Ann Harada ‘81 and Jason Tam ‘01 joined an all-star cast of comedic musical actors in “Fairycakes,” an uproarious clash of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and old-world fairy tales, created by five-time Tony-nominated writer Douglas Carter Beane.
The show opened off-Broadway on Oct. 24 and runs until Nov. 21 for a limited engagement at the Greenwich House Theater. Both Harada and Tam are critically acclaimed Broadway veterans; Harada recently performed in “Cinderella,” where she brought down the house in the second act opener, and Tam starred in “Be More Chill,” where he was magnetic in his portrayal of The Squip. In “Fairycakes,” Harada played Mustardseed and Tam was the Prince and Cupid.
How does it feel to be back onstage after the long COVID hiatus?
Tam: It’s great to be back performing for audiences, but the real joy is getting to collaborate with other artists in person again – solving problems together, supporting each other, greeting each other in the cramped hallways and stairwells of our old theatre, and coming up with ridiculous backstage rituals. I missed that camaraderie so much.
Harada: There is nothing like being on stage to remind one of all the ups and downs of being an actor. During COVID, the bulk of my work was doing film and TV, which I love, but it is nowhere near as visceral and rewarding as telling a story with other people, and receiving an immediate response. Or not. Which is when you really appreciate your fellow company members, when it’s not going well, because we can bear witness together and laugh about the day’s trials. And we have done a lot of laughing in this production!
What was it like to work together?
Harada: Jason is a well-loved cast mate. The entire company adores him for his composure and good humor in the event of trouble. (As Cupid, his enormous wings broke onstage while he was delivering a speech downstage center. He calmly shed them and improvised a line to cover, the audience laughed and the play went on.) And his flawless musicality … (He is playing ukulele, percussion and singing quite a bit in our show.) I personally am extremely grateful to be dancing the finale right behind him so I can sneak a peek at his feet when I feel unsure of the choreography!
Tam: During rehearsals, Ann brought me li-hing snacks and boiled peanuts! I’ve been a huge fan of her work for a long time, but until now, I’ve never gotten to see her process. She’s brave and so game to try literally anything for a laugh. She’s also such a pro at thinking ahead and solving problems before they happen.
Any words of wisdom about a life in the theatre?
Tam: A life in the theatre means a life of inconsistent employment. That’s just the nature of the business – shows don’t run forever, and most only run for a few months. So it’s important to save your money when you have it, and to find ways to stay joyful, productive and fulfilled while you’re in between jobs.
Harada: Since my time at Punahou, I have always been happiest in a theatre. I knew I would spend my life working in the theatre, I just didn’t know it would be as an actor. Theatre is my church; I love the communal experience of being in an audience, witnessing a story together, being moved and uplifted with other people. That spiritual and emotional component makes the theatre more than just a job for me. I feel it is a calling that requires dedication and perseverance, because it can be extremely difficult to simply get a job, much less sustain a career. As Jason says, jobs come and go quite rapidly. So, if immediate economic security is important to you, perhaps the theatre is not the best choice. But if you truly love it and want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, then you can find a rewarding life in the theatre.
Tam: Our production partnered with a company called Broadway for Racial Justice, in an effort to mediate nuanced conversations about racism, and to help create a safe working space for our diverse cast. This kind of work makes me feel hopeful for theatre, and for humanity.
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