Dig Deeper – The Art of Parody

October 22nd, 2014 No comments »

blazing saddle movie posterThe Merriam-Webster’s definition of “parody” (also known sometimes as a send-up, a spoof or a lampoon) is “a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule.”  It comes from the Greek word “parōidía” which means “a song sung along side another.”  Examples of parody exist in literature, art, and music from all over the world and throughout human history.

Sometimes the reputation of a parody outlasts the reputation of what is being parodied.  Don Quixote is much more well-known than the traditional knight-errant tales it mocks and Lewis Carroll’s parodies of Victorian verse are more famous than the original poems.  Mel Brooks, considered by many as a master of the genre, produced films parodying several different styles including Blazing Saddles (the Western), Spaceballs (science fiction adventure),  and High Anxiety (Hitchcock suspense).

spaceballs poster   The Concise Encyclopedia describes how parody differs
from other comedic styles such “travesty”, which, for
example, specifically treats dignified subjects in a trivial
manner in order to achieve a comic effect.  “Parody mercilessly exposes tricks of manner of its victim and therefore cannot be written without a thorough appreciation of the work it ridicules.”  In other words, the best kind of parodies come from a place of love.

“Young Frankenstein” Review- Emily Picardi

October 22nd, 2014 No comments »
emily_picardi_headshot_final

Emily Picardi

First things first (I’m the realest- sorry, couldn’t resist): My review of Young Frankenstein cannot possibly be unbiased. I’m a fan of the show and made some memories watching it on Broadway, plus I’m a huge fan of Lyric Arts, and I know almost everyone involved in the production. That said, I’ll try to be as objective a critic as I can be.

Disclaimer over. Let’s get on with the review!

I saw Young Frankenstein at Lyric Arts this past Thursday, October 16th. The house was almost full, and the audience was responsive and supportive of what was happening onstage. They clearly enjoyed the show, and gave a standing ovation at curtain call.

What was there for the audience to like? Plenty. Young Frankenstein itself (based on the Mel Brooks film of the same name, and adapted for the stage by him) is a brilliantly funny piece of theatre. Brooks parodies the horror monster movie genre joyously, pulling out all the stops and taking huge risks.

Much has been said about the “big” and “risky” aspects of this show. Young Frankenstein was written specifically for a Broadway stage. The original production cost over 16 million dollars. It was designed from the beginning as a spectacle show, calling for all kinds of special effects, a big, talented cast and pit orchestra, and technical perfection. Lyric Arts has taken risks with dramatic content before, and has taken on some moderately flashy shows in the past, but never have they attempted this big a production. Under the direction of Matt McNabb, a Resident Director at Lyric Arts who closed out the last season with his production of RENT, the risk is well managed, and the production- while not as fancy as a $16 million production- is quite impressive, especially when you remember that Lyric Arts is a community theatre.

The shows I’ve seen at other community theatres in the area (Colorado as well, but that’s a totally different story) get blown out of the water by Young Frankenstein. Thank Matt McNabb and the rest of the production staff for working so hard to make this show a reality. McNabb’s blocking skillfully navigates the relatively tiny performance space (the set is super big, and takes up a great deal of playing room), taking full advantage of the set to stage complicated location transitions and big dance numbers. Music director Louis Berg-Arnold leads a pit that suffered from intonation issues on the night I attended the production, but was otherwise well practiced. Choreographer Anne Marie Omeish stages the songs with choreography that is a bit too simplistic at times, but is executed happily and well by the cast. Stage Manager Pat Campbell keeps the whole thing running smoothly with very few minute mistakes.

The designers of this production definitely leave their mark. Brian Proball’s set design is gigantic, but not overwhelming in the slightest. He makes great use of special effect apparatuses, which include an empty painting and a table with a rig that brings it up into the catwalks. The rig is ultimately very slow, but McNabb handles it well, simply adding a joke into the script about how slow it is. Lighting designer Jim Eischen seems to have programmed a million specials into the production, but if they ever pulled focus it was because they were doing really cool things. Particularly impressive is his integration of lights into the set. Windows are backlit and glowing, candles are well placed, and the big set pieces in the laboratory scenes have all kinds of winking, flickering bulbs that bring the set pieces to the next level. Sound designer Jeff Giesler might have mixed the production so that the orchestra was too loud, but he never shies away from more specific sound effects, including claps of thunder, the rickety metallic sound of Inspector Kemp moving his fake arm, and, of course, the famous horse whinnying that accompanies the name of one of the characters. Costume designer Samantha Fromm Haddow never disappoints. She created costumes that are well fitted, well suited to the production, and add to the characters’ personalities. Samantha From Haddow came up with a great makeup design for the Creature’s face and it was executed during most performances by Megan Weisenberger.  Heather McLaughlin, Nate Otto, and Lea Chapaton built some killer special props, including the infamous Abby Normal brain.

