AAPEX Interview: Rita Gardner — AAPEX Interview , Rita Gardner — AAPEX

Saturday, August 27, 2011

AAPEX Interview: Rita Gardner

Interview by Jaz Dorsey

When I was a kid - with NO thought of a career in the theatre - I went to a production of THE FANTASTICKS at a small community theatre in a small town just west of Wilmington, North Carolina. The thrust stage was surrounded on 3 sides by some very steep seating but the theatre really was small and we sat in the top row, hovering over the "world of the play" and almost literally floating on the music. On the stage there was nothing but a piano, and the way the play exploded into this intimate space was like shaking a snow globe. I learned more about theatre from that one night than I did from any course or seminar I have ever taken, but the lesson wasn't really driven home until about 5 years later when I found myself unexpectedly apprenticed to set designer Rick Pike, who, in one of those magic moments that you can have only with a mentor, made me see that what you really need to create the "world of a play"on a stage is:

the right actors doing the right things in the right costumes.

Needless to say, THE FANTASTICKS was where we started. Years later, when I sat down to write my own musicals - especially CAFE ESCARGOT - I was equipped with the playwright's most invaluable tool, the insight needed to write a play which could actually be produced - all because of that seminal experience of seeing THE FANTASTICKS.

Beyond that, THE FANTASTICKS is as much a part of the spirit of the 60's as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and The Beatles and I've been very nostalgic for the 60's and wanting to share the energy and message of that time with a generation which is young enough to be my grand kids.

So I was seriously thrilled to suddenly find myself dialoging in cyberspace with actress Rita Gardner, who originated the role of the girl, Luisa.

Rita is getting ready for her one woman show TRY TO REMEMBER: A LOOK BACK AT OFF BROADWAY and if I did have grand kids, I would so be taking them to see this show. I know she's busy but I asked her to share with us her journey to this show and this is what she has to say:

What role did theatre and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
I really had very little choice. My folks heard me singing around the apartment and took me in, at age 5, for an audition for a radio program. I got the job! My first audition! I was hooked.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
Over the years I've had the chance to work with many of the finest people in the business, and learn so much from them. It's impossible to just pick out one or two, because when you've worked with actors like Robert Preston, Cicely Tyson, directors like Michael Kidd, Bob Fosse, and had teachers like Herbert Berghoff and Uta Hagen, you realize how lucky you've been, and it's difficult to attribute any one insight to any one influence.

What inspired you to create this show, TRY TO REMEMBER?
Several years ago, thinking about the approaching 50th anniversary of the opening of THE FANTASTICKS, Alex, Barry, and I began to reflect on the concept of Off-Broadway as a whole, and of how it has changed theatre. Since I was one of the very first "pioneers," and since THE FANTASTICKS has become so emblematic of the medium, it seemed only natural to place that show at the center of things.

How would you, personally, define "cabaret"?
I would define cabaret as an evening of songs and chatter- usually without any specific theme - more of a shifting set of moods.

Treat yourself to a look at Rita's career and the wonderful cuts from her cd at www.ritagardner. com To get there, just click the post's title.

No comments:

Post a Comment