A Q&A with Into the Woods' Wicked Witch, Renee Davis Brame


Renee Davis Brame (right) as The Witch in Into the Woods at Theatre Memphis on the Lohrey Stage, March 11 - April 3, 2016. Lee Gilliland (left) as the  Baker holds his child and the Baker’s Wife, Lynden Lewis, looks on from the shadows. - JCK YATES
  • Renee Davis Brame (right) as The Witch in Into the Woods at Theatre Memphis on the Lohrey Stage, March 11 - April 3, 2016. Lee Gilliland (left) as the Baker holds his child and the Baker’s Wife, Lynden Lewis, looks on from the shadows.

Memphis actor and reluctant cat owner/blogger Cary Vaughn has interviewed his friend and occasional costar Renee Davis Brame who's currently casting quite a spell over audiences as the witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods

Renee Davis Brame:
I have an enormous fear of pretension.

Cary Vaughn: I know.

RDB: I have a feeling this is just going to sound that way.

CV: Just speak up and don’t use any big words.

RDB: Like “pretension”? Too late.

CV: So I know that you’re level of interview probably wants to deal with the themes of sexism in Sondhiem, but I want to go straight to what I really want to know: Girl, how long does it take to put on that makeup before a show?

RDB: That’s why I just pulled glue out of my hair.

CV: Oh, okay. I thought that had something to do with your kids.

RDB: It never leaves.

CV: Really? You get glue all up in your –

RDV: It’s everywhere.

CV: Because of the prosthetics you have to wear. What are your prosthetics?

RDB: The prosthetic is full face. So it’s two pieces. One is glued to my upper lip, and then a piece here [indicating lower half of face because she forgets this is not a video interview], so my lower lip is exposed.

CV: How long does it take?

RDV: It doesn’t take long. There’s a dream team: Eric Quick of Mid-South Effects (who made the prosthetic), Buddy Hart, and Buddy’s two assistants, Rence and Ariel. Between the four of them, it takes 20 to 25 minutes. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long.

CV: You know what’s funny is how some actors complain, “Oh my God, I still have mic tape on my neck.” And you’re, like, pulling glue out of your fucking hair.

RDV: This is off the chain crazy. Buddy and his team get as much of the glue off as they can. They don’t get it all, just as much as they can.

CV: Nobody can complain about mic tape ever again.

RDB: Never again. Sorry about your mic tape neck. I have prosthetic face.

CV: Have your children seen [Into the Woods], yet?

RDV: Mmhmm.

Sometimes you've got to meme a witch.
  • Sometimes you've got to meme a witch.

Okay, please tell me what [your 4-year-old daughter] Calliope thought.

RDB: She’s a connoisseur of Into the Woods. She’s known the show as long as I’ve known of the show. We sort of learned it together. We watched the video, and we listened to the CDs together so she knows it as well as I do. [My family] came to see a dress rehearsal, and she sang the whole show next to [my husband] Aaron. They’ve only seen the first act. I don’t know if [my son] Rocco will come back for the second act, but Calliope will. If we don’t let her come back, she’s going to call an Uber and show up at the theatre and sneak in anyway, so…

CV: Has she given you any feedback?

RDB: Um, yeah. She tells people I’m a witch; though, out of context doesn’t sound very good.

CV: Like at school or church?

RDB: Exactly.

CV: How is it working with [director] Ann Marie? I’ve never worked with her before.

RDB: Really?

CV: No.

RDB: I have been on stage with her and I’ve also been directed by her before, so we’ve worked together in both capacities and we’ve probably known each other 15 years. So we’re really comfortable with each other. I like her methods.

CV: Is she collaborative.

RDB: Oh yeah. To a point. Early in the rehearsal, she’ll tell you that “I collaborate and I want to know what you think and I want to figure out the blocking together, but then at a certain point, it has to become ‘You go here because I said so’ and we don’t have time for discussion. If you don’t feel a motivation you need to figure that out.” And I appreciate that.

CV: Oh yeah. Absolutely. There’s nothing worse than falling behind schedule because somebody is being a diva.  So what are you doing next?

RDB: What show am I doing next?

CV: Do you know?

RDB: Mommy.

CV: What?

RDB: I’m going back to mommy.

CV: Oh. Yeah. You’re not only a mother of two, but a wife of one…(one right?)

RDB: Yeah. At this point.
Renee & Cary: So happy together.
  • Renee & Cary: So happy together.

CV: …actress…

RDB: …two cats….

CV: …voice over work, writer, and associate producer/marketing director at Germantown Community Theatre. You’ve got your hands full. I don’t see how you balance all this.

RDB: My family and I are all in this together. That’s how we do everything. Aaron is in grad school, and he’s been in grad school for a couple of years now so when he has to be somewhere, too, we work it out. And there’s no judgment, there’s no, “I can’t believe you’re doing this.” Every inconvenience, there’s a greater purpose behind it, and we both know that. So we support each other because we know if he can’t write and I can’t be in shows that we’re just not going to be happy people. But we do certainly limit ourselves. I’m not auditioning for everything in the world. When I had my kids, I didn’t do anything, but when Rocco was 5, I did Ruthless. That was the first show I had done in five years. So since that time, I’ve done Ruthless, Company, The Boy from Oz, and this.

CV: So in other words, this is a comeback.

RDB: No. (laughing) Please don’t call it a comeback.

CV: You are the John Travolta of Memphis.

What is a Green Room feature? It's actors, directors, and designers hanging out talking to other actors, directors, and designers. Sometimes these pieces take the form of a traditional interview, but Green Room features may also be more casual and intimate conversations between people who know each other very well. They might focus on current theater projects, or not at all. The goal is to be fun and informative, and to put local theater artists where they belong— in the spotlight.


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