Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.
NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston Theatre Project presented a hilarious and diverse Miscast! Cabaret with some of Boston's best musical theatre talent (and a few surprise guests!). We were delighted by their risk-taking in performing songs that might not get a traditional performance, but nonetheless felt like an integral part of each performer's personality and charm. In their Interview, three members of the Miscast! Cabaret (Jenna Lea Scott, Lenni Kmiec, and Gillian Gordon) tell us about their Miscast! Cabaret set list, their proudest personal and professional achievement, and one piece of advice that they would give their younger selves!
Thank you, all, for joining us for our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourselves?
Jenna Lea Scott (“JLS”): I am a Korean-adoptee who grew up in Acton, Massachusetts. I went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, in New York City, and I was an Acting Apprentice at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I recently played Tracy in Hairspray at Wheelock Family Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts.
Lenni Kmiec (“LK”): My name is Lenni, and I am Equity actor here in Boston as well as an arts educator throughout the Greater Boston area.
Gillian Gordon (“GG”): I’m a Boston-based AEA and SAG-AFTRA performer and the founder of Boston Theatre Project. I feel lucky to be a part of the Boston theatre scene, which is a large reason why Miscast! Cabaret gave 100% of its proceeds to the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, which provides aid to anyone in the Massachusetts theatre community during times of hardship.
Tell us a bit about the songs that you chose to sing. Why that song? Why your particular interpretation or performance of that song?
JLS: I picked “Chip's Lament” from 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and it's all about the struggles of being a young boy dealing with puberty. If anything, I thought this song would be the perfect song to sing in a show called Miscast! I chose this song because it was comedic and just rather absurd for me to be cast as this role as a woman.
LK: My dream role is Huck Finn in Big River, so singing “Muddy Water” was an easy choice for me! In terms of opening the cabaret with “We Can Do It” from The Producers, that decision came when Gilly and I poured through a bunch of male duets. I have a love for doing parodies at these types of events, so we saw this upbeat piece as an opportunity to introduce what the evening was about by slightly rewriting the lyrics!
GG: I sang “We Can Do It” from The Producers with Lenni Kmiec. Lenni is very creative with dialogue, so she altered some words to make it an excellent opening number for Miscast. It was also my one chance to play Max Bialystock!
I then sang “Where Is Love” from Oliver. The line-up was full of so many hysterical songs, so I wanted to shake it up a bit (not that mine was the only ballad). It has such a beautiful melody . . . and I had to redeem myself for playing the money grabbing Max Bialystock!
What do you think makes a successful cabaret? How is it different than other performances?
JLS: Cabarets are rehearsed less and it’s been my experience that it allows me to stretch my muscles as an actor and singer. Being able to sing a song out of context of a full musical, it allows a fun challenge, and we all need to keep growing and learning as performers, and just as people!
LK: I love the idea of having a theme! It definitely makes for a more selective choice of materials when you are narrowing down to fit a specific subject matter, motif, or style. I think sometimes it is easy for cabarets to become self-indulgent for actors, and while that is okay, those evenings can get mundane and dramatic.
My favorite thing about this specific cabaret theme was that it was almost entirely an up-tempo and comedic evening that allowed actors to do something they wouldn’t typically get to do with no judgment. It was one big laugh for everyone, but for an excellent cause.
GG: A cabaret is successful when you feel free to break the fourth wall, which was particularly fun with this cabaret because it was miscast and the performers made some bold choices. It’s also important to assemble a song line up with plenty of range. Also, Maria Duaime Robinson (our music director) held everyone to a high level of delivery, despite the antics involved in a miscast cabaret.
What is one other song that you would have liked to add to your set list?
JLS: Any song from Rent where I know only the male singing roles. Growing up I would try to convince my little sister to sing with me, and she would only do it if she sang the girl lines.
LK: I’d love to play Robbie Hart in The Wedding Singer. “Somebody Kill Me” would be a blast if I could play guitar!
GG: “Where Is The Life That Late I Led?” from Kiss Me, Kate! Cole Porter’s lyrics are incredibly clever.
What has been your proudest professional achievement? Proudest personal achievement?
JLS: Performing for the Elliot Norton Awards with my cast of Hairspray from Wheelock Family Theatre. I had done the year before with Avenue Q and we won Best Musical, but performing with the amazing cast of Hairspray again after we had closed that show was the icing on the cake.
Personal achievement is being able to still go onstage and finding my love for live performances every time I get the opportunity. I'm so lucky and proud I can still do that even when life knocks you down sometimes. Performing always lifts me up!
LK: You know, my proudest moment theatrically was actually not professionally. I was in a community theatre production of West Side Story when I was 17 years old. I played Maria. It was the moment I realized that theatre is about the power of storytelling. I admit I wasn’t a good storyteller until this point. Like many high school kids, I just wanted to kick my face and belt really high. When those elements were taken out of the picture for me, it was the tip of the ice-berg moving forward into my love for acting and script analysis.
