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Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20

"Once I step on the stage, my nerves go away. I'm the reverse of most people."

Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20

All artists love a good challenge, something that will inspire new work, new ideas, new ways of looking at the world, and it is from those challenges that artists find invaluable pockets of growth. Becca Kidwell isn't a woman who stands idly by, waiting for life to come and find her - Becca Kidwell runs into the adventure, even when it scares her, and in her new cabaret show THE SHOW OF DARES, Becca Kidwell went in search of her next big challenge.

Wishing to come out of the lockdown stage of the pandemic, the award-nominated cabaret artist wanted a new show to do, and she wanted it to be something new. Taking her cue from a compliment paid to her by one of her mentors, Ms. Kidwell sent out a request to some close friends and colleagues: challenge her to work on a song that they believed would be a challenge for her. Out of those assignments came The Show Of Dares. Starting July 15th, Becca will perform an evening of the song challenges in the downtown cabaret room at Pangea, birthplace of Alt Cabaret. Working alongside her friend and fellow Cabaret Sisterhood member, Tracy Stark, Becca will show her fans what happens when an artist puts themself out on the line - something Becca is willing to do every day.

As she heads into the last week of rehearsals, Becca took out some time to get on the phone with me to discuss confronting one's fears, the importance of sisters, and the one song she absolutely would not agree to sing, for obvious reasons.

This interview has been edited for space and content.

Hi, Becca, how are you today?

Doing well! How are you?

Well, I'm happy to talk to you, that's for sure. What's new?

I've been busy with my show. One thing that I want to put out there is that I have an essential tremor in my hand. It was diagnosed when I was five but I pretty much had it all my life, where my hands shake. It doesn't mean that I'm nervous, they just do what they do.

Does it bother you?

It doesn't bother me; other people ask me all the time, "Are you afraid?: I don't even notice it. Other people notice it.

Well, they get a gold star for observation.

(Becca giggles)

It's a part of who you are and everybody loves who you are, tremor and all.

Mmm-hmm.

My mother has a tremor, everybody loves her.

Oh yeah!

And how are the rehearsals going for your Show of Dares?

They're going really well. I'm actually feeling more prepared than I've ever felt for a show. I feel like I'm ahead of the game - other times, you know how you're trying to catch up and get everything together? I feel like I'm right on track and everything is working out really well. We have another rehearsal tomorrow and then next week. And part of it also is that I work harder, the harder the material is.

What is it about the Show of Dares that you're finding is harder than your previous shows?

Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20 I accepted the challenges if they were going to be challenges that actually scared me, and they weren't songs that I wouldn't have naturally gravitated toward... because they are very challenging. It doesn't mean I wouldn't do them at all. Part of what the show came out of, originally, is that in my first two shows, Gretchen would dare me to do things that I was uncomfortable with, and I said yes. That's why I ended up doing a Bette Midler rap in my second show. (Laughing) I would never expect to be rapping! I was willing, and someone put the challenge in front of me and I try to step up to it - it doesn't mean that I won't fail from time to time. It just means I need to put myself out there, and I try. There was one song that we both, Tracy and I, decided was too complicated, too complex, that the show was going to be overwhelmed by this one song if we tried to focus on it: "Fable" from Light in the Piazza. We both decided that that song was just way too much to handle for the show. So I went back to my friend from high school and she challenged me with a Sondheim song instead, which is still challenging, but in a slightly different place.

Explain for our readers the basis behind the Show of Dares and your propensity for accepting challenges.

The biggest part was Meg Flather called me a badass. And when she called me a badass, I took that to heart because when she says something, it means a lot! (Laughing) And I was really having difficulty working on another show - about COVID - and it was a jazz show and I was feeling stuck at the end of last year because we didn't know if live performances were coming back. We didn't know anything. And I really was feeling like that's definitely going to be a live show, and I needed a show that could be either live or on video. I was like, "I really need to find some other idea," and when Meg said that I was a badass, I was like, "You know, I can use this." If I asked people to challenge me to do something... because I couldn't think of anything new to challenge myself, what if I got other people to challenge me? The people I asked were all musicians who have known me for a while, so they know some of my skills, they can give me things that they think would challenge me and I'll step up - as long as it's not something that I find objectionable for some reason, I'll step up to the challenge. The other song that I did not want to do was "WAP." One of my friends dared me to do "WAP" and that was an audience concern for me. I have 80-year-olds who are fans of me and I don't think my 80-year-old fans would appreciate me singing "Wet Ass P*ssy."

