2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical Nominee: Katie Schiering as Beth Spencer in FUDGE Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

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 Aware, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com

Photo Credit: Ross Brown.

Photo Credit: Ross Brown.

Katie Schiering performed as the lovely and nuanced Beth Spencer, spanning over twenty years in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's final production, Merrily We Roll Along. Her Beth was vulnerable and sweet, and independent and hardened, a beautiful transformation by life's circumstances. In her Interview, Katie talks about her favorite Sondheim musicals, her proudest moments outside of the theatre, and the two famous women with whom she would have loved to have dinner!

Hi, Katie, and welcome to ArtsImpulse! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi! Thank you for this opportunity. My name is Katie Schiering (formerly Katie Preisig; I got married this past summer 2015), and I am happy to be a performer in the Boston area, as well as a theater director and vocal coach for a children’s theater program in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I’ve been performing in Boston here and there for about 7 years. I’m originally from Groton, Massachusetts. I currently live outside the city with my husband and stepchildren.

Can you talk to us about your work in Merrily We Roll Along.  Who was Beth? 

Ahh, Merrily . . . such a dear show for me. It was the last FUDGE Theater Company show, and they’ve been a huge part of my life for the past 6 or 7 years. The show is ultimately about friendships . . . how they last and why they fail.

Beth is a lot of different things in the show, considering the show spans the length of twenty years. She starts off as a young woman, aspiring performer, a cheerfully naive southern girl. Her story ends with a very messy divorce. The show is told backwards though, so reverse that.

What were some of the challenges?  What were some of the highlights?

The biggest challenge was certainly the timeline of the show running backwards. I had to draw a map just to figure it all out. It wasn’t like we were in constant rewind . . . we were in a few consecutive scenes of one time period, then a few scenes of a few years before, then a couple scenes of a long time before, and so on . . . It’s genius, but complicated.

The challenge was also a highlight; I loved portraying 20 years of a character. People change so much so it was extremely dynamic.

Some of the cast in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ). 

Some of the cast in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography). 

Have you performed other Sondheim?  If so, what roles? 

The only other Sondheim show I’ve been in was Assassins. I was Squeaky Fromme. It’s a really whacky show but I loved it. I like playing crazy characters. Squeaky was a nut case.

I have a funny story about that show. Squeaky has a picture of Charles Manson that she carries with her and fawns over. After the show closed, I must have put the picture in my wallet but I don’t remember doing so. It fell out one day when I was at a family party, and I had to explain why I had a wallet size photo of Charles Manson on me. They didn’t see the show, so it was hard to explain!

Are there any Sondheim roles that you would love to play?

I constantly change my mind with this one . . . I have never done Into the Woods and it’s the only Sondheim show on my bucket list. I go back and forth between The Witch and The Baker’s Wife.

What have been some of your favorite roles?  What are some other roles on your bucket list?

My top four have been Beth in Merrily We Roll Along, Louise in Gypsy, Holly in The Wedding Singer, and Kate McGowan in Titanic. My ultimate dream role is Eva Peron in Evita. I’ve been rehearsing for that role since I was 7 years old.

I also dream of playing Francesca in Bridges of Madison County, Kate in The Wild Party, Lucille in Parade, and the list goes on.

What is the last song that you sang at an audition or performance?   Why that song?

It’s been a while since I’ve performed, actually the last song I sang on stage was the finale of our closing performance of Merrily We Roll Along. That was an emotional moment, being that it was also FUDGE’s last performance as a company.

How have you grown as a person and performer in the last few years?

I’ve had the opportunity to play some rather difficult characters the last few years, which has really broadened my horizons as an actor. Also, my experience teaching and directing children’s shows has given me a whole new understanding on backstage and technical work. I’ve been doing everything from costuming, to set design, to choreographing, so I’ve had to learn to follow a larger vision.

Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) and Beth Spencer (Katie Schiering) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ).

Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) and Beth Spencer (Katie Schiering) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

What have been some of your proudest moments outside of the theatre?

I’m proud of my family. My husband, stepchildren and I are a close unit and we keep getting stronger. I’m also very happy with how I’ve managed to keep up with my incredible friends and form some really strong bonds, despite my work and family schedule.

You have a date night on a Saturday.  What do you plan to do? 

If it’s been a really busy week, then Netflix on the couch is what I crave the most. However, a better date would be going into the city to see a show, tapas for dinner, and strolling through the Public Gardens.

If you could have a meal with two famous people, who would they be?  What would you talk about?  Most importantly, what would you eat?

Elaine Paige and Patti Lupone. I’d love to hear about how they each approached the role of Eva Peron, and how their experiences differed. I would definitely pick their brains for when I (if I) ever get to play this dream part of mine!

I think we’d have to eat at some fancy seafood place . . . they strike me as classy ladies who lunch. I’d love to eat oysters with them!

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I’m currently directing Willy Wonka Jr. in Wellesley, and am itching to get on the stage myself when the next opportunity comes along, but nothing on the books just yet.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Thank you for taking the time to read about me! I’m honored to be nominated. I love the Boston theater community and hope to work with all of you lovely people in the future!

2015 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Nominee: Jared Walsh as Franklin Shepard in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series. 