Then there’s the cast. Kyler Chase plays a charming Dr. Frankenstein. His portrayal makes full use of his voice, presenting a clear tenor singing voice one minute and maniacal shouting the next. His crazed expressions and clear physical presence made him one of the funniest people onstage. Katharine Strom as Elizabeth is loud and proud, with a belt and mix voice to make anyone jealous. She was the actor who most made the character her own, with very few vestiges of the original production or movie Elizabeth’s in her performance. Nick Menzhuber is delightful as both Inspector Kemp, with the perfect accent, and movements that are appropriately jerky and artificial, and as the deceased Dr. Frankenstein, where he makes use of a big voice and a big physical presence. Brendan Veerman presents an Igor that is almost too adorable, and wonderfully sassy, with strong comedic physicality. Kate Beahen is far too young to play Frau Blücher, but is funny enough to make you forget all about that. Her voice is strong, and her eyebrow game is even stronger. Tom Goerger is physically the perfect Monster, and his darling facial expressions make you love the character a lot earlier than you’re supposed to. Brad Bone has a cameo as an old, infirm man (which he certainly is not), and returns later in the show to play a lonely hermit with a Brooklyn accent. His accent and manner of speaking as the hermit are perfect, and both roles are played so gleefully that you can’t help but love him. An ensemble standout is Ben Schrade, who managed to take a tiny cameo as a shoeshine who hates suede and turn it into the funniest and most delightfully unexpected moment of the night.

And then, to top it all off, there is Nykeigh Larson as Inga. The show I attended started out on a dour, low energy note, but as soon as she came onstage with her big voice and big smile the energy picked up and everything got brighter. Having seen Nykeigh in many prior shows, I can say that she has grown a great deal in this role. She carries herself with more sexy confidence than I’ve seen from her in the past, and one wonders how she can be so big onstage when in reality she’s such a tiny person. McNabb couldn’t have cast a better Inga, as Nykeigh nails the comedy, vocals, and energy.

All these people give their hearts and talents fully to the production, and it shows. Lyric Arts’ Young Frankenstein is charming, joyful, and impressive. The theatre has proved, once again, that a little stage fog and a lot of enthusiasm can lead to great things. You won’t want to miss this ambitious production.

“Young Frankenstein” Review – Kylie Schultz

October 14th, 2014 No comments »
Kylie Schultz

Kylie Schultz

As a Mel Brooks devotee and avid musical theater fan, I can say that I whole heartedly relished the day I saw Young Frankenstein when it opened on Broadway. I grew up annually quoting Young Frankenstein with my parents and can recall any moment from the movie at any time in any place. When I saw the musical, you can bet that I had the soundtrack that same night and listened to it on repeat for weeks. All that being said, Lyric Arts Anoka had a very fanatic fan of Young Frankenstein to impress this opening weekend.

And they did it.

Without a doubt, the show is excellent. Mel Brooks proved with The Producers that he writes a fantastic musical from an already brilliant movie, which can be tricky. For all who love to quote along with the movie, know every innuendo and schwanzstucker joke, Young Frankenstein the musical absolutely doesn’t lose its hilarity. In addition, you add catchy musical motifs and dance numbers which enhance the charm and keep a goofy smile plastered on your face the whole show.

I can’t say that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing any show at Lyric Arts in the past, and that made seeing Young Frankenstein so much more impressive. When you’ve seen the show you’ll understand how much of a feat it is to put on. The music is difficult (cheers to Kyler Chase for perfecting “There Is Nothing Like the Brain), the set is intricate, and the choreography involves a lot of people tap dancing simultaneously. All of this is challenging, but expected, on Broadway, and is made all the more impressive when you consider that not one of the actors or crew of this show is paid. The cast of Young Frankenstein put on a show to rival that of a Broadway production, with a set design and technical crew as good as any theater production in the cities. Young Frankenstein has everything:  fantastic actors in leading roles, a dedicated and talented ensemble, an amazing crew, and all the innuendo you can handle with great music to sing it to.

I can’t say enough glowing things about this show and the hard work, dedication, and professionalism that were so clearly and eloquently put into it. I laughed, I cried from laughing, and I left wanting more. I will not only be attending this show twice, but look forward to seeing future shows as Lyric Arts Anoka has earned a special place in my heart.

Kylie Schultz is a Minneapolis local and an Arts Ambassador with Theoroi, a young professionals group of the Schubert Club in St. Paul, MN.

Fun Facts About the Cast of “Young Frankenstein”

October 14th, 2014 No comments »

By: Katie Varecka

We sat down with the cast of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein. Here are some fun things we learned about this talented cast.

TomGoergerInterview NykeighLarsonInterview NickMenzhuberInterview KylerChaseInterview KatharineStromInterview KateBeahenInterview BrendanVeermanInterview

“Young Frankenstein” Audience Review – Roxy Orcutt

October 13th, 2014 No comments »

I was thrilled to be in audience of Lyric Art’s production of Young Frankenstein this opening weekend for a number of reasons. One: Lyric Arts is awesome, Two: Young Frankenstein is awesome, and Three: I was sharing the evening with my 13-year-old stepson Quinn, who has yet to experience the mad genius of Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder OR Lyric Arts, for that matter (outside of a workshop or two) and I was looking forward to watching his reaction to the show.

