BWW Interview: Jenna Pastuszek And Ashley Sweetman of DOUBLE TREBLE with Nightcap Cabaret
What do you get when you pair two belting blondes from Philly with Nightcap Cabaret!? Double Treble!
Last seen together as the famously conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in Side Show at The Media Theatre, Jenna Pastuszek and Ashley Sweetman are long-time friends and fellow actors seeking to shatter the expectation of competition among women in show business who look and sound alike. Double Treble is the product of two women embracing their similarities and insisting that there IS room for two! Enjoy an evening of your favorite tunes ranging from Broadway's Golden Age to today's pop hits with Jenna and Ashley serving DOUBLE the sass, DOUBLE the fun, and DOUBLE the power!
Double Treble, a cabaret produced by Nightcap Cabaret, plays October 22nd 7:30pm at L'Etage. (624 S 6th St. Phila.) Supporting these incredible women are Max Meyers and Will Connell and their killer pipes. Under the musical direction of Grant Uhle, this dynamic duo will be backed by a top-notch band: Eli Lynn, Christopher Tolomeo, and Alex Vallejo.
Nightcap's Artistic Director, Nate Golden, had the opportunity to ask this power couple some questions, individually. See how their answers are in sync.
Nightcap: Can each of you tell us a little about yourself?
Ashley Sweetman: Hi! My name is Ashley Sweetman. I am a singer/actress based out of NYC. Like Jenna, I am originally from the Philadelphia area, specifically Wilmington, DE. In addition to skrelting with Jenna, I enjoy craft beer, hiking and cold brew.
Jenna Pastuszek: OH, Hi! I'm Jenna. I'm originally from Swarthmore, PA and am now a proud resident of Brooklyn, NY. Besides being an actor, I am a voice teacher at The University of the Arts. I enjoy baked goods of all shapes and sizes, traveling, and am currently catching up on TV series of decades past including Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and now Mad Men.
Nightcap: How did the two of you meet?
AS: Jenna and I met in the summer of 2013 when we played anxious twenty-somethings in the regional premiere of a musical called Next Thing You Know. Prior to that summer in Sharon, CT, she and I attended NYU at the same time, but never met face to face. Once we found out who got cast in NTYK, we connected over Facebook and Jenna generously offered me a ride up to CT. I took her up on that offer and in that car ride we became fast friends!
JP: We both went to NYU Steinhardt and crossed paths there. After graduating, we both happened to be cast in the regional premiere of Next Thing You Know (A NIGHTCAP FAVORITE!!) up at Sharon Playhouse. I was driving up from NYC and offered Ashley a ride. Probably halfway up the FDR, whilst sitting in bumper to bumper traffic in the Bronx, I knew we were destined to be friends. Since the show is only a four-person cast and the theatre was in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut, we quickly bonded and realized how much we had in common!
Nightcap: How did you first get started in the cabaret scene?
AS: During that summer in Sharon, CT, there were patio cabarets after each show. It was then that we started playing around with different duets and realizing we really enjoy singing together. Over the next few years, independent from one another, she and I were asked to sing in various concerts and cabarets. We both kind of naturally thought of each other when that happened and would ask the producer if we could sing a duet as well. Then, after Side Show, we decided it'd be awesome to do a full-length cabaret of just the two of us. Jesse Cline at Media Theatre was generous enough to give us that opportunity back in July 2017 and it was then that we did our first cabaret together called Side by Side. From then on, we were hooked!
JP: My first foray into the cabaret scene was when I was in 9th grade, and another friend of mine (also named Ashley) and I did a cabaret entitled "Girl Talk" upstairs at Tavern on Camac. We rented out the space and did a two-nighter. It was hilarious! Since then, I've been doing cabarets anywhere from vineyards to retirement communities to cool places like L'etage!
Nightcap: How did Double Treble come about/when did you decide to create together?
AS: Double Treble came about after we did our first cabaret together and felt something really special. It was so creatively invigorating to collaborate with our favorite people and put together a show filled with songs we love and arrangements of those songs we've always wanted to try. After some research, we realized that a market totally exists for this type of entertainment on cruise lines and other commercial venues so we thought - OK, we are two women who perform musical theatre and pop favorites, so why not get ourselves a catchy name and continue to create new shows filled with more songs we love and pitch it to whomever will hire us!
JP: One night after a performance of Next Thing You Know, Sharon Playhouse threw together a mini cabaret. Ashley and I had so much fun singing the duets in NTYK that we decided to use the opportunity to sing together again. After the show closed, Ashley and I returned to NYC, and she asked me to tag along to sing with her at a benefit concert in Brooklyn later that fall. We then just decided that whenever we got the opportunity to sing somewhere, we'd invite the other along. That was 2013, and it's only evolved from there!
