Tonight, at Park City's Egyptian Theatre, the city is getting a musical taste of transexual glam. --- Hedwig & The Angry Inch will take over the landmark theater for an eight-performance engagement as the last official production to come out of Plan-B Theatre's '11-'12 season, and marking the 10-year anniversary since the original Plan-B debut. Hedwig is the musical story of an East German transexual living in a trailer in Kansas, as she takes her touring rocker ex-boyfriend across the country.
Before we head to the hills to check out the show, today we chat with the cast and the entire band, as well as Plan-B's producing director, Jerry Rapier, about the 10-year anniversary and the current run. (All photos by Rick Pollock)
Latoya Rhodes, Aaron Swenson, Camden Chamberlain, Van Christensen, Dave Evanoff, Adam Overacker & Jerry Rapier
Gavin: Hey, everyone. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Camden: I am the owner of Kitefishing Studio. I embraced the DIY approach from early on in life, I've self-released over 30 albums with various projects including Cavedoll, Mushman -- with actors Patrick Fugit and David Fetzer -- EIBA, Deliccato, and this latest, The Suicycles. Over the years, I've toured with various bands, achieved success on the CMJ college radio charts, performed for more than 20 television shows and even had my music performed by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and used in Pandora Radio ads.
Van: I play drums and teach at The School of Rock in Sandy. I also play for several bands including: The Suicycles, Danger Hailstorm, Hello Amsterdam, Black Satellite, Wires and Totem & Taboo.
Dave: Musician, recording studio owner, producer, musical director.
Adam: Born and raised here in SLC, I play and teach the bass for a living, both upright bass and bass guitar, and I'm super-excited to be doing my first Plan-B show. These guys know how to do it right!
Jerry: I've been with Plan-B Theatre Company since 2000 and I love me some Hedwig!
Latoya: I grew up in Kaysville as a very shy little girl, so how I am an actor/singer now still surprises me to this day, but I love what I do! I attended Southern Utah University to study acting/theater performance and sociology. I love rock music -- my favorite band has been Incubus since I was 14 years old -- and I love long walks on the beach ... literally.
Aaron: Born in Oregon, raised in Alaska. In 1996, I moved to Utah to attend BYU. A series of unfortunate events transpired; I then moved to Salt Lake City, where I have worked as an educator, actor, graphic designer, waiter and costume designer. Currently, I'm the wardrobe supervisor at Pioneer Theatre Company.
Gavin: What are some of the projects you have all worked on in the past year?
Camden: The Suicycles, Totem & Taboo, Wires!, and various writing/recording jobs at Kitefishing Studio.
Van: I've been recording with Camden Chamberlain and The Suicycles on a new album, as well as projects with Danger Hailstorm and Rich Wyman.
Dave: I just finished an album and accompanying DVD for Air Supply, and just started on a new CD of solo material for Graham Russell of Air Supply. I did dozens of jingles, TV spots and commercials.
Adam: I do a lot of theater – in the past year, I've done shows with Pioneer Theatre, The Grand Theatre, Dark Horse Company Theatre, Westminster College and several others. Outside of that, I'm in several great groups including Dizzy Desoto, and I freelance in recording studios around town and as a sideman for a number of groups in Northern Utah.
Jerry: Since January, I've directed The Third Crossing for Plan-B and The Adding Machine for the University of Utah.
Latoya: The last show I was a part of was Plan-B's 9th annual SLAM. Over the past year, I've played Miss Evers in Miss Evers' Boys at The Grand Theatre, was in Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley at the Egyptian Theatre and was in Rent at Pioneer Theatre Company.
Aaron: My job keeps me pretty busy in and of itself, but I’ve recently started doing more freelance costume design than I ever expected to. During the 2011/12 season, I designed the costumes for Nine Dragons and There's A Monster In My Closet for the University of Utah’s Youth Theatre, and I am currently designing the costumes for this revival of Hedwig.
Gavin: Jerry, where did the idea come from to revive Hedwig, and why now?
Jerry: Randy Barton approached me about bringing Plan-B shows to the Egyptian Theatre in Park City two years ago. We started off with Gutenberg! The Musical! last summer and that went well. So about six months ago, he asked if we'd revive Hedwig. We had an amazing time with the show 10 years ago when we first staged it and again in 2005, so I made a few phone calls and here we are! What better way to mark its 10th anniversary than with a re-boot?
