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VT Voices Q&A with Emmy Award Nominee Nicole Fosse

Updated: Mar 22, 2022

By Joshua Sherman, M.D.

Sherman: Nicole, you’re a dancer, Vermonter, and Emmy-nominated producer. I want to focus on your life and accomplishments, but given the recent success of the FX television miniseries Fosse/Verdon, let’s first talk about your very famous parents: Tony, Emmy, and Oscar-winning director/choreographer Bob Fosse and the legendary Broadway performer, Gwen Verdon. First, where were you born?

Fosse: I was born in New York City. So, actually, when you said, “Vermonter Nicole Fosse”, that really wouldn’t fly with the real Vermonters that have been here for generations and generations. I’m a transplant. I’ve lived in Vermont for 25 years, but I grew up in Manhattan and Eastern Long Island.

Photo Courtesy FX Networks

Sherman (laughing): Fair enough. Fair enough. So – what was it like growing up with two famous parents – and how would you describe your childhood?

Fosse: That was normal to me. I didn’t realize they were famous. Or maybe I thought everybody’s parents were famous. I mean, I would hang out with Liza [Minnelli] backstage. And I went to see Liza in concert in Germany once, and I went backstage to see her afterwards. And she had her shoes off and no slippers on and I looked at her feet, and I said, “Liza, your bunions!” and she goes, “Oh, my God, they’re horrible. What do you do about these?” And we started talking about how to treat bunions. I mean, that’s what you do when you dance. [I was a dancer.] She was a dancer. Her mother was Judy Garland. My mother was Gwen Verdon. You know, her father was Minnelli. My father was Fosse. I didn’t get it - that she was quote-unquote “different”. She was just really good. Also, I went to a private school in New York City, where a lot of parents - even if they were not famous - were extremely successful. That was the norm for me. My parents really encouraged me to explore all of my creative forces and outlets, especially as a young child. My mother was very supportive of thinking outside the box and exploring painting, drawing, music, horseback riding, tennis, foreign languages, biology and different academic pursuits. My father was supportive of that - but he had a tunnel vision of his own. Because of the nature of who he was, he was very focused on film and theater.

Photo Courtesy FX Networks

Sherman: You just mentioned art and painting and horseback riding and tennis, but you didn’t mention dance.

Fosse: Dancing was something I believe I desired to be a part of, because it was a core part of the family. It was a language that we spoke. I was never forced to dance. When I was 8, 9, 10, I took a lot of creative movement classes. I liked those. I also liked riding horses and playing tennis. And then at around the age of 13, I felt that I was facing a decision to choose, especially if I wanted to dance. It became very difficult to ride horses one day, play tennis the next day, and dance the following day. And I understood at a very early age the focus and discipline and devotion and loyalty that one must have to be an employable dancer. So, a lot of the other activities fell by the wayside.

Sherman: Your parents had very different childhoods in terms of their dance training. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Fosse: My mother’s mother, Gertrude, was a Denishawn dancer. So she brought the modern dance and the classical dance into my mother’s early childhood. Then my mother studied at Gower Champion’s parents’ studio. My mother was surrounded by MGM. All the dancers in all those Hollywood musicals, they all trained in ballet. If you look at those women, they’re all doing ballet steps - just dressed differently – wearing high heels. That, sort of, highly trained show girl look. And that’s what she was raised around. And then she went and worked with Jack Cole, who [incorporated] classical ballet, modern, Afro-Caribbean, East Indian, and Flamenco dance. My mother was also a great tap dancer. She learned that as a way to make money standing on street corners when she was a little girl. She could put a hat out and tap dance and come home with some dough during The [Great] Depression. My father trained primarily as a tap dancer. He was a percussionist with his feet versus that sort of hoofer-thing that people think is tap dancing. He was a real percussionist. He was a musician. He had an act with another boy that he was in dance class with called, “The Riff Brothers”. And they went to the vaudeville houses and performed.

Michelle Williams & Sam Rockwell as Gwen and Bob in the FX series Fosse/Verdon - Photo Courtesy FX Networks

Sherman: Tell me a little bit more about Jack Cole and your mom’s relationship with him?

