You’ve heard of a triple threat who can sing, dance and act or write, direct and produce? Some gifted folks are even a quadruple threat, but Plainsboro-based, multi-hyphenated talent Grace Field has ’em all beat.
Field is a septuple threat, who not only can sing, dance and act, but also can paint, sculpt, play the piano and model.
A native of the very musical city of Austin, Texas, Field is the only artist in a family of doctors, scientists and academics, but after Judy Garland instilled a childhood dream on the musical stage, she accomplished much, including a collaboration with “Wicked”/”Godspell” composer Stephen Schwartz. The theater bug led Field to Central Jersey, where she could be closer to Broadway auditions.
While waiting for that big break, she put her talent to good use recording and releasing her debut album, a holiday collection entitled “Christmas with Grace.” All the proceeds from the 10-song mix of sacred and secular classics will go to Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, which provides underprivileged youth in Third World countries a joyful Christmas with gifts, as well as basic necessities.
Field will celebrate the release of “Christmas with Grace” at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 17, at Plainsboro Public Library. Then on Monday, Dec. 18, she will present a small live sample of the album, along with other music at a special event for diplomats at the United Nations in New York City. On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve, Field will sing at St. David the King Church in West Windsor and at Midnight Mass of St. Johns in Trenton. Her weekly Friday gig at La Capannina, an Italian restaurant in Monroe, also will feature selections from “Christmas with Grace,” as will Dec. 23 at Villa Rose in Ewing.
After the holidays, Field will continue to play Fridays at La Capannina; Jan. 6, Diamonds, Hamilton; Jan. 13 and Feb. 10, Blooming Grove Inn, Ewing, and Jan. 20 and Feb. 24, Villa Rose. She also soon will appear in a musical version of “Sleepy Hollow” in New York City, then prepare for her first film role this summer.
Question: You are a quintuple threat in that you can sing, dance, act, play piano and model. Are there any talents I left out?
Answer: You are too nice to call me a quintuple threat! But yes, actually, there is one more! Before I ever pursued any of the talents above, I was a visual artist. My first memories are of me sitting and drawing or creating 3-D sculptures, whatever I could get my hands on! I went on in college and continued to pursue art as one of my majors.
Q: Who and what inspired and developed those talents?
A: I’m kind of the outlier in my family when it comes to artistic pursuits. My mom is a microbiologist, my dad is an electrical engineer, and my grandfather is an actual rocket scientist! My whole family is full of doctors and other amazing academic scholars, and although I was very gifted in math and science, it was not my passion by any means.
My first inspiration and introduction into the arts was watching old-timey movies, like ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ or ‘Wizard of Oz.’ I was completely captivated and still am by artists like Judy Garland. Her vulnerability and passion were present in everything she did. I wanted to be just like her!
I tried out for my first musical at my school. I tried out for Oliver in ‘Oliver’ and I got it. Ever since then I was hooked! I am so grateful I had amazing places to train like Kid’s Acting in Austin with Dede Clarke and Noel and David Valdes at school.
I am also very blessed to have the two of the most supportive parents and family in the world! My parents wanted me to be a physicist or a doctor, but when they saw I had a passion for theater and the arts, they supported me whole heartedly! Whenever I needed to attend an extra dance class or find the best singing teacher, my parents would make sure I got what I needed. I am so thankful for them!
Q: You are from Austin, which I consider to be one of the two best music scenes in the country. Why did you leave there for New Jersey and how is that working out?
A: I absolutely adore Austin! But since my primary career pursuit started in opera and then veered to musical theater, being near New York has been essential! Since my primary concern has been my musical theater career, it has been going incredibly well! I have been able to perform across the country and in New York City in some of the best roles ever, like Cosette in ‘Les Mis,’ Laurey in ‘Oklahoma,’ and Magnolia in ‘Showboat.’
Q: What was your greatest role and what impact did it have on your career?
A: Cosette at the Fulton Opera House (in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) was such an amazing experience. Marc Robin is not only an incredible human being but also one of my favorite directors. Cosette is one of those ingénues that gets easily written off as just another two-dimensional ‘young doe-eyed girl’ character. I really enjoy the challenge of being able to discover the three-dimensionality of a character. Being in ‘Les Mis’ at the Fulton has opened up many doors professionally, especially regionally! That role pushed me artistically to become a better actor and singer. This is always a goal: become a better performer than I was at the beginning.
Q: How did you collaborate with Stephen Schwartz?
A: I had the honor of working with Stephen through a workshop opportunity in Lancaster through Prima Theatre Co. They selected me out of a bunch of performers to be able to work with him in an ‘open workshop forum.’ So in a sold-out theater, Mr. Schwartz worked with me personally on my songs from my audition book and then did a Q&A with me afterwards. It was such an incredible experience. One I will never forget!
Q: How did you get your manager and agent, and have they helped to develop your career?
A: I was lucky enough to get an agent because she came to see me perform in a show, and my friend, who was signed with her gave me a glowing recommendation! Penny Luedtke is such a nice agent to work with too. She sets up auditions for me and gives me feedback. She advocates for me to the casting directors. The times I have gotten really close to booking a job, she is able to talk directly to casting and find out why I didn’t. Sometimes it can be something as little as your height that can stop you or help you ultimately book a Broadway show.