Young Frankenstein may be the perfect show to bring young person with a great sense of humor to. While the jokes were crammed full of innuendo, of course, it was so fun to not only get a kick out them myself, but watch Quinn laugh along too. It’s a testament to the writing of Gene Wilder holding up all these years (Young Frankenstein was originally produced in 1974!) that a glued-to-his-Smartphone teenager could laugh at Roll is Ze Hay, among others, but it’s also a testament to Lyric Arts creative and technical team as well. There wasn’t a dull moment. From the opening scene of the villagers merrily dancing in front of Victor Frankenstein’s castle in Transylvania to the absolutely show-stopping Puttin’ on the Ritz number, Lyric Arts truly knocked it out of the spooky graveyard with this production.

Having just seen the majority of the cast in Rent this summer at Lyric Arts, it was truly impressive to see these actors totally disappear into their roles in Young Frankenstein. I didn’t see an ounce of Mark from Rent from Kyler Chase as he portrayed Fredrick Frankenstein, and his eyebrows may have well leapt off his face and become characters of their own. In fact, as I was watching the show, I heard an audience member behind me whisper “he even sounds like Gene Wilder.” High praise, indeed. Nykeigh Larson as Inga and Brendan Veerman as Igor (who I adored in Barefoot in the Park) were also highlights for me. But, the show was completely stolen when our Monster came to life in the form of Tom Goerger-who was not only amazing and hilarious, but also a dead ringer for Peter Boyle.

In nearly every review I write for Lyric Arts, I can’t help but praise the set design. And, again, the Young Frankenstein set was spectacular. The castle and hidden passageways, the cottage the set must be for a brief, hysterical scene, among other transitions-the grace and technical skill it takes to make these set changes so flawlessly and clever are beyond reproach.

Recalling Young Frankenstein as I am writing this, I am seeing the show in black and white. Trust me, it was full color when I saw it, and my vision is just fine, but I find it interesting that black and white, like the original film, is how I am seeing Lyric Arts production in my mind’s eye. It may be a trick of my subconscious, but I think it is further proof that the stage production is on par with the classic movie it is based on. Not that the Lyric Arts production of Young Frankenstein is a scene-for-scene re-enactment of the film, it truly is its own wonderful entity unto itself, but if you are going to be compared to a movie, let it be a Mel Brooks movie.

The audience couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween-season show from Lyric Arts, and I was so pleased to share the experience with Quinn, and help foster a new generation Young Frankenstein (and theater, and satire) fans.

Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt

Roxy Orcutt, The Halloween Honey, is a local author and theater enthusiast. Her book, “History and Hauntings of the Halloween Capital,” explores Anoka, MN, its spooky tales, colorful characters, and why it is named the “Halloween Capital of the World.” It is available for sale online at www.HalloweenHoney.com.

“Young Frankenstein” Audience Review – Gary Davis

October 10th, 2014 No comments »
Gary Davis

Gary Davis

By Gary Davis

Leave it to Lyric Arts Main Stage, in the heart of the Halloween Capital of the World, to produce this year’s best Halloween destination, in the form of Young Frankenstein, the musical.

I am not a big fan of turning popular movies into stage musicals but I have to admit this one hits the mark.  The score is very catchy and complements the libretto, rather than re-stating it, which sometimes happens in adapted musicals.  I had not heard the score before attending and found Igor and the Doctor’s duet “Together Again for the First Time” hilarious.  Dr. Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth, scores a homerun with her “Please Don’t Touch Me”, which includes one of the more interesting dance sequences I have seen in some time.

Director Matt McNabb and his production crew have turned loose a cast of 18 skilled and energetic performers that rock the house from the opening number to the final curtain call.

For fans of the 1974 hit movie, it’s all there:  the puns, the risqué humor, the fabulous character parts.  Add to that a raucous score, a tight ensemble, wonderful choreography, an imposing but versatile set and over 300 light and sound cues and you have a mahvelous evening at the theatre.

All I can say is Wow!  For one, Puttin’ on the Ritz is about 1,000 times better than in the movie.  Watching the Monster (Tom Georger) dancing in 4 inch platform boots with the rest of the cast tapping around him is one of the highlights of the evening.  If you like good, old-fashioned production tap numbers, you don’t want to miss this.

I hate singling out performances when a cast is so uniformly excellent, but here we go.  The leads in this show have done an excellent job of reminding us of the folks in the movie while still making these characters their own.  The trio of of Dr. Frankenstein (Kyler Chase), Inga (Nykeigh Larson), and Igor (Brendan Veerman) work together like a Swiss timepiece.

