I had a family that was always interested in theater, my Grandparents took me to see Annie…completely smitten with the whole thing…love getting to perform…it’s great to just be back on stage.

Lizz Brannon

Actor, La Crosse Community Theatre.

We are talking with Lizz Brannon & Taylor Goodine, two actors taking on the prize winning play ‘Night Mother’, this eloquent, enthralling and ultimately shattering play explores the final hour in the life of a young woman who has decided that life is no longer worth living.

We discuss getting into acting, their roles, how they prepared, and the excitement coming out of the La Crosse Community Theatre.

Amy Gabay 00:05
We’re talking with Liz Brannon and Taylor Goodine, two actors taking on the prize winning Night Mother. This eloquent and thrilling and ultimately shattering play explores the final hour in the life of a young woman who has decided that life is no longer worth living. We discuss getting into acting, their roles, how they prepared, and the kinship of the La Crosse Community Theater. You can find more conversations, food reviews, live music and events on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 00:35
And I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 00:36
And this is La Crosse Local.

Liz Brannon 00:39
My name is Liz Brannon. I was born in Indiana. But I grew up here in La Crosse. My folks moved here when I was three or four. So I only ever remember living here. Gosh, I got into acting because I was exposed to the Olsen twins at a young age. And I thought if they can do it, why can’t I, there’s only one of me, so much easier to control. I had a family that was always interested in theater. My grandparents took me to see Annie when I was like six. And I immediately was completely smitten with the whole thing and had I know then how much work goes into it, I think I still would have chosen to do this. I love getting to perform. And being offstage for so long, has been awful. And it’s great to just be back on stage again.

Taylor Goodine 01:31
Yes, my name is Taylor Goodine. I was originally born in Madison, Wisconsin. I grew up in Middletown, just outside of it. And I came here to La Crosse because I went to UWL and that was like 12 years ago. Now, I got into acting I think because it was my way out of sports. My dad really wanted me to try new things every year. And he was trying to get me to try different sports. And so I just told him that I was going to do plays instead. And I wouldn’t have time to do both. So I acted in a lot of things in elementary school and middle school, in high school with theater camps. And I kind of took a break from that for college and a while after. And so it was really nice to start acting with live from La Crosse, both Liz and I are a part of the sketch comedy group Live From La Crosse. And from there, it’s just been now looking for more opportunities to get on staging and the great experience.

Brent Hanifl 02:24
We’re chatting about the play Night Mother at La Crosse Community Theater. And your roles are kind of kind of unique to this play. What’s it all about? And kind of like, how do you guys fit in?

Liz Brannon 02:35
Such a great question. So Taylor and I actually play the same role due to Covid protocols and just the fact that we’re both phenomenal actresses.

Brent Hanifl 02:46

Liz Brannon 02:47
They double cast this show. So if you are looking to, if when you’re looking at your tickets, myself and Stacey Bremmer will be performing on the odd numbered performance days. And then Taylor and Marsha Rubinelli, we’re on a first name basis, they’ll be performing on the even number dates. So yes, we play the same part. And it’s kind of in a cast of two, the main character. She kind of drives, she definitely drives the action. It’s her choices that really lead to the events of what we see. I don’t know.

Taylor Goodine 03:25
Yeah, it’s Jessie and her mother, we play Jessie. And basically, it does deal with some heavy themes. As you mentioned, you know, we like to be upfront about that, so that people know what they’re walking into. We think it creates a really important discussion, but it can be like you said, heavy. So Jessie is a woman who has decided that she wants to end her life. And this is the night she has decided to do it, and she decides also to tell her mother a couple hours before she plans to and so the entire play takes place in their home with this discussion of why she’s doing and why she shouldn’t and that sort of thing.

Brent Hanifl 04:04
With it being such a, you know, using that word again, heavy show, how do you prepare and like how do you maintain in some sense?

Liz Brannon 04:14
We had a counselor.

Taylor Goodine 04:16
We did.

