In Conversation with Rebecca Perry – Creator & Performer of “From Judy to Bette: The Old Stars of Hollywood” at the NSTF
Interview by Brittany Kay
Rebecca Perry is back and at it again with her new solo show that will surely steal your hearts and sell out seats. She is best known for her sold out runs in the Toronto Fringe and Edinburgh Fringe for Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl. Her newest creation, From Judy to Bette: The Old Stars of Hollywood will be presented at this year’s Next Stage Festival from January 6th-17th and I’m thinking that it will no doubt be a crowd favourite.
Perry’s strength lies in the creation and presentation of solo shows. She is able to seamlessly transform from one character to the next by her stunning physicality and vocal manipulation. Her performances have always been incredibly engaging to watch as each new character introduced.
Through holiday correspondence, I was able to talk creation process, inspiration and girl power.
Brittany Kay: What is this show about? How does this show differ from your other shows? How is it similar?
Rebecca Perry: From Judy To Bette: The Stars Of Old Hollywood is a power-punch of cabaret style entertainment that chronicles the life and times of Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton and Lucille Ball: four stars from the Golden Age of cinema who refused to be just another ingénue. They were trailblazers, who saw their value before anyone else did and fought for the roles that made them famous… and infamous. It’s an evening of marvellous melodies and scandalous headlines.
This is quite a departure from my previous work in that From Judy To Bette: The Stars of Old Hollywood explores the life and times of four real ladies from the last century and the positive effects that they had on their industry. The Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl shows, while based in real life experiences (at least the first one) and with much research into Jane Goodall and her work, are still fictional stories about a fictional character. However, there are two small similarities: From Judy To Bette shares: the upbeat and humorous tone of the RCSG shows and both of these shows look at strong women and their drive to better their situation. Empowerment and breaking the mold will always be themes in my solo shows.
BK: What is so attractive about one woman shows for you?
RP: I think because I can pick a major theme and run with it! I’ve seen (or acted in) shows where I don’t agree with how the women are being portrayed, or the message isn’t clear. I still very much believe theatre can be used for positive change. With solo shows, you are given the luxury of sharing your point of view and how you see the world. It’s heart-warming when somebody relates to a message you’ve hand-picked. It’s also quite fun to play multiple characters who sing and act and have lots of sass and brass, but when you get down to it, I hope people leave the theatre feeling like they can take on the world.
BK: What is your creation process when devising your solo shows?
RP: All three of my shows have a lot of improv moments because I like to connect with the audience, but I find that the bulk of the core script starts to write itself once I’ve decided what subject I am most passionate about (ex: women empowering themselves) and what elements of it are worth sharing on a stage, then making it into an active story. Anything I do is full of songs and various characters that illustrate what is important and fun about the message or major theme.
BK: Where does your inspiration come from?
RP: Honestly, these women. I grew up idolizing them when I felt like I couldn’t relate to the role models in my generation. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great ones… Spice Girls forever!… but something resonated with me in regards to that Old Hollywood charm that Bette, Judy, Betty and Lucille possessed. They paved the path for women of talent and drive, making it okay for women of Hollywood to have comedic chops or character acting skills, essentially making it okay to be more than just a pretty face. While many people today continue this message, I appreciate it from the source.
BK: Is there a major theme or message that the show centres on?
RP: Absolutely: that these four women wouldn’t take no for an answer – and look where it got them! They knew their value before anyone else did and kept soldiering on. We could all take a page from them.
BK: Do you plan on touring this piece?
RP: Absolutely! We already have an expanded version that runs at 70 minutes. This is the cocktail hour version – a power punch of entertainment!
BK: You have a new director – Michael Rubinstein. Can you talk to me about his directorial style and approach to your show?
RP: Michael loves these women and what they stand for just as much as I do, so my script and his directorial ideas are collaborating seamlessly. It’s always a treat to have a director who is as passionate about the topic as you are. In rehearsal we basically nerd out together about how awesome these four women are and then channel that into the show so that we can pay tribute to them in the best way possible. We spent forever even debating over which Judy Garland songs to keep and cut from the script because we love them all!
BK: What do you want audiences walking away with?
RP: That they should stick to their guns. That’s what these women did. They were unapologetically themselves and 80 years later their legacies live on. So go ahead: embrace your inner Lucy, Judy, Betty or Bette.
Featuring: Rebecca Perry with Quinton Naughton on keys
Director: Michael Rubinstein
Dramaturg: David Kingsmill
Lighting Designer: Chin Palipane
Stage Manager: Natalie Frijia
Co-Producer: Jennifer Walls
Where: Factory Theatre Antechamber
When: January 6 – 17, 2016 as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival
January 06 07:10 PM buy tickets
January 07 06:10 PM buy tickets
January 08 08:40 PM buy tickets
January 09 05:40 PM buy tickets
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January 11 07:55 PM buy tickets
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January 16 05:25 PM buy tickets
January 17 03:25 PM buy tickets