Clandestine Arts’ Bare: A Pop Opera, opens on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at The District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)- 2438 18th Street, in Washington, DC.
Bare: A Pop Opera is a moving story about teens searching to find themselves, no matter what environments may oppress their individualities, and the consequences that can be involved when people are forced to be who they are not. Like Broadway’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award- winning-hit Doubt, Bare challenges religion and the values it instills.
In their senior year at St. Cecelia’s Catholic High School, several students seek to identify themselves and express their true personas despite their faiths and the social stigmas that surround them. Main characters Peter and Jason struggle to come to terms with opposing ideals of their own homosexual relationship in the views of their personal connections, but more importantly in the face of the Catholic Church, which ultimately serves as the play’s main antagonist. Meanwhile, other students are desperate to calm the tempests of their own situations—from rejection, to lost loves, to loneliness and confusion. Bare: A Pop Opera seeks to exemplify all those who break the mold and do not fit the conventional standards of society
Meet Amanda Tatum (Diane), Brittany Washington (Nadia), Producer/Director/Choreographer Derek Critzer (Peter), Kayleigh Marie Brennan (Ivy), Tyler Everett Adams (Jason), and Rikki Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle), and Assistant Director Lynn Lacey.
Introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform before.
I am Amanda Tatum, and I am playing Diann and understudying the role of Ivy. Last year, I was in a production of As you like it with Half-Mad Theatre in DC and have performed in the musical theatre cabaret La-Ti-Do. I have also taught classes at Adventure Theatre-MTC and Round House Theatre. (photo credit: Alex Dean)
My name is Brittany Washington, and I’m playing the delightfully brash Nadia McConnell. You haven’t seen me onstage in the past year, but my most recent role was Cinderella in Into the Woods with the City of Fairfax Theatre Company in 2012. It’s great to be getting back to the stage again!
I am Derek Critzer and I am producing, directing, and choreographing, and I also play Peter. Local theatre goers may have gotten a glimpse of me in Port City Playhouse’s production of In The Next Room. This was my theatre debut in the DC area since my departure in 2012. Prior to then you may have seen me as a member of The Alliance Theatre’s production of Hairspray, and Orin in Little Shop of Horrors, also produced by TAT.
My name is Kayleigh Marie Brennan and I’m playing Ivy Robinson. I’m a Massachusetts native who recently graduated Catholic University’s Musical Theatre program and am currently living in NYC! I was recently seen in Catholic University’s productions of Parade (Lucille Frank), Company (Marta), and Sweet Charity (Rosie) as well as Washington Savoyard’s Rocky Horror Show (Transylvanian), and The Warner Theatre’s production of Peter Pan (Tiger Lily).
My name is Lynn Lacey and I am the Assistant Director. Not having acted for several years my headshot is a bit old, like me now! I have been involved No VA community theatre for 16 years as a stage manager and occasional actor but my heart is in sound design. Most recently, I have stage managed and designed sound for LTA’s A Streetcar Named Desire and stage-managed for PCP’s In The Next Room.
My name is Rikki Howie Lacewell and I play Sister Chantelle. I have been performing in the DMV area for over 24 years. The last show I performed in was Darlene Love in Leader of the Pack at Dundalk Community Theater prior to that it was as the Washing Machine in Elden Street Players’ Caroline, or Change. Mainly over the past year other than being a newlywed I have been Directing shows (Seven Guitars, August Osage, TCPs 30th Gala Review, and Vagabond’s Aint Misbehavin’). I am uber excited to be back on stage performing and to also reprise a role I did in 2008.
I’m Tyler Everett Adams and I portray Jason McConnell. Locally, I’ve recently been seen in Sandy Spring Theatre Group’s production of The Producers in which I played Leo Bloom. I was seen in Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire in which I played The Young Collector and The Strange Man along with various other ensemble roles. Most recently I portrayed Bennie in Montgomery Playhouse’s production of Touch.
What do you find appealing about your character and this show?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): I relate to Diann a lot actually. I was very introverted in high school and a bit of a nerd, so we have a lot in common.
