Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Dan Cody’s Yacht Breakout Star Casey Whyland

Last updated May 22nd, 2018 by Casey Whyland
Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Dan Cody’s Yacht …

Casey Whyland made her Broadway debut as ballet student Tracy Atkinson in the OBC of the Tony-winning musical Billy Elliot. She appeared as Tessie in the 30th anniversary tour of Annie and first came to our attention a couple years back thanks to her astonishing performance as Tracy Turnblad in Tisch New Theatre's Hairspray. Now, Casey is making her off-Broadway MTC debut as high school student Angela Russo in the world premiere of Anthony Giardina's timely play Dan Cody’s Yacht

Casey Whyland-Actress- Dan Cody's Yacht- Broadway
Photo by Joan Marcus

Below, BroadwayBox gets to know Casey as she talks about why her character, Angela, is the Nick Carraway of Dan Cody’s Yacht, her dream yacht party with RBG, Beyonce & Melissa McCarthy, and her experience as a child on Broadway with Billy Elliot.

1. How do you describe this play to your friends and family when they ask about it?
When I explain Dan Cody’s Yacht, I try not to give too much away because I think that it is important going into the show to not be entirely sure of the whole plot—that is part of the fun and intrigue of seeing a new work. BUT, I will say that no, Dan Cody’s Yacht is not about a yacht. The title is inspired by a passage in The Great Gatsby regarding young Gatsby seeing Dan Cody’s yacht, and then going to get on board because he knows that being a part of that lifestyle will provide opportunities for him. 

The play begins at a parent teacher conference between Cara Russo, a teacher at Stillwell High and Kevin O’Neil, a parent of a young man who is in Ms. Russo’s class. At this conference, we learn of a proposed merger between two public schools (Patchett, being the poorer public school, and Stillwell, being the richer public school).

Kevin is not in favor of the merger, for he believes that it will bring down the quality of his son’s school (among other things), and attempts to not only convince Cara that the merger is a bad idea, but he tries to tell her that he can make it financially possible for her to move to Stillwell, by investing her money. The plot then unfolds from there…

The play itself deals with the foundational issues of education and economic disparity, as well as looking at the different opportunities provided for the haves and the have-nots.

2. What’s been the biggest surprise about taking part in a world-premiere piece?
The biggest surprise for me was definitely how personal everything has come to be with the part. I have never been a part of a process where I was helping to build a character from the ground up, and I think that throughout the workshops and rehearsals for Dan Cody’s Yacht, Angela has developed into a girl that is very similar to who I am/was in high school. It is so wonderful to be able to have conversations about what you feel your character would say, or even the phrasing of a line, and then having those conversations translate over into the script. It isn’t only in the script though; there are things throughout the show that are personal to me, which is so lovely. For example, the song that gets played right before graduation in the play is the song that I sang with my high school chorale at my own high school graduation.

3. What were three things that were super important to you in high school?
1. Getting into NYU
2. Dance Marathon to benefit Camp Good Days and Special Times
3. Wegmans

4. Which character in The Great Gatsby are you most intrigued by?
I think that I am most intrigued by Nick Carraway because he functions so much as the middle-man throughout the story. I remember being taught this book in in high school by my teacher, the brilliant Ms. Elizabeth Wheeler, and being so interested in the fact that Nick is the only person to really have a grasp of right and wrong within the story. He sees what fortune can do to a person, and he is not blinded by the surface level lifestyle that is seemingly so perfect from the outside. In that regard, Nick is sort of an outsider. So, as a reader you can formulate opinions because you are getting not only what life seems to be, but what the reality of it is because you are seeing this story through Nick’s eyes. And, as I am saying this I am realizing that Angela (my character) functions a lot like Nick Carraway...

5. What’s your most cherished memory of Billy Elliot?
I would say overall, the most cherished part of Billy Elliot for me was being able to do it alongside my little sister, Erin. She is my absolute best friend in this entire world, and I think we would both agree in saying that it was going through the show together that made us as close as we are. More specifically, I remember my sister’s last bow on the day that we left the show and just absolutely beaming with pride. There is something so special about getting to live out your dream with the person that you love the most in this world that is incomparable. I was obviously sobbing throughout the entirety of our final show, but during Erin’s bow, I got to peek around one of the wings, and I just remember being filled with so much joy and feeling so incredibly proud to be her sister. I think I almost missed my entrance, but it was fine…I made it on, and at that point I don’t know if it was happy tears, or sad tears, or if I was just crying because I didn’t know what to do with my emotions. 

Either that, or the time that Serendipity made a Billy Elliot sundae, so we got to go eat these massive, delicious bowls of ice cream at 10am. It truly was one of the greatest moments of my life.

6. If I could host a yacht party and invite three people who’ve inspired me, I’d ask:
1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
2. Melissa McCarthy
3. Beyoncé 

7. Which fictional character from TV, film, book or stage do you consider your spirit animal?
Lizzie McGuire, but specifically in The Lizzie McGuire Movie.

8. Tell us a memorable audition story.
Once I had two auditions for two different new musicals back to back, and so I had to learn a bunch of new songs. The audition was happening during a midterms or a finals season (I don’t remember which), so my brain was a little scattered. In the second audition, we got to the new song and I sang the tune of the new song for the show I was auditioning for, but with the lyrics of the other song that I had learned for the other show. It truly was an absolute mess, but now it makes for an INCREDIBLE story.

9. If you could impart a piece of advice on Billy Elliot-aged Casey, what would you say?
I would tell her to not go into complete panic mode every time that something went wrong or that I didn’t get a part. I have always been the type of person where if something does not go as planned or the way I had imagined it too, it throws me off a bit. Growing up and understanding being in this industry more and more, I’ve come to realize that following “the plan” just isn’t a reality, and that is actually such a beautiful thing. When I was younger, if I messed up on stage or an audition even in the slightest, or if I didn’t get a role that I really wanted, or anything along the lines of things not going according to how I had planned them out in my head, I would react like it was the end of the world. There was something about it that felt like I had failed. But, with time and more experience, I have come to realize that for one, that type of thing is so unavoidable, especially in this industry. And secondly, that if you treat those moments as learning experiences and trust that it happens for a reason rather than shut down over it, it is more conducive to your own experience not only as a performer, but as a person. 

10. Desert Island Game. If you could only bring one which of the following is coming with you on a desert island:
Movie: Bridesmaids
Cast Recording: Les Miserables (with the bonus tracks of every recording ever of ‘The Confrontation’)
Book: A huge play anthology, specifically including the play Wit by Margaret Edson
TV Series: Parks and Recreation.

Don't miss Casey Whyland in MTC’s production of 'Dan Cody's Yacht' at New York City Center through July 8.