Stilts and dalmatians
Granite Stater Garett Hawe performs at the Wang
By Heidi Masek email@example.com
Garett Hawe, 23, got early theater, dance and voice training in the Nashua area. Now he’s part of the cast of the national tour of 101 Dalmatians, which stops at the Wang Center in Boston for shows Dec. 23 through Dec. 27 (www.the101dalmatiansmusical.com).
Hawe performed with Peacock Players and Actorsingers in Nashua, and the Palace Theatre and Acting Loft in Manchester. In Nashua he also danced at Northern Ballet Theatre and studied voice with Michele Henderson. After moving from Pepperell, Mass., to Hollis at age 14, Hawe attended Hollis-Brookline High but switched to home schooling, then joined a national tour at 18. Hawe spoke to The Hippo from Dallas, where 101 Dalmatians played for three weeks in December.
Have you performed in a national tour in Boston before?
No. I haven’t and it’s always been a dream of mine to do so. I grew up going to Boston, seeing all of the tours that came through. And I’ve seen so many shows at the Wang Theatre, which I’ll be performing at. So it’s been a dream of mine since I was little to perform in Boston, and to do so over Christmas is very surreal and very exciting.
Can you tell me a little about what attracted you to musical theater?
Well, I started because my mother was a dance teacher. And my sister was a dancer.
I did sports when I was little. I enjoy it, but I wasn’t amazing at it. It didn’t really feel right.
Then I was kind of roped into a community theater production. It just felt right. It felt normal to me. I just loved dancing and performing so much. And the idea of being someone else is really fun. The feeling that I got from dancing at an early age was unlike any other feeling. I knew that it was always want I wanted to do.
Did you have any influences when you were growing up in Pepperell, Hollis and Nashua? People you worked with or shows that you saw?
Definitely. As far as people from the area, like I said, Michele Henderson was my voice teacher, and she taught me so much. Doreen Cafarella from Northern Ballet Theatre in Nashua was someone who really took me under her wing and gave me a lot of personal attention. Which as a male dancer I needed. Peacock Players gave me lot of opportunity to play roles in their theater. I learned a lot from that.
When I was little, I would watch old MGM movies and I wanted to be Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Those song-and-dance-man-type characters is something I’m hoping to step into when I’m older.
Can you tell me about your role in 101 Dalmatians?
I’m in the ensemble and I play various different parts throughout the show. I play a beagle at one point — there’s a bunch of different types of dogs that try to help the two main Dalmatians find their puppies. I play a human and I play a Dalmatian.
...[O]ne of the interesting things about the show is that it’s told through the dogs’ point of view. So all the humans in the show are on 15-inch stilts. So it’s larger than life — the sets are larger than life, the costumes, and we dance on stilts, which is definitely a challenge but it’s also really fun.
Is that something you’ve done before or did you have to train for that?
No. No one in the show has really done that before. And they didn’t tell us we were going to be on stilts until after they cast us.
You actually work with real dogs?
Yes, there are 15 real Dalmatians in the show. They’re actually all rescued Dalmatians. They all came from rescue shelters.... We have four or five trainers with us on the road. The dogs are actually up for adoption. ... People can get information on adopting them if you wish.
It’s really cool because the show uses these Dalmatians — their shortcomings — as their advantage. Like if a dog likes to bark a lot, then the dog will come on stage and bark in the show. So it’s really cool in that these dogs came from shelters and may have had not a great life before, and now they are treated really well and have a really great life.
Do you like dogs?
I love dogs. We have three dogs at home and I miss them so much. Dogs are the best.
Would you mind talking about what it was like to switch to home schooling so you could focus on theater?
I became home schooled my junior year of high school. It was definitely all my decision. My parents didn’t want me to do it at first. But I was just so busy. I wouldn’t get out of school until like 3 o’clock; then I would go straight to dance class, straight to rehearsal. I didn’t get enough sleep. I was getting sick a lot.
I didn’t want to give anything up. So we decided to kind of make my own training program and my own schedule. I became home schooled so that I could take dance classes during the day. I would go into Boston to take dance class. And I also started to do more professional regional theater that rehearsed during the day. Being home schooled allowed me to do that. ... I was also able to go to New York on weekends and take dance classes and see shows, and I think that’s really important. To be exposed to that from a young age.
You went on a national tour, and then went to college?
I did. When I graduated high school I decided to take a year off. I was cast in a national tour of the musical Oklahoma. I did that for eight months. ... It was such an amazing experience. I got to see a lot of the country ... and made a lot of great friends and learned a lot about the business.
And while I was on the road, I realized how young I was and how much time I do have, and that’s when I decided that I did want to go to school, go to a college and get more education and more training. So then I decided to go to college.
Cincinnati, that’s quite a good school for music, correct?
It is. It’s one of the top musical theater programs in the country.
It’s great — the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. I got a BFA in musical theater. So many of the graduates are working in Broadway and on television and national tours. I feel very lucky to have gone there.
A lot of connections then, too?
Absolutely. My whole graduating class, there’s 14 of us, we got to do a showcase in New York when we graduated for agents and casting directors, and ... industry people. You get seen by so many people in New York. I just feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. And that’s where I signed with an agency.
And you actually worked at North Shore. How do you feel about North Shore closing down?
It was devastating to hear that. I consider North Shore Musical Theatre almost a second home to me. They gave me my Equity card. I’ve done the four shows there.
It was so devastating when that happened. Because it was one of the only regional theaters in New England and it’s in the round, and it’s so unique.
But I did hear that someone bought it and that they are trying to reopen it. So I really hope that that happens.
Can you just mention what that means to an actor, to have an Equity card?
Sure. [It’s] being a member of the Actors Equity Association, which is the actors’ union. So just like any job to be part of a union, we get health insurance, we get paid on a weekly basis, and there’s certain minimums and rules and regulations. It’s so that actors get treated fairly and properly and the way they should. To perform on Broadway you have to be member of this union. So it’s definitely something that every actor strives for.
What advice would you give to other young people who might want to follow a path like this?
I think train, train, train is the most important thing. You can never stop working. This business is so hard and so competitive. There’s so many people out there who want to do this and who are so talented that you really have to be sure of yourself. You have to know that you’re talented and know that you can do this, and just work so hard. You can never relax. You have to want it more than anything, because it’s really cutthroat. You’re going to go on 100 auditions and not get most of them. So you really have to love the business and it has to be the only thing that you can see yourself doing. Because it’s hard, but if you love it, if you want it bad enough, you can do it.
You’ve packed a lot into 23 years, haven’t you?
I have. I definitely have. But it’s been amazing. I love this business so much.
Do you know what you want to work on next, or are there any shows that you would really love to be able to do someday?
Yeah, I mean, I always just want to keep doing exciting work.
This process has been amazing, to be part of original musical and a new show. It’s kind of every actor’s dream. I feel lucky to be doing that now at such a young age.
...There’s definitely a lot of other shows I would love to be a part of.... My goal is just to be consistently working in this business because especially in this economy, it’s so tough to even have a job. I want to keep working and doing work that I love.