Gavin: What made you want to come back to the show, and what's different this time around?
Van: Rocking twice with The Angry Inch in the past was an amazing experience! This year, I'm excited to work with newcomers Adam Overacker on bass, Camden Chamberlin on guitar and Latoya Rhodes as Yitzhak.
Dave: I just love this show. It's a real treat to jump around like the rock star you always wished you'd be. With the help of Robinette Sound and by being in a slightly larger theater, this time we are really going to make things loud!
Jerry: We know the show so well that we don't have to put our energy into learning it – we can focus on fine-tuning and bringing out the things we missed the first few times around.
Aaron: It is the most terrifying, exhilarating role I have ever tackled, and there’s always new territory to explore in the script and in the music. The challenge never ends, night after night; it’s a live rock show and a stand-up comedy routine and a tremendously moving piece of theater, all rolled into one. The nature of the role constantly encourages me to examine my own gender identity, my need for completeness and validation from others, and the power dynamics in my relationships with friends and loved ones. Every ounce of work I put into my performance helps me to be a better, more thoughtful person. Also, who doesn’t like getting compliments on their bomb-ass legs?
Gavin: Being new to this production, what made you want to be part of it?
Camden: I'm broke and needed the money, and besides that, I've always loved Hedwig and the ideas behind it. Also, I knew it would be a quality production with Dave and Van involved, and it's a chance to try something different from anything else I'd ever done musically.
Latoya: I had the opportunity to work with Jerry and Dave in Hair at the Egyptian Theatre two years ago and whatever they both touch turns to gold! So, I was eager to be a part of this production to work with those guys again; also, the story, and how it questions gender, and how we see gender in our society opens up a conversation about the power of gender, and what that means, what it looks like, how we all "play our parts" when we are specifically told "you are a boy, you are a girl." Hedwig stretches your mind outside the box to where sometimes I wonder, is gender even that important? Why can't we just be seen as a human being first, not so controlled or defined by our gender? Also the music -- the music has left a powerful impression on my mind. I really dig it and I knew to be able to sing it -- especially with the incredible Aaron Swenson -- would be a blast! So, when I was offered the role of Yitzhak, it was a no brainer.
Adam: Dave, actually. If he's excited about a project, I know it's one I want to be a part of.
Gavin: How has it been for the two of you interacting with each other both in and out of character?
Latoya: What can I say about Aaron? He is a joy to be around both on- and offstage. Interacting with him offstage is effortless. We have great conversations, we laugh a lot, and it seems like we have known each other a lot longer then we actually have, which makes our interaction onstage even more comfortable and real. We don't have to force generally liking each other, or having a connection. And that adds a lot when we interact as Hedwig and Yitzhak. It makes our relationship on stage richer, more rootedand like an actual "bitter married couple."
Aaron: There’s an inherent warmth that’s natural to any interaction with Latoya, and her openness has been absolutely essential to our rehearsal process. We’re putting this thing on its feet in record time, and a lot of us have been down this road before. Latoya is the new fish, but you’d never know it, based on her preparation and willingness to attack the material. The mutual comfort and affection we’ve established works as a great shorthand for Hedwig and Yitzhak’s relationship; it adds depth to what could come across as simply cruel or antagonistic, and reminds the audience that there’s real love between these two. The hardest part of working with her is being mean to her onstage.
Gavin: Van and Camden – how different is it working together as The Suicycles and then as The Angry Inch?
Camden: Different songs, less drinking.
Van: Camden and I have been working together for three years now. We both have explored many different styles and genres along the way. Playing with The Suicycles has covered our needs as far as dance rock goes. Playing with The Angry Inch gives us the chance to delve deeper into our glam-rock roots.
Gavin: How has it been for all of you bringing this play to life for a new audience?
Van: I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the show again and to stage it at the Egyptian in Park City. It's going to be fantastic! I got chills while playing through the songs at our first rehearsal.
Dave: I have been living with the music now for several months, practicing, prepping, hiring the new band members and some early rehearsal. The excitement is growing. I can't wait to bring the message and the music of Hedwig to both new and returning crowds, this time with an even bigger rock & roll sound!!!
Adam: Friends keep asking about the costuming in particular. I also know I've got some big shoes to fill -- the bassist -- Alex Rowe -- who did the show the last two times was great.
