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Broadway actresses pivot to podcast hosts amid pandemic

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous talks with Broadway actresses Cara Cooper and Jessica Rush about how they pivoted to podcasts amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: When Broadway theaters went dark last March because of the pandemic, tens of thousands of jobs went dark too, at least temporarily. And such was the case for my next two guests. Cara Cooper and Jessica Rush are Broadway actresses who, like many of their fellow performers, had to get pretty creative during these challenging times to make ends meet.

They are also the hosts of the podcast "Mamas Talkin' Loud," and they join me now from separate coasts. We've got Cara here on the East Coast, Jessica there on the West Coast. Thank you so much for joining me. Cara, I'll start with you. Just tell me what this past year has been like for you and for your-- your fellow performers.

CARA COOPER: You know, both Jessica and I are part of two-actor households, so my husband is also an actor. And to have our complete source of income completely shut down-- he was in a show when the shutdown happened. He was in "The Book of Mormon." I wasn't currently performing, but you're always working towards that next job. And all of our in-between jobs include performing.

Whether it's singing in a concert here or it's doing a quick regional gig there, that's how we live our lives. And so that was completely taken away from us. And so it has been a beyond challenging year. But I think that Jessica would agree that we have surprised ourselves and what we're able to accomplish in these really difficult times, all while being parents as well. I [? wouldn't ?] know. Would you agree, Jess?

JESSICA RUSH: Yes, for sure.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Jessica, I know that when things got shut down, you were in "The Tina Turner Musical" on Broadway, and you got creative-- aside from the podcast, you started an Etsy store making jewelry with your daughter. Tell us about that.

JESSICA RUSH: I did. We started a jewelry business called Ivy & Clarke, and you can find us on Instagram or on Etsy. But it was born because my six-year-old, it takes a lot to keep them occupied, right, when you're in lockdown and quarantine. And we were doing all kinds of activities, and she loved making jewelry, so we expanded on that. And now we make bracelets with natural gemstones. They're all handmade.

We have a Breathe Mama Stack that I wear on the daily. And we have one for self-love. And all the gemstones have meanings. And it's been a great experience for her and I to start this together. The support has been amazing from our community, but also branching out from others. And it's fun to discover what stones mean for this and that and how we can put them together, and hopefully uplift, and empower, and spread joy during this time.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And you've got yourself a little six-year-old entrepreneur. I love it. So Cara, tell me about the podcast "Mamas Talkin' Loud." The two of you were doing this even before the pandemic. But how has it changed and how has it grown during this time?

CARA COOPER: You know, it's so funny, we started a support group for our moms in theater called Broadway Baby Mamas. And that kind of transitioned into this podcast. One of the producers of "The Prom" that I was in started the Broadway Podcast Network and approached us about doing a podcast. And in the beginning, it was all about sharing the stories of the working mother artist.

But the thing that Jessica and I have found the most during this time is that it's been about support, and community, and connection during this time where we aren't able to do those things, where new mothers aren't able to go to support groups and talk about the experiences they're having as a new mom or while people are in their homes with their children having to reinvent themselves.

We really kind of, I wouldn't say we pivoted, because we already were doing the podcast, but our focus has changed a lot more. We're really focused on amplifying the stories of women of color and mothers of color in all aspects of our industry during this time. And I think, actually, the podcast has just gotten better during this time because of that, because we're looking for meaningful conversations and support that can uplift everybody--

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know--

CARA COOPER: --and educate.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Earlier this week-- and it's great work that you're doing with the podcast, because I think people need to hear this and know they're not alone. Earlier this week, we spoke to the president of the Broadway League about when things might come back. She was saying maybe six to nine months.

What are you hearing? And what are you hoping for in terms of aid? I mean, there's a stimulus package that's going to be coming out soon. We're not hearing anything about stimulus in there for the entertainment industry.

JESSICA RUSH: No. I mean, we continue to be left out of the conversation, to a large degree. I think that now that the new administration has come in and the focus is less on what was happening, that now we're able to move forward and hopefully people are able to help us. But as you see with these numbers, the industry, Broadway live performance, contributes billions of dollars every year to the economy.

And it is a vital and essential part of what keeps our cities and our country running, not to mention the cultural aspects that enhance our lives. And we-- we're in trouble. I mean, we-- you know, every moment we hope that the vaccines will start and people can go back into rehearsals. Our producers don't have any news they can tell us, because they don't have news from the government or from the city or an idea of when.

We're hopeful for fall. But you know-- and lots of us are losing our health insurance. That's the biggest dilemma that we have in this time is that through Equity, our union, our health insurance is based on work weeks, and there has been no work for almost a year. So many of us are now losing our health insurance in the time when there are no options and no other way for us to get it back.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Yeah, it's a dire situation and a conversation that needs to be talked about more. We look forward to doing more of that. We're going to be doing a Broadway special as we move closer to what we hope to be a quick reopening to the theaters. And we hope that you can join us again for that. Cara Cooper, Jessica Rush, thanks so much for being with us, and best of luck.