Intimate Interview with The Pink Unicorn Star Kelly Davis

Proud Mary Theatre Company Presents the South Carolina premiere of the one-woman show THE PINK UNICORN February 7-16, 2020 in Spartanburg and Greenville.

In this heart-wrenching play by Elise Forier Edie that was recently produced Off-Broadway with Tony-winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), Trisha Lee’s life and faith as a Christian widow in a conservative Southern town is suddenly upended when her 14-year-old daughter Jolene becomes “Jo” and starts a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter at their high school leading to national headlines.

Upstate actor Kelly Davis stars and Anne Tromsness directs.

THE PINK UNICORN SHOW DATES:

SPARTANBURG: Artists Collective Spartanburg,
(formerly the West Main Artists Co-Op)
578 West Main St.
Friday – Saturday, February 7-8 & 14-15 @ 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 9 & 16, 2020 @ 3 p.m.

GREENVILLE: Coffee Underground, 1 East Coffee St.
Tuesday – Wednesday February 11-12@ 8 p.m.

Tickets for all shows are $15 General and $12 for students. Doors open 30 minutes prior to performance and galleries at Artists Collective open 1 hour before performances. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.proudmarytheatre.com/tickets or call (864) 580-8385.

Interview with Kelly Davis

Kelly Davis is proud to be returning to Proud Mary after playing Helen Bechdel in Fun Home.  SC Credits also include MTP: Pump Boys & Dinettes, Smoky Mountain Christmas, A Broadway Cabaret, Centre Stage: Red Herring, Upstate Shakespeare Festival: Measure for Measure, and former Alto II with the Greenville Chorale.  Originally from New York, Kelly has worked with companies such as Theatre for the New City, NYC Fringe Festival,  Astoria Performing Arts Center, Rising Sun Theatre Company, Emerging Artists Theatre (to name a few!) and can be seen in skits on College Humor and Funny or Die.  Kelly studied improv at UCB, Shakespeare at BADA, and holds a BFA in Acting with a minor in Musical Theatre. Kelly currently serves as a teaching artist in Greenville Schools through both the Warehouse Theatre and SmartARTS, and teaches musical theatre at Upstate Carolina Dance Center.  Kelly and her husband work together as owners of Palmetto State Solar!

What can you tell our readers about Trisha Lee?

Trisha Lee is a middle-aged widow in Texas who’s 14-year-old daughter comes out as gender queer.  Through quirky, genuine experiences, she struggles with the reactions from her church, her town and her own mother and ultimately decides that loving her child just the way they are is the only way to proceed.

What is the backstory on the Pink Bible?

My husband and I moved here in 2016.  I wanted to brush up for the purposes of arguing with ignorant people.  Then I read Jim Dant’s book, This I Know – and realized he had done it for me.

What have you learned about your character since you first began rehearsals?

Trisha’s journey begins before the story of the play starts.   I think that she grew up and stayed in this small town and married her high school sweetheart.  He dies three years before the play starts, and I have thought a lot about what that must have been like: having a police officer (my old classmate) knock on my door in the middle of the night to tell me the news, attending his funeral with my 11 year old daughter, figuring out how I am going to get on with my life and taking a job as a cleaning lady at the hospital to make ends meet.  

What has been your deepest “discovery” about The Pink Unicorn?

I think that everyone in this country wants the same thing: freedom.  However, people’s definitions of freedom vary greatly.  The United States was founded on religious freedom, and yet people all over the US are trying to impose their religion on others.  If you can’t do something because of your religion, I absolutely respect that, but when you try to tell others that they can’t do something because of your religion, you are imposing on their civil rights.  

You spent a couple of days with the playwright of The Pink Unicorn and saw her perform the show in Florence at the South Carolina Theatre Association Conference. Cold you tell your readers about this golden experience?

Being able to spend some time with Elise Forier Edie was a real treat.  I got some candid advice on how to memorize my lines, as well as some insights on where the characters and experiences in the play come from.  Elise’s performance was stellar and prompted some very valuable conversations.  I realized I had some big shoes to fill and needed to get to work!

How did the audience respond to The Pink Unicorn?

At South Carolina Theatre Association Conference, the response was overwhelmingly positive and emotional.  Students shared their struggles with coming out to their parents, faculty shared some of their stories as well.  There was a lot of love in that room.

What will the audience learn from The Pink Unicorn?

Love love love.  Do unto others. Love is the light that will lead us all out of the darkness.

