Published on December 15th, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: Christine Quintana
Christine Quintana is a talented, multifaceted performer. An actor, playwright, and co-Artistic Producer of Delinquent Theatre, she was recently honoured with the Sidney Risk Prize for Outstanding Script by an Emerging Playwright for the play Selfie along with a Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Musical, Small Theatre for Stationary: A Recession-Era Musical.
As the lead in the upcoming Vancouver production of Heathers: The Musical – the first time in Canada – she’s helping to bring life to a staple of 1980s pop culture in a whole new way. We caught up with Christine Quintana to get the goods on how the themes of Heathers can resonate on stage.
What is your involvement with Heathers: The Musical and how did that get started?
Our director David C. Jones approached me a few months ago to ask me if I was interested in playing Veronica in the musical version of Heathers. It was a lightning-quick meeting we both fit in between other meetings – so quick that I left thinking, did that just happen? But I’m so glad it did because here I am. Now I’m seeing my dang face on posters around town. Things happen fast sometimes!
What drew you to be a part of this production?
I have a terrible confession to make – I hadn’t actually seen Heathers. Not the movie, or the musical. But I knew about its cult classic status and I’d heard wonderful things about the musical. After I did a bit of research, I knew I wanted to be involved. It’s rare that you get a cast stacked with female leads, but that’s Heathers – Heather MacNamara, Heather Duke, Heather Chandler, Martha and Veronica all have incredible, meaty, rich material. The boys get to be the eye candy and comedic relief!
Can you share some of your creative process in preparing for the role – from the initial planning all the way to opening night?
I only watched the movie once – just to see the style and the iconic moments. I think with a show like this it’s important to nod to the origins, but the scenes and even plot points are different and I didn’t want to start getting attached to choices from the movie that no longer suit the musical.
Our rehearsal process has been very part-time over the last few months. I’m used to working in the traditional Equity process where you come together for two weeks, three at most and bang out the whole show working full-time. I’ve really enjoyed having a lot of time to let the material sink in, focus on one thing at a time. Without the pressure of having to turn out the shape of the show immediately because you head into tech in a week, there’s time to get to know the material well.
Right now, I’m focused on the guts of the show – going into those deep dark teenage feelings and mining the emotional truth of it. Once we get into runs, it’ll be time to fine tune the technical aspects of comedy – staying inside the show for the personal arc, but standing just outside enough to make those precise choices of timing and gesture that make the show as funny as it can be.
The preview performances will be essential to nailing down the rhythms of the show once we have an audience in the house responding – or not responding, as is sometimes the case – and making sure the audience doesn’t miss a beat. I can tell already that it’s going to be totally jarring to be in a moment that is a five alarm high stakes devastating situation for Veronica, and the audience might be laughing their asses off. But it’s only funny if it’s real for us – the comedy lies in the dichotomy between truthful moments and absurd situations in Heathers. Come opening night though, it’s time to put the script and my notes away and play for real.
What should audiences expect from this show?
Fierce singing, fierce dancing, and the sting of teenage angst that might hit a bit too close to home. Heathers: The Musical is hilarious and has killer music, but I think the real surprise for audiences will be the incredible cast. There are a lot of new faces on stage and I think people will be really blown away.
What are the three most important ingredients for a successful stage production?
I’m going to use the Heathers as my inspiration for this question:
Heather Chandler: Leadership.
It takes a lot of people to make this thing happen – we’ve got producer Lori Watt, director David C. Jones, stage manager Michael Brooks, musical director Steven Greenfield, choreographer Ken Overbey, and also lots more help even within the cast, like our dance captain Daren Dhyengco and music captain Steffanie Davis. Everyone has a unique job and important perspective to add to the production.
Heather Duke: Confidence.
I think in the performing arts, particularly in the theatre, we suffer from low self-confidence. Sometimes in Vancouver we feel like all the action is happening somewhere else or that theatre as an art form is somehow ‘less than’. We need to fight that, always – to believe that we’re worthy of audiences and that we’ve got something important to offer. We need to value our work and believe in its worth to our community.
Heather MacNamara: Vulnerability.
These two go hand in hand – it requires confidence to be vulnerable and vulnerability to be confident. Just the act of getting on stage or offering your art to the world requires tremendous vulnerability. In our working process we need to be open and generous with our scene partners and collaborators – that’s when the work gets good. It’s a lifelong practice to be comfortable with making yourself vulnerable, but it’s an essential ingredient for worthwhile art.
Are there any books or authors that have been influential to you so far in your creative journey?
I find this is a love-it-or-hate-it read, but I love True and False by David Mamet. I certainly don’t agree with the entire thing, but he nails some pithy, tweet-sized philosophies about how to approach work as an actor. Sometimes we can get so bogged down in our fears and distractions about the ‘industry’ – I gagged a bit just saying the word – and then also about our process that we lose the ability or focus to just get the f**k to work, as David Mamet would say it. There’s some great food for thought in there about putting your ego and fragility aside and just doing your damn job.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far in your career?
Very little will come to you on its own – you’re responsible for your destiny as an artist. Whether that’s a large-scale thing like producing your own work or creating opportunities for yourself to perform, or as simple as being clear on what you want from a rehearsal day and setting yourself up to achieve that objective, it’s up to you. And hey, you can learn something from the Heathers on this one – that takes leadership, confidence, and vulnerability. But it’s worth it – the hardest thing in this business, especially as an actor, is feeling like you have no agency over yourself or your work. Taking charge is the only way to feel like you’re moving forward.
What other projects do you have coming up and where can people find out more about you online?
I’m the co-Artistic Producer of an indie theatre company called Delinquent Theatre which has a show coming up in the spring called Never The Last. We’ll share all the details on our website and Facebook page. I also write essays and other things on my personal website.
Our thanks to Christine Quintana for speaking with us!
Heathers: The Musical runs January 6th to 17th, 2016 at The York Theatre, 639 Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. For tickets, call the Cultch box office at 604-251-1363 or order online.