Fosse: Jack is rightfully referred to as “The Father of American Jazz Dance”. He trusted my mother. When my mother was working for Jack, she performed his choreography and also assisted him in Hollywood on the big Hollywood musicals. She would coach Marilyn Monroe and others. Jack’s patience was short. And his communication skills were, I think, frustrating to be on the receiving end (from what I understand). My mother had the patience and the expansive heart to hear what he needed - and then decipher that for other people and be able to elicit it from them, instead of just telling them what to do. She could help them achieve that. I believe Jack relied on her a lot - especially when working with Marilyn Monroe. In “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” my mother would tell the story that Jack would say, “I don’t know how to get her to do this”. And my mother would say, “Go away. I’ll work on this with her.” And then my mother and Marilyn would work together, and Jack would come back and say, “Oh, that’s better”. And I had the experience of my father choreographing a ballet solo for me when I was about 18 years old. I saw how my mother worked that exact same way with my father and with me as the dancer. He would become very frustrated. She would tell him to go away, and he would go away. She would change the steps, fix the steps, make it so that I could do it - and look good doing it - to achieve the look that he wanted. And then he would come back in and say, “I don’t know what you just did. But yeah, that’s right.”

Sherman: She understood how to translate and communicate. Did your mom ever talk about Marilyn Monroe or any of her MGM days?

Fosse: She was on the movie sets from the time she was a very little girl, because her father was an electrician at MGM Studios. In fact, that was a phrase that Michelle Williams used to imitate my mother’s voice before she would do a scene for FX. She took it from some interview of my mother. And you’d hear Michelle Williams chanting back behind the scenes, “My father was an electrician. We came from Culver City, California. My father was an electrician…” That’s how she would slide into her “Gwen voice”... so, my mother was really used to being on Hollywood musical sets and grew up around all the stars, doing everything. She had fun working, and she loved being around creative people. I don’t know that she ever wanted to be a Cyd Charisse or a Marilyn Monroe.

Sherman: But your dad dreamed of being Fred Astaire, correct?

Fosse: He did dream of being Fred Astaire. After being part of “The Riff Brothers”, he joined the Navy. He was very patriotic, and he enlisted in World War II. Apparently, he was home after basic training, and his dance teacher Fred Weaver contacted his Sergeant and said, “You can’t send him out. You can’t put him on active duty. He’s really talented, and you can’t let anything happen to him!” He was 17 years old! He was put on entertainment duty and kitchen duty. So he peeled potatoes and tap danced. Joe Papp was also on entertainment duty in the Navy with my father … As a tap dancer in the Navy, my dad went into a lot of hospitals - and that is shown in the FX series. What a profound experience that must have been.

Michelle Williams & Sam Rockwell as Gwen and Bob in the FX series Fosse/Verdon - Photo Courtesy FX Networks

Sherman: And that’s a story he told later in life in the musical, Pippin. Did your father ever discuss that with you?

Fosse: No.

Sherman: So how did that piece of information come to be in the FX series? Why is it your belief that that moment in time was an important one in shaping him as a human being?

Fosse: We [can] look at his work that came after that. War and politics play a role in Pippin. In Dancin’, there’s a whole patriotic section and there’s a solo called, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” that Ann Reinking originated, as well as a lost ballet from “Hail The Conquering Hero” that I’ve been told about by people who were in it (who are now deceased). So, there was that... And then he had this very soft place in his heart for any kind of beggar on the street. And you have to understand that in the 1960s and 1970s, a lot of homeless were Vietnam veterans. When my father died, I remember taking all the pennies and all the change he saved. He had jars and jars and jars of it. And I remember filling up a bag and taking it to the guys on the street - in honor of my father. He would’ve liked that. That’s what he would do. So somehow I had picked up on that.

Photo Courtesy FX Networks

Sherman: What did he do after his time in the Navy?

Fosse: He went to Hollywood, he danced in a couple of films. And then he set out for Broadway.

Sherman: Well, he danced in more than just “a couple of films”. And there’s one dance that he did (“The Alley Dance”) that is an iconic MGM dance scene. And a turning point for him - that’s often discussed in many documentaries – was when Hermes Pan (Fred Astaire’s choreographer) asked Bob Fosse (one of the 3 featured male dancers) to choreograph a 45 second sequence in Kiss Me, Kate.

