“The Safety Show” Director Feature: Melissa Foulger

‪Virtual reality, improvisation, and safety? It takes someone fearless to create a show from the ground up with these things, and that’s our artistic director, Melissa. We interviewed her about the show and congratulate her on opening night!

Q: What does the “safety” referenced in the title refer to?

A: That’s a big question.  It refers to one of our basic needs as defined by Maslow’s pyramid, safety.  However, safety icovers a lot of ground. For the show, we limited it to 6 different areas from the 12 original ones defined by the “I Feel Safe When” project: self, escape, political, ethical, people, and community.  Within those, there is a lot to be explored as well and as you will see, each person has their own story or definition that fits into that. For me, the safety refers to the space where you can feel the most like yourself, live in your truth, and not be concerned about the pressures that society put on us to be something that we are not – something that takes years to learn, if at all.

Q: What was the basis of this project and why is it a good fit for DramaTech?

A: This project is based on the “I Feel Safe When” project that the Office of the Arts has have running.  Much like the Post Secret book and show, anyone can anonymously write the thing that makes them feel the safest.  The Office of the Arts approached us about trying to use the cards and this show is the culmination of that work. It fits for DramaTech because we think of ourselves as a theatrical laboratory. This show is a place to explore a different type of theatre – devised theatre – and to work with personal narrative rather than a traditional theatrical script.  It also allows us to play with technology in performance through the use of augmented reality, which is a focus of my research.

Q: You have a cast full of improvisors! How do those strengths lend themselves to the development of the show?

A: Improvisors are great because they are willing to dive in headfirst without fear.  They also know how to use their bodies in storytelling. In essence, all of their skills lent themselves to the show because they were able to use their strong character building skills to add color to their stories and they didn’t feel like that had to have a script in order to create the work.  They were willing to play. It also helps that I was planning for there to be a section of improv in the show, so I had ringers in place!

Q: Is there something you’ve learned as a person or as a director from the rehearsal process?

A: From a personal standpoint, I’ve learned that the definition of safe is different for everyone.  And something that I consider to be unsafe is someone else’s place of utmost safety. I had to step back and not judge other stories because I had a different point of view.  From a directorial standpoint, this means that I need to focus on the story being told in the most essential way for the performer even though I might not feel connected to the content.  I also learned that devised theatre is terrifying because you don’t have a script. This is the most unsafe I’ve felt in a rehearsal process because there wasn’t a framework to support me through the process.  It all fell to me to create that with the actors.

Q: Finally, summarize your show in four objects without giving ANY context.

A: Beehive, tricycle, parachute, blanket.

Don’t miss this innovative and personal night of theatre. Audiences are limited, so be sure to get your tickets at dramatech.org/events!

Congratulations to the Casts of “The Safety Show” and Midsummer Night’s Dream”!

The cast lists are as follows:

Travis Adams
Ashley Alred
Raveen Karnik
Devon Long
Tyndal Mitchell
PJ Ortiz
Camille Pettit

Lina Zikas as Hermia
Robert Soloman as Lysander
Hannah Whitlock as Helena
Davis Williams as Demetrius
Devon Long as Theseus/Oberon
Soso Ogan as Hippolyta/Titania
Parker Davenport as Egeus/Bottom
Hannah Strudwick as Philostrate/Quince
Skyler Tordoya as Flute/Thisbe/Mote
Morgan Powers as Snort/Wall/Cobweb
Lexie Scott as Snug/Lion/Peaseblossom
Tyler Sheridan as Starveling/Moonshine/Mustardseed
Anya Smith-Roman as Puck

Congratulations again, and thank you to everyone who came out to audition!

Cabaret Stage Manager Feature: Lexi Wagner and Grant Butler

Q: Favorite part of the show?
Lexi: Definitely the entr’acte during the intermission. I love seeing the actors and the orchestra interact with the audience.
Grant: When the mic goes down because its great.

Q: Anything from the rehearsal process that was a favorite moment?
Lexi: There were too many funny moments to pick one, so probably running the show in the black box for the first time.
Grant: When I got to start lowering and raising the mic. Truly a life altering experience.