Kudos as well to Kate Beahen for her understated Frau Blucher (whinnee) and her excellent comedic timing.  Also to Brad Bone for his over the top blind Hermit and Nick Menzuber in the dual roles of Victor Von Frankenstein and Inspector Kemp.

This show was extremely challenging from a technical perspective and I want to recognize a few of them here.  Brian Proball’s set design, with its imposing Castle Frankenstein, sets the mood from the minute you walk in the door.  Choreographer Ann Marie Omeish met the challenge of several full ensemble dances in varying styles, culminated by the Puttin’ on the Ritz tap extravaganza.  That scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Jim Eischen (lights) and Jeff Geisler (sound) have teamed up to provide a seamless technical framework for the show.  Finally, Samantha Fromm Haddow and her crew:  thank you for the excellent costume plot.

Young Frankenstein plays through November 2.

Gary Davis is a local actor/director who is a big fan of theater.

Dig Deeper – Inside Inspiration

October 1st, 2014 No comments »

Samantha Costumes - labcoatsThe cast and production team are hard at work bringing Young Frankenstein to life on the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage.  Opening night is less than 10 days away and a massive castle has arisen, angry villagers have their pitchforks, and the legendary lab table lowers from the ceiling every night in rehearsal.  Visit the Lyric Arts Young Frankenstein Pinterest page to get an inside look at the design team’s inspirational images and get your tickets now to see imagination become reality!

Dig Deeper – Frankenstein’s Electrician

September 24th, 2014 No comments »

Still of Frankenstein’s lab from 1931 film

“It’s alive!  It’s alive!!”   Next up on the Lyric Arts stage is The New Mel Brooks Musical, Young Frankenstein.  Both his 1974 film and Brooks’ 2006 stage musical adaptation are an affectionate parody of the classical horror film genre.  Brooks shot his film entirely in black and white, used 1930’s style cinematography and score, and was able to use almost all the original lab equipment from the 1931 Universal Pictures film directed by James Whale.  Here is an excerpt from an excellent biography of Kenneth Strickfaden, the man behind Hollywood’s golden age of mad scientists…

StrickfadenKenneth Strickfaden, innovative genius of illusionary special effects from silent films to the age of television, set the standard for Hollywood’s mad scientists. Strickfaden created the science fiction apparatus in more than 100 motion picture films and television programs, from 1931’s Frankenstein to the Wizard of Oz and The Mask of Fu Manchu to television’s The Munsters.

The skilled technician, known around Hollywood’s back lots as “Mr. Electric,” once doubled for Boris Karloff in a dangerous scene and was nearly electrocuted. From his birth in 1896 to his death in 1984, Strickfaden’s life was filled with adventure. He spent his early years working the amusement parks on both coasts, served overseas as a Marine during World War I, took a 1919 cross-country trip in a dilapidated Model T, and favored risky pursuits like automobile and speedboat racing. He worked as an aeronautical mechanic, constructing airplanes for an historic around-the-world flight. A science teacher at heart, he gave 1,500 traveling science demonstration lectures across the U.S. and Canada.

“Kenneth Strickfaden:  Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician” by Harry Goldman covers Strickfaden’s entire personal and professional life and discusses his influence on later films. It reveals the fate of his collection of equipment, is richly illustrated with numerous rare and previously unpublished photographs and includes appendices with doodles from Strickfaden’s notebooks, correspondence, a complete chronology and more.

“The Glass Menagerie” Update: Meet Samantha Haeli

September 19th, 2014 1 comment »
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Samantha Haeli

The first thing you notice when you meet Samantha Haeli is her gorgeous red hair. The next thing you notice is that she has a lot to say. Her YouTube videos on hot-button topics like feminism have earned thousands of views, and one was even taken off YouTube by angry protesters. A graduate of the UW-Eau Claire and a study abroad veteran, Samantha comes across as incredibly intelligent and world-wise…and very funny. These traits have led her to develop her “Glass Menagerie character,” Laura Wingfield, very differently than Laura is typically portrayed. Read my interview with Samantha below to get a sense of how smart and witty she is, and to hear her talk about her unusual character interpretation. And make sure you see “The Glass Menagerie” before it closes on Sunday at Lyric Arts!

SH: I was born in Minneapolis and raised in Rogers. During the day I usually am working as a server at the Original Pancake House in Maple Grove. I don’t mind working as a server for now but want to either make a career out of acting or support myself with my Spanish portion of the degree. I’m fluent in Spanish and spent a summer in Costa Rica as well as half a year in England (I studied abroad twice). I travel whenever I can. It’s my favorite. I went to school at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and spent a semester at University of Winchester.

EP: You haven’t been at Lyric Arts since you were a kid at the Pocket Theatre. Where have you been all this time? What about this production made you audition?

