Recently, our Miss Jaye had the opportunity to sit down with the Artistic Director of the Empire Theatre Company, Chris Berg, to talk about Avenue Q, his most recent show which opens July 30, and all of his theatrical passions.
Janessa: Thanks for sitting down with us here at the World of Champagne!
Chris Berg: Well thanks for having me. I like what you’ve done with the place.
CB: Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. He soon discovers that although the residents seem nice, it’s clear that this is not your ordinary neighborhood. Together, Princeton and his new-found friends struggle to find jobs, dates, and their ever-elusive purpose in life.
JJC: I’ve heard the music and it really is a fun show! So, how did you first get involved with theatre?
CB: I’ve been involved since middle school…I heard an announcement and I was like that sounds like fun and I’ve been doing it ever since. I played Dan (one of the Dozen) in Cheaper by the Dozen. I think I got to have my dog be in the show.
JJC: What roles have you played on stage?
CB: I was Chiclet in Psycho Beach Party and Rooster in Annie.
CB: I enjoy acting, I think it’s fun. Directing is a little more satisfying for me. It’s definitely a lot more work than acting because you are thinking of the big picture as opposed to just your own character. But it’s great to collaborate with actors and designers to bring the show to life.
JJC: Do you have a dream role you’d love to play? Or a dream show to direct?
CB: Oh my god, there are so many! Where do I even start?!
JJC: Get your life together, Berg – we don’t have unlimited time here!
JJC: For which I would obviously be cast as Edna Turnblad!
CB: (blank stare) Of course, any Sondheim show.
JJC: I have always wanted to play Joanne in Company! I’d be perfect! (sings) Here’s to the ladies who lunch…
CB: Are you going to let me finish?
CB: Let’s see. August: Osage County, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – just everything, I’d love a chance to direct it all!
JJC: The Empire Theatre Company has finished its first season and is moving to its second. Were there unexpected challenges that you ran into in putting together the first season?
CB: Nothing too huge. We felt really good about our first season. We are going to run longer this season compared to last. We will be doing two weekend performances to give people a better opportunity to see the show as well as spread the word.
JJC: What goes into the process of picking the shows for your season?
CB: Lots of reading. There is a small committee and we meet and put together a long list, then narrow it down to a short list, and then try to find a nice balance. Two plays, two musicals. Nothing too similar to each other, but we are trying to have a common theme that all the shows have. This year it’s American Community. How do we define it? Who is it made up of?
JJC: So what can we expect from ETC this coming year, and in the future?
CB: You can expect us to do some shows! (laughs) We have Avenue Q opening next week, Followed by Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, a spooky little play about the blurred lines between video games and reality. That will be in October. Then Wonder of the World, which is a really funny comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire about a woman who leaves her husband under mysterious circumstances and embarks on this zany roadtrip. And then closing our season is The Spitfire Grill, a musical about a parolee coming to a small town in Wisconsin based off a travel brochure, and finds a place for herself at the local grill. It’s based on an indie film from the 90s. It’s a beautiful story; great music!
CB: I love local theatre, local artists coming together to tell this one story and share their skills with the community. What’s great about theatre is that when you come to a live performance that performance is unique to everyone involved. It’ll never happen again. It’s great!
JJC: Anything else you’d like to share with the World of Champagne readers?
CB: Everyone should watch Orange is the New Black. I’m obsessed.
JJC: So am I! I’m always quoting it on Twitter (@JanessaJaye if you want to follow me – and believe me, you do!) Thanks again for taking time out of Avenue Q rehearsals to sit down with us. I’m sure you’ll see lots of World of Champagne readers at the run of Avenue Q. Good luck with your upcoming season with the Empire Theatre Company!
CB: Thanks Miz Champagne!
Avenue Q runs July 30 – August 10 at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. For ticket information, please visit: Empire Arts Center.
Tags: Avenue Q, Chris Berg, community theater, community theatre, Empire Arts Center, Empire Theater, Empire Theatre, Empire Theatre Company, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Musical, Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, Orange is the New Black, play, Spitfire Grill, theater, theatre, Wonder of the World