BWW Interviews: Kristin Warren Talks TUTS Undergrounds' Upcoming MURDER BALLAD
When TUTS Underground announced their inaugural season, it was clear that they were keeping their promise of bringing Houston audiences an edgier and more risqué brand of theatre. TUTS Underground is kicking off the second half of their season of rockin' musical theatre with the regional premiere of MURDER BALLAD, a sexy murder story about a love triangle gone wrong. Playing the role of the narrator, Kristin Warren took some time out of her busy schedule to let Houston audiences know what they can expect from this racy musical.
BWW: When did you first decide that you wanted to make a career in the performing arts?
Kristin Warren: Oh, gosh. (Laughs) Well, I have been performing since I was five, and I think I knew when I was very young that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I don't know if I can pinpoint an age. I was easily under ten when I already knew. I can't pinpoint a particular show. My mom put me in theatre because I had way too much energy, and I was very over dramatic, (Laughs) and it just fit like a glove. My first show was WIZARD OF OZ, and I played Dorothy. She said that I would not let her help me. I wouldn't let her help me memorize my lines; I wouldn't let her help me with my songs. I just did it all by myself. (Laughs)
BWW: You are the winner of BWW Houston's 2013 Award for Best Actress in a Musical based on your portrayal of Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD. How did it feel to receive that honor?
Kristin Warren: It felt amazing. I am so flattered. To be in the company of all of the other nominees, all who are such talented artists here in Houston, it was a very humbling experience. Anytime I get recognition for what I do, it makes me feel very flattered and humbled. And I love that people enjoy what I do because I love to do it, and that's my way of connecting with people (Laughs) as funny as that sounds. To know that people were moved by my performance and that they voted for me, that was wonderful.
BWW: Theatre Under the Stars has been doing great things in Houston for a long time now, but TUTS Underground is still the new kid on the block. How does it feel getting to participate in the inaugural season of TUTS' newest brand of theatre?
Kristin Warren: I am beyond thrilled. I don't think that I have been this excited for a show in a long time. As soon as I saw the lineup for the season, I started listening to the music. At first, I started listening to LIZZIE. I had already kind of discovered LIZZIE online, and I loved that show. In talking to Bruce, I knew that they were bringing in people, but that was okay. (Laughs) But, I've been listening to MURDER BALLAD from the second that I could get my hands on the music. I just fell in love with it. I had to be a part of it. When they called me to tell me that I got the role, I literally jumped out of my seat. I am very, very, excited, and very proud to be part of it.
BWW: Well, we are also really excited about MURDER BALLAD. Like you, we were hooked from the moment that we got our hands on the album. We are also loving TUTS Underground for their commitment to bringing new and edgy shows into the Houston area.
Kristin Warren: Yeah, it's exciting. I think it's a wonderful thing for them to reach out to a whole other demographic of theatre goers. Of course, do the big classic shows in Sarofim that their base loves, but to do edgier, newer, more progressive shows and bring in a whole new audience of people and teach them to appreciate theater also, I think it's wonderful. You know a lot of people enjoy both. I'm one of them. I mean I love a classic musical, don't get me wrong. There's so many that I love, but it's exciting that they're doing those newer shows too.
BWW: So, in this upcoming production of MURDER BALLAD, you play the Narrator. What has been your favorite part about preparing for this role?
Kristin Warren: Listening to the music and singing the songs has been great. I don't know; my favorite part is always analyzing and overanalyzing where the characters are coming from, and really imagining the show in my head because I have never seen it. I have only heard it. It's like when you read a book and you imagine the whole thing in your head. You think about how people are moving around, what the set looks like, and all of those things. I think that's probably my favorite part. I love using my imagination and conceiving the show in my mind. Then, what's always wonderful is going into rehearsal and having the director have their vision and showing you something that you never thought of. It becomes a whole new discovery once you get into rehearsal with the director and with the other actors because you get to put all of those ideas together. So, it's never a letdown. You know how you read a book and then see the movie, and it's not as good as what you have imagined? That doesn't usually happen. (Laughs) In theatre, I can imagine something and think that I know how it is going to go. Then, I can get into the process, and the final product is always a million times better than anything that I could've imagined in my head.
