Just like Whitney Houston, "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way." On the heels of interviewing TADA's founder Janine Nina Trevens, it's with great pride that I get to interview TADA! Youth Theater's Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Joanna Greer who is directing and choreographing their revival of The Gumball Gang: Crime-Solving Kids, written by Jim Colleran.
In The Gumball Gang: Crime-Solving Kids, The Gumball Gang try to solve the Case of the Missing Masterpiece from January 22-February 15 at TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th Street, 3rd Floor). Click here for tickets!
1. You are directing and choreographing The Gumball Gang: Crime-Solving Kids at TADA! What brought you to TADA! and how do you feel you've grown as a director/choreographer from working there? I started as a Teaching Artist in 2002, was promoted to Resident Choreographer in '04 and then happily settled into my current role as Associate Artistic Director in '05. It’s been a wonderful progression. Sheer experience has helped me grow as a director/choreographer. I am constantly able to be creative and sharpen my skills whether it’s in the classroom or on the MainStage.
2. What is your favorite part about being a director and choreographer? Is it a challenge to differentiate between the 2 roles? My favorite aspect of serving as the Director/Choreographer is that the role is seamless. One should never know where the direction ends and the choreography begins. To me, that is great storytelling. I feel deeply rooted as an artist when I am doing both. I learned from the best, Jerome Robbins, Susan Stroman and Bob Fosse.
My vision of the show feels like one solid thought when it comes from me. Of course you are constantly collaborating, but it requires you to dig deep inside yourself to express the journey of the show.
3. What made you want to direct/choreograph The Gumball Gang: Crime-Solving Kids? I was the choreographer for the world premiere of, The Gumball Gang: Crime-Solving Kids in 2007. I’ve always had an affection for the show, particularly Jim Colleran’s electric score. It’s right up my alley! I knew it was time to revive this show for a new generation of actors and audience.
4. Why should someone buy a ticket to The Gumball Gang? It’s everything you could ever want in a musical: Superb talent, impressive singing and dancing, witty writing and a jammin' score. Not to mention, that it’s high energy fun with a great deal of comedy and heart. It’s perfect for all ages!
5. What do you enjoy most about being involved with children's theatre and what challenges do you encounter? I admire the curiosity and eagerness that young actors posses. I am humbled to be the person that can share that knowledge and watch our young performers grow on stage and off.
I would say the biggest challenge is the stigma children’s theater often faces. There is a feeling that it should not be taken as seriously as professional adult theater. Therefore, we don’t always receive the proper and necessary funding that we need to thrive. Theater is theater in my opinion. We deserve legitimate reviews just like any other show.
6. In this show the kids try to solve The Case of the Missing Masterpiece. What do you consider to be a masterpiece in your life? Two words, Miles and Liza. My two beautiful children are hands down my finest production. Just like a true masterpiece, they take a great deal of care and preservation. I marvel at all of their beautiful talents and am constantly astonished by them.
7. Since the show is titled The Gumball Gang, what is your favorite gumball? Red of course! My favorite color since I was a child. Although, the cast would beg to differ since I’m constantly wearing all black. Very Fosse!
8. What was a popular TV gang you wanted to be part of growing up? I was obsessed with "The Bloodhound Gang" from the hit 70’s TV show, 3-2-1 Contact. They were super groovy, worked as a team and always solved the case!
9. What made you want to start Kinetic Dance Theater? While living in Chicago in 1998 my husband, Ryan and I had the idea to start a dance collective that would incorporate our passion as Director/Choreographers. We wanted to create a company that incorporated dance, theater, and musical theater. From that, KDT was born. Since moving to NYC in September of 2001, we continue to innovate original dance theater, cabaret and musical theater performance.
10. If you could cast any famous dancer in one of your shows, who would you cast? This is a very tough question. I have so many favorites! I would have to say Ann Reinking. She is one of the most beautiful, stunning and skilled dancers I have ever seen. Her poise, elegance and ability to sizzle on the stage and screen are second to none. She takes my breath away when I watch her dance.
11. What dancers inspire you today? There would be far too many to name. I’m throughly impressed by so many dancers across the board. Be it seasoned concert dancers, the up and coming triple threats on Broadway to the amazing new talent on shows like, So You Think You Can Dance. There is so much talent out there, from raw talent to the trained dancer. I am truly inspired by anyone who shares the love of dance with the world!
Joanna Greer holds a BA in Musical Theater Performance & Dance from Columbia College Chicago. As a Director-Choreographer & Teaching Artist, she has had the pleasure of working with numerous award-winning organizations, such as The American Ballroom Theater (featured in the 2005 Documentary Mad Hot Ballroom), YANY, City Lights Youth Theatre & the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Current TADA! Director &/or Choreographer credits include The Banned Broadway Project, 25+ main-stage musicals as well as 365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan Lori-Parks at TADA! & The Public Theater. Most recently, she choreographed 50 SHADES! The Musical (First National Tour), Alienne: The Musical Adventures of My Little Martian at the 2014 New York Fringe Jr. & the #SaveKidsLives traffic safety event with UNICEF. Joanna is also the Co-founder of NYC-based Kinetic Dance Theater, an artistic collective driven toward innovating dance theater, cabaret & musical theater performance.