To celebrate “Women’s Awareness Month” I will be profiling as many of the female perfomers that I can at The Second City. Our great city needs to appreciate these funny and intelligent female comedians. Keep an eye out for a number of pieces on our faves at Second City.
Karla L. Beard, currently staring in “Rush Limbaugh! The Musical,” exemplifies the broad range of performers that work at Second City – she works hard, she has abundant natural talent and had a little luck along the way. She also is a rarity at Second City – a relative outsider who ended up on the E.T.C. stage.
Beard began her theatrical life as a child when she studied ballet, did community theatre plays along with bands and choirs. A defining moment in Beard's theatrical career was while studying at Weslyan she couldn't get cast in any school shows. Someone outside the theatre department recommended that she look outside the school for chances to perform. Ironically, Beard was cast in "Joe Turner's Come and Come" at ISU.
Beard didn’t start in the training center, tour or understudy at Second City in her salad days like most performers at Second City. She spent almost 11 years in musical theatre after working in some smaller non-equity productions. Becoming an Equity member and receiving benefits was a goal for Beard. (Many of us can empathize with the need for benefits and healthcare today.)
A formative experience was her work in “Miss Saigon” at the Marriott Lincolnshire. The cast was fun, supportive, gave compliments and meaningful constructive criticism. “Everyone in their life should have a ‘Miss Saigon’ experience,” Beard believes.
Beard toured with “Mamma Mia”, among other shows, which was also a great experience. Beard’s show stopping number in “Rush Limbaugh” shows off her amazing voice and range. She has the difficult task of switching back and forth as narrator and character in the show. The seamless transitions are a credit to her acting skills honed after all the years of musical theatre.
Life recently took priority for Beard in the best way; she had her son almost two years ago. Now a working mother, she scheduled a meeting with her agent to discuss her career path. Soon after the meeting Second City called and asked her to audition for “Rush Limbaugh,” she took the audition and was called the same day and offered the part. Beard’s job as the Early Childhood music teacher at the Catherine Cook School was flexible and encouraged her to perform in the show. Second City was flexible with rehearsal times as well. All this lead Beard to think, “what do I have to lose?”
The rehersal schedule for the revue was quick; there was one week of rehearsals then the show was up on its feet a week and a day later. Beard believes that those from the improv world involved in the revue “really value what musical people have to add” to the show.
For Beard, the experience of performing at Second City and being part of a world premier musical has been an “awesome” experience. Beard explains it is “exciting to be a part of something new…part of something different.” Audiences for the show are growing steadily, so cast and crew are pleased.
Those not so pleased are Limbaugh fans, including one who attended the show just to heckle the actors. One reviewer, I won’t name her here, used a quote from Hitler in her review of this show. (Ironic much?) Some reviews have been mediocre to bad and the cast has faced up to these reviews. The right wing and Limbaugh are, admittedly, easy targets these days – but this show has definitely hit a nerve. Beard’s role and the show have definitely gotten under the skin of right wingers.
Beard thinks it is “awesome that people have strong opinions disliking the show.” Her personality is jovial and optimistic, so her reaction is not too surprising. She is proud that they have produced a show that is generating such strong emotions and reactions. She enjoys being on the cutting edge and doing things that are different. According to Beard, the cast is tight and they let each other know “they have your back.” They are a true ensemble.
Beard has a great attitude and respects that while the show definitely has a strong point of view, people are free to criticize and write negative things about the show; although sometimes she doesn’t understand the zealousness. She has dealt with the hecklers with panache and humor. “In a way,” she states, “I can’t believe people would pay to park and pay for tickets just to come down and heckles us.” I don’t know why that would be either – ask a “ditto head” I guess.
So what is next, besides dealing with the terrible two’s, for this exceptionally talented triple threat? Beard would love another Second City opportunity; she’d love to improvise and write shows. As she summarizes, “it is so cool!”
While she doesn’t have the “typical” Second City training she is up for anything after this experience. “I feel very respected and valued – I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
I’d like to see more of Beard and musical comedy revues; it definitely mixes up the usual Second City experience. As Beard would happily say, “what do you have to lose?”
Have fun and, as always, don’t forget to tip your waiters – generously.
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