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The New Girls of the Whorehouse

Rehearsals for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas have passed the halfway point, and with that, even the newest performers to the company feel like part of the furniture. Of the five people making their GMT stage debut next month, the men and women have very different roads, challenges and victories ahead of them. We caught up with the girls, Deborah Quinn, Ann O’Neill and Christina Craven, to discuss whores, horses, and the empowering side of Miss Mona’s Chicken Ranch.

GMT: Hey, guys! You've just finished your first run of Act I, completely without scripts or librettos in your hands. How did it go?

Christina: Really well for a first run, thanks!

Ann: Yeah, it went well considering.

Deborah: It was lovely getting to watch some of the other scenes. I had been curious as to what everyone else in the cast has been up to while we've been hanging out in the whorehouse!

Christina: It's always really helpful to see how scenes and songs fit in context, and to have everything finally come together. It always feels like time passes quicker when you're running the show instead of rehearsing it.

Ann: Everyone has obviously worked so hard, and if the result of the first run is anything to go by, it's going to be one heck of a show!

GMT: What was it that tempted you to audition in the first place?

Ann: I really wanted to try doing a less well-known show, with a different theatre group, and I had heard great things about the company.

Deborah: I came across GMT's website while looking for open auditions in Glasgow. I started researching the show, listening to the songs and watching clips of the film - whatever I could find, really - and it got me really excited. I was so out of practise, though, so I still hadn't convinced myself I was auditioning. Then one of the first articles I saw on GMT's site was titled "What's Stopping You?" I'm such a hippy sometimes, and took it as a sign, so I auditioned!

Christina: I was looking for a show to do before summer, as well as a chance for more stage experience. Whorehouse is also completely different from any show I've ever seen or done before.

GMT: How has working with GMT compared so far to what you're used to?

Ann: The pace has been different for me. I'm used to being spoon-fed direction, but GMT's pace is much faster, and I definitely prefer it. It keeps you on the ball and focused on the task.

Deborah: Yes, I totally agree! You're never bored or left guessing at these rehearsals. It's clear there's a plan, or a vision that we're working towards from the second we start a new scene.

Christina: But there's still a lot left up to the individual in terms of characterisation.

Ann: You get so much more done that way, and fast, leaving plenty of time for tidying up. Even the audition process was more relaxed and friendly than my past experiences, which helped me do my best and see what kind of people I'd be working with if I did the show. These were definitely some pretty awesome people, and that decided it for me.

Deborah: There was a real effort made to put me at ease, too.

Ann: Even in rehearsals, everyone has been so nice! I can definitely see great friendships being created.

Christina and Deborah in rehearsals

GMT: What's your favourite thing about the show so far?

Ann: Everyone has something to do, all the time. You're never just chorus, or background, making up the numbers. Plus, when playing different characters you have to be creative to help distinguish each one from the last, which really challenges your acting ability. I love a challenge.

Deborah: Ann is spot on - it's rewarding being part of a small cast and having the opportunity to play multiple characters. But my favourite thing has to be the music! The songs are so interesting to learn. There's a nice variety of pace and style throughout the show, and I just love singing in a Texan accent.

Christina: Yeah, the Country music is the best, and the dancing that goes with it. Also, finally getting to see the Aggie Song during the run on Sunday? Highlight of the whole process for me so far. Brilliant and absolutely hilarious.

GMT: When show week's all said and done and you're looking back on it all, what do you think the biggest challenge will have been?

Ann: Show week itself, I think, or at least finding the stamina to survive it. We're on stage the majority of the show, and to do that for six performances in a row, with all those quick changes... At least it will let me know if all my exercising has paid off. If I'm still alive by the end!

Deborah: Ah, show week is a scary thought. Finding the right amount of caffeine will be hard, as well as staying awake at work each day.

Christina: The biggest challenge comes after: post-show blues!

Deborah: Oh, I hate the thought of it all being over.

GMT: Who are the 'whores' y'all are playing?

Ann: She's called Ruby Rae. She was brought up in a trailer park with her mum. I really love playing ditzy, clumsy characters, so she can't read or write and has very little common sense.

Deborah: I am playing Eloise, and she was originally a city girl. Miss Mona named her after her favourite character in a children's book, who was a clever, mischievous cookie. She's never had a family, so she loves being part of the Chicken Ranch. The girls are like sisters to her.

Christina: I'm playing Beatrice Bodeen. She's making money at the Chicken Ranch to get through college. Though she might seem aloof and irritable sometimes, she really cares about all the girls and thanks her lucky stars she has such great friends at work. Coming up with backstories is so much fun!

Ann at the Whorehouse promo shoot, with castmates Kelly Johnston, Nicola Hunter and Julie Henery.

GMT: How do you feel about the themes of the show? Do you feel like the women at the Chicken Ranch are empowered by their jobs, or are they victimised?

Ann: I really do feel like the women of the Chicken Ranch are empowered by their jobs.

Christina: I totally agree.

Ann: They have say-so in what they do, and they're perfectly safe at the whorehouse, instead of being out in the street somewhere. Most of them have chosen to be there and are in charge, from what it seems.

Christina: I think that definitely puts them in a position where they can choose the direction their lives go in, whether the Chicken Ranch is a long-term home or a step towards the profession they really want for themselves.

Ann: I'm sure the majority of them would prefer another job, but for some it's all they can get or do or are actually good at, and there’s nothing wrong with being good at it. Plus the Chicken Ranch girls are a supportive family unit, which a lot of them were missing from their lives.

Deborah: I think they are empowered, but not by their jobs - more by their honesty. They don't hide what they do or who they are. They take pride in it. Most of the other characters in the show are concealing something, something that makes them vulnerable. The girls, by comparison, don't have anything left to hide.

GMT: Last time, we asked our interviewees what they'd call their horse if we gave them one. Any ideas?

Deborah: I'd need to know the horse's gender. 'Deputy Bullseye' for a male horse, and 'Sparkles' for a lady.

Christina: 'Moonshine', because it rolls off the tongue quite nicely, and it fits with the setting.

Ann: Seeing as my character is dim-witted, with very little luck, I'm imagining my horse would only have three legs or something. So... 'Tripod'?

GMT: And finally, if you had to pick a 'stage name' to work at the Chicken Ranch, what would it be?

Deborah: I'd like something ridiculous like 'Sassy Summers'. With all that sass, she'd definitely stand out.

Christina: I think I'd keep it simple and call myself 'Bea'.

Ann: I'm short and a bit of a lightweight. Maybe 'Half-Pint Harriet' or something? At least she's a cheap date!

The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas runs from 5th-9th May 2015 at Websters Theatre, Glasgow. Show information can be found here, or buy your tickets now here.

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