Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spotlight On...Melissa van der Schyff

Name: Melissa van der Schyff

Hometown: Victoria, B.C., Canada

B.F.A. in Acting & minor in Music from The College of Santa Fe, N.M. (now called Santa Fe University of Art and Design) with a semester at The British American Drama Academy in London.

Select Credits: Bonnie and Clyde (Blanche Barrow, Broadway, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Nominations); Big River (Mary Jane, Deaf West/Roundabout Theater Company, 2004 Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater along with castmates); Pippin (Catherine, Deaf West and Mark Taper Forum, Jeff Calhoun director); An Italian Straw Hat (Virginia/Clara, South Coast Repertory Theater); Zhivago (Yelenka, La Jolla Playhouse); Bonnie and Clyde (Blanche Barrow, La Jolla Playhouse and Asolo Theater); Big River (Mary Jane, Deaf West Theater, Mark Taper Forum and National Tour)

Why theater?: It's the thrill of connecting with a live audience every night. The sense of community and team work among the actors, creative team and crew that has to happen to make a production fly. Onstage you have to be totally present and it's where I feel the most alive as an artist.

Tell us about Baby Case: Baby Case is the compelling story of the kidnapping of Charles and Ann Lindbergh's baby son in the 1930's. Charles was a huge celebrity at the time because he was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During the Depression era in America he gave the country hope of elevation out of their dire circumstances. He helped people to believe great things were possible. The kidnapping of his son was a huge media event and became a strange obsession and fascination for all, not unlike the sensation around the O.J. case, Jon Benet Ramsey case etc. There are so many amazing twists and turns in the story… it will keep you on the edge of your seat! Everything composer/book writer Michael Ogborn has included is based on fact, so when you gasp thinking something just couldn't be true or certain characters just couldn't have done this or that, guess again!

What is it like being a part of Baby Case?:
It's a whirlwind! We have 11 amazing actors in the company playing about 97 roles…so everyone is working together as a solid team to make this show happen. Composer Michael Ogborn has written a touching, eloquent and witty score that reminds me a bit of Assassins meets Chicago, yet is totally unique.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love any theater that is honestly trying to tell a good story. I grew up on plays and movies more than musicals so when I see a musical I love to see good actors as well as singers. There are so many artists that inspire me. I love Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers because they are always thinking outside the box and I feel a kinship to their sense of humor. As far as performances go, I am inspired when an actor sacrifices the temptations to be glamorous for truth. Like…hey..maybe don't wear false eyelashes if you are playing a homeless person…you may not look as pretty but your job is about helping the audience to believe the story you are telling. It takes a lot of bravery to just let it all hang out. I recently saw Jonathan Pryce in The Caretaker. He totally took on the character he was playing. It was inspiring.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: I would love to do some Shakespeare…To play Lady Macbeth would be amazing, I would also love to do an all out comedic role as I have a strong background in comedy and love physical comedy.

What’s your favorite showtune?: I am always partial to anything jazzy. I started out as a jazz singer so many tunes I actually heard for the first time as jazz standards and later realized they were showtunes. I also love Sondheim.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I would say Stephen Sondheim, Alex Timbers and Joe Mantello.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:
I think Kristen Wiig would be fun. I would call the movie "the girl with the really long last name but no dragon tattoo."

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I usually recommend Peter and the Starcatcher and Tribes

What’s the best advice you can give someone trying to make it in theater?:
To get good training and to have other interests that feed you as a person and an artist.

What’s up next?: I am working on a music project (I also write music) this summer. And look forward to more exciting roles in the fall!