These days, locals won’t brave the cold weather for just anything. But they are coming out in droves to see Kate Brennan, of 12th and South streets, in “[title of show]” UPstairs at the Adrienne Theater.
“The audiences have been so receptive — completely along for the ride,” Brennan, 29, said. “It’s a very fun and joyous show. It’s one of those shows that has those continuous cracks in it. Every other line is getting a laugh right now, which we, as performers, love.”
Brennan plays Susan, the high-energy no-holds-barred wisecracker of the ensemble. It’s a nice escape from her day-to-day.
“My character — all the characters — are real people. They were the original cast, the people who played the roles, who were themselves. My character’s name is Susan. She is the comedian of the group,” the actress said. “She is wacky and offbeat. Always trying to make people laugh. She has no censorship, so she’ll do anything for a laugh.
“We all have those friends who can’t be serious for any length of time. As soon as anything gets serious, she wants to make it funny again.”
“[title of show],” created in 2004, has found success on and Off Broadway. The Philadelphia production is the first musical for Mauckingbird Theatre Co., and this is the first time Brennan has worked with the group. The run that began Jan. 12 ends Sunday.
“I hadn’t seen it or read it before. I knew the story line and it was Off Broadway to Broadway,” Brennan said. “The story of the play tells the story of the show becoming the show. I knew all about that. Other than that, I didn’t know all the songs or the script. So there were some surprises to be found.”
The one-hour-and-30-minute production is as good a time for the cast as the audience and Brennan thinks it’s a musical-person’s musical.
“Well, I guess it’s a very universal musical. It’s what is considered a meta-musical,” Brennan, who carpools with fellow castmate and Bella Vista resident Kim Carson, said. “It refers to other musicals and other theater shows. If you are a fan of ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘[A] Chorus Line’ you will feel like you are in on the joke.
“It’s really a love letter to theater in many ways. It calls out all musical theater’s faults and celebrates all the victories.”
Brennan grew up in West Philly, where her father worked for the police department. She left the area to study acting at the University of Scranton.
“It’s not really an easy choice to make,” Brennan said of becoming an actress. “I don’t know [when I decided]. I never really made the choice to do it. I’ve always been very involved in the arts and the need for social change. I was always behind the scenes reading plays and listening to musical theater.
“I guess [my parents] played show tunes in the womb and it rubbed off.”
After completing her bachelor’s in acting and English, she returned to the area where she worked in the local theater scene. She then continued her schooling at the University of Virginia where she graduated in ’08 with a master’s in fine arts.
“I’ve been teaching acting and voice lessons and doing all the things you do when you are an actor,” Brennan said. “As a graduate student, you end up teaching. You end up being an instructor for sections of undergraduates. I love school. I’d go back again if they’d let me. I love to learn and learn new things, and I have the added benefit to be able to work at a college.”
When Brennan returned to her hometown, she joined her now-husband in his adopted home at Seventh and Bainbridge streets, where they lived before moving to their current spot on South last month.
“I did have a lot of college friends go to New York and Chicago. I’ve always returned here. It is my home. It will always be my home,” Brennan, who married fellow performing artist, Greg DeCandia, in June, said. “My father is from Second and Reed. My father grew up in South Philly, too. My then-boyfriend and now-husband lived here, as well. He was even drawn here so there must be something special about it.”
As members of the “bourgeoning community,” Brennan and DeCandia head up BCKSEET Productions, a company founded by DeCandia in ’00 at Emerson College and brought to Philadelphia after, Brennan said.
“He found Philadelphia was a supportive community of young theater companies and that’s why they chose to come here.”
Brennan has taken on a larger role at BCKSEET over the years, and is now co-artistic director with her better half.
“I ended up getting involved with the company and I ended up producing stuff with him and it’s really been a partnership ever since,” she said.
BCKSEET has been a resident company at the Society Hill Playhouse for the past five years and involved, in large part to DeCandia’s commitment, in the Arts on South initiative, which brings art to vacant spaces on South.
“We have a space at 535 South St., the BCKSTEET Creative Co-op. We’ve brought theater companies in to have rehearsals there,” Brennan said. “It’s a place where artists can convene and work together.”
Brennan keeps her hands in multiple aspects of the local arts, including preparations for BCKSEET’s coming production, “Losing the Shore,” which will be UPstairs at the Adrienne March 15 to April 3. For the next three days, however, she is focusing her attention on mastering Susan.
“I definitely have a dry sense of humor as she does,” Brennan said of her character. “But it is tiring playing her. She has a lot of energy that I don’t necessarily have.” SPR