We know, we know – we’ve been a little bit neglectful of our theatre coverage here at the World of Champagne, and we haven’t put out an artist profile for a hot minute. Let us rectify that right now! The feature of this profile is one of the stars of the Empire Theatre Company’s newest production, The Flick. Written by Annie Baker (who also wrote The Aliens, produced by UND earlier this theatre season and guest reviewed by Jared Fladeland HERE), the show is directed by Chris Berg and runs March 24 – March 26 & March 30 – April 2. Tickets are $16.50 and are available online or at the Box Office.
JANESSA: Today I’m sitting down with the lovely Leah Biberdorf, who you’ll be able to see onstage at the Empire in the upcoming ETC production, The Flick. Welcome!
LEAH: Hey Janessa, thanks for choosing to interview me!
J: So, tell us a little bit about your new show – what’s it about, and what should we expect from your character?
L: The Flick is named after a movie theater in Massachusetts where three of us in the cast work – Sam, Rose, and Avery. Business is really declining and we are all underpaid. Also the management is in the process of transitioning from using a film projector to a digital one. The play takes place in the summer of 2012. I play Rose, the projectionist. She is kind of a rebellious, party girl. Rose doesn’t really have a verbal filter, especially about anything sex-related.
J: I like her already!
L: She is used to getting attention from her coworkers and takes pride in having the coolest job in the theater. I’m excited personally to be able to dye my hair green for this part, as it’s indicated in the script that Rose has green hair. Ha!
J: This might be your first time with green hair, but this definitely isn’t your first production with ETC – what other shows have you been a part of?
L: Correct! This is my fourth show with ETC. My first role was playing Wendla in Spring Awakening which has an absolutely beautiful score. Next I played Pickles in The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical -a very silly, very funny show. Then this past summer I briefly appeared at the end of Into the Woods as Sleeping Beauty. So now The Flick will be my first non-musical role with ETC. I really love this company.
J: I’ve also seen you in at least one show at UND, haven’t I? How is it different working with a community-based theatre as opposed to an educational theatre program?
L: That’s right! I’ve taken a few theatre classes at UND even though I’m not a theatre major and tried out to be a part of A Chorus Line a couple of years ago. That show was a blast! Since UND is educational, they really emphasized the audition process and set it up like one you would find in a lot of professional theaters. You needed a headshot and resume, and they brought you into the auditorium in groups to audition as opposed to ETC, where you get to be alone with the directors and accompanist. UND also does callbacks; ETC can cast a show from one session. Other than that I would say both community and educational programs pump out some really good productions. We are fortunate to have nice sound equipment, production teams and other resources at both UND and ETC.
J: How did you first get interested in doing theatre?
L: I love doing theatre recreationally. I was involved in choir and theatre from elementary through high school and even college. I got involved in programs like the Grand Cities Children’s Choir, Nancy Pasley Ballet School and the Summer Performing Arts Co. Also, I did a few sports growing up like hockey and swimming but lost interest and coordination pretty quickly! But theatre kept with me.
J: Tell us about some of the roles you’ve played – any particular favorites?
L: Ooh! Let’s see. A few favorites have been Julia from The Wedding Singer. We did that my senior year at GFC. Lots of fun 80’s synth-rock and big hair. Johanna in Sweeney Todd was fun too – I liked getting to do a darker show! And again, great music. Pickles in GATPCM really got me out of my comfort zone as far as the acting – she had some outrageous lines and situations throughout that show! I’ve had a lot of favorite stuff from each of the companies I’ve been with.
J: How about dream roles – anything you are absolutely dying to play?
L: Probably Roxie from Chicago. Ula from The Producers. And Sally from Cabaret. Those are off the top of my head, I’m sure there are more. I have a dance background and all of those characters know how to shake it!
J: Do you have any experience with the technical side of theatre? Any desire to take on new roles?
L: I do not really have any experience on the tech side of things! I really respect and am very impressed by what they do. I think lights and sound are very, very cool! I worked for SPA for a few years as a production assistant so I guess I have had a taste of being behind the scenes.
J: Tell us more about you outside of theatre – where you come from, other interests, etc.
