BWW Interviews: SRO's [TITLE OF SHOW] Cast Talks [TITLE OF SHOW], Vampires and Inspiration
On a beautiful Tuesday evening, I visited with the cast and crew of SRO Production's [TITLE OF SHOW], written by Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen. They were hard at work in their intimate rehearsal space, and I was luckily enough to see them rehearse the rousing "Nine People's Favorite Thing" and "Die Vampire! Die!" If the small preview I saw, the camaraderie shown in the interview, and sheer amount of fun the cast and crew are having are any indication of what Houston audiences are in for, this is sure to be a stellar production.
Me: The music in this show can be really complicated (i.e. "Filling Out the Form). What has rehearsing these songs been like?
Erin Wasmund (playing Heidi): It's a little more complicated than you think it is. At first listen, you're like, "how nice." But there's so many jazz choruses and stuff like that. I mean, Jeff Bowen is so brilliant at what he does that for someone who doesn't necessarily know music very well or sometimes hearing your parts that never seems to fit...
Tyler Glindo (playing Jeff): [Interjecting] I am brilliant.
Tyler: I am brilliant.
Heather Hall (playing Susan): You don't have anyone to listen to. It's just yourself, and if you screw it up, it sounds bad.
Hunter Frederick (playing Hunter): Yeah. When I was listening to the show before I came to audition, before I had even seen the music, I was like "Oh. This is nice music!" I didn't realize-it didn't occur to me, for some reason-there was four voices making all that sound. It's because of the complex arrangements and things, and that means everybody gets their own part. They don't pull punches with harmonies and stuff. It's not baby stuff. I think it's great.
Tyler: Yeah. I agree. [Everyone laughs.]
Me: I just think about the fact that you have to rehearse wrong notes, so you can correctly sing wrong notes in the show. That's crazy to me.
Heather: Oh yeah. I do that. Except, I didn't learn a wrong note. I just sang it wrong. [Everyone laughs.]
Michael Taylor (the director of the production): Heather's been doing very, very well. She's used to-I think we had this discussion where you said you've always been either on top or with the melody.
Michael: And finding the middle is hard, hard, hard, hard, hard work.
Tyler: I can't find the middle.
Heather: I can't either
Michael: Yes, she can. Yes, she can.
Me: People easily relate to this show, even if they've never written or have no intention to ever write a musical. In your opinion, what makes this show so relatable to audiences?
Erin: At the risk of sounding cliché, it's about following your dreams. [Laughs] It doesn't matter what people think, just do it.
Tyler: I think, everybody's chased a dream and were told they weren't going to make it.
Erin [In a hushed sigh of a whisper, responding to Tyler's comment]: Damn it.
Michael: Especially, when they fiund out how real these people are on this level-on our level, on The Common man's level.
Hunter: Yeah, that's the thing. I think a big part of the show, of what they aspired to, was to try not to make it all pretty and Broadway, but to just let themselves be themselves and let their real selves remain, even through the edits.
Heather: I don't know if this is off topic, but what's also relatable to the audience is the humor and the references. They do talk about Roller Coaster Tycoon, which everyone, well, a lot of people, have played.
Erin: Only me, in this room, apparently. [The girls laugh.]
Michael: Was that Atari? Who puts that out?
Michael: Oh no, I've angered it!
Erin: It's a PC game from 1999!
Michael: I'm usually the youngest person, but as the years go by, I'm becoming more and more the oldest person in the room.
Erin: A joke he makes every rehearsal.
Michael: That's because you guys don't get my references.
Erin: Well, some of them are off the wall. I'm kind of surprised people who are your age maybe get some of them.
Wayne Landon (A producer of the show): Ohhhh. [Heather laughs.]
Michael: I'll just go back into my hovel. [Laughs]
Erin: No, It's not a burn! I didn't mean that as a burn! [Wayne laughs.]
Me: "Die Vampire, Die!" is a really impactful number. What are some of your personal vampires?
Heather: Oh, that's deep.
Tyler: That's a good question.
Erin: I'm going to defer this question. I have so many.
Heather: I have one! I'm so worried that someone's gonna write a review, and be like "Heather Hall sucks at being on stage!"
Michael: That's your vampire?
Heather: That's my vampire.
Hunter: I feel like when you're doing live performances it's hard not feel like people are judging everything: your signing, your look, your acting. I feel like I can't act. I mean, I don't know, sometimes. I hope that's not true, at least not 100% true, but that's me. I just feel like wanting to put this façade up, "Oh look, I can do everything."
Tyler: One of my personal vampires is the air freshener vampire [Heather laughs] because I was brought up in a really sheltered home. My dad's a pastor at a church, so anything I've done in the past, I've had to think about, "Oh gosh, my family's going to see this. Do it. Just do it." But, ever since AVENUE Q (produced this past summer by SRO Productions at Country Playhouse) [Everybody laughs]
Heather: Surprise dad!
Tyler: I've had to just say, "you know what, I have to do what's best for me."
Michael: He's been excommunicated by the way. [Laughs]
Tyler: They've sent me into the abyss. I can't call them mother and father anymore. [Michael laughs] But that's something I deal with.
