H.A. Hang: Mindy Dougherty Baiada

The coolest part of our business has always been our clients. We’re amazed by all they do: CEOs and business owners, world travelers, authors, inventors, healers, entrepreneurs, newscasters, artists, pro athletes, musicians, caretakers, and philanthropists.

We launched this series to share the stories of our clients and form connections within the H.A. community. Enjoy!

H.A.: When did you first get the acting bug?
M.D.B.: I started off as a dancer. I went to The Rock School for Dance Education when I was a child. My mom would drive me into the city from Malvern. I love the school and now serve on the board. One day, in fifth grade, I was home sick from school watching TV and saw a call to audition for "The Wizard of Oz." I got a part and was hooked.

Was that in Philly?
No, Richmond, Virginia.

Did you have to beg your mom to take you to the audition?
Oh yes.

Did you continue to do plays?
Yes, all through middle and high school. The backbone of my childhood was my dance and theater education. I went to Great Valley High School and there was an incredible theater teacher there named Lisa Eaton. She took me under her wing.

What drew you to theater?
It ignited my passion for goal-setting and having big dreams. To spend a summer working on a show with coaching and rehearsals—and then seeing it realized through hard work that fall was rewarding. Also, the community. Generally speaking, theater people are vulnerable, kind, loving and supportive. As a kid who wasn’t into sports they became my team. Theater also gave me confidence. You have this huge network of people rooting for you.

What was after high school?
I went to Penn State's theater program, which is well regarded in my industry. They only take 12 or so kids a year. When I got there I instantly thought: Here are my people!” Being in a program where everyone that you’re interacting with is there for the same reason was amazing.

Did you go straight to NYC after college?
Yes. The lease on my apartment started on September 1st, 2001. I moved in on the 6th. I was in New York for five days when September 11th happened. Luckily, I was doing a show in Lancaster that day. I was scared to go back. The scene in New York was weird, almost like during COVID. The artistic director of the Lancaster show set me up with some more jobs. I did shows in Chicago and Wisconsin for the next year.

Wow. So 9/11 really changed your plans.
For sure. I was hell-bent on New York, but I was also a girl from Malvern who was a little intimidated by the whole New York thing. Between that and 9/11, traveling around gave me experience. I was very lucky and it was fun. I didn't have amazing gigs at first, but I always had something, and with every show I did, I collected special friend. Those have turned into lifelong friendships and connections. If I was at the Marriott Theater or Drury Lane in Illinois, or the Walnut Street Theater here, it was adding to my resume. People start to recognize your name and respect your experience, which helps with bigger jobs.

Plus, you were making money.
Yes. If you don't have a nest egg or parental support, this industry is extra hard. You have to work 26 weeks to qualify for insurance. I needed to pay my bills. There were times I would take a gig in Akron, Ohio because I needed the hours and money. I would be in New York for a little, go out of the city for three months, wash, rinse and repeat.

When was your Broadway break?
I was in "Gypsy" with Patti Lupone and Laura Benanti. It was a dream come true. I was Geraldine, one of the girls in the ensemble. I was 28 when I got that part. I think we won something like eight Tony Awards that year. Stephen Sondheim was at rehearsals. After that, I did the national and Asian traveling Broadway revival of "A Chorus Line."

When did you fit in getting a graduate degree?
On my days off. I got my MA at NYU in theater education. I took a leave of absence to do "A Chorus Line," then went back to the program. I've always been entrepreneurial and also so grateful for the teachers who had such an impact on me. I had a feeling theater education would be part of my future.

What came next?
I got married and moved to Philadelphia and had two daughters. I was truckin' up to NYC for auditions but it just wasn’t working. It was too hard to be away and hard to compete. I started to think about what was next. That’s when the idea for Music Theatre Philly was born. When I was young, you couldn’t get dance, vocals and acting in one place, but we teach all those disciplines. MTP has been open for eight years now and our first few classes of high school graduates are out in the world. We've helped them with college auditions and selections. And now they’re working for us as camp counselors mentoring younger kids. It’s really special and everything I hoped it would be.

And now you are opening a second location on the Main Line?
Yes, at the JCC in Wynnewood. They’ve been so supportive. Many families have asked when we were opening a Main Line location The more kids that we can reach and introduce to our teachers and our programming the better. We’re starting with three days a week, classes for kids aged three to 18. There will be teen programs, basically a Broadway intensive, and then in the spring, we’ll do "Frozen" for the younger kids.

I know you’ve won many awards, but tell me about your most recent achievement!
This is so fun! One year in college, doing Summer Stock, I met a guy named Michael Aden, who was playing Tony in "West Side Story." We became great friends. I’ve been starting to produce a bit locally and Michael was going to be directing "Parade" on Broadway, so he asked me to come on as a co-producer. And it won several Tony awards! He won Best Director. It was an incredible experience. We now have this little producing team and I’m just riding on Michael's coattails. We have a few more projects coming up.

That must have been a full-circle moment, from actor to producer…
It was so exciting. And just another reminder of the importance of relationship building. Coming back to the business as a producer—and not as a performer—feels so right. All the skills that I had to learn as a business owner of MTP helped me as a producer.

Why did you envision MTP as a nonprofit?
When I was a kid, I was on need-based financial scholarships. This year, we gave out more than 75 scholarships, including for summer camp. It's incredibly important for me to give kids the opportunities that I was given.