SH: I stopped doing stuff at Lyric Arts once I hit high school and did all the school production and the Elk River Community Theatre stuff because it was closer to my house than Anoka. I definitely missed the quality of Lyric Arts though so I’m glad to be back. Then I went off to college in Wisconsin and did a lot of theatre there—I got to fulfill a dream by playing Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. I auditioned for The Glass Menagerie at UWEC—it was actually the first ever college thing I auditioned for. I didn’t even get a callback. I wasn’t ready for the challenges of playing Laura, but much like Juliet, this role has been on my Bucket List since I read the play in high school. I needed to see if I could get it and am so happy that I get to work with a director as talented as Scott.

EP: Let’s get right to it. Give me a three word summary of the production.

SH: Poetic. Tormented. Honest.

EP: Talk about how your interpretation of the character is different than the typical meek, “birdlike” Laura.

SH: Here’s the thing: I hate it when all Laura is is shy. It’s so one-dimensional. People aren’t like that; if they’re shy, there are so many reasons why. She isn’t confident, she has all sorts of anxieties about her crippled leg, and she has serious abandonment issues from her father walking out on them when she was a kid. She’s the oldest of the two and yet her brother takes care of them— there is enormous guilt there, because she loves her brother more than anyone else in the world and she’s part of the reason he can’t feel happy and free. Added to the predisposition she has for obsessive compulsion and depression, and you have someone far more than “shy” and “meek”. Amanda even says it herself: Still water runs deep.  There’s something everyone has to love about Laura, and it can’t be entirely out of pity. She’s not just shy—she is truly peculiar and troubled, yet she is so loving and sweet. She’s a beautiful character.

EP: An important part of your character is her “crippled” physicality. Tell me about developing that.

SH: It’s really hard to play a physical impediment. I started off by not bending my knee when I walked, but that didn’t read well. Now I’ve been sort of dragging my one foot. I was afraid of looking like Igor or some other hunchback but Scott says it’s working so I’m hoping he’s not just full of it. The other challenge is playing that handicap all the time and not just when I’m walking. A messed up leg doesn’t stop being messed up just because you’re sitting. Consistency is something I have to be constantly mindful of.

EP: You’re a very vocal feminist. Talk about the character of Laura as a woman with few options in the 1930s.

SH: YES ALL WOMEN. My feminism is one of my most treasured values. It pains me to the core that Laura has backed herself into a life where her only option is marriage, yet she doesn’t want marriage. She doesn’t want anything. She’s afraid of things changing, and yet not necessarily happy with how things are. It reminds me of Chekhov’s T” and how they always talk about how they’ll go to Moscow to be happy but they never do.  She has very little agency, which is strange because for all Amanda’s talk about being dainty or desirable to men, Amanda is actually rather empowered. She supported her children for some ten years before Tom was old enough to work, so why hasn’t Laura learned from this example? I think she’s too focused inwardly on her own defects and doesn’t see how she’d be desirable or capable for any job or any man.

EP: What’s your favorite thing about Laura?

SH: I love how imaginative Laura is. She’s frequently lost in a world of dreams playing with her records or menagerie. Even though she is too restricted by her imagination, she hangs on to the almost childlike innocence that we lose as we age. She creates her own world in her head, and prefers to be there than in reality. Haven’t we all been there?

EP: What’s your least favorite thing about her?

SH: I struggle with how angry she is, deep down. She has a hard time with forgiveness. She never forgives herself for anything, especially. She is angry about her father, angry at how her mother pressures Tom, angry that Tom behaves in a way that makes her feel like a burden.  Yet her anger very rarely presents itself in a manifestation that the outside can see. Having so much anger inside is self-destructive.

EP: Has anything surprised or challenged you about this experience?

SH: I’m surprised at how easy it is to feel everything so deeply as it happens onstage and in the script. Tennessee Williams has written the language in such a way that it’s impossible as an actor not to be impacted by the words and feel them.  Love, rage, despair, and hope all dance around on the pages and it’s so easy to play them because of his writing. The challenge is playing the emotions big enough for an audience to see and not just internalizing everything.

EP: What’s next for you, after The Glass Managerie?

SH: I’m back to more and more auditions. I just moved into Minneapolis with a few excellent roommates and am excited to see the adventures I can find in City Life. Perhaps I might even try to get a Big Girl job in the Spanish field whilst I search for more acting work.

EP: If you were an animal in Laura’s glass menagerie, what animal would you be?

SH: I’d be an otter. They’re smart and playful but will totally bite you for no apparent reason while you’re swimming in the lake and you’re like WHAT THE HECK BRO.

EP: Laura’s odd nickname is Blue Roses. Do you have any fun nicknames?

SH: I get a lot of people calling me Red or Ginge or Weasley. They are very creative names based on my hair. It’s brilliant.

EP: What’s your favorite line from the show?

SH: Amanda talking on the phone to a friend and saying “You can’t have a story without complications.” THANKS, TENNESSEE. WE KNOW.

EP:You have to fight one of your fellow glass menagerie cast members. Who are you going to fight?

SH: I can tell you who I’m NOT fighting: Patti Hynes-McCarthy (Amanda Wingfield). I’d lose that battle so hard.

