Working in the Theatre: Before the Show with Jessie Mueller & Lena Hall


Oh gosh, where do you start with Carole
King? You know I wasn’t really all that
familiar with her music before I started on the process of beautiful. I really knew
some of her songs, but I think I have the experience that a lot of the audience
members have which is when they come see the show, it’s one song after another, you
feel like, oh my gosh, she wrote that and she wrote that… she wrote The Locomotion and Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Take Good Care of My Baby with her writing partner, and husband at the time, Gerry Goffin and it’s just it’s this amazing amazing
canon of music. How am I going to do this? I see construction Look at this whole thing ripped up. I sort of knew going into it that maybe
you could go really well or go really poorly because if I screwed it up, like people I’m amazed every night the stage door, people have such a love for her. People come up to me with tears in their eyes and say this is the soundtrack to my life. This is the soundtrack to my 20s or
my college years or I wear this record out. I mean people have such a strong
emotional connection to this music and through the music I think to this woman
that and that’s one of the reasons why I I feel like I really have to up the
ante every night, to give to give people what they, what they expect. Here we are. My food is here. The wonders of Seamless. Come on in. I first started singing when I was very little. Probably three or four. I remember my mother did tell me once I was in preschool or like pre-pre-school or
something like that, it was the sunshine room and some student’s mother we were doing something with have been
singing some song and as some other Mother just turned to another mother, well THAT
child will never need a microphone So I guess I was fairly loud and proud of it in the beginning, I don’t know I just
always loved to sing. I would do it without knowing it. I still do it
without knowing it. Uh, oh ok. See and then we find out whether things are occurring so i’ll sign in Chains is out. Rebecca’s out ok so Sarah… This is our birthday club. Who’s birthday’s coming up? August, 11th… He loves coconut cake and he hates lemon
filling, just good thanks know. Come down this way. My parents are both actors and both
singers. My mom did a lot of musical theater earlier in her career. My dad’s sort of more so now earlier in his career he did less, less
singing and more just straight acting stuff on stage, but I’m there was always
a lot of music. It’s great to be in a family of actors
in the sense that people get it You know the things that I think that
make us strange and wonderful, they kind of get it and they understand
the ups and downs and they understand that there’s hardly any certainty
involved. This is my very beautiful large new
dressing room that they have for me. And then there’s a lot of mail around
because people send me beautiful things. Somebody just sent me this drawing which
I think is amazing I’m such a perfectionist which is stupid
I guess, in an artistic career in life in general because there is no such thing.
But I am kind of a workaholic and a perfectionist and so in some ways no I’m
never satisfied. Every once in a while they’ll be a
moment in a specific show and I’ll.. I’ll feel like that went really well
that night or I was, that was real, that really rang true to me I felt
really good about that and then sure enough in the next scene I’ll do something that I am not
pleased with at all. You know what I think the thing is to try to not
hang on to those moments because then if you do you have already missed the next
one and my job is to be in the moment as possible while still looking out for
like you know things that go wrong or not falling over a prop that’s in a
different place or something like that but i don’t think i really am ever satisfied. Before the show starts I do always get
ready and I get in my my first outfit the wig and everything and everything’s
under dressed and then I always go into the wig room and I say hi to everyone
because my room’s right right by the wig room in the Sondheim. It’s kind of hard to catch everybody
before the show because everybody comes at different times our Stage Manager Johnny Krause is usually running back stage right. We just do a little Namaste moment before we head out and start. Because once it starts I don’t, I
don’t really stop. We get a couple breaks here and there and then at
intermission but it’s pretty much like you get on the train and ride it. Is this little number That’s cool. Macrame? That’s not Macrame, Macrame belt My cute little denim skirt and then most
of the shoes, yes most of my shoes already upstairs because most of myself
is preset the only two things… These are actually the only outfits that
I get into down here in the dressing room. Everything else is on deck. All the changes happen up there so I do
top of show and top of Act two. Um those are the only two changes that
happen here. So these are top of show shoes and top of act two shoes. I do get nervous sometimes I hope, knock on wood, that I never get stage fright. I don’t know what I’d do. I’ve had days – I
think you just have day sometimes when you’re really tired and you just kind of
zone out and you’re like how how are we gonna do this today. These are great for flat foot wear anyway but
and I have a couple pairs because sometimes I don’t know I do wear
slippers in the show once, because I do have to wear… I have very high shoes at one point I like to take them off right after I get, right after I leave the stage. I think you get out there and something
else just sort of takes over. That the show starts in the music starts and the lights come on and, and there is I think there’s just, if you’ve done the work,
there’s something that kind of takes over and usually if I am afraid or
if I get nervous before the show, it usually starts to subside once the show
proper starts One of these days these I’ll organize it. Here’s like tags of things that I need to return. You know it becomes like your second
apartment sometimes. Which is nice. My Forever 21 returns on top of sweet
baby James. Jeff has been loaning me records this is way cool Ok so we’ve got a lot of really good ones. Is this sacrilege should we be putting
Carole on? See it’s all about the crackle. There they are. The Captain and Tenille. They don’t make them like that anymore. [record playing] Listen to her voice/ That’s another good pictures over here. This is Carole and Jerry. Very young. And I’m not sure sure who’s recording
session but.. Oh it’s dusty. Sorry guys. I love that when you can you really look
at them you can be like that’s that’s who i’m playing. That’s, it’s very
grounding I guess I don’t know? Like those were the real people. It’s just very cool to find the person you’re playing and you can’t
always do that. You can find pictures of the era or whatever but to actually see
the real people It’s really amazing. It’s very unique I
think. I don’t think there’s any golden piece of advice that someone can give
it’s like if you do this, if you follow these 5 steps it’s going to be great you’re gonna hit
it big and you’re gonna have a consistent career and you’re gonna have
a place. I think there’s a plan for everybody, but it’s sort of a mix between a plan and a crap shoot I think. But I
think I really still believe that if you that if you do good work, it will be
noticed. It might not ever be noticed in the way that you think it’s going
to be. But if you do the work someone will notice and it’s like all
the stuff you learned in kindergarten which is be kind to people, learn how to share
and play with others that really applies in the theater I think. You know from from
my experience anyway it really is all about relationships whether select
relationships with your you know your cast members, or your crew, or your
producers, or your press agents or you know a new relationship with the
audience it’s all about, it’s all about people. I don’t think you have to like knock people out of the way to get ahead. I think that can work for a while. But, I
think the cream does rise to the top and I think there’s a way, I hope,
there’s a way to do really good work and be a good person at the same time [music] Ready? You guys looking cool? Great. Hey, we’re The Deafening and we play rock
and roll. We’re in the Theatermania kitchen. Baby, let’s twist. Come on and twist with me. Come on make me shout. Come on and twist with me. Come on and turn it out. Come on and twist with me! Come on and make me shout! Come on and twist with me! The more I sing, the better my voice gets.
