We’re bringing you the world premiere of Playing Hot, an explosive theatrical event in the style of jazz, April 18 – May 12. In advance of that, we’ve sat down with all the artists involved to get a deeper look into the process of building this jazz concert-party-play hybrid. We’re kicking things off with profiles on the members of our team who were born and raised in Louisiana, and are lending their vital voice and expertise to Playing Hot.
Earlier this week we featured co-writer C.A. Johnson and musician/actor/producer Linton Smith II. Today, we’re getting you up close and personal with actor, Monique St. Cyr, who has been with the project since our workshop presentation back in 2016. Learn all about Monique in the interview below, and snag your tickets now at the highly limited Super Early Bird rate.
Pipeline Theatre Company: Why are you working on this project? What is most exciting to you about being part of Playing Hot?
Monique St. Cyr: I’m working on this project because of the music. I love feeling the vibration of the music in my body, and this play gets at the way this music wants to be experienced – in the form of a party.
It’s bigger than any one person. The show is a true ensemble piece, and it goes further and asks the audience to create this experience with us, because it doesn’t exist in isolation. That’s pretty special.
PTC: What is your relationship to Buddy Bolden’s story?
MSC: I see this as a story about community, but also about the ways women take care of their families. So much of Buddy’s story depends on other people, particularly the women he lived with – his mother, his sister, and, for a time, Nora.
PTC: Talk to us about jazz. What’s your relationship to the music?
MSC: I grew up listening to jazz because my dad plays trumpet. Some of my favorite teenaged memories are of listening to old jazz songs with my dad on the way to New Orleans and then listening to him play with a band, either in hotels or on the streets of the French Quarter.
A kind of roundabout way of trying to explain it: there’s this old picture of my grandfather that I love. He’s in college on the G.I. Bill, and he wears a thin mustache, a fresh haircut, and a purple jacket. He’s holding a cane tilted to the side, and he knows he looks good. You can basically see the spring in his step. This is a man that speaks so softly you could barely hear him across the dinner table. To me, that picture is proof of what music can do.
PTC: If you were to write a tagline for Playing Hot, what would it be?
MSC: brass FUNKY.
PTC: When did you first start working on Playing Hot? Tell us about what this journey has been like for you.
MSC: I joined for the one-night-only production at Gym at Judson three years ago now. It’s been really great to come back to it and see how different aspects of the show have marinated and become more fully realized. And there are new collaborators! Fresh eyes (and ears) are always welcome because I’ve been finding that that lets you fall in love with the project all over again.
PTC: Tell us about your character(s) in Playing Hot and where/if you see yourself in them.
MSC: I play Nora, who’s the love of Buddy’s life. She’s got quite an independent streak to her. She’s fiery. she’s not easily jealous, but you definitely can’t ignore her.
I think she believes she’s found her family in Buddy, but I think she struggles with what it means to not only support her partner but also to support his music. I think people underestimate the amount of sacrifice required for something like art, especially if you are still working a day job.
PTC: Will you share a bit of your personal history with us? Where in Louisiana did you grow up and what brought you to New York?
MSC: So I recently found out (when I was doing research for this play) that I’m distantly related to a jazz guitarist named Johnny St. Cyr, who talks about seeing Buddy Bolden when he was young and who went on to play with Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bichet. I thought that was pretty cool.
I’m from Lafayette, which is a couple hours west of new Orleans, but I have a lot of memories of holidays in New Orleans, because everyone would gather at my grandparents’ house for gumbo and pound cake, and the Saints’ game would be on in the living room and music would be on in the front room.
I came to New York after college because I love theater and I wanted to see and do more of it.
PTC: What has it been like for you to bring New Orleans to New York through Playing Hot?
MSC: It’s been really satisfying that Playing Hot chases the feeling that people associate with New Orleans. The show is a party. It’s a feeling that comes from a culture with thick, sticky air and where time moves a little more slowly.
PTC: What parts of New Orleans do you feel it’s most important to represent through this story?
MSC: There’s a certain amount of laissez-faire – that feeling of “do what you wanna,” which is literally a song and anthem for Mardi Gras. But it applies to the rest of the year too!
Monique has developmental work coming up with the Santa Fe Opera, and also has several films at festivals including Ask for Jane (about abortion activists in the late sixties) and Nevermind Goodbye (a modern coming of age story). Keep up with Monique on Instagram at @moniquestcyr and on Facebook at /moniqueystcyr. And catch her in Playing Hot, April 18 – May 12. Grab your tickets here!