Nightcap: You both speak about embracing your similar "type" and working together. Can you elaborate on that?
AS: Yes! So often there is an unspoken competition among women in show business who belong to the same "type." If you look and sound like another female, only one of you can get cast in the part so there tends to be some tension at times with that. However, Jenna and I are shattering that default and embracing the fact that we are like-minded individuals with a natural chemistry between us as artists, friends, and businesswomen. Who says there must be room for just one of us when we are better together?
JP: Well, we were cast as twins when we did Side Show at The Media Theatre, so it's clear that we look alike. Also, both being from Philly, we have a similar tough chick attitude about us, so we both stand out from the typical nice "dumb blondes" often depicted in theatre. We both gravitate toward the same styles of music and like to sing smart lyrics no matter if we're singing Broadway standards or pop music. Instead of viewing each other as competition (since we do often go after the same projects), we cheer each other on. There's so much negativity in the world right now, and in this business, that we both agree that it's better to be supportive than bitter. Plus, if I'm not going to get the part, I sure hope that someone that I admire and like does, like Ashley!
Nightcap: You both have strong roots in NYC, what brings Double Treble to Philly and to Nightcap Cabaret?
AS: We recently did a cabaret in NYC called Double Time and it was very well-received. This time, our approach is a bit more commercial as we are considering a wider audience so with Nightcap, we hope to gain more knowledge about the market outside of NYC. We can't wait to see how our Philly network responds! Also, both of us are from the Philly area so it also gives us an opportunity to share what we've been working on with the friends and family who live locally.
JP: I always feel like I have one foot in NYC and one foot in Philly. Philly is my first home, and I continue to find myself back in the area working at the region's wonderful theatres. I had such a blast doing my "Cabuffet" with Nightcap two years ago that when Ashley and I were brainstorming where we could perform next, it was a no brainer to contact Nightcap again. I am also incredibly proud to be a true teaching artist, so anytime I can do work in Philadelphia and invite my students, I am thrilled.
Nightcap: What musical artists inspire the work you do?
AS: As a singer? Sara Bareilles, Kelly Clarkson, Idina Menzel, Christina Aguilera, and Cassie Levy.
JP: So many, which is why our show has so much variety! If I think about the women who taught me to sing, they range from Linda Eder to Bernadette Peters to Celine Dion to Sara Bareilles to the Indigo Girls to Heart. I love kick ass storytellers who unapologetically embrace who they are on stage.
Nightcap: Is it challenging to find rep for your shows/how do you pick your sets?
AS: The challenge isn't so much finding rep as it is programming a cabaret so that there is cohesiveness and a storyline for people follow. We pick our sets based on a couple of things: function (does the song set up or elaborate on the greater story or is it a stand-alone song), vocal type (is it a pop set? Traditional musical theatre? Contemporary?) from there we can make sets based on what goes together thematically or categorically.
JP: As my dad always reminds me, it's important to "bring the energy!". So, we like to make sure our shows aren't just a bunch of ballads (which I'd say most female-female duets are). Since we're also both eclectic music fans, we want to make sure there's something in each show for everyone, so we like to have a range from traditional Broadway to pop, mash ups of standards to obscure new musical theatre.
Nightcap: Can you give us a hint at what to expect from your show with Nightcap?
AS: Some beloved duets from the Golden Age of musical theatre and some favorites from previous cabarets. Also sequins. Lots and lots of sequins :)
JP: Two words: Sequin jumpsuits.
Nightcap: Where do we get tickets for your show?
JP: On Nightcap's website! Or follow us on social media @doubletreblecabaret.
What: Double Treble
When: Monday October 22nd @ 7:30 PM
Where: L'Etage, 624 S 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
ABOUT NIGHTCAP CABARET: Nightcap Cabaret was accidentally founded in the Fall of 2013 by Nate Golden and Anne Marie Scalies when asked to put on a holiday themed cabaret as a fundraiser for a local theatre company. Not only did the process fuel the camaraderie among the artists, it spread to the audience as well. Hungry for more, in the fall of 2014 Nate and Anne Marie gave life to Nightcap Cabaret to obey the Great Bard's instruction "If music be the food of love, play on!"
Nightcap Cabaret's mission is to contribute to the Philadelphia culture with professional quality, fast-paced, and high energy musical events. Promoting and featuring the talent of local actors, singers, musicians, and other creative members of the community. Wishing to increase the visibility of live theatre artists by sharing resources, promoting good will, and supporting philanthropic endeavors.