What has been the most challenging aspect of this role?

In addition to learning all of my lines, I take on the physicality and voices of 8 characters. Luckily, my director (Anne) and stage manager (Alyssia) are rockstars and I have felt incredibly supported throughout this process.  

Meet the Cast of FUN HOME: Our 3 Alisons

Eve Begelman, Paige Vasel and Samantha Eyler

Samantha Eyler, Paige Vasel and Eve Begelman play lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel at three different ages (43, 19 & 10 respectively) in Proud Mary Theatre Company’s production of the Tony-winning and groundbreaking musical “Fun Home.” with a live orchestra June 7-16 in the Venue at the West Main Artists Co-Operative in Spartanburg.

“Fun Home” runs through June 16, 2019 at the West Main Artists Co-Operative, 578 West Main St. in Spartanburg. Shows are Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $15-25. For more information, visit www.proudmarytheatre.com.

Eve Begelman (Small Alison) has performed as vocalist, actor, and violinist since the age of seven. As a scholar in the 92nd Street Y Recanati- Kaplan program for voice, Eve appeared as a soloist with the Orchestra of St. Lukes in a NYC premiere of Maximus Musicus and as a guest soloist with the Christian McBride Trio. During her time as a member of the Manhattan Girls Chorus, she performed at Carnegie Hall with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. In 2018, Eve performed the role of Viola in Twelfth Night at the American Shakespeare Center summer program and in the South Carolina Governor’s School Discovery drama program. Regional theater credits include Young Juliette in For What it’s Worth, Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, Katie Spoonapple in Dear Edwina. Eve has performed in the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the Dream Up Festival in New York City. In May 2019, Eve was selected to perform on the Rising Stars Piccolo Spoleto Festival and at the Peace Interludes Series at the Peace Center. Eve is a rising sophomore at the Fine Arts Center and Wade Hampton High School.

Paige Vasel (Medium Alison) Paige Vasel (Medium Alison) is a Wisconsin native and recent Converse College graduate with a BA in Musical Theatre and Dance. Fun Home is her third production with the Proud Mary Theatre Company and she couldn’t be happier to join them in telling this incredibly moving story. Previous credits include Rocky Horror (Janet Weiss) at The Warehouse Theatre, Never Swim Alone with The Guerrilla Shakespeare Company, Heathers(Veronica Sawyer) at Converse College, and more.

Samantha Eyler (Alison) has a BA in Musical Theatre from Marywood University. Fun Home is her premiere show in the Greenville area but she has performed in and costumed numerous shows across several states. Notable past roles include Mae (Reefer Madness, Imagine Productions), Magenta (Rocky Horror Show, Cyclodrama), Dina (Schoolhouse Rock Live, Shadowbox Live), and Diana (Chorus Line, 24/7 Mainstage).

What attracted you to this role? To this musical?

SE: I love musicals with substance. I think the lighthearted, just-for-fun musicals have their place but I think what makes musical theatre special is the ability of music to transcend the words and portray emotion and storytelling on another level. So, I am always drawn to musicals that utilize that technique and tell an engaging, moving, and emotional story.

PV: This musical is so raw and honest – it’s based on someone’s real life story and it handles that with extreme care. I wanted to take on that challenge of sharing a personal, true story. Hopefully I’ve done it gracefully! What attracted me to this role in particular is that I’m playing Alison at a very pivotal moment in her life; the moment she defines herself as a gay woman. It’s a huge breakthrough for her and making that life altering discovery every night as an actor is a joy. 

EB: This musical has a relevant and powerful theme that is important for any audience to learn. I was interested in telling this story and taking on small Alison as I envisioned her. 

What was your familiarity with FUN HOME?

SE: My mother bought me Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel as a gift knowing only that it had something to do with some musical. I had heard of the musical but hadn’t really gotten into yet when I first read the memoir. I was so moved by the way she used the graphic novel genre to tell a completely different type of story. 

PV: I’ve been tracking the show since the soundtrack first came out – though I’ve actually never seen a production of it! I loved the music and the storytelling is so strong through the lyrics and underscoring that you can understand the heart of the show just by listening to it. 

EB: I had seen the Broadway production. 

Have you read the memoir was based on?
SE: Reading the memoir was my first introduction to the show and I reread it when I was cast.

PV: I have read the memoir! I had bought it a couple years prior to being apart of this show and reread it once I had gotten the role.

EB: No. 

What can you tell our readers about your character?