Fosse: That’s absolutely my understanding. Hermes Pan said “Go ahead and choreograph this. Let’s see what you’ve got, Kid”. And his payment for that was he got to keep his toupee! He had a very good toupee that Hollywood provided him with. He lost his hair early. And so he had one of those really good toupees on the mesh that you glue down. And that’s how they paid him. He got to keep his toupee.”

Sherman: After Kiss Me Kate, he went to New York and choreographed several shows, including The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, both of which were enormous hits. Damn Yankees was, of course, turned into a film starring your mom and choreographed by your dad. Your dad also performs in it. “Who’s Got The Pain?” is a legendary musical scene, because we get to see the two of them dance together. Did they ever discuss that? I know, in interviews, your mom shared that your father was a really incredible jumper. That wasn’t her strength, and he would always prompt her, “Jump!”

Fosse: My mother always said that. He was just such a fabulous dancer, she always felt like she was trying to keep up with him. And he always said that she was such a fabulous dancer that he was always trying to keep up with her. And I think that that really is what was happening. They were both so good - and so tuned into each other - that when they worked together and danced together they reached another level together.

Sherman: Your mom said in a different interview, that your dad was a great acting coach. For “Whatever Lola Wants” your Dad whispered to her, “Imagine she’s a little fat girl trying to be sexy.”

Fosse (correcting Sherman): “She’s a little fat girl trying to get out of her snow pants.”

Sherman: There you go! (Laughter) It’s interesting that your mom referred to him as a great acting coach, but you said that wasn’t your experience.

Fosse: As an acting coach/director, I think he was terrific with a lot of people. Everybody from Liza to Michael York to Shirley MacLaine, Valerie Perrine, Eric Roberts, Mariel Hemingway, and Dustin Hoffman … I mean, they will all claim that they did some of their best work while working with him. As far as when he worked with me, I think there was a frustration, because he wanted it to be perfect – for his daughter. And he’s nervous choreographing for his daughter. I was in pointe shoes. He had never choreographed ballet in pointe shoes before. And I wasn’t technically proficient enough to do what he was seeing in his head. And he wanted to fix it, so I would look good. So that’s where my mother came in. So my father and I did dance together a lot. And it was sort of a language in the household. It was a way that we communicated. And it was a way that we spent time together. The way some people might go out and kick a soccer ball with their kid, we would dance.

Sherman: In the FX series, the audience is led to believe that you were a teenage dancer, and that he was making a semiautobiographical movie (All That Jazz) and that he promised you the role of the daughter in the movie? Is that really true? Could you have played the daughter in All That Jazz? Or is that, once again, just part of the drama of the series that’s been added?

Fosse: It’s not the drama of the series. He never promised it to me. I wanted it. I wanted to be the daughter in All That Jazz. I was hurt that it wasn’t me. The reason it wasn’t me was I was too old. And I think that was also hurtful as a dancer, as an actress, and as a performer. And raised by my father, he would tell me, “There’s always going to be somebody younger and prettier than you.” It’s true in this world. There’s always somebody younger and prettier than you. He left out the rest of that sentence, which was “…and you’re unique and you’re precious and you’re special. And we love you the way you are at every single given moment,” which was in his thinking, but he didn’t know to say that. But he knew to say the sort of philosophical parental, “I’m warning you how rough life is out there. There’s always going to be somebody younger and prettier than you”. So when I’m 16, and a 12 year old is cast in my part, all I could think was, “she’s younger and prettier than me. Here it is”. And that was confusing, and it hurt. It wasn’t that my father did anything that was hurtful to me. He cast the film. He needed a 12-year-old. And it probably would not have been a good idea to work with his daughter anyway. You know, just to keep the rehearsal space clean and uncomplicated. But, um, yeah, that was really, really difficult on me. I don’t even know if he knew how difficult it was on me.

Sherman: In your heart, you really wanted to be the daughter. Did your mom ever want to play the wife in All That Jazz? Did she want to play, essentially, herself?

