BWW Interviews: Tracy Ahern & Keri Henson spill on GIRLS ONLY - THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN
If you haven't seen it yet, you still have a little bit of time to see GIRLS ONLY – THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN. The critically acclaimed production in Houston has been extended twice and is taking Houston by storm. Before I sat down to view the show myself, I was invited backstage to get to know the local talent in the production. I sat down with the charming, hilarious, and beautiful Tracy Ahern and Keri Henson. We talked about life, GLEE, GIRLS ONLY – THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN, what men get out of the show, Are You There, God? It's Me, Maragret, and advice for young performers.
Me: How did the two of you get into acting?
Keri Henson: Well, I was very young. It was 6th grade; I think I was 12 as it was towards the end of 6th grade. The DARE program-you remember the DARE program? I think it's still in schools-came to the school, and the police officer selected me to do a skit. And, I got to do a skit in front of the whole 6th grade. It was at that moment I realized [with a grandiose flourish in her voice] my destiny! [Both women laugh.]
Tracy Ahern: [Mimicking a youthful Keri] This is where I belong. I love it!
Keri: And that's where it started, and I've been doing it ever since. I'm not going to tell you how long I've been doing it because that would give my age away. [We all laugh.] But that's how I got started.
Tracy: That's cool. Yeah, I started like in a 5th grade play too and got the bug. Then, I ended up majoring in Theatre at Baylor, went to New York, and went to acting school after that for another couple of years. I've just been doing it all along.
Me: So, how close is NYADA on GLEE to real-life acting school?
Tracy: NYADA! I know! I know! It's probably pretty similar. It's the same concept.
Me: It makes me laugh. I watch it, and I think, "I don't think acting teachers would really do all of that, but ok." [The ladies laugh.]
Keri: In all their spare time, yes.
Me: Have you been watching it?
Tracy: I've seen only one episode of this year.
Me: Ok. So how did each of you get involved with GIRLS ONLY – THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN? Is there a story behind that?
Tracy: Well, we both had to audition. You know, GIRLS ONLY, they brought it in-I guess it's an import from Colorado. That's where the creators started with the show, and they're bringing it to different cities around the country, and Houston is the seventh city. And they cast locally for each show. So, there was a big call here, and we both came and auditioned.
Keri: And it was a great audition.
Tracy: And we were blessed enough to get the parts!
Keri: And it was a fun audition too because it wasn't like the norm. I mean, we got to do a lot of improv and a lot of interacting with everyone else that was auditioning. It was a very warm setting, so it was kind of a fun audition.
Tracy: It was fun. We did singing and dancing, monologues...
Tracy: It was extensive. It was great.
Me: The show has been extended twice now. How does that feel?
Tracy: Very rewarding. This was the most intense show that I've ever had to prepare for just because it's only the two of us for a two-hour format. And, so it was a ton of prep work on the front end, with memorization. You know, we rehearsed the entire show in one week,...
Tracy:...which was nuts.
Keri:...learned all the songs, all the dances.
Tracy: Yeah. So, after all that it's like really nice and rewarding for it to be playing as long as it is. You'll see when you watch tonight, but the third character in the play is the audience. It's very interactive, and so it's rewarding because it tells us that the audience is enjoying being part of it. And, they're coming back again and again. So, that's good.
Keri: Yeah. It's a slew of emotion, you know. We keep going, "Is this real." [Tracy starts laughing] "Are we still doing it? We going to do it some more? Oh my gosh!" It's just a dream. I mean, we are living our dreams.
Tracy: Yeah. So, every time it extends, it's like, "Whew! It gets to last a little longer!"
Keri: And our dream gets to last a little bit longer!
Me: Are there any favorite moments you have in the show?
Keri: [Takes a deep breath.] Yes.
Me: That won't give anything away for those who haven't seen it yet? [Both ladies laugh.]
Keri: Well, my absolute favorite is the improv in the show. I love the improv. It's different. It keeps us on our toes. The audience is always part of the improv games. But, as far as the script-the following of the script-I really enjoy "Up With Puberty." It's these two young, immature high school girls that go into a fifth grade classroom, which is the audience [Tracy laughs], and they get to educate them on the special moments they are going to experience as a young girl. And it's just hilarious. It's just so funny. So, I enjoy that part. Of the scripted parts of the shows, that's the part I enjoy.
Tracy: I think my favorite scene is called "Craft Corner." We get to play old ladies who have gone through "The Change." We have all of our leftover feminine hygiene products, and we decide instead of moping around and throwing them away to get creative with them and make arts and crafts.
Me: That's got to be the picture I saw when I walked in, where there's a tampon angel. [Both ladies laugh.]
Tracy: Yes. Yes. The tampon angel!
Me: That was awesome.
Tracy: Yeah. [We all laugh.]
Me: Since you are both from the Houston area, what are your favorite aspects of performing in Huston?
Keri: Well, it beats the commute to LA or New York. [Tracy laughs.] Right? We're right here in town, but the ladies-the ladies connect to us after the show. I mean, they are so involved during the show, and they invest so much in those characters, especially Tracy's character, who talks about being from Canada. And, the playwright is from Canada, in fact, but once they realize that we're Texas girls, and that we're out in Katy and Tomball, they're just so thrilled that it's local, it's staying local, that they can support the local theatre and the local actresses. I enjoy it. I enjoy Houston theatre.
Tracy: Yeah. We have a good arts scene.