Personal achievement? I have been the caretaker and educator for many tiny humans over the past five years. Many of them are turning out to be pretty stellar little people. It makes me proud.
GG: My proudest professional achievement was playing Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof at Reagle Music Theatre. It was my first role as a member of Actors Equity Association. I had worked 50 weeks in Equity houses in order to join the union, so it felt like an unpredictable, yet exciting next step.
Among my proudest personal achievements was planning the first Boston Theatre Project Cabaret Fundraiser in 2014. I wanted to provide performers the opportunity to flex their performing muscles in a welcoming environment, all while raising money and awareness for a worthy cause. There are always some hurdles while planning these cabaret fundraisers, however, the performers, volunteers and attendees were all incredible and helped us raise close to $2,000 for Great Dog Rescue New England.
If you could have any other job, what would it be and why?
JLS: I would really like to become a producer! Fostering artists and giving them a safe place to be creative would be an honor to give back for all the theaters that housed me as a performer.
LK: There was a time when I was watching A LOT of Grey’s Anatomy and wanted to be surgeon . . . too bad I’m squeamish! I actually am a full time teacher in addition to being an actor, and I can honestly say that it is truly a fulfilling combination!
GG: I’ve always had a fascination with Egypt. When I was younger, I dreamed of being an archeologist in Egypt.
If you were trapped on a desert island and could only bring three things and one person, what and who would they be?
JLS: I would bring: 1. A survival kit; 2. Water shoes, my feet are super sensitive; and 3. A working phone, so I can call for a ride home when we are done playing “Survivor.”
I would bring Gamalia Pharms . . . she's a talented and beautiful performer, and she has the heart of gold, and we would be miserable but laughing together as we wait for a rescue crew of handsome British men!
LK: Yikes! I’d probably bring 1. my son, a stuffed turtle name Sheldon; 2. my My Little Pony back pack because it would be practical; and 3. my works of Shakespeare collection for entertainment because, lord knows, you can read each play a million times and learn something new.
If I could pick one person to come with it would probably be Devon Stone, just because he’s probably the only who would put up with the whining.
GG: I would bring 1. my camera (why not document the experience!); 2. Ruby (my dog - she would be very protective), and 3. a funny book (to distract myself from the fact that I’m STUCK on a desert island).
I would bring my mom because she knows exactly how to deal with me when I’m stressed out.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be, and at what age would you give it?
JLS: I was 5 years old when I came to the United States, and I would tell myself to not worry so much on what every choice I made means for my future. You can only control your present and also you have little control over things, so stop worrying about it.
LK: I probably would have told my high school self never to give up an opportunity to travel; there is nothing more beautiful than getting to know the world you live in while you have the chance.
GG: “Doubt your fears, not your dreams.” We give our fears too much power. I wish I was more aware of it in high school, but it’s never too late to embrace this thought.
Give us one lyric that speaks to you from one of the songs that you sang.
JLS: “Adulthood brings its own peculiar rejection.”
LK: In “Muddy Water,” Jim sings: “Well, I been down/ to the pain and sorrow/ of no tomorrow’s coming in./ But I put my pole/ to the river bottom/ and I’ve got to hide some place to find myself again.”
GG: “We can do it!” That’s for everyone reading this!
Do you have any upcoming projects?
JLS: I will be in Dog Fight: The Musical at Speakeasy Stage Company from May 5- June 4, 2016. And my own theatre company Glass Curtain Company: Boston's OTHER Theatre is working on projects, so look for us and like us on Facebook.
LK: I am currently directing a production of Young Frankenstein at The Alexander Children’s Theatre School alongside Gillian Gordon who is choreographing! I just finished up Mary Poppins at Wheelock Family Theatre and a staged reading of a new work called “Mairi’s Wedding,” which also featured Miss Gillian Gordon! But right now, it’s back to the classroom!
GG: I just returned from a month in New Jersey where I was working on a new play called College Colors at Crossroads Theatre Company. I also just participated in a staged reading of a lovely new musical play called “Mairi’s Wedding” by John Raftery.
Now it’s back to the drawing board! I’m in the early stages of planning Boston Theatre Project’s 3rd Cabaret Fundraiser, as well as working on projects for my photography business and choreographing Young Frankenstein at The Alexander Children’s Theatre.
Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?
JLS: If Gillian Gordon asks you to do anything, you say yes! She is a wonderful person and I'm fortunate to call her a friend and fellow artist!
LK: Sure! See every show you can, read plays and reviews, learn about different time periods and cultures and carry all those things into your own life! You will be a happier human!
GG: “When you’ve got friends like mine . . . ” (including our last minute addition of screen actress Melissa McMeekin, who hadn't sung since high school!)
Really, I’m lucky to have so many kind, clever and talented friends in the theatre community. If you want to know more about Boston Theatre Project, go to www.bostontheatreproject.com.
If you want to know more about the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, go to www.tcbf.org. Here’s to the Boston theatre scene, and thanks, Brian, for doing more than your part as well!