Episode 10: Kristin Gauthier
Tfolkers will know Kristin Gauthier as the composer for our a cappella musical Shout! But she’s had a long career as an actress and musical theatre performer. We talk to her pre-performance for her latest gig and also about her time touring in Les Misérables.
- Theatrefolk Theatre Trivia
- …and a Groundhog in a Pear Tree
- Shout! An A Cappella Musical
- Last of the Red Hot Lovers
- Les Misérables
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Lindsay: Welcome to TFP the Theatrefolk Podcast. I’m Lindsay Price, resident playwright for Theatrefolk. Hello, I hope you’re well. Thanks for listening. Today we have an interview with another Theatrefolk author and composer, Kristin Gauthier, who wrote the music for both Shout! and …and a Groundhog in a Pear Tree. But first, let’s do some Theatrefolk news. There’s a new freebie in town for Theatrefolk. It’s kind of hidden. It’s not out there yet with sparkly lights and choreographed numbers, but it is out there. And it’s free and it’s for you. It’s another great resource for teachers and it’s called Theatrefolk Theatre Trivia!
What’s that you say? Well, the foundation is an online database of over 1,000 theatre trivia questions and answers in 14 categories. Yes, I’m going to say it again, over 1,000 theatre trivia questions and answers. Everything from Greek theatre, to commedia, to modern, to play quotes, to playwrights, to true and false questions. And we’re going to be rolling out a variety of ways that you can use this online database. Right now, you can go to Twitter and follow @theatretrivia. That’s @theatretrivia and when you do that you get a random theatre trivia question in the morning with the answer for that question showing up in the afternoon. New question everyday. And then you can also go to trivia.theatrefolk.com – look for this in the show notes – and there you can print your own Q&A sheet with a random set of theatre trivia questions perfect for a class activity. And with each answer there’s a link to further source material perfect for follow-up discussion. I know, it’s awesome.
Now, as I said, this is a rolling project. That means we’re going to be rolling out more ways to use this database so keep trivia.theatrefolk.com in your bookmarks. There’s more to come. And please always remember and don’t ever forget the places in which you can find this podcast. We post new episodes every Wednesday at theatrefolk.com and our Facebook page and Twitter and you can subscribe to TFP on iTunes. Search for us on Theatrefolk. This is very theatre-y. I am backstage [and we’re] precisely in the basement of the Showboat Festival Theatre with Kristin Gauthier. Hello, Kristin.
Lindsay: And Kristin has very kindly agreed to talk before she goes on this afternoon in today’s performance of Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon, which she happens to be performing with well-known Theatrefolkean Craig Mason. So we know you for your composing that you’ve done for us for …and a Groundhog in a Pear Tree and Shout! But we’re going to talk today about not your composing hat but your acting hat.
Lindsay: Sound good?
Lindsay: Yes. All right?
Lindsay: Well, the first thing I want to talk about is like we’re in pre-show so do you have any pre-show rituals? Is there anything that you do before a show?
Kristin: I don’t think anything really specific or really important. I like to be at the theatre an hour beforehand. I like to have that time to sort of leave the world behind and sort of get into the world of the theatre and be with the people that I’m going to be performing with. But I don’t really use that first half hour for too much if it’s not a musical. I would use that to warm up my voice if I was singing, but I like that time to sort of relax and then I stretch a little bit when it gets a little closer to time to go on stage so I can feel all my muscles. It’s not a big deal, just a little stretch to know that they’re all there and I can feel my whole body. And that’s really it. I use the time to put my costume and my makeup on. It’s just time to think about what I’m about to do and- pretty simple.
Lindsay: It’s nice to be in the theatre though, isn’t it?
Kristin: It really is, to have that little bit of space to separate sort of my life and my worries and all the things that I’m thinking about and just be able to focus on what I’m about to do.
Lindsay: Because for the equity rules you don’t have to be here until half hour before.
Kristin: Right, right.
Lindsay: Have you ever been here just a half hour before?
Kristin: I have.
Lindsay: Have you?
Kristin: I have. Sometimes on a two-show day.
Kristin: If you don’t quite have enough time for supper, you can push it back to half hour so I can do it. I don’t think I would do that if it was a musical. Again, I really like to have time to sort my voice out and make sure that it’s functioning the way I want it to.
