PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Soul Doctor's Zarah Mahler

By Matthew Blank
August 13, 2013

Zarah Mahler, making her Broadway debut as Ruth in Soul Doctor, fills out's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

Stage credits include Wicked (2nd national tour, Nessarose), Cabaret (Drury Lane Chicago, Sally) and the Neil Patrick Harris-directed Rent at the Hollywood Bowl.

A contemporary singer-songwriter, Mahler is currently developing her debut album.

Full given name: Zarah Mahler
Where you were born/where you were raised: I was born in Hollywood, CA. Raised in Los Angeles and Orange County.
Zodiac Sign:Iím a Leo/Virgo cusp.
What your parents did/do for a living:My father is an actor/comedian/pianist and his wife is a publicist. My mother works with horses.
Siblings:My little brother, Joe. Heís not so little anymore. Heís a high school senior, actually, but Iím in denial.
Current audition song/monologue:My favorite audition songs arenít from the current pop/rock genre or musical theatre.

I guess I gravitate towards older, more obscure songs. I think itís good to walk in with something they havenít already heard a few times that day.

Special skills:I started teaching myself to play piano when I was very young. Iíve been writing music since I was about 15 years old.
Something you're REALLY bad at: Bowling. I will just never be good at bowling.
First Broadway show you ever saw: Phantom of the Opera
Your personal vocal idols, living or dead: Tom Waits, Fiona Apple, Andrew Bird, Danny Elfman, Tori Amos, Jack White
Music that makes you cry, any genre: "In the Arms of an Angel" by Sarah McLachlanÖ but only when it comes on during that animal shelter commercial.
MAC or PC? MAC. But Iím not good with either.
Most-visited websites:
Must-see TV show(s): "Seinfeld"
Last good movie you saw: "The Sessions"
Three favorite cities: Portland, OR
Dublin, Ireland
Melbourne, Australia

New York City deserves a shout out though.

Favorite sport/team/player: Baseball
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: My father has always been a huge fan of classical music, so I grew up listening to all the great composers. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mozart, Mahler (no pun)

My mom introduced me to The Beatles and Tori Amos at a very young age.

First stage kiss: Iím not completely sure about this (my apologies if I stage-kissed you and have since forgotten about itÖ nothing personal) but I think I had my first stage kiss in Dracula. So yeahÖ I lost my stage-kiss virginity to the king of the vampires.
What are some of your most memorable roles as a kid or teenager and how old were you? During my freshman year of high school I played Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I was 14 years old and it was a significant turning point for me because it shifted my perspective.

Acting became more than just something I enjoyed. I started to see the necessity of storytelling, the power in it. Itís not just entertainment Ė itís an opportunity to inform, educate and hopefully make change in the world.

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: I always knew. I couldnít help it. I think I just sort of came out that way.
How you got your Equity card: I went out on a limb and flew from Los Angeles to New York City to audition for Drury Laneís production of Cabaret. Much to my surprise, I was cast as Sally Bowles. That was my first Equity job and, to this day, one of my favorite roles to play.
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Motivating myself to do vocal warm-ups is like pulling my own teeth out. I donít know why but Iíve never been able to get myself to do it.
Most challenging role you have ever played: Iím not sure that thereís one particular role Iíve played thatís more challenging than the rest. I kind of believe that every role should be challenging Ė if not, Iím not doing my job.

Sally Bowles in Cabaret and Jenny Diver in Threepenny Opera were pretty intenseÖ but if I had to pick one character in one project it would certainly be Aspen Foster in the feature film ďThe Prop is the Girl.Ē The movie comes out next year. See it, youíll know why.

Worst costume ever: I have this vague memory of some dinosaur play I was supposed to be in back in kindergarten. I was the Ankylosaurus (one of those heavily armored dinosaurs with the massive spiked club on its tail).

My costume was basically a big cardboard box with cardboard spikes all over it and a hole in the top for me to stick my head throughÖ I was so embarrassed that I told my mom I was sick and stayed home. Real professional.

Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about? Two projects that Iím incredibly excited aboutÖ the first is a beautiful (and deeply important) indi feature called "The Prop is the Girl." Based on a true story, the film brilliantly examines the correlation between current party culture and sexual abuse. Itís gritty, unapologetic and hauntingly realistic.

"The Prop is the Girl" aims to empower survivors of sexual abuse and I couldnít be more proud to be a part of it.

Also, Iím currently working on my first album as a singer/songwriter. As I mentioned before, Iíve been writing for over a decade and am looking forward to finally sharing my original music.

Three things you can't live without: Coffee. Water. Piano.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: I think we (actors) spend far too much time and energy focusing on what we think they want us to be. Thereís nothing more freeing than self acceptance. And truly itís our imperfections and most unconventional qualities that make us interesting. Donít try to change these things. Accept them. Own them. Just relax and be yourself.