By Ron Hellman
As we close the books on 2015, with a plague of pessimism infecting the populace, I give you an antidote — the positive, optimistic and upbeat Susan Stewart.
Against the odds, Stewart has succeeded in making a career, and a living, out of acting.
I first met Stewart a number of years ago when she was active in Queens community theater in such productions as “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
She also appeared in a couple of Outrageous Fortune Company shows at Queens Theatre in the Park: “How I Learned to Drive” by Paula Vogel, and the Pulitzer Prize-winner “Anna in the Tropics” by Nilo Cruz.
That was before she turned pro by joining the unions Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. But she still says that the Queens Theatre in the Park dressing room “was by far the nicest one I’ve ever worked in.”
A lifelong resident of Queens, born in Manhattan, Stewart is a graduate of Townsend Harris High School and Queens College.
In college she had lead roles in “SubUrbia,” “The Crucible,” “Our Town,” “Miss Julie,” and in two international productions that brought her to South Korea and France.
Some venues in new plays she has performed in are the SoHo Rep, Cherry Lane Theatre, The Looking Glass, The Red Room and Kraine Theatre. TV roles include “Six Degrees” with Campbell Scott, “Cupid” with Bobby Cannavale, “Blue Bloods” and “Royal Pains” as Alex Vega’s sister where she had to hobble around in six-inch heels.
A particularly memorable experience was doing the film “Life in Flight” with Patrick Wilson.
Stewart has had the good fortune to be in many financially rewarding commercials, where her fluency in Spanish has been a plus. You may have seen or heard her in spots for mobile phones and pharmaceuticals, voiceovers and public service announcements, channel promos, New York Lotto, Ikea and Crest toothpaste.
An actor she admires is Vanessa Aspillaga, who was the original Marela in “Anna in the Tropics,” and a favorite show is “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“My dream one day is to play Seymour,” she said, in a gender-bending revival.
But right now her focus is on motherhood — she has two sons, one a toddler and the other just a few weeks old.
Stewart has had the talent, ambition and dedication to make it in a challenging profession.
Her advice to someone starting out: “Work begets work. If you keep doing what you love, and you’re good at it, the opportunities will be there.”
In other words, don’t be fearful, go out and do it!
Happy sixth birthday to granddaughter Addison, and Happy New Year to all!
Contact Ron Hellman at RBHOF