Valerie Brothers has been active in South Jersey community theaters for the last 18 years both on stage and behind the scenes. Her love of theater was inherited from her mother who instilled in her at a very young age an appreciation of the theatrical arts, especially Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals!
She has been involved in all facets of theater from acting and directing to stage managing, producing, costuming, hair and makeup artist as well as special effects makeup.
Favorite past roles include Lina Lamont in “Singin’ in the Rain”, Truvy Jones in “Steel Magnolias”, Tansy McGinnis in “The Nerd”, Mary in “The Champagne Charlie Stakes” and Lizzie Borden in “Blood Relations”.
Directing credits: “The Foreigner”, “Fidelity Farce”, “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “The Fox on the Fairway”.
Mrs. Brothers graciously agreed to an interview on June 29, 2017. An edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Critique Compendium: You’ve produced shows in the past. Could you tell me: what percentage of a show’s budget goes to pay for Al Krier’s wardrobe?
Valerie Brothers: I made all the sweaters (for The Fox on the Fairway). Just two days before opening I finished. I have degree in fashion merchandising. It came in handy.
I picked up the materials at Village Thrift.
Critique Compendium: You’ve been involved in the just about every facet of theatre as a performer, a director and a producer among other roles. Which is the most challenging for you?
Valerie Brothers: Directing is the most challenging because I am I perfectionist. I want everything exactly right. I try to stay as close to playwright’s vision as I do to my own.
When you’re the director the responsibility falls on you. There’s only one person to blame if something’s not right.
Critique Compendium: You credit you mother for instilling your interest in theatre. When did you start performing?
Valerie Brothers: I was incredibly shy in grade school and high school. I auditioned for one show in high school and didn’t get cast.
I was working back stage when a Footlighters director tried to get me over my shyness. She pushed me into playing a hooker. Getting me to walking out on stage while scantily clad did it.
Critique Compendium: How do you select the shows you’d like to direct?
Valerie Brothers: I love farces and comedies. I like to make people laugh. The sillier the show the better.
I worked as the assistant director on Rabbit Hole. After spending three months on a show about a four-year-old getting killed after a car hit him I needed to laugh.
Critique Compendium: Do you take a different approach when directing a drama versus directing a comedy?
Valerie Brothers: Yes and no.
With comedy everything still has to be true to the script and vice versa. I have more fun with comedy.
Doing drama can be depressing. Especially when rehearsing it three nights a week.
Critique Compendium: In The Fox on the Fairway, you directed the comedy team of Dan Brothers and Al Krier. What was it like working with those two performers?
Valerie Brothers: They’re my “go to couple.” They have undeniable chemistry. They’re also good friends off stage. When they’re on stage they raise each other up.
Working with them is a hoot. Any crazy idea I throw at them they’ll do. In Fidelity Farce their characters kissed at the end. They went at it so hard I think Dan chipped a tooth.
Critique Compendium: In both The Fox on the Fairway and Glengarry, Glen Ross, you had the opportunity to direct your husband, Dan Brothers. What was it like to find yourself directing your own spouse?
Valerie Brothers: He’s such a diva. (Laughs.)
I treat him like any other actor. Since we live together I have a lot more opportunities to talk to him than I do with the other cast members.
We actually had a long talk about his Fox on the Fairway character. You wouldn’t know it from way he performed in the show, but up until two days before it opened he struggled with the role. We discussed it and worked on it together until he nailed it.
Critique Compendium: In The Fox on the Fairway, you found yourself in a very unusual situation as a director. In the show a woman takes a romantic interest in the character your husband plays. Do you feel that situation affected your artistic judgement?
Valerie Brothers: No. I’ve known Liz (Deal – the performer who played her husband’s love interest) for years. She’s a professional. Everyone I’ve worked with in community theatre is professional.
There were no worries. Plus, Dan knows I would just kill him if something happened. (Laughs.)
Critique Compendium: There’s a scene in The Fox on the Fairway where the characters get into a circle and toss a vase back-and-forth. What was it like coordinating that incident? Did you have a dozen spare vases handy in case someone dropped it?
Valerie Brothers: No. We just had the one vase.
We started off with a plastic vase. It was larger than the one we used in the show. We did the scene over and over until it was second nature. We must’ve done it ten times during a night’s rehearsal.
The assistant director’s girlfriend brought in the vase we used in the show. It’s Japanese.
I was a little afraid. Theatre people are not sports people. There’s a reason we did drama in high school and not sports.
