Ball State grad stars in 'Beauty and the Beast'

Emily Behny and Dane Agostinis star in 'Beauty and the Beast.'

A recent headline in The Onion aptly, if satirically, summed up the employment situation

facing millennials who recently received their

undergrad degrees: "New College Graduates To Be Cryogenically Frozen Until

Job Market Improves."

And yet, in spite of these challenging economic

times, there are young grads who — through pure talent, strong will and,

yes, a measure of good luck — have managed to pull off great professional


As an example, look no further than 2010 Ball


graduate Emily Behny.

Mere months after receiving a bachelor's degree

in musical theatre, Behny secured the part of Belle

in Disney's big-budget touring production of Beauty and the Beast. How plum of a role is Belle? After the show's

opening night performance in Los Angeles, she was met in her

dressing room by Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, who were eager to introduce her

to their daughter, Suri. Since that March

night, Behny has played Belle in countless North

American cities, singing and dancing before rapt audiences often numbering in

the thousands.

And oh, by the way, in between graduation day

and the launch of the tour, she got married.

Indeed, it's been a remarkably successful and

busy first year out of college for the native of Silver Lake, Indiana.


for the home crowd

I catch up with Behny

while she's in Cincinnati for a two-week run of shows. She soon will be heading

to her home state, where Beauty and the


will be staged at Butler's Clowes Hall from

Oct. 11-16. She'll return to Indiana for single-night shows at Ball State on

Nov. 1 and Purdue on Nov. 2.

Performing in a major theatrical production on

her home turf, with friends and family seated before her, will be yet another

noteworthy milestone for Behny.

"I'm so excited about the opportunity to

come back to Indiana," she says. "I love the message of this show,

and I love the role of Belle. It makes it that much more special sharing the

experience with my friends and family in the Indianapolis area."


speaks with the poise of a seasoned performer while remaining approachable

thanks to her ample charm and humility.

"It will have more personal meaning"

she says of her shows in Indiana, before confessing, "I might be more



first, then get hitched


to-do list on Jan. 14, 2011, must have looked something like this:

1. Get the part.

2. Get married.

You see, she was asked to do her final audition

for the role of Belle on Jan. 14. Trouble was, she and her fiance had been

planning to get married that day.

Not one to let life's complexities slow her down,

Behny aced the audition as well as the wedding -- the

latter being a low-key ceremony at a courthouse in New York City.

"I was actually on the plane coming back

from my honeymoon when I got the call from my agent telling me that I'd gotten

the part," she says.

In securing the part, Behny

had to overcome long odds, as hundreds of young actresses had sought the

high-profile role of Belle.

"I went to an open call for the show in

October 2010, and there were over 300 girls there," she says of the

audition experience. "I was number 191, I believe, so I waited a long

time. I finally sang and got a call back to dance, and the next day was called

back to sing and read for Belle. But it wasn't until two months later, in

January, that I heard from them again asking me to come back to do another callback."

Playing Belle is not much of a stretch for Behny, who sees much of herself, and whom she aspires to

be, in her alter ego's persona.

"I'm like Belle in that I'm feisty,"

she says. "Belle's not the stereotypical damsel in distress, Disney

princess. And I really identify with her quirkiness. She's who

I want to be when I grow up. Somebody who cares about people and is kind and

compassionate but holds her own."



Life on the road is not without its challenges.

"It's quite a physically demanding job, as

we're doing eight shows a week," Behny says. "And

we're also traveling in the midst of those shows, so it often can be tough on

your body and on your voice."


strives to stay healthy and fit to ensure that she's able to deliver a great

performance night in and night out.

"I want every city to receive the same

show. I feel like that's what audiences deserve," she says, before

admitting, "Keeping that consistency level can be difficult."


for success


credits the musical theater program at Ball State for preparing her early on in

her career.

"The department does a great job of having

professors that have acted themselves in the real world, so they understand the

business side of acting and they understand the difficulties of it," she

says. "They have this great personal experience that they can share with

you. I owe a lot of my success to my teachers for the mentorship they provided,

for the faith they had in me and for challenging me to go for something like


The young performer lauds Ball State for

offering students real-world experience far from the Muncie campus.

"They have a showcase program in Chicago,

New York and Los Angeles," she says. "I auditioned for those and got

into all three my senior year. It was a great platform where I could meet

people in the industry and perform for them and get a head start on my career.

As a result of that program, I now have an agent in New York City that I work


About her Nov. 1 show at Ball State, Behny says, "I'm going to be performing for my

professors, who taught me all that I know. And I hope that I do them proud."


after Belle


is under contract to tour with Beauty and

the Beast until May 2012. It's possible her contract will be extended, but

she's already sizing up her options to make sure she has a Plan B in place if

her time as Belle ends next spring.

About the uncertainty, Behny

says, "That's the nature of the beast," then quickly adds with a

laugh, "no pun intended."

"I'm going to continue to look for

auditions even while I'm in this role just to look ahead," she says. "And

if I'm able, I'll go back to New York to audition for those. But we'll see what

happens. Hopefully it will be a stepping-stone. But I may end up serving tables

when I get back to New York and the audition scene. So I'm just going to have

to stay very open-minded and flexible with my career."


long-term focus is not fixed exclusively on the theatre; she'd eventually like

to work in either TV or film. She's even planning on submitting a video

application for the next season of Glee.

But in the near term, she's savoring her time as

Belle and looking forward to performances in the coming weeks for the home

crowd. She'll spend time with friends and family when she's back in Indiana,

and she also plans on relaxing outside and enjoying some Midwestern

autumnal glory. "I'm really looking forward to going to an orchard and

doing fall-like activities when I'm in Indianapolis," she says.

So don't be surprised this month if you see a

young woman break into pitch-perfect song while strolling through Holcomb

Gardens. It very well may be Emily Behny, unwinding

before her next show.