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Spooky Musicals

welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm your host, Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times, and it is the collection of cultural forces that all contribute to what it feels like to be alive and part of a dynamic culture. Every episode I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture.

We dig into their passion and explore how music is a powerful force that brings people together. Before we get into today's interview, make sure you head over to zeitgeistacademy. com and sign up for my newsletter. You'll get weekly mini lectures on cool musical facts, backgrounds on our amazing guests, and updates on what's going on with the Zeitgeist Academy.

I'm always up to something. Head over to zeitgeistacademy. com. That's Z E I T G E I S T academy dot com.

**Morgan:** My guest today is Heidi Davis, a theater producer, musician, and music writer out of Portland, Oregon. Heidi, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.

**Heidi:** Hi, thanks for having me.


**Morgan:** so excited to talk with you. I've known you for several years across many projects, and you do so many things. How would you describe yourself musically at this

**Heidi:** moment?

I think I'm just kind of like a jack of all trades musically, I think because not only do I perform, but I produce and create scripts and musicals and write music. And then I teach music. So I really do dabble in pretty much every aspect of music. I'm even doing a lot of sound board operating and things where I'm like running sound for bands now.

So I'm kind of like, I guess, dipping my toe into pretty much all the, the sub genres of music, you know, production and creation and performance that you kind of can.

**Morgan:** Yeah. And you've done opera. You've done, I mean, the gamut in classical as well, right?

**Heidi:** Yeah. Yeah. I pretty much have sung or written in different styles, you know, I'm classically trained, so I have my degree in opera, but it's not really.

Where my passion lies anymore. I've done a lot of musical theater currently. I just, I do a lot of rock with. The writing that I do is a lot of rock and some heavy metal. And a lot of the performance things that I do I get a lot of gig singing jazz, so definitely like a wide range of genres that I have sung in and performed with.

**Morgan:** Yeah, Heidi is very fun to follow. She's always doing something. What is Torch Song?

**Heidi:** So Torch Song is my theater company that I started in 2015 and it started out as kind of like a Well, you know what? If nobody is going to cast me in musicals here in Portland why don't I just do something on my own and then sell tickets and see what happens?

So it kind of started off as just a kind of a me project where I was just doing some solo concerts and things like that. And then other people were like, this is cool. I want to do this too. This is cool. I want to do this too. And so it started to kind of like evolve and turn into more than that.

I think the first. real show we did was villains and vixens, which is a yearly or every other year show we do that's a Halloween show where it's basically songs that are matched to various villains and pop culture and like Disney villains and movie villains. And it's like juxtaposing really interesting song choices to go with them, which then developed into Me being like, well, I should write my own stuff.

So I started writing a lot of parody songs. So then we started to do shows where there were parody songs. And now we're at the point where we write completely original stuff. Where we'll have an original script with an original story, or sometimes an adaptation. of a classic tale. And then my guitarist, Ken Bussell and I write the music together for the shows.

**Morgan:** Awesome. I guess it would be helpful as we get into this conversation for you to describe, can you describe your aesthetic? Cause I think that's going to. Set the scene for a lot of the rest of it. Since this is a podcast, people can't necessarily see you though. I do recommend checking out the podcast image.

It's very fun, but can you describe the aesthetic your, your aesthetic right now?

**Heidi:** It's spooky, spooky 24 seven. And with a side of like nerdy, quirky, like, you know, if you go to like Comic Con, those are our people, you know, especially. With the theater companies, like, these are the people we are marketing our shows to are people who like sci fi, fantasy horror, spooky, anything spooky, anything kind of gothic related.

And so my, my look. And my clothing always kind of reflects that and my house is even spooky 24 seven.

**Morgan:** It's true. Do you sleep in a coffin? I would not be surprised if you said yes. But that does really help because again, a lot of these projects we'll be talking about are. You know, they're, again, villains, villainous, or creepy, or spooky, and and the parody songs, like, they're parodies, but they're in a, like, a spooky take on things.

What is the first musical you ever wrote?

**Heidi:** The first one that I wrote was called Sandwoman Academy and I wrote the script and I wrote the kind of went across and wrote the lyrics and came up with the chord structure for the songs and then took the music to Ken Bustle, my writing partner, and then we like hashed out what we wanted to do with the songs and he kind of created the guitar parts and the bass parts and the drum parts that we wanted for and it is Like, I could describe this as True Blood meets Harry Potter because it's a vampire musical where the vampires are going to an academy to learn how to be, be vampires.

So it's very silly and like over the top and it has all of those tropes and things that you see in all the different vampire movies. Have you ever seen the movie Vampire Suck, where they just make fun of all the different vampire movies within that genre? It's kind of like that a little bit, except with Catchy songs

**Morgan:** when you decided to do this for the first time.

What was the your thought process of like, okay? There's so many ways that something like that could go. How do you choose? What influences you're drawing from? Or like how do you focus a show like that? I

**Heidi:** I think I'm just personally like I kind of do whatever I want So I'm like, what am I in the mood to write?

What would be cool? What would people enjoy and you know, sometimes it has to do with what's going on Around like, okay, what is hip? What is in right now? Like I don't know, thinking about writing a stranger things parody show for next year for an event. I was, I was kind of rolling that around in my mind just because that's hip and new.

