Written by 1:03 am interview, Musical, The Chance Theater, Uncategorized

A Tale of EM & Jane: Ride The Cyclone Actor EM Flosi

Written by Patrick Chavis

Photo credit: Patrick Chavis & Doug Catiller

It was the opening night of the California premiere of Ride the Cyclone at the Chance Theater in Anaheim. I was there to, what else, review the show. As usual at the Chance on opening night, the lobby was packed with theatergoers and the familiar Chance staff gallivanting through the busy hallways, greetings guests and dispensing the fine libations and treats at the snack bar on the left side of the room. The bathrooms were packed to the brim, and the scent of lunacy hung in the air. It was intoxicating.

I felt like I was walking into the Cripe Theater for the first time. The set looked like how I felt that night, a dark carnival ride leading nowhere. As is necessary for a Chance Theater show, Managing Director Casey Long came out. He performed his iconic spiel about blackberries and blueberries (he’s telling people to turn off their phones).

That’s when I met Jane Doe for the very first time. In a group of characters full of outcasts, Jane Doe was an outcast even to them. Jane, played by EM Flosi, walked out onto the wooden stage wearing a plaid schoolgirl dress, holding a headless doll with a sullen look on their face. The performance was humorous and undeniably gothic-inspired, and that voice was eerie and operatic. 

The next time I would see EM and Jane was on a rainy March 19th on the patio in the back of Kean Coffee in Tustin, CA. With less mascara and no headless doll in sight, I knew I must be talking to EM or Jane acting as EM. I’m still not quite sure. Either way, they told me a little bit about themselves and their experience playing Jane Doe.

I actually was in competitive dance when I was young. I started out as a competitive dancer with my older sister. I grew up actually about an hour south of San Jose, up in the bay area of Hollister, California—tiny, tiny little town in the middle of nowhere.

Rose Pell, Jared Machado, Jaylen Baham, and Em Flosi as Jane Doe in Chance Theater’s California premiere production of “Ride the Cyclone.”

My mom loves to tell the story of when I was like two years old. And I was watching my older sister in a dance recital. And she had just done her little dance routine on stage. And I looked up at my mom, and I asked when it was my turn. Pretty much that was it. She put me in dance classes the next year.

It wasn’t until a few years later that EM discovered their love for theatre. Funny enough, in the same way, they discovered dance — through their older sister.

She (EM’s Sister Amanda) was going to try out for a community theater production in our hometown just for fun, because we were little, you know, and I wanted to do it just because she was doing it. And I was technically too young. But since it was a small town, [and] we all knew each other, they decided I could audition just for fun. And I walked myself up onto that stage. And they asked what I was going to sing for the audition, and I said “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And I did. And I sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” And I actually ended up getting cast. My sister didn’t. Now, I do this professionally, and she has a business degree. So clearly it all worked out.

After that wanting to perform was never really a question for EM. It could be New York and Broadway or smaller productions at the Chance for EM. It’s about the journey.

I really want to be comfortable and to be able to perform. If those come from the same venue, great, perfect. If I’m able to do something that is performance-based, and it also sustains me and allows me to live a comfortable life, awesome.

EM started taking singing seriously around high school.

I was probably about 16 or so. And my choir director when I was in high school, Dr. David Dehner, was an incredible teacher. He was a finalist for a music educator Grammy several times [two times] over just [During] the course of the years that I studied with him. So he really laid down the groundwork of my technique and the training as far as the basics for me, and he really laid the groundwork for me to be where I am now. And obviously, since then, I’ve continued to do my own training. And I went to Fullerton College for a couple of years, the junior college, and I went through some of their musical theater training and some of their acting classes. But for the most part, the training that I pursue at this point is independent. And it really is all about consistency. Because at the end of the day, it’s a muscle just like anything else.

While EM credits their schooling for helping them with the basics of their craft,  EM also believes there are limitations to what you can learn in school.

Syd Instagram:pennylambsbiggestfan

The school system isn’t built for everybody. It’s built for a very specific type of brain and a very specific learning style, and not all of us are equipped for that, especially artists. We struggle a lot in school. And so even in that kind of setting, it can be very hard. So it really just comes down to the individual and what they think is going to be best for them. pursuing individual training, I think, you can get just as much out of it as long as you’re pursuing the right kind of individual training. Because obviously, the good thing about school is they’re gonna already be setting you up with good instructors and people with connections for the most part, hopefully.

We all have different voices scientifically and anatomically.  So different things are gonna work for your voice better than they’re going to work for my voice and vice versa. So it’s in that same way with seeking out training across the board. It’s all about knowing yourself and figuring out what is going to work best for you as an individual.

Ride The Cyclone was not EM’s first rendevous with the Chance Theater. EM had done a few productions before Cyclone.

I actually worked with the chance for the first time in 2018 on one of their summer series productions in association with Broadway in the park. I did the little mermaid. And then the next year with the Anaheim Assistance League and Pearson Park, I did Beauty & the Beast also with the Chance. But this was my first time doing one of their actual mainstage series productions. So it was very exciting.

They put blood, sweat, and tears into every single production that they put on there. It’s not a huge theatre. It is relatively small, and the profit is not huge. But because they have this community and board members and donors that are just as passionate about the Chance as the artists, it really creates something very beautiful. It genuinely does. And it feels like a very safe environment. And it’s a very supportive environment where you feel free to create even down to my little mannerisms with Jane and creating Jane as a character. The majority of what I did as Jane was my own brainchild really as far as the mannerisms and the physicality of her and how she moved and how she reacted to the world. Jocelyn, our director, really let me just go. She was like, “I trust you. I see what you’re doing. I like it. Run with it.”

Part of EM’s process in finding their character came from some very insightful advice from their mother, Rochelle.

I always think about this thing that my mom told me when I was younger and I was working on a character for something. It was an original character for something. And I was so frustrated because I could not think of the little details for this character yet. I was talking to my mom about it. And she looked at me, and she goes, “Well, of course, she’s not going to tell you everything about her yet. You guys just met. She just met you. You’re not just going to know everything about her right off the bat. You have to get to know her, just like a regular person.” And that always stuck with me.

EM couldn’t have imagined the passion and excitement of the devoted fans that love Ride the Cyclone.

Syd Instagram:pennylambsbiggestfan

The fan response has been crazy.  There was a pro-shot of the Off-Broadway cast that went viral last year, I think, over the summer, and it just amassed this crazy cult following. At that point, the Chance already knew they were doing it for this year. So the timing of it blowing up online was kinda just serendipitous.

I can’t even tell you how much fan art.  People have made TikTok fan edits of us with clips from TikTok that we’ve personally posted and clips from promotional videos. So it’s like these people are going to all of these different sources and collecting literally everything that we’ve posted. It’s the most!

 

This show does really resonate with the outcasts and with particularly queer youth a lot, and I think it’s just because it’s so funky, and it’s so weird, and these characters are all outcasts in their own way.

I have connected with a lot of queer youth as a result of this show who feel seen through this, for some reason, and through this production. And I will say, for me, personally, as a queer person, this show does mean a lot to me. And particularly, Jane does mean a lot to me because of that idea of searching for your identity and not really knowing what it’s supposed to look like. But knowing that it’s supposed to be there because you can see all of your friends around you. And they all know. So there should be something there, but you just can’t find it for some reason.

Now that Ride the Cyclone has come to a close, their performance as Jane may have ended, but they plan to continue performing and getting to know their characters like their mother taught — one role at a time.

Instagram: em.am.flo

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