BWW Interview: Cara Clase of EVITA at PRiMA Theatre
For two weeks only, now through September 16th, PRiMA Theatre will present EVITA at The Cultural Center Theater at Willow Valley Communities, in Lancaster, PA. EVITA, the musical, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, tells the story of the life of Argentine political leader, Eva Peron. PRiMA's production features, Ms. Cara Clase (Eva Peron), Robert Bigley (Juan Peron), Jay Poff (Che), and Kerry Ashton (Magaldi). This production showcases the magnificent voices of all four performers and delivers a theatrical event that is sure to engage the imagination of inspiration to all those who attend. I had the opportunity to interview Ms. Clase.
Christy Brooks: Did you know from an early age, that you wanted to be an actress?
Cara Clase: I always liked singing from an early age; but I wasn't aware of how much I like theatre (musical theatre) until I was in high school. I did my first musical, BYE BYE BIRDIE, and I have been hooked ever since. When I was little, I wanted to be a cashier because I thought the cash registers at grocery stores were cool.
Christy Brooks: How fun is that?! I see where you are currently a graduate student at the University of Delaware. How do you balance school with rehearsals?
Cara Clase: Well, most of the rehearsal process took place over the summer from mid-July to early September, so the timing was very convenient for me as a student. By the time classes start to get intense, the show will be over. But, in general, keeping organized and forcing myself not to procrastinate are the keys to successfully juggling both!
Christy Brooks: When researching Eva Peron, what was one thing you learned about her that you didn't know before?
Cara Clase: I always knew that Eva Peron originally went to Buenos Aires to become an actress. Because she was very charismatic in the political arena, I thought she must have had a good radio/camera presence. It turns out that she was described as a mediocre actress whose introverted personality made her fade in the background. This shocked me and made me wonder how a person so bold and charismatic during political speeches could be camera shy.
Christy Brooks: Where there any character developments that you chose to change slightly to give your unique interpretation of Eva Peron?
Cara Clase: From what I researched, Eva Peron seemed to have a special connection with children; especially since her family struggled with poverty while she was young. I thought it was especially interesting that Eva Peron never had children. I was debating with myself if Eva was the type of person who ever tried to have children. I think her busy political life might have kept her from having a family, and I think I created an Eva who regrets not having her own. It's easy to play a character like Evita as someone who is hard and calculating. There were political moves that the Peron's did that were definitely unsavory; but I also think Eva was compassionate for people who came from a similar socio-economic background as she originally did. In my interpretation of the character, I think it's important to show the side of Eva that is a person capable of love in addition to out-maneuvering her opponents.
Christy Brooks: Has there been a role that you played that you struggled with initially? What did you do to overcome the obstacle?
Cara Clase: I recently played the role of Sally Bowels in the show, CABARET. Sally is the complete opposite of me: she is bubbly, naïve, child-like, and almost avoids responsibility at times. It was hard for me to like Sally as a character, so having to play her in a way that audiences could relate to her was a challenge. To overcome this, I had to find common ground between me and the character, and I made myself create reason and motivations in Sally's past to explain how a personality like Sally's could be molded. At the end of the day, no one likes to be judged. I feel like Sally was someone who rebelled against societal standards for women at the time and was constantly being judged for choosing to do so. I can relate to Sally's stubbornness against authority.
Christy Brooks: How long have you been training as a vocalist?
Cara Clase: I've always wanted to take vocal lessons, but I never had the chance. Growing up, I would participate in choirs, college theatre, and community shows. Learning from people I work with along the way has helped increase my understanding of how to safely sing and keep myself healthy.
Christy Brooks: What is the most challenging piece you sing in EVITA?
Cara Clase: I wouldn't say one song is challenging; but the weird rhythmic patterns in the sung dialogue were something I had to pay extra attention to. Andrew Lloyd Webber switches rhythms almost every single measure in DICE ARE ROLLING: a part where Juan and Eva Peron are arguing over their political future. It took Rob Bigley (Juan Peron) and me several weeks to get the timing of this song just right.
Christy Brooks: Your diction is impeccable. What techniques do you use to maintain the quality?
Cara Clase: Well, thank you! Focusing on hitting the consonants not only helps me to maintain good diction, but it's also the key to proper breathing and putting less stress on your vocals. Sometimes the key to sustaining high notes without straining is hitting the consonants (which can be easy to forget when stressing about hitting the note in that moment). Warm-ups and trills also prepare me for keeping good diction in faster songs.
Christy Brooks: If you could perform with any actor - past or present - who would it be and why?
Cara Clase: I would perform with Ann Crumb. She played Rose in Broadway's production of ASPECTS OF LOVE. Her interpretation of that character was something that stuck with me as a performer since high school. She has a beautiful, classic soprano voice, and she is such a vivid and rich performer. Her style contrasts with mine, and I love performing with people who shine in different ways than me.
Tickets for PRiMA's production of EVITA are available through their box office at: 717-327-5124, or by visiting their website at www.primatheatre.org
Photo courtesy of PRiMA Theatre