An Audience with Meow Meow
Written by and starring Meow Meow
Choreography by Tiger Martina
Music supervision by Lance Horne
Adapted and directed by Emma Rice
Main Season · Roda Theatre
September 5–October 19, 2014
Running time: about 90 minutes, no intermission
International singing sensation and über-comedienne Meow Meow has wowed audiences from the lights of London’s West End to the backrooms of Berlin to the sails of the Sydney Opera House and the opium dens of Shanghai. Now, under the direction of Kneehigh’s Emma Rice (Tristan & Yseult, The Wild Bride), Meow Meow brings her electrifying endowments to our lucky shores. Get ready for a performance of gargantuan proportions. Accompanied by her orchestra and her dancing boys, and accoutered in sequined costumes on spectacular stage sets, Meow Meow will seduce you with her “devilish funny bones and heavenly vocal chords” (London Evening Standard), and reveal how a song and an audience truly can change the world. You are the perfect audience and she is…the extraordinary Meow Meow.
An Audience with Meow Meow uses haze effects. Berkeley Rep offers an advisory about any stage effect of potential concern to patrons’ health. We don’t offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person. If you have any concerns about content, please contact the box office.
Emma Rice · Adaptor / Director
Emma is the joint artistic director of Kneehigh Theatre. Productions for Kneehigh include The Red Shoes (TMA Theatre Award for Best Director), The Wooden Frock, The Bacchae (2005 TMA Theatre Award for Best Touring Production), Tristan & Yseult, Cymbeline (in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company), A Matter of Life and Death (Royal National Theatre production in association with Kneehigh), Rapunzel (in association with Battersea Arts Centre), Brief Encounter (tour, West End, Studio 54, and Broadway, a David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers Production in association with Kneehigh), Don John (in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Bristol Old Vic), Midnight’s Pumpkin, The Wild Bride, and Steptoe and Son. Other work includes The Empress by Tanika Gupta for the RSC, the West End production of Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Oedipussy for Spymonkey, and Wah! Wah! Girls for World Stages (Sadler’s Wells, Theatre Royal Stratford East, and Kneehigh).
Tiger Martina · Choreographer
Tiger’s professional projects range from feature film and television to numerous Broadway, off-Broadway, and Las Vegas stage productions. He attributes his style and approach to the experience he gained as a dancer and assistant to some of the world’s greatest choreographers: on Broadway in Movin’ Out with Twyla Tharp; Liza’s at The Palace and Sex and the City 2 as dance captain to Ms. Minnelli; dancer and assistant choreographer for “Cold Hearted Snake;” Paula Abdul’s Under My Spell tour; and the Academy Awards with Michael Kidd. Film includes Across the Universe with Julie Taymor and Rock of Ages with Mia Michaels. Tiger has choreographed for Alan Cumming, Penn & Teller, French Stewart, Adam Lambert, Diana DeGarmo, the cast of Friends, Cheyenne Jackson, Jerry Springer, and large-scale nationally televised events such as multiple Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades, NBC’s 4th of July special, numerous production shows for cruise lines Cunard, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and currently running on Norwegian. He directed and choreographed two shows currently running on the Las Vegas strip: Vegas! The Show and the critically acclaimed Zombie Burlesque. For further information, visit tigermartina.com.
Neil Murray · Scenic & Costume Design
Neil is an award-winning theatre designer based in Northumberland. His credits include Pandora’s Box, Brief Encounter, and Steptoe and Son for Kneehigh Theatre; Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Vanity Fair, Copenhagen, Confessions of a Justified Sinner, Romeo and Juliet, and The Importance of Being Ernest for the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh; Tutti Frutti for National Theatre of Scotland; Like Water for Chocolate and The Love of Don Perlimplín for Théâtre Sans Frontières; MaEternal for balletLORENT; and A Tender Thing for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Neil’s design for Homage to Catalonia (Northern Stage/West Yorkshire Playhouse/Teatre Romea, Barcelona) was in the UK exhibit at the Prague Quadrennial of Scenography 2007 and was subsequently exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He received the Evening Standard Award, a Critic’s Circle Award, an Obie Award, and an Outer Critic’s Circle Award for Brief Encounter. Neil’s most recent credits include The Threepenny Opera (Nottingham Playhouse/Birmingham Rep/West Yorkshire Playhouse/New Wolsey Theatre and Graeae Theatre Company) and the Christmas 2014 production of The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe at the Rose Theatre Kingston.
