Sunday in the Park with George's
Emily Van Fleet
Dot is Emily Van Fleet
The Denver Metro area has an array of actors that have put their mark on the community, with they're empowering performances and enduring creative passion. One that stands amount these amazing artists is one Emily Van Fleet. Now staring in the Arvada Center’s production of Sunday in the Park with George, the actress sat down with us earlier this week to talk about the Denver theatre community and how through it she became who is she today.
What drew you to theatre?
My family are theatre people, Which I think its kinda rare, well I don’t know if its rare or not. Most people I know stumble into it through a teacher or something at school but my family on my mom and dads side are involved in theatre and so when I was a kid, I would follow my dad around to rehearsals. On occasion I was allowed back stage if I was really good and I just got to experience the magic of it. I was completely entranced by the the whole thing and I love al of his theatre friends and all of them were so lovely and welcoming. I got the bug very early because of that. I just never really shook it, I got involved as early as I could in like community production, educational theatre and then did it in high school as well as doing college productions and professional productions of course I majored in musical theatre. As long as I can remember it has been apart of my life that I wanted to pursue.
The funny thing is I actually was really shy as a kid. Extremely shy. When I was a kid I used to hide behind my mom and you know I had trouble being around other people. Acting gave me that confidence that I didn’t have. It made me feel like you know I could do anything.
Favorite pre-show snack?
I don’t have a pre show snack that I like. That’s a great question!
I don’t like to eat too close before the show. But I have a tea, like a tea concoction that I make. It’s hot water with half a lemon squeezed in with a little bit of apple cider vinegar and honey. It like balances out the ph in your chords, then the honey or course coats it. And if its local honey supposedly it helps your allergies. I don’t do a show without it.
What is the one show tune that always finds its way into your head?
Right now it’s Everybody loves Louis, or Finishing the Hat. While I’m currently running a show, I don’t normally don’t have songs that I sing running though my head. But this one is unique because I just have to repeat the lyrics over and over to make sure I don’t bodge it. So that one is purposefully. I often though after I’m done with a show I kinda put it away. So I don’t recall those songs for a long amount of time its usual shows I never done that run through my head.
This is totally random because, I don’t- I think its Garth Brooke’s, and I used to l listen to Garth Brooke’s as a kid but I haven’t in a long time butI think it’s called The River. I have no idea where it came from, it just popped into my head three days ago and I still can’t shake it.
But yeah when it comes to music, I like to be surprised. I often will just put on a radio station, like I will pick a mood. I’m really into French bistro right now, or like pop hits of the 90s. I like being taken by surprise seeing what it inspires. I don’t like knowing what’s coming when I listen to music. My husbands the exact opposite.
First playbill you ever received?
Oh my gosh, I love that because I have a whole draw of playbills. A really significant moment in my life, and it might be the first playbill. I ever received. When I saw the San Francisco sit down production of the Secret Garden, for my tenth birthday my dad took me. I had read the book and I was obsessed with it. And I actually,-It was around the time I think there was also a movie that has also came out, and I really wanted to see the movie. I didn’t know the difference between the movie and the play at the time and my dad surprised me with the play and I was rally confused because i thought it was going to be the movie. But I fell in love with that show, and I got the souvenir program and memorized everything, I wanted to play every single role, Mary and Martha and then Louie, and Ive done one of them now. But it is to this day one of my favorite musicals.
Being a Colorado Native what has it been like to grow up with this theatre community that appears to keep gaining momentum as time goes on?
So, it was cool because I had some family in the theatre community on my mom’s side, my great aunt Bev Newcomb has been a director here for years and years. So I grew up watching her shows. And sorta being inspired by her presence in the community and her leadership. In fact my first audition at the Arvada Center was for a production of The Secret Garden when I was eleven, that she directed and I didn’t get called back or anything; she said I really needed to work on my singing. So I was like okay got it!
But so I was very inspired by that, in high school I worked at Boulders Dinner Theatre and waited tables or bussing tables and working back stage. That was I believe when Annaleigh Ashford was leaving, like she did a couple of shows there. I don’t really know her but like I was- you know I knew she was going to Manhattan and doing all of this stuff and I was inspired by that and then I went away to college at UNC in Greeley and did my own thing.
After that I moved to New York, and while I was in New York, Denver theatre bloomed even more like it was just growing and then I moved to Las Vegas and I would come back here and there to do some shows. But I always felt like I knew the theatre community but it was changing so much that I had a hard time keeping up and meeting gall the people. Since I have now moved back for good since March of 2015 I have been so blessed to work with so many incredible talented and multifaceted humans. You know I am so surprised but how many people perform, choreograph, writes plays or direct, while also producing stuff. I feel like there is a new theatre popping up every month and its just really really wonderful just to see this community that I feel in love with when I was a kid just grow and thrive and become …You know Denver theatre has such a presence you know in the national theatre market. So that’s really cool and I’m very proud to be apart of that.
Given the different roles you have taken on over the years, which role has spoken to you and taught you the most?
