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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.

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

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.

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

Photo of Rebecca Perry by Tanja Tiziana

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
January 10 05:40 PM  buy tickets
January 11 07:55 PM  buy tickets
January 12 05:55 PM  buy tickets
January 13 05:55 PM  buy tickets
January 14 06:55 PM  buy tickets
January 15 08:55 PM  buy tickets
January 16 05:25 PM  buy tickets
January 17 03:25 PM  buy tickets


Twitter: @Redheaded_CSG or @rebeccaperry21
Facebook: Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl
Instagram: @Redheaded_Coffeeshop_Girl

Brittany Kay: @brittanylkay
In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_

Artist Profiles: 2014 Fringe Edition: Fabulous Female Fringe Performer/Playwrights – Melanie Hrymak of Licking Knives and Rebecca Perry of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

2014 Fringe Artist Profile: Melanie Hrymak of Licking Knives

by Brittany Kay

Melanie Hrymak is no ordinary gal when you get in a room with her.

She exhibits a fierce confidence while radiating the warmest of hearts. That is why it was my pleasure to talk about her latest show, Licking Knives, which premiers at the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival. 

BK: Can you talk a little about your show? And what were your inspirations behind it?

MH: Licking Knives was inspired by the ideas of identity and self-determination. It’s loosely based on the lives of my Ukrainian family members, and it’s a story about how a young woman travels from a farm in rural Ukraine to Paris over the course of World War II. I am very interested in how we become the people that we become: are we shaped by circumstance? Do we decide our own fate? What happens when you are forced to become someone you never thought you would have to be? Maybe it has something to do with being in my mid-20s and watching friends and colleagues really start to define their lives by going back to school, getting married, having kids, or none of the above.

BK: We’ve known each other for many years and I never knew you were a playwright!? When did this start? Can you talk to me about when and why you became a playwright?

MH: I think I am a playwright by necessity. I used to do a lot of creative writing as a child. During theatre school, where we met, I started to do some writing for various projects and a little bit for fun. I just always seem to have 2 or 3 half-finished plays on my hard-drive, and this year I decided the time had come to take the plunge and put my work out there. Also, I needed an acting job.

Artistically though, I think I became a playwright because I am often so bored by the female roles out there. I have been lucky enough to play a few really awesome male roles, which put the situation into high relief for me. There are some wonderful roles out there for women, but not enough, and certainly not enough for the number of incredibly talented actresses out there.

BK: Describe your process of creating a piece?

MH: I am a percolator. I think about the questions that I want the play to ask (which is something my very first acting teacher taught me to look for), and what the spine of the play is. I think for a long time about the characters. I walk around like them for awhile and see how it changes my view of the world. I muddle obsessively over the arc of the play. I research endlessly, particularly for this play, which is set in a historical reality that most people don’t know too much about. After I have procrastinated in every possible way, I sit down and write the thing in a relatively short period of time.

BK: What have the challenges been being both playwright and actor?

MH: Honestly, I like both roles very much. The hard part has been putting my playwright hat down and saying, okay, this is the script. I remember the first time I read the script with my actor hat on, and all I could think was “why did I do this to myself?!” Then I put on my producer hat and told everybody to get back to work.

BK: What do you want audiences walking away with after seeing your play?

MH: I hope people learn something new about this time and place. I think most people know a lot about World War II from a very Western perspective, and I hope people become interested in learning more about the other side of the war. I hope people start to wonder where women’s voices are in our history, because we don’t get to hear a lot about the female experience. But mostly, I hope people look at their own lives and question whether they are living the life they want or the one they think they have to. I think we are always growing and changing and adapting, and I think it’s really important to ask yourself if you are happy. If you’re not, no one is going to fix it but you.

Licking Knives playwright & performer: Melanie Hrymak

Licking Knives playwright & performer: Melanie Hrymak. Photo Credit: “The Story is Mostly True” by Lauren Vanderbrook of LV Imagery

BK: What are the best aspects of this show, for yourself and for the audience?

MH: I find this show really inspiring. Yes, it deals with very dark subject matter at times, but it is a story of survival and finding your true strength. I have tried to find the humour of the situation as well, because that’s how human beings roll. We have to lift ourselves up, it’s the only way to keep going!