EP: You have to switch roles in the show! What character are you going to play now, and why?

SH: Tom. I want to be Tom because I can relate to him on a really personal level.

EP: Let’s have some fun now. These aren’t related to the show, just help us get to know you. Cats or dogs?

SH: DOGS. I don’t like cats and I’m allergic.

EP: Favorite book?

SH: Series: Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Stand Alone: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

EP: Favorite movie?

SH: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

EP: Favorite music?

SH: Mumford and Sons

EP: Favorite TV show?

SH: Doctor Who

EP: Favorite play or playwright?

SH: Anton Chekhov, particularly The Seagull

EP: Favorite fictional character?

SH: Hermione Granger, GET IT GIRL.

EP: Favorite local theatre?

SH: The Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis

EP: Star Wars or Star Trek?

SH: Battlestar Galactica

EP: Favorite charity?

SH: I don’t have a favorite organized charity, but I have a box of food I keep in my car that I pass out to homeless people I see when I’m driving because I can’t handle seeing them and not doing anything to help.

EP: Horror or romance?

SH: Aren’t they the same thing?

EP: What are your dream roles?

SH: Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Nina in The Seagull, Stevie in The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia, The Next Companion to the Doctor on Doctor Who.

EP: You’re going to teach a college class on any subject of your choosing. What class would you teach?

SH: Spanish Phonetics: The Difference in Spanish Sonnets and English Sonnets and what is lost in translation.

EP: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you onstage?

SH: I got hit in the face with a sword during a performance of The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe at Lyric Arts when I was 11. That was pretty weird—my eyebrow never really grew back.

EP: If you could prank call one celebrity, who would you call, and what would you say?

SH: I’d call Amy Poehler and then immediately forget my joke or prank and be like I LOVE YOU OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU

EP: If you wrote an autobiography what would the title be?

SH: More Than My Hair: The Autobiography of a Ginger.

EP: Into any sports?

SH: Sportsball confuses me but I like the collective energy of being at games. I played softball for 14 years—was a catcher. Stopped in college and focused on theatre.

EP: Movie that makes you laugh the hardest?

SH: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

EP: One that makes you cry?

SH: Twilight, because it’s just so bad. Or the recent film adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. Dear god.

EP: If you could star in any play or movie in history what would it be?

SH: I would say that I’d wanna be Audrey Hepburn’s character in Roman Holiday but that would mean that she wasn’t in Roman Holiday and I don’t want to live in that world.

EP: Play any instruments?

SH: I play some guitar. I’m considerably better than Taylor Swift but considerably worse than Eddie Van Halen.

EP: Best thing to do on a first date?

SH: Definitely eat food because I love food and then you can see if they chew with their mouth open.

EP: Favorite food?

SH: Potatoes in their infinite varieties

EP: Least favorite food?

SH: Mushrooms because NO ONE ASKED YOU HERE, FUNGUS.

EP: One person dead or alive you want to have dinner with?

SH: Jane Austen because feminism and questions.

EP: Favorite fashion trend of all time.

SH: The oversized sweater or T-Shirt with leggings. I basically want to look like I’m in Flashdance 24/7

EP: Favorite store/brand/designer?

SH: I’m not trying to be trendy when I say this but I could honestly not care less about designer brands and think it’s a huge waste of money. I don’t care about clothing designs or makeup brands or any of that stuff. The only thing I ever seem to be loyal to are Apple products because that’s what I grew up using and understand and technology confuses me.

EP: You can travel anywhere in the world. Where are you going?

SH: New Zealand first, everywhere else after.

EP: Best place you’ve ever been.

SH: Winchester, England will always feel like home.

EP: What are you bringing on a one-way trip to the moon?

SH: Oxygen, baby. And probably a Kindle loaded up with free books.

EP: Favorite superhero?

SH: Thor. I love me some Norse God goodness.

EP: Biggest learning experience of your life?

SH: Studying abroad made me brave and capable. In Costa Rica I realized that language is a barrier I can overcome and spiders can be crushed no matter how big. I can do anything in any language if I really need to. In England I was taught how to be self-sufficient with both finances and commuting. I learned how to be me and not apologize for it. I came back a bolder version of myself and can never express how much it did for me.

EP: Anything else you want to say to the people coming to see The Glass Menagerie?

SH: It’s hard to be vulnerable. Williams is asking us to be more vulnerable than I’ve been on a stage in a long time. I hope that you enjoy and can contemplate the meaning of being human after this play. You know, the easy philosophical stuff.

“The Glass Menagerie” Update: Meet Ty Hudson

September 11th, 2014 2 comments »
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Ty Hudson

When Glass Menagerie director Scott Ford and I were talking about lead actor Ty Hudson, Scott told me that Ty has a very rare gift. “He doesn’t get too attached to any line reading,” Scott said. “He’s willing to experiment until it feels right and then keep experimenting.” That kind of flexibility and fearlessness onstage, combined with Ty’s generous spirit and genuine talent, makes for an actor that artists love to work with, and audiences love to watch.

