Cole Burden: From Southern Choir Boy to Theater Star
We sat down with Cole Burden to pick his brain on Chicago theater and whether he’s a Galinda or an Elphaba. Read on to find out!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into theater?
I grew up in the Deep South. We sang a lot in church and I started singing in elementary school choir. Eventually my family realized they weren’t going to stop me and I started taking private voice at 13. Funny enough, my best friend was Jamie Barton who has become one of the most famous mezzo sopranos of our generation…in opera. She literally has won all the awards, lol. I’m so proud. I had seen Audra McDonald perform the song “Stars and Moon” by Jason Robert Brown on PBS! I knew then I wanted something different than what the opera repertoire had to offer, so I applied for musical theater programs… well one. I applied for Baldwin Wallace University and I was either going there or running off to NYC. Fortunately, Victoria Bussert took to me and I had three and a half years in Cleveland at BW. I left in 2005 when I signed with an agent and made that long anticipated move.
What do you love about Chicago theater?
Two things come to mind: the sense of community and the respect for craft. I find so much support among the actors I’ve encountered here. I also find that there is an academic approach to the craft of acting that has not been ignored. Keeps you on your toes in the best way.
What is your dream role?
The one that pays me the MOST… also George in Sunday in the Park with George has always been coveted.
Beer or cocktail?
Depends on the mood. Usually a High West campfire on the rocks, and if there isn’t a large ice cube, I’ll take it Neat with rocks on the side. I do love beer and wish I was more of an aficionado but it makes me feel bloated and I try to save that for pizza.
Beyonce or Adele?
Now you’re just getting mean. I go with the lady across the pond. I love her storytelling and I’m a fan of standing and singing. Both women are incredible and inspiring.
What book have you read more than once?
Recently I have loved Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She has an approach to being a creative person and also having a great deal of logic. Those things can exist in one artist and I think it’s important to say so… the myth of the struggling writer, actor, painter is old. Many people are imaginative and create and also know how to function in the current world. The book helped me with that, whether that was Gilbert’s intention or not. Lol.
Before that it was Yurtle the Turtle!
Favorite Chicago restaurant?
Last week I had the most amazing meal at Chicago Cut Steakhouse. It was referred to me by a close friend that lives in Millennium Park. Like he said, “get the Lobster escargot and the Bone-In filet!” I am also a Lou Malnatis fan…but I am always open to explore more pizza.
Favorite place to shop in Chicago?
Michigan Ave? Idk. It’s accessible, unlike some cities with shopping on a certain avenue that rhymes with Smith. The sales people in Chicago always want to help and I’m old school… I like that.
What would you tell your younger self at this moment in your life?
Wow. This ones really deep…especially because I recently turned 35, and for me it’s a big one! I would tell my younger self that you are complete just the way you are and everything else is just icing on the cake. I would also say stop eating cake and practice more yoga!!!