The tour life is a magical ride, especially for a CAT! Wright State University grad Megan Arseneau gives a little insight into feline life on the road as a Swing in the 2022 national tour of CATS, now playing at the Connor Palace at Playhouse Square.
Kate Klotzbach: What is your role / job on the tour?
Megan Arseneau: I am a swing! I cover 8 of the 10 female-presenting characters in the show! The roles I can go on for at a moment’s notice are Demeter, Sillabub, Rumpleteazer, Jennyanydots, Bombalurina, Jellylorum, Cassandra, and Grizabella. As a swing, it’s my job to learn each of these roles (we call them “tracks”)- I memorize their lines, their songs, their choreography, and every single movement they make onstage so that when someone calls out of the show I can step in and perform the role as seamlessly as possible. As for my favorite role- I can’t choose just one! This show is so special in that each character is featured and has their own super fun personality. I would be sad to choose just one, I love them all for different reasons! It would be like choosing my favorite child.
KK: Are you new to touring or are you more of a road veteran?
MA: I am a returning member of the CATS tour, so I’m no longer a newbie, but I’m still only in my second season of touring.
KK: Are you a cat person or a dog person?
MA: Dog person.
KK: Why are you most excited to come to Cleveland and the Ohio area?
MA: I have lots of friends and family coming to the show in Cleveland! It’s close enough for my parents to drive from Illinois, and my partner’s family is coming from Toledo! I also have many friends in Ohio since I went to Wright State University in Dayton.
KK: Do you come from a performing family? Did you grow up in the business?
MA: I did not grow up in the business, though my parents both did theater at their high schools! I would say that my three siblings and I grew up surrounded by the arts, in addition to sports and academics. All four of us together have so many artistic abilities that we currently pursue, in and out of our careers.
KK: What was your audition / casting process like for this tour?
MA: When I first saw the audition listing, I flipped out. It was the summer of 2020 and I was stacking boxes in a warehouse as a temporary pandemic job. I saw the listing on my phone, and just felt in my bones that this job was for me. I sent in all the audition videos they asked for, and then waited. Almost an entire year later, after COVID delays, I got an email inviting me to NYC for callbacks. I was there for three days, and then about a month later, I found out I booked the tour! Dream come true.
KK: Cleveland is the home of rock ‘n’ roll – what are some of your favorite solo artists or groups (rock, and any genre)?
MA: I listen to lots of different types of music! Right now I love Remi Wolf. Her music is so fun and funky, and never fails to have me singing along.
KK: Outside of the arts, what are some things that you like to do in your spare time?
MA: I love reading, listening to podcasts, jamming to music. On tour, I love to explore all the cities we go to, and find cute coffee shops to study my tracks. I also love just moving my body throughout the day. I’m a bit of a gym rat and my good friend Brian, who plays Mungojerry on tour, got me into yoga, which I do a lot now!!
KK: How do you get through a stressful travel day?
MA: Coffee, snacks, my AirPods, and a good book on my Kindle. I try to hit the gym or do yoga before or after as well.
KK: How do you warm up / prep for the show? Any personal pre-show rituals or routines?
MA: First of all, I am constantly reviewing and refreshing my memory on my tracks, whether I’m on stage or not. If I know I’m going on that night, I’ll leave time to review my notes for that track. Hours before getting to the theater, I try to make sure that I am awake, moving, maybe hitting the gym, and talking. Then when I get to the theater my voice and body are functioning well as a person before I start to warm up as a cat. I’ll do some yoga, maybe a ballet barre, my PT exercises (We have a physical therapist on tour with us!), or anything my body is telling me I need to get working before jumping into our big dance opening number. And a short vocal warmup, which changes based on which vocal line I’m singing that day! As for rituals, our makeup is very involved and takes up a lot of the pre-show process. If I’m nervous because I’m going on for a new track, it forces me to quiet my mind and focus on the task at hand- there are some tricky makeup plots! And sometimes if it’s a last-minute swing-on, I don’t have any time to prepare – I have to slap the makeup on, get in costume, and run onstage ASAP!
KK: What is your favorite part of this touring production (could be a particular song, tech element, travel story, etc.)?
MA: The Overture is one of my favorite moments. I remember seeing it for the first time in tech rehearsal and tearing up. The music, the lights, the set- it just pumps me up!
KK: What advice do you have for young artists just starting out in their training, or who are early on in their career path?
MA: Have fun!! Find confidence in who you are and what you can do! And also work hard at whatever technique you are being taught. If you can find the balance of always striving for excellence while having a good time living your passion and being yourself, you’ll be golden.
Most importantly though- strive to be the best person you can be. The kinder, easier to work with, and friendlier you are, the happier people will be to hire you. At a certain point, there is just too much talent all around! Someone you worked with five years ago could tell a director “you have to hire her, she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and we had so much fun doing (insert show here)!” and BAM you’ve got the job! To summarize: Be confident in your creativity, find the balance of working hard while having fun, and be kind!
CATS! Runs at Playhouse Square now through Sunday, November 20, 2022. Tickets are $20 – $100 and can be purchased by visiting https://www.playhousesquare.org/events/detail/cats-1.