I could talk about how awesome Ty is all day, but I’ll let him speak for himself instead. Below you’ll find an email interview I conducted with Ty in which he discusses his character and allows the reader to peak into his personal life.

 

TH: My name is Ty Hudson.  I am originally from the northeast corner of Nebraska (go Huskers!).  A place called South Sioux City.  I went to the University of South Dakota for undergrad and grad school where I received a BFA in Acting and an MA in Secondary Education.

EP: What other shows have you done at Lyric Arts?

TH: I’ve been in such cool shows at Lyric.  I had the opportunity to tackle a dream role as Biff from Death of a Salesman which was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had, and then I was a part of the extremely powerful Laramie Project which was maybe the best ensemble I’ve ever worked with (editor note: Ty and I were in this show together! Miss it every day).  Now I get to do another dream role and work with another great ensemble with The Glass Menagerie!

EP: Let’s get right to it. Give me a three word summary of the production.

TH: A Family’s Lament

EP: Talk about your interpretation of Tom. Where did you start with developing him?

TH: I started with Tennessee himself right off the bat.  Since the play is an autobiography of sorts, I went to the man behind Tom to find out as much about his life as possible.  After finding out how Tennessee’s life mirrored Tom’s and learning about William’s development of the play, I searched the text for any clues on characterization.  It’s amazing what Williams gives you in regards to details about Tom.  If you write it all down, Tennessee lets us know that Tom has bad posture, feels small in relation to the entire universe which affects how much space he physically takes up onstage, doesn’t have a place in this world, is yearning for change, feels trapped and isolated, and is begrudgingly forced to carry the entire burden of hope for the family.  That’s just a taste of the many things that William’s gives us through stage directions, has Tom directly say about himself, or other characters in the play reveal through dialogue.  After my text analysis, I began to watch interviews of Williams to study his own physicality and see if I could draw anything from his personal life and the way he speaks and moves.  I had to blend that with my own interpretations and director Scott Ford’s interpretations so that it can serve our production better and not be this autobiographical performance that doesn’t hit the audience right or give my fellow actors what they need.  It’s been an incredibly fun process of development and Scott’s persistent support has made all the difference.

EP: Tell us about the autobiographical nature of your character. How do you reconcile that with the theatricality of the piece? Are there any places where you deviate from the life of Tennessee?

TH: Absolutely.  Tennessee in interviews is pretty pompous and he delivers a lot of that through smiles and a satisfaction that he gets from being clever and outwitting interviewers.  I started to do that in the rehearsal process a lot.  Marveling in my own wit and attempting to make him play the comic moments throughout the whole piece.  It was effective in the sense that I found moments of comedy for Tom, which is something a lot of productions overall lack for this show, but I wasn’t giving my fellow actors what they needed in respect to driving scenes and continuing to add tension.  I had to find that inner hurt and pull that out even more if the audience was going to see that Tom is absolutely miserable in his life at this point.  Although, I’ve never seen an interview where Tennessee is miserable and feels like he is trapped in a box, I’m sure he’s felt that way his whole life based on this piece he wrote.  Looking more at Tennesee’s words helped me find what he is looking for in respect to the role Tom plays in the family and letting go of some of my Tennessee’isms.

EP: What’s your favorite thing about Tom?

TH: His inner strife is so interesting.  I really do think he loves his family, but he requires things himself that most people are content with.  I, like Tom, require a lot of “me” time where I sit around and think about the world and get a little philosophical.  Long drives to Anoka are perfect for this, by the way!  I love that Tom is so focused on “truth” as well.  He doesn’t always tell truth, he doesn’t even see everything in the play completely accurately and truthful when recollecting events, but he marvels at truth.  I also love the fact that Tom is a strong character who makes strong choices.  Does he do things that aren’t entirely likable? Of course, we all do.  Yet, he stays, he fights, and he loves for his family.

EP: What’s your least favorite thing about him?

TH: He has a lot of pompous attitudes and talks down about different types and groups of people.  He seems to have the attitude that the world has slighted him in some way, when really he hasn’t made as much of an attempt to reconcile with the world.  I would tell Tom to stop talking about all the things that make him unhappy and start making choices and attempts at improving his life.  Then again, I don’t suffer from all his entrapments either.

EP: Has anything surprised or challenged you about this experience?

The gravity of the piece sometimes is the biggest challenge for me.  Having read and worshipped this play for so long, stopping and thinking “I’m doing The Glass Menagerie right now playing Tom” can have a profound effect on my psyche.  I have to ground myself in the fact that I am continuously doing the work as we all are, and steady myself on Mr. Ford’s direction which serves as my anchor.

EP: What’s next for you, after The Glass Menagerie?

