Kristen Calvin Gordon is a staple of the local theater scene, having worked various productions at Camelot Theatre and the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. In her current role as the Lady of the Lake in Camelot's "Spamalot," Gordon is on point as the high-velocity Siren to Don Matthew's magniloquent King Arthur. I sat down with Gordon to talk about her work.
JG: Kristin, what series of events led you to acting and to the stage?
KCG: I grew up in Muncie, Indiana, where no one in my family even thought about setting foot on a stage. As a child, I would love to watch the classics, such as "Annie," "The Wizard of Oz," countless Disney films, and sing along at the top of my lungs. In grade school, I sang in the choir, as well as every talent show. Soon enough my parents started to realize that I had a special gift. When I was 9, my mom told me about an audition call in the newspaper for the musical "Annie" at the local college (Ball State University). One thing led to another, and before we knew it, I was starring as Annie in my first play ever. From that moment on, the stage was my second home, and I was cast in several lead roles at the college and local civic theater. At the age of 12, I started classical voice lessons, and continued that for seven years. I ultimately ended up going to BSU to study musical theater. After graduating, I moved to Chicago to pursue acting, as well as freelance gigs at piano bars, benefits, weddings, etc. A couple years after I started dating Noah, my now husband, he received a serendipitous job offer in Ashland, Oregon. After very little research, I realized that this was a wonderful place for me to pursue my dreams as well.
JG: Who have been your influences as an artist, especially locally?
KCG: Growing up, I was heavily influenced by the voices I heard on the car radio with my mom. She would always tune into this station that played only oldies from the '60s and '70s, and I attribute a lot of my vocal stylings to those legends. Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas was my very first vocal inspiration, as well as Carly Simon, Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield and Joni Mitchell. As I started to venture into the musical theater scene, my influences shifted to Broadway icons Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters and Barbra Streisand. Right after I moved to Ashland, I saw "Into the Woods" at OSF, and I was so deeply moved by this production. Whether I get to be on that stage someday or just a spectator in the audience, this is the kind of special theater magic that inspires me to be a better performer. Since I've lived in the Rogue Valley, I have tried to ask for advice whenever possible. Some of my mentors in town have been Debbie Downward (actress/choreographer at Randall Theatre), Livia Genise (former artistic director of Camelot Theatre), and Valerie Rachelle (artistic director of OCT). These women continue to inspire and motivate me, whether they are onstage performing or offstage sharing wisdom.
JG: Tell us a little bit about your current role as the Lady of the Lake in "Spamalot."
KCG: In the musical "Spamalot," the Lady of the Lake is a guardian angel, in a sense, to King Arthur and his knights as they go about their "quest." She lives in the lake and only emerges to sing beautiful, inspirational songs, usually in a different, more fabulous costume than before. The Lady of the Lake has been a dream role for me since college, when I first sang “Whatever Happened to my Part” in a group master class. While living in Chicago, I auditioned for the role twice, to no avail. When I heard that Camelot was doing it, I made it my mission to land the role once and for all. Honestly, though, I don’t think I was fully ready to tackle LOTL until this exact moment in my career. In some ways, I feel like this role was tailor made for me. I get to focus on what I love the most about musical theater; singing my butt off, making people laugh, and wearing sparkly gowns. Plus I get to tap into my “inner diva,” which has been such a treat. I have always had a knack for impersonating famous divas, and it has been fun to hide little influences of them within my performance. Let’s just say Celine, Babs, Cher, Lupone, Xtina, and even Ms. Spears all make little appearances.
JG: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
KCG: In the fall, I will be reprising my role as Magenta in "Rocky Horror" at the Oregon Cabaret Theatre. I can’t wait to revisit Magenta again, because she marked the moment that I really started to love the “type” that I am blossoming into. Val saw something in me that I didn’t see, as I never thought I would be considered for such a dark, sultry, brassy role. Previously, I was always striving to be the ingenue, but now I am realizing that there are some really fun supporting roles that totally utilize the versatility and vastness of my voice (and personality). This will be my fourth time doing Rocky Horror, and I have to say that this show never gets old. The rock 'n' roll music, the outrageous costumes, the bizarre but iconic story, the audience participation; it always has been and always will be one of my favorite shows of all time. But alas, I still love to go back to the charming, innocent, golden era of musical theater. After Rocky, I will jump into rehearsals for "She Loves Me" at OCT, where I am a part of the ensemble and understudy for Amalia. This is such a sweet, endearing show, and I couldn’t be more excited to spend the holiday season performing this classic with my theater family at the Cab.
—Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.