by Michelle Williams, UCI Alumni Association
Teal Wicks '05 knows she's defied the odds.
Just three years since completing her bachelor's in drama from UC Irvine, she's preparing to defy gravity in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked.
The Sacramento native will play Elphaba – the wicked witch – at the Orpheum in San Francisco beginning Jan. 27.
Her journey to Oz didn’t follow a simple path – yellow-bricked or otherwise. Wicks was invited to audition not once but six times for various roles and companies producing Wicked. She got called back for the Los Angeles company's long-running show while working on 1776 at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, away from her post-college home of New York where the company held its East Coast auditions.
"I was driving back and forth to New York for callbacks and to Connecticut for the evening show," Wicks says.
She persisted, and the callbacks kept coming. Wicks was awarded the standby role for Elphaba in January 2008.
"As a standby, I was on call the entire time and not guaranteed any shows," she says. "I would go to the theater every night and just hang out. Sometimes I would find out a couple of hours before the show that I'd be going on. And three times I went on in the middle of the show because the principal was sick."
She was promoted to the principal role in September and will open the San Francisco show.
"I know I'm fortunate to be in this show," Wicks says. While she's hard-pressed to pick just one moment of Wicked as her favorite, she does relish her ability to fly on stage.
"'Defying Gravity' is always one of the best moments," she says. "It's such a great song and a climactic moment in the show and in Elphaba's journey. And flying every night with all the lights and the smoke, it's pretty awesome."
After San Francisco, she hopes to return to New York and continue her acting career. "I have been insanely passionate about performing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky to have gotten the jobs I've had."
She credits her quick rise to her parents and to UCI.
"My parents have supported me and my interest in performing," she says. "They've seen Wicked I don’t know how many times. They're always there for me."
Wicks says UCI's liberal arts education gave her a strong foundation from which to draw. "I'm glad I left school with a broad range of knowledge, from all aspects of the theater to the classes that I took. It benefits everything in my everyday life, my work and character studies.
"My drama teachers taught me that you are never a finished product in the performance world. Thinking you know or have learned enough is too limiting. You always have room to grow."
Q&A WITH WICKED STAR TEAL WICKS
How do they put – and keep – the green paint on you?
Only my face, hands and wrists are painted. The rest is a green flesh-like body suit. It takes about half an hour to go through makeup and hair.
Was the makeup created especially for Elphaba?
No, actually, it's MAC body paint. I think MAC should market it as the green that Elphaba wears.
What do your parents think of your acting career?
They have always been supportive. As soon as I realized I liked singing and dancing and was pretty good at it, I knew I wanted to perform.
What was your first performance?
In sixth grade, we performed a shortened version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I was Calpurnia.
What do you do when not performing?
I try to stay in touch with friends and UCI faculty.
TEAL WICKS' BIO