Liz Brannon 04:17
We had a decompression specialist come in and talk to us. Just kind of about strategies because yeah, some of the things Jessie brings up, even though the show was written in the 80s, which is longer ago than I realized. There are some things that still ring true when she says things like I read the paper, I see how things are outside our house and it doesn’t seem like they’re gonna get any better. Those are the moments where you kind of have to step back and go, it’s just a show. Let’s just take a breath. So for me, it’s been a lot of kind of closing the script and leaving Jessie at the theater. And as we progressed through, that got more and more difficult. And we’ll see, you know, now that audiences are in front of me if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Taylor Goodine 05:08
Yeah, I agree. I think I find it difficult sometimes to just compartmentalize it, but you do what you can. The more you do it, the easier it gets. I mean, you hate to say you get desensitized to things, but that is sort of what happens as you’re trying to learn these lines, these very heavy lines, you have to know them very well. And you have to say them a lot. And you have to be able to, to do these characters just as even if they make you sad. And I think, you know, we’ve had a lot of support from Stacey and Marsha, who are also going through this with us, who have also very heavy parts and a difficult emotional load. So it’s been wonderful to work with them and with the production staff, because everyone was so understanding. And we can have really open conversations with each other.

Brent Hanifl 05:53
When this kind of came out when they said they’re going to do this play, what intrigued you about it, or did someone reached out to you or what made you think like, this is what I want to do?

Taylor Goodine 06:03
We have opposite stories.

Liz Brannon 06:06
You go first.

Taylor Goodine 06:07
I don’t usually do this. But this year, I actually looked at what LCT was doing over the course of the year. They make our announcement of here is the years worth of shows. And I saw Night Mother on there. And I’d heard of it before, I knew it to be a small cast and a sadder play. I feel like I almost heard jokes about how sad Night Mother is because it is, it’s up there. If you think of what a sort of melancholy play looks like and a character study looks like. And so I thought, oh, I you know what I’m going to read that. I purchased the play ahead of time, and decided to read it a few months back and read all the way through it and cried a bunch and then decided like, yes, I think I would like to do this show. It would just be really interesting. And I think I’ve never done anything quite like it before. And I think I’d like to give it a shot.

Brent Hanifl 06:59
I love that the I cried a bunch was one of the illuminators.

Liz Brannon 07:03
She’s always crying, that’s just chima.

Brent Hanifl 07:05
Well it makes sense, you know, that’s alright. That’s all good.

Liz Brannon 07:09
I had no idea what this show is about. In fact, I had been having kind of a rough day. And I got a message from our director, Mary Kate. And she was like, hey, will you come to callbacks for this? I’d love to hear you read. I needed a little win that day. And I had never been personally invited to an audition before. So I was like, yeah, that’d be great. I’d love to do it. I’ll see you tomorrow. And then being the professional that I am, I Googled the play. And I was like, oh, no. What did I agree to? And then being the professional that I am I was like, there’s no way she’ll cast me. Being a character actress, I walked into the audition and went which part am I hear for? Like my theater career, my young theater career was very much I played the old lady. When you’re in high school and don’t have access to actual old ladies. You have to use the next best thing. So I was like, oh, no, who am I here to read for what? What am I doing? And she had me read for Jessie. And I was like, oh, there were so many amazing actresses at that audition, there’s no way she could pick me. And then the next day, I got an email and I was like, oh, God. Okay. But it’s been an amazing experience. You know, sometimes you just kind of have to walk into things a little bit unsure, and sometimes be a little more optimistic. I think that’s my, that’s my big takeaway. Like, let’s believe in ourselves, just like 10%, more. Even 10% more would be a little better.

Brent Hanifl 08:43
It seems like COVID has been going on forever. So I always ask this question, because it’s kind of interesting. Some people have had some experiences over COVID that have been beneficial and more detrimental, of course, for 99% of the population. But how has COVID kind of affected this production? Are you even aware of it anymore? Is it just the new normal for you? Or how’s it feel? You know, you have two different actors, multiple different actors playing the single role. So there’s that but like, how’s it been?

Taylor Goodine 09:10
Well, we wear masks for every rehearsal. Actually, it was funny. We had our tech Sunday a couple of days ago, and that was the first time we did the show without masks on. And Marsha, my, the mama for me, said that she kept getting distracted from her lines because she had never seen the bottom half of my face. And I haven’t really seen her as either, so that is definitely one way that it’s affected things like just being able to do the play without a mask on was so liberating.