That is an acquired taste, I will admit.

(Both laughing)

So we made a compromise and I'm doing "Like a Virgin."

While giving your friends and your colleagues the task of assigning you a challenge, did you give them a guideline of what you considered challenging, or did they go strictly on what they know about you as a woman and as an artist?

Strictly on what they know about me as a woman and an artist.

And do you find that the songs that they assigned to you as a challenge are accurate?


Absolutely. And it was an honor for me, for them to think that I could take on these challenges. The only one that was not accurate was "WAP." (Laughing) Even if I had a younger audience, it's just not me.

It's not authentic to your track in life. And I think the big surprise is that Meg Flather called you a badass because you are a very gentle person and very loving, and you are a Reiki healer, and people don't think of healers as being badass, but the truth is healers are among the most badass people out there.

Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20 And part of it was cause we were talking on Zoom - we had this Sisterhood Zoom during the lockdown and we were talking and I would help them because I've gone through trauma healing myself, so everyone else was freshly dealing with the trauma of COVID, and I was like, "You just take things one step at a time." I was able to help people out, and Meg was very impressed with how I held things together, how I just seemed to be fearless, taking on things - I was learning jazz, and working on a new show, that I kept active, that I was songwriting as well. And she was just impressed by how I handled myself during the lockdown, and that's where that came from. She's the kindest, sweetest person in the world, so if she says something, it's the god's honest truth, (Laughing) she doesn't mess around. So I took that very much to heart. She's been, very much, encouraging me for a long time, and I really appreciate that. Her song "Only See You" is for everyone, but I always listen to that and it always reminds me of the hard work that I do and that I do take on a lot. When I was 25, I went on my first roller coaster. I went on it twice because it scared me the first time, and I wanted to make sure that it still scared me, and it did. I was screaming to death, and it was one of the smallest roller coasters at Six Flags Over Georgia - it was a wooden roller coaster too - I was like: I can either be afraid of things (I was afraid of everything, my life has been one scary thing after another) and I could either be afraid and hide away, or I could be afraid and do things. And that pretty much propelled me forward to become a teacher, then my teaching led me to be inspired to start my theater company, which led me to the cabaret world. That's how I live my life. I'm not going to hide away just cause things are scary. After the roller coaster, I went on a parachute ride... and I went on my first Ferris Wheel this year, and I'm afraid of heights. I want to go skydiving, and I found out there's an indoor skydiving place, so I think I'm going to go for the indoor skydiving versus the jumping out of a plane thing, cause it's slightly safer. And it's cheaper.

Given everything you've just told me, do you see why Meg Flather considers you a badass?

Yes, absolutely! And it's an affirmation I try to take to heart. It's been hard since everything came out of lockdown, I've actually been struggling because I actually was much more together during lockdown. I had my friends and my social circles, we met every week and now everyone's trying to get back to work and they're busy and it's not as easy. They're back to "real life."

So tell me: what is scarier, indoor skydiving or the prospect of singing Wet Ass P*ssy?

Skydiving. I could sing WAP, I just prefer not to.

(Both laughing)

As you get close to the premiere of The Show of Dares, what are your predominant thoughts and feelings?

Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20 I'm proud of all the work I've put in, And I'm singing Stephen Sondheim! I'm singing this really hard Rickie Lee Jones song called "Company" that Tracy challenged me to do, and I've made it my own. I've risen to all these challenges that I am actually performing and, for me, it's very cool to see that. I've worked a lot this past year. I've taken a lot of lessons and worked on my voice because I always felt like I was coming into this late. There are people that went to conservatory, and music majors... and I was a theater major who wanted to be a director. I never even wanted to be on stage. So for me, the fact that I have confirmed that I have skill and technique, and I didn't realize that it was there - I just really wasn't confident in it. I now know that this is real, I really can do all these things, I can do all these different genres, pretty much I can do anything I want. (Laughing) I just have to put my mind to it.