Brittany Washington (Nadia): Nadia is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever had the opportunity to play – she’s so fun and quick-witted, but there’s also a darkness to her that’s really interesting to explore. And just as there are people who are going to relate to Peter and Jason and the challenges they face, Nadia is working through some issues that I think almost every teenager goes through at one point or another: she feels overlooked, unappreciated, unattractive, and unloved, and she handles those feelings by striking out at the people around her before they can hurt her first. It’s a very real coping mechanism, and part of what makes her so easy to relate to. The first time I read the script, I thought, “Okay, I was Nadia in high school. I get exactly where she’s coming from. I had that same chip on my shoulder.” That’s a huge part of what makes Bare such a great show; the characters are so relatable and realistically flawed.
Derek Critzer (Peter): I find many things appealing about stepping into Peter’s shoes, In particular that we wear the same size. We are very similar people, Peter and I. We both tend to think with our hearts more than our heads, and have both traveled a very similar journey in the terms of finding and accepting ourselves.
Kayleigh Brennan (Ivy): This show is one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I was drawn in by the incredible score and complex character arcs. It is very similar to another of my favorite shows, Spring Awakening. My character, Ivy, goes through some major life changes throughout the show and it’s been really exciting to be able to try things and see where I end up. She is so different from who I am, but I still find bits of myself within the character.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): My character is accepting and non judgmental which are two of the things (issues) this play deals with most. Sister Chantelle can be a confidant and a friend and she is very much no nonsense but in a loving backhanded way.
Tyler Adams (Jason): Jason is an interesting character. I’ve enjoyed interpreting a lot of his choices, because he doesn’t always make the best. He really messes with Peter and Ivy’s heads, not even really meaning to play the mind games that he does. He leads them to believe that there are feelings when there are none and that there are none when there really are. He’s incredibly conflicted between choosing to follow his heart and be with the person he loves or acting as society, his religion, and his friends and family tell him he should. Part of why I find this show appealing is because I’ve been able to explore the different themes and really examine my thoughts and feeling on what it means to be gay in our culture and how it is perceived by different people and how greatly those perceptions can affect how a person acts.
How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with Clandestine Arts?
Amanda Tatum: I have been acting since I was in high school, and I started doing theatre because it was the only place I felt comfortable. I think everyone in their high school years want to be someone else, and this was a way I could healthily explore that.
Brittany Washington (Nadia): I got back into acting in 2008 after not having done it since middle school, and Bare was actually the first big show I did; I played Nadia in the DC area premiere with Taking Flight Theatre, and it really cemented that desire to be back on stage again for me. Derek and I met doing Hairspray together in 2011 with The Alliance Theatre, and then worked again together later that year doing Rent, which he directed. We had discussed Bare and the emotional chord it struck with both of us a few times before, so when he came to me with the opportunity to play Nadia again, there was no way I wouldn’t have jumped on it.
Kayleigh Brennan (Ivy): I started in theatre at the age of four. I couldn’t read yet so my mom had to teach me my lines. She still remembers them even though I don’t! Something along the lines of, “It’s here! The princess’s party day!” I made my theatrical debut in my grandparents’ living room in a one woman production of “The Wiz of the Boz” aka The Wizard of Oz, which is probably what prompted my mom asking if I’d like to do a play!
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): 24 years How did you get involved with Clandestine Arts? I begged. I saw the add for a new theater in town doing BARE and since I had played the role before I sent a message saying I’d love to do Sister Chantelle again!!!
What have you learned about yourself while preparing and performing your role?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): I’ve learned more actually looking at other characters in the show. Even though I may be a nerd, deep down, I still have the some of the same fears and dreams at the jocks, druggies, and even the teachers.
Derek Critzer (Peter): Through the process of rehearsing and digging into Peter’s brain, I have discovered that my journey and past experiences may have impacted me more than I once thought. On several occasions through the rehearsal process, usually the first time running something I have found myself overcome with emotion.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): I’ve learned that Sister Chantelle and i have a lot in common. Quick on the tongue, sharp witted, open ,accepting,trustworthy loud, brash ,lovable and humble. Ok that does not sound humble but yes we both are all of those things. Most of all I learned that I have to temper myself and not be so quick witted at times.
Tyler Everett Adams (Jason): Truthfully, I learned a lot of things a major one being that I’ve grown comfortable in an imperfect world. There are scenes where I went, “Whaat? This is ridiculous….wait…yeah, actually that is how gay people were treated or how the promiscuous girl was held to a double standard when I was growing up. ” I’ve grown a little comfortable and lazy in my own existence, which is how the world becomes stagnate or worse, reverts and goes backwards. It was a bit of a wake up call.
