BWW Interview: 6 Questions & a Plug with A CHORUS LINE's Maria Briggs

I wasn't always a theatre girl -- I grew up without the influence or opportunity to experience theatre in my small town. My first ever theatrical performances were attending the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres shows as a middle schooler on a field trip, and they blew my mind, but this was before the days of digital/social/all-the-time communications and I had no resource for more, so my theatre habit did not grow until I hit high school and got involved in drama club. Right about then, I went on a high school band trip to NYC where they took about a 100 high schoolers to the Shubert Theatre to see A CHORUS LINE -- my very first Broadway show -- way, way up on the top balcony that seemed a million miles from the stage. While I was enthralled and excited (and thus begun my deep affection for all things Broadway), I knew nothing of A CHORUS LINE other than maybe having heard "One, singular sensation..." on TV at some point. Val's song, now titled "Dance Ten, Looks Three," had a more obvious name (more on that soon) but as a naive, small town Minnesota girl, I was a tad bit shocked. Hey, it was an innocent time minus today's reality TV and Kardashians.

A CHORUS LINE is a show that holds a place in my heart for drawing me into the world of musical theatre love via Broadway. My personal story aside, I got an opportunity to interview another Minnesota girl who started out much earlier in life with a love for musicals and the opportunity to grow in her talents here before moving to the Big Apple. She's back here in Saint Paul at the Ordway Center for Performing Arts to share Val's story and song with the musical theatre lovers of the Twin Cities through Feb. 28. Gather the girls with stars in their eyes and go see this show in our backyard before Maria Briggs becomes the next toast of the Great White Way. For now, here's what she had to say in 6 Questions & a Plug:

Obviously, A CHORUS LINE is a well-known show, but it's been a while since it's been produced. Can you give readers a refresher on the story from your character's point of view?

The story takes place during an audition process, except this one is a little unusual. The director, Zach, wants to hear each performer's personal story, the one not on their resume. My character, Val, shares her story about heading to NYC. She finds out her little hometown talent isn't enough for the Big Bad Apple.

Val is described as a foul-mouthed but excellent dancer who couldn't get parts due to her looks until she got plastic surgery. You're clearly a lovely young woman. How have you identified with Val and has it been challenging to understand a character whose looks are an issue?

Thank you, but we all have our insecurities. I identify with the fact that she's a strong woman and is willing to fight for a job. She's confident in her talent and knows what she wants.

It's definitely a challenge. I'm working on the balance of bringing myself to the character while respecting and appreciating the original. These are real stories of real people, who should never be forgotten. How incredible and what an honor that I get to share it.

Talk a little about your solo song -- it's one of the more racy numbers in the show. What do you think of it and what sort of reaction do you get (think you'll get) from it?

I'm hoping there will be a lot of uncomfortable and surprised laughter. That is the intention of the song. The song title changed to "Dance: Ten; Looks: Three", so it wouldn't give the surprise away. The best part about the song is that it's not a shocking statement to Val; it's just the facts.

Being an actor in NYC yourself, do you think this show is as still relevant today as it was in the mid-70s?

Absolutely! Who doesn't go into an audition thinking, "I hope I get it!" We all have our own story that drives our ambition and motivation. Everyone, at some point, has to step forward, on the line, and take their shot.

Besides your own song, which is your favorite number (whether you're in it or not)?

"What I Did For Love," all of us are telling that story. Each and every one of us is experiencing or will discover what that feeling is.

You're a Minnesotan -- tell me a little about your background -- where you're from, your training and how you ended up in New York.

I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis with my dad, mom and two older brothers. At the age of five, I started taking dance classes from my loving teacher, Miss Debbie. I went to a performing arts high school, St. Paul's Conservatory for the Performing Artists. That's where I met Kerry Casserly (co-director/choreographer) and realized I wanted to perform professionally. I actually snuck into her musical theatre dance class. I studied and taught at The Lundstrum Center for the Performing Arts and, shortly after, headed out to AMDA in NYC. I then transferred to The New School and received my BFA.

What's your next show or gig after A CHORUS LINE?

Living the show. Heading back to NYC and auditioning.


Photo: Maria Briggs as Val with A CHORUS LINE cast (Photo by Rich Ryan), courtesy of Ordway Center for Performing Arts.

Maria Briggs bio:

ORDWAY: Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Singin' In the Rain, Yankee Doodle; National Tour: Irving Berlin's White Christmas; NYC: Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Sponge Bob Lab, Oh, Kay!, Second Stage Theater Gala, Transport Group; Sacramento Music Circus: West Side Story, Peter Pan, Bye Bye Birdie; Goodspeed Opera House: Carousel; Ogunquit Playhouse: The Music Man; Fulton Theatre: The Producers. Training: American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Lundstrum Center, Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, Debra Miller's World of Dance. Member AEA, AGVA.

More info:

Musical Director
Raymond Berg

Direction and Choreography
Kerry Casserly & James A. Rocco

Associate Choreographer
Angelique Ilo

Tickets to Ordway performances can be purchased by phone at 651.224.4222, in person, or online. A CHORUS LINE runs through Feb. 28, 2016.

More fun for fans:

Ordway Extra: An Actor's Life for Me
Wednesday, February 17 ?6:30pm, Marzitelli Foyer
Free for A Chorus Line ticketholders

Join Dieter Bierbrauer and others from the Twin Cities theater scene for a chat about the life of an actor in the Twin Cities. Guests will perform songs that hold particular meaning for them in their careers, and will share stories about life as professionals in a field that is as much a lifestyle as it is a career.

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From This Author Kristen Hirsch Montag

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