Performances from Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical, Is There Anybody Out There?, Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue Presents The Saints, The Comic Roach: A Roadhouse Picture Show, The Elephant Man – The Musical, and Tempest A Celtic Musical.
I’m a huge fan of Rick Hammerly, and to watch him in a monkey suit going bananas while being stuck in a shipping box and singing – well it was hysterical. I hope he gets to monkey-around in more musicals in the future.
Joel: How and when did you get involved with Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical?
Rick: I was on board the Pepe! train from the beginning. Initially, when Jon (Gann) approached me, I told him I was too busy to work on the show, as I was putting together a theatre company (Factory 449) and producing another show (4.48 Psychosis) for Fringe. Then the evil Mr. Gann began his tactics of persuasion, which were terrifically effective. But honestly, when someone offers you the title role in a musical in which you have limited rehearsal, one song and the opportunity to literally shit on a Bridge Party…well, HOW can you turn that down? Clearly, you can’t!
Joel: Why were you the perfect choice to play a monkey?
Rick: I resent that question! Jon actually told me he had me in mind when he wrote the musical. Hmmm, let’s just say I was flattered AND offended. I am still curious as to why Jon thinks I was so well suited to play a poop flinging primate. Ok, I HAVE been known to sling a little dirt now and then, but the monkey business still baffles me. Perhaps I was chosen to play a monkey because Pepe and I are both capable of peeling a banana without the use of our hands.
Joel: How do you relate to the character of Pepe?
Rick: I could take this opportunity to expound on the universal search for freedom that is inherent in all creatures. I could comment on the demands to which we feel compelled by society to conform to accepted norms. But for Pete’s sake, it’s just a musical and that would sound like I was just slinging a load of crap…hey, wait a minute! Guess I’m more like Pepe than I’d care to admit.
Joel: You’ve had a great Fringe Festival, both as a producer and actor. Tell us about it.
Rick: Yes, I really have been quite fortunate with regard to this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. In addition to performing in Pepe!, I produced Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis for Factory 449, a theatre collective which the production’s director, John Moletress, and I formed this past April. The production was a demanding one. The process for the actors, designers and crew was lengthy and intensive. We incorporated video design, original music/sound and practical lighting into the production which really supported and enhanced John’s vision of Sarah Kane’s text. I found the producing process to be all-consuming, but in an extremely rewarding way. We began receiving wonderful reactions from audiences and critics the day after our opening performance, which led to a sold out run and the addition of another (late night) performance, which also sold out.
Best of all, the success of the Fringe incarnation of 4.48 Psychosis has afforded Factory 449 the opportunity to remount the show this Fall in another venue. Needless to say, when I step out of the monkey suit this weekend (and at this point, I believe it could walk on its own), I will immediately don the producer cap once again. It appears the upcoming year is going to have a lot in common with the chaos, commitment and excitement of this two-week binge that is Fringe.
Jennifer broke my heart and the hearts of the audience at The Mead Lab when she sang the emotional “He Holds Me”. Being single and being alone a lot, the song really hit home. It’s the first time in my Fringe experience this year where I really choked up. A powerful performance from a great singer/composer.
Joel: Tell us about yourself.
Jennifer: I’m from the Bay Area. I graduated with a BA in Performance Studies from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. I’ve been singing for as long as I could talk, and started taking voice lessons in third grade. By the time I was in high school I had studied piano and voice, and participated in band, choir, drama, and community theatre productions. From the time I was very young I always wanted to be a singer. In sixth grade my parents took to NYC for the first time and we saw the Broadway production Les Misérables. It was then that I discovered musical theater and realized how music and songs could be used to tell a story-both an overall story in a show and the experience of an individual character. After the show I thought “I want to do that,” and when it came time to apply for college, I majored in theater.
In college I performed in many productions including the 2003 KCACTF regionally nominated production of Berlin to Broadway. I have also written and performed my one-woman autobiographical show titled Unbroken, which I hope to reproduce in the next year.