Heather: I feel like that too. I haven't told me parents I have to kiss a girl yet, so...
Erin: [Interjecting] I told my mom.
Michael: Hey, there was a time I had to tell my parents I had to kiss a girl too, so... [Everyone laughs]
Heather: They were probably like, "Yes!" [Laughs with Michael]
Hunter: My grandparent's Shih Tzu got sick, so they won't be coming to see the show, and my mom's like, "Oh, that's probably good."
Erin: Wait, wait wait. Their doggy's sick now, so they're not going to be able to come on the 18th?
Hunter: Well, it's got like paralysis. So, it's like...
Erin: Their dog?
Erin: Bring it to the show; it's not going to make noise!
Hunter: It might not. Except if it dies, it'll be really quiet.
Erin: Until your grandmother sobs, oh my goodness.
Hunter: They live north of Dallas, But my mom is like, "Well, I know it's going to be a really great show. We're excited to see it, but Gammy and Gampy are 78." So, she's just afraid that they won't understand some of the things we're going to do.
Hunter: I'm sure they would. They're super chill. That's my mom's vampire-that vampire that I need to fit in a box.
Erin [pensively]: I have a stage fright vampire. Yeah. I get really nervous getting up in front of people. You know, it's just convenient with what I chose to do with my life, but I get really nervous about that.
Hunter: Yeah, Erin is just super introverted, so. I'm just kidding.
Erin: I am more than you think, actually, about a lot of things. Yeah, that's my one, if anything. Also, if I fail. And my character Heidi has a lot of body issues as well, which is one thing that I think makes it relatable to the audience, as well. Because every single woman walking on this entire earth has looked at herself in the mirror at one time, probably every man too, and said, "You are too ugly to do this." Or "your hair's the wrong color" or anything. That's the whole point of "Die Vampire, Die!"-just get over it and do what you love, you know.
Me: As an artist, what inspires or motivates you?
Erin: Waiting tables sucks your soul! [Laughs]
Hunter: I just want to create. I don't know, I just love it. I mean, it's one of those things that is so hard to do. It's extremely hard, and it's like why do you do it sometimes. It's because you love it. If you can just go on with your life and not perform and not do theatre, music, and stuff, and you can live without it and be happy, then that's what you should do because it's so hard. I think pretty much everyone here just couldn't do that. Some people have an innate need to create.
Tyler: I like to put the audience through an experience. I like to make them feel and think about things that they wouldn't necessarily think about if they didn't come to the show. I love to entertain, just happen to bring them through an experience together. That's my whole drive.
Heather: I guess my motivation is my friends and family are so proud of me when they see me perform. They're like, "Oh, we're so proud of you. That was so great," even if I'm not doing anything. But they're not proud of me if I sell drapes. They're like, "whatever." [Michael laughs] You know what I mean! [All but Heather laughs.] What? It makes me happy to have my friends and family proud of me.
Michael: We're coming up on my two favorite weeks of the show. Rehearsals in the last two weeks are my favorite parts. That's why I do it. Once you guys get on stage and start doing it, I'm like "Okay. Have fun. Get all that applause. Get all that whatever."
Erin: You're stealing my thought.
Michael: Oh, really? That's what I told Wayne many times. It's all about the rehearsals for me. The performances, eh, whatever.
Erin: I like creating a life that's not you-imagining, playing, creating something, and stalking people beyond belief to try and find out what their life is like. You know, all that sort of stuff because no matter what you do, it's always going to be you under a different circumstance. No matter what I do, I'm still going to be me playing Heidi. I'm never going to be Heidi. I can imagine...
Tyler: [Interjecting] But she's trying.
Erin: Shut your mouth. [She laughs. Michael laughs] ...imagine life's frustrations and things that happen in your childhood that effect you in certain ways, and I just like to think about a lot of things, and you can't really do that in any other career. That's why I think I do it.
Tyler: Doesn't Heidi's mom call you to see how Heidi's doing? [Michael laughs] "How's Heidi today?" "Well, let me tell you what she's doing."
Erin: [To Tyler] You know, I think it's pretty nice outside.
Me: Alright, so we're stalking Heidi. That's awesome.
Erin: Yeah, that's an understatement.
Michael: She's done really, really well.
Me: So, Heidi's been invited to the show? She's going to come to opening night?
Erin: Well, I'm too afraid to Facebook friend her. I'm too afraid.
Tyler: Hunter's coming.
Hunter: Do it!
Erin: Yeah. Hunter's friends with Hunter!
Tyler: Hunter Bell's coming.
Erin: If Hunter Bell freaking comes, I'm going to scream real loud and poop myself.
Tyler: On stage, and we'll just have to close the show.
Me: Well, if Hunter comes, you know, Heidi might come too.
Erin: Oh, I haven't thought about that daily, really? Yeah, I love it. [I laugh] See, it's a little scary. That's why I have to do this for a living and not something else... [Pauses] In all seriousness though, I'm not really.
Me: What are your favorite parts or moments of the show?