Jerry: This show is like an old friend. I never get tired of it and I never get tired of watching people experience it for the first time.
Latoya: It has been a pleasure and a great time. From learning the music, to getting to sing it for the first time with Dave and Aaron, and then adding Van, Camden, and Adam -- it's really a dream come true. I have always wanted to be part of a band. And most of all, getting to share an incredible story while rocking out with all these talented fellas is going to be such a great time for the audience. We each have our own individual energies and individual ways of telling a story so, as a collective force, we invite the audience to take the journey for themselves within the 90-minute "concert." – to expand their perceptions. And we get to say, "Hey, look at us, we are who we are, you can be who you are, too! So let's rock and have some fun, shall we? Let's not take life so seriously all the time. Let's leave all the politics, all our differences and all that garbage outside of the theater and have a good time!"
Aaron: First of all, I really hope that anyone who’s ever said to me, “I’m so sorry I missed that the last two times you did it ...” will be getting tickets to see it this time. It’s a short run, but I’d love for the audience to be both a good mix of newcomers and people who are already familiar with the show. As far as the experience of bringing this to life again for a new audience, it’s been amazing to see how quickly things are coming together. It’s easy to place your trust in people when you see just how capable they are when the heat is on. The real-life circumstances of our rehearsal process and the speed with which we’re remounting the show are adding a lot to my character work; it seems appropriate that Hedwig would try to get a band together and a show up and running in a matter of a couple of weeks so she can chase Tommy around the country like a crazy person. This mix of terror and hope and vindication and blind confidence feels like a recipe either for a beautiful success or a fascinating train wreck. I’m just glad to be on board again.
Gavin: What are your thoughts going into opening night?
Dave: Can't wait!
Camden: I'm still just trying to make sure I know the parts.
Van: I'm excited for all the people who are about to have their minds blown by this production.
Adam: Can we rock hard enough to blow the audience out of their seats? I plan to give tons of my own energy. Audiences respond to energy from the performers, and performers respond to energy from the audience, so I know if I'm giving it to them they'll give it back and that's making me really excited.
Jerry: What Dave said.
Latoya: To remember where everything goes, remember to relax, remember to have fun!
Aaron: Fingers crossed for no high-heel-related injuries to myself or others. Good-dream thoughts of boundless possibility and excitement. Bad-dream thoughts of pants-pooping fear and empty houses.
Gavin: What can we expect from each of you over the rest of the year?
Camden: Hopefully, lots of new releases from The Suicycles and my side projects. Besides that, I plan to spend most of the rest of my time hanging out in my cave as per usual.
Van: I plan on staying busy onstage, in the studio and teaching.
Dave: Finishing up Graham Russell's CD. I am the musical director for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Salt Lake Acting Company, another kick ass rock-and-roll score! And I'm in the beginnings of putting together a project for Disneyland; it's early, so I'll let you know how that comes out later.
Adam: More theater work, of course. Plus, I'm starting two groups of my own. Since they're not up and running yet I won't plug them here, but soon enough I'll be putting out the word.
Jerry: A whole lotta Plan-B Theatre Company.
Latoya: Later this summer, I'll be heading to NYC in a new musical called Shelter, written by local SLC playwrights, composers and lyricists, that is being presented at the New York Musical Theater Festival. I'm excited about that adventure. And then after that, who knows? I'm staying open to possibilities.
Aaron: I plan to spend the next six months returning to my natural hair color. After August, I won’t be performing in any more shows, but I’m always writing and working on something or another. Maybe this will be the year I finish my novel. SPOILER ALERT: This will not be the year I finish my novel.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Camden: I just lost my phone. If you find it, please return it. Thanks!
Van: Come see The Suicycles and Danger Hailstorm playing Crucial Fest at The Woodshed on June 20, and check out Danger Hailstorm at the Utah Arts Festival on June 21.
Dave: I've got some instruments I'd like to sell. Does anybody want a half-size upright bass, a violin or a really high-grade French bass bow?
Jerry: Catch Plan-B's fundraising reading of 8 on August 4-5. We're raising money for our 2012/13 season and the American Foundation for Equal Rights' fight for marriage equality.
Latoya: Come rock out with us! Dress up and wear your finest wigs!
Aaron: I will be performing in Plan-B Theatre Company’s Script-In-Hand production of 8 August 4-5. I also write comedy jokes on Twitter.
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