Comebacks are an integral part of a showbiz career, but actively leaving the industry for several years, setting out on a new profession and then making a triumphant return is pretty unusual.
Then again, Daisy Eagan is a pretty unusual actress. She remains the youngest female ever to win a Tony Award (at age 11 for her work in The Secret Garden), starred in a TV documentary about the challenges facing Broadway performers, and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career TV and film before getting her BA from Antioch College in psychology.
But in March, she brought her one-woman-show/cabaret to New York, and the community welcomed her back with open arms. In the intervening months, she has continued to perform throughout the city. After a run in Ghostlight at NYMF over the fall, she is now starring in Love, Loss and What I Wore and appearing this weekend in the Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular.
“It’s awesome,” she says of her return. “I’m having a good time, and now that I’ve taken time off from performing completely, I have a different perspective on the game. I’ve reminded myself of why I got in it in the first place.” In LA, she says, it’s easy to forget about the show when you’re wrapped up in the business. “I had forgotten about the joy of performing. And TV in LA is different from theater or TV in New York.” A major difference of TV work between the coasts is that the TV community in New York is comprised of many stage performers, who share a theater mentality. “There’s more of a feeling of camaraderie here than LA. There, other people’s success is your failure. That’s what the culture is like. Here, someone’s success is their success. People are more supportive and happier.”
Now that she’s worked on both coasts, she has a new appreciation for New York’s theater community, she says. “Also, it’s fun to show audiences who haven’t seen me in years what I can do.”
Currently, Eagan is appearing in the long-running ensemble piece Love, Loss and What I Wore. “It’s an important piece, and it’s so relatable,” she says. “I’m a fashion idiot and I had forgotten how important clothes are, because we all have to wear them and they help make a first impression.” She enjoys watching audiences connect to the stories in the monologues, she says. “It’s highly interactive in that we play off each other and the audience,” she says, adding that reading at music stands is a good, low-pressure way to get back into New York’s theater scene. “It’s not Shakespeare!” she laughs.
At the same time, she is appearing in the annual Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular this weekend. She met Iconis while participating in NYMF, and was eager to work with him. “It’s a lot of fun,” she says. “It’ll be a raucous good time. I sing ‘Marshmallow World,’ a song not well known, but it’s one of my favorite holiday songs.” The song is featured on Phil Spector's 1963 Christmas album, A Christmas Gift for You—one of her favorite albums, Eagan says.
The concert is especially meaningful to Eagan, who says she is celebrating getting her voice back after giving up cigarettes. At an audition for a new musical, composer Jeanine Tesori noted Eagan’s trouble breathing and asked if she was smoking. “She still cast me, and I vowed that I was done,” Eagan recalls. “I’m 32 years old. I’m not a kid. My voice is my livelihood, and I have to have a modicum of respect for my instrument.”
That musical, Fun Home, is a new work by Tesori and Lisa Kron, and is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. “It’s very exciting. It’s a great part,” Eagan says. While there have been many great musicals about gay men, there are very few about lesbians, and Eagan is enjoying the chance to try something new—particularly in that Fun Home focuses on a decidedly “butch” lesbian character. “When we see lesbian relationships in media, it’s generally softer,” she notes. “People find it more palatable that way. I think [the show] is important in that it shows another side— a very real side—and isn’t shying away from any of it.”