Note: If you were nominated a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Jared Walsh is an effortless talent as crowd-favorite, Franklin Shepard, in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's final production, Merrily We Roll Along. This Sondheim show and leading role is a difficult challenge for even the most talented performers. Jared Walsh brings his boyish smirk, his smooth vocals, and his relatable charm to this complicated role. In his Interview, Jared tells us about his Frank, the three best traits in a friend, and what inspires him.

Hi, Jared, and thank you for joining us. Can you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your work? 

Hey, Brian, thanks for having me.  I am originally from the Boston area and I have been in the theater scene for the past seven years or so.  I’ve been involved in productions both in the city, and as far west as Natick and Framingham.  I grew up in Braintree, and I went to school out at Westfield State University.  I’ve also been in a band, Barricades, for the past seven years or so, and we’re currently in the studio releasing our third recorded project; I’m very excited.

How did you get involved in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s Merrily We Roll Along?  Have you been involved in other F.U.D.G.E. productions?

Of course!  My fondest theater memories in this area heavily consist of my work with F.U.D.G.E.  I’ve been involved in five different F.U.D.G.E productions and it was F.U.D.G.E. that gave me the opportunity to break-into the Boston theater scene when I cast in their production of Violet.  Ever since then, until they eventually closed up shop, I made it a point to be involved in as many F.U.D.G.E. productions as I could. 

The production that I hold closest to my heart is Spring Awakening.  It was just the perfect cast at the perfect time and really was a wonderful experience that I will hold onto forever.

Who is Franklin Shepherd?  Do you identify with him?  Are there other Sondheim characters (from this show or his other shows) with whom you identify more?  Why?

Oh . . . “dat Frank.”  Frank is an opportunist who would do anything to get ahead and push everything and everyone aside for fame, esteem, and money.  He sounds like a peachy keen, squeaky-clean guy . . .

I wouldn’t say I identify with Frank, but I do at least understand his wants and needs to see the work that he produces be recognized and for it to be successful.  Everyone wants to have what they do to be regarded as important; it’s why we do what we do in life.  It is the process and path we take to get that success and recognition for which we are judged. I don’t think everyone necessarily wants fame and fortune, but there is value to be had into putting effort into our lives, relationships, and careers, and coming out with some sort of validation, or recognition for those efforts. 

Sondheim writes in such a brilliant way that even his most unattainable characters on the surface can be related to in some facet of their personality.  For example, I don’t necessarily agree with how Bobby goes about his life in Company . . . but I do absolutely relate to the want and need to love and be loved.  It’s so central in his character that you can’t help but to root for him to find what he’s looking for in the end.  “Somebody force me to love/Somebody force me to care”  is a lyric that sticks out to me that exemplifies that.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in  The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company 's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller) and Franklin Shepard (Jared Walsh) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

How do you relax?

Relax??? Relaxing and I don’t usually go together.  I constantly find myself on the go.  I teach, coach and play baseball, play in the band, perform in shows, tutor, and travel when I can.  My life is one ball of organization and planning . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you could list three best traits in a friend, what would they be?  What are three personality traits that you hope others would use to describe you?

Loyalty, understanding, and humor. 

I just hope people understand that I generally have what I think are their best intentions at heart, all of the time.  The most valuable thing we have in this life is time, and I choose to spend it with the people I love. It may come at weird intervals, or strange gaps in appearances because of schedules and general life-happenings . . . but I feel as though the people I keep in touch with, and the people I reach out to (even sparingly), know that I’d be there for them when they needed it.

What has been the scariest thing that you done onstage (either fear for your safety or just challenging)?

The scariest thing I do on-stage is dance.  I’m not a dancer.  I dread it.  Tell me to run a post pattern and catch a football one handed, while being draped by a defender . . . or to hit a fastball on the outside corner . . . my body is more than able to do those things. 

When it comes to dancing, I just can’t seem to move my body the way that I know it can or that it should.  It’s terrifying.  Most of the shows I’ve auditioned for have had little dancing . . . and that’s on purpose.

What is one message that you would want to give to millennials in theatre?  In their professional and personal life?

Keep going.  Don’t stop.  It’s cliché, and it’s boring and it’s sort of a copout answer but it’s true.  I’m guilty of it myself sometimes.  I feel as though I’ve missed opportunities, or have been hesitant to take a risk . . . but no one is going to give you anything, in anything you do.  If you want to go out and get something, certainly use your resources but you have to go get it for yourself.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in  The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company 's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit:   Matt Phillipps Photography  ).

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuller), Frank Shepard (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps Photography).

What inspires you?

Seeing the people I love do the things that they love to do.  Eloquent, I know.  For real though, I am just flabbergasted by the people I’ve grown up with from home, and the people I went to college, and those I’ve met since then.  They’re doing awesome things in their lives and it is what inspires me to do what I’m passionate about.

Tell us a funny audition or performance story. Make us laugh.

I was fortunate enough to be called back for the national tour of Once.  I had to sing “Say It to Me Now,” and I just did my best to mimic Glen Hansard from the movie version. When I finished, the casting director looks at me and goes: “Wow . . . you’re really comfortable up there, huh?” He meant singing in my upper register, or, as I call it, yelling on pitch.  I came back with “Well, yeah, I’m playing Gabe tonight in Next to Normal, I have to be.”  They all laughed and it certainly made me feel good about the audition.  Sadly, nothing ever came of it, but it made me happy to make them laugh.

Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2016?

Spend my time with the people I want to be around.  It’s all I try to do.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

My band, Barricades, just finished up our third album.  It has yet to be named, but we’re hoping an official release some point in the near future!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Nothing really, just stay classy!

2015 Best Costume Design Nominee: Maureen Festa for The Umbrella's "La Cage Aux Folles"

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 brian@artsimpulse.com.

Maureen Festa dazzles with her period-accurate costumes in The Umbrella's La Cage Aux Folles, continuing her reputation as a costume designer with a keen eye for detail and a flair for character.  Her Cagelles sparkled with personality as each fit into the local ensemble while showcasing each performer.  Maureen decorates and delights with each production, working intently under pressure; she designed and built La Cage Aux Folles in approximately a month!  

In her Interview, Maureen describes her work in La Cage Aux Folles as an extension of Director Peyton Pugmire's vision and concept; some of her more challenging projects, including The Rocky Horror Show and And Then There Were None, both at The Footlight Club in Jamaica Plain; and something we don't know about her! 

Maureen, it is such a pleasure to talk with you.  Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Photo Credit: Liz Bean

Photo Credit: Liz Bean

Hi, thank you for the nomination and the chance to speak with you!  I came to the world of theatre very circuitously. I've only been involved for less than a decade, and I had no prior experience actually.  My professional career has been as a librarian and researcher (I have been a researcher for fundraisers for the last 5 years); it was my neighbor, Jim Ansart who got me involved when he was producing The Wizard of Oz at The Footlight Club. We were walking our dogs together, and he mentioned that the theatre was looking for a costumer. Of course I turned him down, having no idea what that entailed, but, since I can sew, I joined the team as a seamstress.  Very quickly I became a costumer, and, with lots of mentoring from some fantastic people I've met in the theatre community, I became not just a costumer, but a designer.  My two grandmothers were both seamstresses (one worked as a master seamstress in a suit factory in Lawrence for nearly 50 years, and the other made all her own clothes), and they were pleased I'd learned to sew early on!

What were your initial thoughts when you joined The Umbrella’s production of La Cage Aux Folles?  What was your concept for your costume designs?

My initial thoughts were, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?” I was brought in after they'd unexpectedly lost two costumers, and I had a month to get this massive, elaborate show off the ground.  My immediate predecessor had done some "administrative" work, like creating a costume plot, which was helpful, but I had to work with the director, Peyton Pugmire, to create my own concept, because of time constraints and my own vision. 

The Cagelles dance at the club in The Umbrella's  La Cage Aux Folles  (Photo Credit: Al Ragone).

The Cagelles dance at the club in The Umbrella's La Cage Aux Folles (Photo Credit: Al Ragone).

The key thing that Peyton wanted to come through was the era (1980s) and that the club, La Cage Aux Folles, was not a high-class, big-budget place.  It was a slightly dingy, a bit tacky, shoe-string sort of place. I never like to recreate designs directly from the original version, either stage or film.  So, I spent some time looking at images of gay clubs, drag shows, and the Riviera in the '80s.  One key thing in the concept was Zaza wasn't to be completely over the top.  Beautifully, elaborately, sparklingly costumed, yes, but not trashy.  More Mae West, than 1980s Cher.  She is the grande dame.  Beyond that, the Cagelles needed to be uniform, but also have their own characteristics.  So, while they're dressed in the same costumes throughout the show, their hair, makeup, accessories, and attitudes are all their own.

Personally, I think the most fun I had was with Georges' costumes.  He's the man of the relationship, and he's masculine compared to Albin, but he is subtly flamboyant at all times.  He's a showman, and even his street clothes had to reflex that.  It was the small details that made costuming him fun.  Plus, I got to buy him this fabulous shiny blue suit that looked smashing on him.

Why do you think La Cage Aux Folles resonates with audiences?  What draws you to the story and characters?

La Cage was written as a play 40+ years ago, and the musical 30+ years ago, and, while times have changed…have they really?  This conservative thinking, about what makes a family, hasn't gone away. If we look at this [musical] as a period piece, it's heartening to know that today, gay marriage is legal and that Georges and Albin's longtime, loving relationship lasted more than 2 decades and they raised a wonderful son, despite the societal norms at the time.  I think that may be what sticks with audiences: that love, in every form, between spouses, between father and son, step-"mother" and son, parents and daughter, and even townspeople and their neighbors, makes this world bearable, even when things aren't going the way we want them to. I think despite some of the dated themes in La Cage, it's still a story about acceptance, not just of each other, but of ourselves.

Do you have a favorite TV designer show?  Why (or why not)?

I really don't. I can't stand how shows are edited to highlight fake drama and I think it perpetuates this voyeuristic society we've become. Having said that, I do watch a lot of home improvement shows! My favorite is probably Rehab Addict with Nicole Curtis.  I like her show because she takes derelict properties and restores them using what she finds in them or in thrift shops, or repurposed items, with the goal to give old homes new lives.  I like that.  I think it's something I do, as a costume designer, taking old items and giving them new life.  Whether it's due to budget or time constraints, or thinking more broadly, having a new approach to an old show. 