This is your third or fourth nightclub act?

If you include the Mary Chapin Carpenter show, it's four - we didn't actually get to do it live yet, we're going to do that in September, but I did do the film version at Don't Tell Mama.

And you started in 2017, and immediately had an award nomination for your debut show. That's a nice benchmark to start out with, but you seem to flourish more with each new show.

I'm feeling better than I have ever felt before, going into this show. I feel more prepared. I feel like the badass Meg called me; what I feel when I step on a stage, there's something very relaxing for me, stepping onto the stage. Rehearsals for me are nerve-wracking. Once I step on the stage, my nerves go away. I'm the reverse of most people (Laughing), I think it has to do with my post-traumatic stress disorder. (Laughing) I'm just comfortable with this, this is my place, where I belong, and I love that I'm doing the show at Pangea because it feels so homey and like a living room - that's what I really wanted for this show - like I was inviting people into my living room. But I can't invite 18 people over to my house! (Laughing) The fact that I can have at least 18, if not more, people in what feels like my living room, get to have them have food and enjoy themselves... It's great.

Your five-year journey in the cabaret community has brought you to the heart of many people. Describe for me the experience of being a part of the Cabaret Sisterhood.

It has been the best experience of my life. I went from having very few friends to instantly having 20 close sisters who I could count on, who I can talk to, and it's been the most amazing thing. We were there for each other during the lockdown. We met every Tuesday on Zoom and it was whoever wanted to hop onto Zoom could be there. They've been so supportive. It's been very hard being a new performer, somebody who hasn't performed all her life, and having anxiety before a show, with Laurie saying, "Putting it together and feeling like this is this normal and we all go through this." Having them give me advice... and I'm the second-youngest member of the Sisterhood... and they treat me like a peer, they never look down on me. I was concerned about how people would look at me when Meg asked me to do the (Cabaret Sisterhood) show. I was very honored and I'm glad she went with the heart, but I am still relatively new. She and Tracy were so proud of how I just went up there and took the stage and wasn't afraid - just took my place, just like anyone else. And all of the women have been encouraging of all my journeys that I've taken in the past year, all the things that I've been working on. These are just the most incredibly genuine, giving women that you can ever meet. Meg is a visionary. If she had picked different people, it could have been so catty or something because there's no guarantee with personality, but she definitely selected personalities, all genuine, authentic people who are passionate and care about each other.

Interview: Becca Kidwell of THE SHOW OF DARES at Pangea July 15 and 20

And it's been so wonderful to be able to continue my cabaret journey with them and know that they're there for me. I go to as many shows as I can and support them as much as I can. We lift each other up and it's just unreal. I don't have to be around unhealthy people, I can be around people that are going to support me and uplift me. And I found a really good group.

That's what the cabaret community does, they support one another, hold each other up. You said you are relatively new to cabaret - are you having fun in the cabaret world?

Oh, absolutely! I think I found what I love, and it relaxes me when I get up on stage - I love sharing my stories with people. I love going to other people's shows and supporting them. I had a friend who said they always know I'm in the audience when I laugh - I took that to heart and that's why I always laugh out loud. It's a two-way conversation - the performer gives out energy, but also the audience gives out energy. That's the whole point of live performance; there's no point if a person's just going to sit back and fold their arms - live performance is an interaction between the audience and the performer, t's a conversation, it's kind of like Reiki - Reiki is not meant to be a one-way thing, it's meant to be a conversation where you're working with that person's energy and talking back and forth with it.

Becca, thank you so much for such a wonderful chat. Have a swell time with THE SHOW OF DARES, which I can't wait for.

Thank you!

Becca Kidwell The Show Of Dares plays Pangea on July 15th and 20th at six pm. For information and tickets visit the Pangea website HERE and HERE

Visit the Becca Kidwell website HERE.

This article features photos by Helane Blumfield.


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