BWW: The Narrator gets some really fun numbers. Which is your favorite?
Kristin Warren: When I first listened to it, I could relate to both of the female characters. I really liked them both, but I was so drawn to the Narrator. So, when they were looking at me for the role of the narrator I was like, "This was meant to be!" (Laughs) I love "Murder Ballad." I love that song. I think it's a great song. Then of course "The Crying Scene" is just a beautiful song. It really shows you a lot more of the character and her emotional turmoil from the whole...crazy story. I think the writer articulated very well what it feels like for people who have affairs, both at first and then when reality hits and the fantasy is gone. It's like this is real life, this isn't a movie, and there are consequences. I think the song is so pretty, it's definitely one of my favorites.
BWW: With a four person cast, MURDER BALLAD is a pretty intimate show, and I imagine that it will be perfectly suited for the intimate Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center. I know that when this show premiered in New York, it was a unique theatre-going experience and had a very in-your-face appeal. Is there going to be a similar set-up for this production?
Kristin Warren: Oh yeah, absolutely. They are trying to definitely create that bar atmosphere, which I think I am allowed to talk about because, I think, they have already said things about it online. The set is a bar. An hour before the show, the audience can come in and literally go on stage into the bar, onto the set, and order drinks and play pool at the pool table. This allows audience members to be in the bar where this story is about to happen. They really want to try to recreate that intimate bar atmosphere, for sure. Zilkha Hall will not look like Zilkha. (Laughs) I have seen pictures of the set, and it is amazing. I can't wait to meet the Set Designer, she's clearly brilliant.
There will be seating available on stage, and for those people, the show will be happening all around them. It's a very in-your-face show. But, I think it can be enjoyed from the other seats in the house also. Not everybody likes having to look around to the right and left as the action is happening around them. For example, I know when I go to the movies I like to be further back so that I don't have to look all over the place. I think this show offers the audience members a view that anyone can like. If you want to be removed from it, you can do that. Or if you really want to feel like right there in it, you can get that experience too.
BWW: Without giving too much away, why should Houston audiences be excited to see MURDER BALLAD?
Kristin Warren: Oh gosh. Because it is a different theatre going experience. It's written very much like a mystery novel, so it's exciting and sexy, and it kind of keeps you on the edge of your seat like a really good book or a really good movie. You know that there is a murder that is going to happen from the very beginning, but you don't know who is going to die or who the killer is. It's exciting. It takes place in a bar, and I don't know of many musicals that take place in a bar. It's very much like having a night out. It's a very good date night musical to go to. I think audiences are really going to like it. I don't know what else to say because I could honestly go on and on. The music is brilliant, and the writing is great. I haven't met the rest of the cast yet, but just seeing their clips on YouTube and looking at what they've got on their resumes, these are really talented people.
BWW: Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone aspiring to make a career in the performing arts?
Kristin Warren: My advice would be to get as much training as you can from as many people as you can. Also, realize that it takes a lot of hard work to be successful in this business, and by successful I just mean being a working actor. To me, if you're a working performer then you are successful, and it doesn't really matter where you're doing it.
I would also recommend going to college, one that specializes in theater or musical theater and using that as a wonderful way to get even better at what you do. Then, you get to have the college experience. I didn't go to college. I started, and then I stopped and started performing. But, you know, hindsight is always 20/20. I think it's a great growing experience for you as a human being, which will only make you a better performer. Honestly, you make connections at those colleges, and in this business it's all about who you know. And by that, I mean people who have seen your work. You get those opportunities to show your work if you go to a good college because they have all of those workshops and recitals that important people come to see. So, that would be my advice.
Make sure to catch this one! With a fully functional bar on stage and VIP Bar Fly packages available, this sexy, modern day musical promises to be a theatre experience like none other. Tickets start as low as $24! MURDER BALLAD opens on April 17 and will run until April 27, 2014 in the Zilkha Hall at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. For more information about TUTS Underground, or to book your tickets to MURDER BALLAD, please visit http://www.tutsunderground.com.
Photo courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.