Q: Biggest challenges?
Lexi: Sick actors. That was the big one. Deciding how to work around the night game was also difficult.
Grant: Keeping the mic from hitting the floor

Q: One night only, one hour, single spotlight. What is your cabaret act?
Lexi: I would probably ask for a volunteer to join me on stage, and once they walked up I would run off the stage and let them take it from there.
Grant: Lowering the mic and raising it. So silky smooth. So sensual. So satisfying. So sublime. So Cabaret.

Cabaret Actor Feature: Fraulein Schneider, Herr Schultz, Fraulein Kost

Q: Fraulein Schneider’s establishment seems to be home to a lot of interesting events and personalities. Describe how your character fits into the narrative/what they’re like in a few words!
Hannah: Schneider is very independent and fierce for her age; she is used to fending for herself, and her strong will makes her a really dynamic character. But she also has a sweet side to her that Herr Schultz coaxes out of her throughout the show- like everyone, she wants to be wanted, and her inner conflict between her fierce ambition and her desire to be loved allows her to grow and develop onstage. She is kind, but don’t be fooled; she is not to be messed with!
Craig: Herr Schultz is a resident in Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house who constantly vies for the affection of Schneider. Schultz is an idealist and a people pleaser; he loves to make people happy! He mostly goes about this by selling fruit and sharing his love of drinks with others.
Soso: Fraulein Kost lives in Schneider’s establishment and is constantly at odds with Schneider. Kost is known to host and entertain numerous sailors in her room, a means of survival Fraulein Schneider does not approve of. Kost is bold, sexual and unrelenting. Her constant search for power and increased status drives her up the social ladder; she’s the ultimate go-getter.

Q: Favorite song to perform/hear in the show?
Craig: My favorite song to perform is “Married”. It’s such a sweet and emotional song that creates a great moment of tenderness between Schneider and Schultz that is not exhibited by other characters in the show.
Soso: I love to hear Don’t tell mama, and I don’t care much. Two different songs, two powerful meanings and each sang by two vocal powerhouses (Lina and Ben). I also really enjoy the song Davis and I perform at the end of Act 1. It is a song that marks a dark and important change in the tone of the musical, and in Germany at that time. It marks a transformation in a lot of characters.
Hannah: My favorite song to perform is definitely “It Couldn’t Please Me More” (although it should be called the pineapple song because that’s what it is), because it’s just so objectively ridiculous; Schultz and I are obsessed with a pineapple someone bought from Kroger for like five dollars, but to us it’s the most incredible rarity we could possibly think of. I get to be obsessed with something simple, and it gives me the chance to really play onstage and develop my character. My favorite song to watch though is “Two Ladies”, because it’s so raunchy that it just catches me off guard every time. It’s sexy, it’s funny- it reminds me of myself!

Q: Where can you be found in a party setting?
Craig: You can find me on the dance floor, for sure.
Soso: Stirring up some drama, and accosting Nazi men for sure.
Hannah: Sleeping on an available couch somewhere because I forgot to go to bed at a reasonable time the night before.

Q: One fun fact!
Craig: I was a Walker on “The Walking Dead” for 2 episodes.
Soso: Ew. Kost doesn’t do fun facts.
Hannah: I didn’t actually put on old age makeup, this is just what GT has done to me in two semesters

Cabaret Actor Feature: The Kit Kat Boys

Q: Describe your character in 3-5 words
Bryce: Stubborn, Condescending, Avaricious
Chris: Slutty, bitchy, dramatic, two-faced, greedy
Kenny: Loving, Naive, Jealous

Q: Favorite aspect of the show?
Bryce: The picardy third in the entracte
Chris: Two Ladies
Kenny: Getting to be under those lights with these amazing people

Q: Song from the show stuck in your head the most?
Bryce: We have some A+ choreography for Cabaret backstage
Chris: Two Ladies otherwise I’d forget how to sing it
Kenny: Money is my fave

Q: What’s different about being in a musical than anything else you’ve done with DramaTech? (LTT!, directing, playwriting, acting in other capacities ie. film/straight plays)
Bryce: I’ve done a lot of things in DramaTech, but the first thing I did was acting in a musical. It’s nice to come full circle four years later. There are so many moving parts in a musical and I love them all.
Chris: I’ve literally only done musicals at Dramatech lol
Kenny: There are actual lines that I have to memorize, as opposed to making them up, but I also still get to make up lines haha.

