When I was five years old, I experienced two incredible thrills! I performed on a big stage in my first dance recital and that was coupled with taking my first trip to the Big Apple! And somehow, I knew both of these would be my life long passions. I performed every chance I got growing up in Albany, NY and also cultivated my love of writing and making up stories and poems on the fly. This would come in handy later when I did improvisation and worked with kids!
I made sure my college was close to the city so every Saturday, I would take the train from Adelphi University to NYC and took dance and singing lessons, go see a Broadway show and revel in the energy and lights that surrounded me. I used to joke that I was "escaping the suburbs" once a week!
Upon arriving in NYC, I enrolled in acting classes at HB Studios and thought it wise to continue studying ballet, tap, jazz and singing. Good instinct. I booked my very first audition two months later in Jerome Kern's "Leave it to Jane"! This led the way to many more vintage musicals such as “The Boyfriend”, “No No Nanette”, “Anything Goes” and “Guys and Dolls”. While I longed to do deep, relevant explosive drama, my whole essence screamed out, “Soubrette"!
A highlight of my career was working with the late, great Maya Angelou in her musical “And Still I Rise”, along with famed composer, Lalo Schifrin, at Amas Musical Theatre. Additionally, I spent a summer at New London Barn Theater where I played 8 roles in 12 weeks; my favorites included “Pippin”, “The Good Doctor”, “California Suite” and “Pal Joey”. I did backstage work as well and even went on as a last minute replacement for a lead role! That experience prepared me to take over the role of Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” with less than a week of rehearsal at a small regional theater in PA!
As my soubrette days faded and my mature leading woman did not yet kick in, I was caught in that dreaded “no man’s land” of type and age. During that time, I studied improv, performed in sketch comedy, interactive theater, became a member of several theater groups and even started branching out to film.
One of the films led to the formation of my casting career, which started out as something I did to be helpful to directors and transformed into a full time passion. Shortly thereafter, I became the Resident Casting Director of Manhattantheatresource, a volunteer theater group that gave birth to so many innovative programs in the Village. This led to casting a plethora of projects including a full length film and a lip synching drag show!
I learned producing at the height of 9/11, when two friends and I acted and produced a new dark comedy, “Wives on the Rocks”. It was the epitome of success! We not only made money but raised a considerable amount for God’s Love We Deliver. An opportunity to act and produce a two character play, ‘Jen and LIz in Love' for the Fringe Festival was a truly amazing experience as we repeated the same successful process!
As I entered the "Goddess"years, as I like to refer to them, my original vision was coming into fruition as I worked on stage and film in such diverse roles as a strict religious woman of the 1930's to a present day boozy, low down barfly. When the shutdown began, I picked up my writing again with emphasis on the baby boomer generation and wrote my first monologue and first play. I was beyond flattered when they were both chosen for festivals produced by the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. My play, "Dinner Date 2020" won Honorable Mention and was awarded a future live presentation! My essay, "These Boots are Still Made For Walkin'!" has
been featured in some leading online publications. And I am working on a book that is part tribute/part memoir of my re-visit to the original Dark Shadows TV show.
Another big surprise was the first web series I ever acted in, “That Reminds Me”, which not only garnered me Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series at the Rome Web Festival but has been featured on Amazon Prime! And I could finally answer that age old question: “Have I seen you on TV?!”. Yes.... as the fun-loving, kooky, spiritual Aunt Carol (which would come as no surprise to anyone who knows me!)
I love waking up to the smell of coffee and possibility in the morning and am grateful to be living out my original dreams that I began at age five. Let the dreams continue!
"Funny, and touching. Helene Galek, gives a textured and poignant performance."
Jen and Liz in Love
New York International Fringe Festival
Review by Wendy Caster
That reminds me.. the award winning comedy in which I play the deliciously comic Aunt Carol is now on Amazon Prime.
Click HERE and check it out!
*WINNER - ROME WEB AWARDS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
New Web Series
I filmed the pilot of the new web series, "Peri-Street," where I played Maxine, who tells it like it is and is a mite buzzed!
For updates, click HERE.
*WINNER BEST PILOT
SILVER WINNER AT THE PEAK CITY
INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2020