I learned something from every single role I play and It depends on you know, this role I have learned a lot but its less about myself. I mean I learned stuff about myself for sure, it’s just the fact I’m doing Sondheim before but not this much. So I just learned a lot about that especially the music. I just recently did a production of The Wild Party with Off Center, and that, you know Queenie feels so far removed from Emily. And I feel like I learn the most from the roles that I feel like are nothing like me. Because I learn the parts of me that are similar. Which I find interesting like the outgoing parts of her personality, because I believe or not I am an introvert and I need to be alone to recharge. But she is so not that person and because it was an immersive production it was all about connecting with people. So I, Emily, had to learn to like put aside the self conscious thing or the shy side of me, and just go up to a stranger and not care what they think of me. That you know was ….I learned a lot and I think grew a lot as a human being through her. That was a very valuable experience.
Every actor has them, what is your funniest mishap on stage?
Okay… I played Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun which was an amazing experience. One of my favorites! I had these really awesome like high waisted but they were very wide legged. But occasionally I would get my boot caught in it or whatever and I was like someday I am just going to fall during a show and its just going to be awkward. So it was the day, I had a performance on my birthday and the whole cast sung happy birthday to me and then the audience joined in and it was amazing experience. But the following night I went out for my final bows and we had a stage that was on a grade, and there is specific Annie Oakley music that plays, the orchestra swells and everyone gestures for me to come out. I ran out, my boot get caught in those pants and I took a nose dive, fell face first on the rack and probably slide a foot or two. Fortunately I caught myself so I didn’t hit my face, but my hands were all scrapped up, I busted not my pants but my tights underneath for some reason. But the entire cast, and audience just gasped, like this huge gasp, and I got up and went, “I’m okay!” and afterwards I ran into some of the audience members after the show, and they thought it was planned. It was too funny to care that much about it to be upset.
But that’s just me I am just a little bit clumsy. So some day I am hoping i don’t eat it in that dress that opens in Sunday in the Park with George.
What actor or actress inspires you?
Meryl Streep. What a talent, I mean she just no matter what she does. She always makes the most unique choice, they are always so grounded and honest, even if its out there and ridiculous. I admire a lot of actors. I didn’t really latch onto ….there is a lot of stage actors that I grew up around because my family is in theatre that I really admired. Rebecca Dime, she lives in the bay area, and Caroline Howard; none of these people you know but there is just so many stage actors that aren’t big name but do such incredible work and have inspired me. I feel like absorbing their process while sitting in rehearsals that my acting is influenced by that.
I found there is so much you can learn from actors by a finished produce. What interests me is their process, because everyone has so many different ways of doing it. Watching people work is where I learn the most from it.
What experience from previous roles did you draw from when approaching your current role as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George?
Previous Roles…..I tried to approach each role with a clean. But sometimes previous roles creep in. Dot’s very interesting because…she is a very well rounded fully fleshed to human. She’s just written that way she has very real emotions and thoughts she also very funny, as well as being angry and mean and very dramatic. You know sometimes you play role that sometimes just funny and sometimes it's a very heavy role but she has everything which is a gift. I sometimes I think of other roles that creep in, here and there I actually though have a lot of personal experience that I draw from for her.
Particularly with the relationship to George and I think a lot of people can relate there just those relationship that are just those relationships that are just so intense and passionate and amazing. It seems like it should work but for some reason it just doesn’t work. Also the idea of being with an artist, or being with someone who is …you know where their focus is drawn in some way and trying to connect with that person and after attempt after attempt it fails and you just can’t make that connection. It’s extremely painful, and I’ve been there. In fact Cole and I were talking about that too during the rehearsal process that he has been there too, we both have been Dot in that relationship. And how hard it is to go there because I think both of us had a hard time of going there at first, because it is a hard memory you kind of want to put that stuff away but that’s part of the job, so it’s …you know in some ways it’s therapeutic, it’s like, “Oh yeah it s a reminder of these things that I went through and how I much I have learned since then.”
That’s one thing I really did like about your performance in the show, you were very very personal. You could just see the reflection written all over your face at the end of act 2. I cried so hard.
Aw, it’s just so heartbreaking at no matter how hard she tires, and she tries hard. It just doesn’t work and she just..she has to move on. She’s also jus written so well, and it’s just a blessing to get to do a role that has just been written so well.
What is your favorite musical?
Well, right now Sunday in the Park with George, but Into the Woods. I learned to love it at a very young age in high school so I could probably sing the entire show right now!
What is your favorite movie?
Oh god… You know it’s hard. Favorites are hard for me cause I don’t have favorites of anything. My most recent favorite movie is Lady Bird,
Okay, how about this since Sunday in the Park with George is a musical, what is your favorite movie-musical?
I grew up watching the Sound of Music and I would dance around my grandmother’s living room, like the hills are alive spinning for my life. And I was obsessed with libels dress and I made my grandmother buy me one like that. It’s such …it’s so well done, the performances are incredible and I grew up with it.
Where do you love to travel?
I love Europe, I have been to France. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon, his friend was gracious enough to allow us to stay in his flat in Antibes, in Southern France, and so I studied French in high school and I love the food, the culture, I love the language. That might be my favorite place.
Emily’s upcoming projects include, her directorial debut in Creed’s Repertory theatre’s production of The Wizard of Oz running June 8th - August along with staring as Doralee in Creed’s production of 9 to 5. She can be reached at her website, emilyvanfleet.com