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Interview: Maddie Tisdel, Director of HEAD OVER HEELS at Proud Mary Theatre Company

Upstate premiere of the musical comedy featuring songs by The Go-Go’s runs June 24-July 2, 2022

Interview: Maddie Tisdel, Director of HEAD OVER HEELS at Proud Mary Theatre Company Heaven is a Place on Earth - a place called Spartanburg. Because that's where HEAD OVER HEELS, a musical comedy based on the songs of iconic 1980's all-female rock band The Go-Go's, opens this weekend.

Produced by Proud Mary Theatre Company, HEAD OVER HEELS includes the hit songs, "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed," "Vacation," "Head Over Heels," and Belinda Carlisle's solo songs "Heaven is a Place on Earth" and "Mad About You."

Oo baby, do you know what that's worth?

HEAD OVER HEELS, which opened on Broadway in 2018, comes from the same minds who gave us HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, AVENUE Q, and SPRING AWAKENING. This jukebox musical premieres in the upstate with a brand new production from Proud Mary Theatre Project, running for only seven performances from June 24-July 2.

We asked the show's director, Maddie Tisdel, to tell us more.

First off, please tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a military family, and ended up moving to Spartanburg to attend Converse University to study Musical Theatre and History. I stayed after graduating to continue my work with Scrappy Shakespeare, a theatre company I helped start with some very dear friends, and because I wanted to begin growing my own roots, something I didn't have a lot of while growing up because we moved so often. I work at Productions Unlimited Inc and teach at Spartanburg Youth Theatre, as well as act and sing for local Upstate theatres, like The Warehouse and South Carolina Children's Theatre. I am a member of Sparkle City Improv and teach comedy and Shakespeare workshops at local colleges whenever I can. In my free time (lol), I enjoy thrifting, and recently I have been teaching myself how to cook.

Maddie Tisdel
Maddie Tisdel

What is HEAD OVER HEELS about?

My, oh my! What a concept! HEAD OVER HEELS is a jukebox musical comedy that uses the catalog of the Go-Go's to tell the adapted story from The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia written by Sir Phillip Sidney toward the end of the 16th century. The story follows the royals of Arcadia, a peaceful and prosperous kingdom governed by their famous "beat." King Basilius and his wife, Gynecia, have two daughters: the Beautiful Pamela and the Plain Philoclea. Philoclea is in love with her childhood friend, Musidorus, who is a shepherd and an unsuitable match in the eyes of the king. Pamela has avoided marriage for five years, and after another round of rejected suitors is reprimanded by her father who demands she choose a husband. Directly after this, King Basilius gets a warning from the new Oracle of Delphi, the non-binary Pythio: Arcadia has grone too stagnant and bound by tradition, and may lose its famous "beat". Pythio gives Basilius four prophecies:

  1. "Thy younger daughter will bring a liar to bed. He thou shall forbid, she he'll then assume."
  2. "Thou elder daughter will consent to wed. She'll consummate her love but with no groom."
  3. "Thou with thy wife, adultery shall commit"
  4. "You will meet and make way for a better king"

The story follows along as the King uproots the kingdom to Bohemia in an attempt to run from his fate and how it eventually catches up to him. It involves cross dressing, deceit, and general campy comedic hijinks. If I had to narrow down what HEAD OVER HEELS is about in three words, they would be: acceptance, love, and redemption.

How does the music fit the story?

Surprisingly, the Go-Go's fit this story perfectly! This show is an ode to female independence that taps into an edge of a rebellious 80's teenager, but this time they're Elizabethan and romping around the woods! Who better to capture that unique sound than the most successful female rock band of all time? Not only are the lyrics beautiful and poignant, but the trailblazing nature of the Go-Go's manages to bring this Shakespearian story into sync with modern day.

What have you learned about The Go-Go's music from this experience?

I definitely grew up knowing the classic songs "Vacation" and "Our Lips Are Sealed," but I had no idea just how monumental the Go-Go's truly were. I love the unique vocal talent that is Belinda Carlisle, and that, backed up by the pop punk sound of Jane Wiedlin, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Schock, and Kathy Valentine, creates this unequaled female power that is impossible to ignore. Not a day goes by that I'm not humming along to "Turn To You" or 'Head Over Heels." I think they really captured the sound of second wave feminism, that I never fully apreciated until now. Their lyrics are truly beautiful and they have a unique ability to tell a story, especially as pop artists. Now I can't even listen to "Here You Are" without crying!

What are some of the unique challenges of directing?

I have been a theatre artist for almost fifteen years, and I have such a newfound respect for every director I've ever had. There is a unique balance to being the leader of a production and knowing that you don't have all the answers to everyone's questions all the time. We are creative problem solvers by trade and that's a huge part of the fun! Theatre is first and foremost a collaborative effort, and working together to create a tech element, or learn a dance, or restage a sword fight is a large part of putting together a show. With HEAD OVER HEELS in particular, moving from staging in the basement of the Artist Collective to performing in a church sanctuary/gallery created a slew of opportunities for creative problem solving! This show is massive and has many moving parts, so it was not always the easiest to stage, not to mention cast changes, and covid to top it off. I am very impressed and grateful for the grace and flexibility shown by the cast and crew. I will say that I could never have done this without the help from my Stage Manager and dear friend Connor Vetter, and of course, Sandy Staggs! I have learned many lessons as a first time director that I will take with me as I continue directing and acting.

What is your dream play as a director?

My dream would be to direct MEN ON BOATS by Jaclyn Backhaus. The play tells the mostly true story of the first government sanctioned exploration of The Grand Canyon in 1869. It is silly, dramatic, thrilling, AND it's told by a cast of all female identifying actors. Women are explorers too! I love ensemble driven theatre, there really isn't anything better in my eyes.

What is your dream role as an actor?

This is such a hard question and the answer changes weekly! I think right now I have to say Hudley in Jen Silverman's THE MOORS, Lenora in CRY BABY, and the Witch in INTO THE WOODS.

What would you like audiences to take away with them from seeing this show?
I think what is so special about HEAD OVER HEELS is that it is not only about representation, but it is about celebration! If the audience leaves feeling celebrated for who they are, then I have done my job as a director.

HEAD OVER HEELS runs Friday & Saturday, June 24-25 & July 1-2 @ 8 pm, Saturday, June 25 & July 2 @ 3 pm, and Sunday, June 26 @ 3 pm at ARTISTS COLLECTIVE SPARTANBURG SOLOMON GALLERY, 578 West Main St., Spartanburg, SC.

Tickets are $25 General, $22 Senior/Student.

For tickets, visit or call (864) 202-6555.

TITO'S VACATION COCKTAIL BAR opens 1 Hour before each performance.

FREE DRAG SHOW & 80S DANCE PARTY with the Cast after the Opening night performance on Friday, June 24.

From This Author - Neil Shurley

Neil Shurley has been covering the Greenville SC arts scene since 2001. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association, his theatre-related work has appeared in such publications as The Greenville... (read more about this author)

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