But I also think that, like, some of the subject matter we choose are just iconic. Everybody always loves vampires. We're, you know, working towards a sci fi show. Everybody loves sci fi and sci fi tropes. You know, we just had a pirate musical that we co wrote in the spring. Everybody loves pirates!

Like, they're never going out of style. There's things that, like... You know, people are always going to enjoy and they'll always be, like, iconic and be topical for everybody. But I guess it's just, you know, what, what I feel in the mood for, I kind of just follow my passion. Like, you know, what am I feeling, like, my heart is going towards?

What am I excited about? Like, what, like, thing right now do I feel like, if I start writing, it's just going to flow? As opposed to, like, trying to force out, like, some kind of a subject for a show or a plot for a show where I'm like, yeah, this would be hip and now and cool and would probably sell a lot of tickets, but do I really want to do it?

Is it really something that I would enjoy? So I think that kind of factors into all my writing decisions.

**Morgan:** I love that. Gosh, I have so many questions. When you first produced Sanguine Academy, how did you like plug in? How did you find a place? Let's start with place. Like, how do you find a place? Like, okay, I've decided to start a theater company.

Where do you do

**Heidi:** that? Yeah, that has been an interesting journey that we've had since the beginning because we have jumped around from location. a lot, actually. We kind of started off with a company in North Portland called Twilight Theater Company. And at the time, the artistic director made like a deal with us because they were kind of a starter theater company at the time.

And they didn't have a big season of shows. They only had maybe like four a season. And so he was like, Hey, why don't you like friend of a friend, you know, and he's like, Hey, come to your show here. We have a weekend free here. Why don't you come and do it at our place? And then we'll take a percentage of your ticket sales and we won't charge you rent.

And so that was great for a while. That worked really well. Then they got bigger and better. And so they didn't have any more weekends free for us. So we had to go elsewhere. We were at another theater that was, we had found just like to rent because there are theater spaces that you can rent in town.

And it was, we had a bunch of really great shows there called Headwaters Theater. And the location was really interesting. It was via some train tracks. And the, the look of the theater itself was really cool. The whole back wall was a projector screen. So we didn't have to do any backdrops. All we had to do was project it on the screen.

And so some of the pictures and videos from that time when we were there were just amazing. But things kind of didn't work out there. And luckily I had joined this lodge, the Odd Fellows Lodge in North Portland. And they have a cool thing that if you join the lodge you can use their space for free.

So it's pretty awesome. You have to like go to meetings and put in so many... Service hours in the lodge, but they were like, Hey, why don't you come here and do some shows? So we did some shows there and that actually took a lot of like pressure off of me to be like, okay, I have to be able to make 2, 500 on the show or I can't even, you know, like it has to sell out every night.

I can't afford to like, do you know what I really want to with the show because it's so expensive just to rent the space. And so moving to that lodge was like such a weight off my shoulders to be like, oh, you know, like, oh, I don't, I, I want to sell tickets. But it's not the money making thing is not the main priority, which I like that I don't want to like, make rules of money I just want to like, you know, put on a show, bring people together, have some fun, you know, and make you know make a part.

And so we were doing some shows there. And then the opportunity arose to move to another of the odd fellows lodges in Milwaukee, Oregon. That was kind of floundering with not having a lot of like You know, membership and things like that. We're still like working in that lodge to build up membership, but they had a much better stage in so many ways.

So the last couple of years we've been doing shows there and it's been working out really well there. So but you know, who knows what the future can hold, you know, when you don't have your own theater space that you like own, it's kind of like. Found spaces, you know, and you just kind of have to do your best to try to find someplace that's going to be affordable and work for your company.

Awesome. Let's talk

**Morgan:** about how you have built your audience because I think that's the other when I think about everything that goes into. Building a, you know, a theater company. To me, it sounds so overwhelming. And space was one thing like, Oh my gosh, how in the world do you find a space that's big enough, but also affordable that you can actually do it.

And then the other thing is. How the heck do you fill it? Even if cost is less of an issue with with the space, like we've all been there, like you're a performer. I'm a performer. We've all been like, the goal is that there's more people in the audience than on stage. Right. That's like number one goal of a performance.

But when you're doing something of this caliber, how do you. Find the people and, and what has that growth been like? Who are your people and how did you plug into them in the first place? And, and what were those original audiences like?

**Heidi:** Yeah, I think the very first couple of little cabarets I did before we did the villains and vixens show for the first time, we're like the worst, like the second show we did, we had two people in the audience, it was so bad.

And then we're like, you know, rent. It was like some weird like old firehouse. The first two were in like this weird old firehouse that had horrible acoustics that was like way too much money to rent. And so it's, it's honestly been such a process of finding like our niche, like what is Torch Song?

