Sunday, August 16, 2015

King Kurt

At first glance, the character of Kurt Kelly might just be some typical high school jerk. Everyone's class had one- the self proclaimed "athletic king" that everyone just seemed to run with for some reason, despite his overwhelming negative qualities. But after really starting to get into rehearsals with Heathers the musical, I'm starting to actually understand why Kurt is who he is.

There are several moments in the show that define who Kurt Kelly really is, because he's more than just a goofy jock that likes to pick on people. After watching the musical a billion times and replaying Evan Todd's iconic laugh even more, it's pretty obvious that everything Kurt does, he does because he thinks he's being funny. Every time Kurt wants to be funny, he acts like he's making an announcement to all of the other students, just to make sure he's heard.

"Martha Dumptruck, wide load!! Honk!"
"Hey everyone listen up, what is Westerburg gonna do the Razorbacks come Saturday's game!?"
"Ram's eating Chinese tonight!" (one of my personal favorite lines from a version of the script)

He's not necessarily a bad guy, he just wants to fit in like every single other student at Westerburg. During the opening number he even asks himself "why do I act like such a creep?", because this question is something that passes through Kurt's mind often. He doesn't truly know why he says or does mean things to people, he just knows that when he does those things, everyone laughs and everyone praises him for being the class clown.

I don't know about anyone else, but in my high school you can either be the class clown or the big athletic jock...but to have both of those titles meshed into one character? That't a lot of power right there. No wonder he's so damn popular.

We started dance rehearsals last week for the show and I got to really step into the character's shoes. In no time, I realize so many things about Kurt that I hadn't even thought of. I tried to be the center of attention a lot in the dance and I also inadvertently danced with every single girl in the show by the end of the number "Big Fun". Even the three Heather's aren't too good for Kurt Kelly. Kurt Kelly is the man! They can all act like they hate him, because he's an asshole. But in truth, at Westerburg at least, girls want Kurt and guys want to be Kurt. Because everyone wants power. Power gets you through high school without even a scratch.

The next dance that Ram Sweeney and I learned last week, one of my favorite songs of the show- "Blue". During this hilarious number, Kurt does what every other human on this planet does when they get overwhelmingly hammered, he lets his feelings a rather unorthodox way. The dancing during this song is so interesting and exciting because every step seems so exaggerated, in a way. Ram and Kurt try to put on this big show for Veronica, because that's simply what they do. This is the one time where they're not actually "trying" to be funny but it's still absolutely hysterical, because they're desperately trying to get laid here, so they want to make it a big spectacle like everything else. Kurt and Ram don't get turned down. So this hurts. Emotionally and physically. There's no way Kurt can go to school the next day knowing that his seduction technique didn't work, so maybe the "Blue (reprise)" is just his way of lying to himself so he can still be as cool as everyone thinks he is.

Every single moment with Kurt is so natural and so impulsive that it's pretty hard to find a "wrong" choice for the character. There's so much to play around with and build off of. So pretty simply put- this is gonna be fun. (avoiding the obvious Big Fun pun I could go for here)


Thursday, August 6, 2015


Well here it is- my first blog post ever! And what better way to start this off than with the kick off of "Heathers" rehearsals! It's gonna be a long one, so get ready!

My first big dream ever since I was a kid was to sing on stage. I had acted on stage and behind the camera since I was young, in competitions like Destination Imagination and other random things, but the musical was always something that seemed out of my range. I didn't know if I could really sing outside of the car and shower so the only way I could actually know was to take a that's what I did back in my freshman year of college at Webster University.

I met tons of great people and tons of not so great people at school, the greater ones coming from a little place called "Surfacing Theater", a group at Webster for non-theater majors (I was film production at the time). They put on plays and musicals year-round and seemed like exactly the thing I needed to get involved in. So I heard about auditions through the grapevine about their next original show called "Look Alive" and I stopped by after class. I sang "Without Love" from Hairspray (out of my SUPER limited list of musicals I'd even seen). I was absolutely terrified. The audition went very well and after a couple callbacks I eventually got the part of Sam Baker- a hilarious supporting role in the show that I could not wait to get started on!

Then life happened.

Shortly after the first table read and rehearsal for the show, I got to thinking about a lot. Life, money, my future, what I wanted to do versus what I needed to do. After months of going insane, my mind finally decided on one important realization- I couldn't go to Webster anymore. It killed me to drop out, but every fiber of my being was telling me that it was what I needed to do to build my own path and to truly give my 100% commitment to the arts. I decided to save up money and build my resume and I honestly forgot about theater for the next year, trying to build TV and film credits up so much to look "professional". I didn't even know the meaning of the word.

