Brelby Theatre Company is dying to show you the Arizona premiere of Jasper in Deadland this summer. In our newest blog series, “Diving In” we sit down with the production team to learn more about themselves, their theatre experiences, and their thoughts on Jasper in Deadland.
This blog features Shelby Elise Maticic (Director/Choreographer) and Helen Morris (Music Director).
Shelby: Helen! I’m so excited to have a little digital convo with you. I’ve loved having you as our music director for Jasper. Why did you apply for the gig in the first place?
Helen: Shelby! I have absolutely LOVED music directing Jasper and working with you. I applied to MD for a couple of reasons. Firstly, everyone sings Brelby’s praises, and never working with Brelby before, I wanted to be a part of it! Secondly, I adore the music for Jasper. It’s upbeat and modern and fun, and felt like a score I could really get into. What has been your favorite part of Jasper so far?
Shelby: I think my favorite part is always around this point in a production. I love watching the pieces come together. The cast starts getting into a groove and really embracing their characters. We’re starting to use props, watching the set assemble more each day, and we’re getting peeks at the beautiful design work. Most theatre people joke about tech week being a nightmare, but it’s actually my favorite. I look forward to Q2Q every show. We potluck, bond, and get to see the show looking like a show. (I’m also just loving the group that we assembled. They’re working so hard, and they are consistently building one another up. It’s the best.) What about you? What has your favorite part been?
Helen: I was just thinking about how fortunate we are to have the group that we have. Even from auditions, everybody was constantly supporting each other, it really felt like everyone was coming together through the songs and through the show as a collective group, and it has just carried on totally throughout the whole process. Everyone is incredibly talented, and also so humble; willing to learn and change things on a whim and tolerate our last minute changes and tweaks (haha) and I just really am happy to look forward to coming to rehearsal every day. Also, watching the show come to life more and more as we get into the home stretch is SO exciting. You can’t help but smile when you see that phrase or that song just take on a whole new meaning. And it takes serious work to bring these non-human characters to life. Haha. What made you want to take on such a fantasy / mythological show like Jasper?
Shelby: Jasper in Deadland ticked a lot of boxes for me. I stumbled across it on Spotify a while ago when I was listening to 35mm, another of Ryan Scott Oliver’s pieces. I thought the music was infectious. I wandered around singing “Stroke by Stroke” and nobody around me knew what it was from…which is usually a sure sign that I want to produce something. I love introducing quirky new musicals to our community. This one struck such a chord. It was about loss, but it was also about loss of connection, and it’s something that I think we all go through with the invention of social media. We’re busy and we’re more connected than ever, but when you see your friends posting about adventures and events that you aren’t a part of it’s easy to feel disconnected. So…new musical, awesome story, relevant themes, and throw in mythology? It felt like it was a perfect fit for our little theatre. There are a ton of moving pieces to this show and the story within it. Have you found any part of this show to be more challenging than you first thought it would be?
Helen: I definitely underestimated the amount of music that was in this show. The cast recording on Spotify that I listed to religiously before getting the score seemed like such an attainable task.. Then when we got the score and there were twice the amount of songs.. I panicked slightly. Haha. Putting the music together and arranging all the cues and lead-ins has been like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – it’s been challenging to time everything out to fit the needs of our specific production. But once it all comes together, it makes all the work SO worth it. I do have a much more heightened appreciation for the musicality of this score, despite the many trial and error moments I had while tweaking it for our show. Did you have any specific setbacks you weren’t expecting while working on this show?
Shelby: You mean other than the cast plague? Haha. Seriously at least once per show everyone shares an illness. My biggest challenge was the scope of the show. It took me quite a while to balance the characters of this show into tracks for our cast. There are over 100 individual characters. Seriously. Our ensemble is amazing. They’re kicking butt and working so hard. Were there any characters that you didn’t expect to love but have grown on you?