Tracy: So, it's been fun. I think my favorite theatre experiences have been in Houston, so it's cool to get to do it in my hometown.
Me: Regarding audience participation, have you had an audience member react differently than you expected?
Tracy: Oh my gosh.
Keri: Well, yes, so there's this scene that we do, and it's called "Purses." We grab ladies purses, we go through them, and we make a whole skit out of it. I don't know what it is about these purses, but if a lady has a thing of pills in her purse, somehow, I manage to spill the pills all over the stage. [Tracy starts laughing.] Then, we're scrambling to pick them up as we're laughing and the audience is laughing. And we're thinking, "Oh, let's not lose one of these pills that may be worth $200 a pill," you know because you never know. That's hilarious. That's so funny when that happens. And the pantyhose. [Pauses] Oh my goodness, we have a panty hose ballet at the end, and each night we're like "Are we going to get our foot in the panty hose tonight,...[Tracy starts laughing again.]...or is our foot going to go through the panty hose tonight? What's going to happen?" [Keri laughs.] So, those are fun moments, you know, because the next day you can say, "Oh, can you believe last night?"
Tracy: [Laughing] Yeah.
Keri: "The panty hose ripped so big!" And it keeps it very, very real for the audience. They are just so connected, right there with us. Every time we make a mistake, they're like "I love this show. She made a mistake. She is not perfect." They totally connect to that.
Tracy: Yeah, I think that the demographic-obviously you're not the target demographic for this show-...
Tracy:...but there's, in almost every show, there's two or three or four men who end up in the audience. And I love it. I love it when there's men in the audience. I don't know what it is...it's very...the show is not at all antagonistic towards men. It's a very loving environment to be in, but there's something about having those handfuls of men in the audience that makes it just so much more fun for all the women, you know.
Tracy: And I find that the men, when they walk out are glowing as much as the ladies are. [Laughs.] So, it's fun. The show is definitely a celebration of women, but we wouldn't be women without men. So, it's fun to have that element in the room too.
Keri: And it helps when we lovingly pick on y'all.
Keri: And say how handsome y'all are, [Tracy laughs] and all the ladies clap for you. Yeah, that's gotta be so much fun for the guys too.
Keri: And it's fun to watch them too. On stage, we'll see them, and they'll be laughing. Then, we get to "Craft Corner," and we pull out the first panty liner. It's like they laugh, and then kind of peek at the men [Tracy laughs], like "You see? You get that? This is what we have to go through." It's like validating for the women, but it's such a loving, you know, hilarious environment that everybody loves it.
Me: On the topic of men, what can a man take away from this show? What do men really get out of GIRLS ONLY – THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN?
Tracy: A good laugh.
Tracy: I mean, this is light and fluffy fun. So, more than anything, I think people just walk out-people give us hugs, we get to greet the audience after the show-and more than anything, I think, I just hear people just say "Thank you so much! I just needed to laugh!" It's just fun and lighthearted. It's a great time.
Keri: And my partner in crime, he's been to see it four times now, and he told me after the first one, "I don't really understand it, but I love to watch the women laugh at you."
Tracy: Aw. [Laughs.]
Keri: He just loves that, and I think that that's probably true for a lot of the men that come to see it. Some parts, it's just, you know, a girl thing and you're not going to get it. [Both ladies laugh.] But just to see and hear all the laughter come out of those women is rewarding.
Tracy: That's sweet. That's very sweet.
Me: So, it's kind of like a Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret for adults. [The ladies laugh.]
Tracy: You may hear a reference to that during the show.
Keri: Yeah. [The ladies laugh again.] You may. But, you're right. That's exactly what it is.
Tracy: You are right on the money.
Me: My wife always says that you are not a woman until you've read that book.
Tracy: It's a total right of passage for our culture.
Keri: It is. It is.
Tracy: My mom wouldn't let me read it when I was little.
Keri: I got to read it when I was little.
Me: Thinking back, as young and upcoming artists, if you could have been told one golden piece of advice that would have made things easier, what would it have been?
Keri: Like, if my adult self could have told my 18-year-old self...
Keri:..."I know you have these big dreams, [Laughs] but here's a piece of advice." Wow. I don't know. Do you have a...
Tracy: Mine would be, "Don't wait for someone else to tell you that you're good enough...
Tracy:...to do this. Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams. Get the training. Affirmation will follow, but it's not going to come on the front end."
Keri: Yeah, you know! I think... I think my biggest advice would be to be patient. Just be patient because it will come, you know. I knew I had the talent, I was getting the training, I had the ability, but it wasn't happening fast enough, you know. I had a moment to step back, and I had a baby. I took time off. Then for two years I hadn't done anything. Then, I went to this audition, like last minute went to this audition, and look at where it has lead. I think I would tell myself to be patient, to breathe, and enjoy it.
You only have until Sunday, February 3, 2013 to she the fun, smash hit production of GIRLS ONLY – THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN. It's a fantastic show for mothers and daughters to share together, co-workers, best friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives, and more. To experience the fun, fluffy, feel-good comedy please visit http://www.girlsonlycomedy.com/, http://mainstreettheater.com/mainstage/girlsonly.html, or call (713) 524 – 6706. For group tickets and group rates, please call (281) 740 – 4408 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.Production photo by www.ricornellproductions.com. All photos courtesy of Sydney Greenblatt Event Marketing.
Keri Henson & Tracy Ahern in GIRLS ONLY - THE SECRET COMEDY OF WOMEN.