A conversation with Stew & Heidi
Dan Dwyer: Stew let’s start with you. Why do you call the show Staged Dives?
Stew: Like everything with us we’re always trying to reference what we think we actually are, which is a rock band that started off playing dive bars. We think that’s what makes us unique in the theatre world and so we’re constantly trying to be a theatrical version of a dive bar band.
Dan: My frame of your music is largely informed by Passing Strange. Which I think is just a fabulous score I mean, it’s rock, it’s got funk, it’s got soul. So how do you describe the kind of music you write?
Stew: Our music comes from a particular generation, whatever they call people my age, fifty-seven years old, everything you just mentioned in the show, is everything I grew up listening to.
Heidi and I grew up listening to the exact same radio stations: the soul station, the indie punk rock station, and everything in between and that’s what we are, we are that.
Dan: So Passing Strange is pretty autobiographical, right?
Stew: We call it “autobiographical fiction” which is to say everything that’s in the play is definitely influenced or inspired by real events. But it’s not strictly autobiographical, we just use my life as a starting point. It’s as much James Baldwin’s story as it mine. It’s Josephine Baker’s story. So many people I meet tell me it’s their story. It’s really not strictly mine.
Dan: Were you prepared, Heidi, at all for the kind of critical reaction you got to Passing Strange?
Heidi: The biggest compliment somebody could give us (was) like “I hate musicals but I love Passing Strange. I grew up on musicals, I love musicals, but it wasn’t like we were trying to fit into that world.
Dan: Why Ancram Opera House?
Stew: Well…artists always play places that are highly recommended by other artists, that’s the bottom line. I was talking to David Cale, he mentioned the place, and that was pretty much all I needed y’know? We’re privileged to have been able to play giant performing arts centers and big cities. But, Heidi will tell you the gigs that mean a lot to us are the gigs in these unique, intimate spaces.
Heidi: Stew and I spend a lot of time in cars, driving across the country. We get a lot done talking about what we’re gonna do and it all kind of happens in the car. I think playing up there, more than just us being in that amazing place, is us going up there and going out of town. It’s really special for us to do a show up there.