Alexander V. Nichols · Lighting Design
Alex is returning to Berkeley Rep for his 28th production. His Broadway credits include Wishful Drinking, Hugh Jackman—Back On Broadway, and Nice Work If You Can Get It. His off-Broadway productions include In Masks Outrageous and Austere, Los Big Names, Horizon, Bridge & Tunnel, Taking Over, Through the Night, and In the Wake. Alex has worked at regional theatres throughout the country, including American Conservatory Theater, Mark Taper Forum, National Theatre of Taiwan, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and La Jolla Playhouse, among others. His dance credits include resident designer for Pennsylvania Ballet, Hartford Ballet, and American Repertory Ballet; lighting supervisor for American Ballet Theatre; and resident visual designer for the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company since 1989. His designs are in the permanent repertory of San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance, Hong Kong Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, ODC/SF, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Alex’s recent projects include the museum installation Circle of Memory, a collaboration with Eleanor Coppola, recently presented in Stockholm, Sweden, and the video and visual design for Life: A Journey Through Time, a collaboration with Frans Lanting and Philip Glass, recently presented at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Simon Baker · Sound Design
Simon’s recent work includes Matilda (London and Broadway, 2012 Olivier Award for Best Sound); Shakespeare in Love (Noël Coward Theatre); Roaring Girl and The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company); Mojo (Harold Pinter Theatre); The Light Princess and Amen Corner (National Theatre); Josephine and I (Bush Theatre); Di and Viv and Rose (Hampstead Theatre); The Norman Conquests, Hedda Gabler, and The Real Thing (Old Vic); La Bête and Boeing Boeing (Comedy Theatre/Broadway); Lord of the Rings (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane/Toronto); Deathtrap (Noël Coward); Loserville (Garrick Theatre); My Fair Lady, Me and My Girl, and Oliver (Sheffield Theatre); and Batman Live (world arena tour). For Kneehigh Theatre, his work includes Steptoe and Son (UK tour), Wah! Wah! Girls (Sadler’s Wells), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Lyric Theatre), Brief Encounter (UK and U.S. tours/Broadway), Don John, The Red Shoes, The Wild Bride (international tours). Simon is an associate artist for Kneehigh Theatre and a fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Martin Lowe · Additional Arrangements
Martin won the Tony, Olivier, Grammy, Drama Desk, and Obie for his work as music supervisor and orchestrator on the musical Once in the West End and on Broadway. He was the original musical director for Mamma Mia! in the West End and has subsequently supervised productions in Japan, South Korea, China, and Sweden. He was also the musical director for the movie version starring Meryl Streep and won the Golden Reel Award. Martin’s other theatre work includes The Light Princess; War Horse; Caroline, Or Change; Jerry Springer The Opera; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; and Nation all for the National Theatre in London. For the National Theatre of Scotland, he was the orchestrator and music supervisor for The Wolves in the Walls and Appointment with the Wicker Man. He has conducted other West End shows, including The Full Monty, Once on This Island, Cats, and Les Misérables. Martin’s composition work includes The Misanthrope, The Secret Rapture, and The Blue Room at Chichester Festival Theatre; Lettice and Lovage (national tour); and Into Exile and Dear Exile, both for BBC Radio 4.
Robert Egan · Dramaturg
Robert is an award-winning producer, director, and dramaturg. He is the artistic director/producer of the Ojai Playwrights Conference and was the producing artistic director of the Mark Taper Forum and founding artistic director of its New Work Festival in which he produced and developed Pulitzer Prize winners Angels in America and The Kentucky Cycle. Robert was the associate artistic director of Seattle Repertory Theatre and created its new play program, The Other Season. He also created Home Productions in Seattle. Robert is the founder/president of RHEgan Productions LLC and Eye Street Media. He has directed and produced at theatres throughout the U.S., including Kirk Douglas Theatre, South Coast Rep, La Jolla Playhouse, Berkeley Rep, the Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Naked Angels, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, A Contemporary Theatre, the Empty Space, Signature Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and in England at Oxford Playhouse and Oxford University Drama Society, among others. He produced/directed a national hip-hop tour for Norman Lear and developed/directed a production for the HBO Aspen Comedy Festival. For television he has directed episodes of Frasier and Stark Raving Mad, among others. Robert received his education at Boston College, Oxford University, and Stanford University.
Geoff Hoyle · Physical Comedy Consultant
Geoff has appeared at Berkeley Rep in Servant of Two Masters, The Convict’s Return, Volpone, The Alchemist, Endgame/Act Without Words, Geni(us), The Beaux’ Stratagem, Heartbreak House, The First 100 Years, Much Ado About Nothing, Rhinoceros, For Better or Worse, Brundibar, and The Composer is Dead. He was the original Zazu in The Lion King on Broadway and clowned with San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus, Cirque du Soleil, Circus Flora, and Teatro ZinZanni. His regional theatre credits include Arena Stage, Seattle Rep, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theatre, and La Jolla Playhouse. Film appearances include Popeye, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Spirit of ‘76, and Smooth Talk. He has received several NEA mime grants, a TCG National Theatre Artists Residency Program fellowship, and is currently the Hellman Visiting Artist at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center. His most recent solo show Geezer just finished sold-out runs at the Marsh in San Francisco and Berkeley. His new solo show Lear’s Shadow premieres at the Marsh San Francisco next spring.
Amy Potozkin · Casting
This is Amy’s 25th season at Berkeley Rep. Through the years she has also had the pleasure of casting plays for ACT (Seattle), Arizona Theatre Company, Aurora Theatre Company, B Street Theatre, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Marin Theatre Company, the Marsh, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Social Impact Productions Inc., and Traveling Jewish Theatre. Amy cast roles for various indie films, including Conceiving Ada, starring Tilda Swinton; Haiku Tunnel and Love & Taxes, both by Josh Kornbluth; and Beyond Redemption by Britta Sjogren. Amy received her MFA from Brandeis University, where she was also an artist in residence. She has been a coach to hundreds of actors, has taught acting at Mills College and audition technique at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, and has led workshops at numerous other venues in the Bay Area. Prior to working at Berkeley Rep, she was an intern at Playwrights Horizons in New York. Amy is a member of CSA, the Casting Society of America.
