"One Short Day": A Candid Chat With Wicked Co-Stars and Friends Lindsay Mendez, Derek Klena and Katie Rose Clarke

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02 Aug 2013

Mendez in Wicked.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Did any of you have special ties with "The Wizard of Oz"?

LM: When I was 12, I played Dorothy in my community theatre production of The Wizard of Oz, and it was very critically hailed by my school paper! [Laughs.]
DK: [Laughs.]
LM: So I loved "The Wizard of Oz," and I'm a huge Judy Garland fan, too. I can recite the entire movie by heart, so in that way, yes, I was a big "Wizard of Oz" fan, but I never thought I'd play the witch. That was not a dream role of mine! [Laughs.] But it is now!
DK: I played the Scarecrow and Tin Man growing up in different Wizard of Oz productions.
LM: Were you in The Wiz, [Derek]?
DK: That was my first show ever. I was a flying monkey in The Wiz.
LM: I knew you did The Wiz! [Sings "Ease on Down the Road."]
DK: They ended up doing The Wizard of Oz in that same children's theatre, and that's where I got to [play] Scarecrow. 

Katie, you've been doing the show for so many years. What is it like when you're playing opposite new co-stars?

KRC: It is different. I had a long break before this contract, actually — over a year — so I really did come in just naturally fresh. I had to re-memorize the script and score again. It was like coming into it for the first time. You are so reliant on your partner, especially Elphaba, of course, but also Fiyero. When new people come in, and they bring their own viewpoints and their own energy, it completely freshens it and changes it. Especially with these guys… We've gotten so close so quick. I've never experienced anything like that. I think it's because they had an established friendship before, and it was really easy. We just fell in love with each other really quickly, so the offstage chemistry really has dictated the onstage.
LM: We're all very similar actors in the way we approach the scene work, and that makes it a big dream. It's so easy and comfortable on stage, and everyone is so truthful — just in being present and telling a story… It's an amazing thing because it doesn't always happen, and it has really happened for us. 
DK: And, no show is the same. I'm big about making different choices every night, and shows just go differently [because of] the way audiences react, so being able to trust one another and know each other and be comfortable with each other off stage makes being on stage in those moments that are new comfortable.

Clarke and Mendez in Wicked.
photo by Joan Marcus

"Friendship" is a big theme in Wicked. Tell me about your offstage friendship. You are often tweeting about hanging out outside of the show.

LM: Derek and I were such good friends coming in, and we had rehearsals together — we were always together. I just hoped Katie liked us! [Laughs.] It was like we were dating her — friend-wise.
KRC: [I thought], "Can we make this duet a trio?!" [Laughs.]
LM: Our first night, [when Derek and I] watched the show, we fell in love with Katie. We thought, "She's incredible." And, we were so stoked to perform with her and felt like we had to rise to the occasion because this woman is incredible.
DK: [The show is] kind of a beast. I was sitting next to [Lindsay] when we saw it for the first time, and at intermission, she was like, "I have to go to the restroom!"
LM: [Laughs.]
DK: She was so nervous and distraught, and I said, "Are you okay, Linds?" I was like, "I'm so excited to start this," and she said, "I'm going to step out for a minute." She was terrified. I was so pumped, and Lindsay said, "She never leaves the stage." I thought, "I feel really good about this." [Laughs.]
LM: He said, "I'm probably just now getting dressed" [when] he leaned over to me [after] "The Wizard and I." [Laughs.] But that night, what we mainly came away from [the show with] was how excited we were that we got to work with Katie… I chose to do theatre because I like hanging with people, and that's what theatre is about — it's about the "hang." I think our roles can be very solitary. I can make a choice — my door can be shut all the time or it can be open. I choose to have it be open, so I can spend my time getting green hanging with my friends and not being in my head about how hard my job is.


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