Q: How did you get the La Capannina gig every Friday?
A: One of the first things I did when I moved here was to call a couple restaurants to see if they would hire a singer-pianist, and luckily La Capannina was one that said yes. They liked me so much, after the first week, they hired me for every Friday!
Q: When was ‘Christmas with Grace’ released?
A: Dec. 2, my mom’s birthday. She has been such an amazing supporter of me and my career, what better way to honor her than to release my first album on her birthday?
Q: Out of all the things you’ve done, why make a Christmas record, especially given its short lifespan until next Christmas season, and what impact do you hope it has?
A: I chose to do a Christmas CD because, like most people, the Christmas holiday season is my favorite. Between the holiday tunes, treats and traditions, how could I not? The sole reason why I produced this album in the first place was, as corny as this sounds, to change the world for the better through music. Every penny is going straight to charity! I chose Samaritan’s Purse’s Operation Christmas Child, which offers underprivileged youth in Third World countries a true Christmas experience, providing them with basic necessities and also Christmas gifts. Christmas is the holiday for giving and connecting with others. Through the gift of music, I hope to make a small difference in the world by helping children of need and make their Christmas a truly special one. This is my hope: to help change the world for the better through this music!
Q: What has been the commercial and entertainment industry response to ‘Christmas with Grace,’ what opportunities has it created and/or do you hope it creates?
A: I am so overwhelmed by the unanimous positive response I have received from this album. From critics to just the local listener, everyone seems to love my album. I couldn’t be happier! To be honest, the sole reason for making this album was to make money for charity and raise awareness for the positive power of music, so any opportunities that this album creates will just be icing on an already awesome Christmas album cake.
Q: How does Christmas music make you feel and why?
A: Singing Christmas music to me is like cuddling up with your favorite book under a big, warm blanket or biting into the most delicious piece of Christmas fudge, just so homey, fun and irresistible. Christmas music also makes me feel joyful and nostalgic. I remember awesome memories of making Christmas fudge with my family, exchanging gifts on Christmas morning, while listening to old-timers, like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Perry Como croon the old Christmas favorites. Listening to Christmas music, it’s hard not feel something. It is some of the most beautiful music ever written. Not only is it beautiful to listen to, they are all so fun to sing!
Q: What kind of private parties do you play and how do you get them?
A: From intimate parties with a couple people to thousands of people for high-end private events. I usually get them from people watching me play at restaurants or by word of mouth. Sometimes people find me on the wonderful world of Google too!
Q: How does it feel to be performing for the United Nations?
A: Thrilling! This has been one of the biggest honors of my life. To represent the United States at the United Nations and be able to sing in front of highly esteemed diplomats from all around the world, there’s nothing better.
Q: How does it feel to be performing Christmas music, particularly sacred music, for so many church services and how did you get those gigs?
A: I love Christmas hymns! And I adore singing in church. I got the majority of those gigs by introducing myself to the music minister and then singing for them. St. David the King under Carol Sullivan’s leadership has particularly good music, and it’s always an honor to be able to perform with her.
Q: For which tracks will you be making videos and when and how will they be released?
A; I will be making a video for ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ and maybe a couple more. You’ll have to subscribe to my youtube.com/gracefieldgracefield or like facebook.com/thegracefield to see what other videos made the cut.
Q: What other promotional plans do you have for the record?
A: Since this is for charity, a lot of local restaurants and people have gotten behind this record. Panera Bread, the Grind and the Bagel Place in Plainsboro, La Capannina in Monroe, and Villa Rosa in Ewing have all agreed to offer my CD for sale. I am also trying to coordinate with Operation Christmas Child for additional promotion. A full list of restaurants and other venues that will be carrying my CD will be listed on my website.
Q: Besides promoting the record and maintaining your concert schedule, what other creative endeavors are coming up?
A: I am working on a new musical called ‘Sleepy Hollow’ in NYC. I am also going to be shooting my first film this summer, where I will be one of the lead roles. Other musical theater productions in the works that I will be able to announce at a later date.
Q: Do you have plans to make a second record and can you share any details about that?
A: I have two plans in the works. A dear friend and I are working on writing a couple songs to present to a major label in the next couple months. I am also starting work on my second Christmas album. My goal is to put out another Christmas album and pick another charity to support! Why not keep on trying to change the world through music?
Q: Out of all your talents, which do you enjoy expressing the most and why?
A: Acting. I believe the true power is found through the ability to tell a story. Finding the truth. Finding the vulnerability. There is nothing more vulnerable than putting a story on air. That’s what musical theater singing is to me. This is why musical theater is the perfect fit. It’s acting through song and dance.
Q: Is there anything I didn’t ask on which you would like to comment?
A: I am so grateful for all the support I have received from everyone around me. This album would not have been possible had it not been for the support of my family, my wonderful husband, Mark, friends and fans. I am overwhelmed by the amount of positivity and support that has surrounded me throughout this project, and I am so grateful!