Michael Suenkel* · Stage Manager
Michael began his association with Berkeley Rep as the stage management intern for the 1984–85 season and is now in his 21st year as production stage manager. Some of his favorite shows include 36 Views, Endgame, Eurydice, Hydriotaphia, and Mad Forest. He has also worked with the Barbican in London, the Huntington Theatre Company, the Juste Pour Rire Festival in Montreal, La Jolla Playhouse, Pittsburgh Public Theater, the Public Theater and Second Stage Theater in New York, and Yale Repertory Theatre. For the Magic Theatre, he stage managed Albert Takazauckas’ Breaking the Code and Sam Shepard’s The Late Henry Moss.
Leslie M. Radin* · Assistant Stage Manager
Leslie is very pleased to be back at Berkeley Rep after most recently stage managing Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright and assistant stage managing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Chinglish (both here and at the Hong Kong Arts Festival). She started at Berkeley Rep as the stage management intern in 2003 and has also worked at American Conservatory Theater, Center Rep, San Francisco Opera Center’s Merola Program, and the New Victory Theater in New York, where she traveled with Berkeley Rep’s production of Brundibar / But the Giraffe. Her favorite past productions include In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Passing Strange, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Pillowman, and The Secret in the Wings.
True Friend Productions · Producer
True Friend Productions develops theatrical productions for Broadway and international markets. Current projects include An Audience with Meow Meow and Anne Rice’s Você, a gothic love story. Founding partner Chuck Martinez is a producer, film director, and entrepreneur. With the La Jolla Playhouse, he produced a musical revue of the works of Randy Newman titled Maybe I’m Doing It Wrong. He produced and directed the comedy feature film Nice Girls Don’t Explode for New World Pictures/Lakeshore Entertainment and the family feature film The Effects of Magic for Showtime Networks. Founding partner Belinda Casas-Wells is an award-winning producer of plays and musicals. She has worked as a writer/producer with Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Sony Pictures. She has written for NBC’s ER and PBS and has written pilots for CBS. Broadway Producing Partner Alan Levey was the general manager of Disney Theatrical Productions where he worked on The Lion King, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and High School Musical. Previously, Alan was the founding managing director of La Jolla Playhouse.
Adam L. Sussman · Assistant Director
Carl Pantle · Rehearsal Pianist
Meow Meow · Star
Post-post-modern diva Meow Meow has hypnotized, inspired, and terrified audiences globally. Meow starred on London’s West End in Kneehigh Theatre and Michel Legrand’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and in her own solo concerts at the legendary Apollo Theatre. She had a sensational season of Meow Meow’s Little Match Girl at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and performed Cocteau’s piece for Piaf, Le Bel Indifférent, for the Greenwich Music Festival U.S. She has created original works for numerous international arts festivals and venues from Shanghai to Wroclaw as well as performing everything from Schubert and Schumann with orchestra to touring with punk outfit Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls. She has won numerous Green Room Awards, Helpmann Theatre Awards, Sydney Theatre Critics Awards, the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize, and the New York Franklin Furnace Performance Art Award, among others. She is a regular guest in the Olivier Award-winning La Clique and La Soirée on the West End, and she opened La Soirée’s award-winning season in New York. In 2013 Meow had her London Philharmonic debut as Jenny in Brecht/Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper in Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and London’s Royal Festival Hall, and joined the London Philharmonic again for further UK performances. She has performed with the Weimar collective in New York City, sold out her Lincoln Center American Songbook Series concert, and toured the concert halls of Australia with Barry Humphries and the Australian Chamber Orchestra in a program of lost and re-found works from Weimar Germany in the 1920s. In 2014 Meow performed with the LA Philharmonic in Andriessen’s De Materie and for Pina Bausch Company with their Fest für Pina 40 season in Germany, followed by an extended season of the award-winning Feline Intimate in London at the Southbank Centre. In December 2014 Meow returns to London’s Southbank Centre with Apocalypse Meow: Crisis is Born. The spectacular crowd-surfing queen of song drags the audience “kicking and screaming into the 21st century” (Time Out New York), with trail-blazing sell-out seasons from New York’s Lincoln Center and Berlin’s Bar Jeder Vernunft to London’s Apollo Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. Named One of the Top Performers of the Year by the New Yorker, Meow Meow’s unique brand of “kamikaze cabaret” and performance art exotica has been called “Sensational” (the Times UK), “cabaret diva of the highest order” (New York Post), “The Queen of Chanson” by the Berliner Zeitung, and “a phenomenon” by the Australian press. Multi-award winning Meow’s solo works have been curated by David Bowie, Pina Bausch, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, among others. With collaborator Pink Martini’s Thomas M Lauderdale she appeared with the Oregon Symphony and has written and recorded the album Here Kitty Kitty…The lost sessions, due for release in 2014. Meow’s albums Vamp and Songs from a Little Match Girl are available on iTunes.
