Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spotlight On...John C. Hume and Mila Henry

photo courtesy of Jody Christopherson
John C. Hume. Johnnie (with an "ie") to my friends! And Mila Henry. Pronounced “MY-la”.

JCH: Born in Queens, NY, I moved to central Maine when I was 14 years old. That was a big change. After college I lived in Boston for a few years and I've been back in NYC for 10 years now.
MH: I’m from the Philadelphia area- born in Camden, lived both there and in Manayunk when I was really young, then moved to the Philly suburbs when I was eight, and grew up there through high school and college. I moved to NYC for grad school, and have been here for almost nine years. I came to the city regularly when I was growing up though, and always knew I wanted to live here.

JCH: I have a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, with a concentration in the performing arts. I also have an honorary degree from The School for Hard Knocks (LOL).
MH: I have a B.A. in Music from Elizabethtown College (in Pennsylvania), and a Master of Music in Vocal Accompanying from the Manhattan School of Music.

Favorite Credits: 
JCH: Acting roles? Antonio in The Merchant of Venice (I miss performing Shakespeare), Betty and Gerry in Caryl Churchill's Cloud 9 and Valentine in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia...all the math in that one really required some acting on my part!
MH: I’ve gotten to play Hindustani ragas in the band for Thumbprint (PROTOTYPE 2014), gospel in HARRIET TUBMAN: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom (American Opera Projects), and indie pop when I prepared singers for The World is Round (Ripe Time at BAM). It was also really rewarding to be a part of the music team for As One (American Opera Projects at BAM), a beautiful chamber opera depicting a sole transgender protagonist.

Why theater?: 
JCH: I've been performing for over 20 years now. Not regularly mind you but it's always been a part of my life and it always will be I think. Performing opened doors for me that (as Auntie Mame said) I didn't even know existed. I feel like theater people are my people. It's where I am most comfortable. Most myself. In my "day job life" I am the General Manager at Classic Stage Company so I am literally at the theater every single day...and I wouldn't have it any other way.
MH: I grew up playing for musical theater, and I even acted in our community theater during high school. I’ve always loved the collaborative aspect of putting on a show. That’s partly why I chose “Vocal Accompanying” as my focus in grad school- because I wanted to work in the theater, and therefore understand how to work with singers. My dad’s side of the family is also very theatrical (he produced, directed, and performed in a lot of regional theater over the years, and he and my half-brothers had a vaudeville show when they were really young…my brothers had various stints in the arts over the years too), and there was always good music playing in our house- everything from classical to Broadway, jazz to r&b/funk.

Tell us about "An Evening with John Hume and Mila Henry": 
JCH: I personally think the tag line for the show says it best: "Nine cabaret shows, six years, countless costume changes...and one incredible friendship." In our time we have sold out The Metropolitan Room, Don’t Tell Mama's and The Duplex and now we're ready to bring that Johnnie and Mila magic to 54 Below.
MH: Johnnie’s pretty much summed it up, but the idea of "An Evening with…" was to do a review of our favorite songs, both those we’ve done in shows past and those we’ve wanted to do. Miranda and Allison have been with us since the beginning, and Andrew joined us for our last show, the John Hume & Friends spinoff series (I love saying that). We’ve brought on Jody Shelton as director, moved to 54 Below, and have a mix of Sondheim, standards, Broadway favorites, and pop. Let’s just say there’s something for everybody. ;)

What inspired you to create "An Evening with John Hume and Mila Henry"?: 
JCH: Mila and I have been collaborating for six years. This is our tenth show together. When you have an artistic relationship that's been going strong for that long...well I think you have to celebrate that. We wanted an opportunity to celebrate our work and our friendship and this show is a great way for us to share some of our favorite memories of our time together, both off stage and on, with our audience. I also really hope there are some folks in the house on April 10th that don't know us cause we love making new friends.
MH: Like Johnnie said, we’ve been putting on shows for the past six years, and our first show was the beginning of a wonderful friendship as well. We wanted to highlight that by performing songs that speak to our friendship and different New York experiences, shared and independent. But unlike our past shows and Johnnie’s past scripts, this is not a “story” show or something with a “through-line”…this is more anecdotal. We were inspired by a lot of different genres and artists, and it was really hard to put together our final song list! In the end, we came up with a list that we thought would work best for us AND our team, but that still pushes us to try new things and keep it “fresh”, whether the song is old or new.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
JCH: Classical theater has also been my go to. Shakespeare, Chekhov...and I'm not just saying that because I work at CSC. There is a reason these works are categorized as "classics". They are timeless, universal. I love that! Musically I have to say Stephen Sondheim figures prominently into my world view. There's a level of storytelling going on in his songs that excites and challenges not only the singer in me but the actor in me as well. I can only hope the songs of his we perform in this show do the material justice. And oh! I'd also be lying by omission if I didn't mention Barbra Streisand. I know, I know! It's sound very stereotypical: "gay man loves and has been inspired by Babs." But it's true. It just flat out is.
MH: I love good music theater, whether it’s a standard or contemporary opera, a classic or rock musical, or some hybrid of any of the above. Now, I realize that “good” is a very general term and can mean a lot of different things to different people…I suppose for me, it means the work has something to say, is smartly written both in music and script, is entertaining and/or thought-provoking, and is unique in some way shape or form. I love shows that mix-up genres and styles, and that encourage a variety of vocal techniques and musical influences. As for inspiration, I’m inspired by anyone who is doing what they want to do and doing it like a rock star. I’m always seeing friends and colleagues perform, and I have a bad (or good?) habit of always thinking to myself, “Man, I want to do THAT!” because their performance is so inspiring to me.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
JCH: Barbra Streisand (LOL). No but seriously...Mila and I have cultivated a great group of performers over the years through our John Hume & Friends series. I look forward to meeting all the people we haven't met yet who, like us, love to perform and entertain. We love fostering new performers and welcoming them to the family.
MH: Broadway. It’s no longer my ultimate goal as it was when I first moved to New York, but it’s still a world I’d like to be a part of before I leave. Luckily, I’m not leaving anytime soon!

