motivated me."
Marissa has made lot of friends at the Hippodrome and likes the fact that she is a part of a very big theater family.
"You can't get this close to people working every day and not share their feelings, frustrations, joys," Marissa said. "That why the theater is such a communal family experience, I love that."
The Hipp is Marissa's first working experience on a thrust stage. "It's unbelievably different as far as depth and dimension of a performance," Marissa said. "Whether you are holding a puppet, singing to the rafters or storytelling with your cast, you have to be completely aware of all visual angles. That's why I always invite my friends and family to come back for another viewing, because depending on where you sit, you might see something you missed before, especially with Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play."
Ms. Toogood swears she hasn't heard the call of the bright lights of New York City yet. "The Hippodrome family has so many talented collaborators and creative minds. I am honored to be included in their company and beyond grateful to be one small part of the Hippodrome's legacy and to 'Keep Gainesville Hipp!' "
Marissa Toogood is a graduate of the University of Florida (BFA in Musical Theatre) and Florida School of the Arts (AS/AA Musical Theatre). Her past credits include: Slasher ( Shena), The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical (Pickles), Avenue Q (Bad Idea Bear/Mrs. Thistletwat), Leveling Up (Jeannie), Zombie Town (Hannah/Zombie), The Tempest, and Christmas Carol/(Belle). Some of her favorite plays are The Passion of Dracula (Wilhelmina), Kindertransport (Eva), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Veronica). Marissa is a member of the Actor's Equity Association and the Hippodrome Acting Company.