Do current events influence you and the way you approach your character?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): Yes. I think it’s a wonderful time to do a play like this. Gay rights has picked up wonderful momentum since the time this show was actually written, but the whole country is still not on board. The message of the play shows that acceptance and understanding is crucial for us all to live in harmony.
Brittany Washington (Nadia): Absolutely. We live in a society that has recently taken a strong stance for promoting body acceptance and loving yourself the way you are, but then turns around and photoshops thigh gaps onto already slender girls in magazines and projects that unrealistic image as what women should be striving for. There are a lot of things that make me angry personally as a fat girl that I think have definitely carried over into the motivation behind Nadia’s attitude and her anger. Of course she has a negative body image; the media tells her every day that the way she looks is something she should be ashamed of.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): Current events no-constant events-yes. We live in a world where acceptance is key for individuals. Yet everyday you see that there is still a fight to be accepted based on race, religion, sexual preference, how you dress, talk walk etc. When are we just going to accept each other as people and the package we come in ( no substitutions). That is what affects me with my character as each character in this play is dealing with this to some degree.
Tyler Adams (Jason): Absolutely. The original production was in 2000. It’s kind of amazing how much the country’s perception of “being gay” has changed in 15 years. However, that’s one of the more important aspects of the show in my opinion: it helps you examine how far we’ve come as a country and yet reminds we still have a ways to go. Equality is a long and tiresome journey. We as members of our society, both gay and straight, need to continue to vigilantly fight for everyone to have the right to be who they are and love who they love. Jason lives a closeted life because of his fear of rejection and ridicule. There are people who still live in the same fear. We aren’t doing a show with drugs, sex, and rock n’ roll to push people away but to show them an accurate view of what goes on in our society. If it makes you think and then subsequently uncomfortable at points, good! I’d be uncomfortable if you weren’t.
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): Well, it’s definitely been a while since I’ve been in a musical, and this musical is contemporary and very edgy.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): It hits topics other shows are afraid to touch on. The closest that I know of is RENT however BARE starts from an earlier time frame than RENT. BARE is high school dealing with the issues of sexual identity, promiscuity, Drugs, betrayal, family non-acceptance, friendships gained and lost.
Tyler Everett Adams (Jason): I’ve done edgy straight plays and I’ve also done a lot of traditional musicals, but it’s been different doing an edgy musical, especially a rock opera. I’ve have to really focus on my vocal technique and stamina so that I’ll be able to survive tech week and 10 shows. Also, I’ve never been in a show where I am romantically involved with a guy AND a girl. As I said earlier, Jason is complicated….
Do you feel the themes and questions Bare: a Pop Opera poses are still relevant in our current culture?
Brittany Washington (Nadia): The LGBT community in our country has made great strides since Bare premiered in 2000; there’s been a significant amount of progress in terms of LGBT rights, and more and people are standing up in support and making their voices heard every day, but what hasn’t changed is the individual struggle that any person coming to terms with their sexual identity is going to experience. That struggle is going to be relevant until we reach a point as a society where who you love has no impact on the way you’re viewed and treated – as long as that struggle remains real, the story remains relevant.
Kayleigh Brennan (Ivy): The themes from Bare are absolutely relevant today. Some of the topics in the show are still sort of taboo in our culture. The show touches on teenage drug abuse, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, and bullying; all of which we see in the news and media all the time. I think it’s important to bring these topics to the table in a safe environment such as theatre so as to get conversations going!
Lynn Lacey (Assistant Director): Absolutely! We are just beginning, as a nation, to start accepting same sex relationships in our culture. However, there are many hurdles yet to overcome. My suspicion is that there will be many people who will not come see this show because of the homosexual subject matter. They just can’t get past the visual of seeing two guys kiss each other. So, yes, it’s still relevant.
Drugs and under-age drinking are still relevant, especially in a catholic school where most people wouldn’t believe that kind of thing would happen.
The heavy girl never getting the lead role, despite her beautiful voice and pretty face, will always be relevant. We’re a nation that believes fat people deserve to be second class citizens because they bring in on themselves, when actually, it has a lot to do with ones metabolism or even an emotional disorder.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): YES Why? WE live in a world where acceptance is key for individuals. Yet everyday you see that there is still a fight to be accepted based on race, religion, sexual preference, how you dress, talk walk etc. When are we just going to accept each other as people and the package we come in ( no substitutions). That is what affects me with my character as each character in this play is dealing with this to some degree.
