A whole new theater
Connor Mickiewicz, founder and artistic director for Sacramento’s newest professional musical-theater company, New Helvetia Theatre, discussed the venture—and their first full production—with SN&R:
Tell us about your production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch first. We love Hedwig in Sacramento.
Well, we cast Christopher Davis Carlisle in [Los Angeles], and Matthew Schneider is a friend from college in New York, so I’d worked with him before. I first saw Nanci Zoppi at one of Graham Sobelman’s Graham-a-Rama cabarets and became obsessed with her. She’ll be playing Yitzhak.
And the idea to use the New Humans as Hedwig’s band, the Angry Inch?
Well, the bass player, Robert LaCasse, is an old friend of mine from school, and I really wanted a cohesive band sound for the Angry Inch. These guys have that cohesion. They’ve been playing together and know each other. You buy them as the Angry Inch.
How did they do with acting in addition to playing?
I think they might have been a little intimidated at first, because it’s a different kind of performing. You have to block out the performance, then sit for three hours until the light tech gets the light just right. But I think they all began to enjoy it, and they were ahead of schedule from day one.
This was a very popular show when Lambda Players did it.
Yes. It’s got a following everywhere. But we’re not doing the same Hedwig that Lambda Players did. That was a great production, but if we’re going to produce a show, we’re going to produce it our way. I think that, stylistically, it’s very different. We’re using a multimedia setup, including videos, artwork and photographs.
Janine Mapurunga has taken photographs of the various characters that Hedwig references, and we’ve got a children’s book illustrator from Redwood City, Emma San Cartier, who has done some original illustrations for “The Origin of Love.”
So why start a new professional theater now? What’s with the timing?
I wasn’t planning to do it right now, but … I knew growing up that I was going to be mayor of Sacramento and be famous, but I was ready to wait for those things. Then I realized that I was standing in a line in the cold at 5 a.m. [in New York City] waiting to audition for a role, and I thought, “Why wait?” So I came home and started looking for ways to make it happen. And I found I had the support I needed.
Sacramento has an opening for this kind of musical theater. The idea is to complement Music Circus.
Like Capital Stage complements Sacramento Theatre Company and B Street Theatre?
Exactly. And we want to differentiate from Artistic Differences, which some people might think is the most similar company, but we have very different tastes in musical theater.
I like some rock musicals, but the real core of our mission is to unearth those shows that should be known and aren’t. The ones that were really different, but never found their audience for one reason or another.
Well, this is a town that likes its musical theater.
Oh, yes. I feel so insulated, growing up in East Sac and living in Midtown, but we’ve really got this intelligent, sophisticated audience. We’ve just got a smarter audience than there is in other places.
Do you have plans for a full season at some point soon?
We’ve got some things in the works, but we’re not ready to make an announcement. The summer’s not set, but you can expect to see a performance series for summer, especially taking advantage of Second Saturdays. We’ll do little things to keep our name out there, perhaps a couple of staged readings, to keep active as artists.
If you could produce any show you wanted to, what would it be?
Sunday in the Park With George. It is my absolutely favorite piece of theater.