Lindsay: Right, right.
Kristin: But I have done it. I can do it. But I prefer to have the extra time.
Lindsay: Right. Do you get nervous? Because you’ve been acting for a long time now.
Kristin: Long time. And it’s funny. I wouldn’t say that I ever got nervous through most of my career so far. I get excited.
Lindsay: Oh, that’s nice.
Kristin: I would always get very, very excited before I went on. This time after I took a break for five years-
Kristin: – to have my kids.
Lindsay: Yes, you have two lovely children.
Kristin: My two little kids now. Yup. And I found that getting on stage for the first time in front of an audience the first two times I was terrified.
Kristin: Absolutely terrified and I hadn’t felt that way before. And once I got to the third show I kind of slipped back into my old sort of relaxed, excited frame of mind. But, yeah, I can really sympathize with people who get-
Lindsay: Stage fright.
Kristin: Stage fright now after having experienced that. It’s not a very good feeling at all.
Lindsay: What did you think was going to happen?
Kristin: Oh, I thought I was going to forget all my words. I thought I would make some terrible mistakes, embarrass myself and have to go live in a hole for the rest of my life. Luckily that didn’t happen. It was okay.
Lindsay: Yeah. That didn’t happen. Because I’m the opposite. Beforehand is the most- I still- I give speeches all the time, I’m in front of people all the time and I can control it more but I’m still just a nervous- I’m a wreck. And then as soon as I start speaking, it’s fine. It’s always fine.
Kristin: It all flows out and it’s okay.
Kristin: And that’s the thing, right? What I sort of realized to get over this nervousness these two times is I really had to just trust myself. And I actually used those words to myself in my head, you know? Okay, trust yourself. You know this. You know how to do this.
Lindsay: You rehearsed.
Kristin: It’s going to be fine. Just trust yourself. Forget about it. Don’t try to think through everything ahead of time.
Kristin: Trust that it will happen when you get there. And of course it does because you have rehearsed.
Lindsay: And we have rehearsed. Well, and that’s training, right?
Lindsay: That’s training and having a background in acting that you can rely on that. It’s not your first time at the rodeo, right?
Kristin: Right, right, right, right.
Lindsay: You’ve been through it before.
Lindsay: So this is a very unique project because Last of the Red Hot Lovers, as you know, has one guy who is meeting three different women and originally it was done with three different women but you get to play all of those characters. So you are playing three different women. So for summer theatre it is a (?) a cost-saving measure.
Lindsay: But for you it’s got to be interesting.
Kristin: Oh, it’s a great opportunity to be able to play three such different people within the space of one play. It’s fabulous. It’s so exciting. I love it.
Lindsay: How did you approach it?
Kristin: I really felt when we first started doing this play even ten years ago when we did it the first time.
Lindsay: That’s right. For those of you who don’t know, it is a very small world, things coming around. Kristin and Craig did this play ten years ago together and they’re better than ever together again.
Kristin: But to really give each woman their own distinct voice – because I knew it was going to be just me every time and I thought it was important for the audience and me too to have the experience of three as distinct women as possible. So I tried to give them each their own voice. And I don’t mean that necessarily by the sound of their voice, although that sort of happened during the process.
Lindsay: They lend themselves. Their personalities do.
Kristin: Yeah. So I would read each act by itself and really try to hear and feel how this woman would sound and just through the sound of the writing and the rhythms of the writing. What was it telling me that it would sound like? And they really emerged as their own distinct voices. And then by the time we get up on its feet, they end up with their own physicality. And then of course with the way that you’re playing with Craig and it all just- the balls bounce back and forth and they just really seem to flesh themselves out. I feel really, really fortunate to be able to do so much. Like if I was just playing one of them I would be jealous of the other two acts saying, “Oh, I want to do that one. That one looks like fun. I want to do that.”
Lindsay: Well it’s basically your own roller coaster, you know? With different wigs.
Kristin: Right, right. Yeah.
Lindsay: But it’s fascinating how much you find though in terms of that rhythm and voice like in the script, right?
Kristin: Oh, yeah.
Lindsay: It’s amazing when I work with student actors how they’re so focused on the “I have lines to learn and I have places to move.” But it’s like no, if you actually look there are rhythms built into speech that’s going to give you so much character clues.