Critique Compendium: Both you and Mr. Brothers performed together in Rumors. What’s it like to share the stage with your spouse?
Valerie Brothers: It’s always great to have your spouse out there. Every night I got to observe the things he would change up.
We played a husband and wife team in Exit Date at Bridge Players. The characters were totally unlike ourselves, but it was fun to play a married couple together.
Critique Compendium: The role of Cookie Cusack in Rumors was physically demanding. Walking on your palms and the balls of your feet couldn’t have been comfortable. What did you do to prepare yourself for that show?
Valerie Brothers: I got a hip replacement. I called it my bionic hip.
The sillier the role the better. If people will laugh at me I’ll do it.
Critique Compendium: What types of things interest you in playing a role?
Valerie Brothers: I like stepping into someone else’s shoes. It’s challenging to see if you can pull it off. Playing Lizzie Borden is a good example.
Critique Compendium: What’s been your favorite role that you’ve performed so far?
Valerie Brothers: Singing in the Rain was an iconic movie musical. It harkened back to when my mom instilled that appreciation of the theatrical arts. I wanted to be the people on the screen, but I can’t sing.
I’d also say The Nerd. I met Dan there. It was a fun show.
Critique Compendium: What’s the most difficult role you’ve played?
Valerie Brothers: Lizzie Borden was a very complex character. I liked trying to understand her side. It was a heavy drama piece. I had fun watching everyone in the audience gasp. It was a very challenging emotional roller coaster. One moment she’s sweet, in another she’s crying and then she’s wielding an axe.
Critique Compendium: Describe your most memorable moment on stage so far.
Valerie Brothers: I played the lead hooker part in No Sex Please, We’re British. The director was adamant that I had to carry a guy on my shoulders across the stage in six inch heels: not piggyback. She insisted it had to be on my shoulders. I had to come out a door, too. Like Seabiscut, I carried this man across the stage every night.
It was a challenge doing it so that he didn’t go flying or fall; but it got a laugh every night.
Critique Compendium: What actors have influenced you?
Valerie Brothers: For comedy, Goldie Hawn has great comic timing. Melissa McCarthy will do anything for a laugh.
I have to add Meryl Streep, too, because she’s Meryl Streep.
Critique Compendium: If you had the opportunity to work with any other actor either living or dead, who would it be?
Valerie Brothers: I’m a very big nostalgia buff. I’d say Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn. They had class. Actors back then held themselves to a higher standard.
That’s not to say that actors today don’t have high standards. I just don’t think actors should make political statements like Johnny Depp did recently.
Critique Compendium: How do you prepare for a role?
Valerie Brothers: When I played Lizzie Borden, I read every book I could find on her. If I’m playing a fictional character I’ll research the situation to make my performance as believable as possible.
Critique Compendium: What do you bring to your roles that other performers don’t?
Valerie Brothers: This isn’t to say that other performers aren’t, but I’m a perfectionist. If it ain’t right I won’t do it. I feel it’s important to the author to get the lines right.
Critique Compendium: How would you like audiences to remember you?
Valerie Brothers: Just as somebody who entertained them, gave them a good laugh and gave them their 20 bucks worth.
Critique Compendium: If I asked people with whom you’ve performed what it was like working with you, what would they tell me?
Valerie Brothers: I think they’ll tell you I’m open to suggestions. They may see something I’m missing. We talk about it. I go into it with a vision, but they see me as being open to possibilities.
Critique Compendium: What do you do when you’re not on stage? What are your hobbies?
Valerie Brothers: My cats. I’m a huge animal lover. I’ll do anything for an animal. Both of my cats are rescues. I enjoy trying to find homes for homeless animals and would like to foster shelter animals someday. I’m also quite adept at spoiling my kitties and am well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady!
I visit my mom in the nursing home. I’ll go over pictures with her.
I also go kickboxing with Liz (Deal).
Critique Compendium: How do you balance a career, family and other activities with your involvement in community theater productions?
Valerie Brothers: That’s why I take time off between shows. I love being involved, but it’s nice to sit on the couch and relax. Theatre doesn’t leave much time for other commitments.
Critique Compendium: What’s next for you?
Valerie Brothers: I’m going to assistant direct Crossing Delancey at Burlington County Footlighters 2nd Stage in June. Torben Christensen will be directing.
Critique Compendium: What advice would you give to young people interested in participating in the performing arts?
Valerie Brothers: Just have no fear. I always had dreams of performing, but my shyness inhibited me for a long time. Just go for it.