SE: Of the three iterations of Alison, she is the most at peace with who she is. She has grown into herself and she has already made a career as a “lesbian cartoonist.” However, she still hasn’t properly mourned the loss of her father. She starts the show very cavalier about her painful memories but as the story unfolds she rediscovers herself and comes to terms with everything she knows about her father.


PV:
Medium Alison starts off very unsure of herself but being away at college presents her with an opportunity to learn who she is. And you get to see that journey of self discovery in the show. She’s uncomfortable in her body at first, she’s more reserved, and timid. And then as she figures out who she really is, she really opens up. 

EB: Small Alison is an adamant and strong willed 10 year old. She is passionate about cartoons and gets along well with her siblings. 

What are some of the more interesting things you have discovered or done in the rehearsal process?

SE: We got to do a really exciting workshop with an intimacy coordinator. I am not involved in the
scene of the show where the techniques were used but it was really interesting to learn the techniques that she uses to choreograph intimate moments in shows.

PV: One thing I noticed about Alison is how similar she is to her father. They are both headstrong, bold, and opinionated. But Medium Alison asserts many times throughout the show that she’s nothing like him. But after finding out about her father’s queerness, I think that really changes everything for her.


EB:
Alison is not rude and pushy, she is clear about what her opinions are and is not afraid to show it. 

What is the most challenging part about your role or songs? SE: This role has been significantly more challenging than I expected. I felt like I had a solid understanding of the character and she show prior to rehearsals. Because I am onstage observing all of the other moments of the show, I have spent a lot more time delving into my emotional and character arc and it has been wonderful but definitely a challenge and certainly time-consuming. PV: The songs are so wordy! It’s hard to find time to breathe. I love Changing My Major but the song can leave me a little breathless at times and I put a lot of effort into enunciating everything to the best of my ability so that the audience can understand what I’m trying to communicate. 

EB: The biggest challenge in playing this role is making sure I come off as young as possible and have the energy a 10 year old would. 

What have you learned about yourself from playing this role?

SE: Alison talks candidly in the memoir and in interviews about how she didn’t know how to properly process her emotions for much of her life, especially following her father’s death. I identify with that so much. I have found this to be a very cathartic experience and, though I have a very different story and family life, I have learned a lot about myself and the way I handle emotional experiences whilst wading through Alison’s journey. 

PV: I’ve learned that accepting yourself and being open with the world, while scary, can give you a lot of power and strength. EB: I have learned how much other actors choices can help me form my character. 

What do you hope patrons will take away from their Fun Home experience?

SE: I hope they enjoy the show but I also hope that they take away something deep and meaningful from this story. I think there are elements that everyone can connect with and I hope they are able to journey with us and walk away knowing themselves better. 

PV: I hope audiences can identify their own narratives within this story. While the show is very personal and unique, it speaks on a broader level about family and acceptance and everyone can relate to that.


EB:
I hope patrons take away how important father=daughter relationships are.

You all three play the same character Alison Bechdel at three different ages. What has been your strategy among the three of you to assimilate this person? Any physical traits or gestures you all have assumed?

SE:
We did a rehearsal where we all tried to see what gestures we were each using and tried to assimilate them across the three of us and get some physical consistency to Alison. As I am in the position of observing most scenes, I am in a good position to try to mimic and mirror the other two without seeming forced. I think we have discovered the character of Alison separately and when we came together we have worked to fill in the gaps to create a smooth transition from one Alison to the next and I’m excited about the growth we portray through her life. 


EB:
Watching the other Alisons helped me decide how I would move and act as the younger version of both characters

Stewart, Davis Lead ‘Parallel Lives’ in Proud Mary Comedy

Proud Mary Theatre Company is proud to announce the stars of our winter comedy show spectacular PARALLEL LIVES: Tiffany Stewart and Caroline Davis.

Stewart, veteran of New York and Upstate stages, and Davis, Furman University Adjunct Professor and co-star of our hilarious “5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche,” will play multiple characters in the sketch comedy classic written by the dynamic comedy duo Mo Gaffney (“Absolutely Fabulous”) and Kathy Najimy (“Sister Act” and “Hocus Pocus”). 
“Parallel Lives” is directed by Ellen Jones. Sandy Staggs is producer and Alyssia Chaplin is Stage Manager.    

“Parallel Lives” opens March 2-3 at the West Main Artist Co-Operative in Spartanburg and March 9-10 at Coffee Underground in Greenville. Visit http://www.proudmarytheatre.com/tickets