Must-See Divas



The start of August is generally a bit of a theater lull between seasons and before the rush of IndyFringe. I am once again taking this time to reflect on some of Indy's biggest stars. After considering my list of favorite local actresses I made last year, in which I compared Claire Wilcher to Melissa McCarthy, I decided to revisit that exercise by creating my new list of favorite actors, featuring celebrity doppelgängers. This year I am once again applying that technique to help you seek out another group of Indy's finest actresses. For this round I focused on the women I had seen in at least one play during the past season, and, as it turns out, I actually saw each of them in two shows. Many of these actresses you will be able to see on stage this month for a nominal cost at IndyFringe, and none will disappoint.

  • Zach Rosing

Jennifer Johansen (Indy's Angelina Jolie)

If Hollywood has Brangelina, Indy has Rennifer. Like Brad Pit and Angelina Jolie, Jennifer and Rob Johansen just might be Indy theatre's strongest power couple, but each touts a career that stands on its own. This season Jennifer Johansen channeled Angelina's sassy, sex appeal to play the cougar Masha in Sanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Phoenix Theatre. While in the IRT's Holocaust survival tale And Then They Came for Me, she showed her strength and maternal side.

Where you can see her next: Jen will reunite on stage with Rob for Shadow Ape's IndyFringe Show Jen/Con Aug. 15 - 24. She will also appear in the Phoenix Theatre's season opener Clark Gable Slept Here Sept. 18 - Oct. 19.

  • Zach Rosing

Jolene Mentink Moffat (Indy's Margo Martindale)

Margo Martindale is the kind of actress who may not be a household name, but everyone has seen somewhere. Currently she appears in two vastly different TV shows (The Americans and The Millers), and if you made it to the Indy Film Fest grand prize film Bluebird, you would have caught her as part of the ensemble. Jolene Moffat, like Margo, is more than capable of stealing a show away, regardless of the size of role handed to her. This past season she did just that in both Shadow Ape's IndyFringe show Welcome to the Monkey House and as a political wife with a drinking problem in Phoenix Theatre's Miles and Ellie.

Where you can see Jolene next: Miles and Ellie ends Aug. 10. She will next appear in the IndyFringe show The Useful Woman.

  • Zach Rosing

Lisa Ermel (Indy's Anna Kendrick)

Lisa Ermel had a busy few months. I saw her in March in Acting Up Production's A Streetcar Named Desire, in Spun at the Phoenix Theatre in April, and she is currently back at the Phoenix in Miles and Ellie. It would be easy for a young actress to be typecast as the young ingénue, and perhaps Lisa would be, except she keeps finding the most interesting ingénue roles around. This is where her similarity to Anna Kendrick goes far beyond physical resemblance. Anna sprang onto the scene practically unknown in Up in the Air and walked away with an Academy Award nomination. She has since risen to fandom through Pitch Perfect, but she continues to bounce between independent fare and mainstream hits with enough memorable performances that it lets us forget she was ever in Twilight. If Lisa can continue to follow a similar path, she will have a long career ahead of her.

Where you can see Lisa next: Coincidentally Lisa can be seen now with Jolene in Miles and Ellie and also in the IndyFringe show The Useful Woman.

  • Courtesy of Actors Theatre of Indianapolis

Vickie Cornelius Phipps (Indy's Lily Tomlin)

Lily Tomlin is best known for her comedic roles in the '70s and '80s, and yet still seems to always bring her grit and comedy showmanship to any number of roles. Likewise, over the years I have seen Vickie Cornellius Phipps, a mainstay of Indy Community Theatre, play countless parts. While many of the productions titles have faded from my mind, I still remember delighting in her performance in each one. This season I caught her charming the audiences in Civic Theatre's Pippin and Footlite Musical's Nine. If Vickie's name is on a cast list, I know the production will feature a performance worth checking out.

Where you can see Vickie next: Actor's Theatre of Indiana's production of My Fair Lady at the Studio Theater at the Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 12 - 28.

  • Courtesy of Red Boat Productions

Erin Cohenour (Indy's Emily Blunt)

My comparison of Erin Cohenour and Emily Blunt might not go much further than the fact that they are both stunningly beautiful brunettes. Both actresses have a combination of beauty and charm that makes them capable of playing both femme fatale and girl-next-door roles. However, I can't comment on Erin's ability to talk in a British accent any more than I can Emily Blunt's ability to sing like an angel. I can fully vouch for Erin's incredible singing voice having just witnessed her sultry performance in 465 Sex Drive The Musical by Red Boat Productions and her earthier part in Hair by BobDirex Productions. Emily will have the chance to show off her singing voice in the upcoming Disney blockbuster version of Into the Wood's, but I have a feeling she can't compete with Erin.

Where you can see Erin next: As Magenta in the Rocky Horror Showcoming this October to the Athenaeum Theatre.

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