In addition to being a performer, I also use a wheelchair and have brittle bone disorder. I have always felt that my life experience as a person with a disability has helped to enhance my craft as an actor, because actors utilize their own experiences in character development. The characters I portray do not need to be written as having a disability for my own unique perspective to be able to contribute to a character’s story.
Joel: Tell us about “He Holds Me”.
Jennifer: I have been writing my own songs since high school, and had started writing “He Holds Me” just prior to when Suzanne Richard decided to direct Is There Anybody Out There?, based on the different ways people communicate. I told her about the song and it seemed to be a good fit for the show. I wrote the lyrics and melody and Stuart Weich, our accompanist for the show, arranged it. “He Holds Me” is about communication through touch. Despite how the title initially makes it sound, the song is not about a romantic or sexual connection. Throughout everyone’s lifetime, people need to have the experience of being touched, be it a long hug, having someone’s arm around your shoulder, holding your hand for support, etc. This is a basic human need and while this form of contact isn’t anything sexual, it can still be an intimate connection. We all have periods of time when we experience and are more aware of a physical distance, and this song tells the story of someone who has gone through such a length of time without feeling this connection that she has to breakdown and asks a friend to give this to her, because the feeling of isolation is too great.
The song is autobiographical, and while everyone can relate to it, I think it is especially poignant for persons with disabilities. In my experience, as a person with a disability, I have gone through long periods of time without feeling this kind of physical connection because people are intimated by my appearance or simply afraid of hurting me. I was nearly 21 years old when this lack of connection really started to affect me, and I had to ask a friend to hold me. I just needed to feel close to someone, it had nothing to do with romance. Just as the song says, once this understanding and connection is established with someone there isn’t a need to explain or use words to communicate. Sometimes we just need to feel. Songs can be used to say things we cannot adequately communicate in words alone, while touch can express our thoughts and emotions on an even deeper level.
Joel: What has your Fringe experience been like this year?
Jennifer: I have really enjoyed participating in the Fringe Festival. It’s a great way to give artists and companies the chance to present a broad range of works to the audiences of DC. I’ve especially enjoyed performing with Open Circle Theatre under the direction of Suzanne Richard. The entire cast and company has been amazing to work with. I’m looking forward to next year’s festival and whatever opportunities come next.
Joel: Tell us about yourself.
Rob: I’m and actor in the DC theatre community. I’ve been performing in the DC area since 1987 (before that the Baltimore scene) mostly in musical theatre, though my training at McDaniel College was not. In 1990 I broke my neck in a body-surfing accident at Ocean City, MD. This landed me in a wheelchair for mobility. With the help of my family, friends and colleagues, I decided to continue my theatre career as an actor, and have worked fairly consistently for the last 19 years earning 4 Helen Hayes nominations, 3 for acting and 1 for directing.
In 1997, I answered God’s call in my life to serve Him in the Ministry. I served as an Assistant Pastor for 10 years in a Parish outside of Baltimore and am the self-appointed Chaplain to the theatre community, making hospital visits, doing funerals and weddings in addition to prayer before performances and counseling.
Somewhere along the way I met Susie Richard as we served on several committees and panels for Disabilities and the Arts. When Susie started Open Circle Theatre, I was a natural to be involved. With the mission of highlighting Performers with Disabilities, Open Circle has provided those of us who might not get opportunities elsewhere to “strut their stuff” as is evidenced by our cabaret, Is There Anybody Out There in this year’s DC Fringe Festival.
Joel: Talk about your songs in the cabaret.