Torch Song, what do we do? We do quirky, we do nerdy, like our demo, what is our demographic? And you know, Like, it's, it's 20s, 30s, and 40 somethings people that are kind of that, like, nerdy, like I said, like the Comic Con people that will go to the Comic Con and, like, you know, who are really into Halloween and who are really into sci fi and fantasy and just, and adventure movies and, you know, not the norm, like the nerds, the dorks, the kind of, I, I think a lot of the, the weirdos or the outcasts.

I think that. It's been just a long process of finding what advertising we need to do to get to those people because I think once they know about us, then they're in. We have like repeat people that have been coming to see our shows for like five years, six years, you know, who say every time you do villains and vixens, I come to see that show.

You know, we have people that I come over and over again. I see the same names on like, you know, my ticket sales. So it's just, how do you find those people? And so, you know, some of the things we've done in the past that have worked really well are some just like guerrilla marketing. We go to farmers markets and things and costume and hand out flyers.

We, we've gone to Rose City Comic Con and busked. like we stood outside and played music and handed out flyers. We've done really fun things where we all go to karaoke in costume and people ask, Whoa, what's going on? Why are you all dressed up? And then we hand out flyers. We've, we did some cross promotion once within escape room.

No, it was pirate theme. Cause we had a pirate show. So I think it's like really getting creative with how you're advertising. You know, besides the obvious, you know, calendars online and like Facebook advertising and whatnot, and I think it's really like going out and meeting people and like talking to them verbally about the show and like getting them to like see you in person.

I think that really helps. We also like. Do a lot of photography and videography to promote the shows that are really cool. Like we do really cool photo shoots. We try to come up with a really creative ways to catch people's attention online. Every show we do like a promo video that looks like a movie promo, like a movie trailer.

And then we kind of boosted on Facebook. So that really helps with like people like being like, Oh, what's this all about? And I do once we get into like runs of the show, I'll do snippets of all the songs and things like that for people to see. So I think like being creative with how we market has like slowly built our audience, but it's definitely been.

Like a long process of building that audience up to the point where we don't have only two people in the audience.

**Morgan:** Yeah. Well, your shows

**Heidi:** sell out now. Yeah. By mid September, it was sold out. It was our Halloween show which was great. But I think one of the things that lately has been helping with shows is getting new people in the production.

Yes. You know, when you're a theater company and you constantly like use the same people over and over and over and over and over again, like, yeah, their friends are going to come see him once or twice, you know, but I think having fresh faces who bring in a new group of audience members is really helpful.

I think having I think that's really important. Bigger casts with a lot of people because every person has like five people that really want to see him in the show. That's a lot of people. If you've got 20 people in a cast that helps. And my secret weapon is putting children in the shows.

**Morgan:** It's so true.

It sounds evil, but it's not. It's so true.

**Heidi:** Yeah. And my adults are always like, you're putting a kid in that cast again? I'm like, just because you want to be able to swear all the time at all the rehearsals. It's like, come on. Get your minds out of the gutter.

**Morgan:** Yeah, well, I mean, it's true like people come for their kids and that's something that I know has been I think it's frustrating to a lot of adult musicians, the support that is poured out for children.

And then the, the same person will grow up and do the same thing. And it's like, where's the support for me now? Like this, what was all of this for? Here I am doing all this. So how do you cast? Like, does, do those decisions, for example, villains and vixens, so are you doing that again this year or this is an off year?

**Heidi:** This is an off year. We're gonna be doing that again next Halloween. I have a lot of writing to do because I want to do, like, mostly all new parody songs for that one, so it's gonna be a

**Morgan:** lot. So it's good. It's a refresh every year. That's important to know.

**Heidi:** Yeah. Yeah. Every time we do villains and vixens We'll have some repeat stuff from previous years as far as songs go We'll have a lot of repeat villains, but we try to mix it up.

So at least like 90 percent of the songs are different So it's it feels like a new show every year but with Familiar faces like the familiar characters like the Disney villains and Sanderson sisters. They're always in it So and beetlejuice is always a part of it. So there's some favorites but new material every time

**Morgan:** got it Got it.

So how do you go about casting? Do you put out calls to local theater companies? How do you find your cast?

**Heidi:** Yeah, we definitely put out casting notices and things. I think for a long time, I had this thing in my mind, like, who's going to want to do this show other than my friends? And so for like several years, I would just like ask people verbally.

I'd like, Hey, do you want to be in this show? Here's the character. This would be great for you. And I would just cast without doing auditions, but we got to the point where people started to ask us, when are you going to have auditions? I want to be a part of this. I want to be part of this. I want to audition for you.

I'm like, all right, I guess we've grown enough that people actually want to like do auditions and be in the shows. And we have people coming in and want to direct. And so we put out audition and casting notices and. Actors from word of mouth say, Hey, you got to come audition. Come be in the show. It's really fun.

We have so much fun. And let me, we have auditions and. Our audition process is so chill and easy compared to most musical theater companies because we don't have a live accompanist, you just use a karaoke track and we have a dance audition but it's really easy and you get the video like three weeks ahead of time or two weeks ahead of time and then you just come in and like do it and yeah it's like so simple and nice and less stressful I think than a lot of companies make it.


