How did you start with A Prairie Home Companion and can you share with us a couple of your most unforgettable moments from this experience?
First of all, thank you for reaching out to me, and thank you for celebrating art in all its forms!
Prairie Home is a beautiful combination of my favorite artistic worlds—theatre, music, comedy, voiceover, creative writing, improv… I was sent an audition in July through my agent here in the Twin Cities (which I recorded in my apartment’s walk-in closet!). After that was submitted, I was invited to do a table read with the cast on stage at the Fitzgerald Theater—a wonderfully surreal experience—and a couple months later, I was asked to do the first few shows of the season. I’ve been telling people it’s a dream I never really knew I had come true.
Favorite moments? So many! One that stands out actually happened in rehearsal. We did a show in Philly five days after the election, which was—needless to say—an emotional week for many. The spectacular Dover Quartet(you have featured them on your site as well) was rehearsing Adagio for Strings, by Samuel Barber. Everyone kind of stopped what they were doing and just listened. The emotion in the room was palpable; I was reminded of how important art and music are, especially during troubling times.
Another truly fun moment was paying tribute to the incomparable Dame Julie Andrews on our holiday show, December 10th in NYC. It’s a nice feeling when a New York crowd gives their approval, (cause those New Yorkers, they know their musicals!)
What are some of your favorite musical theatre works and roles?
My favorite shows constantly shift, but the steadfast names on that list are always She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof and Into the Woods. I’m also partial to the Hamilton cast recording too, because honestly, who isn’t?
Playing Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof will always be a special memory for me. Adelaide in Guys and Dolls was too much fun. I also cherish my time on tour with How the Grinch Stole Christmas as Mama Who; it was a special group of people and Whoville was a lovely place to be for a couple years during the holidays.
What motivated you to learn how to play a ukulele and when was your first performance that made you feel confident as a ukulele performer and singer/song writer?
Nick, my now-husband (then-boyfriend of a month) thoughtfully bought me a ukulele for a birthday present in 2012. I always wanted to play, and had dabbled a bit, but having my own uke definitely lit the fire under me to learn more and write.
I haven’t delved that much into live performance as a singer/songwriter; however, the first time I did was right after Hurricane Sandy on Halloween 2012. I was living above a coffeehouse/live music venue in Astoria; they held weekly open mic nights. I decided on a whim to go downstairs and play a couple songs; I highly recommend open mics to those new to songwriting. It was a warm, inviting vibe on a rainy night!
Do you have plans to release an album with your original ukulele songs? What is an upcoming performance you’re most excited about?
Between Prairie Home and theatre, songwriting has taken a backseat; however, Nick and I started on a collaborative project that has been developing over the years. It’s a concept album based on the story behind the constellation Cassiopeia. Being married and not having a deadline is good for prolonging projects, but I have hopes it will get completed in the summer! Demo track of “Cassie Sings from the Sky”
How would you describe your audience taking into consideration your many artistic engagements and traveling around the country?
That’s an interesting question; it totally depends on the project. Prairie Home fans are of all ages and backgrounds. This season’s eclectic mix of musical artists is drawing in new listeners while keeping the show familiar enough for a multi-generational appeal.
When I was on tour with Grinch, it was a sea of families in the audience, which was pretty spectacular; I love performing for children.
Who are the artists you admire the most and with whom you’ve shared the stage?
Off the top of my head, I would watch Kristin Wiig read the dictionary, I think Sutton Foster is from another planet she’s so ridiculously good, and Emma Thompson can do no wrong in my book.
I don’t mean to come off as a brownnoser, but my Prairie Home cast-mates…lemme tell ya, they’re the cream of the crop. I try to be a sponge and soak up every bit of knowledge from Tim and Fred; they are the best at what they do and I learn so much just by watching them. In addition to his brilliant musical mind, Chris is a gracious, collaborative, warm-hearted person. All of the above make going to work a treat!
What’s the coolest thing about living in Minneapolis with your musician husband Nick and your cat Vicky?
I’m from Minnesota, so despite the literal coolest thing about living here (um, the COLD!), it feels like home. Nick is from Florida, so I’m grateful every day that he is here with me, braving the 1 degree temperatures. I love that we make a living in the arts and have a solid group of friends and family here as well. Oh, and Vicky likes it too, especially when we give her treats.
What’s the mood you’ve started this New Year? What will you focus on in the days ahead?
January started with a trip to Seattle; I got to play a talking mattress and meet/listen to Regina Spektor, so I have zero complaints artistically. On that note, I’d like to continue my year with plentiful gratitude. It may be cliché, but being present in the moment is a big goal of mine to help keep both feet on the ground.
It’s easy to get bogged down about the coming years in our country and our world; a focus of mine is to stay aware and educated, and channel that awareness into art and joyful things.
Can you please complete this sentence? A significant conversation you’ve had recently with a friend, a loved one, a colleague reinforced the idea that…
Success isn’t a place and we’re all a lot more alike than we probably will ever realize.
The top five activities that make you feel happy and hopeful as an artist and as a human being are: 1. Laughing uncontrollably. It's hard not to feel hopeful when you're laughing. 2. Being around children. I was a nanny during my five years in New York, and I'm always inspired by youthful, energetic, creative, hilarious minds. Children always speak the truth. (Unless it's “I'm not sleepy...”) 3. Listening to brand new music; always so exciting! 4. Traveling, and meeting new people. The more places I see, the more I realize there IS to see. I'm itching to see the world and be inspired by the genuine, eccentric, and delightful people in it. 5. Creating. Anything! Even lunch!