Rob: When Susie contacted us about doing a cabaret in the festival, she proposed the idea of communication in various forms, such as relational, technological, political, spiritual, etc…, so naturally, I latched onto the idea of communication in the spiritual sense. In our early concept discussions, Susie and I talked about a character journey that would see me as a minister/priest coming to terms with his own faith. A questioning, if you will, of whether to continue in ministry or not. This allowed me to incorporate the song “This Is the Moment” from Jekyll and Hyde as an epiphany moment when my character finally puts on the collar. (Since I’ve always wanted to play Jean Valjean, this concept also allowed me to do “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables!) The problem, however, was that we placed “Bring Him Home” before “This Is The Moment” and our original concept arc didn’t quite make sense. It seemed weird to sing a prayer like “Bring him Home” without the collar on and then to dramatically put the collar on at the end of “This Is The Moment”, so we decided to simply use the collar for the entire show. We were also working on specific character choices for everyone else so that we would recognize different character types just by the costuming, so without the collar at the top of the show it would be somewhat nebulous visually.
Joel: Talk about your Fringe experience.
Rob: As for the Fringe Festival, it has been a treat to be involved in this city-wide theatre event and even though our show is not very “fringy” (edgy), I hope that it has provided some entertainment to those that have seen it and that they might have a better appreciation for all performers even those that do things a little differently. As for my colleagues, it is always a pleasure and an education to work with you.
When two of the best voices from our local stages are given a gorgeous duet to sing, you know you are in for a treat, and that’s what the audience got when Felicia and Maria’s divine voices blended together as they sang, “Teresa/Bernadette”. The gods were smiling, while the audience was cheering.
Joel: Tell me about yourselves, and how you relate to your characters.
Felicia: I play Bernadette of Lourdes in the show. To be perfectly honest, before this show, I knew nothing about Teresa or Bernadette. Learning about these women and more importantly, figuring out how to honestly tell their stories, was both a challenge and a privilege. I have ‘fallen in love’ with how Debra and Steve have allowed Bernadette to evolve in this show. It is obvious in the words, the music, and the monologue, how unique and pure this character is, and you can’t help but love her and believe in her. Needless to say, I’ve never had the type of experiences that Saint Bernadette had – but, on more than one occasion, I’ve felt like Bernadette the Tarot Reader – awkward, out of my element, panicky, and ready and willing to believe in something outside myself and beyond my comprehension.
Maria: I play Teresa of Avila in the show. I went to Catholic school all of life, so the stories of the saints were very much ingrained in my brain from an early age. Theresa is one of my favorite saints because she is one of only 3 females to be named Doctor of the Church. Her writings on mysticism are revered not only by Christian theologians but also those of many other varied faiths. I did a fair amount of research for this role, and I must say that I was extremely inspired by the beauty and clarity of her writings. I have no experience in my life that even comes close to the things she experienced, but her descriptions are so vivid that I felt like I had an idea of where I would have to go with the character.
Joel: Set up “Teresa/Bernadette”.
Felicia: I have the honor of performing a duet with the incomparable Maria Egler. Our duet is called “Teresa/Bernadette” and it tells the story of each woman’s journey and understanding of their visions and their faith. The beauty of this song for me is the clarity and honesty of both Bernadette and Teresa’s visions, the transformation of each woman from ‘simple’ mystic to faithful believer. Thanks to Debra and Steve, I love that every time I sing this song, I learn something new and exciting about Bernadette’s experience and how Teresa, whether she knows it or not, gave Bernadette permission to ‘have no fear’ and ‘accept what I see, accept what I hear’.
Maria: The song not only describes their visions and feelings but also the doubt and skepticism they had to overcome.
Joel: How do you relate to the song?
Felicia: I think it would be more accurate for me to say that I relate to Bernadette. The beauty of Bernadette’s introduction and monologue is that many of us have been in that position – feeling awkward, nervous, doing everything possible to get it right and doing nothing but getting it wrong. I relate to this character and this song, because we get to see both sides of this incredible woman. We get to see how she sees herself and we get to see how the visions, the faith, the belief give her a new vision of herself. Anyone that knows me knows I try to ‘quit the business’ everyday, but it is because of the audiences, the performers and artistic staffs of DC theater that I keep going because you all help me, once again, believe in myself.
