Age & Hometown: 31; Channing, TX
Current Role: A Tony-nominated performance as violin-playing, man-eating Czech immigrant Reza in the Dublin-set love story Once.
Jill of All Trades: In many ways, Elizabeth A. Davis has been preparing for her multi-faceted role in Once her whole life. Growing up in the Texas panhandle town of Channing (“I think the population sign now says 363”), she did absolutely everything. “There are not enough people in school to make up a team for anything unless everyone does it,” she says. “So I ran track, I played basketball, I was a cheerleader, I was in one-act plays, I played the violin, I was in choir—I got this wide net of opportunities that made me feel like nothing was impossible.” Her love of performing came from her parents, both educators, who met in a singing group and went on to direct local plays. Davis started playing the violin by age three, after attending a performance of The Nutcracker. “At intermission my dad took me to the orchestra pit and pointed out all the instruments,” she recalls. “All the way home, I cried because I wanted to play the violin.”
New Horizons: Leaving her hometown for Baylor University was an eye-opener for Davis. “For the first time in my life I encountered poverty,” she says. The issue became a lifelong passion, which has manifested in different ways. First came pageants. “I competed at the Miss Texas pageant and the Miss Ohio pageant,” she says. “My platform was homelessness and poverty, and I did them because I wanted to be able to take that platform to a state and perhaps a national level.” Pageants eventually made way for plays. Davis, who got her MFA in acting at Cleveland Playhouse, is also a gifted writer. She is currently at work on a solo show, inspired by her work in the homeless community of Waco, Texas, and a man named Joe Lightfoot Gonzales, to be produced at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre.
Once in a Lifetime: Davis has earned a Tony nomination for her first Broadway role, but the road to Once was long and the role itself scary. “Until our first performance in Boston, I had never belted in front of an audience,” she says. “It was pure joy and absolute terror.” The joy has been uncovering the character Reza. “Any person that brash and brazen, that’s just phase one,” she explains. “I get to fill in the other layers and build this deliciously full character.” Now that she's headed to the Tonys, her pageant experience is coming in handy. “This process of getting a dress and doing interviews seems vaguely familiar!” she says with a laugh. “I'm thrilled to be working with [Project Runway winner] Christian Siriano.” As she preps to attend the big event with her husband, freelance TV director Jordan Richard, Davis' feet remain firmly on the ground. “It’s not been roses,” she says of her career path. “I have an arsenal of struggle stories within me that will always remind me to be thankful, and never take anything for granted. It’s much sweeter this way.”