[No one answers.]
Michael: Wow. Are they that memorable?
Hunter: There's a lot of parts.
Erin: I have two, I just feel like I'm talking too much.
Heather: I like the parts where we're just saying stupid stuff and being silly. Those are my favorite parts of the show.
Tyler: I like the end.
Erin: You like what?
Hunter: I agree with you.
Tyler: It's like...
Michael: [Interjecting] You guys are having a great time doing "Die Vampire! Die!"
Heather: Yeah. I really like "Die Vampire! Die" where we're just being silly. When we get serious, I'm like "This is deep," but it's not my favorite part.
Hunter: That's true.
Heather: And "Filling Out the Form," that's probably one of my favorite numbers. I don't do anything but eat in the fridge and sing off key, but it's what I look forward to in the play.
Tyler: A lot of the talking is a lot of messing around too, like the, what is it, the whore names?
Heather: Yeah, the [In unison with Tyler] drag queen names.
Hunter: It's drag queen names.
Tyler: Whore, drag queen...
Erin: I like every single interaction...
Michael: Ah, it's always the straight boys. [Everyone laughs] No, here's the hardest part when you've got two straight guys playing two gay guys, and it's very hard to get them, you know, "Take off your shirt," and Heidi takes off her shirt, and their both like [pantomimes staring at Heidi's chest]. And I'm like, "you guys, you can't look like that!" [Heather laughs]
Wayne: It's very funny.
Hunter: We're supposed to shuffle off to Buffalo immediately following that, and we're like, "Wait! What?"
Heather: Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
Tyler: I'm like, "I'll kiss her."
Michael: "I'll kiss her." [Laughs then everybody laughs]
Erin: I like every single interaction between Hunter and Jeff. I love the serious parts of the show. How cliché is this, y'all? I like "Part of It All." I love that song because the music is beautiful, then also it says a lot about every actor and how they want to be literally a part of it all. It's a recurring theme in the show, obviously. I like "Awkward Photo Shoot" because Hunter looses it, and I love it.
Tyler: It's scary.
Erin: I love it so much! I love it, I love it, I love it, so I love "Awkward Photo Shoot."
Hunter: [To Heidi] And your song. That's my favorite song.
Me: As a young group, what advice do you offer to young, aspiring actors?
Heather: Do it!
Erin: Work hard. Work hard and do it. If you fail, try again.
Erin: If you do all that, you'll be good.
Hunter: I think something that really helps is to try to get involved. A lot of people go to an audition or something and they get cast as the tree, and their like, "okay, well I did a show once a few years ago," but if it's something you really want to do just maybe hang out around the theatre. Look for other stuff that they're doing. When you become a young adult or teenager, you can volunteer to help them with stuff and that will help you grow as an artist and feed your creativity more than you can possibly imagine. I think that's really the way you sort of get started as being an artist instead of being someone who's just interested in the arts.
Heather: I agree and never be afraid to ask questions either because we always want to help.
Erin: I don't think I've ever met somebody that was like, "I won't help."
Michael: You've got to get a mentor. Sometimes, at auditions, it's like watching American Idol's first show. Get a mentor. That's what I would say.
Tyler: Don't feel pressured into doing something you don't want to do. A lot of people will be like, "Theatre, you can't live off of that. It's not worth it. You can't make a lot of money."
Erin: And you won't. You won't.
Tyler: You really won't, but it's better to be happy doing something you love.
Erin: [Pointing to her ring] Marry rich! [Pauses] Kidding about that.
Michael: If it's not something you can live off, it's certainly something that let's you survive.
Tyler: Something that makes you want to get up and do it.
Hunter: Absolutely, there's that old adage, "if you're job is something you love, you'll never work a day in your life" or something like that.
Erin: I'm going to Google that for accuracy. [Laughs]
Hunter: Yeah, for accuracy. And, it's hard work, but I mean it's something that you love to do.
Tyler: To add on to the mentor thing, just don't ever stop learning. An actor's work is never done. You can always be better.
Tyler: Brush your teeth. Say your prayers before going to sleep.
Erin: Good dental hygiene.
Tyler: Call your mom and dad.
Hunter: Be sensible. [They all laugh]
Me: Where can Houston audiences see you after [TITLE OF SHOW]?
Heather: You can see me teaching Zumba! I'm a Zumba teacher.
Erin: She's really fierce.
Heather: I can also sell them all kinds of draperies. [Michael laughs]
Hunter: I'm doing PANTO MOTHER GOOSE at Stages immediately following this. Then I don't have anything lined up after that.
Tyler: I'll probably be attending Lone Star in Tomball, doing classes. I like to do their competition shows as well. Competition shows are fun to me.
As we joked around and laughed after the interview was over, SRO Production's lively cast said they promise audiences a girl on girl make out session, a girl taking her shirt off, and nothing short of a really great show. Don't miss out on [TITLE OF SHOW], which will run at Obsidian Art Space from October 18 to November 3, 2012. For more information and tickets please visit http://www.sro-productions.com/ or call (713) 300 – 2358.
Photos courtesy of SRO-Productions.