**Morgan:** I didn't know that about the directors. That's interesting. So So I imagine you started out directing. Do you still do most of the directing? How does that work?

**Heidi:** So I started out doing way too much. I was taking a lot on myself and it wasn't because I wanted to be a control freak and, you know, have my hand and everything.

It was me being like, I don't want someone else to have to deal with all of this stress, so I'm going to do it myself so that I don't everyone else can have a good time and enjoy the process and not worry about the stressful things. And then people were like, why are you doing this? We want to help you.

We will do these things. Because for a long time, I was like, I'll be the stage manager. I'll be the assistant stage manager. I even would run backstage and run the sound during shows, like crazy stuff like that. Like I would just. I would do all the props. I would do all the costumes. I had a little more time on my hands in the beginning.

My jobs weren't quite as like, you know, I didn't have quite as many, like, work things. And so, it's, and I would direct. And it just got to be too overwhelming for sure. And... Now I've got people coming in and directing. I think the only one that I am adamant that I have to direct is villains and mixings.

'cause that's kind of my baby. That was the first show that really like solidified us as a company. So I always prefer to direct that, but, but I like to have people collaborate and do choreography for songs. Like, be like, Hey, do you wanna choreograph this song? Hey, do you wanna figure out the, the blocking for this song?

I've had a lot of people jump in and say, I wanna write some parody songs for you. I, you know, I'm pretty good at writing them and then we collaborate and I say, okay, let's change this. Let's change this. And lately we've had, you know, some people jumping in to direct. Mikayla Terrence is one of my buddies from doing various gigs and things and she's directed two shows.

And she's awesome. She performs too. My spouse, gray Directs and is a great director. We have a new director for the show that's coming up in November Eric Clark, and he is really passionate about directing. He's doing an awesome job. So I'm excited to get more people coming in and directing.

So I don't have to. Yes.

**Morgan:** Going to the choreography, where did you learn how to do that? I doubt that was covered in opera school. No, just cause you were in a lot of musicals or, or how did you come up with choreography for a large

**Heidi:** group? Well, yeah, I think being in so many musicals over the years, you just take little bites from each of the things that you're doing, you know, you learn moves.

I like to say dances like. there's dances like a catalog of individual moves. And once you learn each of those individual moves, you just put them in a in a row and it's a combination. And then I also, I'm kind of a late in life dancer. So I started taking some dance and ballet when I'm when I was living in florida for a couple of years.

And then when I moved to Portland, I found this place that I was going to for two hours every day taking dance classes. Wow. Yeah. I was like not working when I first got here and I had some money saved up from some, some gigs. And so I took, did like a package deal. So I was going and I took jazz, hip hop.

a lyrical ballet, like a burly cue class. It was kind of like burlesque sexy dancing. And so I looked took a lot of classes for like two years. I was like weekly going to this place taking classes that definitely was like added to my repertoire of moves to the point where I'm like. You know what, I think I can do this.

I can, I can do this. I know all these individual moves. I, I can definitely choreograph. So, I've been doing choreography for, I would say about eight years. Nice. So, and it's fun. I like choreographing. It's

**Morgan:** yeah. Yeah. It's choreographing for singing different from like, like a, like a dance number versus a number where people are singing.

Cause you have to think about like, I it's been so many years since I've done musical theater and it was really basic high school. Like, you know, it's been a long time. I loved it, but the dancing, we didn't do a ton of dancing. I'm just so curious. Do you have to take support and breathing into account?

How do you make those distinctions?

**Heidi:** Well, some of the things I take into account is, who are my dancers? Are they people who I know who are in shape enough to sing and dance? Yeah. And if they are not, we do a walk walk pose. Or we do a handography, where there's not a lot of legs. And then I also like to do like when the person is singing like they're not doing as much, or I take the Beyonce approach where they do a little bit.

They're a soloist and their backup singers or backup dancers do more. Sure. They're doing the big moves and the other person is just doing hands here and there to match whatever they're doing. And I love my dance breaks. I love having my, like, bet, like, the more interesting dance is during the guitar solo.

Yeah. In the middle of the song. You know, so it's, it's definitely like, you know, I, I definitely try to think about You know, who do I have before I start to like figure out choreography and really like cater it to the person's level and Their like ability to sing and dance and if there's somebody who's just I know from previous experience Has a tough time with that then I simplify

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**Morgan:** Let's go into some of the projects that you've worked on.

So, can we've already talked about villains and vixens a little bit. Can you describe the Jolly Riot? You sort of touched on that earlier, and that is one of that I've seen.

**Heidi:** Yeah! So, Jolly Riot, the script is actually an original script written by a friend of mine who is a local playwright named William Thomas Burke.

And he had come to me... After we had had some just, I don't remember this, but originally when we did the show back in 2019 or before that, 2018, we had some discussion and I was like, ha, pirate rock musicals, that'd be awesome. Pirate metal musical or something. And he goes, Hmm. And then he comes back to me with this show that he's written.