Michael Balderrama* · Dancer Sergei Romanov / a Dark Prince of the Stage
Michael is an American director/choreographer, dancer, and producer. Some of his favorite Broadway credits include Ghost, In the Heights, Hot Feet, Movin’ Out, Urban Cowboy, and Saturday Night Fever. He’s been seen in the films Rock of Ages, Across the Universe, and Michael Jackson’s Ghost. He’s had the privilege of choreographing for and/or performing with Gloria Estefan, Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Sutton Foster, Vanessa Williams, Brian Adams, Mariah Carey, and Jay Sean. He was resident director/choreographer of the second national tour of In the Heights, associate director and movement consultant for Zorro, and was the associate choreographer and creative consultant for the 2013 Broadway musical, Soul Doctor. He is currently producing the upcoming new musicals Whiskeyland and Boys vs. Girls through his production companies, Silver Towers Productions, LLC and Last Call Theatricals, LLC. Visit silvertowersproductions.com.
Bob Gaynor* · Dancer Jonathan Spooner / a Dark Prince of the Stage
A Southern California native educated at Cal State University Long Beach, Bob has lived in New York for the last 14 years. He was most recently seen in The Sound of Music “Live” with Carrie Underwood on NBC. Bob’s original Broadway cast credits include Leap of Faith and Catch Me If You Can, Sweet Charity (Vittorio/understudy), Boy George’s Taboo (Leigh Bowery/understudy), and Elton John’s Aida (Radames/sb). At the New York City Center, he performed in Bye Bye Birdie (Conrad), Applause, and Stairway to Paradise. Bob’s regional credits include Next to Normal (Dan, Broadway World nominee), Leap of Faith, First Wives Club, Smokey Joe’s Café (Michael), and A Chorus Line (Zach). He has been seen on TV and in film in Broadway 4D, Blue Bloods, Law & Order, All My Children (Mitch Morrison), One Life to Live, As the World Turns, Across the Universe, The Mask, and in the Academy, American Music, and Emmy Awards shows. Bob has worked with artists such as Reba McEntire, Paula Abdul, Cher, and Cheyenne.
Lance Horne* · Music Supervisor / Conductor / Musical Arrangements
Lance is a composer-lyricist who has performed alongside, composed for, and/or provided arrangements for Alan Cumming, Liza Minnelli, Carol Channing, Kristin Chenoweth, Ricki Lake, Pink Martini, the von Trapps, Jake Shears/Scissor Sisters, Justin Bond, Sandra Bernhard, Ben Folds, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls, Boston Pops, and has toured the world with the divine Meow Meow. He has performed for President Obama, the First Lady, and Queen Elizabeth. Lance has conducted return engagements at Sydney Opera House and international tours of Handel’s Messiah Rocks and Jekyll & Hyde. He co-music directed/co-arranged Prometheus Bound by Steven Sater and Serj Tankian and Cabaret starring Amanda Palmer, both at American Repertory Theatre. He contributed original material and arrangements to Vegas! The Show currently playing at Planet Hollywood Casino, music directed the Sater/Sheik Alice by Heart for the National Theatre in London, and provided the vocal arrangements for the Broadway production of Little Women. His debut album First Things Last released on Yellow Sound Label with concurrent concerts at Lincoln Center and on the West End. TV includes the theme for The Ricki Lake Show (Fox) and Multiple Macy’s parades (NBC). Lance received a daytime Emmy for Best Original Song; the Jonathan Larson Award; a Bistro Award for producing Alan Cumming’s album, I Bought a Blue Car Today; the ASCAP Foundation Jamie DeRoy Award for Emerging Songwriter; and an Interlochen Ovation Award. Lance is a Steinway Artist with a BM, MM in composition from the Juilliard School. For compositions, visit lancehorne.com.
Russ Gold · Musician
Russ last appeared at Berkeley Rep as a musician for Tristan & Yseult. His performing experience includes work with musicians as diverse as Gary Lyons (producer of Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead), Johnny Colla of Huey Lewis and the News, Seth Justman of the J. Giles Band, and jazz greats Tom Scott, Sam Rivers, George Coleman, Dave Douglas, Vinx, and Howard Johnson. He has toured extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, and Asia, performing with jazz, rock, fusion, and theatre groups including in the acclaimed musicals Wicked, Jersey Boys, and Rent. He has earned endorsements from Sabian cymbals, ProMark sticks, Fishman transducers, and Kurzweil synthesizers.
Jessica Ivry · Musician
Jessica plays and sings in Real Vocal String Quartet (rvsq.com). She performed in Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Figaro at Berkeley Rep, The Orphan of Zhao at American Conservatory Theater and La Jolla Playhouse, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Post Street Theatre. Jessica scored and performed in The Bright River (a hip-hop interpretation of Dante’s Inferno) and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (A Traveling Jewish Theatre). She has performed with David J, Bauhaus, Feist, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, and Nneena Freelon. Jessica holds degrees from Skidmore College and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Pat Moran · Musician
Pat is glad to be back at Berkeley Rep after performing last season in Kneehigh’s Tristan & Yseult and this past summer as music director and guitarist for FSM as part of The Ground Floor’s 2014 Summer Residency Lab. He has composed original music and lyrics for over a dozen professional theatre productions and has been resident composer/lyricist/music director for the San Francisco Mime Troupe since 2007, currently taking the year off after working on every show from 2005 to 2013. He is an active and passionate educator and believes strongly in arts education as a means to address issues of social injustice. Pat has been an artist in residence at the University of San Francisco, Miami University in Ohio, UNC Greensboro, and CSU Fresno. He received an MFA performer composer degree from the California Institute for the Arts and a BFA in philosophy with a concentration in ethics and public policy from Clark University.