TH: My wife (editor’s note: Ty is married to Rachael Hudson, last seen by Lyric Arts audiences in The Laramie Project) and I just signed contracts to be in Carousel at the Minnesota Orchestra this Spring.  We are also directing down at Northfield Middle School; their fall musical.  I have a couple of other opportunities that are in the works, but I can’t announce them yet till they are finalized, but needless to say I am extremely excited about this coming year.

EP: If you were an animal in Laura’s glass menagerie, what animal would you be?

TH: I think a caged Hawk.  Full of aggression, can be a companion if you treat it right, needs a lot of space and autonomy to thrive.

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EP: What’s your favorite line from the show?

TH: “Attempting to find in motion what was lost in space.”  So poetic.

EP:  You have to fight one of your fellow glass menagerie cast members. Who are you going to fight?

TH: Randy.  Only because we both took a year of stage combat and could make it look real while fooling everyone.  We could even get really intense and throw quarterstaff’s, rapiers, or broadswords into the mix to get really crazy.

EP: You have to switch roles in the show! What character are you going to play now, and why?

TH: Laura.  She’s such a tragic character that steals the show in my opinion.  Her idiosyncrasies would be a blast to discover.

EP: Let’s have some fun now. These aren’t related to the show, just help us get to know you. Cats or dogs?

TH: DOGS!

EP: Favorite book?

TH: The Lord of the Rings or The Lord of the Flies (I like any books that begin with “The Lord of the”)

EP: Favorite movie?

TH: I have a three way tie:  The Count of Monte Cristo, Braveheart, and The Lord of the Rings.  Wait, that’s a five way tie!

EP: Favorite music?

TH: I’ll give you my non-show tunes.  Matt Nathanson, The Fray, The Early November, The Starting Line, Vampire Weekend.

EP: Favorite tv show?

TH: Hah!  Professional Wrestling (WWE).  I love it so much!  Others receiving votes: The OC, Lost,Friday Night Lights, and Fullmetal Alchemist.  (Nerdy collection)

EP: Favorite play or playwright?

TH: This is another three way tie.  Hamlet by Shakespeare, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee (Williams), and Shape of Things by Neil LaBute.  Those are my three favorite authors as well.

EP: Favorite local theatre?

TH: This will sound like sucking up but honestly, Lyric Arts.  If it wasn’t a 45-90 minute commute every day, I would do almost the entire season.

EP: Favorite charity? 

TH: Jester Independent.  It’s my two best friend’s film company.

EP: Horror or romance?  

TH: Friday the 13th movies have both.

EP: What are your dream roles?
TH: Hamlet, Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Leo Frank in Parade, Bobby Strong in Urinetown, Robbie in Wedding Singer, Robert (Bobby) in Company.

EP: You’re going to teach a college class on any subject of your choosing. What class would you teach?

TH: Acting Shakespeare

EP: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you onstage?

TH: Embarrassing story but you learn from it.  I was the Jester in Madrigal in high school and I had this big rhyming couplet monologue to start the show that was written in Iambic Pentameter.  I had no experience with language like that and didn’t receive the proper training or rehearsals for it so I practiced for over a month on it.  Opening night this two page mono starts the show.  I get up there, the lights are dim besides candle light, it’s super cold in this big open church gym in December, and I forget everything.  I got like two lines in and was stranded and desperate.  I called out the director’s name knowing he would be in the audience and said, “I’m so sorry everyone.  I forgot everything.”  The director gave me the script and I read it off the page.  Now I practice my lines while I walk down the street and people have no idea what I’m doing but they are prepping me to be in front of an audience.

EP: If you could prank call one celebrity, who would you call, and what would you say?

TH: I’d call Obama and say “I agree”.

EP: If you wrote an autobiography what would the title be?

TH: Get Ready to Nerd Out for a While

EP: Into any sports?

TH: Crazy huge football fan, especially college.  I love college basketball as well.  I love playing basketball as well.

EP: Movie that makes you laugh the hardest?

TH: Anchorman is still my favorite comedy.  I also love Superbad.

EP: One that makes you cry?

TH: I’m not a big movie crier.  I cry at TV shows a lot more.  I get way more attached to characters over the course of a season.

EP: Last song you listened to?

TH: The Early November – Call off the Bells

EP: Favorite website?

TH: Huskermax.com for all your Husker Football news needs.

EP: Favorite food?

TH: Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo

EP: Least favorite food?

TH: Green Olives and onions

EP: One person dead or alive you want to have dinner with?

TH: Kenneth Branagh

EP: What are you bringing on a one-way trip to the moon?

TH: My Riverside Shakespeare Collection

EP: Favorite superhero?

TH: Nightwing

EP: Biggest learning experience of your life?

TH: Grad school and that has nothing to do with the scholarly stuff.  I learned to make choices and take chances because sometimes they pay off, and you get to share your life with the girl of your dreams.  Hear that nerds!  Sometimes you get the dream girl!

EP: Anything else you want to say to the people coming to see The Glass Menagerie?
TH: Don’t expect a dusty old play that isn’t relevant anymore.  Prepare for beautiful truth that will have you thinking for days.

 

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