What have been some of your most challenging projects?  Why?  Which of your projects are you most proud?

Zaza, also known as Albin (Todd Yard) welcomes us to The Umbrella's  La Cage Aux Folles  (Photo Credit: Al Ragone).

Zaza, also known as Albin (Todd Yard) welcomes us to The Umbrella's La Cage Aux Folles (Photo Credit: Al Ragone).

Clearly, La Cage was one of my most challenging shows.  It has a big cast, lots of costumes, it's a period piece, there's a ton of men who need to wear women's formal clothing, I was working for the first time at The Umbrella so I had to learn their culture and their space, and I had only one month.  Plus it has to look "right", not cliché and not as if we pulled every sparkly dress we could find and just threw them on the cast.  It all had to be cohesive.  I am very proud of how well this show came together.

I've worked with Peyton a number of times before and we have an excellent working relationship, and each of those shows are among my favorites, especially Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None at The Footlight Club (“FLC”). While it's a pretty straight-forward period piece set in the 1940s, Peyton cast an ensemble to play each of the 10 guests' victims, as gray-scale ghosts.  Wearing the clothes they wore when they suffered their untimely deaths, I had to costume a WWI soldier, a wrongly accused prisoner, children who died in a car accident, etc.  Everything had to be shades of gray, and period, and the actors had to be able to move in their costumes as they were part of these choreographed movement pieces.  It was beautifully done, and people still mention this show as one of the best in recent years at FLC.

My most recent show was hugely fun and very challenging. We did The Rocky Horror Show, but our director Mark Sickler wanted to create a different atmosphere for the show.  Ours was set, very specifically, in the world of a 1950s Sci-Fi B-movie.  The greatest challenge was getting the fans to accept the cast in something other than the fantastic, but usual, movie version of the costumes.  Mark and I discussed how far we could push our concept, and how much of the ‘50s could we bring to our show.  I think the concept that was the most far reaching was our cast of Phantoms was dressed as ghoulish movie ushers and usherettes . . . an ode to the Usherette who opens and show.  This was very different than most shows, where the Phantoms explicitly sexy. Conceptually, we allowed the phantoms to "direct" the show, acting as the set movers, as well as set pieces themselves, literally becoming part of the set.  They both moved the actors and watched the action unfolding, as if it were a movie itself. 

Our Frank wore a ‘50s style one piece, bullet bra-ed body suit.  Rocky and Brad had pasties, like throwback burlesque performers use, for the Floor Show.  Columbia wore a very Ruby Keeler, tap-pants sailor suit. I know it was a risk, but I think we pulled it off and allowed the cast to really bring something different to their characters, again, instead of recreating what was done before.

Tell us something that we don’t know about you.  Tell us something that you think that we might have in common.

The funny thing about me is I'm not really a huge theater geek. I like to go, especially to straight plays, and I do love the old classic musicals. But I haven't seen a whole lot of big new shows, I've rarely gone to New York specifically to take in a show, and I don't know who is starring on Broadway. I often feel badly when someone tries to tell me about a show they've seen and I don't know the actors or directors.  But in some ways I think it sometimes helps my costume work, where I don't have a set idea of what a show looked like before.

I am MUCH more of a live music person.  I've sung back up for a local musician in the past, and will travel out of state to see my favorite bands play or to go to music festivals.  I remember lyrics to a ridiculous extent and my boyfriend Adam, who is a musician, is often surprised when I compare one song to another and how good I am hearing the same chord progressions and musical phrasing in different songs.

I also have this innate ability to match colors.  It's a weird skill but very useful in costuming!

Totally random something about me: I collect Santas, especially vintage ones. I recently paired down my collection but I do display about 20 of them around Christmas.

What could we find you doing on a typical Saturday, and with whom?

During a non-show weekend, I'm usually relaxing at home with Adam and our cats. I like to make breakfast or bake something on weekends and that's usually what I'll do when I get up.  We often listen to music on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Saturday evenings we go out to see bands, or maybe just have dinner or drinks with friends. 

If I'm in the midst of prepping for a show, though, I'll spend my Saturday shopping for and working on costumes.  The closer to the show opening, the more hours I'll put in.   I spend a lot of time looking for vintage clothing when I'm working on a period show, and often spend hours going from one thrift shop to the next.

What are some of your favorite stories?  Photos or other art work?

Anne (Elise Wulff) and Jean-Michel (Joe Mullin) share a tender embrace while Jacob (Scot Colford) observes in The Umbrella's  La Cage Aux Folles  (Photo Credit: Al Ragone)

Anne (Elise Wulff) and Jean-Michel (Joe Mullin) share a tender embrace while Jacob (Scot Colford) observes in The Umbrella's La Cage Aux Folles (Photo Credit: Al Ragone)

My very favorite childhood book is Harriet the Spy.  I was sort of a shy kid, and was always looking up things that interested me, so I think how Harriet observed her world and her interaction with it really struck me.  Even now, I think it's a wonderful story.

My mother used to recite bits of Robert Frost to us when we were kids.  I think his roots in Lawrence, where my family is from, made her feel a connection to him.  Plus, we're stoic, seemingly cold New Englanders and Frost informs that perspective.  “The Death of the Hired Man” is a personal favorite.  In it, Frost wrote: “‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in.’”  Whatever has come before, whatever troubles you've had or caused, you have a home somewhere, that place where they have to take you in.  I like that.  