Helen: Well there definitely are a lot of characters to choose from. I love Hel & Loki, they absolutely crack me up every time they come on stage. And Dante’s entire song and scene is one of my favorite parts of the entire show. Despite the somewhat tragic storyline of Jasper & Agnes, there are so many little comedic gems laced throughout all the characters they encounter, and I am so impressed by the versatility of the ensemble and all of the roles they play. They have definitely worked and prepared. Going into tech week and opening night, do you have any typical preparations and rituals you do to keep yourself sane? 🙂
Shelby: I do! Due to our production calendar, I’m in some sort of tech almost every month…so I definitely have things that keep me going. I block out an hour in the morning for coffee and administrative catch-up. I also rely on pep talks from and for friends. Sending a little note about how great we’re all doing can make all the difference. We’re huge on atmosphere and being uplifting, so for shows that have much bigger stress loads than others…I try to set up ways for casts to show each other appreciation. I also love to make show shirts for my cast. It’s one of my favorite things about tech week. 🙂 You’re also an “old pro”. This is obviously not your first show…what was your first theatrical production?
Helen: My first theatrical production was in fourth grade – we did an entire musical production about the solar system, and I was one of the hip-hop backup dancers while the entire grade rapped about Jupiter. I was SO SHY in school, and will never forget how embarrassed I was. Haha. Makes for a really good story, though! Theatre is clearly a huge part of your life, haha – what was your first production that started it all?
Shelby: I played a Narrator in a summer camp 3 Little Pigs skit…but my first true theatrical production was a self-produced play called “The Girl Who Cried Help” when I was in 6th Grade. It was an adaptation of The Boy Who Cried Wolf, warning of the dangers of pretending to drown…complete with a cardboard box ambulance. High drama. I made art with my best friends, and it was probably the first time I realized that I could do that. Okay, I’m ready for rapidfire sequence of quick get to know you questions. First up…favorite band.
Helen: City and Colour! Dallas Green’s voice melts me. Favorite animal?
Shelby: Otter! They hold hands…and they have pockets! Favorite food?
Helen: Does coffee count as food? I think I consume more of that than actual food. Bahaha. Favorite song (right now)?
Shelby: “In Case You Don’t Live Forever” by Ben Platt. That’s actually a great one. What’s your current fav?
Helen: Right now, I’ve really been jamming out to “Wait for Me” from Hadestown. Favorite place in the valley to hangout?
Shelby: “I’m Cooooooomiiiiiing”. I swear that I can’t get that out of head since their Tony’s performance. My favorite place to hang is right across the park from Brelby. I love grabbing a cocktail with friends at Cuff. Zach is the best bartender, and their brussel sprouts are to die for. Favorite movie of all time?
Helen: You introduced me to that place! The margaritas there.. YUM. Favorite movie is probably The Illusionist. So beautiful. Favorite actor?
Shelby: It’s a tie between Kristen Bell and Celia Keenan Bolger. Bucket list location you’d like to travel to?
Helen: Ireland! It looks so green and peaceful. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Shelby: Either a construction worker or a server at Baskin Robbins. Which character in Jasper in Deadland do you relate to the most?
Helen: Probably Hathaway. Bahaha. He’s cool and collected when he needs to be, he hypes up his friends (Lethe), but is NOT to be reckoned with when people wrong him. Hahaha. I aspire to be as snazzy as he is, too. What about you?
Shelby: I love that answer. I think I connect with Eurydice. She’s striving to be a guide for those in need, a beacon to lead them to what’s best for them, but with a slightly tragic backstory. I also look my best in blue. 😉 Okay last question. What do you hope people feel when they walk away from this show?
Helen: With any production, I always hope audiences are able to experience a short escape from the real world and whatever is going on outside of the theatre doors. With this show specifically, I really hope people walk away empowered within their relationships and friendships. This story has so many different relationship dynamics tied within each other, and every one is so important to the storyline. I hope people can relate to at least one of these dynamics, and take each little happy ending with them into their own relationships and friendships. Plus I hope they jam out to the music, too. 😉 You?
Shelby: I hope that they feel inspired to check out more of Ryan Scott Oliver’s music. He’s underrated, and one day he’s going to be super famous, I swear. I also hope that they have a strong desire to keep supporting the scrappy little theatres in town. There are a lot of us, and we’re doing some interesting and entertaining things. Check us out!