Lulu’s Back in Town
I was so thrilled to hear that DC’s own Lulu Fall was cast in the National Tour of Hair, now playing through this weekend in The Kennedy Center’s Opera House. Lulu’s got it all – she’s a great singer, dancer, and actress, has a bubbly personality and is stunningly gorgeous. I couldn’t wait to see her in ‘The Tribe’, and when I did – she lit up the stage and let a lot of sunshine in. Lulu tells us about her ‘Hair-raising’ journey.
Joel: What is Hair about?
Lulu: That’s a loaded question! In my eyes, Hair is about the 1967 Hippie Movement. More specifically, this show is about a group of beatnik hippies who are very well against the Vietnam War, and they do everything in their power to stop their fellow tribe member, Claude, from being drafted to the war. The hippie tribe works hard and urges people to fight the war, beautify America, spread love and awareness, “lay don’t slay,” and embrace each other as brothers, sisters and lovers.
Joel: Congrats on becoming a member of the cast of Hair! Take us on that journey.
Lulu: This was a journey indeed! It’s funny because at the initial open call on August 23rd (yes, I STILL remember the date), I couldn’t be seen because I was EMC and not Equity. So the monitor advised non-Equity women to drop off our headshots and resumes, which I did. A few days later, I got a call to audition the following week. I was actually in bed when I got the call. I didn’t really think anything of it; I just told myself to give it all I have as usual. I sang Janice Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and Jesus Christ Superstar’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” I kept getting callbacks, and here I am on tour with Hair!!
Joel: What did Director Diane Paulus tell you when she first addressed the cast on your first day of rehearsals?
Lulu: Diane actually had us all sit in a circle and finish these phrases: “My greatest weakness/strength is…,” “I’m the one who…,” and “In 5 years I will be…” That definitely broke the ice, because it forced all the cast members to come clean in a sense and become transparent and vulnerable to each other. It was an amazing first rehearsal, I must say. We also played a few ice-breaker games: we paired off and had to mirror each other’s movements, among other games.
Joel: I saw the production in NYC and left the theatre so exhilarated and full of joy! How does this tour accomplish that?
Lulu: This piece is absolutely timeless, and it is very honest. Audiences like honesty. This piece is electric, eclectic, climactic, and most of all, full of real life. These are real experiences, real events, and real love. Diane is a visionary! This production is such a burst of energy and joy because she pulls the joy and love out of us. This rehearsal process was very rigorous but organic and introspective because she made us look into ourselves for inspiration. She made us live in each and every moment that this piece has. The fact that the energy and bonds on and off stage are real makes this piece exhilarating and exciting.
Joel: You have to have so much energy to perform this show. What are you doing to keep up your energy and stamina to enable you to dance Choreographer Karole Armitage’s demanding choreography?
Lulu: I drink lots and lots of water! I also take about 20-30 minutes to warm up my body, especially my ankles, neck and back. I’m still trying to discipline myself everyday about this, but it is super important to relax my body after the show, and stretch my entire body before the show. It’s not easy, but it’s so much fun! And Karole is one amazing choreographer!
Joel: Tell me about the importance of ‘the tribe’ in this musical.
Lulu: The tribe is a family- they help tell Claude’s story as well as guide and aid him through the life-changing decision that he has to make. This is definitely an ensemble piece because we all work together. During the hippie movement, one of the main themes was togetherness. The tribe has each other’s back in this show. If one person suffers, the entire tribe will not only suffer as well, they will find a way to uplift each other and find a resolution.
Joel: Why should theatergoers of all ages come and see Hair at the Kennedy Center?
Lulu: This production speaks to many different age groups. This piece is timeless, and most importantly, real! There I go with that ‘real’ word again. On a broader scale, Hair is about struggle, love, freedom, life-changing decisions. Everyone, regardless of age or generation, has encountered these inevitable topics in their lives. This fact alone is a reason why theatergoers of all ages will be able to relate to this wonderful show.
On a specific scale, this show has a great deal to do with the Vietnam War, resisting the war and the drafting of young males. War, unfortunately, is timeless in itself. This country, within the last several years, was at war with the Middle East. Many people have family members who have served this country by going to war (people that could be sitting right next to you, in fact). The story that this show presents can and will affect, and relate to everyone. What better time to share an appropriate story?!
Joel: Have you ever seen or appeared in another production of Hair?
Lulu: I attended the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts. In 2003, my senior year, we did a production of Hair for 3 days. I was a tribe member…that’s all I remember! I still have my t-shirt from that production actually.
Joel: Did you see this production on Broadway?
Lulu: Even though I didn’t see the production of Hair on Broadway or in the park, I always wanted to be a part of Hair on a grander and professional scale. I guess it was just a matter of time, huh?
Joel: You obviously are too young to have grown up in the “Hair age”, so how did you research your role? Did any of your family members who did grow up in the 60’s offer you any advice?
Lulu: I did a lot of research. I looked up the year 1967. I researched what the year was like for African Americans in particular, and found out that 1967 was the year of race riots. Sad and interesting all at the same time. I also researched the Vietnam War—particularly how women played a role in the war (caregivers, nurses, etc). My family is from Africa, and they did not come to the states until the late 70s…so they had no information to offer me.
