BWW Interviews: Liza Vann Is Just a GOOD OL' GIRL
I know that most of your have heard the phrase "good ol' boys' from time to time. Well, now you need to get ready for GOOD OL' GIRLS, a new musical set to open Off-Broadway, at the Black Box Theatre at The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre (111 West 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues) on Sunday, February 14th. Two of Nashville's leading singer/songwriters redefine the modern Southern woman in GOOD OL' GIRLS, a musical about love, loss and laughter. Through the language of five unique southerners, GOOD OL' GIRLS celebrates childhood through old age with big hair and bigger hearts.
The musical, written by two prominent Southern authors, Lee Smith (The Last Girls) and Jill McCorkle (Going Away Shoes), has songs by Nashville hit-makers Matraca Berg (Reba McEntire, Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill) and Marshall Chapman (Jimmy Buffett, Wynonna, Olivia Newton-John). GOOD OL' GIRLS is directed by Randal Myler (It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues; Hank Williams: The Lost Highway; Love, Janis) and adapted by Paul Ferguson. Featured in the cast are: Sally Mayes (She Loves Me), Teri Ralston (Company), Lauren Kennedy (Spamalot), Gina Stewart ("Dawson's Creek") and my special guest interviewee, Liza Vann (Machiavelli).
From early days at La Mama, Liza's favorite New York credits include Sybil in Teasers, Mary Shelley in THE FRANKENSTEIN AFFAIR and her much acclaimed portrayal of Marietta Corsini in Richard Vetere's MACHIAVELLI. A recipient of the Clarence Ross Fellowship from the American Theatre Wing, she has performed extensively in regional theatre, most recently as Nicky in THE SMELL OF THE KILL, Edna in LYING IN STATE, and Myrtle Brown in MORNING'S AT SEVEN, and has crisscrossed the U.S. and Canada with her award winning one-woman show, THE TOP OF THE BOTTOM HALF. So let's talk to this good ol' girl...
Congratulations on your new show! Tell me a little bit about the show and your character?
The show is the story of Southern women, but, in truth, it is the story of all women. It deals with birth, death, love, loss, good times, and the not so good times. We all play a variety of characters, all unique and all fearlessly authentic. We laugh, we strut, we sit back, we get all in your business - and get paid to do it!
How did you get involved with the show?
Over the past few years, I have had the great pleasure to work with a wonderful theatre in NC, Cape Fear Regional. Fast Forward to Jan. 2008, when I saw that Bo (Thorp, Artistic Director) was mounting the first fully staged production of this new musical, based on the writings of Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle, with music by Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg. I never read one word of the script , or heard one note of the music, but I knew I had to do it!
Have you had any experience in country western singing?
In truth, I normally don't do musicals at all! We all receive the training, but I started down the non-musical path early on and only took the occasional foray into song. Having said that, I absolutely love country western music, and would probably have sold my sister to get into this show!
What's the best thing for you about working on this show?
It starts with the great stories and fabulous music, but honestly, it doesn't get better than being on stage with 4 other women who not only get the material, but who get how special and rare it is to have this caliber of material. Add Randal Myler to the mix and you have 5 even happier women - and one very brave director!
You have some wonderful cast-mates in the show like Sally Mayes. Was there an instant camaraderie that formed between all of you?
Yes! I know people always seem to say that, but I think because we all "got it", we knew immediately that we were of like mind and spirit.
Is there a synergy with an all-woman cast?
Again, yes. There is a trust element that's in play that I can't explain, except to say that I know that each of these women has my back, and I have theirs. It's the way it should be.
Are you a Good Ol' Girl?
Yes, Sir! I was raised in the South, and I have a home there, now. My neighbor's children call me Miss Liza; everyone knows the best cakes are made by Miss Ruth, and manners still rule. But a Good Ol Girl isn't just a gal from the South; she's every gal who knows who she is, who she isn't, and who matters.
I was doing some research and see that you have a one woman show called The Top of the Bottom Half and it deals with being a cancer survivor. Can you tell me a little bit about the show?
I was approached about writing a show after I had breast cancer, firstly because I didn't go about it in a traditional way. But I really didn't want to do a " cancer " show, mostly because I felt that it was the choices I made that defined the outcome, not the disease itself. So it became a show about critical thinking. And since it's about critical thinking AND cancer, I decided to make it a comedy.
Are you still performing the show?
Yes, I love doing it and do still take limited engagements, but I now do more speaking engagements. I talk fast, so I can pack a lot into a 30 minute keynote !
Was it difficult for you emotionally to perform this show?
No, because I really wanted people to understand how doable cancer can be, how doable life can be. It's never all highs; it's never all lows. It's moving forward, whether it's highs OR lows; just keep moving forward.
I want to personally applaud you for your bravery and willingness to share your experiences publicly. Awareness is such an important thing.
Tim, it is everything.
And she is so right! Awareness is everything!! Special thanks to Vann for her candor and time. So get along, folks and see then GOOD OL' GIRLS. The schedule for GOOD OL' GIRLS is Mondays, Tuesdays, Friday and Saturday at 8PM, with matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $70. For tickets call (212) 352-3101 or 866-811-4111. For group sales call (212) 265-8500 or log on to www.theatre4groups.com. For now, ciao and remember, theatre is my life!