Emerson Steele and Taylor Richardson are two teens that share a lot in common: they’re both Broadway veterans and passionate about giving back to children and young adults with autism. Cabaret for a Cause, an event in New York City that uses the talents of young actors and actresses to benefit teens with special needs, holds a special spot in both girls’ hearts.

We caught up with these two spotlight stealers to chat about what it’s like juggling school and performing and how they stay driven!

Emerson Steele made her Broadway debut in Violet as “Young Violet” alongside Broadway legend Sutton Foster. Emerson took a break from her homework to tell us all about it!

Justine Magazine: What was it like to work with Sutton Foster? She’s so talented!

Emerson Steele: Oh, I agree. She’s amazing and she’s such an amazing person. I’ve always looked up to her ever since watching her on [the TV show] Bunheads when I was little.  She’s so goofy and grounded and cool and she was just so fun to work with. The show overall was insanely amazing. Every night, every rehearsal, every everything was exhilarating.

JM: What is it about performing on stage that you love the most?

ES: For me, honestly it’s just kind of feels like home. When I was growing up, I tried various sports and everything just kind of always felt fine, but I wasn’t necessarily very good at it. It’s just something about being on the stage, just being there and sharing something that’s bigger than ourselves.

JM: If you had to pick another career path besides acting and singing, what do you think would be your next choice?

ES: Well, I’m actually planning on being a double major in psychology and acting/theatre in college, so I would probably say something along the lines of psychology. I’m actually really interested in studying forensic psychology. I also have a very big passion to work with kids with autism in the future. I don’t know what aspect of that necessarily, but I definitely know I want to do something like that.

JM: Do you have any secrets to juggling school and performing during the same time?

ES: Oh, do I! I am very lucky, I go to a school that is three days a week for four hours each day. They allowed me to miss as much school as needed to travel for auditions and work, and they’ll just send me my schoolwork. I guess my biggest trick is that I’m very strict about my bedtime. I allow myself to have enough sleep, 7 ½ to 8 hours. I really try to take advantage of every single second of my day so whenever I’m not in school or performing on stage I will be backstage working on my homework, or I will be doing my homework while I’m eating lunch. It can be hard to do sometimes when you want to just be a kid and like check your phone, but of course I believe in really taking advantage of your time wisely and just trying to get that work done so I can just focus on my performance.

JM: Do you have any advice for girls your age who dream of making it on Broadway?

ES: Totally! Honestly, just keep doing it. Honestly if you love performing more than anything else and you know you wouldn’t be happy or as happy doing anything else, just keep doing it. I believe that everybody has their time to shine, and I just think that if you keep on going, keep on working towards that bigger goal it will happen.

Taylor Richardson has had her share of roles on and off-Broadway, and will also be starring in the upcoming series Rise as Kaitlin, the talented daughter of a small-town theatre teacher!

Justine Magazine: Can you tell us a little about the experience of performing on Broadway? Do you have a favorite memory or a highlight from being on stage?

Taylor Richardson: Oh it was so amazing! I mean nothing else will ever be like that experience. I think one of my favorite parts is just the family you create with these other kids and other actors in the show; you all become really close throughout these performances.

JM: Are you similar to your character Kaitlin on Rise?

TR: I feel like I’m very similar. She’s also kind of awkward, which I can definitely relate to. And I’m just as big of a musical theatre fan as she is!

JM: If you had to choose between performing on stage or for screen, which is your favorite and why?

TR: Oh that is the hardest question! I think both have things that are fantastic about them, but I think it all really depends on the project and the character and who you’re working with and what makes it special. But they’re both equally wonderful. Stage and screen are also so different. When you’re on stage, you are working straight for two hours, no break, and then you get to do the same thing again day after day. Whereas with film, you might be working on one scene for nine hours, and then, that’s it! You never do it again! That was your one chance to get that scene right.

JM: Do you have any tips for calming down your nerves before you perform?

TR: A lot of times I have to remind myself that I can do this, I know I can do it, no matter what’s going on around me, no matter what’s making me anxious or nervous or excited, I know that I can perform this role or perform this song and I have to remember that and focus on the story I’m trying to tell.

JM: What was it like performing for Cabaret for a Cause?

TR: It’s something I really care about and every Cabaret for a Cause is really special. It’s pretty amazing that we as kids and teens can use this talent that we have to bring awareness or raise money for these really important causes. I’ve seen the impact that the arts can have on teens and kids with special needs and it’s really amazing the things that it can do. It’s great to know that I can contribute and I can use my voice to make a change, that’s all I could hope to do.