* Denotes a member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
“Ferociously entertaining…This is musical theater as an act of subversion in fishnets and heels…Part burlesque, part Brechtian parable, this 100-minute deconstructed cabaret act—backed by two male dancers and a four-piece band—trades in the explosive nature of the unexpected…Imagine Dame Edna crossed with Hedwig and Ute Lemper in a gleefully bawdy lounge act…There’s no denying the allure of Meow Meow’s purrfectly calibrated diva persona. The Weimar-style vamp-cum-comedian fancies herself the ‘Mother Courage of performance art.’ Armed with an impressive voice and limber stage antics, she seems to be giving her all to tickle us, and that’s hard to resist.”—San Jose Mercury News / Bay Area New Group
“An Australian singer with a remarkably flexible, full voice and a wide-eyed elfin-vamp persona, Meow Meow seems to specialize in cabaret teetering on the brink of comically self-inflicted disaster…She’s a sexy, long-legged chanteuse…She’s a picture of alluring grace one moment and a klutz clambering up on stage the next, with the funniest way of getting up out of a split that I’ve ever seen…A compelling and uniquely gifted performer!”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Delightful, with some truly hilarious audience interactions…Along the way she delivers compelling and often hysterical renditions of songs from Jacques Brel to Bertolt Brecht, from Patti Griffin to Radiohead, accompanied by a sharp onstage quartet led by pianist/arranger Lance Horne.”—KQED Arts
“90 minutes of increasingly dire wardrobe malfunctions, technical mishaps, injured dancers, fleeing musicians, and a producer who literally pulls the plug. But still the show must go on, happily for us!”—Bay Area Reporter
“The term ‘kamikaze cabaret’ has been applied to the charming, shape-shifting diva Meow Meow…Her act celebrated a far-reaching cosmopolitanism that erases boundaries between cultures and languages…If you think of her changeability as a series of surprise attacks, the term kamikaze may apply after all.”—New York Times
“To witness the postmodern cabaret diva Meow Meow in concert is to risk emerging just a little bit scratched. No one is safe at her show, least of all the deliciously deranged performer herself.”—Time Out New York
“Meow Meow is really something, whether she’s being an adept physical comedian, a post-apocalyptic cabaret star or just an emotionally astute singer standing before a crowd. To be in her audience is to be in for a rich, rambunctious experience.”—Theater Dogs
“She’s bawdy and brash, tender and vulnerable; she’s graceful and klutzy, commanding and helpless. She’s a singer who hits every vocal nuance, whether serious or satiric; a high-energy dancer who could probably double as a contortionist; a comic who draws roars from pratfalls, subtle glances, punchlines and sensuality. She calls herself Meow Meow and—need I say this after that lead-in—she’s wonderful.”—Huffington Post
“Prepare to have your preconceptions, and your mind, blown away…One of those unique theatrical events that come along all too rarely. This special experience, one truly shared between artist and audience, is love at first sight…A melding of Joan Collins, Lady Gaga, Lucille Ball, and Liza Minnelli on steroids, Meow Meow is as uncategorizable as she is dazzlingly unpredictable…Rarely have I seen a performer connect with an audience on this level.”—Stage and Cinema
“Devilish funny bones and heavenly vocal chords!”—London Evening Standard
“Witness the birth of a new star…She is sensational.”—Times (UK)
“The voice alone is glorious in its range and texture. But combine it with carefully chosen songs, superb comic timing, improvisational wit, and some engaging audience participation, so cannily conducted that you suspect a degree in psychology, and you have an evening that demonstrates that Meow Meow really is the cat’s whiskers.”—London Guardian
“Cabaret was always supposed to be transgressive and subversive; Meow Meow puts the beauty and the beastliness of it back where it belongs: out on the edge and in your face.”—London Times
Prologue: from the Artistic Director
There are some artistic creatures that live in a rarified atmosphere. By day they take human shape, eat, sleep, and partake in otherwise normal activities. But at night, as they appear before us beyond the footlights, they take on an ethereal quality, as if they’ve descended from the clouds or some unnamable mountaintop to invite us into a kind of secret society dedicated to their special brand of ecstatic celebration. And if we accept that invitation we are hypnotically drawn into their force field, swept into their loving and fierce embrace, and left, by evening’s end, happily and eternally seduced.
Such a creature is Meow Meow.
