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The Girl I Left Behind Me

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jessica Walker
March 4, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Co-author and performer.

What is your show about?
The Girl I left Behind Me is solo show about the forgotten history of the male impersonators in British Music Hall and American Variety at the turn of the 20th century.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I became obsessed with the idea of solo performance after seeing Elaine Stritch's At Liberty in London. My training and background are in opera. As an opera singer you quite often feel a lot smaller than the production. Standing alone requires the most intense level of concentration, and the most intense level of communication between performer and audience. It provides an exciting contrast to being a small part of a larger whole.

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
This could be a divisive question! As I write and perform my own pieces, there is not much of a power struggle between author and performer. I rely heavily on my director, though. Neil Bartlett, who directed The Girl I Left Behind Me, provided the physical vision for the piece. I have little confidence in standing on stage undirected, and am always grateful for a strong directorial hand. I would say that in a collaboration, each component is equally important, and that what you hope for is the sum of the component parts generating a greater combined creativity than any of the the individuals could.

Is there a particular moment in this show that you really love or look forward to? Without giving away surprises, what happens in that moment and why does it jazz you?
I love inhabiting the the women I am telling the stories about in this show. Some of them led very racy lives in the 19th century, dressing as men and 'marrying' other women. Knowing that, and singing some of the lyrics they sang at that time, fills me with the sense of how incredibly daring these women were. One of the American ladies sang, in 1878, 'Lovely woman is made to be loved, to be fondled and courted and kissed, and all those who've never made love to a girl, well they don't know the fun they have missed.' That's quite a special moment!

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
Sexy!

Why are theater festivals so very important?
A festival like Brits off Broadway is important because it brings quirky British theatre to New York where it can be seen by a totally new audience. That is the main strength of all good festivals. It brings something 'other', something from far away, and I think that can be culturally stimulating, as well as a fantastic opportunity for the artists.