Maria: The brilliant writing of this song by Debra Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams makes it so easy to get into every night. Everything you need is right there….the lyrics, the music, the build. I think it would actually be impossible to sing this song and not have some kind of emotional response to it. In rehearsal, Debra best described the feeling she was going for as a “God-gasm” which pretty much answered any question I had for her about acting choices!
Joel: Talk about your Fringe experience
Felicia: I LOVE THE FRINGE FESTIVAL!! This is my second experience with the Fringe Festival and what I love about it is the opportunity for performers in the area to put their work out there and see the work of their colleagues. I have been honored to perform both years with the amazingly talented DMLRR crew, and honestly, there is nowhere else I’d rather be this summer than performing with them! Debra and Steve have given me the chance to play a peace-loving goddess (Athena), a mute clairvoyant (the dancing Cassandra), a panicky visionary (Bernadette) and a swimsuit clad virgin martyr (Catherine of Alexandria). Please tell me in what show, in what venue, in what other festival could an actress do all that in 2 shows in one summer? I am so thankful to Debra and Steve for including me in these projects. I am thankful to Fringe for giving us this time and space to ‘tell our stories’ and I am thankful to you, DC Theater Scene and the audiences of the Fringe for supporting DMLRR year after year! And if you can handle the heat – see you in the tent!! (and if you can’t – see you at Church St. Theater!)
Maria: This is the second year in a row that I have done “Fringe” and I have been fortunate enough to have been performing with DMLRR both times. I think Fringe is a great arena for new and different shows to have a chance to be performed and grow. Without something like it, the process to get new things seen and new ideas out there would be much more difficult and less supportive. The Oresteia got a great response last year, and has lived on after the festival closed, which has been amazing! I hope that the same thing can happen with this show! My only complaint would be that I am slightly dehydrated from sweating all over the audiences in the tent at Fort Fringe, but that is easily remedied……..to anyone I dripped on – sorry ’bout it.
When Tracy Lynn Olivera swung her hips and sang the naughty “Picking Peaches”, she seduced the audience to listen carefully to what she had to say. The audience ate it up! It was Mae West reincarnated. Accompanied by the jazzy The Snark Ensemble, the Warehouse Mainstage was jumpin’! It was a real dilly of a performance and it was very peachy keen!
Joel: Tell us about yourself.
Tracy: I have been fortunate to star in many shows in the DC area. At Signature Theatre, I have appeared in Les Miserables (Helen Hayes Nomination), Anyone Can Whistle in Concert; ACE; The Happy Time; Merrily We Roll Along (Helen Hayes Award nomination); Allegro (Helen Hayes nomination); Follies; Side Show; Sweeney Todd, and many cabarets. Recently, I appeared in Ragtime at Kennedy Center, which is on its way to Broadway. At Ford’s Theatre, I was in Meet John Doe, Shenandoah, A Christmas Carol, and Songs from the Tall Grass. At Folger, I was in Comedy of Errors. At MetroStage, I appeared in Closer Than Ever and The Last Five Years. At Olney Theatre Center, I was in West Side Story, Grease, and Carousel (Helen Hayes nomination). I am proud to be a Rorschach: company member, where I appeared in Rough Magic, J.B., and God of Vengeance. I am on the faculty of Catholic University.
Joel: Talk about “Picking Peaches”.
Tracy: I think Andrew (Simpson) has done a remarkable job of writing a perfect little dirty 1920’s song. It’s a great pastiche that is totally original, but really gives homage to the time. The lyrics are HILARIOUS and so clever, and manage to walk that fine line between safe and completely dirty; after all, it’s really a song about monogamy! (“Fellas, if you want a peach each night, then only eat one at a time….”) . And, of course, being a married woman now, I can appreciate that – Hee, Hee! It has been SO much fun to sing this song, and I’m totally adding it to my repertoire from now on….