Fosse: No, I never got that sense. I don’t think she really wanted to work with my father in that way in front of the camera. She would work with him behind the scenes. But I don’t think she wanted to be in front of the camera - with him behind the camera. I think that could have been a disaster.

Sherman: Why a disaster?

Fosse: As an actress, you have to completely trust your director. And you can’t really question them. You can contribute your ideas, but in the end, you really need to just do what the director tells you to do. It’s sort of funny to me to imagine that [scenario] later on in my parents’ lives - after they went through a lot personally together. And they had a wonderful, wonderful friendship. And I think working together in that nature might have actually spoiled their friendship. You know, they had a great working relationship when it was dance - and behind the scenes.

Sherman: Did you go to a lot of your dad’s film sets? Did you watch him direct?

Fosse: I did watch him direct. I was on the set of All That Jazz. And it was really sort of an extraordinary experience in that it was the set for all of the hallucinations. So it was in a soundstage with this fantastical set design. It was not a soundstage made to look like somebody’s living room. There was scaffolding, and it was very theatrical and glittery. Everything was white and silver. And my father was this tiny, little person in all of this. I remember him wearing his black jeans and his black shirt. And he looked so small in this huge place with all these people doing all these different tasks and jobs. And I just remember that being the first time I saw him as small. I don’t mean small of stature. I just mean, he’s just one of the many that it takes to make this thing happen. That was interesting.

Sherman: I’d like to focus more on YOUR life, but one more question about your parents. How do you protect their work? How do you make it relevant for the next generation and keep the dance and information current, but also make sure that it doesn’t lose what was so unique about it?

Fosse: It’s impossible to really protect the work. I try to have as many teachers as possible. I believe it takes a village. When one person holds on to the choreography too tightly, they only have their own set of keys, they don’t have all the keys, they don’t know what was said to other people or how other people felt it in their bodies. So it’s really important to have many, many, many people teaching the choreography and trying to get them to work together, which can be very difficult. They really have to be sort of ego-less … And it seems quite impossible most of the time to keep the choreography alive. I archive it. We teach it. So I do my best, but it’s arduous. I don’t really believe in taking somebody’s choreography and changing it to make it stay current. In my opinion, the way you keep a piece of choreography current is this: the people performing it must go back to the original seeds of its inspiration - and have somebody work with them and teach them more than just the steps, because the steps are left – right, left – right, up – down, over here - over there. That’s all that steps really are. Then there’s a whole acting piece that goes behind the steps; that’s in the steps. And so when explored by the current performer - coming from the original seeds of information – that performer will then create their absolutely authentic version of the choreography. It’s still the choreography. We didn’t change a single step. But because the person performing it is true and authentic and believes it from a deep core place as an actor and as a musician – not just as a dancer - then we don’t have a dinosaur relic. We have something very current, because that performer brings with them whatever is current in the generation or in their experience.

Sherman: It’s the underlying intention that makes the action meaningful! The acting of dancing. And it’s what we referred to before with “Whatever Lola Wants”, right?

Fosse: “The chubby little girl trying to take off her snow pants.” It’s how you show humor and pathos and cynicism and despair and anger and joy. Right? So it’s not just about lifting my leg up and down four times. Is it joy? Is it pathos? That’s in the choreography. That’s the direction within the choreography.

Sherman: Are there any other moments like that? Nuggets of direction (within the choreography) that you can share?

Fosse: There are certain steps that were given nicknames. And the nickname would come from the image given to the dancers. So in Sweet Charity, in “The Frug”, you see what they call “soft boiled egg hands,” because it’s like holding a soft boiled egg in your hands. It’s not a tight fist. It’s not an open hand. It’s not stiff, you know. A soft-boiled egg stays in its form, but it’s kind of liquid in your hands. So there’s got to be a real softness, like finger play around it, you know? So you really go into that sensation of having a soft boiled egg out of the shell in your hand —and not squishing it—and not breaking it. And then how do you negotiate that ever-changing weight in your hand, as it slides around a little bit? And then there’s the “broken doll legs”. There was a lot of [direction like] “move your tushy through a vault of whipped cream”. You’re not just going right, left, right, left. There’s a sensation to it. And again, it changes everything about you when you start having images of what you’re doing.