Kristin: Absolutely. That’s really where I feel the “voice,” the manners of these characters came from. I really feel like they came right from the text for me. That’s how it sounded. That’s how it felt as I was reading them. So that’s where I would- that’s where I look for it for sure.
Lindsay: How much time do you spend with the text?
Kristin: Well, you mean before rehearsal?
Lindsay: Do you? Do you?
Kristin: No, because mostly you don’t get the script before a rehearsal.
Lindsay: Yeah, yeah.
Kristin: So no, I don’t. But I do spend time in especially that first week of rehearsal reading it at night, reading it out loud in a quiet room and feeling it out that way. So I think I spend quite a bit of time with it. Maybe an hour at night as well as the whole rehearsal day.
Lindsay: Right. Do you think voice is more important for these characters or physicality?
Kristin: I think they’re insepar-
Lindsay: Or are they in tandem? Yeah?
Kristin: They’re really in inseparable to me. I mean, I know that in this particular case I do use my voice to distinguish them. They do actually have different sounds, but those sounds sort of came hand-in-hand with that physicality. And the physicality and the sound is necessarily I think a little bit bigger than it would normally be because I’m trying to distinguish between them. I think that if I was just playing one the picture wouldn’t be quite as large. The brush wouldn’t quite be as large because it’s one woman. It’s just a little bigger to help-
Kristin: The illusion that it’s three.
Lindsay: It’s three.
Kristin: That it’s three.
Lindsay: So what’s it like working with Craig?
Kristin: One of the reasons I actually auditioned to do this play the second time was because Craig was going to be in it. I think Craig is one of the kindest, most open and talented actors that I have worked with.
Lindsay: He’s a pretty swell guy.
Kristin: He’s a pretty great guy.
Lindsay: And it must be- how wonderful for you guys. You’ve already done the play ten years ago but did you feel that your rehearsal process was sort of expedited because you weren’t working with a stranger to get relaxed and you could sort of leap into the deep end of the pool?
Kristin: That was really a nice bonus of being able to come in and immediately have that relationship established. It was already someone I was comfortable with, I enjoyed working with and that I trusted.
Kristin: Which is a big deal too. So yeah, absolutely. Even the familiarity with the text helped. We were able to get moving on it much more quickly. And maybe it was long enough that patterns fell away. It’s hard to say whether we sort of fell into patterns that we had used before or found new ones. I think a combination of both probably.
Lindsay: Yeah, in good ways, in good ways.
Kristin: Yeah, hopefully in good ways.
Lindsay: I think so. I think so. So another acting experience that you’ve had which I know that the people listening will be really interested to hear is that you spent some time touring with Les Mis. So what did you play?
Kristin: I was in the ensemble of Les Mis so I was I think whore number-
Kristin: Five. And I was the nun. I was the I think the headish nun. I got to bring Valjean on. I had a lot of different little parts. And I also understudied Cosette. So I went on quite a few times-
Kristin: Playing Cosette. Yeah.
Lindsay: What was that like?
Kristin: That was pretty exciting. I remember, it was a pretty big moment I think. It was my first professional job and it was early on in the run and I got to go on as Cosette and I remember getting out and singing that first song of hers and rotating off into the background while Marius and Eponine are singing their duet. And I was able to look out at this massive audience and sit. And I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. When these people remember Les Mis and when they think about this story and this musical, ever after from this, they are going to remember what I give them in this part.” And what an amazing privilege and responsibility that was. It was really a big moment for me. It was quite moving.
Lindsay: Oh yeah, I’ve got goose bumps.
Kristin: Yeah, yeah. It’s a big deal.
Lindsay: What was it like being dropped into Les Mis as your first gig out of university, right?
Kristin: Out of university, yup.
Lindsay: What was that like?
Kristin: I had just graduated from university and I can’t- I was so lucky.
Lindsay: Was it just a place of good timing?
Kristin: Oh, it was good timing for sure. I’m sure it was a happy accident, a bunch of happy accidents that led me there. I hadn’t been in Toronto.
Lindsay: With skill, right?
Kristin: Well, they wouldn’t have given me the job if I couldn’t sing for instance.
Lindsay: Yeah. Oh come on, she can get it in. That’s alright.
Kristin: Yeah, but- I forget what were talking about?
Lindsay: Well I was going to segue that into do you remember what your audition was like?