Joel: Talk about The Snark Ensemble that performs with you.
Tracy: I’ve been friends with Maurice Saylor (one of the composers and the low reed player) for literally my entire adult life, and he was actually my roommate for almost 5 years while I was starting off teaching at Catholic U. I think the ensemble and what they do is SO original – there is literally nothing like them around. Their DVD sets of Harry Langdon and Charley Chase films are incredible – you should really hear what they can do in the studio! (Although I prefer the live version – it’s just something you really never see anymore).
Joel: What’s next for you?
Tracy: I’m currently working on my big cabaret fundraiser for Rorschach, which is this Monday, July 27th, at 7:30 at the Davis Performing Arts Center at Georgetown University. It’s called Wake the Dead, in honor of their season – but it’s really just an excuse for me to do a lot of belting!! It’s a really quirky mix of music – everything from Sondheim to Queen to Allison Morisette and everything in between….I have some special guests including Rachel Zampelli, Stephen Gregory Smith, and my NEW HUSBAND, (woo!!), Evan Casey.
All through Tempest A Celtic Musical, the audience falls in love with Prospero and Ariel, and when Michael and Maureen sang “Send Me A Song”, you wanted to say, “Please don’t leave him – Ariel!” Listening to Michael’s gorgeous baritone and Maureen’s warm soprano blending together was a moving experience I won’t forget.
Joel: Tell me about yourself
Michael: I am playing Prospero in the Rude Mechanical/Fringe production of Tempest A Celtic Musical. I have been in five Rude productions: Merry Wives of Windsor (Falstaff), Coriolanus (Menenius), which we also presented at last years Fringe Festival, Importance of Being Earnest (Dr. Chausable), Spanish Tragedy (King of Spain), and now Prospero in Tempest.
I have performed with the Victorian Lyric Opera Company, The Washington Savoyards, Annapolis Opera Company, Opera Company of Southern Maryland, Damascus Theater Company, Columbia Players, Forgotten Opera Company (of which I am a founding member), Rockville Little Theater, and 2nd Star Productions, which just last week won The Ruby Griffith Award for Man of La Mancha, in which I played Don Quixote.
Joel: You have a gorgeous voice. Tell us about your vocal training?
Michael: I have degrees in voice/opera from Hartt School of Music and Manhattan school of Music. I believe the real training occurs on stage. Experience is what I rely on to make myself improve. he experience shared with colleagues, directors, conductors, coaches and sympathetic friends means more to me than the courses I took 30 odd years ago in the conservatory. The conservatory gives some perspective and some limited tools but the tools don’t mean anything until you build something with them. I am trying to use the tools that I have to build portrayals that are truthful, meaningful and accessible, and to connect with the audience on an emotional level – sharing an experience together that will take them out of this world for awhile and put them in another world created by a great author and recreated by the theater company that will entertain and perhaps enlighten.
Joel: What do you do when you are not appearing on the stage?
Michael: I am a retired Navy Cryptologist and am now an Engineer with the Federal Government. My job now is managing a large branch of brilliant Computer Scientists that perform penetration tests on Government computer networks. My work is rewarding, and I’m in awe of the people I work with.
I do theater for fun. My first show was in 1974 (Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado in which I played Pooh Bah. I came to the Rude Mechanicals by accident. A friend asked me to accompany her to the Merry Wives auditions. I read Falstaff just for fun and was asked to do the role. I was totally hooked. The Rudes are more than just a theater company; they are mentors and friends. I did opera and musical theater, and now I try and balance what I do between opera, musical theater and plays.
