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Behind the Scenes at Wheaton Drama: Q&A with Julie Rodgers-Baker of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"

Q&A with Wheaton Drama's Julie Rodgers-Baker - "Scoundrels" and a whole lot of theatre

Julie Rogers-Baker of Wheaton is appearing in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Wheaton Drama’s Playhouse 111. Entertaining audiences through June 17, this musical comedy is adapted from the popular Michael Caine and Steve Martin movie of the same name. 

Julie is often seen at the Playhouse, either on stage or behind the scenes. In addition to appearing in such Wheaton Drama productions as Chicago, City of Angels, and Cabaret, she runs lights for performances and assistant directs. She also recently served on the committee that selected nominees for Wheaton Drama’s Board of Directors.

In the following Q&A session, we learn about this hardworking Wheaton Drama member and her current show. 

WDI: With other opportunities to audition in the area, what drew you to audition for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?

JRB: I love Steve (Schroeder, director) and company! Although I didn't know the show prior to auditioning, I remember seeing the movie and thinking that it was funny. I knew that Steve was going to use a wide variety of woman in the ensemble and that they were in a lot of the show. I knew that if I didn't get a principal part, that I would have fun being a part of the ensemble.

WDI: What roles do you have in the show?

JRB:  I'm playing many characters: women that are being swindled, a nun, a maid, and a tourist. The ensemble is in most of the show.

WDI: What was the rehearsal process like?

JRB: We ladies of the ensemble worked hard. We rehearsed in the lobby even when we were not called for rehearsal because we really wanted to know these dances. We have two ladies of the ensemble who have never been in musicals before. One has never performed in a show at all. This is a brand new experience for them.

WDI: How would you describe Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to somebody who does not know the show?

JRB: This cleverly written, toe tapping, Tony Award nominated, adult-themed musical is a great escape from ennui. Not suitable for young children, this PG-13 musical will have you laughing out loud. We all need a good laugh. Many moments in this show have me laughing aloud. It is just good fun.

WDI: What makes performing in musicals special for you?

JRB:  I love to sing and move. It's fun to break out into song and perform fun dances; that doesn't happen in "straight" plays or in real life...usually. Although, there have been times that I have been known to break into song and shake my booty in real life!

WDI: You keep busy at Wheaton Drama and other area theatres. What is your theatre background?

JRB: I have a B.F.A. with an Acting emphasis from the University of Kentucky. I have performed in many productions over the years, some professional. I was employed for two summers in Galveston, Texas - what a great summer job! I performed murder mysteries for years professionally. I am a member of a radio show performance group and have been in some independent films. I have been a member of Wheaton Drama for years. I've performed just about every kind of theatre: Shakespeare (I was Rosalind in As You Like It), dramas, comedies, farce, radio shows, murder mysteries, staged readings, and film. I like it all.

WDI: Your family has a history with theatre, too, doesn’t it?

JRB:  I come from a long line of thespians. My grandmother was a dancer and performed in vaudeville along with acts like the Marx Brothers. My aunt was a professional dancer and employed by the Dayton Ballet Company for years as a dancer and choreographer. My grandmother's brother tried Hollywood for a while before he opened his own acting studio in Cincinnati. He was one of the voices of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz movie.

My father has a Ph.D. and was the Chairman of the Theatre for many colleges. He sings, acts, directs and is a playwright. Several of his adaptations, the most popular being It's A Wonderful Life, both a musical version and a straight version, are performed around the United States. Most recently, he wrote the libretto to the opera, River of Time. Parts of this opera were performed at the Kennedy Center for the gala event celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. My dad directed both this gala and the River of Time premiere.

My mother was a high school drama teacher and director. She co-penned a theatre book with my dad called Play Director's Survival Kit: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Producing Theater in Any School or Community Setting.

WDI: Why do you enjoy theatre?  

JRB: This question always stumps me. Why does a runner feel the need to run? Why does a writer need to write? Theatre is in my blood. I love it and I feel empty if I am not around it. 

To see Julie in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, purchase tickets at http://www.wheatondrama.org, or call 630-260-1820. Remaining performances are June 15 and 16 at 8pm and June 17 at 3pm. Tickets are $21 each. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has book by Jeffrey Lane and music and lyrics by David Yazbek. Music Theatre International licenses the show. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels contains some comedic adult language and themes.

Wheaton Drama’s 2012-2013 season is set to include The Heiress, The Sound of Music, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, Full Circle, and Into the Woods. Special additional productions this year include Hansel and Gretel (July 6-15), Broadway Ballot (August 17-19) and the radio show version of It’s A Wonderful Life (December 14-16).

At play since 1931, Wheaton Drama’s productions are staged at Playhouse 111, 111 N. Hale Street in downtown Wheaton. Follow on Twitter at WDIpublicity.

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