Q: One (1) fun fact!
Bryce: There is nothing funny about Bryce.
Chris: The tassels are actually just my nipple hairs.
Kenny: I have a twin sister who is the reason I got into theatre.

Cabaret Actor Feature: Emcee and Sally

Q: Sum up your character in 3-5 words; what does it mean to you to play such an iconic role?
Ben: wild, uninhibited, prophetic. The Emcee is my dream role, so I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to portray him. It’s also nerve-wracking because I want my performance to do justice to this incredible character.
Lina: stubborn, idealistic, decisive. Playing such an iconic role is daunting but the most exciting challenge I could take on.

Q: Any number you’re excited to perform every night?
Lina: Don’t Tell Mama: I love sharing the stage with all of my Kit Kat ladies, they are so supportive and wonderful.
Ben: “I Don’t Care Much.” I think it’s a song that everyone needs to hear, and it is central to who the Emcee is.

Q: You’ve done several DramaTech productions together over the years, how has this affected your relationship?
Lina: Ben is my best friend. Every show we take the same picture where I am jumping in his arms. I am going to be so emotional when the show is done because it is his last one at DT and I cant handle it
Ben: Lina was the first true friend I made at Georgia Tech, and I am forever grateful to her for being by my side through the past four years. I haven’t done a DT show without Lina, so I can’t imagine what my experiences at DramaTech would be like without her.

Q: What is one (1) thing in this production of Cabaret that makes it different than any other/why should audiences come see closing weekend?
Lina: This show is so important right now. It is so powerful to reflect on what it means to be involved and aware of your surroundings in a time when people are facing persecution.
Ben: Performing Cabaret during the times we are living in is incredibly potent and striking. I hope the parallels and themes presented in the show will impact audiences the same way they have impacted me, and wake people up to what’s happening around us.

Cabaret Actor Feature: Cliff and Ernst

Q: What is the relationship between your two characters?
Davis: We are friends. Close friends. Buddies!
Andrew: Strictly business.

Q: Andrew, what was your experience like in your first DT show?
It’s been an awesome experience, I’ve had so much fun meeting everyone in the cast. I look forward to trying out for more shows.

Q: What is something you enjoy performing/seeing performed every show?
Davis: My favorite part that I perform is my monologue to Fraulein Schneider near the end of Act 1. I don’t want to spoil anything, but to me, it’s the moment where the whole tone of the show really shifts. And of course, I love watching Two Ladies every night, it’s very funny and the audience reactions are always insane/
Andrew: I love seeing the audience’s reaction when Ernst and I talk at the end of Act 1.

Q: What is one object in the show you heavily relate to?
Davis: I don’t relate to it, but on opening night, I discovered that a few people had written words of encouragement in my passport. It was a really lovely surprise and I’m eternally grateful for it.
Andrew: The suitcase because sometimes it decides to not work and is really difficult to close for no reason.

Q: One fun fact about you!
Andrew: I can dunk a basketball.
Davis: Andrew lied in his fun fact.

Cabaret Actor Feature: The Kit Kat Girls

Q: What is the best part of being one of the Kit Kat Girls or being in DramaTech’s Cabaret?
Katherine: Honestly, it’s just fun to go out on stage and feel confident and sexy like a Kit Kat would!
Erin: Getting to be a part of something bigger than myself has been so incredible. This show is very thought-provoking, but it’s also just a great time, so getting to experience both the lighthearted fun side and the deeper, darker side to it has been very powerful for me.
Hannah: Definitely the people! Love my girl gang and the rest of the cast more than words.
Marissa: I love having a team of fierce ladies dancing our hearts out every night! Plus being a Kit Kat girl is really fun because while you’re portrayed as a sexy nightclub dancer, there’s also that creepy little something below the surface letting the audience know that you know something they don’t.
Skyler: The dancing is really fun! And just being able to flesh out our characters and make them their own person was super cool.
Audrey: The music is fantastic!! I adore Ebb and Kander, and getting to sing my heart out every night is an absolute joy! Being a Kit Kat girl is so freeing and fun!!

