Biography

Erika was born in Plainfield, NJ and grew up in the neighboring town of Mountainside. She spent her entire elementary and secondary academic career at the highly competitive Kent Place School, an all-girls' prep school in Summit NJ, where she discovered her love for acting and music at a very early age.

Although she always knew she wanted to be an actress/singer, Erika's career path has turned out to be pretty circuitous.

After graduating from Vassar College with both General Honors and Honors in Drama, she moved to Los Angeles in order to pursue a career in television and film. She was lucky enough to land an agent within a month, and shortly thereafter she booked a role on Quantum Leap. Things were going well, but then her agent abruptly quit the business, leaving her to start over. Right around this time, she joined a male-fronted rock band called Heat Your Shack as a back-up singer with occasional lead vocals. After a matter of months, that band dissolved and became a new band - Velvet Chain - with Erika as the lead singer and co-composer with Jeff Stacy (AKA Jeffrey Calamusa). Erika and Jeff got married, and Velvet Chain became hugely popular on the L.A. club scene, playing regularly at venues like The Key Club, The Troubadour, and House Of Blues. They were invited to perform on the cult-hit TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer - both on screen in the episode "Never Kill A Boy On The First Date" and on the subsequent Soundtrack Album - which exposed them to both a national and international audience. This led to their being signed with an indie label and going on a very successful national tour, in addition to being used in many more TV programs and films, including HBO's Sex and the City, ABC's Big Shots, MTV's Live Through This and Road Rules, and the trailer for Touchstone Pictures' Con Air.

Meanwhile, Erika was still auditioning for TV, commercial, and film roles (without an agent) and was able to continue to book work, but it wasn't enough to qualify as being a full-time job. So, in addition to playing with the band and shooting the occasional indie film (A Couple of Days and Nights, Pickin' Up Chicks With Harlan Williams, Smack) she was working in retail to help pay the rent.

Then, on 9/11/01, Erika had an epiphany. Life was too short to wait around, hoping for the phone to ring with an audition while folding sweaters at Bloomingdale's (seriously). She had a feeling musical theatre would be a good option for her, especially since theatre generally uses a much more "democratic" casting process than TV or film, with many productions holding "open" auditions. So, she went out that very weekend, bought a copy of the casting publication, Backstage, and decided to audition for something.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Erika has been blessed to be a working actress since making that decision back in L.A. in 2001, and is now thriving in the highly competitive NY theatre scene. Her NY theatrical debut as "Hesione" in Triumph Of Love at the Astoria Performing Arts Center in spring of 2008 was met with great critical acclaim, as was her Off-Broadway debut performance as "Berta" in the World Premiere of the musical Signs Of Life at the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre (2010). For her second Off-Broadway show, she had the pleasure of creating the role of "Cleopatra" in the new musical comedy, The Sphinx Winx, at the Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row (2011). In 2013, she created the role of in Jack London: Sex, Love & Revolution at the NY international Fringe Festival, and it was actually on opening night of that play that she learned she had been cast as "Miss Wilde" in the First National Tour of the new musical Flashdance, directed and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (2013/2014). 

Living in NYC has also allowed Erika to stretch her theatrical muscles in several Off-Off-Broadway plays in between her "bigger" gigs: most notably the 75th anniversary prodcution of Waiting for Lefty (Edna) and the hilarious farce Nell Dash (Lady Fanny Dashwood), for which she was nominated for a NY Winterfest Award.

By far the most technically challenging role Erika has played to date was as the Voice of the "Clinic Director/Bad Fairy" in the World Premiere of the American Sign Language musical Sleeping Beauty Wakes, directed by Jeff Calhoun at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, CA (2007). Not only did she provide the voice for wonderful Deaf actress Deanne Bray, but she also had to learn ASL in order to be able to sign her own, separate role as the "Night Terror Patient/Royal Servant" - at one point in the piece, these two characters had to have a conversation, and Erika was signing as her own character while voicing for the other! Erika's work was recognized with both an Ovation Award nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and a Garland Award Honorable Mention. Sleeping Beauty Wakes was a co-production of Center Theatre Group and Deaf West Theatre, and featured an extremely talented cast of both Deaf and hearing actors.

Just a few of Erika's other favorite credits include: "Marion Froude" in Biography (East Lynne Theater Company - BWW Award nomination),  "The Witch" in Into The Woods (Ocean State Theatre, RI - BWW Award nomination), "Velma Von Tussle" in Hairspray (Tuacahn, UT), "Fairy Godmother" in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (Fireside Theatre, WI), "Reno Sweeney" in Anything Goes (Candlelight Pavilion, CA- Inland Theatre League Award nominee), "Dorothy Brock" in 42nd Street (Welk Resort Theatre), the "Snow Queen" in the original musical, The Snow Queen (Disney Workshop - music by Alan Menken), the "Evil Queen/Hag" in Snow White - An Enchanting Musical (Disneyland Resort, CA), "Yvonne" in Sunday in the Park with George (West Coast Ensemble - Ovation nominee for Best Musical), "Maria" in The Sound of Music (Saddleback CLO), and "Luisa" in Nine (Chance Theater, CA- OCWeekly "Best Performance in a Musical" nominee, named one of the "Top 10 Best Performances of 2002" by the Orange County Register).

Television/Film credits include Power Book III: Raising Kanan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bringing Up Jack, VH-1's Sparkle Lounge, Quantum Leap, starring roles in the indie features A Couple of Days and Nights and Smack, numerous short films, including the critically acclaimed 1 out of 30 and Friends and Strangers, and as a featured singing voice on PBS' Danger Rangers TV series and the Disney feature film, Enchanted.

For more info about Erika's work with Velvet Chain, please visit the band's official website: www.velvetchain.com.

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Agent: Carson/Kolker Org.

Telephone: 212-221-1517

E-mail: barry@carsonkolker.com

Address: 18 East 41st Street, #801, New York, NY 10017

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