The Full Monty, playing this week through Saturday, is based on the film and features 6 out of work men who are struggling: with finances, with relationship, and with their own sense of self. The show features a large and very talented cast, and our very own Miss Jaye plays the role of Jeanette Burmeister, a showbiz “golden oldie” who comes out of retirement to help our six men get their act together so they can get their act together! Miss Jaye sat down with Casey Paradies, the director of the show, to talk about theatre, drag, and and nudity…y’know, girl talk.
Janessa: Hey Casey! Thanks for taking time to talk with us today.
Casey: Thank you, Mama!
Casey: They might…I unfortunately don’t see a lot of crossover between the drag shows and my theatre work. Maybe this show will change that.
Janessa: Let’s hope so! How has studying and working in live theatre affected your drag performances? And how does performing in drag affect your approach to working in theatre?
Casey: Theatre has always been my true love so when I transfer that to drag I always remind myself that it is not about the possibility-for me anyway-but the story I am telling with the song. Whatever songs I do in drag there has to be a need to sing it, and a want, and that is what I find when I do a drag performance. Drag has less effect on my work in the theatre although it does allow me to constantly hone my dance skills and definitely my improv skills, so I guess I could say drag has helped me to learn how to keep a performance fresh and to always be on my toes and make quick decisions.
Janessa: Tell us a little bit more about your theatrical background.
Casey: Is there room?!
Casey: I started performing when I was six. My dad did not want me in dance lessons, so my mother and I lied and said I was going to voice lessons, hence why I am a dancer and not a singer. Although I do sing. When I was 18 I toured the world with a musical called Roads which was an Up With People show. I then attended and graduated the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC with an emphasis in musical theatre. I hold a BA and MA in theatre arts from UND, both with concentrations in performance. I have performed all over the world and off-Broadway, though never made it to Broadway. You might say that the theatre has been as much a part of my life as water or air. It’s something I have always done and always loved.
Janessa: What roles have you played? Any particular favorites you’d like to tell us about?
Casey: I have played dozens but my favorties are always the guys with an edge. The Emcee in Cabaret, Will Parker in Oklahoma!, Luther Billis in South Pacific. These big song and dance character roles are my top three!
Janessa: Do you have a dream role you’re just dying to play? Or maybe a dream show to direct or choreograph?
Casey: Most roles I want to play I can’t because of race or gender- no Shug Avery or engineer for me! But I really want to play Molina in the musical version of Kiss of the Spider Woman or Za Za in La Cage Aux Folles. As far as shows to direct and choreograph, I would love to get my hands on Evita.
Casey: I need to understand what the backbone of the story is. What is the overall objective that all the characters could be fighting for? With The Full Monty I think the line in “Scrap” that goes, “ how I got to be a loser and I used to be a man” is so central. This idea of what masculinity is and how to regain it once it has been taken is the sort of backbone of this show.
Janessa: I already know, since I’m in it, but tell our readers a little bit more about what they can expect from The Full Monty.
Casey: They can expect a hysterical, brutally honest, and heartwarming story – and they may see themselves in it!
Janessa: The show does play around with nudity and men’s insecurities about their bodies and their roles. How do you help your actors get comfortable with the challenges associated with exploring that kind of material?
Casey: I really kept stressing to them what they were fighting for. Once I think that is clear and they understand what the charcter is doing and why the fear of nudity is no longer the actors’ but the characters’, then the actors can relax and understand that. Also during rehearsals, it was important that they were comfortable before they were seen by the rest of the cast.
Casey: Yeah I was angry but then I thought, “Well it just shows how shallow people can be before seeing this show.”
Janessa: This is a big show to do in 6 weeks! What were some of the challenges of putting this show together?
Casey: Tech. I had very little time to work in the theatre and a lot of huge set pieces that needed to be built for the show. Also, volunteer time is not always when you want it but when they can give it, so there were some frustrations but it all worked out fabulously.
Janessa: Yeah, the tech crew has been amazing! What’s your favorite part of the show so far?
Casey: When Jerry sings “Breeze off the River.” It says so much about the character and what he is fighting for. We finally get to see him be human.
Janessa: Ugh, enough of this fucking Hallmark moment; let’s get back to Sally…when did you first start performing in drag?
Casey: When I was on tour with Up With People actually!
Casey: I always wanted to play the girl roles in musicals and cant, so Sally (whose name is stolen from my favorite musical theatre character) was my way of getting to play all of those characters. She is me if I were a woman: loud, crass, and loves a good showtune!
Janessa: You usually stick pretty close to Broadway showtunes, but lately you’ve been busting out some Willam and DWV numbers. Do you see Sally as evolving?
Casey: Yeah Sally is becoming a little more in your face. I like that she started as a means to fulfill some dreams and she is becoming a reality check to me and others around me.
Casey: Yeah the reality check thing comes from RuPaul actually I often find the gay community to be one of the most unaccepting communites there is and yet we are always begging for acceptance. RuPaul addressed that with the idea that should the gay community suffer a downfall it would come from the inside and not the outside oppressors. I think that idea is true. We cant run around begging for acceptance if we don’t accept others and we need to be able to laugh at ourselves a little. I think Sally has been trying to do that lately
Janessa: So I have heard about your Willam obsession…
Casey: Love her goddamnit!
Janessa: Besides Willam, who are your favorite queens from Drag Race?
Janessa: I have mixed feelings about the show, but I do love some of the performers that have come out of it. I would love to do a show with Pandora Boxx or Sharon Needles.
Casey: Absolutley – make that happen!
Janessa: Grand Forks has a pretty active theatre scene with Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, Empire Theatre Company, the UND Theatre productions, and local high schools with pretty strong programs. How do you think a community benefits from having lots of available theatre?
Casey: Our students learn to work hard, they learn to be flexible and they learn to never give up their creativity and dreams. Its good to have a little bit of a child’s spirit still with you.
Casey: Communities that do not fail to see beyond their borders and therefore are bound to disappear when confronted with outsiders and change. AKA Williston. They have a small arts scene but nothing big enough to really prepare people with an outside perspective, which is one thing the arts gives us.
Janessa: Is there anything you think should be off limits from art or theatre? How do you define the boundaries in your own work as an actor or director?
Casey: I don’t think anything should be off limits, but I do think that there needs to be a reason to do something. A crass joke may be funny, but if its motive simply to be crass I don’t find it has a place. That being said, I do not believe in censorship nor do I worry about offending people. I merely give them my perspective and/or try to tell a story that I feel people can relate to.
Janessa: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our World of Champagne readers?
Casey: Yes! Shed your inhibitions and come see six guys struggle with theirs.
Janessa: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us!
Casey: Thank you Mama!
The Full Monty plays at the Empire Theatre the rest of this week through Saturday, June 7. Tickets are $20, $17 for seniors/students/military. You can also get $3 off your ticket if you bring in a receipt from Mamma Maria’s, who helped produce the show, and groups of 10 or more get their tickets for only $15! (Discounts are not able to be combined). Karen Braaten provides the music direction for the show.
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