Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's all in the Hair! A look at the classical fairy tale of Rapunzel

Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah….j/k (if you don’t get this joke, come see the show!)

Okay…I have a confession. I knew NOTHING of Into The Woods at all when I auditioned for it at Artes de la Rosa! (I kind of have a bad habit with doing that… I did the same thing when I auditioned for In The Heights!) I always sort of avoided this musical because I’m a fairytale/ Disney / Princess /Mermaid /Unicorn FREAK and didn’t want anything messing with my beloved fairytales. But the day would of course come when I would need to give it a chance, and I’m so glad I did. Not only is ITW truer to the actual Grimm’s Fairytales than any Disney movie could ever be, but it teaches a much deeper lesson – everything you’ve ever wished for may not be what you actually want.
Rapunzel & Jack!
Sarah with Jeremy Coca
So then which do you pick:
Where you're safe, out of sight,
And yourself,
but where everything's wrong?
Or where everything's right

And you know that you'll never belong?
Sarah Maria Dickerson at
the first reading of the script
Can you imagine your entire LIFE being alone in a high tower with no one to accompany you except a witch that claims to be your mother popping by to climb your insanely long hair every so often? It would be blissful ignorance to an extent, but the want for knowing what else is out there in the world would have to be so great. Rapunzel has one thing in the show that no one else has – she is The Witch’s one weakness. Rapunzel is The Witch’s world. She is the only one with the innocence to see her as nothing more than her mother – not a witch, not an evil villain, but the one person in the world who even exists to her. To have that when all the rest of the world shuns her is something she cannot lose. Hence, why Rapunzel is locked away from when she was a baby and can never leave the tower – if she left, she would learn the "evil" of the world –her mother is a witch, someone to fear. She lets Rapunzel believe that she needs nothing else in the world but her.

Backstage look at the press photo shoot!
But of course, The Witch’s over-protectiveness and control gives Rapunzel no life skills or way to cope with the outside world. If she ever left the tower, what would happen to her? The version of Rapunzel that most people know is very lighthearted - everything works out in the end, the magic hair OMG etc...but if you want to know the not-so-Disney outcome of Rapunzel’s life (and everyone else’s as well!) you may want to come see our production of Into The Woods.

I feel incredibly blessed to be given this opportunity to bring a new view of Rapunzel to the audiences of Artes de la Rosa and our beloved DFW theatre community. I hope to see you here at the show – be sure to come say hi to me afterwards and give me a hug! Much Love, Sarah

Careful the spell you cast
Not just on children
Sometimes a spell may last
Past what you can see

And turn against you...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Witches Can Be Right... A Moment in the Woods with Amanda Williams Ware

Today we blog with Amanda Williams Ware who stars as the Witch in Artes de la Rosa's staging of INTO THE WOODS which opens in just over a week! Witches can be right…… You'll probably remember Amanda for her scene stealing vocals in last years production of In the Heights where she played the salon diva, Daniella alongside Sarah Maria Dickerson & Natalie Coca. All three return this season in this epic retelling of the Grimm Fairytales.

Witches can be right...
The role of “The Witch” in Into the Woods is not the stereotypical villain character. She may be what her opposites consider to be evil at times, but like them she is driven and motivated by emotion and need, not by hatred or circumstance as most villains are. She also serves as a constant reality check and bubble-popper for the characters she is in the woods with, even if a cynical one. She comments on their self-absorption and lack of decision-making skills, taking on the role of conscience as well as manipulator. This is not to say she isn't jaded or selfish – she can be. Even though she has, in my opinion, justifiable reasons for being downright nasty, not to mention justifiable reasons for manipulating a desperate couple into doing her bidding, she still gets carried away with her self-pity and lets it be a negative motivator.  
Amanda Williams (The Witch) with
Sarah Maria Dickerson (Rapunzel) at
the first reading of the script.
Nevertheless, she is right. She is always right. She is so right, in fact, that she is blinded by her rightness. She is so sure of it that she loses sight of everything around her. She knows she’s right about locking Rapunzel in a tower, but can’t see past it enough to realize what it’s doing to Rapunzel. She knows she’s right about completing her spell, but gives no thought to what it might cost. Most of all, she knows she’s right about human nature. How, in her knowledge, we are selfish and ignorant and capitalizing. She knows we will blame and ruin and kill each other to protect ourselves, and she knows children watch it all and learn those habits only to repeat them, and don’t listen when we say, “Do as I say, and not as I do.”