And I'm like, this is on brand. Let's do it. And back when we did it before, we had done it as a jukebox musical. A lot of our shows originally, when we had started doing shows, were jukebox musicals, meaning that they had songs written by other people that were used and, you know, intermingled in between the dialogue to move the plot along, as opposed to us writing the songs specially for the show.

And so when we... We decided we were going to redo this show. We decided we wanted to do original songs. So William went through and he kind of, he's not really a songwriter, he's a percussionist. And so he knows music, but he doesn't, he's not like a music writer per se, but he came up with some lyrics and I went with Ken and we like basically like adapted kind of what he had put together.

In some cases, you know, we went and looked at William's lyrics and we were like, okay, this is fine. I can work with this. I can figure out how to put a tune to this. We can figure out the vibe we want for this. Other cases, I did a lot of editing and there A few songs where I kind of just started from scratch and was just crossing my fingers that he wouldn't be mad that I threw out all of his lyrics.

And it was really, it was really collaborating. We collaborated a lot to put the, put it together. But I think the songs turned out really great. With this show in particular there was like a high school that came to see it. So Beaverton high school, I guess. And so they're really interested in putting the show on.

That's awesome. Yeah. So, which means. That I've got to get working on doing some recording of some of the piano and flute parts that I created for it, and some re records of some of the vocals and whatnot. But that should be cool to be able to see the show that we, the three of us collaborating, putting together, like.

At a high school. It's kind of neat. Oh, that is,

**Morgan:** that's really cool. And again, yeah, that is one that I've seen. And it was, it's just so fun. Every minute of it is so fun. And that could absolutely, like it felt to me like a standard. You know, like Twisted. Which is like the, basically, I think it's Aladdin from Jafar's perspective, right?

Kind of a fun thing. Yeah. I believe it's a troupe down in L. A. has done that. And it's just kind of like this state, like, like it's this YouTube phenomenon. And I'm like, this could be like Jolly Riot. Could be something like that. Like, it's just such, it's good quality. The music's very fun. The plot is fun.

There's lots of Yo Ho Ho's and pirating and, oh yeah. Ha ha ha. Yeah. Okay, so, what, can you describe a so project you guys worked on, I think earlier this year or last year, which is Ripper, Song of the Knife? What's

**Heidi:** that one all about? Yeah, this one is another reboot. We did this one in 2019, and so we decided to kind of do a reboot of this one because we really like the music a lot.

Ken and I wrote a lot of really dark, spooky, gothic songs. The cool thing about this show is... So, my spouse, Gray, was doing a lot of voiceover acting at a certain point, and had gotten this gig to do a voiceover for an audiobook that was poems. There was a whole big group of collection of poems by this guy named Joffrey Charles Pate.

And the poems were all really spooky, and creepy, and about murder, and robots. And mad scientists and all kinds of things. And so Gray got this idea to like, put them together and put all of these poems into a plot. And so like, wrote this like, script that was kind of Jack the Ripper based. So it's got like, the elements of the Jack the Ripper character.

Yeah, but it's also got this mad scientist. It's got androids and robots. It's got like, it's set in the seventies. So it's like kind of a completely different time period. And there's like lots of like sci fi and horror elements combined. And then. I took the poems and took the poems and adapted them into songs.

So some of the poems are really like are kind of intact. And then some of the songs are like completely original songs that have anything to do with the poems or maybe just share a title with one of the poems. But it's, it's really cool. How everything kind of like merged together into the plot from kind of this, this obscure collection of poems.

And the guy's still living. The guy that wrote them. He's living, he knows about the show, he lives in England, he's from London. And he's excited that we're doing it again. That's

**Morgan:** awesome. When you reboot these shows, do you like revisit them and tighten them up and change things? What, what's your process for that?

Do you often do edits in between?

**Heidi:** Yeah, I think I, for this one definitely, like, Gray went through and edited, did some script edits. We talked about what worked and what didn't work the last time he did the show. Like, it's good to be able to do it again because we can kind of go back and see, okay, what jokes didn't land?

Like, what didn't land any night of the show? You know, like, what concepts did people not get when they talked to us after the show? What plot elements? Didn't work, you know, maybe there was like, you know, so we needed more clarification of some plot elements. And so there were definitely some tightening up of like.

Making things, certain things more clear this time around. And then, even in the, like, blocking and choreography and the character development, we even, like, with our new director for this, because it was a different director last time, new director for this one, talked about, like, some of the elements we wanted to make sure that were brought out more, because we felt like that was missing from the show the first time.

As far as, like, The songwriting things for this one, I listened to all the songs and this is not common, I don't think, because they're, I definitely go and like do, you know, some edits, but I listen to all the songs. I'm like, yeah, that's a banger. That's a banger. That's a hot track. I don't need to change anything.