There is also a goat joke that I think is hilarious. I really hope someone laughs.

BK: Now about you! Where did you grow up and when did you move to the city?

MH: I am from Hamilton, Ontario. I moved to Toronto four years ago, after completing my degree at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto in Theatre and Drama.

BK: What are some of your favourite spots in the city? Places to go eat, drink, bike ride?

MH: Oh goodness. So many. I have become a true Torontonian, I am obsessed with brunch. My favourite spots are Emma’s Country Kitchen, Sadie’s, and Rose & Sons. I really love craft beer, so I tend to drink at places like Bar Hop, the Victory Cafe, and Grapefruit Moon. I am one of those people who hang out a lot in parks like St. James Park, High Park, and obviously Bellwoods. And I ride my bike everywhere. I really like biking in my neighbourhood, around St. Clair and Bathurst, but I am just so happy biking anywhere (except on Adelaide – what a deathtrap).

BK: What are you currently obsessed with? Any blogs, pod casts, films or artists? 

MH: I have been so obsessed by the show that everything else has pretty much been on hold. However, I adore Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Who ever thought some of the best TV would eventually come out of Netflix?! I love binge-listening to This American Life and I have recently realized how much I admire Tilda Swinton in every single possible way (artist, filmmaker, actor, activist, human being).

BK: Who is your role model, and why?

MH: I don’t really have one. Is that terrible? I admire so many people in so many different ways. I think my grandmother was the strongest person I know. I think my dad is the hardest working person I know. I think my mother is the kindest person I know. I think Oscar Wilde was the cleverest person of all time. I wish I could be some kind of hybrid of those people.

BK: What’s your superpower?

MH: I can usually tell when someone is lying. I have learned that people generally don’t like it when you call them on this.

BK: What is some of the best advice ever given to you?

MH: Not to be an actor. No, really. It’s the hardest thing ever, and if you are bull-headed enough to ignore it, you might be bull-headed enough to succeed in the industry.

BK: Any advice for aspiring playwrights or actors?

MH: Make stuff. Go to museums. Read books. Go to art galleries. Put your phone down and talk to people. Travel. Make friends who are not playwrights or actors. Be fearless.


Favourite Play: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Favourite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Favourite Food: Fresh bread and brie

Favourite TV Show: Firefly

Guilty Pleasure: Butter pecan ice cream

Licking Knives

by Melanie Hrymak, presented by Headstrong Collective as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival


“Paris Streets” Melanie Hrymak. Photo Credit: Lauren Vanderbrook of LV Imagery

For more information on Melanie Hrymak and Headstrong Collective check out: | facebook: Melanie Hrymak | twitter: @melaniehrymak


Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace


Performance Details:

Friday, July 4, 2014 – 10:00pm
Saturday, July 5, 2014 – 6:45pm
Sunday, July 6, 2014 – 9:45pm
Monday, July 7, 2014 – 5:45pm
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 – 1:15pm
Thursday, July 10, 2014 – 1:00pm
Saturday, July 12, 2014 – 2:45pm
Sunday, July 13, 2014 – 5:45pm


Headstrong Collective
Written by Melanie Hrymak
Starring Melanie Hrymak
Sound design by Tessa Springate
Stage managed by Sarah Niedoba

Tickets: Can be purchased via or by calling 416-966-1062

2014 Fringe Artist Profile: Rebecca Perry of Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl


by Hallie Seline

HS: Tell us a bit about your show & where it came from

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl: It’s a story that comes from the real life experiences myself and other twenty-something graduates had while working at various coffee shops in Toronto. I interviewed a myriad of graduates to see what their most hilarious, poignant or upsetting moments were while working behind the counter. And that is what this show is about, it examines the customer/employee relationship in the most hilarious of ways.

So come on down to the Toronto Fringe and meet Joanie Little, an “adorkable” anthropology graduate who decides to make the most out of her barista day job by ‘reporting’ about the humans of her coffee shop as though she were Jane Goodall herself, bushwhacking through the African jungle to observe the chimps. A tour-de-force that makes you laugh one minute and cry the next. Complete with live music, hurricanes, co-worker showdowns and a gorilla for a boss.

