Anyone who's seen Erica Ress Martin act knows she's a riveting presence on stage.
Her engaging ways extend well past curtain call. She's won a lead role in an ill-fated Broadway-bound play, handled world-class ad campaigns, became an attorney in her 40s and has worked with big names such as Cher and Procter & Gamble
She calls it luck but it sure looks like talent.
Erica Ress Martin
This seven-year Boca Grande veteran will take a break from acting this season as she succeeds her good friend, Jane Schlegel, at the helm of the Royal Palm Players Board of Directors. She has high hopes for this season and credits RPP Artistic Director Michele Strauss with doing an "incredible" job of positioning the Boca Grande-based community theater on sound creative and financial footing.
Martin shares with us her favorite RPP role, season goals and gives a glimpse into her fascinating professional and personal past in this week's Look Who's Talking.
QUESTION: When did the acting bug bite?
Erica Ress Martin at a glance
Birthdate: June 21, 1950
Occupation: actress, advertising creative director, attorney
Residence: Boca Grande, New York and Canada
Hometown: New York
Education: Tulane Law School juris doctorate, 1996; American University bachelor of arts degree, 1971; and Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York
Family: Married seven years to husband, Gary Martin
Civic: Chairwoman of the Royal Palm Players Board of Directors and RPP actress
Discovered Boca Grande: I had never heard of it. When I met my husband, it was funny, I worked on Procter & Gamble advertising accounts for awhile but I'd never met him. He'd seen me give a speech on good advertising years earlier and could tell you what I wore that night. We officially met on a blind date 10 years later. He brought me to Boca Grande the Christmas of 2000. I was knocked out, of course.
ANSWER: I was a little kid who studied dance very intensely in New York and began acting as a child. I've always been acting. Always.
Q: What is it about acting that you enjoy?
A: I've had a bunch of careers (actress, advertising creative director, attorney) but I started as an actress in New York in the early 1970s. After college I studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York and did improv for five years at night at the Manhattan Theatre Club. But I hated going to auditions.
Q: Who are your favorite actors?
A: I was a very big soap fan. I started watching in college. I watched "All My Children" from the day it started to the day it closed two weeks ago (AMC was on air from Jan. 5, 1970, to Sept. 23, 2011). That was a horrible, horrible day. I was about 19 when it started. I was shocked they had a character named Erica. No one was named Erica then. The first married name of Susan Lucci's character was Erica Kane Martin. Or Erica Martin!
Q: Why do you like soaps?
A: Soaps tell you a lot about people. Women have the same issues and stories no matter what country you are in. We did a commercial once for Saudi Arabia. The women there don't show their beautiful hair to anybody except their husband but they still wanted it to be soft and silky.
Q: Did you ever get the "big break?"
A: I got cast in a Broadway show. It was my three seconds of fame. I was so proud of myself and then they guy producing the show died and it never got mounted. I was devastated.
Q: You hated auditions and your first big break fizzles. What next?
A: I went into advertising and stated as a junior copywriter at one of the top creative agencies in New York. I was writing ads by day and doing improv by night for four years. I was making good money at advertising and it satisfied all my needs. I loved every minute of my career. At age 26 I wrote the ad campaign: "Bloomingdale's. Like no other store in the world." They still use that line. I wrote it in 1976.
Q: Your Pantene Pro-V ad campaign also went global making the shampoo the No. 1 seller in the world. Why did you ever leave advertising?
A: In my mid-40s I quit advertising although I was doing my best stuff ever, flying around the world doing Pantene Pro-V worldwide. I was sitting in a jungle one day on a commercial shoot and a monkey was chattering making it hard to get the lines. I thought to myself: I hate this. Arguing with a monkey! So I applied to law school and got in. At the last minute I decided to go full-time and moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane Law School. I did my last year at Fordham Law but they let me graduate from Tulane. I'm very lucky.
Q: You had to study in New York because you were handling marketing for Cher. What was that like?
A: Cher saw my Pantene work and hired me as a consultant for her haircare brand. After she saw my Pantene work, I took her infomercials retail where it became the No. 1 seller at Kmart and Walmart. Isn't it funny? Cher is brilliant. She was so smart it was shocking.
Q: After performing in New York, what kind of challenge is acting before island friends and neighbors?
A: It's a very tough challenge. But it's far less critical than a New York audience because everybody wants you to succeed.
Q: What has been your favorite RPP role?
A: The best role was in "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers" by Neil Simon. I played Elaine Navazio, a 40-ish, tough-talking New Yawker. I loved doing the accent.
Q: Why serve on the RPP Board?
A: Oh, God, my husband asks the same thing. I had to promise him this year I would not be in a show. Q: How did you come to be RPP chairwoman?
A: Last year I was gluing envelopes (laughs). It's true. I was on the board but I'm also an attorney. Our last president decided she wanted to resign so I was going over some of the rules and regulations and mediating certain things and board members asked how I knew what to do. I said, as a lawyer that's how it's supposed to be. They said, You're a lawyer? Why don't you take over?
Q: How tough is it to follow Jane Schlegel and Nancy Lyons as RPP chairs?
A: Impossible! I've been working with Jane for years. She's an amazing woman. She's served as chairs of all sorts of things. I'm not certain I can follow her. Nancy is just a wonderful person. But I have not had that much contact with her.
Q: What are you Royal Palm Players season expectations?
A: I'm hoping this is one of our best seasons ever. We have a great bunch of plays. Our gala this year includes a fabulous dinner at PJ's, a performance by "Three Divas and The Dons" and a closing cocktail. We're just starting to work on our auction for the evening right now.
Q: How would you evaluate the job Michele Strauss does as RPP artistic director?
A: I think Michele has done an incredible job. She's very good creatively and has worked really, really hard this year. She tries very hard to figure out which plays will work. Everyone had the opportunity to give input before we began the season. She started it because some people were like, ooh I don't know if I love this play. So she decided, let's get on board with this stuff and let everyone have input. It's been very successful.
Q: Has her financial management been as important?
A: Royal Palm Players was in terrible shape financially when she took over. Now we have some nice money behind us and some very good contributors who have been supporters every year. They donate, applaud and support us constantly. We're lucky. Without those volunteers and supporters we couldn't get anything done.