Behind the Scenes: The Cast of ‘Sophisticated Lady’13 Sep 2015, by Interviews in
Mama Alto, Ilana Charnelle and Satta portray three legendary songstresses of the past; Billie Holiday, Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald; in the upcoming show, ‘Sophisticated Lady: A Nightcap with Billie, Judy and Ella’.
Before their Auslan interpreted performance at Hares and Hyenas, they spoke with Auslan Stage Left about the show, their relationship with the deaf community and the importance of access.
ASL: How did you three come to make a show together?
ASL: Tell us about your feelings about the iconic women you are playing in Sophisticated Lady.
Mama Alto: I’ve listened to Billie Holiday’s music for as long as I can remember, and she has always been a role model for my singing, but I first played her for the theatre in Neil Cole’s play ‘An Audience with Billie Holiday’ in 2014. To me, Billie is not only an extraordinary singer and consummate musician, but also a captivating and complex person. Her philosophies on life, the psychology of her mind and her emotions, and her stunning empathy for the human condition; these are things which we might overlook about her, but when you look again, it’s all right there in her songs. The reason people still listen to their songs, and arguably the reason that the greats retain their popularity, is because they manage to express feelings and experiences that are universal. Billie’s still relevant to us today, and even if you can’t put your finger on why, you can feel it when you hear her sing.
Satta: Ella Fitzgerald has been such an inspiration, not specifically to my songwriting, but how I feel a song. I started performing at fourteen, and feel that music is such a powerful way to communicate. My songs are personal and intimate… Ella taught me what it’s like to put feeling into a song and simply be lost in it, but also enjoy it! I feel I’ve had similar experiences to Ella in terms of being a kind of bandleader. Whilst Chick Webb’s passing allowed Ella to lead the orchestra, I’ve initiated both my bands, seeking out musicians and being a driving force of organisation and structure, sometimes acting as a sort of manager. Ella is one of my inspirations, such an incredible vocalist and beloved across generations.
Ilana Charnelle: I first paid homage to Judy Garland in performances at ACMI’s Hollywood Costume exhibition in 2013. Being a foot away from that checked dress she wore in The Wizard of Oz, allowed me to form a bond, a connection. Judy taught me that music is a way of opening up. It is raw and confronting, and makes you vulnerable, but it’s how one can truly live. That’s what I’ll be keeping in mind as I return to play her again. I feel honoured to be able to share her story with more people. I hope they will find their special connection with Judy as I did that day at ACMI.
ASL: What drove you to provide an Auslan interpreter for your show?
ASL: What would you say to encourage other independent theatre makers to provide access to their performance for the deaf community?
Ilana Charnelle: I have been absolutely astounded by the way that young, independent theatre makers are committing to providing access in a way that we are still waiting for larger theatre companies to. It makes me so proud! I believe that every one is able to provide an Auslan interpreter, but people often don’t know where to start. I’m proud to be a part of an organisation like Auslan Stage Left that is committed to guiding people through the process of having an Auslan interpreted show, including catering to a variety of different needs and negotiating to different practitioner’s requirements. Having an Auslan interpreter will not only open up your show to a whole new audience, it will engage hearing patrons and provide awareness of Auslan and the deaf community. It’s a simple, achievable way to start making your shows more accessible.
Thank you to the cast and crew of Sophisticated Lady for keeping access a priority. Sophisticated Lady will be Auslan interpreted on Tuesday September 29th at 8:30 pm. Click here to book tickets to see Sophisticated Lady!