I do think though what I am going to change is because I I played piano and flute on the show last year is one of my friends is like, who's does a lot of torch songs shows Ross. He is a, like, got through through. He is like, he got our group and he goes to God. music festivals and like goth nights at like clubs and he knows like goth music and like industrial music and he's like hey would you like some suggestions on ways you can make the songs even more goth cool and i was like yeah so i think when i go through which will be probably soon go through and like revisit what i did the last time for the the piano for sure I'm definitely going to take that into account because that's something that's really heavy and the industrial goth music is having like Like synth sounds and organ and harpsichord and strings and things like that and like how I can like add more in and change it up to make it a little more like, you know, moody and match that style.

**Morgan:** Cool. What a fun process. Several episodes ago we interviewed, I interviewed Our mutual friend, Brooke on, who works in musical theater. And one thing, one quote she said is a musical is never done. There's no such thing as a finished musical. It's always tweaking and, and and then it's exactly the same what you're describing.

**Heidi:** She played drums for us the last time we did Ripper. She's

**Morgan:** a good drummer, yes. Great. Yeah. Okay, Sinister Songs and Terrifying Tales. I want to hear all about this.

**Heidi:** Yeah, so this show we did last year, just as a one night only thing, because we're like, I don't know, sounds like fun. We dress up like Gomez and Morticia, my spouse and I, for random things.

And it honestly, the idea of the show stemmed from a show that I saw back when I lived in Ohio when I was like a teenager that was Edgar Allen Poe stories being read aloud by a reader. And then act it out on stage and I thought it was so cool and I was like, how do we do something like this? Add music because it's torch song and all of our shows and musicals.

And so I was like, well, we could, you know, what's popular or what will, what will be fun and sell tickets and what characters really? Okay. Gomez and Morticia, Adam's family. Perfect. Yes. And so then we were like, okay, let's do, you know, excerpts from all these spooky stories like the Raven Telltale Heart, Casca Monte.

Let's do a piece from Legend Sleepy Hollow. 'cause I love that story. And then let's find some little shorter stories to throw in there too. And let's find songs that match. So, the basic gist of this show is that we'll tell a story, and some of them are acted out with actors doing things on stage, like the big stories, like the Edgar Allen Poe's.

And then we have a song that goes with the... The story that goes after it, that we sing as like a solo or a duet. And some of them are very serious and kind of spooky. And some of them, the songs are a little quirky and silly and fun. So it's kind of like, you know, the Addams family is like that. It's like serious and spooky and kind of sexy, you know, and then you have the quirky and silly and fun.

So it kind of goes back and forth. So last year we did it and people just loved it. And we had. My friend, Daryl McGee, who does a lot of like improv in town. He's so good at just like jumping in and doing stuff. And so we had him just jumping at the last minute to be Uncle Fester. And yeah, he's just so funny.

He's hilarious. And so this year we're like, we need the whole family. So now we got Fester. And then one of my students who's amazing is going to be Wednesday. And then another gal that's one of her friends is going to be Pugsley. And then I got one of my. My good friend has her OLCC, her bartending license.

So she's going to be grandma Adams at the bar.

**Morgan:** Nice. That's fabulous. It's very funny. Again, I highly recommend anyone who listening who's listening, follow Torch Song on social media. It's very, very fun. And it was funny seeing you, you do the posts of like, this person was cast as this role. And so there's like the picture of your, I now know your student who's playing Wednesday, you know, next to.

Wednesday Addams, I think from the, one of the original, the original series. Anyway, one of the Wednesday Addams and it's just so funny because your student Liz is like this, this young, bright, beautiful girl with red hair. Like she looks like this is going to be a very fun transformation.

**Heidi:** I think. Oh, she's excited about it.

She's like, Oh good. I don't have to smile. Awesome.

**Morgan:** I know it's, it's like such a great, cheerful picture. And then Wednesday Addams. So at this point, how big is your team? So you've mentioned many names. Are these volunteers? Do you do any of them? Like, is it mostly a

**Heidi:** volunteer company? Yeah. Everybody's pretty much volunteer.

The only people that I, I pay are, I like to pay the musicians just because, you know, What I found in the past is if I get volunteer musicians, they're usually terrible. And, and I, I feel like that's like a skill that they've worked their whole life to be a musician and be really good. So it's not a lot, but it's something to just to be like, Hey, I appreciate all the work you put in your whole life to be a good musician.

And you know, Some of them are like, I don't really need the money, but like, you know, put it back into the company. But I, I usually pay them. And then if I have a person running sound, that is one of the hardest jobs in the whole like crew is life sounds. Those are the two hardest because sound management, because we run with like eight wireless headset mics usually, which is a lot.

And it's really difficult to get all of them sounding good and not having like. Feedback or popping in and out or getting them on the right channels and then also getting the band to sound not too loud and balanced is kind of the hardest thing. And then the setup and tear down of the sound is always like the biggest so much.

Yeah. Yeah, but the people that I do pay, it's, it's, it's meager. It's, it's whatever we can, you know, I try to pay the people that I know need it. In that regard, too. It's like, I know that, like, you're volunteering your time, but I also know that, like, you work, like, a crappy minimum wage job, and you love theater, and you want to do this, so, like, here, have 50 bucks here and there, you know.