What are some productions for which you would love to design the costumes?

I would love to design some straight comedic plays like Neil Simon's period pieces: Laughter on the 23rd Floor, or Brighton Beach Memoirs, for instance.  I know it seems weird to pick pretty low key comedies, but again, I love to do period work, and to make those shows really FEEL like the period.  I think the work involved in a straight play can be overlooked . . . again, it's all the details that transport the audience to the time period. 

I went to see a professional show recently, set in the first decade of 1900s . . . and one of the leads was wearing a wrist watch.  Wrist watches didn't become popular until after WWI.  I'm sure it was likely the actor forgot to take his own off, but that detail caught my attention, and I was no longer in the era.  Same thing holds true with shoes! 

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I'll be costuming The Umbrella's productions of Oleanna and then their musical Hair in the next few months.  And I'll be collaborating on an original work commemorating an historic anniversary at The Loring Greenough House in Jamaica Plain sometime later this year.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

It is a privilege to be part of the vibrant theater community in Boston and I am honored that the reviewers and theater goers support our efforts.  Go see more live works, whether theater, music, performance arts, dance! 

2015 Best Projection Design Nominee: Bryce Cutler for Fiddlehead Theatre Company's "Jesus Christ Superstar"

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 brian@artsimpulse.com.

Bryce Cutler was one of the designers who brought the static Jesus Christ Superstar into high definition at the historic Strand Theatre. Working under Director Stacey Stephen's insightful design and collaborating with the work of Mac Young, Cutler re-imagined the space and mood for the musical, infusing the production with newsreels, headlines, tweets, and more.  The projection design helped more than perhaps any other visual element to firmly cement the audience in the world of a modern-day Jesus Christ. 

In his Interview, Bryce describes his work, the challenges for projection design, his inspiration, and his upcoming projects!

Photo Credit: Tegan McDuffie

Photo Credit: Tegan McDuffie

Hi, Bryce, and thank you so much for joining us.  Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

I am a projection and scenic designer based out of New York City.  Selected projection designs include: The Danish Widow, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley; and the world premieres of The Velvet Oratorio and Antigone. I am a founder of the political theater collective Third Space, and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and my design for The Lady In Red was chosen for international exhibition at the Prague Quadrennial this past year.

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Fiddlehead Theatre Company’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, given its unique adaptation.  How much were you involved in creating this concept?

The concept of the media was built into the idea for the show from the beginning.  I just happened to have joined the team a little later after the set had been designed.  A lot of the process was about taking all these ideas and contemporary mediums that we ingest content thru and finding out how those ideas fit into the story we wanted to tell visually.

What role did your projections play in the overall concept?  Tell us about some of the noteworthy moments where your projections helped tell the story.

Mac Young created a fantastic design for projections and, together, I think we were really able to use the projections to allow the show to travel. The projections acted as architecture as well as a space to showcase the larger world around Jesus.  One of my favorite moments was when Jesus is gathering followers and becomes a leader, and we see contemporary magazine covers, news clippings, Buzzfeed says this, and The NY Times says that.  It made [the production] feel very real and contemporary. 

What are some challenges of projection design?  What is rewarding about a good projection design?

Projections come with a variety of challenges and a lot of them lie in the technology.  Half the time, it’s just getting the equipment to connect and speak the same language.  For this production, heat was one of our biggest challenges because the projectors get so hot.  We must have had 3 or 4 fans blowing on projector thru ought the show hopping it wouldn’t “conk” out. 

A good projection design effortless jumps between media and the action onstage.  When it’s done right and done subtly it can take the show to a whole new level you didn’t think was possible. 

What or who inspires you?  What do you think makes something or someone inspiring?

I’m really inspired by artists who push our expectations like Katrin Brack, Marius von Mayenburg, and Donyale Werle.  Whether it’s design or theater or art, I find people who take risk in their work to be truly inspiring.  That risk can take many forms, but I have tremendous respect for people who stand up against the establishment and put everything on the line to explore alternative ideas from the norm.   

How do you think that religion, politics, and pop culture speak to each other in today’s society?

I think it’s a lot of noise.  A sort of endless loop that constantly feeds on itself.  It’s partially why projection design can get so complicated because we have all these mediums to ingest content thru but how those appear on the stage and in what form becomes the challenge. 

Projections helped narrate the story in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's modern interpretation of  Jesus Christ Superstar  (Photo Credit: Bryce Cutler).

Projections helped narrate the story in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's modern interpretation of Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo Credit: Bryce Cutler).

Do you have a favorite color?  Why?

Neon Orange because it never stops blinding you. 

If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?  What would you do with it?

I would want to see the future because it would not only be useful but it would help me cut out time-wasting activities. 

What was one of the most demanding projects that you have ever designed?  What was it so demanding?

The design for Spring Awakening was one of the most demanding.  The project took place over a year, and we were trying to reimagine a musical that is pretty iconic and recent—so we knew we needed to be different.  We approached it from a place of dance and focused on a space that could accommodate that.  Then, little by little, we began to design a show that became much more expressionistic then and really quite beautiful. 

