In Part 4 of a series of interviews with the cast of Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Cabaret, meet Katie Puschel and Jared Il-Pazzo Dent.
Joel: Who are you, and where might area readers and audience members know you from?
Katie: My name is Katie Puschel, and I am an alumnus of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and a soon-to-be student of The Circle in the Square Theatre School, which works out of the Broadway theatre in New York City. I have been on the DC theatre scene since childhood, working with such companies as The American Century Theater and the Shakespeare Theatre Company, and playing many different roles on various stages, most recently including June in Prince William Little Theatre’s The Musical Of Musicals: The Musical! and Carrie White in Dominion Stage’s Carrie: The Musical.
Jared: My name is Jared Dent, and I am an Air Force veteran turned bartender. Only recently have I discovered my love for THE THEATRE; therefore, I’ve only been in one other production prior to this. I played Henry Irving, François Cellier, a cabbie, and Jonathan Harker in Prince William Little Theatre’s last play, Sherlock Holmes And The West End Horror.
Who do you play in this production, and how are you and your character alike and different?
Katie: I am playing Sally Bowles, the cabaret starlet who seduces Cliff Bradshaw, a visiting American novelist. Sally is fun-loving and free in many aspects of her life, always eager to find herself in the heart of excitement and glamour. While she is not as naive as she might seem on the surface, Sally has a talent for disregarding negativity and turning her back on the truth. But life isn’t really a cabaret all the time, no matter how much she would like to believe it is. Sally and I are both ambitious singers who take delight in the applause rewarded to us at the end of each musical number. I personally enjoy the gratification for a job well done. After all, it’s nice to be appreciated, especially when it’s for doing what I love to do! However, when I am Sally, the applause is more about control than anything. My Sally has had a very hard life: a prostitute for a mother who committed suicide when Sally was a small child, an uncle who took her in and sexually abused her for years, and a string of men who have taken advantage of her ever since. But being in the spotlight – having all eyes on her and the audience eating out of the palm of her hand – gives Sally a sense of control that she has never known. Sally has fought hard to get what she wants, which is something that I can relate to, and even in the darkest of hours, there is a part of her that refuses to give up fighting, even if it means giving up something better in the process.
Jared: I play Clifford Bradshaw, a writer from the U.S. who is searching for inspiration and himself in the back alleys of Europe’s greatest cities. He and I are alike in very many ways, but our differences eclipse our similarities; I am outspoken and more relaxed than Clifford, and he’s much more free-spirited than I am. Cliff is a little oafish as well, making it harder for him to assimilate to German culture. On the other hand, we both have a love for poetry and traveling, and America.
How did you prepare for your role, and what was one challenge you faced in doing so?
Katie: Preparing for this role was quite daunting, considering mine was a sheltered and ideal upbringing compared to Sally’s. But I did my research like any good actress should! I read The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, which served as the inspiration for the show. I also wrote a detailed short story describing my interpretation of Sally’s background from her point of view. Stepping into her shoes was a grim prospect, given her baggage, but it has helped me to understand her and, in turn, embody her. She is such a interesting, complex character, and I have tried my hardest to do her justice.
Jared: The 1930s were a period of time I was rather unfamiliar with going in; I knew that era only as the “Pre-Nazi times.” In order to get a feel for who Cliff would become, I watched videos with Fred Astaire and other notable entertainers to learn the nuances and behaviors of a bachelor of that time; I also discovered the aspects of speech that create an American accent, which was without a doubt one of the hardest parts. Breaking my personality away from what Cliff’s would be was the most difficult part of taking the role; I never realized how my persona is so heavily influenced by the generation I’m a part of. Giving myself old-timey inflections and posture was my first real challenge as an actor; becoming a character I had no experience with has been the greatest challenge.
Rather than this particular production (and without giving anything away), what about the show itself surprised you the most?
Katie: This show is, in my opinion, Kander and Ebb’s magnum opus. Not only is it packed full of iconic songs which we all know and love, but it touches on a series of dark subject matters not typically approached in musical theatre – or casual conversation for that matter due to their taboo nature. But it is so important to talk about these issues, and Matt’s (director) vision for this production has been an amazing exploration of that. I doubt that anyone will leave the theater without having found it thought-provoking.
Jared: This show has so many aspects to it that it’s hard to keep track of what to dedicate attention to, but the tempo and mood of it as a whole is what originally took me aback. You go from one emotion to the next, jumping from joy to fear to sorrow. It was a very turbulent time for the people of the world, and you see how everyone is just trying to find where they fit in a reality that is constantly changing.
What is your favorite song in the show (whether you sing it or not), and why?
Katie: I go back and forth all the time about which song is my favorite! I am so lucky to be performing five solos throughout the course of the show, all of which I adore. Right now, in my current mood, “Perfectly Marvelous” is the one I find myself humming around the house. But, just yesterday, I was saying how “Maybe This Time” was the one I like best. It honestly depends on the day!
Jared: “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” is my favorite song from this production. The choreography for it aside, as a veteran, I love a good call-to-arms ballad, and this one is dripping with German pride.
What’s next for you after this production closes?
Katie: Almost immediately after Cabaret closes, I am packing up and moving back to New York to start school at The Circle in the Square, which is an amazing opportunity that I am thrilled and honored to accept. I received excellent training during my time at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, but now I’m getting back to a concentration in musical theatre: my first and greatest love.
Jared: I believe this production may be my last for a while, but I’ve grown addicted to performing. I’d like to learn about other positions and duties within the troupe, such as sound/light, casting, and producing, but may end up auditioning for another show either way. I’m open to going where I stand to learn the most and continue honing this craft.
How is this show relevant to contemporary audiences, and why should people come to see this production?
Katie: I don’t want to talk too much about the current state of politics in this country, because I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That being said, I think that this show could not be more relevant given recent events, and that the question of moral decency is one that we should keep in mind more than ever right now. The Holocaust was an absolutely horrible moment in history, led by an absolutely horrible man: a very charismatic man who promised to make Germany great again. A man who believed that a certain kind of people were beneath another kind of people. And when this man was allowed to take power, he committed one of the greatest genocides this world has ever known in an attempt to “do something about them.” We are all members of the human race, and cruel-hearted bigotry did not die with Adolf Hitler.
Jared: This show is a prime example of what happens when you ignore the politics and evolution of your country for the sake of “leben und leben lassen” (live and let live). It’s remarkably satirical, considering our current situation with the Presidential election and all of the things that certain candidates “promise” us with ulterior motives and agendas that may postpone or prevent some of those promises from happening in a timely fashion…or at all in some cases. The parallels between the show and the current times are uncanny.
Prince William Little Theatre’s Cabaret plays from July 8 through July 24, 2016 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Gregory Family Theater on the George Mason University Campus -10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA 20109). Tickets can be purchased online, or at the box office.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Aaron Verchot-Ware and Katherine Bisulca.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 2: James Maxted.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 3: Catherine Lyon and Larry Keeling.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 4: Katie Puschel & Jared Il-Pazzo Dent.