Amber Gray Visits Fordham Theatre Program for “Calling Up” Lecture Series

The actress shared stories from her career along with valuable advice on mental health, self care and more


Amber Gray shares her experience with members of Fordham’s Theatre program.


Members of Fordham’s Theatre program erupted with smiles, cheers and applause when actress Amber Gray entered the classroom for a guest lecture on Tuesday, May 3. As Gray shared her experience and wisdom with the group, her humility and authenticity charmed the audience. Along with career anecdotes, the actress took care to emphasize the importance of mental and physical health for everyone, especially performers. 

Gray received a BFA in acting from Boston University before attending New York University, where she received her MFA. She then went on to perform in several productions, including Broadway runs as Hélène in “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” and Persephone in “Hadestown.” She is currently performing as Banquo in the Broadway revival of “Macbeth.” 

Gray shared the progression of her career and fond memories from past shows like “Hadestown” (fittingly sporting a hat that read “André De Shields is My Stage Fave”). In such a competitive industry, Gray said something she has found essential is perseverance. When one student asked if she had any particularly impactful career advice, she said finding performance opportunities is a game of continuity. 

“Someone told me this when I was a kid: ‘If you stay in line, you will get served. If you get out of line, you won’t.’ It’s brilliant advice; (the industry is) just like a numbers game,” she said. 

According to Gray, “if you stay in this industry long enough, you will work all the time, consistently. I know that might not seem true right now,” she said, “but it does happen, where you’re able to pay your bills performing. But if you stop, if you get out of line, it’s not going to work out.” 

In an industry like commercial theater where rejection is constant, one student asked how actors can deal with its challenges. Gray recommended a focus on mental health as a way to cope. 

“The only way your brain grows is if you are challenged and you overcome a fear. You’ve got to be willing to be bad.” Amber Gray, Broadway actress

“(Rejection) is not personal. It doesn’t mean anything, and that is a painful, painful thing to swallow sometimes,” Gray said. “But you’ve got to look in the mirror and just keep going, truly. However you can, keep loving on yourself. If you can’t maintain your mental health, this is a really evil, evil industry. It’s cruel. But if you have your mental health, you can laugh at it.”

Gray also explained that failure goes hand in hand with rejection and advised students that fear and failure are integral to their education. 

“The only way you learn is if you scare yourself,” she said. “The only way your brain grows is if you are challenged and you overcome a fear. You’ve got to be willing to be bad. You’ve got to be willing to have egg on your face, truly. Be humiliated. It’s not fun when you do it in front of 12 hundred people, but it’s also not going to kill you. Who cares? Who cares if you’re bad sometimes, really? It’s okay.”

After sharing tips for maintaining a positive mental state, Gray also explained the importance of physical health as a performer. She detailed her own thorough process, including acupuncturist, physical therapist and ENT visits, the latter of which includes intravenous doses of vitamins and supplements for her immune system and vocal health. 

“When you’re doing eight shows a week, and long runs, you have to get very serious about things. You have to get very serious about sleep hygiene; you have to be very serious about hydration,” she said. “These (are) things that you might take for granted, but they keep your body and your spirit well. You’ve got to eat well. You can try to go against this stuff, but you’re going to break down.”

Along with all of her advice for mental and physical well-being and life as a performer, Gray told students to be deliberate in spreading positivity to those around them. She strongly recommended meditation as a way to maintain all of the above. 

“I am a big believer in meditation these days,” Gray said. “If someone is really pissing you off, you’ve got to bless that human in your head, whatever that means. Like, ‘May you be well; may you be healthy; may you be loved.’ Whatever way to kind of keep you zenned out and have armor.”

After “Macbeth” closes in July, Gray said that whether she’s still performing at age 76 like her friend André De Shields or living on rural land and pursuing spirituality is anybody’s guess. Above all else, she advised the audience to persevere on their career paths and always prioritize their mental and physical well-being.