The Tempest was appealing to me because the adaptation, which is attributed to Arthur Rowan (also the director of the Rudes’ original production of The Tempest), incorporated some very moving and beautiful vocal music (brilliantly coached by Mo Condo/Miranda)
Maureen: I moonlight as an actor in local community theaters and this fall I will be stepping on stage at the Maryland Renaissance Festival for the first time as an O’Danny Girl. I went to St. Mary’s College of MD and graduated with a BA in Mathematics – I won’t tell you what year! I have a great group of family and friends, and have gotten to work with some wonderful theater groups in the MD/DC/VA area.
Joel: Set up “Send Me a Song”.
Michael: This is the culmination of a journey that Ariel, Prospero and Miranda have shared. Ariel is dearly loved by Prospero. She has been a companion and collaborator to him and a surrogate mother/big sister to Miranda. Ariel helps Prospero realize that the only true path to a happy future for both he and his daughter is through forgiveness. Prospero’s original intentions were not to forgive but to punish all the people that took 12 years, his dukedom and his freedom from him. But with a glance and a gentle touch of the hand, Ariel softens his heart and shows him all that can be gained with through mercy and forgiveness. So Prospero lays down his magic, forgives those who wronged him, frees Ariel and gets his old life, possessions and title back. His love for Ariel and hers for him is good and pure.
Maureen: Arthur Rowan, the director, wanted to play up the relationship between Ariel and Prospero and use that to convey the theme “If you love someone, let them go,” something we have all struggled and eventually come to terms with. One of the beautiful characteristics of Ariel is that she is wild and free, and needs to be able to walk her own path. Though she loves Prospero, she needs to live her life and follow her instincts, and she hopes that the love that she feels will one day return her to Prospero of her own volition. “Send Me a Song” is a gorgeous duet between Ariel and Prospero, that begins with Prospero setting Ariel free and ends with a promise that, in the moments closest to their heart, they will be thinking of each other and take strength and peace from that until they are together again.
Joel: How do you relate to the song?
Michael: I don’t use method to relate to the song. I don’t conjure personal images and tap into emotions from them. I try to live the moment – when the literature is good I connect to it with no problem and live the moment. My heart breaks when I look at Ariel (Maureen) and think that I may never see her again and I let that show.
Maureen: I think we all dream of having a love so powerful that the one we love will be waiting until we are ready to embrace them with all our hearts, and that the love we have is selfless enough to not demand it of them.
Joel: How has your Fringe experience been?
Michael: I am appearing in two shows – Menenius in Coriolanus and Prospero in Tempest. I love the closeness of the audience and how easy it is to directly relate to them. I love the diversity of the offerings. I really appreciate how rich the theater community is here in this area. Both shows I have enjoyed resurrecting because the literature is great and this gives us a change to bring out new/deeper/more thoughtful interpretations. We have some new cast members (Jaki/Gonzala) who have invested more emotionally in the last scene, and now it has a deeper more profound impact on me and I in turn carry that into my last scene. It’s magic when performers give each other energy and inspiration.
Maureen: This year has been so much fun. I got really lucky in being a part of both Bargain Basement Game Show and Tempest, two shows that have had great casts and are SO much fun to do, and lucky to be at the Warehouse for both shows where Nico (Niko?) and Jan (pronounced Yan, I think…) have been great SMs. They have made the tight schedules run really smoothly. Plus, Fringe itself is so exciting because of all the theater that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. It’s great to be both a participant and an audience member!
She’s a chanteuse from the Edith Piaf school, and only a veteran cabaret performer could have sold every lyric of “Amor” like Sally Martin did at Berlin and Broadway, the third installment of the In Series’ three-part Cabaret Carousel at Source. A very funny “Can I ever get a break, please?” song performed by a real pro. Brava!
Joel: How did you select the songs for Berlin and Broadway?
Sally: Choosing songs – We were given the basic parameters – Berlin and Broadway theme within two 35-40 minute halves. We knew we had to draw on our existing repertoire, for the most part, because we had limited rehearsal and planning time. The content first emerged out of several brainstorming sessions among the performers where we free-associated themes and songs we knew and threw in some we didn’t. We developed mini-sets based loosely on a few themes– a darker first half and a more dreamy hopeful second half.
