Budding actress' death has many mourning what might have been

Emily Singleton, a native of Downingtown, is shown in a student performance at Bucknell University last year.
Emily Singleton, a native of Downingtown, is shown in a student performance at Bucknell University last year.
Posted: April 12, 2013

During her freshman year at Bucknell University, Emily Singleton was cast in a lead role in the school's production of the play Blood Wedding.

"She had this instinctual understanding of passion," recalled professor Anjalee Hutchinson, who directed the production. "She was very magnetic on stage. You couldn't not watch her."

After graduating in 2012, the Downingtown native moved to New York City to pursue acting full time, hoping to bring her magnetism to a bigger stage. But she never got the chance.

Singleton, 22, was found dead along the subway tracks in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon, in what appeared to be an accident.

According to a report in the New York Post, Singleton got into a subway car alone about 1:40 a.m. Sunday after leaving a pub in the West Village with friends. She was wobbling and disoriented, police said.

A Good Samaritan urged Singleton to stay on the train at a stop in Lower Manhattan, police said, but she got out and, at some point, fell into the trough next to the tracks. Her body was found covered in soot next to the tracks about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

The cause of death has not been determined, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday, so it remained uncertain whether she had been hit by a train or died after the fall.

Singleton is survived by her parents, Jeffrey and Priscilla, and older brother Matthew, according to her grandmother, Janet Singleton, 85.

The elder Singleton said in a telephone interview Wednesday that her granddaughter used to perform skits with her brother at a young age and that Emily grew up dreaming of landing a role on Broadway.

"She was my dear love, and we were very close," Janet Singleton said.

Others that knew Emily Singleton remembered her precocious talent and unbridled enthusiasm for performing.

"I was a little in awe of Emily when I first met her," friend Ali Keller said in an e-mail.

Keller, 22, who met Singleton at Bucknell when the two were freshmen, said that while waiting outside an audition their first year at the school, Singleton was singing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid, a song unrelated to the audition.

"I remember being amazed at how comfortable she was with herself and how good she sounded," Keller said.

Her confidence stood out to Hutchinson as well, who recalled Singleton's excelling in advanced acting courses as a freshman.

She had "this fearless intensity," Hutchinson said. "You have to be brave. You have to show people what's going on underneath. Many actors have to learn to do that, [and] to have that at such a young age is pretty remarkable."

According to an e-mail sent to the Bucknell student body, Singleton, who double-majored in theater and in women's and gender studies, had a host of other involvements around campus: In addition to appearing in seven plays, she was a member of an a cappella group, directed The Vagina Monologues as a senior, and was an "avid advocate" for the LGBT community.

In New York City, Singleton studied at several acting academies, including the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre (alumni include Gregory Peck, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton), the Circle in the Square Theatre School (its president will receive a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement this year), and New York University.

Though she was early in her career, her legacy of performing lives on in the minds of those who knew her: Hutchinson said about 50 students informally gathered in the green room of Bucknell's Harvey Powers Theater on Tuesday afternoon to share memories about Singleton, and alumni across the country have reached out to the department, she said.

But friends also lament that Singleton's talents won't ever receive the audience they deserved.

"To see Emily perform was to know her as a person," Keller said. "It's what she was meant to do and it's a real tragedy that most of the world will never get to see her live."

Contact Chris Palmer at 215-854-4567 or cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @cs_palmer.

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