L: I hail from Grand Forks, ND. Currently I’m taking some time off from school as I decide to change my major from Occupational Therapy to…well, something else. I’m 21 years old. I work at the Boardwalk Bar & Grill. I have one older sister. I like to cook and watch Netflix – sometimes simultaneously! I’m hoping to get into yoga soon. I wish I traveled more. I really like brushing my teeth.
J: Cat person or dog person?
L: Oh 100% a cat person. The more low-maintenance, the better.
J: For our Makeup Forum readers, what’s the one cosmetic or skincare product you absolutely can’t live without?
L: I really like the bioré charcoal bar of soap. Its like exfoliating/foamy face soap. Your face tingles after you use it! Feels so clean!
J: How about your favorite makeup splurge? When you need a little retail therapy…
L: I try to invest in really good makeup brushes. Usually a whole pack of lots of different sizes. If they come in a travel case, even better!
J: Favorite color?
L: A tie between Red and Yellow.
J: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 5 CDs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
L: (laughs) CDs – I like this question!
J: Glad to hear I’m not the only one! So, what artists or albums would you need to have with you to survive?
L: Some artists I’ve been really into lately would have to be Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Childish Gambino, and Simon &Garfunkel. I like almost every genre of music…except country. Ick. (laughs)
J: What fashion trend did you take part in that you now regret?
L: Ooh that would be the rhinestone studded shirts and gaucho pants. (shivers) From the early 2000s, man.
J: Coke or Pepsi?
L: Neither! I hardly ever drink soda. Except the occasional Morgan-Coke!
J: What is one movie that may not be your favorite, but if you run across it on tv – that’s it, you’re done for. You HAVE to watch it to the end?
L: Ughh this question is so hard! I think any Tarantino film…so long but so entertaining!
J: Alright, bringing it back to more serious things – what role do you think art plays in a community? Is it important to have a robust theatre scene or arts scene more generally?
L: Art plays a huge role in a community! It’s so diverse that you’re bound to come across something you’ll like. Whether that’s dancing or singing or instrumental concerts. Events like that get you off the couch and dares people to think and feel and create. It stimulates so many senses! All types of art should be supported.
J: What does the community gain by having these artistic outlets available?
L: It creates job opportunities, volunteer opportunities, smarter students…and all around happier people! Just to name a few benefits.
J: Without delving too deeply into politics, this is an election year – and what we’ve seen from the campaigns this year has been its own type of theatre (mostly theatre of the absurd!). How do you think art can best engage with current events, politics, significant cultural events, etc.?
L: I immediately think of Saturday Night Live political sketches – so funny! Often they exaggerate but they do have some truth behind them and use humor to get their point across.
J: Is there anything that art shouldn’t engage with?
L: No, not really – art is crucial for expression!
J: What about you personally – are there specific things you wouldn’t be willing to do as part of a role?
L: At this point in my life, I probably couldn’t do any nude scenes – I’m much too self-conscious for that! I will say that theatre has greatly improved my confidence in general, however.
J: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you before we go?
L: Hmmm, I guess it’s more of a bit of advice than a fact about me but just that it’s never too late to get involved with something you think you’d like. You don’t need to be pursuing a degree in something to participate – I’m living proof! Make time in your busy, crazy life for your hobbies and interests because you’ll never look back on it with regret. Any time you spend doing what you love will be time well spent – and you’ll probably meet awesome individuals along the way.
J: Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk, and “Break a leg!” on opening night!
L: Thank you so much, Janessa! This was fun!
The Flick opens March 24 at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. Tickets are $16.50 and can be purchased through the Empire’s website or at the door on show night (if available). The show is directed by Chris Berg and features Leah Biberdorf, Chris Berg, Darin Kerr, and Leo Lapka.
Tags: Annie Baker, Champagne Dreams Productions, Chris Berg, community theatre, Darin Kerr, Empire Arts Center, Empire Theater, Empire Theatre, Empire Theatre Company, Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical, Into the Woods, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Leah Biberdorf, Leo Lapka, Miss Jaye, Pickles, Sleeping Beauty, Spring Awakening, The Aliens, The Flick, Wendla, World of Champagne