From Wicked to Dogfight Lindsay Mendez is one of Broadway’s most exciting performers, constantly taking on challenges and always raising the bar on performers of her generation. We caught up with her to talk about her upcoming shows at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
When you’re putting together a show like the one you’re doing at Feinstein’s/54 Below how do you select the songs?
This is my first time doing a solo cabaret, so I thought a lot about what got me into theatre in the same place and how I got here. Sometimes we think about telling our own stories, I had so many influences that pulled me into this path, so I like sharing those stories with people. So the material is about the artists that made me excited about doing this.
As you’re living your life you’re not thinking about your memoirs and any of that, but most performers seem to have a sense of what songs define specific times in their lives. Is that the case for you too?
I think so, there are some songs that feel like they speak for our hearts and our philosophy. There are also certain songs that define joy and that’s why I got into this, because whenever I watch and hear this type of music I’m filled with joy. I feel our responsibility as actors is to bring this to an audience.
How do you balance the setlist in terms of fan favorites and songs that are personal to you?
I’m fortunate to really have loved everything I’ve worked on, so the songs my fans want to hear are songs I love to do. When it comes to my younger audience I feel a responsibility to share with them material that maybe they haven’t heard, a little bit more in the classic style, and breathe new life into that material and send the thinking they need to learn more about that show or writer. I think we have a responsibility to remind young fans that there is great stuff out there that wasn’t written in the last five years.
When you do songs from shows do you think of the character’s feelings or are they Lindsay?
A lot of them have a definite character that I get to slip into for that moment, so it’s a mix of both. I like songs with a major point of view and story that I can throw myself into, but there are also timeless songs where I can just be with the audience and experience that moment together.
I so wanted you to sing in Significant Other, but I also wondered why is it important for you to do plays rather than just musicals?
I don’t think of the difference, I just love telling stories. If I read something that speaks to my heart like that I just want to be a part of it. Music is a huge part of my life but I’m an actor first and foremost, I always have been, I love musicals but I really just want to tell stories that move an audience. I don’t really have a preference, whatever makes me excited and afraid that’s what I want to do.
Are you also adventurous when it comes to things like skydiving and such?
No, only onstage. I’m not risky at all when it comes to my normal life, but when it comes to theatre I love risk, it pushes me forward and drives me, I never want to do the same thing. I want to have experiences in life where I feel like I can fail.
I love seeing your name in Playbills because it’s a name that makes me feel of my own name. As a Latina performer on Broadway do you feel a responsibility to represent our community in a place where we don’t always get to tell our stories?
I’m so proud to be a Latina performer on Broadway, it’s something I don’t take for granted. What I really love is, when I first came here to NYC I was told it would be hard for me to find work because of my last name and my ethnicity. I’ve had the opposite experience. I’m not necessarily cast often in shows that are primarily Hispanic, I love that I can be in any show and people think that’s another person, not that’s a Latin person. I feel a continuous responsibility to be part of shows regardless of whether or not they cast me because of my ethnicity. It’s more important to me to be another actor in our business who happens to be Mexican and Jewish. That is really exciting to me, people just see the person, I hope we can all get to that place.
What’s on your Sondheim bucket list?
Oh my God, he’s my favorite. I mean I believe there’s a part for me in all of his shows, but let’s see...definitely Mrs. Lovett, Rose in Gypsy, Baker’s Wife or The Witch from Into the Woods, also Sarah in Assassins, but I could go on and on. Favorite songs are “Good Thing Going”, “By the Sea”, “Unworthy of Your Love”, God, it’s hard to choose.
For more information on Lindsay Mendez at Feinstein's/54 Below click here.