BWW Interview: Ephie Aardema of WAITRESS at the Fisher Theatre Says It Has A Lot of Heart... And Pie!
Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team that features original music from six-time Grammy nominee, Sara Bareilles, Waitress is playing until May 19th at the Fisher Theatre. Jenna is an expert pie maker and as the title suggests, a Waitress, who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest could be chance at a new start along with possibly the town's new doctor, but Jenna has to find to find the courage and strength to try. "We have pie! There's pie in the lobby," answered Ephie Aardema, who plays Jenna's friend and fellow Waitress in the show, when asked about why Detroit audiences should see the show. "It also has a lot of heart - more than most musicals." See what else Ephie had to say about Waitress, tour life, and more below:
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Can you give our readers a brief background of yourself and then your theatre career as an introduction?
Ephie Aardema: I have been acting since I was a kid. I went to Circle in the Square Theatre School. I did a couple national tours, but they were short tours like Fiddler on the Roof and Sound of Music. My Broadway debut was the Bridges of Madison County. I was just in Clueless The Musical and I played Tai right before I found out I was coming on this tour in February.
You got to originated the role of Tai, what was it like originating the role for the stage from the cult classic film?
It was amazing. I also originated a role in Songbird, the musical by Lauren Pritchard and Michael Kimmel and that was like a five-year process. That was a much more in-depth experience and felt like sort of one of those dream jobs because that story didn't sort of exist before. Clueless was really unique in that the story already existed and the people coming to see the show really want to relive the movie - so then there is a little bit of you wanting to make it your own, wanting to make it unique, wanting to pay homage not only the character, but to Brittany Murphy. People have a real deep love for her and she's not alive anymore, so it's really important that you try to respect the legacy that she left so that was really exciting and challenging. The person who wrote the book for the musical also wrote the movie Clueless. It was really cool because she had a depth of knowledge to contribute to the process on what the movie was like and what the original intentions were behind the characters. Not necessarily how they came off once the movie had been edited and turned into this cult classic, but how it really sat in her heart to begin with so that was cool.
What is your process like going into an already establish piece of work like Waitress?
It's completely different. I had two weeks of rehearsal. You're coming into a company
that already exists. You really need to, brain-wise, logically be there for the other actors that have already been doing this. It's much more selfless, I think, coming in as a replacement on a previous existing show, especially when it's an immediate replacement sort of thing, which most of the time it is. The first step is just getting into the show and making sure that you don't mess it up for the people who have been doing it for a long time - you make them feel comfortable. A lot of it is like social stuff because you are coming in to a company that has been on the road together for, sometimes, years. This company is so warm, so welcoming, so kind, that I really got very, very lucky with this process in that regard because everybody here has been awesome, and loving towards me - I really lucked out. That's a huge part of coming as a replacement like how am I going to fit into this family that is already a family? They are really the only people that you see because you either are in rehearsal or you are doing a show and then you move cities so quickly, it's not like you have a community of people outside, it's not like being at home, you can go home or see your other friends, they are really the only people you have, so it carries a lot more weight emotionally, I think.
What was your introduction to Waitress?
I went to see it on Broadway a few years ago when Jeremy Morse, who plays Ogie in the tour now, he was the understudy for Ogie on Broadway at first and eventually he took over the role on Broadway, there was night that he was going on when he was the understudy so I ran to go see it. My friend, Caitlyn Houlahan, was playing Dawn and Sara Bareilles was Jenna. That was my first introduction to Waitress just like running to go see my friend go on as Ogie and I didn't know what it was it was about at all! I just like cried and cried through the whole show because I'm a daughter of a single mom. My mom was not abused the way that Jenna is, but definitely had a lot of instances where she had to stand up for herself and had to carve a life out for the two of us so it really hit incredibly close to home.
How do you describe Waitress in your own words?
I always think of it as Adrienne Shelly's, who wrote the movie, love letter to her baby and to other women who had doubts about being pregnant. She felt that story hadn't been told and that's how it started. It's a perspective that I've taken on it. It has more to it than just that, but that feels like the backbone.
How do you describe your character, Dawn?
She is obsessive, sweet, and young. I think that she has like this great heart and just desperately wants to be loved and doesn't have the tools yet to figure out how to be loved and how to love. That her journey is to how to find out to do that.
If you weren't playing Dawn, would you be friends with her?
Do you see any similarities between Dawn and yourself?
I can be a little bit of spaz. I think it's funny because she can work herself up into a frenzy, which isn't so much me, but there is another side of her that is positive and generous. I think that is like the true essence of Dawn and the other stuff is all of the garbage that she puts on top of that. We all have those things that we hide our sunlight in different ways, but I think the way that she shines inside is similar to mine, but the way that she hides it is a different method than what I do.
What make this show unique?
Technically what makes it unique is we are making food on stage and there's pie! That
definitely makes it unique. We're eating real pie on stage, all the smells, and the like tactile elements of it. But I think more on the emotional side of it - it has a lot of heart. It has more heart than a lot of musicals. It's funny. It's really funny for such dark subject matter - it's pretty hilarious.
What is it like singing Sara Bareilles' music every night?
Oh, it feeds your soul. Like it's just such good music. It really does feed the soul.
What would you say to someone with no prior knowledge of Waitress to get them to come see it?
Well, I usually lead with there's pie in the lobby!* After that, I usually say that even though it's about a woman who is in an abusive relationship and trying to figure that out, it's actually very funny. It's a good thing to go to if you just want to get out for a night, feel good, laugh and have a good time!
Waitress is currently running until May 19th at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit. For more information and tickets, visit www.BroadwayInDetroit.com.
*Broadway in Detroit partnered with Achatz Handmade Pie Company to bake and sell mini-pies at the Fisher Theatre concession stands during the Detroit engagement of Waitress. Guest attending the show will be able to purchase two of Achatz' most popular flavors: Michigan Dutch Apple and Michigan Four Berry pies a souvenir Waitress 3oz Mason Jar. The unique and delicious pie jars will be sold with a disposable spoon making them consumable at the theatre or taken home to enjoy after the performance. Having souvenir Waitress pies available for sale at the theatre is a practice that began during the shows initial performance on Broadway. More information on Achatz Handmade Pie Company can be found here: www.achatzpies.com.