Yeah. That's right. But everybody else is pretty much, like, just, like, for the love of theater. And they're just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts because they just love it,

**Morgan:** so. Yeah. What about this journey surprised you that you didn't expect to learn or grow or

**Heidi:** do? I think that, like, I think it just, it's surprising that we're still doing stuff because it's just, I mean, we really, we started in 2015.

So it's been like a long time that we've been doing stuff. So it's just interesting to me, like how, like the company has changed and morphed in different ways. Like, you know, like looking at like who was doing shows. Back when we first started versing who's doing shows now and like, I, I, I like to see the growth of like, you know, people taking on tasks that I used to do myself and being passionate about them.

I, it's surprising to me when people want to do the things that I always was like, nobody's going to want to do this. Who's going to want to work on props? I love props. Props are my passion. I'm like, all right. You know, like that, that's really interesting to me to see, like, you know, I used to program the lights myself.

I've got my lighting guy who's like, like, so like meticulous about lighting and just loves doing lights. I'm like, all right, have fun, be my guest, you know? So I, I think it's. It's wonderful that like people are finding the things they really like and getting to do them. And, you know, it, it all just builds a sense of community and fun and there's a lot of friendships that grow.

**Morgan:** Yeah. Okay. So thinking about going, your comment about lights, do you, did you purchase this equipment? Like those are like lights can be pretty serious and a good sound system. I mean, I've. I've looked at sourcing wireless headsets, even just for other groups I've been in. And that's like, not a small thing.

Those things are a lot and they're a lot to manage. So have you, do you rent this stuff? Have you purchased it? Like how do you source your

**Heidi:** equipment? Yeah, we own all of it. We have our entire lighting system that we own that if we needed to get a different space, we could take it with us. The lights are actually not as expensive as you would think anymore because the LEDs are so stinking cheap.

Okay. They don't get hot like the old fashioned stage lights do. Nice. The light colors are really vibrant and pretty. They're so easy to use. They all just hook to a computer program. And they Yeah. They don't get hot. You like, you don't touch them, burn your hands. They're lightweight. They're not heavy.

So like the LEDs just make things so much easier to just, and for transportation too, and storage, they're so small. Like gone are the days of those big honking stage lights that weighed like 30 pounds each. I know that's what I was

**Morgan:** picturing those huge

**Heidi:** things. Yeah. Yeah. Those are, those are totally out.

The lights, we all kind of got all at once. Like we like kind of budgeted. Like how much we needed to like spend on those, the sound equipment, we, has, has been a slow collection as, as one does, as one does. But it's been, and it's, we've done some. Getting, getting rid of things and adding new things with the sound equipment and like we just got a a new mixer that's like huge, it's massive, it's like 20 channels.

Nice. And we keep, we keep adding more headset mics, more and more, cause like we started with like four, and then we like would pass them back and forth. And some of bit the dust and we've had to get new ones and we've upgraded to like better quality things. It's definitely like whenever we make money on a show.

Like, I'm always like, okay, what sound equipment can I get to upgrade? Because the better the equipment, for the sound at least, the better the show's gonna be. Because the, the like, low level equipment we had in the past was so sketchy. So, it's nice to be able to like, put money towards the

**Morgan:** tech. Yeah, for those of you who have never...

Had the joy or misfortune of using headsets. They are such a pain. They're such a pain. They seem so handy. They're really buggy. Do

**Heidi:** you think that they wouldn't be in this day and age? Yes. You're like,

**Morgan:** oh, it's just Bluetooth. No, no.

**Heidi:** I don't want anyone to know where we're storing all these things because we did have an issue where I got a bunch of microphones stolen.


**Morgan:** remember that. Oh my gosh. I forgot about that. Yes, you

**Heidi:** did. Yeah, so I try to keep them in a very safe, secure place now that, that is hidden from everybody because I, I trust less, but I mean, we have to have at least 10, 000 worth of sound equipment that the theater company owns that we use, so. Yeah.

**Morgan:** It's a lot.


**Heidi:** Yes. It's an

**Morgan:** asset. So just speaking, again, there's so many moving pieces. I, I'm just so happy to be picking your brain on this. Cause it's like all the things I want to know about, about theater. What about costumes? What do you do with these? Do you keep them in the storage unit as well? Do you make them?

Do you put them together from like thrifting? How do you find and build these? Cause the costumes are really cool. You go all in on costumes. Yeah,

**Heidi:** it's definitely a little of everything. I think in the early days when I was just doing stuff myself, it was hot glue and a prayer for some of the costumes.

And then just like, you know, a lot of them, we, I buy things online, we go to the thrift stores and Goodwill and find things. People have things in their closets they put together. Lately, since like, last year, we've had some Gals come in that are legit costumers, like they love making costumes. So we had our very first actual costumer, not this past spring, but the previous, when we did our Dungeons and Dragons musical, Guilds of Manzoa, and she made such neat costumes.

