FST Artistic Associate Thomas Kasdorf portrays Cosmé McMoon in FST’s SOUVENIR, which runs December 6–16 in the Overture Center’s Playhouse.
What attracted you to this role?
I work primarily with singers in my everyday life as a doctoral candidate at UW-Madison in collaborative piano. There’s something so incredibly dynamic about the relationship between a singer and a pianist: support, ensemble, mutual artistic expression, and I find that very much present in this show. The relationship between Florence and Cosmé is so beautifully crafted. I also appreciate the honesty and discussion of what it means to be an artist and how artists manage criticism and find their own self-worth.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced with this role?
Not completely cracking up when Sarah Day makes “vivid” vocal choices as Florence. She has such commitment to those strange sounds.
What has been the most surprising thing about the production?
The means in which director and cast have all pushed for honesty. This show can very much suffer through too much focus on the comedic value of Florence Foster Jenkin’s vocal artistry. We all have chosen to embrace the sincere passion and enthusiasm she had for her art.
What’s your favorite song or moment in the production?
When Sarah Day and I sing “Crazy Rhythm” together.
Are there ways that you’re like Florence or Cosmé? Do you see aspects of yourself in either of them?
I see a lot of myself in Cosmé, both positive and negative. His insecurities, desires to please, commitment to nurture relationships, protectiveness, his temper, and his artistry. I wish I saw more of myself in Florence, not in terms of my vocal quality, but in terms of attitude, confidence, and inner strength.
Give us your thoughts on this question posed by a reviewer of the original Broadway production: “The play takes a humorous look at the true meaning of music and the art of performing. Is ‘exactitude’ of technique the real goal, or is it the honest expression of the artist’s soul?”
What a deep question. I think that for myself, it really does boil down to somewhere in the middle. Without some technique, it becomes difficult for me to justify expression. However, there are many instances I have seen and heard where “perfection” left very little artistic impression. There exists this idea that a community needs to be reductive in order to criticize. I think that’s why “exactitude” has become a goal of performers, where true perfection in execution cannot be reduced in any way. The amount of self-confidence it takes to be an artist requires rising above that criticism (which can also be self-criticism) and a desire to express something specific from one’s soul.