BWW Feature: At Home With Becca Kidwell
One of dearest and most interesting people in cabaret, Becca Kidwell is a real original. From the moment she walked in the room, the artists took her into their community and the audiences took her into their hearts. With her honesty, humor, and the best giggle you've ever heard, she is a ball of sunshine and optimism in a work filled with darkness and doubt - multi-faceted, fascinating and fun. It's a winning combination that has made her one of cabaret's up-and-coming talents that people have definitely taken notice of.
Becca exchanged some emails with me to talk about her work and her time at home during the shelter in place order, and the only drawback to the fact that it wasn't a phone interview was missing that infectious and wonderful laugh.
Name: Becca Kidwell
First Cabaret Show (Title, Year, Club): A Song & Its Girl, 2017-2018, Don't Tell Mama
Most Recent Cabaret Show: My Maybe World with Mary Chapin Carpenter, this fall (hopefully), Don't Tell Mama
Website or Social Media Handles: http://beccaCkidwell.com
Becca, you have been using your social media to spread joy and hopefulness during the period of isolation. Are you always an optimist?
In a way-but as a defense mechanism. I've struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a kid and still do. Being the stubborn person that I am, I always try to find hope, even in the darkest situations; I have not always managed to maintain that hope. I started these social media posts as a reminder to myself, and I've learned that a lot of other people struggle the way I do.
You're a renaissance woman with many varied interests and occupations. Have you been spending your quarantine focused on any one particular project or have you been spreading your attentions around?
The two main things that I've been working on are my music and (ironically) my social life. I make sure I practice singing every day. I want to do my best in my show this fall, and since I have extra time, I want to add as much depth to my performance as I possibly can.
As for my social life, I've actually had a chance to connect more regularly with my friends over FaceTime and the phone. I'm very introverted, and it's easy for me to stay in my own world. For me, one gift of the quarantine has been the opportunity to intentionally reach out to people, strengthening my current friendships and reconnecting with friends that I haven't talked to in years.
You are a healer. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you found the Reiki path and what your work as a healer brings to your life?
For those who don't know, Reiki is balancing a person's energy so that it flows in communion with the universe. We often get busy or so focused on one area of our lives that we are thrown out of balance. I first encountered Reiki in Boston when I was starting to learn how to heal from the trauma of my past. When I moved to New York, I wanted to try it again, but I didn't know where to look. So, I asked my musical director, Tracy Stark, because I knew she was into yoga, and she turned out to be a reiki practitioner herself. When she worked on me, it didn't just feel like SHE was working on ME; it was like an energy conversation, and I wanted to learn more. She introduced me to the person that taught her, and I started a mentorship with him. Reiki has brought more balance to my life and is continuing to help me heal, not only through my work on myself but also through my work with others. My work with clients is an opportunity to help them find balance, mindfulness, and grounding in their lives. I look forward to returning to this work when the curve is flattened enough that my clients and I can safely be in the same room together.
Becca, tell me about Mary Chapin Carpenter.
She has been the one constant on my playlist for the past twenty years. No matter what is going on in my life, she has written a song that speaks to what I'm going through. It didn't surprise anyone when I decided to do a tribute show. She and I are also a lot alike. She's struggled with shyness and depression since she was a child, and that comes through in her music. A lot of her music is dark with a vein of hope at its core; that's why it resonates with so many people. She has been classified as a country singer and a folk singer, but she sees herself as a singer-songwriter, a storyteller. I'm excited to share the journey that I've taken with her music in my new show.
What has your cabaret life experience been like since you debuted your first solo show?
Even BEFORE my first show, the MAC community welcomed me with open arms. They are my friends and my family, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity to grow as a performer. I was honored to be nominated for Best Female Debut in 2018, and I've been blessed to work with so many immensely talented people. I would like to give a shoutout to my musical director, Tracy Stark, who always has given me the support that I need to be daring in my performances. And my directors, Gretchen Reinhagen and Kristine Zbornik, have helped me to grow as a performer. There is no cabaret without Sidney Myer, and his encouragement has meant the world to me. I am also grateful to all the people I worked with on my Infinite Joy Benefit and Meg Flather's Sisterhood. As I said, EVERYONE has been supportive since the beginning; they've truly accepted me for me, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.
How would you describe the aesthetic of a Becca Kidwell club act?
Geekiness, joy, and genuineness. Singing is my joy, and I have always felt that it is my gift to others. In my show, you get me, along with the music that makes me and moves me. That's why my song selection tends to be eclectic, although that's also the reason why a Mary Chapin Carpenter show was inevitable.
You're an avid reader-what are the five essential books to have while under quarantine?
I'd say A Natural Woman by Carole King, Home Shopping Diva by Meg Flather, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, and The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. I am currently reading More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys.
What is your surefire way to make the day a happy one?
To be where you are. That's why I have the tattoo on my arm; it's Tracy Stark's song "Right Where I Belong." And that's not necessarily happy. All our feelings are a gift-happiness, sorrow, anger, boredom, gratitude, fear-they all help us live life fully and understand how to interact with the universe around us. The quickest way to make yourself miserable is to try to control how you feel.
I am known for being stubborn, for trying to push through when the universe has told me to stop. Fangirl was originally scheduled to debut in March of 2018, but my body said "no." I had thyroid cancer and had to have my thyroid removed (I'm clear). Nothing is guaranteed. There's always a struggle between what we want and what we need. The goal isn't happiness; it's joy. Joy can only be felt when we are fully present, and part of that is allowing ourselves to be okay with the messiness that is life and all the emotions that go along with that. I chose Mary Chapin Carpenter's song "Maybe World" as the title of my show because that's what life is: "Everything is so uncertain/ All the garbage, baby, and the pearls/ That's the beauty and the hurting/ Of living in a maybe world."
Becca, who is the best Doctor Who?
I have to choose two: ultimately David Tennant, because he had the most time (of the new Doctors) to really dig into his character and make it truly nuanced. My second is Jodie Whitaker; I identify with her because her Doctor is very much like me, and I think I was her in a past life.
And how about the best Star Trek franchise?
My favorite is Voyager because of Janeway (Kate Mulgrew!), which gives me a personal connection. Objectively, The Next Generation because of all of the outstanding writing and acting in that series (I used to be a theatre critic, so I am able to look at things objectively). I do think Picard is adding new depth to the franchise and is very reminiscent of Joss Whedon's Firefly, so I'm enjoying it as well.