Mary Bridget Davies brings her Tony Award®-nominated performance of Janis Joplin to St Paul in A Night with Janis Joplin, March 29 – April 3. Before she takes the Ordway stage, Mary sat down with me to discuss Janis, her career, and what its like bringing a rock-n-roll legend to life.
How did you first become interested in performing?
I started dancing at 3 years old. We even have the footage of my first dance recital where I completely forgot the routine and bumped into my friend, spending most of the time waving to my family. When the crowd applauded at the end, I was hooked. You could see it. I folded my hands on my tutu and just absorbed it all. You could hear my Grandmother in the background saying something to the effect of “uh oh, we have a ham in the family!”
Every performer has that moment where it just “clicks” and they know performing is what they want to do for a living. What was that moment for you?
I was in college studying performing arts and was so frustrated with waiting. I wanted to be working NOW so I auditioned for an improvisational comedy company. As soon as I was cast, I quit school and began working at UPS from 3am-9am loading package trucks to support myself.
You’ve been a part of A Night with Janis Joplin for years. You’ve toured the country for two years before the show opened on Broadway, you originated the role on Broadway, and now you’re touring with the show again. What is it about this show that keeps you coming back for more?
Janis was one of the most authentic and emotionally invested performers in the world. It is the greatest job ever. She started with the blues and so did I. There is a freedom in that genre of music that is so powerful and I get to do it every day. My personal experiences are quite similar to hers. I get to exorcise my demons through her onstage. It’s cathartic
You play Janis Joplin, how would you describe her in your own words?
Lonely, playful, hilarious, intelligent misunderstood, underrated.
How did you prepare to take on this role? Is there any added pressure in portraying a real person opposed to a character written for a show?
As a fan of hers, I have accidentally been preparing for this role my entire life. The responsibility to accurately execute such a formidable legacy is enormous. I am nervous every show because there are those who saw her the first time around out in the crowd. Everyone misses her and wants her back. It’s my job to give them what they came for and it’s tough!
What do you hope the audience takes away from A Night with Janis Joplin?
The tableau of Janis is a feathered, whiskey soaked banshee shrieking her way across the stage. She was SO much more than that. Hopefully the crowd will get to know her true personality a little better. Not only that, her influences! These iconic women: Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Odetta, Nina Simons and Bessie Smith! There are performances by all of them and Janis informs the crowd of the artists and when she fell in love with them.
A Night with Janis Joplin plays in Saint Paul at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts March 29 – April 3. For more information on the show or to get tickets visit the Ordway’s website.