Joel: You have a very unique singing style. Tell us about it.
Sally: My vocal style is eclectic. It began classical but while I retain a legit sound I now sing songs from different genres – cabaret, musical theatre, jazz, folk, semi-classical– in my own style I guess; I don’t like being pigeon-holed. I’ve specialized over the years in French and German cabaret songs – lots of Weill, Jacques Brel, Piaf, Hollander, for example. For this show, we wanted to keep it as accessible as possible so we kept most of it in English.
Joel: All three of your solos were sung so emotionally, so I picked all three for this article. Tell us about them.
Sally: I like narrative songs – ‘I Had a Dream about You” from Maury Yeston’s December Songs is a track on my latest album Another Time, Another Place, where I perform it with cello and piano. “Surubaya Johnny” (Weill) and “Amor” (Bolcom) are other favorites that I’ve performed a lot. I love finding the emotional arc in narratives and get very caught up in the storytelling.
Joel: What was it like rehearsing for Berlin and Broadway?
Sally: We really didn’t have the rehearsal time with Alex to go for two much special arranging– what did evolve was a consensus process during rehearsal, for example with ‘My Romance” where we split it up and added harmony at the end which we ended up liking a lot. Overall, despite our desire to stay with material, we knew we all ended up with new songs in our repertoire – and that’s always a good thing!
Haley blew the tarp off The Baldacchino, singing her powerful and funny rendition of “Destiny”. Hey, when you steal this musical away from John Merrick, in The Elephant Man – The Musical, and the audience goes wild, you deserve a Scene Stealer kudo!
Joel: Tell us about yourself and how you got to the Capital Fringe.
Haley: I grew up in a small town on the Hudson River about 40 miles north of Manhattan and I remember singing show tunes with my sister every night after dinner accompanied by my mom on the piano. I’ve been performing on small stages and in my parents’ living room for a very long time. After graduating from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York in 2007, I moved to Brooklyn and immediately began working on theater projects with friends, former classmates and anyone who would let me work. I took a job at a Manhattan-based enrichment facility for children, teaching cooking, music, science, and working in their preschool program. That’s where I reconnected with Ryan Emmons, co-founder of No. 11 Productions and a fellow Skidmore graduate. At the time, No. 11 had just been accepted into the NY Frigid Festival and Ryan asked me if I wanted a part in Artaud’s Jet of Blood that would involve singing “Anything Goes”, by Cole Porter. At the end of the run, No. 11 asked me if I wanted to go down to DC to do Elephant Man.
Joel: Talk about “Destiny”.
Haley: Jessica sings “Destiny” at the point in the story where she realizes that she has feelings for the Elephant Man. It’s not just a song about love, but about discovering love, and more importantly the desire that goes along with it. She’s singing about how these new feelings make her heart race and knees shake, and simultaneously wondering what the Elephant Man would look like sans trousers. I love how Jessica, with her fear of male anatomy, is surprised by the lust she feels, how it shocks, intrigues and excites her all at once, and that’s where the comedy comes into the scene
Joel: How do you relate to the song and to Jessica?
Haley: I feel so young, like such a little kid, and the reality is that I am. So much of Jessica is about discovery and experiencing things for the first time. She says, “I’m going to find myself”, and that’s what being young should be about, trying new things, meeting new people, learning by trial and error. By simply being young and finding out all these things about life I never knew, I can connect to Jessica. What’s fun about Jessica is the extreme playfulness of that discovery. It’s not just joining a kickball league or getting a new haircut, it’s becoming a Hare Krishna one day and a stripper the next.
Joel: Talk about your Fringe experience.