Kristin: I do, I do. I had two auditions. I remember getting a last minute call to go in and audition in Toronto. I was living in Ottawa at the time. And I heard later that they had not been happy with the people they were seeing for whatever reason and had gone to the reject pile and I happened to be on top of the rejected pile. And they said, “Oh, this girl can sing. She has music. Call her in.” So I got a call to go in the next day. So we had to drive to Toronto the next day through a snowstorm which we did. And I went and I sang and I can’t believe what a great reception I had from the audition panel. I think my feet didn’t touch the stairs on the way out of the building. Went home and a week later got a call to go back and sing again for the director. And I did that. And again, that went better than I ever could have imagined. He gave me his card and told me not to take another job unless I called them first. So it’s an unbelievable audition story. That never happens. You always leave and you think that they hated you.
Lindsay: You think they’re never going to call.
Kristin: Yeah. You never have that. So for that to happen as my first experience I think was incredibly lucky and I got the call to do the job. And wow. Lucky me.
Lindsay: How long did you tour?
Kristin: We toured I think in total it was about eight months.
Lindsay: And where did you go?
Kristin: We went across Canada to most of the capital cities of the province and we went to Hawaii and we ended in Toronto. We did a couple months in Toronto at the end of the tour.
Lindsay: Cool. So what was your best experience of touring, your best memory of touring?
Kristin: Of touring? I really loved- Okay, so sometimes the house didn’t sell and we would be given tickets to give away. And my favorite part of touring I think was being able to walk into the bank and say to the tellers-
Lindsay: Oh wow.
Kristin: “Did you want to see Les Mis?” And they would say, “Oh, I’m not sure.” I said, “Because if you would I have tickets and I’d be happy to give them to you.” “Really? Just give them?” And they would be so happy. Or to be able to give them to someone who you heard talking about it on the street and just be able to give them tickets for it. Because it was really expensive even at that time. But the feeling of being able to do that for people and seeing how happy they were, that was my favorite part.
Lindsay: You’re the Les Mis fairy. Holy cow. That is awesome.
Kristin: Well, everybody got to do it from time to time.
Lindsay: Yeah, I know, but that’s awesome. Okay. So and what’s the worst?
Kristin: Touring, living in other people’s houses. Not having your own space.
Lindsay: Did you bill it?
Kristin: Oh, we mostly stayed in hotels. We didn’t always have a kitchen so I had to eat three meals a day in a restaurant for the most part. So by the time I got home anything that I used to resent about my mother’s cooking was all of a sudden the best thing in the world. Home cooking is now my favorite thing. That happened to me early on. That’s a good thing.
Lindsay: That is a good thing because that’s something that you’ll just take with you. Home cooked meals always going to triumph.
Kristin: Yup. And now having my own space. Having my home and living in my home is a wonderful thing because it’s hard to not have all of your things with you all the time and not have that sense of place and you lose that on a tour.
Lindsay: Well I know that one of the greatest things about doing Showboat for Craig is that he gets to live at home.
Lindsay: It’s a twenty minute drive, you know?
Kristin: It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful thing.
Lindsay: It’s the hardest thing. It’s so funny, when we travel for conferences or whatever it’s really never the conference or the thing that I’m at that’s the problem. It’s the traveling and the being on the road and if you’re in a hotel and all that other stuff that on paper seems so wonderful. It’s not.
Kristin: Yeah. Hotels are great for a night.
Kristin: But not for eight months.
Lindsay: Eight months. So as an actor and as a composer which do you like better?
Kristin: I couldn’t say.
Kristin: I really couldn’t say. I get such immense joy out of both. I love the immediate feedback and the storytelling aspect of acting and performing and that connection and the energy that’s created as you’re-
Lindsay: The cyclical thing, you know? You send it out and it comes right back.
Kristin: Yeah. There’s really no feeling like that and you can’t compare it with anything else. And I love the intricacy and the creativity of being able to write music and put it together. And then to hear other people perform it is just another level entirely.
Kristin: No, I couldn’t separate. I couldn’t choose. I love them all.
Lindsay: I like that. They’re both your children.
Lindsay: Just like your children.
Kristin: They are, they are.
Lindsay: All right. Thank you very much.
Kristin: You’re welcome.
Lindsay: That was awesome.