Sherman: Amazing. Now let’s focus on you. Tell me about your life growing up.

Fosse: My mother made sure that I spent a lot of time outside of New York City, and I spent a lot of time with her out on Long Island. We would go beachcombing and clamming and then make spaghetti with clam sauce and white wine. There was also a social circle out on Long Island. A lot of these famous people with kids were doing the same thing. So the evenings were filled a lot with these fabulous people getting together. To me, it was normal to be at a dinner table with Gloria Steinem or Paddy Chayefsky. That was normal to me. So, my childhood was a combination of living my own sort of normal kid life of play dates and homework and after school activities, as well as spending time in rehearsal studios and going to the theater. I used to love to go see Pippin. I would go see it all the time. And apparently, I’m told, sometimes the stage manager would tell the cast “Fosse’s out there”. And it was me! But he knew that it would elevate their performance levels. You tend to get sloppy, when you’re doing eight shows a week for a couple of years. You can get a little bit relaxed out there. And it’s not as fresh as it needs to be. I was 10, and I freely gave feedback and advice to my father. Whether it was films or dance, what I liked, what I didn’t like, who was good, who wasn’t good, who was lazy, who was sloppy, who was fun to watch… I think he took my suggestions and insights very seriously. I would go see shows and come back and rat people out. I would tell him things like “so and so doesn’t dance full out when she’s in the back line. She only dances full out when she’s in the front.” And he would look down at his feet, shake his head, and chuckle. I don’t know what he would do with that information. But I think he knew that there was a real truth there. I was unfiltered.

Sherman: When did you decide you really wanted to be a dancer?

Fosse: I decided I wanted to be a dancer when I was 13 years old. I was living with my father. I told him I wanted to be a professional dancer. He insisted I go to class immediately. And I said, “I can go tomorrow,” and he said “No - if you want to be a professional dancer, you have to go now.” He also told me he would rather I swallow flaming swords in the circus than become a professional dancer. Around the age of 40, I went to the circus and watched the lady swallow the flaming swords, and I was so moved by the fact that the audience was thrilled with her. She was overweight, she wasn’t particularly beautiful, and she had the spotlight on her - and the glittery dress and lots of makeup. And she did this silly thing of swallowing swords and juggling fire … and I understood what my father was saying. Because by 40, I wasn’t dancing anymore. And I understood what he meant. He meant, “If you want the applause, if you want the spotlight, you’ll get a much longer life if you do something like swallow swords in a circus.” So he really impressed upon me that if that’s what I wanted to do, then I had to put all of my energy into that. It really was a great lesson that I learned from him in that there’s nothing worse than being mediocre. And there’s nothing worse than looking back in hindsight and saying, “I wonder if I had done it differently if I could have been better at it.” I then started dancing all the time, every day, almost every day. And I ended up going to North Carolina School of the Arts.

Sherman: I know the FX series revealed that you were already doing drugs by then. Tell me about your dance career in relationship to the drug use.

Fosse: I’m convinced I could have been a better dancer if I had not been utilizing drugs at all during those years. I don’t know that I ever would have been an amazing dancer or a famous dancer. But I do know I could have been a better dancer. I could have spent more time dancing. My concentration would have been better. And I believe my physical abilities would have been better. It’s very difficult to put on pointe shoes at 8 am when you were up until two o’clock in the morning doing bong hits. It really is difficult to do your best on four hours of sleep when you’re probably still kind of stoned.

Sherman: So- were you able to have a dance career? Was it compromised?

Fosse: I did have a dance career. I do believe it was stunted by continued drug use. I was in the film A Chorus Line. And after that, everybody thought I was like part of the next Brat Pack. I was in Interview Magazine with Denzel Washington and Leah Thompson. And I think Robert Downey Jr. and Rob Lowe. And then I couldn’t get another job. I mean, I didn’t study my lines for auditions. I thought I could just pull it off. I’d stay up partying, and then I would think about what clothes I was going to wear to the audition instead of what was going to come out of my mouth at the audition. I just was not grounded in reality really. I did a Broadway show. I mean, yeah, sure, I worked. And then I went to Europe and danced in a show where I met my future husband. That’s when I sort of stopped doing drugs. The drugs were not really a heavy part of my story at that time, although they were still part of my story. Mostly marijuana. And so we started having children, and I didn’t smoke pot anymore. I drank some occasional beers or wine or something. And I felt like I had grown out of it in a sense. Or grown into a new place in my life, in which I felt really connected and not judged all the time. I grew up in my teens and 20’s feeling scrutinized and judged, and I had to prove myself over and over and over again. People were curious: being the daughter of two very famous parents, what would that talent look like? What did that produce? What did that spawn? What’s that DNA? But I got married and started having children, and I felt very connected in the family. My mom was really integrated. And it felt very healthy.