I had my first encounter with Meow Meow at the urging of Emma Rice, our esteemed colleague and good friend from Kneehigh Theatre who has brought such memorable work to our Theatre (The Wild Bride, Tristan & Yseult). Emma was a devout convert and had whispered to me of Meow’s irresistible power. I subsequently flew to Portland to see her in concert, and within nanoseconds was blown away. She took the stage like a soldier in full assault mode, sang every song like it was her last, and refused to let any of us get away. The phrase “take no prisoners” was never more appropriate. Plus, she was very funny. I asked to speak to her after the show and was granted an audience. The gist of my introduction went something like, “Hi, I’m Tony Taccone and I’d love to produce your work at Berkeley Rep. Here are some dates.” We spoke for several hours. I didn’t want to leave until she looked favorably on my proposal.
And so here she is…resplendent, raw, and raucous. Ms. Rice and dramaturg Robert Egan have worked to give the evening a dramatic structure, a theatrical frame in which Meow Meow is free to work her magic. Armed with a team of musical and dance collaborators, surrounded by some of our finest designers, positioned on a stage bedecked with thousands of feathers, she heralds the beginning of our new season with spectacular bravura and a signature style.
Raise the curtain, my friends. Meow Meow is now poised to offer you an invitation to join her secret society. May you be ready to accept…
Prologue: from the Managing Director
Welcome to the 2014–15 season!
We have so many good things in store for you this year. Tony has assembled a program that is brimming with artists we are eager for you to meet. They have some great stories to share and thoughtful ways of telling those stories. I hope you’ll choose to see each and every one of our upcoming productions!
In addition to the creativity that you’ll see on our stages each time you visit, you’ll see that we’re in the middle of an entirely different creative endeavor outside as well. With our Create Campaign, we introduce you to the new initiatives that are going to keep Berkeley Rep the most exciting theatre around and will ensure that it remains an artistic home for the many iconic artists you have come to love and admire.
The funds we raise with this campaign will support programs not covered by the cost of your ticket. We’ll be refurbishing the Thrust Stage, adding the technological upgrades that will, once again, make it a preferred destination for today’s most respected artists. We’ll be converting the courtyard into an atrium with a clear lightweight shell so that you can enjoy that outdoor space, the new bar, and improved box office facilities regardless of the weather. We’ll be seeding new plays in our Ground Floor new play development lab, nurturing young as well as mature writers who will tell the stories of our time for our audience as well as audiences around the nation. And we’ll convert our Harrison Street campus into the premier facility for new play development on the West Coast (if not the country!) with rehearsal halls, access to technical support, and artist live/work spaces.
Every initiative is designed to improve your experience and to enhance our ability to produce the kind of work you demand of us. Yes, we do feel that you place demands on us…and that is what we value so much about you.
I hope you’ll find out more about our Create Campaign in the lobby or at berkeleyrep.org/create, and that you’ll be inspired to support our efforts. With your generosity and our hard work, we are going to make sure that Berkeley Rep retains its audacious ambition and relentless commitment to producing work that moves, inspires, provokes, and delights our audiences.
Visual beauty: A conversation with designer Neil Murray
By Julie McCormick
For the past few months, the production team at Berkeley Rep has been gleefully bringing the imaginings of designer Neil Murray to life. Murray, who designed both the set and costumes for An Audience with Meow Meow, offered us a brief peek behind the curtain into the magical world of Meow.
As a designer, what do you look for in a script?
When I read a script, essentially, I am looking for the angle with which I am most likely to become emotionally attached to the piece. If I do not feel a strong connection to the piece I find it very difficult to interpret it in a design.
At the same time I will also note all the physical details of the location(s) as they are described in the text. This is perhaps the most tedious aspect of my work. How many doors, windows, are there? Do we actually need them all? Where are they in the “rooms?”
I am often looking for the single most important element in the text which sets my imagination going.
In many ways, what the director says to me about their understanding of the text and how they plan to work on the piece is much more important than any physical details which occur in the writing.
What is the biggest design challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career?
Having to work with a director I had no rapport with whatsoever. This is always the most difficult thing. I was forced into a situation I couldn’t escape from and the whole process became a hideous nightmare—although curiously, the outcome in terms of my design was nowhere near as bad as it might have been given the circumstances. “Who is directing?” is now always my first question.
You’ve collaborated multiple times with director Emma Rice—what has been the most unique thing about working with her?
In fact, we’ve worked together on five projects. Meow Meow. Steptoe and Son. Brief Encounter. Pandora’s Box and They Shoot Horses Don’t They?
We work together now with a huge backlog of shared experience. We also have deep respect for each other. I love Emma’s ability to be grave and funny at the same time. I always know where I am with her. In our work together we can laugh and cry together and be very close in our collaboration. I think we often know what the other is thinking.
You designed both the set and the costumes for An Audience with Meow Meow—do you often do both? Do they inform each other? Do you find that certain ideas are communicated better through one form versus another?
I would always want to design both the set and costumes for a new piece. They work together to form a whole. To me, it is impossible to contemplate designing a set with someone else designing the costumes. The ideal is where a production will feel and appear “whole”—where the set and costumes work together to create a real and believable World. A unique and special World that has little or nothing to do with naturalism—where the work can live and breathe at its most effective.
Do you have a favorite piece of design for this show?