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I’m designing the set and projections for Orpheus Unsung at the Guthrie Theater, a new play by Dael Orlandersmith; a production of Ragtime; and Third Space is in residency at Abrons Arts Center this spring. 

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Check out my website at: www.brycecutler.com, and thanks for reading!

2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: J.T. Turner as Alfred P. Doolittle in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's "My Fair Lady"

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 brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Cynthia August

Photo Credit: Cynthia August

J.T. Turner shone brightly as the delightful rogue, Alfred P. Doolittle, in an enchanting and exhilarating production of My Fair Lady at The Lyric Stage Company of Boston.  J.T. succeeded in winning our hearts in his charismatic performance, especially in "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me To The Church On Time." It was J.T.'s ability to listen and react, especially with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (played by 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Nominee Jennifer Ellis), that made his Alfred just that much more lovable. 

In his Interview, J.T. tells about his many skills, including as a circus ringmaster; explains about the joy of working with Director Scott Edmiston; and lists some of his favorite movies (we're with you there, J.T., and we see that you learned from some of the best!). 

It is a sincere pleasure to be able to interview and speak with you.  J.T., tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am a stage actor, of course, but also work in film, teach acting, do stage combat choreography, work as a circus ringmaster and clown, and run a small non-profit theater company. A lot of my work is in the voice-over field for corporate clients and audio books. I do a lot of work with kids and teens, and use theater and the circus to teach life lessons and social skills. I am a Dr. Who fan, and I am originally from New Jersey, like most of New England!

Tell us about your character in My Fair Lady.  Who is Alfred P. Doolittle?  Why do you think that his story and character connected with audiences?

Alfred is the loveable rogue, with a surprisingly strong sense of clear morality. His moral view is that he has no morals, and he is proud and happy about it. One of the great pieces of direction Scott [Edmiston, the director] gave me was to think of [Alfred] as a street preacher, spreading the word about how to get away with as much as possible with as little effort as possible. I happen to be an ordained minister, so it was fun to play a character who preaches immorality as a life choice! What makes Alfred great is he knows who he is and makes no pretense about it.

Talk to us about Scott Edmiston as a director for this project.  How much latitude did he give you to develop your character?  How were rehearsals structured?  How did this shape the product?

I am glad you asked me this [question] because Scott is one of the greatest directors whom I have ever worked. His care and concern for the work and the process is thrilling for an actor, and he notices everything. He asks great questions of his cast, and truly listens to the answers. He allows as much latitude for the performer as he can, while making sure his clear vision of the whole story is honored. He is terrific to work for, ridiculously generous with his time and guidance, and puts a cast at ease with his clear grasp of the piece and where he wants to take the performance.

What is one of the most demanding roles that you have played onstage?  Why was it so demanding?  How did you prepare?

Playing Alfred was an absolute joy, but tons of hard work. I am not a trained dancer, and this role required a fair amount of movement. Thank heavens we had David Connelly as our choreographer. He challenged me to dance more than was in my comfort zone, while supporting me and playing to the skills I had. He was also a great collaborator; I used Charlie Chaplin as a physical template for Alfred, and he helped me incorporate that into the movement.

Alfred P. Doolittle (J.T. Turner) talks with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (Jennifer Ellis) in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's  My Fair Lady  (Photo Credit: Nerys Powell)

Alfred P. Doolittle (J.T. Turner) talks with his daughter, Eliza Doolittle (Jennifer Ellis) in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston's My Fair Lady (Photo Credit: Nerys Powell)

Do you have a favorite play?  Novel?  Movie?  Why are these some of your favorites?

I love Shakespeare, so any chance I have had to perform in his works has been a treat, especially as King Lear (in King Lear) and Oberon (in A Midsummer Night’s Dream). I just adore his language and structure.

Playing Ben Franklin in 1776 is another favorite of mine; he has always been a fascinating character to me.

I am a movie addict, and I love so many [movies] that it is hard to pick one. Citizen Kane, Waiting for Guffman, Midnight In Paris, Shakespeare in Love, and The Great Dictator are all ones that I watch regularly. Also anything with Buster Keaton in it, his deadpan delivery and physical work is tremendous.

Do you have a lyric or bit of dialogue from My Fair Lady that speaks to you as a person?

Well, for many weeks my mantra became “With a Little Bit of Luck!” It is nice to focus on the thought that, with just a bit of luck, or energy or divine intervention or grace, there are great things waiting for you.

Is there anyone in the Greater Boston theatre community with whom you would like to work?  Do you have a specific project in mind?

I told Scott Edmiston that he can call me anytime, for any project!

There are several theaters that I have yet to work at in Boston: The Huntington Theatre, Fiddlehead Theatre Company, and Moonbox Productions, for example, and I would love to experience working at different venues.

That said, working with Spiro Veloudos and The Lyric Stage Company of Boston always feels like home to me.

What do you think makes a strong or noteworthy supporting actor?

It is always about the work for me. Working hard and honestly on your craft and sharing that with others makes this a lifelong joy. I also strive to simply be a kind and generous person, with good work ethics. I think people see and know that, or I hope they do.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I have a one-man show about Robert Frost that I will be performing this year, hopefully at several venues.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Just a thank you to both ArtsImpulse and the Boston theater community for noticing my work, and for supporting live local theater. It matters!

