In 2015 Emily Skeggs earned a Tony nomination for her role in the groundbreaking hit musical Fun Home. The 25-year-old actress took time out of her crazy-busy schedule to meet us at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There, in the Temple of Dendur, we talked about the musical’s emotional subject matter, her upcoming movie (with Mike Birbiglia and Keegan-Michael Key), and her favorite things to do in NYC.
In Fun Home, inspired by Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name, Skeggs stars alongside the talented Beth Malone and one of Broadway’s youngest actors, Gabriella Pizzolo. All three play the main character—Alison—at different points in her life, showing her as a closeted, transitioning, and open lesbian. All the while, her father battles with his own closeted homosexuality.
“Even if you’re not a lesbian,” Skeggs says, “there’s a lot you can learn about how to understand your identity and present yourself to the world.”
Getting in touch with the story, and performing it night after night, Skeggs has had a close look at how it affects viewers. “Once a week, we will have a young person come up to us after the show and say something like, ‘Thank you. The show meant so much to me. I’m gay and I haven’t come out yet, and those are my parents right behind me.’”
Towards the end of our conversation, she was recognized by some travelers who saw the play the week before. Graciously accepting their praise, she politely began to excuse herself. She had to get to the show. One of the women said, “Oh, it’s already dark! You’re going to be late!”
Skeggs smiled. “It’s okay,” she replied. “I do this every night.”
“I would say that the first thing to do [when visiting NYC] is walk through Central Park, and that’s actually terrifying, because it’s very easy to get lost,” Skeggs said. “There’s like 8,000 paths and you can’t really walk around Central Park without a map. But I think that’s just part of the beauty of New York City.”
Skeggs lives with her parents on the Upper West Side, so she spends plenty of time in the park. To entertain herself, she likes to photo-bomb tourists’ selfies. “The other week I was running in Central Park, and there was a couple in a pedicab with a huge selfie stick. I ran behind them and posed like a monster.”
“One of my favorite places to go is the Natural History Museum,” Skeggs told us. “I like to go take naps under the whale, because that’s exactly what I liked to do as a little kid… I think the last time I did it was last year, on my birthday.”
“There’s this great little bead shop called Beads of Paradise on East 17th Street, and they import crazy things like sugar skulls from Mexico, and Afghani dowery glass that’s been dug up from construction sites in the Middle East. I couldn’t even tell you what that is.”
“A lot of parents in New York have memberships to the Met. Today, I see parents and their kids are on phones and iPads in the stroller, and I’m like, No! You take them here so they can run around naked statues, or in the Temple of Dendur, which is like 800 thousand million years old.”
“It’s like a weird meeting place in New York. In high school, we’d be like, ‘What should we do? …. Oh, let’s go to Union Square.’” From chess players to Hare Krishnas jamming to street performers, we agree that it is a wonderfully weird place to spend time.
“The main character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a killer role,” Skeggs said. “I’d love to play him, though obviously I can’t. Also, I heard Willy Wonka is coming to Broadway. So, I tweeted at them asking, ‘Can I play Willy?”’