Haley: The DC Fringe has been just wonderful! I love the company mentality that a theater festival inherently fosters. As a company, we’ve been traveling to DC on the weekends to perform in the Fringe, and then coming back up to perform in NY during the week. It’s tiring and hectic at times, but it’s also such a fun way to work. The show grows exponentially every time we switch venues, which as an actor means I get to have more fun playing around on stage with Jessica and the other actors. It’s been amazing to see how the Fringe experience has strengthened my working relationships with the entire cast and crew, and truly one of my biggest thrills has been working with my sister who is a clever up and coming composer, and the musical director of The Elephant Man – The Musical.
Tara’s mezzo-soprano voice is thrilling and soaring. I’ve always loved “Johnny”, and have heard many cabaret artists sing it, but when Tara finished her performance, I really believed she was going to find that bum and smack the heck out of him!
Joel: Tell us about yourself.
Tara: I started singing in middle school after a broken finger hindered my piano pursuits, and this interest carried through high school and college. I graduated from the Catholic University of America with a Bachelor’s of Music in vocal performance and pursued some coursework with the University of Maryland’s Opera Studio. Since then, I have been performing locally as a soloist, and have now found a lovely niche with the In Series.
Joel: Tell us about your Scene Stealing song, “Johnny”.
Tara: A woman sings very sweetly about a man who’s mistreated her terribly, but she’s not as naive as the poem and the musical setting would have you believe. I chose the song “Johnny” from Britten’s Cabaret Songs to be a part of our second half because the piece deals with both of the themes we addressed – dreams and disillusions. It starts as a dream and ends in disillusion. I’ve had “Johnny” in my repertoire for several years, but rarely do I find the appropriate stage on which to perform it. It’s difficult to integrate; it’s such a musically edgy piece into a traditional concert performance. I’m so pleased that this experience with the In Series and the Fringe afforded me the opportunity to sing it again. I find that “Johnny” shows me something new every time I perform it, and I think I reached new depths with the character this go ’round.
Joel: Tell us about your Fringe experience.
Tara: I had a wonderful time performing in the Fringe Festival. We didn’t have much time to rehearse, but I so enjoyed the process of choosing songs for the program and working with such wonderful artists as Sally Martin, Richard Tappen and Alex Yang. I certainly hope to be involved with the Fringe again, as it gives so many performers a venue to showcase their talents.
Richard’s sweet tenor soared as he Marc Blitzstein’s song from Juno. The song is socked with many different feelings and emotions, and Richard made sure that every lyric was understood so that the audience could relate to his journey. I was so glad I had taken that rollercoaster ride with him. Gorgeous singing!
Joel: Tell me about yourself.
Richard: I started out wanting to be an actor and went to college (Catholic U.) to study drama. While there, someone heard me sing and I began to study classically and became fascinated with opera and changed my focus to that discipline. I have sung around town for many years with a number of companies (InterAct Theater, Washington Savoyards, In Series) and was lucky enough to have a few small roles with the Washington Opera. Over the past number of years I have returned to my theatrical roots and have performed in a number of musical revues featuring music of Cole Porter, Noel Coward, and Harold Arlen to name a few.
Joel: Talk about your scene stealing song “I Wish It So”.
Richard: This is a very interesting song to me. The tune is very lovely but the words can be interpreted in so many different ways. Because of the line “I think I’ll go mad”, (repeated twice in the song), one can be tempted to take the meaning of the song to a very dark place which can be appropriate in some contexts. In that section of our cabaret, we were working on the theme of dreams/expectations moving to disillusionment. The arc of the song to me starts simply, moves to a certain level of exhilaration and hope, but pulls back to a wistfulness and sadness about whether the wish can really come true.
Joel: Tell me about your Fringe experience.
Richard: This is my second “Fringe” experience having performed in the Festival last year. Though the programs in which I have performed are not particularly “fringey” (cutting edge, avant-garde, or the like), I find that Fringe audiences are appreciative, attentive, knowledgeable, and willing to share their experience with you. I have received a lot of feedback in the lobby both positive and constructive!