2015 Best Leading Actress in a Musical Nominee: Andrea Giangreco as Mary Flynn in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's "Merrily We Roll Along"

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 brian@artsimpulse.com.

Photo Credit: Sarah Ernst

Photo Credit: Sarah Ernst

Andrea Giangreco could have stolen the show as the expressive, alcoholic and passionate Mary Flynn.  However, her biggest strength as a performer in this show was her deep collaboration with her fellow cast mates, particularly with Jared Walsh as Franklin Shepherd (also a 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Nominee) and Adam Schuler as Charley Kringas.  In this way, Andrea not only held her own as a strong performer, but she made the people around her look and sound better.  Andrea brought the best out of herself and her fellow stars in this gorgeous farewell production for The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company.

In her Interview, Andrea tells us a bit more about her character, Mary Flynn; the strangest thing that she has ever done onstage (hint, it involved heights); and her newest project (we can't wait, Andrea!). 

Hi, Andrea! It is such a pleasure to talk to you after many years of admiring your performances onstage.  Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hey Brian! Thanks for the nomination!

I’m from Burlington, Massachusetts, and I have been performing since my freshman year at Burlington High School. I went to Salem State University for Communications and I currently work in Healthcare. I’ve done shows all over the Greater Boston area! 

Tell us about Mary Flynn.  Who is she?  What was her role in the musical Merrily We Roll Along?  Why was she special to you?

Mary Flynn is a writer and theatre critic and best friend of Frank Shepard and Charley Kringas. In her youth, she dreams of being a writer, and achieves success fairly early after her first novel is published. She is also hopelessly in love with Frank, but doesn’t want to ruin their friendship by confessing her true feelings. Instead, she turns to the bottle to drown her emotions. Throughout the show, Mary acts as the glue that holds the bond of Her, Frank and Charley together. When Charley and Frank start in on each other, she’s there to smooth everything all over.

Mary was special to me because I found a lot of similarities between the two of us. I’m not saying that we are carbon copies, but I found it easy to relate with what she was going through because of my own personal experiences.

I wasn’t very familiar with this show before Joey DeMita cast me, and I don’t think I realized until after we closed that Mary Flynn was the dream role that I never knew I wanted. Working so closely with Jared Walsh (Frank) and Adam Schuler (Charley) was a dream. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look for shows where we could play best friends again. I’ll never forget singing “Our Time” at the final performance.

(From left): Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler), Franklin Shepherd (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) make a pact for their future friendship in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

(From left): Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler), Franklin Shepherd (Jared Walsh), and Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) make a pact for their future friendship in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Why do you think Merrily We Roll Along continues to resonate with audiences?

At its core, the story is relevant because it deals with making sacrifices and hard choices in order to achieve success, and how those choices affect your future.

How do you pick your roles and auditions?  What projects inspire you?

As I mentioned earlier, I want to have a very diverse resume. When I started acting, I admired the actors who could do anything—Meryl Streep, Daniel Day Lewis and Gary Oldman come to mind. When I look for auditions, I always keep in mind that I can do a lot more than just belt my face off. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of executing that. I’m dying for the opportunity to play an ingénue though! Get this girl a love story!

Projects that inspire me are always seeded in originality and creativity. I had the pleasure of working with Andrew Barbato and Cellar Door in Stoneham on multiple occasions, and I was always would leave rehearsals in awe of how creative he is. We performed ALICE! in the basement rehearsal space under Stoneham Theatre, and [Andrew] would change that very blank space into quite literally, Wonderland.

I also really give a lot of credit to theatres who try new things and out of the box ideas with their storytelling. I hope I get to see Hamilton and Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. I love directors who are unafraid to throw out the “typical” and “generic” staging of shows and go in a completely different direction with it. I know it’s hard to break the mold, but I’d love to see more of this happening!

What are some of the best performances or productions that you saw in 2015?

I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Cumming as the Emcee in Cabaret last winter, and, to this day, I get chills remembering how unbelievably good he was. He was on stage for the majority of the show and was always so invested in what was happening on stage, even when the story line didn’t directly involve him.

I also loved Titanic at Woodland Theatre. I had a lot of friends in that show and I always love seeing them on stage. Woodland always produced beautiful shows; I’m sad that I didn’t get the chance to perform more with them.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t know how surprising this is, but I played the trombone for a long time in school. SO—if anyone is looking for an actor/singer who owns a trombone—I’m your gal!

If you could have dinner with two people, who would they be?  Why?  What would you eat?

I have such a long list, but, in the theme of musical theatre, I’d love to meet Julie Andrews and Angela Lansbury. Even before I wanted to get involved in theatre, I admired these women. They created brilliant characters on stage and screen, and, in “real life,” they seem humble and hysterical. Picking Julie Andrew’s brain about bringing Mary Poppins to life and hearing stories from Angela Lansbury during her run in Murder, She Wrote would make for a fun dinner party. I would bring pizza and beer to one of their English Countryside Manors (I’m assuming they live in English Countryside Manors).

What is the strangest or most odd thing that someone has asked you to do onstage?  What happened?