What show have you recommended to your friends?: 
JCH: Well I saw Melissa Manchester at 54 last week and I will say if you ever have the chance to see her live beg, borrow or steal to make that happen. She is an amazing performer. As for the th-e-a-t-er? Broadway? Hand to God hands down! Steven Boyer is amazing! I'm also hoping I have a chance to see Judy Kuhn (who I had the privilege of working with on CSC's production of Passion) in Fun Home. Hedwig, naturally. Off Broadway? Well our production of Hamlet starring Peter Sarsgaard is pretty damn cool. And I am also looking forward to Annie Baker's The Flick in it's new engagement at Barrow Street Theater.
MH: Well, my favorite Broadway show is Cabaret, and while I haven’t seen this latest revival (I saw the original 1998 production), I always tell anyone and everyone that they need to experience it. I also just saw Soho Rep’s An Octoroon at Theatre For A New Audience, and unfortunately, it just closed, but if it ever comes back or plays elsewhere…GO SEE IT. It was an absolutely amazing and mind-blowing experience, and surprising in so many ways…to try and describe it here wouldn’t do it justice (I’ve typed and deleted several things as an effort, but they all seemed like failed attempts), so just GO SEE IT. If it ever returns! Alas.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: 
JCH: Neil Patrick Harris would play me. They'd need a "song and dance" man. He doesn't have the cheek bones but they can do so much with make-up you know. The title? Well I'd leave that up to the Hollywood types but clearly it'll have to be based on my yet-to-be-written memoir which will (of course) be entitled "MY NAME ISN'T ABOVE THE TITLE, MY NAME *IS* THE TITLE!". As for the movie about me and Mila? I think that should be called "WHERE YOU LEAD" and it will (of course) feature the Carole King song prominently.
MH: Mary-Louise Parker or Maggie Gyllenhaal, and “Tales of a Musical Wallflower” or “(Almost) Almost Famous”. Not that I’ve ever thought about it. Oh, and for our joint movie, yes, I agree with Johnnie. Hint, hint for our show. ;)
JCH and MH: Though on that note, for the movie version of us, we both agree that Miranda July, as Mila, would be a great compliment to Neil Patrick Harris, as Johnnie!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: 
JCH:  I would have loved to experience a Ziegfeld Follies. I'm a little obsessed with the 1920's and the 1930's and I think the spectacle of it would have been amazing to behold.
MH: Hmm, that’s tough! I think I have to go the general route and pick the 1950s early 1960s- it was such a heyday for musical theater, when musicals were mainstream entertainment and SO many great hits were composed. Plus, from a style standpoint, I love the glamour and fashion of those eras.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: 
JCH: Brown liquor, consumed en-masse in the company of good friends. And cheese. I really like cheese. And Hostess fruit pies...I think that is the only thing on this list that really counts as something I should feel guilty about.
MH: Cocktails. Watching a good murder-mystery show. And I have this little habit of window-shopping on the J. Crew and Madewell websites, putting things in my “bag”, dreaming for a moment, and then deleting them because practicality interferes. There, I’ve said it. (Ah, but perchance to dream…)

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: 
JCH: Working in a library. Marian The Librarian. It's funny, I did work in the library at MIT when I lived in Boston so...this story could have turned out very differently if I had stayed on that path. Life would have been much quieter I think. And had fewer production numbers in it.
MH: Well, a part of me has always missed being ON stage as an actress or singer, even though my experience with that side of things stems solely from high school…however, the fun thing about doing what I do is that I’m still very much a part of the production, and once in a while I get to be a little more “ON” stage than “off” anyway! But on a completely non-theatrical note, I think I would be a photographer. Or an English teacher. “An English teacher, an English teacher, if only you’d been an English teacher…” See? Johnnie and I can’t help ourselves. It always winds up coming back to theater.

What’s up next?:
JCH: Whoa! I want to get through this one first! But a friend of mine and I have been batting around the idea of doing an adaptation of Titus Andronicus. I might like to direct...I did a lot of directing for the first time in a while last year and I loved it. Or I might want to give my Tamara Queen of The Goths. I don't know. Either way I think it would be a bloody good time!
MH: Well, I’m always planning future gigs…I call it the “artist hustle”! I’m music directing a workshop of a new opera called The Inner Circle, based on the research of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, produced by Opera On Tap and to be performed at The Brick Theater this June. Following that, I’m music directing a developmental reading for a new musical called Day of Wrath, based on Mary W. Shelley’s "Frankenstein", and to be performed at The New York Musical Theatre Festival this July.