This piece is quite a departure for me stylistically and I have loved doing it. I love its overt theatricality. It feels completely at home in a theatre. I particularly love what we call the Rose Curtain. The huge flat of painted and three-dimensional roses with its extravagant ostrich feather fringe. As I was making the scale-model piece I was smiling at its almost grotesque lusciousness. So entirely over the top as to be teetering on the edge of the absurd—and yet so entirely in homage in its visual beauty to Meow Meow.
I also love what we call the Rose Dress which has some beautiful hand-embroidered fabric for the skirt that Meow Meow and I found one lovely afternoon in a wonderful fabric shop in Soho, London.
Where did you look for inspiration in creating the world of this piece?
I have a huge archive of visual and photographic references which I have been collecting for over 35 years. They are categorized and box-filed for easy searches, each labelled with a description of its contents. There are two labelled “ITALIAN VOGUE.” The Italian Vogue, since I discovered it many years ago, has been an almost single-handed source of inspired visual clues. Thus—it is Italian Vogue I have to thank for inspiration.
Uncovering an undersung art
By Madeleine Oldham
While often thought of as a fringe genre, cabaret offered a platform to many well-known artists from a wide range of disciplines. Some were unexpected: luminaries such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Claude Debussy, August Strindberg, and Erik Satie were early cabaret writers and performers. Later, this category included singers that align more closely with our traditional notions of the form: Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, Eartha Kitt, and Nina Simone. Sometimes unfairly dismissed as outsider art, cabaret’s influence is heavily felt in contemporary performance—its legacy informs our modern-day worlds of theatre, concert performance, drag shows, and stand-up comedy.
Cabaret is widely believed to have originated in Paris when Le Chat Noir opened in 1881. A Montmartre club that featured a broad spectrum of evening entertainment, much like what we might think of as a salon, Le Chat Noir quickly became a hotspot for artists of all stripes to experiment with new material. Previously, a cabaret had been defined as simply any establishment that served alcohol. But the new idea of arranging small tables to create an intimate and immersive environment for artists to perform in, along with a bohemian aesthetic and the large concentration of artists in the area, helped catapult Le Chat Noir into a local sensation, and eventually a global spotlight. Cabaret took off all over the world.
The appeal of cabaret is easy to understand. Its free-spirited zeal and loosely structured format lent it a wildness and a spontaneity that doesn’t always appear in more formal settings. It emerged with a counterculture streak, ready-made for political commentary and pushing the boundaries of accepted subject matter. It could afford to be risqué, and take its audience to places they don’t ordinarily go—places that are uncomfortable, unseemly, or otherwise inappropriate. But because cabaret can be so sophisticated and artful, this kind of dark side becomes intriguing and titillating rather than off-putting. Cabaret can tap into a collective unconscious, and provoke catharsis in myriad ways.
Meow Meow holds a deep affinity for cabaret, and for the sense of release it can provide:
The cabaret I love incorporates wondrous music with political satire mixed with out-and-out showbiz, high and low art (in the same breath), the ancient and modern, and astounding virtuosity. Also some kind of truth in delivery that makes us hear a song or an idea completely differently to the way we’ve always (or never) heard it that feels comforting, healing, or revelatory. It’s about the intimacy that can be created through the excitement of this “realness,” this spontaneity, regardless of the size of the performance space. And the countless wild stories that can be told in song after song—masses of human emotion and experience distilled, universal stories that feel completely personal, special, cathartic. An excitement or danger as we wonder where the performance will take us. An expectation that anything could happen, and those exquisite moments of genuine uncensored reaction where we cannot even understand why we are suddenly weeping or laughing! Enlightenment!
As cabaret established itself as a formidable generator of exceptionally talented artists, it proved a particularly adept vehicle for showcasing female performers who continued the tradition of the femme fatale, or “fatal woman.” As long as we have had stories, we have had representations of this archetype—the sirens of Greek mythology, the Sphinx, Jezebel. The image of the evil temptress is problematic, but cabaret put a different spin on it, embracing the “vamp,” which stems from the word “vampire.” The term originally conveyed largely negative connotations: a vamp used her prodigious powers of sexual allure for nefarious purposes. Early, overly moralistic stories triumphed in her vanquishing. But as cabaret appropriated the icon, the vamp began to signify a woman of strength, independence, talent, and flair, who might be aloof or alone, but would brook no compromise in being fully and truly herself. She possesses a unique ability to embody extreme sexiness and harsh reality at the same time. Meow’s take on the vamp is quite broad, and reveals a reverence for this dichotomy:
The long-term story of the “vamp” is not just the perceived glorious moment of iconization in the public eye, but also the lonely hotel rooms, the battles with politics and change and age, the solitary femme fatale dying poverty-stricken and alone, hiding away from the world behind veils and soft lenses and Parisian apartments. Perhaps it is an effort to retreat into memory? Or to maintain the mythology of untouchable beauty…
And then there are the heroines with no names, the unsung, unstrung girls, the rubble women, the women who wait, and the ones who just slipped out of life…
“Sarah Bernhardt’s missing leg,” or something like it, was the tantalizing title of a play I heard about and never saw in my youth. I’ve been thinking about the deconstruction and dissection of women ever since. And their resilience and images of voracity and veracity. The punishment of the femme fatale through history, art, film noir, the media…
And here is where things get subversive. What starts as a classic trope of the sexy lady, seen on mud flaps and beer ads the world over, gets twisted on its head when cabaret goes political. Meow is well aware that it’s so much more than some glitter, a revealing outfit, and a song. Since its Parisian beginnings in the 1880s, cabaret had always provided a home for satire and artistic commentary that challenged the status quo. But perhaps its pinnacle of political expression was reached during Germany’s Weimar Republic.