When I was in Godspell at Marblehead Little Theatre, Sarah Ernst (our fearless director and choreographer) asked us to spend a better half of “We Beseech Thee” simultaneously jumping and singing on a trampoline. I faced death MULTIPLE times as I was not very good at multi-tasking singing and jumping simultaneously. I almost bounced straight off our stage and into the laps of the audience during one performance! Also, I couldn’t gauge how high to jump to stay safe, and almost collided with the light right above my trampoline every night.

 If you could perform in any other Sondheim show, what would it be?  Who would you play?  Would you want anyone to perform the show with you?

Easy. Sweeney Todd. I’ve wanted to play Mrs. Lovett since I started performing back in high school (I have Angela Lansbury to thank for this—I’ll do that over dinner). And If I could have ANYONE be in the show with me, I would want Harrison Ford as Sweeney Todd—just because.

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler) is comforted by Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's  Merrily We Roll Along  (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Charley Kringas (Adam Schuler) is comforted by Mary Flynn (Andrea Giangreco) in The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company's Merrily We Roll Along (Photo Credit: Matt Phillipps)

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Yes! I was just cast as Pennywise in Urinetown at Longwood Players in Cambridge. The show goes up in May. VERY excited about this role and the cast and production team is so stupidly talented. Don’t miss this one!

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Keep supporting Boston theatre!

2015 Best Leading Actor in a Musical Nominee: Jared Troilo in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's "Disney's The Little Mermaid"

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 Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Jared Troilo impressed us with his fresh and charming portrayal of the iconic Prince Eric in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's Disney's The Little Mermaid at the historic Strand Theatre.  Whether he was sailing aboard his ship, serenading us on the shore, or teaching Ariel (and us) to dance, Jared delighted with an easy smile, a winning voice, and just the right mix of princely manners with relateable ease. 

In his Interview, Jared talks about his decision to return to the Boston theatre community, his most challenging roles, and his upcoming role at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston!

Photo Credit: Ross Brown

Photo Credit: Ross Brown

Hi Jared!  Thank you so much for interviewing with me.  Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, ArtsImpulse readers! I’m Jared, and I’m a Boston-based actor.

You’re a Boston boy.  What made you decide to stay in the Boston area after graduating from high school and college?

Well I actually moved to NYC after graduating from The Boston Conservatory, and lived there for about four years. I loved it there, but I found myself leaving frequently for various performance jobs in New England and especially in Boston. Over time, I fell in love with the Boston theater community and with the city itself, so my wife and I decided that we’d rather stay put here for now. We haven’t regretted the decision for a day!

Talk to us about your process for preparing to play an iconic role like Prince Eric.  How many times did you watch the Disney movie?  Did you watch any other versions of the Hans Christian Anderson story?

I watched the movie a lot when I was a kid (I’ve always been a huge Disney fan!), but I decided to stay away from it for this rehearsal process. I didn’t want to be overly influenced by it and come off as some sort of weird caricature of a prince.

I read pieces of the original Hans Christian Anderson story and studied up on my nautical terms, and then did my best to make this well-known prince as normal and human as I could.

Ariel (Jesse Lynn Harte) and Prince Eric (Jared Troilo) sing in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's  Disney's The Little Mermaid  (Photo Credit: Eric Antoniou/Fiddlehead Theatre Company).

Ariel (Jesse Lynn Harte) and Prince Eric (Jared Troilo) sing in Fiddlehead Theatre Company's Disney's The Little Mermaid (Photo Credit: Eric Antoniou/Fiddlehead Theatre Company).

Who is your favorite Disney princess, and why?

Since I was a kid, it’s ALWAYS been Princess Jasmine. I think she might’ve been my first crush!

If you could keep only your sight, your hearing, or your voice, which would you keep?

Wow! That’s like Sophie’s Choice. I would say voice but if I couldn’t hear what would be the point? Hmmm…I like to travel, so I’ll go with SIGHT!

What have been some of the most challenging roles that you have played?  Why?  What did you do to prepare?

I’d say Tony in West Side Story was pretty tough. It was definitely the most challenging role vocally I’ve ever done. Every song is iconic and is expected to be sung beautifully (which is a lot of pressure).

Also, Frank in Far From Heaven was a huge challenge. Dramatically, I had to go places that I had never been before, and try to make this abusive, closeted alcoholic into someone that people could at least somewhat relate to and understand. Plus, people tend to give you a hard time when you beat up Jen Ellis on stage.

What is one thing that you wish that audiences, including your friends and family, understood about theatre?

That it’s a 24-7 career. Even if we’re not working on a show at any given moment we’re always working on ourselves. Our bodies and our voices are our tools so we are always taking voice lessons, dance classes, acting classes, and working out in addition to networking, auditioning and performing. It’s a lot but it’s what we love to do, and we’re willing to make the commitment to do it as well as we can.

If you could trade places with one person for the day, who would it be?  What would you do?

Hmmm . . . Tom Brady. Because why not?

What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of the theatre?

I’m a big Boston sports fan! I’m also a big fan of fitness and traveling. I also love doing winter sports (skiing especially).

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I’ll be appearing next in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of Dogfight, playing Boland. We open in May 2016!

Dogfight

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Thank you so much for the nomination (and for reading all of this). I’m truly honored. Congratulations to all the Nominees!