Joel: What does Hair mean to you?
Lulu: I’m gonna get literal for a moment: when I think of Hair, I think of my own hair: I have red locks, natural hair. When I walk down the street, I observe how different people have different types of hair—some bounce as they walk down the street, others don’t bounce or have any give at all; different colors and patterns. Hair itself is something that everyone possesses and has control over; it’s unique and individual, and it certainly is an expression of oneself. Now I’m taking my definition of hair and tying it into the production of Hair: this production is about the celebration of individuality, love for each other and creativity, and growth and change.
Joel: What is your favorite song from the show?
Lulu: My favorite would have to be ‘Walking in Space.’ This song takes place at the beginning of the drug ‘trip’ scene. I love this song because it’s so introspective; the song simply talks about getting away from life’s norms and rediscovering yourself and your surroundings with a fresh new pair of eyes, in a sense. It’s an amazing piece.
Joel: What went through your mind when you stepped onto the Kennedy Center Stage for the first performance of Hair?
Lulu: During our first preview, and even during opening night, I kept thinking “Oh my God I’m performing at the Kennedy Center!” over and over again! I was also thinking about how many times I went to the Kennedy Center as a child and wished I were on stage. I don’t want to sound cliché, but this is seriously a dream come true.
Joel: Tell us about this national tour. Where did it begin, where is it going, and what cities are you really looking forward to performing in?
Lulu: Oh man, we’re going all over the place! It unofficially began in New Haven, CT. Some cities that we are hitting include Seattle, Portland, LA, Miami, Tampa, Tempe AZ, and Chicago. I’m definitely looking forward to Seattle because I have this fascination with mountains. I’m also excited about Los Angeles…I’ve always wanted to visit.
Joel: I met you while you auditioned for you the role of ‘Yolanda’ at The Lincoln Theatre when they were searching for a young actress to play the role in Crowns at Arena Stage, and I recorded your first song of that audition. I was so impressed by your singing and dancing and most of all – personality. You gave me a copy of your CD which was so entertaining. You are one helluva great jazz artist! Tell me about that Yolanda experience.
Lulu: Why thank you Joel! The ‘search for Yolanda’ experience is actually similar to the Hair audition process: it was extremely surreal. I actually had an appointment to audition for the Yolanda role, but turned it down because I didn’t think I was prepared enough (I studied Musical Theatre at Duke Ellington and studied jazz at Michigan State, so I hadn’t auditioned for anything in years). After turning the audition appointment down, I heard about the casting call, and thought ‘hell, why not audition and see how far I can go?” And that’s exactly what I did. I prepared a few songs, prepared a monologue, with the help of a few theatre friends, and gave it my all. I tried not to get nervous or over-think anything. I just told myself to “think about the now, think about this moment right now,” and that mantra helped me through the Hair audition process too.
Joel: How did your jazz training you prepare for your role?
Lulu: Hmmm….through my jazz training, I learned a great deal of vocal technique and vocal strength. I developed good ears through my training – being able to hear a chord quality, knowing what note(s) I’m singing against chord progressions. I’d say my technique and ear training allowed me to trust myself and my instrument, and give it all I have to get the role. I will say, though, that in jazz music, it is very rare that a singer has to belt. Though I have no problems belting a high note, I will admit that I was very nervous about belting and being able to control my voice at the same time. I never had to belt when singing jazz music, but I surely learned how to break that seal and belt my face off!
Joel: Tell us about your jazz career and your two CDS and the one that is about to be released.
Lulu: My first CD is entitled “Lulu’s Back in Town.” That’s actually the title of an old jazz song, so I thought it was appropriate. This album consists of 10 jazz standards which I arranged and added my own little twist to. I recorded this album in 2006-2007, when I was still in college. My 2nd album is entitled “It’s Official”. This is an EP (extended play), which consists of six original songs in the acoustic folk and soul genre. There are a few other elements in there: world groove, electronic. The title of this 2nd album is actually a title track. I decided to title it “It’s Official” because I was officially coming out to everyone as a songwriter. It was a very special moment. I do have a 3rd digital EP coming out in May of 2011 – to be released in London under Broadcite Label.
Joel: When did you first fall in love with jazz, and which artists were your favorites and influences?
Lulu: I fell in love with jazz pretty late. My senior year at Duke Ellington I realized that I felt a connection with jazz music. Some of my favorite jazz artists are Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, Cassandra Wilson, Freddie Hubbard….I can go on forever!
Joel: What is your first memory of performing on the stage?
Lulu: For as long as I remember, I always loved being the center of attention. My parents enrolled me in the Joy of Motion dance classes when I was six, and it went onward and upward from there. I wanted to be a dancer first and foremost, and then I realized that I wanted to act around the age of seven or eight. My parents knew that I was gonna be an actor when they once found me dressed up in my mother’s clothes, wearing lipstick, facing the mirror and crying my eyeballs out for no reason (dramatic, I know)!
Joel: What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Hair?
Lulu: Live life to the fullest, live in the moment, love everyone and try to rid your psyche of hate or envy, have fun, be good to others.