I eventually decided to give musicals another shot over a year later. I randomly found an audition at Alfresco Arts Center for the show "Next to Normal"- a show I had never heard of yet many had dreamed of being in. But it seemed interesting, so I went to the theater. After my audition, I got a callback for Gabe Goodman and I watched the show that night before callbacks. Then I suddenly realized. F***. I needed to learn these songs. I pulled an all-nighter memorizing and practicing all of Gabe's songs and then went to the callback the next day. Miraculously, after my callback I got the call that I had gotten the part and suddenly I was back into theater world.

Everything changed. Suddenly, connections popped up everywhere. The theater community is a big place where somehow everyone knows everyone. I went from knowing few people to knowing them all. Auditions came up. My theater knowledge expanded. I was an insider now. I was part of the group.  It felt like I was in a dream as the world turned into such a bigger, broader place. Opportunities sparked everywhere. And finally (I know it took awhile to get here) the road of fear and doubt and perseverance led me to "Heathers".

Heathers!? I had no idea what it was when I first heard about it. My "Next to Normal" cast-mates were all talking about how excited they were for auditions. That night that I heard about it, I went home and looked up the musical and found the infamous bootlegged version on Youtube with Dan Domenech as J.D., the male lead.

"OH. MY. GOD. I am in so much love with this show." That's exactly what I thought since watching the very first opening number, "Beautiful". The show was a masterpiece in my mind. Every laugh hit its mark, every drama-filled second hit me right in the heart. Just wow. I've GOT to be in this show. But what character would I want? That was obvious. Quarterback, Kurt Kelly. It was apparent to me that he was the right role as soon as his first scene came up on screen and the yin to his yang, Ram Sweeney, came up to him and they shared the smallest of "head-nods" with each other and I instantly thought "Wow, this is the great bro-mance in history."

The next 2 months before the audition, I spent every second of my free time watching Heathers: The Musical, Heathers the movie, every interview with the cast and crew, every behind the scenes clip, and every little tidbit of commentary or anything even related to the show at all. I was clearly obsessed.

The audition came and I chose to sing "Freeze Your Brain" from the show itself, which is one of the songs that I feel perfectly summed up the show. On the outside it's a bit silly, but deep down it's got so much heart and emotion and darkness that will just make you stop and wonder about everything that has happened to make you who you are. I felt the audition went very well, even the dancing part. Hell, I had even texted my prom-date from high school before the audition to ask her if I could dance. She said that I could and that was all the confidence I needed.

A week later, everyone was getting calls from Scott Miller, the director, about casting and I was at work....sitting there.....waiting....going absolutely bat-shit insane. Hours went by as I waited and around 4 pm I finally got a call and I didn't even let the phone ring one time before it was up to my ear.

I had gotten a part in Heathers. Holy shit, I am ecstatic! I just felt so blessed to even be part of such a beautiful show.

Fast forward a month and a half later to just a few days before rehearsals started. I'm on a road trip to Kansas and it's my turn to drive. I see the phone ring and it's Scott's number. I can't answer it, because hell, I was already pretty lost cause I'm absolutely horrible with directions- so I chose to call him back when I got to my destination. So anyways, I sat in the car just waiting, thinking, going a little crazy again over what the call was about. I finally got to my friend's apartment in Kansas and the very first thing I did before I unpacked was call Scott back. He informed me that someone was unable to do the show anymore...the actor playing Kurt Kelly...and he offered me the role.


Of course, the above was only in my head. on the phone I just calmly said "That'd be perfect, I would love to, thanks so much."

After getting off the phone and dancing embarrassingly for about 20 minutes, I still couldn't believe it. I was Kurt Kelly. The role I had been dreaming of for months now. I CAN'T FREAKING WAIT FOR REHEARSALS TO START!

I started my new strict diet and workout regimen  immediately to get that quarterback body and then just 3 days ago, we had our first rehearsal for the show. It was simply incredible walking into the rehearsal room and having so many friends in there already simply from being a theater kid for the past several months, and also wanting to be friends with every single person in the room.

Omega Jones was one of those friends that I had already known from Next to Normal and he was the brilliant man that was playing my bae Ram Sweeney. Instant chemistry already there. #punchitin

But the craziest part of life is how things come full circle sometimes. Things and people you didn't think you'd see again suddenly come back to your life. And there were a couple of those people in that rehearsal room- Larissa White and Alex Glow, two people that I met through Surfacing Theater at Webster 2 years ago.

And suddenly, I just felt like I was where I was supposed to be. Everything felt like it was right. I wasn't nervous or anxious or afraid anymore. All I felt was gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.

And it only gets better from here.
Until next time~