Knewyu: What’s your name, where are you from and what do you do?
Laryssa: My name is Laryssa and I’m an American originally from a small town in Minnesota. This is my final term as a student in the MFA Acting program at the Birmingham School of Acting. I am acting, music directing, and producing for Borderline Confrontational.
K: Tell us more about Borderline Confrontational. How did the collective start?
L: What would become Borderline Confrontational started through a desire to collaborate with other people at BSA outside of my cohort. I came up with the idea to start some sort of musical project on a plane back to England after going home unexpectedly last January during my second term. After experiencing anxiety, growing pains, and general difficulty adjusting to life in England, I realised I would be much happier if I could meet more people within the school and form connections with them. I went to my friend and now co-founder, Amelia, and asked her what she thought of the idea. She was automatically supportive of it and went into action mode with the project.
For our first project, we performed a musical theatre song cycle called Fugitive Songs by Miller and Tysen with a group of about 20 BSA students across every single course in BSA. The music in Fugitive Songs was about being on the run from experiences, people, emotions and places. Being that we are both Americans and have been running around the United States and now to England, we identified with the themes in this project and wanted to share them with our British collaborators.
This year we staged a cabaret called “We Are the Authors of Our Own Story,” with numbers from various musical theatre and pop songs. This was also met with great success and support from students at BSA.
It has always been a dream of mine and Amelia’s to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe and our cabaret provided us with a group of actors we were interested in recruiting to start our next and biggest musical venture yet. Amelia suggested we bring Godspell to the Fringe and I enthusiastically agreed, which has led us to where we are now.
As an international company with members from all over the United States and Great Britain, Borderline Confrontational is interested in creating theatre that works across cultures and borders. We wish to create work that traverses the borders of emotions, experiences, and imagination.
K: I hear that Borderline Confrontational will be performing ‘Godspell’ at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. What is Godspell all about? How long have you been working on it?
L: Yes, we will be bringing Godspell to the Edinburgh Fringe from 22-27 August. Godspell is a re-telling of the parables in the gospel of Matthew with music by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin). It’s a hodge-podge of quirky characters, stories, and songs. While the show has obvious religious themes, I believe it’s ultimately about a group of people forming a community to create a better world. Religious or not, it’s full of stories people from all walks of life can identify with and enjoy.
We started rehearsals in April but are still in the early stages at the moment as we have primarily been working on the group numbers from the show to include in our fundraiser this week. Everyone is busy working on productions for their respective courses, so we’ve been taking advantage of every spare evening we’ve had to put together our fundraiser. We will start full-time rehearsals for the production in mid-July after our courses end.
K: You will also be performing at BCU (Birmingham City University) on the 2nd and 3rd of June. What do you want students (and others) who see your performance to take away from it?
L: Ideally we would like everyone to enjoy the show so much that they will give us their support as we embark on our journey to the Fringe. We need as many monetary donations as we can get in order to financially bring the show to Edinburgh, but we also need to spread the word about the show to anyone who may be around Edinburgh for the Fringe in August. We have a variety of musical theatre and pop songs loosely structured around the theme of God. Some are questioning God, some are a send up of God, and some are calling for rebirth. The show is meant to be thought-provoking as well as entertaining for those of all religions, as well as those who don’t identify with any religion.
K: What has been your highlight of the acting collective so far?
L: My highlight has been creating musical theatre with students from across the different courses at BSA who would otherwise never have had the chance to work with each other. As sappy as it sounds, I love bringing people together through music and there’s nothing better for a musical director than hearing a group of individuals sing together in beautiful harmony for the first time. I’ve been lucky to help create a strong community of artists I will hopefully work with again in the future.
K: Where/how do you see it growing a few months or years from now?
L: In the next few months, I see Borderline Confrontational gaining more exposure around Birmingham as we continue our fundraising process. We hope to start this at BCU and then branch out into the community. As this is our home base, it would be great to form a foundation of support within Birmingham before traveling to Edinburgh. We hope to do this by partnering with any interested local businesses and performing sets of songs at other venues in Birmingham. While we’re in Edinburgh, I see us having a successful run, as only 3% of the shows put on at the Fringe are musicals. We have an excellent opportunity to attract audiences seeking to see a well-known musical performed by an exceptional cast. Networking is huge in Edinburgh and I believe we will be able to form connections with other theatre companies in the UK and around the world. The company is in its infancy and the Edinburgh Fringe will be an opportunity to dip our toes in the water and take our first steps toward expanding the company.
In many respects, Godspell has been a learning process and given us opportunities for future growth. When establishing a theatre company, there are many hoops to jump through and ropes to learn, but I feel we’ve already gained an adeptness that will allow us to expand the company. With roughly a quarter of our company returning to New York City within the next two years, I see an opportunity for part of the the company to branch off and create a cross-country partnership. We would be fulfilling our cross-cultural mission by having a core company in England with transplants in the United States as well. We’ll cross that border when we get there…
K: What tips can you give to aspiring actors?
L: I feel like I’m hardly qualified to be giving tips to aspiring actors because I am also still aspiring, but I’ll do my best! It’s very important to take initiative and to have the work ethic and tenacity to create your own opportunities. There won’t always be someone there to give you the work you want, so you have to go out and forge your own path as an artist, whether that’s bringing a show to the Fringe, putting on a cabaret, or writing your own web series. Above all, it’s important to be kind and forgive your mistakes. There are enough people out there who will negatively criticise your work, but you don’t have to be one of them. At the end of the day, you are your own best advocate.