Spotlight On
Terry Richmond

by Nancy Rosati

Scarlet Pimpernel
NR: I believe you told me you were singing when you were a kid. Were you always singing?

TR: Yeah, there's a lot of music in my family. We're all swimmers. I was a really serious swimmer as is my little sister. Heather just kind of went along. But we always went to swim meets together, and always were in the car and whenever we were in the car, we were always singing. There was always music in my house, so I sang whenever I could. In junior high it got more formal because there were groups to join and I did that. In my freshman year of high school, Heather was a senior, and she said, "OK, you have to audition for the musical" and of course I was thrilled. It was Pajama Game and I got Babe and Heather got Gladys. I was a freshman, so that was kind of a big deal, and that was the beginning of the end, actually. But it all came out of singing, and wanting to sing, and not knowing at that time that just being a singer wasn't enough, but I learned. I did a lot of community theater in high school, and that's where the whole "distortion of reality" began. Up in Vermont, there's a huge arts community. I worked with a lot of people who had been professional actors in New York, but had moved up to Vermont. There's lots of great, great community theater up there, so I was able to have a lot of really different experiences. I did a George Bernard Shaw play, really ran the gamut. We did The Boyfriend, all kinds of different stuff as well as high school productions. I sang in different choirs and played trombone in a marching band.

NR: Now, you told me it took you eight years to get to Broadway. Was that eight years from your college graduation?

TR: Yeah. As I was graduating in St. Louis, I got in a production of Pump Boys and Dinettes. It was a professional production on the Goldenrod Showboat. That paid me well enough so that when I left to come to New York I had eligibility so that I could audition for union projects even though I wasn't in the union yet. I moved here in '89 with a friend from college and then Heather moved in about six months later. And I just started doing it. The first thing I got was a little showcase. (laughing) This was really bad. It was an old Jerome Kern musical called Oh, Boy, and it was a revival, obviously, and the director had a "concept." He had a concept, and I was the concept. I was a "living statue" and this was Jerome Kern, so it was really old. It was really sexist, horrible material. I was this living statue in this white unitard. It was horrible and I didn't really get to talk, but I had to respond and move a little, which is my worst nightmare - to only be a dancer in a show. Anyway, that was my first gig. I didn't get paid of course, because it was a showcase. They told me, "Well, Terry, you're really showcasing yourself." And I told myself, "Well, Terry, YOU'RE NOT SPEAKING." (laughs) I survived that.

My first out of town show was Shenandoah in very rural Kentucky, but only an hour outside of Cincinnati, and that was a great, great experience. It was a really fun summer. I got to do a role that I really enjoyed, I was Anne. It kind of went from there. I worked dinner theater in Pennsylvania. I did Me and My Girl. I temped for awhile in the fashion industry (laughing) ironically enough. Then I started waiting tables, and unfortunately, I'm an extremely good waitress and I have always made a lot of money doing it.

NR: (laughing) Unfortunately?

TR: Yeah, it is a trap in a lot of ways because I make a lot of money waiting tables. I certainly feel it on my body because I waited tables off and on for about seven years. Anyway, the big thing I did was Williamstown Theater Festival, which is a big, prestigious festival in Massachusetts. I auditioned for their cabaret. They had a summer Cabaret Corps who did shows. They called me and they wanted to offer it to me and I was really excited because I knew it was very prestigious and the deal is for their non-union (I wasn't union yet) ... Most of the people who are non-union pay to be up there. They're either apprentices or they're non-Equity company that get housing but don't get paid anything. So, the whole deal was, "Oh, you're the best paid non-union people we have - the Cabaret Corps. We're offering you free housing and $25 a week." Now, it's not like I was in college. I was living in New York at this point. I got some money back from my taxes and I said if there's any way I can make this happen, I think it's worth doing. A lot of people said, "You're going to work for $25 a week?" But I knew it was going to be this great creative experience, so I sublet my apartment. I lived on chicken weenies (fortunately I was eating them at the time) and I had an amazing summer. We did eight different shows. In the early part of the evening we would do something like a Frank Loesser revue, like a real cabaret show. There were five of us. And at night, we did the late night cabaret and all the crazy Equity actors would join us, which at the time was Chris Reeve and Betty Buckley and whoever else was there. It was an incredible experience, as well as the summer I met my husband Chris, and also, Peter Hunt is the person who hired me for that job. That led to five summers up there, only once on the main stage. I was in A Little Night Music with Ken Howard and Tammy Grimes and Joan Van Ark, and that was great. I've done a lot of cabaret work for them, a lot of their benefits, and just getting to be up on stage with ... you know Blythe Danner shows up so I've had high exposure with that, and I spent a lot of summers there with Chris.

So, really, when this audition for Pimpernel happened, I was kind of at the end of the rope with my career. I was almost 30, which to me had always been that target age, and in college everyone said, "Well, you're not going to work until you're older. You're a leading lady and you're too young." And that works in your head for awhile.