Robin Rothman Taylor as Trudy Carmichael is just full of humor, light and energy. The solo improv performer, singer, actor, and creator of Trudy Carmichael Presents: The Improvised One-Woman Herstory, opening at the returning FringeNYC has the kind of show that typically keeps going way past the dates of any festival. Still, don't risk missing this evening of unexpected entertainment. In this interview with this very talented young lady, we catch up with her to get a better sense of what to expect from her much talked about show.
Q: When did you begin improvising plays/musicals and why?
Robin Rothman Taylor: I began my training in improv comedy at The Upright Citizens Brigade in 2006 and discovered the world of long-form musical improv from a team called, "I Eat Pandas." I fell in love with this form immediately because it combined both of my passions: improv comedy and musical theater. The idea of making up an entire musical on the spot was so exciting to me and I instantly wanted to find a way to do it myself. It was an opportunity to create my own work while exploring a new art form and also grow as a performer.
Q: How many improvised One-Woman Shows have you performed?
Robin Rothman Taylor: I began performing this type of improvised One-Woman show as Trudy last April. Locally, I've performed at The Duplex, Sid Gold's, The Kraine, SOLOCOM at The People's Improv Theater and The 20th Annual Del Close Marathon (UCB NY). I've also toured to the Providence Improv Festival, Third Coast Improv Festival (Nashville, TN), Downtown Las Vegas Improv Festival, LIT Fest (DC), We The People Improv Festival (Philadelphia) and Impro Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Q: What kind of performances are you best known for or would like to be know for, in terms of genre or style?
Robin Rothman Taylor: At one time I would have considered myself primarily a musical theater artist, but these days I find myself working more and more in the realm of musical improv comedy. The style or genre that I have been focusing on with these Improvised One-Woman shows is definitely that of Cabaret. There's quite a bit of storytelling and breaking of the fourth wall that occurs in these pieces that then gives way to a song. I love performing in intimate spaces so that I have access to the audience and can respectfully engage them in each show and give the piece a more immersive feel. The audience is what makes each show so unique and special.
Q: What inspired you to create this most recent work? How long have you been working on it and how has it evolved?
Robin Rothman Taylor: Years ago during a family trip to Las Vegas, we happened upon a very old school Vegas lounge act at the Barbary Coast Hotel and Casino. I loved the kitschy aesthetic of the singers and musicians and I was instantly inspired to create a character-driven improvised Las Vegas Musical Review called, The Royal Flushes. When I returned to New York, I recruited another improviser whom I had met while performing at The Jekyl & Hyde Club and hired one of the performers from "I Eat Pandas" to direct us. We were all tasked with improvising characters during one of our first rehearsals and it was there that Trudy Carmichael was born!
I have now been performing as Trudy for a little over 10 years in many different incarnations: Host of The Musical Magnet Mixer at the Magnet Theater, Mistress of Ceremonies for a variety of charity fundraisers and private organizations and as a competitor in singing competitions like The New York Soul Sensation Competition at New World Stages and The Cabaret Show Down and The Cabaret Show Down All-Stars - (for which I won First Place) at the Kraine Theater!
Over the past year,Trudy has evolved into more of a solo Cabaret performer. She had become accustomed to playing host or Emcee, but now the focus is all on her and she really prefers it that way!
Q: What do you think is unique or worth discussing about your current work?
Robin Rothman Taylor: To my knowledge, no one else is doing this type of format for a solo improv show at this time. There are many fantastic solo improvisers and musical improvisers who are creating one-person shows and musicals on the spot - but what I think sets my show apart is the fact that this is a character-based piece. I perform not as myself, but as my character Trudy Carmichael. What's more, I've added another layer in Trudy Carmichael Presents: The Improvised One-Woman Herstory in that Trudy plays one or more characters based on an audience suggestion of an historical or fictional female figure. I feel that this layer adds a bit more intrigue to the form - plus a feminist twist as there are so many phenomenal strong females from history who have never been written or sung about and they are deserving of the spotlight! I have been yearning for the opportunity to highlight strong female characters, many of whom remain underrepresented in the theater, in a bold and humorous way and the conceit is that Trudy is always on the prowl for new and exciting roles in which to sink her teeth. With the help of the audience and their suggestions - she will FINALLY have the opportunity of a lifetime to perform a juicy - possibly award-winning role that is worthy of her talents!
Q: What's the most unique or fascinating part of your FringeNYC show in general?
Robin Rothman Taylor: It bears repeating that every show is completely improvised - from every note, word of dialogue and lyric that is sung. Therefore each show is completely different and tailored to the audience based on the suggestions that they provide. None of this is possible without the remarkable band. They are composing music together on the spot and providing the backbone of the show with their incredible musicality. Pianist Frank Spitznagel is the Musical Director at Magnet Theater and has composed for Comedy Central and the Aspen Comedy Festival. He has accompanied Itzhak Perlman in an original jazz composition by Benny Golson at Lincoln Center and also played the American premiere of The Hired Man Off-Broadway. Percussionist, Steve Whyte has performed with numerous scripted bands and provides improvised percussion for Choral Rage, The Made Up Musical and Baby Wants Candy. Trombonist, Dan Reitz is the musical director of the musical improv shows Baby Wants Candy, Your Love Our Musical, Vern, and Blank! the Musical. His credits include Off Book, North Coast, Premiere: The Improvised Musical and Musical Megawatt. He has taught musical improv comedy around the world including at Princeton University, The New York Film Academy, Sarah Lawrence College and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Q: Where would you like to see this particular work go from here?
Robin Rothman Taylor: My absolute dream is a residency at larger venues like Joe's Pub, Birdland and 54 Below. The ultimate goal is to garner enough popularity that would allow me to pack the house at The Duplex or Sid Gold's any night of the week! Last year I toured a previous incarnation of this show regionally and internationally to Improv Festivals from Nashville to Las Vegas to Amsterdam and it was wonderful experience. Other international circuit goals are the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe Festivals - so I am laying the groundwork for more touring. This show is self-contained so it can be performed anywhere from a 1,200-seat theater to an elementary school cafeteria - which, incidentally is where I will be performing for FringeNYC!
Trudy Carmichael Presents: The Improvised One-Woman Herstory
Join FABULOUS Las Vegas lounge legend, Trudy Carmichael (and her band) as she takes YOUR suggestion of an historical/fictional female figure (plus a few of your personal effects) to create an entirely improvised, hysterically historical musical BEFORE YOUR EYES!!
Performances (click on date to purchase Tickets)
SATURDAY, October 13 @ 7:15
TUESDAY, October 16 @ 9:00
FRIDAY, October 19 @ 9:15
SUNDAY, October 21 @ 5:15
WEDNESDAY, October 24 @ 7:15
For tickets visit: www.trudycarmichael.com
NOTE: FOR THIS YEAR’S NYC FRINGE FESTIVAL AUDIENCE MEMBERS MUST MEET AT THE “FRINGEHUB” AT LEAST FIFTEEN MINUTES PRIOR TO SHOWTIME IN ORDER TO BE ESCORTED TO THE VENUE WHERE THE SHOW IS TAKING PLACE. LATECOMERS WILL NOT BE SEATED
FRINGEHUB LOCATION: 685 WASHINGTON ST. @CHARLES ST. NEW YORK, NY 10014
(LINE UP AT LIGHT BLUE FLAG FOR OUR SHOW).