Q&A: Murrysville native prepares for role as 'The Bearded Lady' in Split Stage musical at Apple Hill
Split Stage Productions producer and co-founder Rob Jessup said the company has set out “to produce shows in Westmoreland County that most other companies around here won't produce, whether because of risqué or edgy content, or some other reason.”
The musical “Side Show,” which opens tomorrow, is certainly off the beaten path for traditional shows, featuring a cavalcade of characters who populate what was once referred to as “the freak show.”
The show is based on the real-life story of conjoined twins and vaudeville performers Violet and Daisy Hilton, and includes characters like “Dog Boy,” “The Human Pincushion” and “The Bearded Lady,” who will be played by Murrysville native Stephanie Mihleder.
“This show really puts a spotlight on acceptance and emphasizes that what makes (people) unique should be celebrated,” said Jessup, who also lives in Murrysville.
Mihleder spoke with the Star recently about preparing for her role.
Q: What drew you to this show in particular?
A: I actually saw this show about 15 years ago and it easily became one of my favorites. When I heard it was going to be produced in the area and that Split Stage was the one doing it, I knew I had to audition.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned you'd be playing The Bearded Lady?
A: I was thrilled. All of the characters that perform in the sideshow are so interesting and there is truly not a bad role in this show. Everyone plays a part in the story.
Q: What sort of research or preparation have you done for your role?
A: The fact that this show is dramatically based on true events is so interesting to me. I started looking into the sideshow performers and the stories really pull you in. It's crazy to think that in the past, just because of abnormalities or differences, that performing in the sideshow was really one of the only options that people had for work. I read about real-life bearded lady performers as well as other performers, including what their life was like.
Q: What will be the biggest challenge of playing this character?
A: The challenge with this show is that most of us play about five different characters. All with totally different motives and personalities.
Q: What are you most looking forward to when it comes to someone seeing this show?
A: This show is unique, emotional, and has so many themes and layers. It will definitely leave an impact on anyone who sees it.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862.