On Tuesday, August 9 the Empire Theatre Company opened its fifth season with the first performance of Hairspray, featuring our very own Miss Jaye in the role of Edna Turnblad. We apologize for the questionable rhyming in the title of this post, but one of the show’s characters is known for her smooth wordplay. Now Miss Jaye is sitting down with Annemarie Brack who plays Motormouth Maybelle to talk about the show.
Janessa: Today I have AnneMarie Brack, who is playing the fabulous Motormouth Maybelle in our production of Hairspray. Thanks for taking some time out to talk today.
AnneMarie: No problem at all. I am so excited, I feel like a celebrity!
J: So, tell me a little bit about yourself – where you’re from, what your life is all about, stuff like that!
AM: My life has been pretty crazy. I guess you can think of me as an average 19-year-old. The only exception is that I’m probably nothing like any other 19-year-old on the planet. I’ve moved around a lot so I’ve always been pretty great at meeting new people but the moving has also made it a lot easier to cut all of the B.S. out of my life. My parents are “extreme culturalists” and will embrace every walk of life that they encounter. I blame them for my open-mindedness and love for all things. I currently live with my parents in Wisconsin where I am studying History Education at UW-Waukesha. I previously had lived in Grand Forks, ND for 3 years and before that, Miami for 8 years. Interestingly enough, I actually lived in Baltimore, MD for the first 6 years of my life.
J: How did you get involved with the Hairspray production?
AM: It was rumored that the Empire was looking into having a production of Hairspray last summer and so of course, all of my friends from high school and I got really excited. I had been traveling all last summer and so I was thankful that I wasn’t missing out when they had done Into the Woods. When they had announced the shows for this upcoming season, one of my friends, Adam, messaged me to tell me about the auditions for Hairspray. I just had to audition and so, here I am…spending my summer sleeping on my brothers’ couch.
J: What’s been the best part of the experience so far?
AM: Meeting all of the amazing people! I have seen a majority of this cast in other productions (some of them, I may or may not have been worshipping for the past 3 years) and it’s such an amazing experience to get to share the stage with them. There is so much talent in the Midwest, I just wish that there weren’t as many bigots trying to hold down the arts. These new friends of mine have really shown me that there is no more holding back and that we have so much power as performers to challenge the “norm.”
J: What would you like the audience to know about Motormouth? How did you approach developing her character?
AM: Oh boy, Motormouth is a character all right. She has absolutely no problem with being herself and letting the whole world know that she is loud and proud to be that way. Actually, a lot of my friends from high school will see the production and notice no change between Maybelle and me. I was alway that person who was there to encourage and inspire others to be themselves. I saw many people go from being so shy and quiet to be just as loud and charismatic as me. Developing her character was not very difficult because Motormouth’s personality is so much like mine was in high school.
J: Tell me about other shows you’ve been involved with.
AM: I took part in 3 years of the Summer Performing Arts program here in Grand Forks and a couple of Red River High School’s productions but I began with the Miami Children’s Theater’s production of Pinocchio, where I was casted as the Blue Fairy. I had tons of lines, a whole song, and I was absolutely terrified. One of my brothers was previously involved with MCT, playing lead role after lead role, until he went of to Boston Conservatory to study Musical Theatre. I had very big shoes to fill, since I had previously only done minor productions and various after school theatre programs.
J: Are there any dream roles that you’re just dying to play?
AM: Out of all interviews in the entire world, this is my favorite question of all time. My number one role would have to be Gary Coleman in Avenue Q. When the Empire had produced the show 3 years ago, I went to every single night. I was (and still am) the cast’s biggest fan. Another role that I am dying for would have to be Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Some other roles would be Donkey from Shrek the Musical, Fester from The Adams Family, Max Bialystock from The Producers, Collins from Rent, Sour Kangaroo from Seussical the Musical, and Billy Crocker from Anything Goes.
J: Have you ever worked on the technical side of a production?
AM: In Miami, you were never guaranteed a role so if you did not make the cut, you were offered to help with tech. I got to control the lights for MCT’s production of Peter Pan. I was too busy when I had started high school to be a part of a production so I had helped as a stage hand for a couple productions. It’s really cool to get to see how the technical team makes the actors look and sound so great.
J: What are some of your other hobbies or interests?
AM: I have been asked this and most people are annoyed by my response. I enjoy so many things. I listen to every single genre of music in existence. I adore United States History, I like to ride my long board, I play piano, I play guitar, I read constantly, I can’t stop singing, I am fascinated by cosmetics, and I can go on and on and on forever. I have such an eclectic taste that I am sure that I could survive amongst even the most boring of people.