Amanda Williams Ware stars as The Witch in
at Artes de la Rosa
February 21st - March 16th
I won’t tell you if “The Witch” is finally overcome by her hubris, or if she gets away in the end, or if she learns her lesson and magically turns into a good person. It’s up to interpretation which of these is true. I will tell you, though, that she will convince you she’s right about at least one thing before the night is over. And we’ll see how you feel about her in the morning. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Nice is Different then Good: A Moment in the Woods with Taylor Wallis

I played Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods once before. I was 17-years-old. I remember the director delicately trying to explain to me just exactly WHAT my storyline was really all about. I remember understanding, to a point, but never fully grasping what is REALLY going on here. What 17-year-old me thought was just a story teaching us the importance of not “straying from the path,” has turned into a story that 25-year-old me can really learn from.
Little Red Riding Hood starts out with a child-like innocence and naivety that is almost endearing, if not a little annoying. She encounters people and situations that force her to look at herself in a new way and therefore have a new attitude and way of living. Some of the things she experiences (I’ll let you come see the show to find out just what I’m talking about…) she enjoys (perhaps a little too much) and they help her grow positively into the young woman she becomes. But then some things she has to deal with (death, loneliness, fear) she doesn’t enjoy as much.
This is where I started to find the story interesting and relatable. A LOT of the things that happen to her and every other character in this musical are awful and unthinkable. But each character comes out at the end pretty scarred, but ok; and has a lot more knowledge than they did before. I have heard people refer to life as a “journey” and every event that happens to you, good or bad, is a piece of your journey. You are ultimately headed to where you are supposed to be. Each piece of the journey is getting you there; and though you may not realize it at the time, sometimes the worst parts get you to the best places. You have to learn to trust your journey. I think that shines though in Into the Woods, and I think the idea of finding your way through what can seem like an impossible journey at times, and coming out at the end stronger than before, is what makes this musical so beautiful and one of my absolute favorites.
Taylor Wallis with Alden Bowers Price & Joshua Sherman
in rehearsal for Into the Woods
Little Red is a lot like all of us growing up. She’s skipping nicely along her path and then BOOM one day 'life' messes everything up. She deals with a lot. She learns a lot. But at the end of the story, she is surrounded by people who love her and has a new sense of who she is.
I am so excited for the opportunity to take another look at this role and entire show as an adult, especially which such a talented cast around me. This was an intimidating company to step into (I mean, who in DFW DIDN’T hear about In the Heights??), but it was also an exciting new step. As Little Red says, “scary IS exciting!” And I’m very glad for this piece of my journey. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mother Knows Best: A moment in the woods with Pamela Garcia Langton

Today we spend a moment in the woods with Pamela Garcia Langton! Many will remember Pamela from her performance as the fiery Camila in last years In the Heights. This year she plays a very different type of mother - one she was surprised to find she had more in common with then she previously had thought.
When I auditioned for this show I knew who my favorite characters were and that out of all the characters, I probably would not want to be Jack's Mother.  She's not attractive, she is a nag, she's grouchy and well, no one really ever likes her.  Guess what, I got Jack's Mother.

Now, I have seen Into the Woods about a million times, no exaggeration, but it wasn't until I started working with Adam that I am seeing Jack's Mother in a different light.  And it is scary!!  All of this time I never thought of her as real person with real feelings and problems, just some fairy tale old lady who yells a lot and wears bad clothes.  But she is and worse, she is a little too much like me!!

Now let me explain, I am not too bad looking, I am not a nag or grouchy all of the time and I think people like me.  But, she and I have had similar experiences that have made us the people we are.  Like Jack's Mother, I too was a single mother.  After reviewing the show again, this time with a different eye, I imagine she has gone through similar things as me and is the way she is because of those things. 

For instance, maybe she fell in love with the bad boy of the neighborhood, followed her heart, made some bad choices and became pregnant.  Upon finding out she was with child, he left her to deal with the problem. She may have been made to believe that it was shameful to have a child without a husband.  She was terribly hurt that she lost most of her friends because they were disappointed in her. She might have been humiliated by the fact that she was not allowed to have a baby shower because unwed mothers didn't deserve to celebrate the birth of their child, so she had to dress her baby in hand me downs and thrift store clothes and use old strollers and yard sale items for her nursery.  Her siblings may have expressed to her what a loser she was and that she was never going to amount to anything because she was stupid enough to get pregnant at age 21.  Eventually, she may have even felt it was the biggest mistake of her life to have a child and so after a while she started resenting Jack and took to alcohol and other things to be able to cope.

I did experience all of those things, luckily, the latter didn’t.  I fought hard to prove to everyone I was going to become something, I could raise my child alone and I survived slightly wounded by my experience.  Without going through any more detail, let me just say it was the roughest time in my life and I apologize to my beautiful daughter, Kelly, if I ever made her feel like I resented her or didn't want to be a mother.  I love her with all of my heart and soul and wouldn't give up being her mother for anything in this world.  If it wasn't for her I wouldn't be the woman that I am today, she is so very special and I owe her my life!!

Jack's Mother however has yet to learn to cope with all of it.  She has never gotten over the fact that she had little support from family and friends, especially not Jack's Father.  She hasn't gotten past the humiliation and shame and has become sad, powerless and unable to truly see the beauty in having a child and being a mother.  It isn't until she thinks she is going to lose him that she realizes how lucky she is to have this child and her love for him is stronger and worth more than Golden Eggs or Singing Harps.

