What play or production changed your life?
When I was eight, my parents took me to see a production of Oklahoma – I was smitten. I especially remember a dancer in the show who wore a straw hat with ribbons down her back. I had a hat just like it and assumed she was a child like me. At one point in the show, she fell down. She picked herself up right away and continued dancing. I’d been taking dance lessons, and the thought came to me…some day I could be a dancer in a Broadway show.
I kept that thought to myself, until one day, on my way home from college, I noticed a building from the bus window. It was the Long Island Institute of Music and Dance. I asked my dad if I could take a few classes there – he agreed and before long I was taking several classes a week.
One day, I announced to my parents my decision to drop out of college and become a dancer. My father said “over my dead body” but suggested I could major in dance at a university. Three years later, I graduated from Butler University and began auditioning for shows. I got my first job, dancing in the ensemble of the original Broadway production of Funny Girl.
Jump forward several years. I went to see the Broadway revival of Oklahoma. There was that same dancer, wearing the straw hat with ribbons and darned if she didn’t fall down again. I realized she wasn’t a child at all and that moment had been choreographed.
Several years after that, the great Agnes DeMille was being honored by the SDC with the Mr. Abbott award. I was asked to be one of the speakers at the gala. I related this story with Ms. DeMille sitting not ten feet away from me. I ended by thanking her for inspiring me to become a dancer and then a choreographer. She touched her heart and opened her hands toward me.
Seeing that show changed my life, and wonder of wonders, I actually got to tell Ms. DeMille and thank her. What a feeling!!!
Edie Cowan has had an extensive career in the theatre from performing in the original casts of three Broadway shows, playing featured roles in three national tours, to choreographing the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors. She’s directed and choreographed at many regional theatres and internationally under the auspices of the State Department.