She made so many cool costumes for that, like fantasy costumes, like armor, and a dragon costume, and, you know, she made this beautiful bard costume that was like bubblegum pink because the character had to have a bubblegum pink costume and So her name's Teresa and she's awesome But then she like people like noticed and then they snatched her away Yeah.

But, yeah, but we, this, this time around we have another gal, Laura, who's also in the show who we're like, Well, you know, we don't want you to be in the show and do costumes. And she's like, I must do costumes. I don't care. I will fight you to do costumes too. I'm like, great. So yeah, she's a seamstress and she's making costumes.

So it's really great now that we have the option to make things from scratch, which is something we did not have before. And it was more of like cobbling together things through, you know, all of our different channels. So I love that now we can like, we're like, Hey, we need blah, blah, blah, blah. And I can't find anything like it anywhere.

I have. A couple of people who are like, I can make that. Let's do it. It's amazing.

**Morgan:** I didn't even see, I was going through many shows that you did. I forgot about the, the D and D one. So many. So what are some other ideas? What do you have percolating in your

**Heidi:** head? Yeah, we, well, my, one of my actors and he's directing the show coming up, Eric Clark.

He's written a show that we're working towards doing some edits and that's like a Robin Hood version, but it. Yeah, it's got like a message about like gentrification and like, you know, the homelessness plight. So it's kind of heavy. Yeah. And so we're working on that one. We got that kind of like brewing.

And then Gray and I are working on a show that. It actually is a show that started out as a murder mystery show that I wrote for a murder mystery company at some point, who only put it on once, where it was like sci fi in the 60s and it was on a movie set, and so it kind of turned into a show we did that was a drive in sci fi bingo that we did during the lockdowns, which was really cute people Like sat in their cars and played bingo and we have kind of a loose plot.

And it was kind of transitioned into doing another version of it that was like. More like in person and so we've kind of taken this and we're turning it into a fully fledged musical from this idea and that is basically like the sci fi TV series is being filmed in like the 60s and there's some murders that happen on the sets and The plot twist is that there are real aliens.

Wow! Yes, and that's why the murders are happening because there are real aliens who are causing trouble and in this, on this TV set. And so this one, we're still kind of working out the bugs. We haven't started writing it yet, but we have like an outline and a general plot idea for it. So it's just about like sitting down like.

Getting more like dialogue and things on paper, but we have a lot of the characters already sussed out from when we did it before and they're all really fun, colorful characters. It's going to be a female driven cast. We've been finding in our shows, it's like. 80 percent of the people that come out for the shows are women and they're all.

Incredible. So, this show is probably only going to have one to two male characters. Everybody else is going to, it's all going to be written for female voices.

**Morgan:** Nice. Oh, that sounds really, really fun. Well, I have one last question for you which I ask every guest this. So this is Zeitgeist Radio.

Zeitgeist means, you know, Spirit of the Times. And we all have had, every single one of us has had a moment where everything just kind of plugs in. Like, whether it's to a broader cultural or, or like, subcultural, like, connection. But somehow you're listening to music or you're doing something with music.

And it just, you're just in like, like it's a flow state, whatever you want to call it. And I call that a zeitgeist moment when you're just kind of consumed with the music and you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself. What was a recent zeitgeist moment for you or a particularly memorable one?

**Heidi:** Well in the spring, we flew out to Vegas to go to this humongous, massive music festival called Sick New World, that is, like, it was all heavy metal bands, and the headliners were Korn and System of a Down, were the two final bands of the day for the concert. And I've been getting into, like, heavy metal and, like, harder music, like, in the last several years.

And it feels very, like, cathartic to kind of, like, rage, and just, like, headbang, with, like, you know, angry music. And so, we got really close to the front, as close as we could, to Korn. And we had seen them before, like, when they were in town here, like, the previous year. But we were, like, way...

Way out, like way, way far away. So we got very close. And so just like the opening song where they just started and this sea of people are just like just raging and like, I thought there were 10, 000 people at this concert, 80, 000 jumping up at the same time. Moving and then System of a Down was like that as well.

That band hasn't performed in like five or six years anywhere. So it was crazy. Song is called Pogo. It's like bounce Pogo, Pogo, Pogo, Pogo, Pogo, Pogo. And like this whole crowd of like 80, 000 people in front and behind us just bouncing together. It was so cool. That's

**Morgan:** awesome. That's like twice the size of my hometown.

That's so many

**Heidi:** people. Yeah. It was a lot of people.

**Morgan:** Oh, that's awesome. Well, Heidi, thank you so much for being on my podcast. You're just, you're so inspiring. Everyone go check out Torch Song. If you're in the Portland area, definitely subscribe. Go to their shows. They're a whole heck of a lot of fun. And thanks for, for joining

**Heidi:** me on my podcast.

Yeah, thank you. It's been really fun.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio, to uplevel your musical journey and become a music student for life. Join the Zeitgeist Academy by signing up for my biweekly newsletter. You'll get exclusive content, blog posts, and behind the scenes insights. I love putting it together and you'll love reading it.

Head over to zeitgeist That's Z E I T G E I S t

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