Germany after World War I saw an era of unprecedented artistic and intellectual activity. The government abolished censorship, and voices that were previously suppressed found new freedom to sound loudly. The quintessential images of cabaret that still spring to mind today date from this period. As Hitler’s power rose, however, cabaret was forced back underground, a moment immortalized by Kander and Ebb in the 1966 musical Cabaret, and the subsequent 1972 film.
The Third Reich essentially squashed anything that hinted of a rebellious spirit, but the scrappy and resilient cabaret proved it has a life force that’s impossible to extinguish. Its beating heart remained alive, and it thrived in New York and Paris, and today everyone from Bette Midler to Louis CK to RuPaul owes a debt to this groundbreaking genre.
Perhaps Meow summarizes best why this art form has proved its staying power:
I love the flexibility of a cabaret format to take risks—to be endlessly reinvented, to respond to the personal and political circumstances of the audience, the performer, the larger world environment. It is a vehicle built for changes, in all senses and for me, at least, drags its history marvelously with it. There is something also about a kind of exposure that is possible within a cabaret song—the vulnerability of a vocal fold or a human heart, or a viewpoint. There is always a sense of rawness, or perhaps just ‘realness,’ even when covered in sequins and lush chordal structures. It should be a dangerous and passionate mix of art and craft, heart, head, and spirit! It’s Life in macro-microcosm. How fabulous! I’ve made myself excited! Let’s put on a show!
There’s no one quite like Meow Meow. She has thrown her arms around the art form of cabaret—imagining, inventing, amalgamating, and appropriating, to create the stunningly unique performer we know today. Her influences range far and wide. But her heart lies with the vamps and vixens that cabaret gave rise to, and who helped bring her magnificent persona into being.
Some of Meow’s idols and influences
(As she says, “An array of fabulous and ferocious women stampedes its way nightly through my head. The exotic beasts and vipers all these women possessed, their capacity for self-sensationalism, the business of the body, the old business we call ‘Show.’”)
Anita Berber’s dances of “depravity, vice, and ecstasy”
Theda Bara poised over a human skeleton for a publicity still
Sarah Bernhardt photographed sleeping in a coffin to “better prepare herself for tragic roles,” her keening “golden voiced” recordings for Edison when she happened to be in New York, her performance for the condemned inmates of San Quentin State Prison
The Marchesa Casati’s wax reproductions of and for herself
Lola Montes on the Victorian goldfields
Alla Nazimova (“Herself”)—far from peacocks and pearls—in a Lucky Strike advertisement
Irene Andessner’s works on the Edison light-bulb-covered dancer Milli Stubel
Loïe Fuller’s experiments with light and shadow
As well as:
Meow Meow has a message for you
The über-award-winning comedienne takes a break from her glamorous photo shoot to deliver a tongue-in-cheek missive.
Meow Meow on TV
See the international singing sensation in her new TV spot.
Introducing Meow Meow!
Meet the international singing sensation and über-award-winning comedienne who’s opening our 2014–15 season.
Photos courtesy of kevinberne.com
Photos may not be used for commercial or personal use without written permission from Berkeley Rep, and unauthorized alteration, reproduction, or sale of these images is strictly prohibited. Journalists and other members of the media, please visit our online press room.
Listen to the official soundtrack to Meow’s award-winning show, Little Match Girl, which one reviewer called a “purrrfectly wild take on Hans Christian Andersen’s bittersweet fable.”
Docent talks and discussions
Pre-show docent talks
Meet us in the Theatre an hour before the show on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an engrossing presentation about your subscription-season play. Hear about the playwright’s perspective, dive into the historical context, and discover why the script is relevant right now. Each 30-minute talk includes plenty of time for your questions.
Post-show docent-led discussions
Join your fellow audience members after all matinees and share your thoughts on the show.
Our docents also offer talks off-site
- Wednesday, September 24 · 2pm—Moraga Library
Teen Night gives local teens the opportunity to meet for dinner and a behind-the-scenes discussion with a member of the artistic team before attending each subscription-season production at an extremely discounted price.
- Friday, September 5, 2014
Past Teen Night guests have included: Tony Taccone, Berkeley Rep’s Michael Leibert Artistic Director; Ray Garcia and Salvatore Vassallo, dancers in Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup; and Michael Suenkel, Berkeley Rep’s production stage manager.
Cap off your night with us after select evening performances throughout the season and sample wine, spirits, and other culinary delights from local vendors—all for FREE! Samplings begin immediately following the performance.
- Saturday, September 13, 2014
Stick around after select performances for lively Q&A sessions with our artists on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights.
- Thursday, September 25, 2014
- Tuesday, September 30, 2014
- Friday, October 10, 2014