HS: Not only are you presenting at the Toronto Fringe, but you are doing a whole Fringe tour. Tell us a bit about where you’ve been, where you’re going and, being a Fringe vet, what’s the benefit to doing a fringe tour.

RP: RCSG has toured to six other fringes throughout Canada and the US: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Victoria, New York City, Stratford & London – this year was particularly exciting because we got a lot of love from CBC and Audience Choice in New York City!

We couldn’t be happier to finally perform it in our hometown! That was one of our initial goals! And what better place to perform it then in the Annex, one of Toronto’s fantastic indie coffee hubs!  We are thrilled to be performing in The Annex Theatre, one of the two theatres at the Randolph Academy of Performing Arts – just behind the infamous fringe tent!

We really hope Toronto Fringe audiences like the show!  It’s something our creative team is proud of. We have dramaturged the show with the wonderful Canadian playwright and author Ron Fromstein and are excited to see where the “updated” version of the show will take us.  So far this summer we are touring to Saskatoon, Victoria, Seattle and New Orleans!  And we have been offered a spot in a solo festival in New York City for summer 2015!

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl playwright & performer: Rebecca Perry as Joanie Little. Photo Credit: Bryan Zilyuk

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl playwright & performer: Rebecca Perry as Joanie Little. Photo Credit: Bryan Zilyuk

I’d say the benefits of doing a fringe tour are endless, you develop a Fringe touring family, lifelong friendships are forged and you start to develop a relationship with each city. You get to know the fringe staff, the media, the volunteers and what makes each city and fringe festival so special and original.

HS: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far touring your show to various fringe festivals?

RP: Always, always show your tech team some love. Holy cow do they have a crazy job!

HS: If you could give a new fringer or someone who is considering doing a fringe tour one piece of advice, what would it be?

RP: Be as organized as possible aka: plan in advance! The biggest thing is being ready before everyone else is. Get all your posters up and postcards out, be the person to flyer the first day of lines, know where every venue is and be a social butterfly.

HS: Why do you think festivals like the Toronto Fringe, and the Fringe festivals around Canada and the world, are so important? 

RP: I’ve seen some of the most ground breaking, heart-wrenching and fascinating theatre at the Fringe. It’s no wonder some filmmakers and fringe performers are finally making a documentary about it (shout outs to Nancy Kenny, Natalie, Cory and the rest of the “On The Fringe” documentary crew!) I know Fringe gets a bad rap for having “weird” or “inaccessible theatre” but honestly that just sounds like pretentious theatre-goers trying to pigeonhole the fringe into a certain category. For every “bad” show there are 15 amazing ones. I’ve seen so many mediums of theatre excel at Fringe festivals. I think that is the only way certain forms of theatre can exist what with the declining audiences of theatre these days. For some reason the Fringe just gets everyone out!

HS: If you could entice someone in 5-10 words to come see your show, what would they be?

RP: Challenge accepted!  I’ll make a little 10 word equation:

Hilarious (caffeinated) situations + indie music = my love letter to Toronto.

Short & Sweet Questions:

Favourite Coffee place in Toronto: Abbott of Parkdale

Go-to Fringe drink in the tents: CIDER!!!

What inspires you as an artist? When other artists around me are so brave. It inspires me to put my heart on the table like they do.

What’s your favourite thing about the Toronto theatre scene? That the indie scene is just as alive and kicking as the established groups.

What’s your artistic mantra?/Best advice you’ve ever gotten. “You won’t know until you try”

Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl

Written and Performed by Rebecca Perry as part of the 2014 Toronto Fringe Festival


Where – The Annex Theatre

When – July 3rd-13th, 2014
Thursday, July 3 – 7:00pm
Saturday, July 5 – 11:00pm
Monday, July 7 – 1:30pm
Wednesday, July 9 – 7:30pm
Friday, July 11 – 5:45pm
Saturday, July 12 – 12:30pm
Sunday, July 13 – 4:00pm

How can people connect with you online

instagram: @redheaded_coffeeshop_girl

twitter: @redheaded_csg


facebook: Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl