In Part 4 of a series of interviews with the Co-Directors and the cast of Creative Cauldron’s Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, we meet cast member Shaina Kuhn.
Joel: Where have local theatregoers seen you before on the stage?
Shaina: I moved to area just a few years ago and have been mostly working around DC – Richmond, Baltimore, Raleigh. It’s great to be in a production closer to the District.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of Jacques Brel at Creative Cauldron?
I didn’t know Brel’s music, but when I saw the audition notice, I did a little bit of research. How was it possible I hadn’t listened to this music before? It was so beautiful, so truthful.
Who is Jacques Brel and what do you admire most about his work? How would you describe a Jacques Brel song?
Brel was a do-everything sort of entertainer from Belgium. A singer, songwriter, actor. His music is familiar but unpredictable and always brutally honest.
What have you learned about Jacques Brel that you didn’t know before you started working on this production?
I’ve been listening to Brel non-stop since starting work on this production. The library has a couple of recordings. Please go out and listen to the Les Flamandes album right now. You can’t get it from the library because I keep renewing it, but eventually I’ll have to return it, and then other people can borrow it. He is now one of my favorite popular singers of all time. The way he uses the sounds in words to communicate meaning is something we always strive for as performers, but he exemplifies it.
There are 26 songs in the show. Which songs are the most meaningful to you?
I honestly couldn’t pick one. Every single one relates to some experience that I’ve had or been a part of or known about. A couple of the songs in the show have subject matter that is so serious – war, violence, and death – that I have to distance myself from them, or I just can’t go on with the day or the performance.
What have been some of the challenges you have faced learning your songs and your roles?
When Brel performs his own pieces, he makes the melody a sort of suggestion that he varies significantly from verse to verse. I really want to capture that. In most things I’ve sung in the past, all of the notes have to be right – the pitches, the values, the entrances – but in Brel, I have the freedom to move word stresses around if I want and change pitches to reflect more of a speaking type of line. It’s hard to break the habit of singing all the right notes.
What are your solos in the show? Describe what your solos are about and what they mean to you.
The numbers that I sing by myself are about life, death, and the passing of time. All of those things are very complicated, obviously. They’re sad, happy, bittersweet, but always very poignant. I have a couple of friends who have very sick spouses/partners right now. I’m drawing from their experiences as well as my own.
What is your favorite solo that you are not singing and why?
I love John’s song, “Mathilde,” because everytime I hear it I just laugh and shake my head and think don’t go back to her again! He performs it so earnestly. How many friends do we all have going back to the guy or gal who treated them so badly? Or maybe you are that friend. I want to listen to Katie’s “No Love You’re Not Alone” every day for the rest of my life. The music perfectly illustrates obsessive, strong, unhealthy love, but it’s so beautifully heartbreaking, and her performance of it is perfect. Alan’s “Jackie” makes me smile, too. His character has it all but still wants something different, and he’s so frustrated about it. What does that say about us as people and our ability to be grateful for what we have?
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members? Which one of his/her performances is your favorite and why?
My castmates are such an inspiration to me! I feel really lucky to work with them. John is one of the most expressive performers I’ve worked with; every time I look at him, he’s completely into the scene. Katie is a stunning singer, and Alan is like Brel – a jack of all trades. He’s a great singer, he’ll try anything on stage, and I actually walked in on him playing Rhapsody in Blue on the piano before rehearsal one day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a concert tambourinist.
What do you want young audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well… at Creative Cauldron?
“If we only have love, then tomorrow will dawn….” And be nice to your grandparents and elders. We’ll all be in their shoes someday if we’re lucky enough to live that long.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris plays through October 26, 2014 at Creative Cauldron- 410 South Maple Avenue, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 436-9948, or purchase them online.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet Laura Connors Hull and Matt Conner.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet Katie McManus.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well at Creative Cauldron: Meet John Loughney.
Read Kim Moeller’s review on DCMetroTheaterArts.