Q: If you could steal a part of another Kit Kat girl’s costume for yourself, what would it be?
Katherine: I love Audrey’s dress! I could see myself wearing it.
Erin: Hannah’s beret. It looks really soft and I love hats.
Hannah: Katherine’s wrap looks super comfy, so I’m definitely stealing that when it gets cold.
Marissa: I absolutely adore anything with flowers, so definitely Katherine’s floral wrap.
Skyler: Marissa’s pants because she’s less exposed.
Audrey: I also would die for Marissa’s pants. They’re awesome.

Q: Favorite song to hear/perform?
Katherine: I love performing Don’t Tell Mama with my girls! Watching Lina sing Maybe This Time is one of my favorite parts of the show.
Erin: I love both Wilkommen and the Finale/Wilkommen Reprise because they are so similar and yet so totally opposite and that really sums up the whole show for me.
Hannah: I go hard backstage to married reprise, not gonna lie.
Marissa: I crack up every time I watch Two Ladies! I love performing Wilkommen because I enjoy seeing the audience’s initial reactions to our personas.
Skyler: Tomorrow Belongs to Me is unfortunately a bop. My favorite song to perform is Two Ladies.
Audrey: As terrible as this sounds, I love tomorrow belongs to me. It’s creepy, but so fun to sing, and from a musical standpoint it really is beautiful. I also love Cabaret – one of my favorites in the overall musical theatre canon.

Q: Favorite memory from rehearsal?
Katherine: I loved watching everyone dance offstage (namely dabs and whips) while we were running songs. I also loved the sitzprobe and getting to hear our amazing orchestra for the first time.
Erin: My favourite memory is definitely the first time we ran the whole show in the black box, because it made all the hard work and late nights so worth it to see everything just come to life in the space.
Hannah: One of my favorite memories was watching the SNL Fosse sketch. It definitely helped me channel my inner kakonk for Don’t Tell Mama.
Marissa: We learned Don’t Tell Mama in roughly three hours, all while watching Fosse SNL sketches for inspiration and scarring the people in line at Panda Express through the window.
Skyler: Scarring all of the people at Panda Express while doing Don’t Tell Mama and Two Ladies.
Audrey: For sure the sitzprobe, but also I enjoyed all the little conversations about our characters relationships to one another. Those were always very interesting, insightful, and funny.

Q: One fun fact about you!
Katherine: I have three citizenships: US, Canada, and France.
Erin: If Georgia Tech doesn’t work out, my backup plan is to be a trapeze artist with a circus.
Hannah: I got to work on Spider-Man: Homecoming and Tom Holland asked me for a pen and I died.
Marissa: One time I tried to approach Ludacris at a mini-golf place. I called him “Mr. Ludacris” and he legitimately ran from me.
Skyler: I still miss One Direction.
Audrey: I accidentally swallowed a dandelion once.

Cabaret Costumes Designer Feature: Megan Shaffer and Kelsey Durick

Q: What is your process like for designing costumes/makeup?
A: A lot of the show deals with living in fantasy versus facing reality, and that theme drove a lot of the choices we made. Some of the characters live in the real; they got more tame, period appropriate, and realistic costumes. Some of the characters thrive on living in fantasy — their costumes are much more eclectic, with pieces of lingerie, dancewear, men’s formal, pretty much everything we could get our hands on. This show was a lot of improvisational design, where we looked at what we already had or could buy for cheap and made it work rather than trying to fit a particularly specific design for each character.

For makeup, we took historical designs of stage beauty makeup and exaggerated them. We made them uglier, we made them cooler, and we made them look as real and fake at the same time as we possibly could.

In conclusion, we hand-made nipple tassels for this show and spend over an hour each night gluing down people’s eyebrows. We don’t believe in subtlety here.

Q: Did the in-concert aspect of the show inhibit your creativity and if so, how?
A: It didn’t really change much for us. Many of the songs rely heavily on the cabaret performers looking just glamourous and grody enough to sell them, so we put just as much work into crafting the Looks as we would have if this were a full production.

Q: Is there anything that you’re especially excited for the audience to see?
A: There’s a cabaret number in act 2 that was particularly wild to costume.

Q: Favorite item in the costume room?

A: Ebeneezer and Bonnibel, the two stuffed animals we stole from the lost and found. They were our rocks throughout the show process. Megan is also particularly a fan of the nice professional tailor’s iron. Kelsey likes the tube of E6000 and the wall of scrap fabric.