We can all learn a great lesson from this.  When things don’t go how you have planned, don’t cry about it, fight to survive and know everything happens for a reason. Be grateful for every day that you are alive and for all of the people in your life.  Love your family; be there for your children. Take every experience as a lesson, make the most of everyday and be thankful for everything God hands you. 

Jeremy Coca, Aigner Mathis, and Pamela Garcia Langton
star in Artes de la Rosa's

Monday, February 3, 2014

I never met a wolf who didn't like to howl! He Said/She Said with Kyle Lester and Georgia Fender

Today we meet a pair of actors who make us howl! Both of them are making their Artes de la Rosa debut this season with the Stephen Sondheim musical, INTO THE WOODS! Kyle Lester and Georgia Fender are taking the Little Red Ridinghood fairy tale and turning it on it’s head with a sizzling and powerful new staging on the Sondheim classic, “HELLO LITTLE GIRL.” Take a moment and say hello to these wolves!

DIARY OF A SHE WOLF by Georgia Fender
Into the Woods has always been one of my favorite musicals. This is partly because it was the first musical I did in high school, playing Granny, a role I get to reprise in this very different production.  But what I’ve always loved most about this show is that everyone can find a little bit of themselves in each of the characters, as far fetched and fantastical as they may seem at first. Even the most outlandish of these characters have something relatable about them, something human.

Now that said, certain characters are much easier to relate to than others. I think most of us are hesitant to see something of ourselves in the more villainous characters, such as Kyle and my roles of the Wolves. I know that as thrilled as I was to be cast, I was immediately aware of what a challenge this role would be for me. The Wolves are definitely not the first characters I relate to when I see a production of Into the Woods, but part of that is probably due to the fact that my part is traditionally played by a man.
However playing a traditionally male role is not a new challenge for me. Not sure what it is about me but I’ve been playing male roles since high school. So my challenge as an actor was to find what I could relate to and appreciate about the “She-Wolf” as we’ve taken to calling her. As I looked past the violence and raw sexuality, I began to see qualities I could relate to. I like to think of myself as a strong, confident woman but it’s not always easy to be strong and confident. I doubt myself frequently and struggle with a multitude of insecurities, as most of us do. The Wolf however does not. She is completely secure in her body, in her sexuality and in who she is as a person. This is a woman who knows exactly what she wants, goes out and gets it, and doesn’t apologize to anyone. Although her desires stray pretty far off the beaten path, this drive and confidence is something I wish I had more of.

As I examined the Wolf, I began in a strange way to admire her. Maybe not quite everything about her, but her unapologetic nature is something I hope to take with me, if only slightly. In our table work, Adam and I discussed this side of the Wolf. It is not her desires that make her scary, but refusal to apologize for them or be ashamed of them. To be secure in one’s sexuality and not be ashamed or apologetic will get a person, more specifically a woman, labeled all sorts of insulting and frankly narrow-minded things. But the Wolf doesn’t care. And while I don’t think we need to follow the example she sets with her other half and Little Red, perhaps we can all take a little bit away from her. She teaches us, in a strange and slightly twisted way, to stop apologizing for what we want and who we are, but instead to go after what we want. And whenever possible to do so in killer heels. 

Deception, Violence, and a Little Red Cape! OH MY! by Kyle Lester
Little Red Riding Hood is one of those stories that I never remembered actually hearing, but always knew. I mean, who doesn't? It's got a wolf, it's got deception, it's got terrible violence against a young woman and her grandmother...everything a growing boy needs! But if I'm being honest, I don't think I ever truly understood the point of the story until I was cast as the male wolf in Artes de la Rosa's production of Into the Woods.

While reading through the original story and through Sondheim's very similar interpretation, one question plagued me more than anything: if the wolf wanted simply to eat Little Red, why all the bother with her Grandmother and the deception? Why not just get on with eating her right then and there and get away with it.

To understand the answer to this question, you have to realize that the story itself isn't about a little girl being eaten by a wolf. It's about a child making an adult choice to give in to her desire to deviate from a carefully navigated path and encountering unintended consequences for both her and a member of her family. After all, the wolf doesn't force Red to stray from her path, he merely (strongly) suggests it, and tempts her to do something she already wanted to do in the first place. It's Red's choice whether or not she acts on it.

And therein lies the story's truth: that Red chooses her fate. In a way, the wolf is nothing more than a representation of Red's unbridled desire and, therefore, Red is essentially her own villain. That is why this story is timeless. It simultaneously represents the rapid growth into adulthood as well as the very real consequences of our choices.

...but that doesn't mean it's not fun to play the consequence of Red's decision to stray from her path. The song, Hello Little Girl, is without a doubt, one of the most fun songs to play out on stage in all of musical theater. The realization that Red is almost as much to blame for her fate as the wolf has put the song and the both characters in a new light that makes it all the more interesting to be a part of. It's a true privilege to perform that story, and I know the audience will enjoy our take on it.