How has Bare: a Pop Opera been a unique experience for you?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): Well this group of people is a joy to work with! There are many layers to this msuical: it’s satirical, dramatic, funny, upsetting, and more. So it’s been great taking this journey with the rest of the cast.
Brittany Washington (Nadia): Ever since finishing my first run of Bare, I’ve always said that I’d do anything to get to play Nadia again, but I never really thought I’d have the chance to – it’s a hard show to cast, and that alone makes it a lot to take on – and now that I’m getting to do it again, I have the interesting opportunity to kind of take a step back and say, “How can I approach this differently now than I did five years ago?” I’m taking chances that I wouldn’t have taken before, and I’m discovering new sides of Nadia as I do that. It’s been a great experience so far.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): Meeting the new cast members and watching the entire process grow into what is going to be a fantastic show. Also to hear friend and coworkers as far away as California already clamor for tickets as it is the show that people love that is rarely done so when it is done they will travel for it.
Tyler Everett Adams (Jason): It’s been such an awesome experience. Finding truth in Jason’s journey has been thrilling. Pushing my boundaries, comfort zones, and my singing voice has also been a blast. The cast is brilliant and so talented. Amanda plays school nerd to a ‘T’ but is a badass fight choreographer and the classically trained vocalist Ryan just stepped up and learned to rap (and well). I would work on the show or or with any cast member again in a heart beat.
Is there a particular musical lyric or line of dialogue that captivates you?
Amanda Tatum (Diann):
In the sorrow, guilt and rage, I keep coming back to doubt.
I think sometimes, we are ashamed of the doubt that comes when we think about what we are taught as right and wrong. If we do not doubt, nothing will change, so I relate to this line because I would like to see more people support each other’s doubts.
Kayleigh Brennan (Ivy): A part of the show that I’ve really come to love is “Portrait of a Girl.” The lyrics are really lovely and the music itself is gorgeous. I also just adore Chris’s voice and I love singing with him!
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle):
People point a finger you feel free to point in back
two folks walk to fall in love with no one hurt whats wrong with that
God is love all the time search you heart and I think you’ll find that
God don’t make no trash
There is a black woman inside the soul of every gay man
Tyler Everett Adams (Jason): Though I hate to take it out of context and thus perhaps bastardise it a bit, I love the lyrics I sing in “Bare”:
“Stay in this moment where secrets reveal,
Here in a world where there’s safety in falsehood,
I have discovered the one thing that’s real….”
What do you want the audience to experience and take away from this show?
Amanda Tatum (Diann): That being open-minded is more important than tradition and as society progresses and changes, we must as well.
Brittany Washington (Nadia): I hope that in coming to see Bare, the audience is able to come on an emotional journey with us. The show really does run the gamut, emotionally; there’s laughter and tears and everything in between, all tied together with the message of “Hear my voice” – a message anyone can take something from, whether you’re an LGBT youth or not. I want the audience to leave feeling like we’ve taken them somewhere, and knowing they deserve to be heard.
Lynn Lacey (Assistant Director): I want people to take away from this show: That we’re all the same in that we each just want to love and be loved for who we are. That words hurt and sometimes silence hurts even more. That often a person you think is content is actually dieing inside. Dare to look closer. Stop and listen.
Richelle Howie Lacewell (Sister Chantelle): I want them to laugh cry and walk away with an understanding that this show is about acceptance realized and acceptance denied.
Tyler Adams (Jason): Well, I hope the audience takes a lot away from the show. I hope the audience examines how they personally perceive homosexuality and religion. A lot of people might say that this show points a finger of blame at the church and religion, but I would hope people observe that it’s a component of the events of the show. It’s not wrong to be Christian, it’s wrong to be ignorant and bigoted. Really, I just hope it makes people think.
Bare: A Pop Opera” plays February 19th and 26th at 7:30 PM;February 20th, 21st, 27th, and 28th at 7:00 PM; February 22nd at 3 PM and March 1st at 3:00 PM & 7:30 PM at Clandestine Arts performing at The District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)- 2438 18th Street, in Washington, DC. Tickets are $22.00 and $18.00 for DCAC members. Tickets can be purchased online, or at the door.
Here are directions to The District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)- 2438 18th Street, in Washington, DC.
Listen to the studio recording of Bare: A Pop Opera.
[Thanks to Tyler Everett Adams for co-authoring this with me[.