Who: Katie LaMark
What: Actor, playing Sherrie in Rock of Ages, which will be at The Mahalia Jackson Theater from January 5-6.
Favorite line from Rock of Ages: “At the very end of the show you see that Sherrie and Drew do not actually make it as rock stars, and they have a family, and they are still really happy. The narrator of the show then says, ‘Sometimes the dreams you come in with are not the dreams you leave with, but, hey, they still rock.’”
Q: From the Rock of Ages soundtrack, what would be your chosen Karaoke song in a foreign country?
KL: If it was a non-English speaking country, I would do the song ‘The Search is Over’ as a karaoke duet because it’s such an interesting and difficult song.
My scene partner, Drew, has been in Rock of Ages two or three times before, and in some versions of the play — due to time constraints — that song is cut. So both of us were relearning that song when we got into rehearsal.
80’s music is already dramatic with that larger-than-life sound and larger-than-life vocal quality. ‘The Search is Over’ has these beautiful harmonies, there are interesting key changes, it’s really dramatic, and the lyrics are terrible, which is why I think it would be perfect for a foreign country. It’s one of those songs where the lyrics mean nothing, but the music itself is so beautiful that it would translate perfectly.
My parents are also in the music business, and they always would say, ‘If something is really difficult to memorize, it’s probably because it’s terrible,’ and that song took us so long to memorize. Even though I didn’t grow up in the 80’s, my parents are both musicians, so I am familiar with the songs that are in Rock of Ages, but I was completely unfamiliar with that song.
I had a really great acting teacher who said, ‘Whatever your least favorite line is, you’re going to conquer it when you turn it into your favorite.’ Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to that song for Karaoke.
Q: Whose journey in life would you like to research?
KL: Let me tell you, this is a question I never get asked, but I think about it all the time. I grew up watching Martha Stewart, and we are very big Martha Stewart fans in our house. I am shocked no one has made a show or a movie about her because she has the most interesting background and journey of any public figure I’ve ever seen. Although, I’m pretty sure no one has done it yet because people are scared of her.
And that’s why I love her so much — when you love Martha Stewart you also hate her at the same time. Every year, and my friends pretend they don’t love this, but they do, I put on a presentation called ‘The Many Stages of Martha,’ and we watch videos from the various decades. Well, there’s one show where Miss Piggy is on to make gingerbread houses, and you can see Martha get actually upset because Miss Piggy is not taking the gingerbread house seriously.
I mean, this is a woman that started out as a model and then she’s merging these domestic activities — cooking and sewing and so much more — while building a business empire. She’s blending together domesticity and business, which is so fascinating. And don’t even get me started on pre-jail Martha and post-jail Martha. You know that when she went to jail she was running shit in jail. And now she’s friends with Snoop. I love her.
Q: When do you find yourself wanting to be social?
KL: All the time. [Laughing.]
Maybe I should ask the opposite. When do you not want to be social?
KL: When I’m hungry. As I’m getting older, I’m enjoying time to myself more, but since childhood I’ve been a social butterfly. I’m high energy, I love being around people; in fact, there is a group of us who do escape rooms for every new city we go to on tour.
This is my third national tour, so one of the things I’ve learned is that the way to get along with your cast mates, who you’re living with, performing with, eating with, and doing everything with, is that you have to be honest about who you are and what you need. If I’m really hungry and sit down to eat, I’ll say to whomever is at the table, ‘I love you and respect you, but I will not be talking to you at this time.’ Otherwise, I’ll say a whole bunch of stuff I shouldn’t say.
I have my mother’s voice constantly in my head. Whenever I call her and I’m upset about something she’ll ask, ‘When was the last time you had a meal?’ And I’ll argue that my mood or the reason I’m upset has nothing to do with being hungry, but she’ll say, ‘I’m going to give you 30 minutes, go get something to eat, and then call me back. Inevitably, she is totally right. Once I eat something, I calm down and feel completely fine.
Q: What is one fashion trend from the 80’s or Rock of Ages that you wish would come back into circulation?
KL: This is going to be a two-part answer. First off, I wish that the dramatic flare of 80’s music still existed. The way that people sang and performed in that time period, people were singing from their head to their toes. Fans and audience members had this larger-than-life, visceral reaction to the songs and the way people were singing because the performers were singing with these grandiose, sweeping, huge vocals. We don’t really have that anymore. There was a band called The Darkness that came out with the song, ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love,’ and it’s a great song. It really harkens back to those performances of the 80’s, but because it felt like a throwback, they were one-hit wonders.
Now music seems to be about how small you can be and still get your message across. Mind you, I love modern and popular music, but I often find myself asking, ‘Where are the Celine Dions?’ Adele comes close and Sam Smith comes close, but it seems like it always stops at a certain level. So, for music, I’d like to see that head-to-toes singing come back into play.
In regard to styles, I love fishnets. I think fishnets are so fun and sexy, and there are so many ways to wear them. And, not to brag, [laughing] but I’m kind of a fashionista, so I have been purchasing fishnets, and I’m starting to wear them all different ways. They look so good under a pair of ripped jeans, so I’ve been doing that, and I also bought a fishnet leotard, so I’m going to be wearing that under my t-shirts.
Q: Why do you think people want to sing loudly?
KL: This is the most notable/quotable thing I can say. I went to school for musical theater, so I love the pedagogy aspect of theater. One of my Shakespeare professors, when talking about projecting and breathing technique when performing as an actor, said, ‘In the moment when your body is completely full of breath, when you breathe into the deepest part of your body, there is nothing that separates the deepest part of you from the rest of the world.’
I find that to be the most truthful statement ever. That seems to be why people are drawn to the arts and theater and anything dramatic because it’s where the emotional and the physical have crossed over. You have to be vulnerable as a performer, so if you have an emotional block, that is going to come across in the way that you breathe and speak and sing. When a person speaks in a way that isn’t very clear or there’s a question behind it, there’s often either an emotional of physical obstacle not allowing that person to breath deeply.
I had another professor who taught us all about breathing, and he would have us get on the floor and do all of these breathing techniques. Well, there is this point where you breathe and it comes from your spine, and then when you exhale, all of these emotions come out of you. You really start to understand that when you have emotional hang ups, they create physical blocks in your body. You have to break through those barriers in order to perform well.
There is actually this amazing video where people have isolated the vocal track of ‘Under Pressure’ with Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, so you only hear their raw voices, and Freddie Mercury sings from the ground up to the top of his head. Every fiber in his body is vibrating. That was a man that had broken through every single emotional barrier he ever had. It takes a powerful, special type of person to break through those emotional barriers and then share that with the world.
When I was young my dad used to say, ‘That person sings beyond their years,’ and I always thought he was commenting on them being a good singer, but he was referring to what they had been through. They had experiences in life that allowed them to sing beyond their years.
Katie LaMark is playing Sherrie in Rock of Ages, which will be on stage at The Mahalia Jackson Theater on Saturday, January 5 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, January 6 at 2:00 PM. You can learn more about the show as well as purchase tickets here.