by Lorie Lewis HamThis past year I had the pleasure of seeing Emily Pessano on stage, first in The Drowsy Chaperone and then again in Legally Blonde, both at Roger Rocka’s in Fresno. As soon as I saw her on stage, I knew I had to add her to my list of local actor profiles–she just blew me away with an incredible voice, great dancing, and acting. She simply glows on stage!
As Dan and Laurie Pessano’s daughter, Emily is part of the most well respected theatre family in the Valley. Dan is managing director of Good Company Players and Laurie is GPC’s Junior Company Program Director. You can definitely say that Emily has theatre in her blood.
She first appeared on stage as a baby at seven months of age in the King and I, but the first role she actually auditioned for was the Rabbi’s daughter in Fiddler On The Roof at age seven. “I was sort of born into acting,” said Emily.
“Emily is a true professional, that’s in her roots of course, but she’s also a smart and inventive actor, with a bit of a wicked twinkle in her eye,” shared director Elizabeth Fiester, who directed her in Fiddler and three others since.
Since Fiddler, Emily has gone on to play more roles than she can count, most of them at GCP, though she has also been in several shows at the All American Melodrama Theatre in Long Beach. Elle in Legally Blonde and Janet in Drowsy Chaperone are some of her favorite roles, but she loves being on stage no matter what the role. “I haven’t really had many bad experiences performing—even in the worst situations, I usually enjoyed myself on stage.”
Emily has also been lucky enough to play many of her dream roles, though there are many she would love to play again including Eponine in Les Miserables, a role she had in a high school production of the show. “Every time I think of one show I would like to be in, 20 more come to mind!”
It’s not a surprise that Emily’s heroes are her parents. “I think I have learned the most from my parents and being able to experience all sorts of theatre and performance. You can learn a lot from watching a good performance, but even more from watching a bad one.”
Emily has worked many times with her parents and always finds it to be a joy. She has not only acted on stage with both of them, but also been directed by her father and had her mother as choreographer. In The Drowsy Chaperone, the three of them were together on stage again for the first time since 1999.
“Our family has the bonus of being involved in theatre together,” shared Dan Pessano. “Sometimes in the same cast, sometimes being directed by Laurie or myself, but always sharing the experience – especially with our common senses of humor. But when Emily performed in Legally Blonde, I transitioned from prideful parent to fan. I’ll gladly buy a ticket to watch her or her mother perform anywhere, anytime.”
According to Emily, her love of theatre gives her joy in whatever she is doing on stage—whether it be a musical or a straight play. “I couldn’t tell you specifically what I like best about each of them, only that when I am dancing, singing, and particularly acting, I feel the most alive and full of joy than most other times in my life.”
Emily’s love of theatre is obvious to anyone who sees her on stage, or has the chance to work with her. “Once I had heard that she would be coming back to do a few shows I was eager, not only to meet her, but to work with her as well,” shared Teddy Maldonado who played opposite Emily in Legally Blonde. “Emily is a force on stage, a light that you want to be near. You really have to be on your toes with her, she is all business! But that level of professionalism really brings out the best in you, both as a performer and as a person.”
Local actor Daniel Hernandez worked with Emily in Legally Blonde and Chaperone and considered it a true honor. “She is a modest triple threat who is beautiful inside and out. It amazed me how hard she worked in each show she did. Her die-hard love for theater made everyone in the cast strive to work even harder! She is a joy to watch onstage and a true pleasure to work with and I hope to perform with her again in the future.”
When asked what advice she would give anyone wishing to pursue theatre, “Don’t do it if you can’t commit and don’t give up if it is what you love. I just try to follow what I love, and I can only advise others to do the same. It is a very difficult business, often with lots of heartache, so, you have to wake up every morning wanting to pursue it.” As to the future, Emily has lived in Los Angeles for the past two years pursuing acting and just returned to Fresno last year to do the two shows at Roger Rocka’s. Currently she can be found at Knott’s Berry Farm performing in the Birdcage Theatre and Calico Saloon. While no one can know what the future holds, with such tremendous talent one can imagine great things in store for Emily but her goals are simple. “I just want to perform and I want to be able to support myself doing it. That’s my dream: to get paid to do what I love.”