Q&A with Deborah Grausman (Actor/Singer)

Living Her Dreams of Acting, Singing & Storytelling

Major: Music

In this interview, Deborah Grausman (’02) reveals how she navigates her pursuit of musical, theatrical, and performance endeavors while reminding herself to always be positive and to find external means to keep her grounded. Currently, Deborah can be heard as the voice Smartie, Elmo’s new friend on Sesame Street and can be seen delighting audiences across the U.S. and Canada as Chava in the North American Tour of Fiddler on the Roof. 

How did you make the transition from Duke into your career? What were the first 5 years like?

DG: The summer after I graduated, I studied and performed at the Brevard Music in their young artist opera vocal program. We had private voice lessons and performed in operas, musicals, and pops concerts. Brevard gave me a safe place to continue to studies and work on my craft, alongside many talented singers and musicians. That fall, I went to my first audition and ended up being offered a role in the ensemble of one of my favorite musicals, The Secret Garden. After that show closed, I spent about six months taking classes, and auditioning before booking my next show, A Stoop on Orchard Street, which ran Off-Broadway. A year after doing The Secret Garden, I auditioned for Peter Pan, at the Media Theater (the same theater that produced The Secret Garden), and I was offered the role of Wendy and my Equity card. I was so excited to join Actors’ Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers. When I wasn’t in a show, I took classes and I babysat to earn money. Babysitting was flexible and usually took place during the evenings so that I had my days free to audition. One of the classes I took was a voiceover class and I really loved it. When I was ready, I recorded a demo and posted it online. I was fortunate that an agent at one of the top bi-coastal agencies heard it, brought me in for a meeting, and signed me. I was very lucky, but I was also prepared.

The storytelling part of performance was what I loved. I enjoyed connecting with a scene partner and the audience.

How did you decide what you wanted to do? Both after Duke, and in your transition between different fields of arts and entertainment?

DG: I knew that I loved singing and that I really enjoyed all of my classical and opera performance experiences that I had had at Duke and after graduation, however, I really felt more alive when performing in a musical. I also loved doing plays. The storytelling part of performance was what I loved. I enjoyed connecting with a scene partner and the audience. I also discovered that I loved being in a recording studio. Whether I was singing or recording voiceovers for commercials, I felt very comfortable behind the mic. I will always love the thrill of live performance, nothing will ever replace that, but I have found a way to tell stories, make a living, and get health insurance through my voiceover work.

What’s your favorite part about your profession?

DG: My favorite part about my profession is getting to work with amazingly talented people who inspire me. Whether I am touring the country in a Broadway musical, or if I’m on set at Sesame Street, I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible artists who are as kind as they are talented.

Remain positive, have other interests besides acting, and be kind to EVERYONE.

What advice would you offer a student entering your field?

DG: Remain positive, have other interests besides acting, and be kind to EVERYONE. You never know when the casting intern will become a casting director and the PA will become a producer. Always be prepared for auditions. Don’t take anything personally. 99% of the time, you do a great audition and you still don’t get the job. Casting is a big jigsaw puzzle and there are so many moving parts. Be happy with the work that you did and then forget about the audition. Be pleasantly surprised when you get offered the job, don’t sit by the phone waiting for it to ring. Have other hobbies and interests that keep you busy. Be yourself. Nobody else is you and people want to see YOU when you walk in the room.