Monday, January 26, 2015

Interview: Rachelle Rak Part 2! Sas Talks Mentors, EVERY LITTLE STEP, Valuable Lessons, and More

Broadway gypsy Rachelle Rak will take the stage once again at 54 Below on Thursday, January 29, singing her way through personal stories from almost 30 years of performing. I interviewed her recently for BroadwayWorld* regarding her show, and let me tell you, she has had so many awesome and raw experiences! She told even more stories in Part 1 of the interview, "Rachelle "SAS" Rak Opens Up About Fierce Perseverance Through an Extensive Gypsy Career." 

You might have seen her in Every Little Step, a documentary ironically about casting the revival of A Chorus Line. As heartbreaking as that musical is to begin with, the documentary was actually harder to watch because of situations like Rachelle's.  Below, check out what Rak has to say about mentors and harsh lessons learned in the theatre! 

Who are some people that you've learned from on your journey?

I would say Ann Reinking and Gwen Verdon gave me the greatest opportunities in [the original Broadway cast of] Fosse. I did not start as a featured dancer in anything. I was in three numbers in three and a half hours. And pretty much, when we were in LA, they were firing people, and I thought I was definitely on the roster, because I was not in the show. I was not a Fosse dancer, I hadn’t done a workshop, nobody knew me. They made fun of me, because I came in the first day in a leopard outfit and everyone else was in black. 

But I was so willing to learn the Fosse style just to be in the ensemble. So I stayed for every dance rehearsal and learned every number.  I wasn’t in many, but I learned how to do it. But then, for some reason, an opportunity came about, and I was the understudy. Somehow Ann kept seeing me work in the corner. And every time a female left the show, they moved me up. And it was a gift. I understudied Valerie Pettiford who was a class act to understudy.

I mean, it was life-changing, and it changed the way I danced forever.

So after years of doing [ensemble work], then I wanted to do other things. And then I got some other opportunities. But I’d have two shows in one year, and then nothing. Sweet Smell of Success and Thou Shalt Not were the same year, and I had done two workshops, and I chose [to go to Broadway with] Thou Shalt Not because I’d never worked with Susan Stroman. So I wasn’t the understudy for anything, because she told me I wasn’t innocent enough to play Therese Raquin. 

So begrudgingly, I accepted that news, you know, because I wanted to keep growing. And then something happened. One of the understudies was injured, one of them lost her voice, and [Stroman] said to me on 9th Avenue, “Do you think you could learn the part?” and I was like, “I thought I wasn’t innocent enough…” And in nine days, I learned the entire part of Therese Raquin with the New Orleans accent and went on. I mean, I had a stage manager at every wing telling me my cue line. 

It was crazy! But it was live. Like, you want to talk about feeling alive? That was all fear. 

And let’s talk about Every Little Step. That’s the first place I saw you. It was an amazing documentary, but oh my goodness, so incredibly heartbreaking.

Yeah, They spread the audition process out over this 8-month period, which they don’t usually do. Usually it’s tighter, but after four months of auditioning, I felt like I got the part. I mean, the buzz from people was all about me. My friend [Broadway lyricist] Scott Wittman said, “Oh yeah, I heard that Bob Avian really likes this ‘Rachel Rak.’” [laughs] 

And you know, I was doing Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the time.

I wanted this part, I lived the part, I was the part. This was it. Like, for me, I put every egg in that basket, and I was getting that part. 

And what they liked about me at my first audition, when I came back, they had asked me to change. And I remember coming back to the final, and they were like, “We’d like you to change that, and could you maybe pull your hair up?” and then it was, “We want you to do what you did last summer.” And I was like, “Honey, I don’t know what I did yesterday.” And that was the truth. 

And anyone that asks you that, now, without sounding disrespectful, it just sounds ridiculous, because the whole point of being in the moment is creating where you are that day. 

Unless you’re just blasting through  lines every night, you have to touch something personal when you’re talking about monologues, or you’re talking about playing Sheila, or whoever you’re playing. So that was a big let-down.

And then, I wasn’t invited to the premiere of the film Every Little Step, because I wasn’t cast, so I kept getting texts that night from friends who were in the cast who were like, “Sass, you’ve got to see this documentary.” And I was like, “Oh, well what did I say? Oh no…” 

So then all of a sudden, because of the buzz of this documentary, I did all these interviews with the New York Times. I mean, it was amazing, the LA Times did this whole story. 

And you know Sally, the one thing I will say about fate and irony, is it ended up the part that I didn’t get that I wanted, that was everything to me at the time, ended up giving me more respect, or just people understanding what I went through. 

I mean, everybody goes through that every day of their lives, but the notes that I got on Facebook from the gypsies saying, “Thank God somebody finally spoke up. Somebody finally said, ‘No, that’s not good enough. I need an answer today.’”


Also on Singular Sensation...

Interview: Rachelle "SAS" Rak Opens Up About Fierce Perseverance Through an Extensive Gypsy Career

Interview: Lorna Luft Talks 54 Below Debut, New York at Christmas, and More

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*Note: Italicized content was published on here while un-italicized content is exclusively on Singular Sensation!

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