It’s like the more you work out… and the more kind of in tune you
get your instrument, the better the better it sounds or the better you are.
The more you play, the better you get. So it’s exactly like that. The more I
sing the more busy I am during week. The better I sound during my shows here at Hedwig. [singing] My band is a very important part
of my life. Mainly because it gave me a really great
creative outlet that I didn’t have in other avenues and and it was a great way
for me to kind of express myself in a song on stage without having to be a
part of, like a gigantic production like I could do it myself. Bye guys. Thank You. I can’t wait. It better be good. I think that the first take that we do the song was better. I just feel like I should that. Yeah, I feel
like the first take was better. Can someone hit lobby? The band, they like to write their songs
really high and their guitarist so they don’t like to listen to me when I want
to change the key. And so they make me sing an original key which forces me to
extend my range and, and in doing that it It just made my voice this kind of like
muscle. It’s almost like… Your voice is a muscle and if you
could imagine my voice it would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger here. All right guys. See you later. It stopped raining. Well, Yitzhak is a drag queen. But, he is a biological man. So essentially I’m not actually playing a drag king. I’m actually playing a biological male
who was a drag queen. So, wrap your head around that. Being a drag queen is very interesting. Especially since i get to do it every day or twice a week but
sometimes I do it on my own because I don’t know, I like it so much. It’s grounding to play a man. It feels, it’s very different it’s like once you
get into the makeup and the hair and you put the outfit on it totally changes who you are and you
become this character, this man. I definitely think differently.
I definitely speak differently. I am a different person. Nights, when I do drag. Playing a man is just like it’s more
grounding and its kind of taught me to… It’s taught me that men definitely think a little bit more black and white than women do. They definitely think a lot less
emotionally than we do. And they do like to hide things they like to hide how
they really feel about stuff. I mean it’s …it’s definitely different than how I
respond to things which is very outwardly emotional. I’m always wanting to give you my opinion on how I feel. But playing Itzhak, it’s like he’s very keeps everything very
inward and internal and acts out in different ways than like a woman
would. So he acts out, in like, aggressive ways. Or, or in self-destructive ways. Physically to get ready for the character, it has a lot to do with the costuming. So
the boots are really heavy, they’re steel toe. And the jacket is really heavy
and it helps boost my shoulders up. That helps me with how I walk, and how I
act. I also wear a piece, which is like a it’s called a packer and I wear it in my pants. And it also also kind of tells like informs me how to walk because there’s
something there and there’s usually not. But to prepare for the character
originally I studied a lot of men, and I watched them, watched just regular man. I watched them walk around the city and I kind of categorized their walks. And I, and I picked the ones that I felt were most appropriate for the character, for Yitzhak. I know the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and I love the movie. I saw the show. I saw the original show as well and it
did affect it because I watched it and and I knew the character, and I knew what
I wanted to do with the character, which was very helpful because I had a better
understanding of the character from watching the show back in the day and
for also seeing the movie. I knew kind of how I wanted Yitzhak to be that was maybe not like the movie. But, I also took from Miriam Shor, her original kind of her toughness She’s a very tough Yitzhak and
I wanted to and then I t ook some of I have a lot of rituals before the show. I write Hedwig a card as Yitzhak before every show that it…it can range from a knock-knock joke to, to explaining my
horrible day or to asking for money or it just has a little it has nothing really to do with the
show but more to do with our relationship and sometimes she’ll give
me a card back which is always horrible. And I do that every day and and then
just getting into costume and makeup really and hair that really is a ritual in and of itself
and centers me I don’t really vocally warm up. I do a little bit of a vocal warm-up. It’s like literals, and and I sound like
a dying cat because I just want my top range to sound strong and good, but, and also the band when we get we get together down on stage about five minutes before the show
starts. And we huddle up and we come up with something to do for Hedwig and she
walks by she and she always insult us. That can range from like acting out a
scene or like spelling out words or anything so we do that every show and
and that’s basically like every every week that goes by my pre-show ritual
gets longer and longer. [End Credits]

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