Sherman: To the outside world, being the child of two celebrities looks very glamorous and exciting, but when you’re actually in it, maybe not as much. Particularly the expectation that comes with being the child of celebrities. I’m sure every time you went in for an audition, you were nervous there was this anticipation and expectation that you would be as good (or better) than Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon combined. How do you deal with that reality - since it IS your reality?

Fosse: So what happened to me is - and I didn’t realize it was happening at the time - it’s only now in hindsight, looking back - I lost my voice. I don’t mean my vocal cords voice. I lost my ability to speak up for myself. I became withdrawn as far as self-expression. At the same time, I became overly-expressive and vocal. And I know that sounds super confusing, but I became more of a caricature of what I thought I should be [rather] than an authentic version of who I was. I’m sure other people in similar situations have maybe similar journeys. Oddly enough, one of the film characters that I personally have associated and connected with is Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. I was so drawn to that character. I was like, “What is this? I have no idea what it’s like to be a prince, a king.”

Sherman: But you do! In the world of musical theatre, you’re the heir apparent. And there’s a weight to it.

Fosse: And I inwardly developed an impediment; an inner stutter. I couldn’t get my thoughts out. I couldn’t say who I was, and what I wanted, and what I needed. I think it’s why I was drawn to Vermont. I could live differently here.

Sherman: So you went to Europe and you met your future husband, Andy. Was he involved in the theater?

Fosse: He was a stagehand in Munich. And I was in the group of Americans coming through, performing a show. And we stayed in the theater for six or eight weeks. And he was that German guy that I kept looking at - and I was the American girl that he kept looking at. And it is actually a sweet story. There was an internal courtyard to get to the backstage door of the theater. And he and I had been sort of eyeballing each other, looking at each other for a couple of weeks. And so he was walking into the backstage door, and he opened the door to walk in and he turned, looked over his shoulder and saw me. I was quite far away from him, but he decided to hold the door open for me. But it was too far of a distance to really hold the door open for me. So he was standing there, and he started to blush. And I’m trying to, like, run - so he doesn’t have to hold it for as long, but I didn’t want to run - because that’s not cool. Because I was really cool with my motorcycle boots and my leather jacket with fringe. And so he holds the door open for me, we get into the theater, he heads down to the stagehand area, and I head upstairs to the dressing room. And we turn and look at each other over the railing of the stairwell. And I said, “Do you speak English?” and he goes “Enough.” I said, “Good” - and that was it. We have three kids! Yeah, so he looked like the bad boy. And he was just a marshmallow sweetheart inside, but he looked like Axl Rose.

Sherman: So how did you get to Vermont?

Fosse: Andy and I lived in New York City. He was a stagehand at Lincoln Center. Our first child was two years old. We decided that we weren’t spending enough time together as a family. And we went out to my mother’s house on Quogue, Long Island, and spent the summer out there. He collected unemployment, and I was being the mom - and we got a Newfoundland puppy. We just spent the summer being together. When we moved back into the city after that summer, he switched his job. He was no longer a stagehand. He worked at, what was then called, “Scandinavian Ski Shop” in the city, because he had been a big skier when he grew up in Germany. And so he did boots and bindings and all that stuff. And that was the preparation to leave New York and come someplace to northern New England. We didn’t know where yet. But he was certified to tune and fix all the different brands of skis, makers of skis, and snowboards. So that was preparation to move up north. And then we just started experimenting. We would jump in the car and pick a place. I was doing a lot of research. You know, there was no real computer research then. So I had maps and encyclopedias and phone books. I was learning about, you know, the politics and the demographics of different areas. And we chose Vermont, because the little ski towns reminded him of little ski villages in the Alps. It was still accessible to New York and Boston, so we didn’t feel disconnected from the places that we knew and where family and friends were. We wanted to see the mountains and the clouds and the deer and the trees. And we liked the politics. We liked the recycling. This was before everybody was recycling. And Vermont was ahead of the curve on a lot of things. We just liked it here. So we started coming up to different areas of Vermont and checking it out. And we ended up here. It’ll be 25 years, this coming spring.

