Janessa: Maura and I go way back. I’ve known her since she was a high school student working part time at Hot Topic!
Maura: Fact. You were one of my mentors in the, um, wonderful world of retail? You also schooled me on the Care Bears universe. I was sixteen and thought I was a total badass because I worked at Hot Topic. Truly though, we had the best coworkers and I was so glad to be part of the team.
Maura: That show is one of my favorites on my résumé due to how bizarre it is. I’ve had directors mention it at several auditions and I say, “Yes, it’s true. Even our Toto was white.” And he was.
Janessa: You’ve been a regular on local stages for a long time. Tell us about some of the roles you’ve played. Any favorites?
Maura: I’ve been doing theatre for a long time. I made my debut at age two, when my mother sang “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess to me on stage at the Chester Fritz and I covered my ears when she hit the high note. I had a lot of fun last summer as Christmas Eve in Avenue Q, even though it was horribly offensive.
Janessa: You’re just working your way through the multi-culti rainbow, girl!
Maura: A role I loved and would like to have another crack at is The Witch in Into the Woods. Sondheim is my favorite composer and that role felt really natural to me. I’m not quite sure what that’s saying about me, though. I also had a lot of fun as Rona Lisa Peretti in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I could have run that show for a long time! The improv component kept the material fresh and funny every performance.
Janessa: Right now you’re cast in the Empire Theatre Company’s production of Spitfire Grill. Tell us about what we can expect from that show and from your character.
Maura: Yes I am! We are excited to present the regional premiere of the Spitfire Grill. The show is heartwarming and has beautiful music. It’s about a girl fresh out of prison who moves to a small tight knit town. Think Orange is the New Black meets Gilmore Girls. Or something like that! [laughs] My character is Shelby Thorpe, and playing her has been a challenge for me! She is quiet, shy, and listens to her husband all the time. Just like me, right?
Janessa: Don’t let Mr. Ferguson see this show – he might become unmanageable!
Maura: My favorite thing about this show has been simply listening to my cast mates sing. There are some lovely voices in this show.
Janessa: You’ve done quite a few shows with both the ETC and the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre. What do you like about community theatre?
Maura: Community theatre is vital to me! It gives all of us creative weirdos a home. None of my friends get me like my theatre friends do, and I know that many of them feel that way about their theatre friends too. I work full time, have a husband and two kids, and try to do at least one to two shows a year. I have to. Even though the schedule is insane. I need it for me. And the only people who really get that are other theatre mamas, who I am happy to know. I lived in St. Paul for six years and it wasn’t until I decided to be involved in theatre that I found my friends there. I experienced a devastating apartment fire while I was in a production of Evita, and the way the cast and crew supported me is something that gets me teary to this day. I love the relationships made in theatre.
Janessa: Why is it important for a community to have theatre opportunities? Or even an arts scene more generally? How does the community benefit?
Maura: I can safely say that if I had not found a home within the theatre community as a kid, I may never have found that at all. Music and theatre kept me busy and out of trouble. It was something that I was able to feel good at and proud of at a time in my life when it was hard to have good self esteem. I am very proud of our arts community in Grand Forks. There’s a lot going on here for a town in North Dakota! I think having a vibrant arts community is valuable for so, so many reasons. Art helps people express themselves and connect to one another in a positive way. Art makes people think and feel in a way that nothing else can. Without art, life is boring and dull. I can’t even imagine living in a community without art! I have been fortunate to have art be a major component of my whole life, and I hope to contribute to the arts community in Grand Forks any way I can.
Janessa: Have you ever stepped offstage to work on the technical side of theatre?
Maura: As a high school student, I got to try my hand at many different backstage roles. I’m better on the stage! [laughs] Those spotlights get damn hot! I was good at costuming, hair, and makeup. But, I’ve actually worked as a makeup artist before, so theatrical makeup is right in my wheelhouse.
Janessa: That’s right, you are also licensed as an aesthetician, right? I’m a huge makeup whore! Tell me about some of your favorite products or brands.
Maura: Yes I am! I can wax like nobody’s business! My favorite lines are Vincent Longo, Laura Mercier, Lush, Dermalogica, and the holy grail: MAC. My biggest beauty secret is my homemade face scrub – it’s made with coconut oil, sugar, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, and I swear by it. It’s amazing. I will give you some if you ask nicely.
Janessa: Yes please! So, let’s play a little game: I’m going to name a specific product, color or collection, and I want your honest, first reaction, ok? First, Nars Blush in Orgasm…
Maura: Love the golden shimmer. I prefer the Orgasm Multiple! I am a huge fan of cream blush.
Janessa: I love it too! I just wish they would stop overusing it. They put it in every special collection or compact. Enough already!
Maura: That reminds me of Clinique Black Honey. They throw that in everything. It’s a great lip color, but how many does a lady need, really?
Janessa: Sephora choosing “Radiant Orchid” as the 2014 Color of the Year… [Read more about that HERE]
Maura: I had just bought nail polish in that color the week before they announced it, so I felt really on top of things.
Janessa: Lit Glitter…
Maura: I love glitter!! I have played with Lit before, I like the thin consistency. You can never have too much glitter! But you know that more than I do, Miss Janessa!