Liz Brannon 09:43
Yeah, I mean, the masks are different because you know, you get used to wearing a mask to the store, or I’ve worked from home the whole time. My company sent me home in March of 2020. So never had to wear a mask for any extended period of time. But doing all of that talking with a mask on, if you don’t have the right kind of mask on, you just come home and you’re like picking little cotton fibers out of your mouth for the rest of the night, like that’s your evening now.

Taylor Goodine 10:11
That and like we they have a good policy there, they asked us to get regularly tested for COVID. So like, at least once a week, we get tested. And if you have any symptoms, you have to go right away. And if you know, if you have symptoms, and you don’t have a negative test result in you, you have to zoom into that rehearsal, I had to zoom into one of my first ones. Lis had to zoom into one just to be cautious once and you know we make do, we’ve been doing the best we can with it. I think they have a good policy to keep everybody safe in place there.

Brent Hanifl 10:40
Just seeing all the new shows, like you said, the release of the year of the lineup. It seems like there’s a new sort of energy that’s down at La Crosse Community Theater. That’s super exciting. Is there anything that you’re excited for that’s coming up? Or the personal or otherwise?

Liz Brannon 10:54
You know I’m really excited for the Lizzie Borden musical. I’ve always loved the story of Lizzie Borden. That sounds weird. If my parents read this, or watch this, I don’t love it for that reason. I just find it really, really fascinating. Like, it’s just a wild story. And the fact that someone made it into a musical is just like, okay, cool. Yes, let’s do that. It’s very cool to see things that are specifically for women, things that are specifically for people of color, things that are different, not the same thing that we’ve seen, but still making space for things we’ve seen before. You know, they’re doing The Sound of Music, and Next to Normal in the same season. That is a juxtaposition, that if you’re a theater person, you understand that that’s really cool. That’s someone who’s saying we pay respect to the old ways, but there’s new stuff here and we’re doing it.

Taylor Goodine 11:50
I think like a lot of the smaller shows that are happening now obviously, like all of the shows in the Black Box Theater, are women driven and women led this season. So we’ve got you know, Night Mother. We’ll have Single Black Female there will be auditions for that coming up. I mean, The Mountaintop was a two person show that got to be in the Lickey Theater, the larger theater, it’s just really cool to see these like more character study and relationship driven type of shows alongside you know, mainstays like the musicals that we’ve been seeing. So it is a new energy, I think, and I think everybody there who’s working on it should be really proud because it’s a very exciting season so far.

Brent Hanifl 12:28
Well, that’s great. One thing I want to tell you is actually the counselors my wife, who came in who did some, were you making fun of her? I shouldn’t ask that.

Liz Brannon 12:37

Taylor Goodine 12:37
No, we loved her.

Brent Hanifl 12:41
Yeah, Melissa Hanifl Counseling. Yeah, I just wanted to share that with you before the end.

Liz Brannon 12:46
I’ve only ever heard amazing things from people who have worked with her and sitting in with her even on one session. I was just like, okay, I get it. I get it, okay, yes. She was like bodying it 100%. Yes. She could start a cult.

Taylor Goodine 13:00

Brent Hanifl 13:03
Well, that’s awesome.

Taylor Goodine 13:04
I would join her MLM.

Brent Hanifl 13:05
I’ll let her know. So well. I’m glad it’s been hell for you guys. You know, it’s a real tough play. It seems awesome. I mean, it’s definitely something that I want to come check out. So at the La Crosse Community Theater, if people want to find out more what’s the best spot to go to?

Liz Brannon 13:21
The community theater website is a super great place to go, I don’t know off the top of my head, um.

Brent Hanifl 13:28

Liz Brannon 13:30
You can just put it right here.

Brent Hanifl 13:33
This isn’t, this is just audio, so.

Taylor Goodine 13:35
Right here, under my face. People can look up the Facebook page too, the La Crosse Community Theater. They do a lot of posts. They’ve been doing great with keeping up with like, how are rehearsals going for various shows, when are auditions happening for various shows? So you can check it out there, too.

Brent Hanifl 13:51
Yeah, lacrossetheatre.org and every time I hear in on social media, it’s like they’re selling out shows or adding shows, so make sure to get your tickets early.

Liz Brannon 14:00

Amy Gabay 14:05
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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