J: Is there anything you think should be off limits for theatrical representation? Anything in particular you wouldn’t be willing to do in a role?
AM: I am pretty okay with a lot of things, actually. I figure that for the most part, theatre should be a place where you can test the limits of yourself and the audience.
J: Why is it important for a community to have a strong arts and/or theatre scene? How does the community benefit?
AM: I am who I am because of the arts. I can stand up and sing or speak in front of any number of people because it was something that I was, more or less, forced into. People can learn so much from the arts and you can easily see this when looking at the ignorance of those who don’t see why it’s so important to have the arts in a community. If it wasn’t for the huge arts scene here in Grand Forks, I probably wouldn’t have stayed here for 3 years.
J: Tell us something about yourself that most people probably wouldn’t know or might surprise them?
AM: I can be a pretty big geek sometimes. I watch anime and play Minecraft all the time. I spend a majority of my time watching attractive young men play video games on the internet. I’ve attended some conventions in Miami but definitely became more involved when I was in my last year of high school. Actually, the only topics that I ever wrote about during my first year of college were video games and racism.
J: Do you have a favorite movie, or one that if you run across it on cable you just can’t stop yourself from watching it until the end?
AM: One of my brothers thinks that this is absolutely hilarious but I love the movie King Kong. It is by far, one of the most amazing productions that I have ever seen. I’m not even talking about the 1933 film. I really love Jack Black in the 2005 movie. It’s just one of those weird things that I love. Maybe a better answer would be Young Frankenstein.
J: If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 artists on your iPod, who would they be?
AM: Oh jeez, this is going to be difficult. Missy Elliot, for sure. I couldn’t survive without India.Arie or Destiny’s Child. And to mix it up, throw in some Billy Currington and Claude Debussy.
J: I love Destiny’s Child! It’s one of my favorite”guilty pleasures.” Who is your favorite American Idol winner?
AM: I was never into American Idol but I think that Jordan Sparks won and she’s got some good music.
J: Yeah, I think she won her season. I never watched it much, but I saw an early round of the season that Fantasia won and when I heard her, I said, “She’s going to win. She’s amazing.” And I think she’s still my favorite. Switching gears, if you were caught in a zombie apocalypse, what movie or tv character would you want to be travelling with?
AM: Can I choose King Kong? Because I’m pretty sure that I would be safe as long as I’m with him.
J: Unless he turned into a zombie gorilla! What’s your favorite color?
AM: Most people wouldn’t guess this, but I absolutely adore the color pink. I only ever wear black but I love the whole vibrant nature of pink.
J: What do you think is your spirit animal?
AM: I am afraid that if I say gorilla then everyone will think that I have an unhealthy obsession with King Kong – which still may or may not be true. I think that my spirit animal would have to be a hyena, just because of how outrageous and loud my laugh is.
J: I want to believe that mine would be something graceful and beautiful like a swan or a leopard…but it’s more likely to be something tragic like a mosquito or Amanda Bynes. Do you believe in love at first sight?
AM: A month ago, I would’ve said yes because I’ve known my boyfriend for 3 years and have loved him ever since but it took those same three years to get him to even notice me so, I guess it all depends on when you decide to open up your eyes.
J: Do you believe you can fly? Do you believe you can touch the sky?
AM: I mean, I think about it every night and day. Just to, you know, spread my wings and fly away. In all honestly, I could probably fly if I tried hard enough.
J: Sorry, I turned into a weird mix tape there for a second. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our World of Champagne Readers?
AM: Don’t. Let. Anyone. Tell. You. That. You. Can’t. Do. Something. Don’t let others tell you that because you’re too fat, too smart, too skinny, too dumb, too tall, too black, too short, or too white that you can’t accomplish anything that you want to. I get on stage every day with feelings of anxiety and agoraphobia and it doesn’t hold me back because I am the only one who can control what I do and where I go. You are the captain of your ship so steer yourself in which ever direction you please.
J: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and I’ve had such a great time working with you on Hairspray!
AM: Thank you for this experience. I am pretty sure that I learned more about myself answering these questions than you learned about me! It has been such a pleasure working with you!
Hairspray is playing currently at the Empire Theatre, running Tues – Sat from now through August 20th. Tickets are $22 for adults, $17 students/military, and all seating is reserved.
Tags: AnneMarie Brack, Big Blonde and Beautiful, Chris M. Stoner, Edna Turnblad, Empire Arts Center, Empire Theater, Empire Theatre, Empire Theatre Company, Hairspray, I know Where Ive Been, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Marc Shaiman, Miss Jaye, Motormouth Maybelle, World of Champagne