Janessa: Amen sister! A Drag Queen’s number one makeup secret: if you fuck it up, put glitter on it!
Maura: I think that should apply to society in general.
Janessa: Anyway, back to business. Urban Decay Eye Primer Potions…
Maura: Meh… I’m not the biggest fan of Urban Decay. I really liked it when I was like fourteen and didn’t know any better.
Janessa: Sacrilege! Urban Decay is so not the same company it was back in the day. When they went legit, they jacked their prices way up, but they actually have some great products to back it up. If you haven’t tried the eye primers, you really should. I only started using them recently, but they are absolutely on my “must have” list!
Maura: Admittedly I have not tried Urban Decay in many years. I’ll give it a shot!
Janessa: Here’s an oddball: Coty Airspun Powder…
Maura: Oh wow! My grandma always had a big box of it on her dresser with her Chantilly perfume. Those products will always remind me of her!
Janessa: That is so funny! When I mention this, people either don’t know what it is, or they totally think of their grandmother! [laughs] It’s super old school, but it’s the best powder for drag/theatrical makeup I have ever found, bar none! They even have it in “Translucent – Extra Coverage” now – I think they knew their primary customer base was drag queens!
Maura: You’ve inspired me! I’m going to have to run and get some for the show.
Janessa: Theatrical makeup – do you like Ben Nye, Mehron, or Graftobian?
Maura: Mehron has some great colors, but I’m a Ben Nye girl. Their liquid glitter is straight from heaven above.
Janessa: No one ever knows Graftobian! That was the theatrical makeup I cut my teeth on as a budding drag queen and I love it, but it’s so hard to find. I totally ran across the website by accident and ordered on a whim, and I fell in love! I usually end up using Ben Nye foundations because they are much easier to track down.
Maura: Ben Nye is what I learned on, and it’s my go-to. Ben Nye himself did all the makeup for the huge MGM movie musicals of years past!
Janessa: You have to love a classic. Speaking of: Smashbox Face Primer…
Janessa: Of course…that’s an easy one. Although there are a lot of great primers out there. If any of our readers missed my 10-product face primer showdown, you can revisit it HERE. Now, onto a more recent discovery I’ve made: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
Maura: I’m not so sure it’s better than sex, but it is a great mascara.
Janessa: Anything that claims to be better than sex is a pretty tough sell for this old whore! But it’s seriously the only mascara I will pay full price for. I normally wear lashes so most of the time I just use sample sizes or freebies or discount store brands. But this stuff I can actually wear by itself – 3 coats and it’s like wearing a small pair of fake lashes!
Maura: I love love love Diorshow though.
Janessa: I’ve never tried it, but I refuse to believe that anything Dior could be bad! Especially their fragrances: Addict is absolutely the scent that defines me!
Maura: They have a kickass blue Diorshow that is a ton of fun. You’ve got to try it!
Janessa: I love talking makeup! Perhaps we’ll have you back for another feature in our Makeup Forum – stay tuned! But back to the world of theatre. I’m always interested in boundaries. Is there anything you think should be off limits for theatre? Is there anything you wouldn’t be wiling to do in a show if asked?
Maura: I don’t think anything should be off limits for theatre at all. Our art at its core is an expression of the human condition, and to me that means everything is fair game. There is just as much beauty to be found in darkness as there is to be found in light, and I love theatre as a medium to explore that. As far as personal boundaries, I would not likely do any nudity on stage. Nope. I have done shows that have been outside of my comfort zone, but those are the most important roles to take on, as they give you more depth as an artist. If it makes you uncomfortable, you’re growing!
Janessa: Is there a dream role you’re just dying to play? And if you say Joanne in Company, I will slap you right in the face, because that role is mine, bitch!
Maura: Hold my earrings!
Janessa: Gurl, hold my weave, there’s gonna be a girl fight!
Maura: I would love to be Joanne! But for now, because I love you, you can have her and I’ll be Crazy Amy and damnit I really want to do Company like next season someone please?!?!? Anyone? I know they’re reading this. But in all honesty, my dream role is and always has been Mama Rose in Gypsy. I have been in love with Gypsy since I was in third grade and the TV version aired with Bette Midler. Those songs are part of the fabric of who I am. I’d also love a chance to play Dot in Sunday in the Park With George. When I was four and sang in my very first voice recital, I was furious that I wasn’t allowed to sing “Stars” from Les Miz. There aren’t a lot of four year old girl Javerts with curly blonde hair.
Janessa: Maybe that early disappointment is what lead you to play a white Dorothy in The Wiz! [laughs] This has been such fun Maura! Any final thoughts for our World of Champagne readers?
Maura: Come to our show!
Janessa: You know I’ll be there. Thanks so much for joining us today!
Maura: Thanks so much for having me! You do such a great job supporting our theatre community with your blog. I love it and you!
Janessa: Aww thanks sweetheart! You say such sweet things! [mumbles] I’m sure I’ve got that 5 dollars here in my purse somewhere…
Spitfire Grill opens at the Empire Arts Center on March 24 and runs through Saturday, March 29. Showtimes are at 7:30 pm and tickets, which are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, can be purchased at the door or online.
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