Sherman: And you raised three boys here. How old are they now?

Fosse: My kids are 20, 23 and 27.

Sherman: You had a very complicated childhood and early adulthood. How did you protect your kids from the world you grew up in, but also invite them into the world you grew up in - in terms of the good parts?

Fosse: When Andy and I decided to move to Vermont with our son (who was then two and a half years old), it wasn’t a conscious decision of “We have to leave this madness!” But I had the madness of growing up in the chaos. “The beautiful chaos,” as I like to call it, of growing up in the entertainment industry. And my husband - when he was working at Lincoln Center - said to me, “Let’s get out of here.” And that rang true to me. He put those words on it and identified it, but there was something that rang true at my core, too. I was like, “Okay, yeah, let’s get out of here.” And so I think that was how, you know, we protected the kids. We just moved here and did Vermont things. And then I showed them the wonderful, beautiful fun parts. They had music lessons. We were always very involved in big school musicals at the local elementary school. My kids grew up tap dancing and playing the drums and the piano and various instruments. We read lots of really great literature out loud. They were always painting and drawing, and we would go visit my mom.

Sherman: I know you suffered tragedy as an adult, as well. Can you tell me about that?

Fosse: My husband was killed by a drunk driver. And then my mother moved in to help me raise the children. And eight weeks later, my kids found her dead in bed. My kids were one, four and eight at the time. I don’t know that anybody has the tools to deal with that. I don’t know how else to say it, but I had not developed the tools to handle that kind of tragedy and trauma. I was new to the town. I didn’t have any family here. I hardly had any friends. We had just moved into this house, like, a year before. And so what I was acquainted with was numbing out. I wasn’t used to asking for help.

Sherman: So how did you find your way after going through that? Your story is quite profound: You went through this horrible trauma of your husband being killed by a drunk driver and you had three young kids. Your mother came to Vermont to help you - and instead, eight weeks later, your kids found her dead in bed. I mean, that’s almost a Bob Fosse joke, right? It’s almost a situation he would think of as humorous. It’s like the zip up bag at the end of All That Jazz, right? So, I guess my question is –

Fosse: (laughing) Your question is, “Did you put on Ethel Merman singing, ‘There’s No Business-Like Show Business’ as they carted your mother’s body out of the house?” No. No, I did not.

Sherman: I know yoga has played a big party in your recovery. Can you tell me about that?

Fosse: There are different ways to fill [a] void. Service to others. Creative endeavors. I’m a bikram yoga teacher now. And, for me, being of service in this specific yoga practice is moving. It changes your brain. I think I’ve been doing it regularly enough and long enough that I’ve completely settled down my nervous system and can breathe through uncomfortable situations. And I can talk about death and tragedy and addiction and all that stuff and not feel it in my body. I think I talk a little bit faster when I’m talking about it, but I’m pretty grounded.

Sherman: So – as you look ahead, what’s next?

Fosse: I’m definitely going the health and wellness route. I mean, I’ve had my own struggles with drugs and alcohol. I’ve been widowed. I’ve raised traumatized grieving children by myself. I have a lot of experiences. I have Diabetes Type II, and I manage it holistically, which is stress reduction, nutrition, exercise, and sleep. So, I’ve been through a lot. And I don’t want to say “conquered” or “overcome”, because on a daily basis, it’s still a project. I heard somebody say something once I could really identify with, which was, “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Every day, I make a resolution.” I don’t wait until New Year’s… It doesn’t work. Every day, I make a resolution to take care of myself and the people around me.”

To listen to the extended audio

interview with

Nicole Fosse

go to VTVOICES at

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