An Interview with Gina Mazzara Haver

How did you get started in theater? 
Actually I started out as a musician.  I was a classically trained pianist. I began taking piano lessons at the age of 7.  I really wanted to sing but I was extremely shy about that.  But I was in love with the genre of the Broadway Movie Musical and would sit at the piano for hours singing and playing old Judy Garland songs when I thought no one was around.  I eventually gained the gumption to sing for others after I started singing lessons at age 18 though I wasn't completely dedicated at that time. Anyway, a few lessons and acting classes later, I soon broke into community theatre.

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?
I was dying to audition for the sixth-grade production of The Wizard of Oz but I chickened out.  I secretly kicked myself for that and vowed never to let fear stop me from what I wanted to do ever again. 

What inspired you to be where you are today?
A few things...When I was a kid my cousin took me to see Godspell in NYC and I wanted desperately to run out onto the stage and perform with the actors.  Years later I was watching Madonna perform on a Grammy Awards show on TV and it was then I decided to study voice on a serious basis.  I decided to study classical voice after I bought my first opera tape, and I thought the soprano, Maria Callas singing "Je Suis Titania", was beyond extraordinary. I was fascinated by the sheer virtuosity and fire in her voice.  I thought to myself right then and there that I wanted to sing like that.  I made the conscious decision to take my singing lessons seriously, and that became my number one goal - to sing as richly and as excitingly as possible. At that time, I was 21 and living in Hawaii with my first husband, a US navy serviceman.

What was the first play you ever performed in? 
The first play I was in was when I was living in California.  I played Young Sally in "Follies" with the Novato Community Players and had a real blast.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
YesI took a few acting classes at college.  But I learned mostly from watching other, more experienced colleagues work and going on instinct.  I've been studying at HB Studios for the past three years in order to really work on my techniqueand I've been studying opera privately for years.


What was your first audition?
Well, auditioning is a skill I had to hone.  I can't remember my very first audition (I've been on millions) but let's just say that hopefully I've honed somewhat.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc. 
I try to select pieces/roles that I think I can really grow from artistically, that are either challenging to me, and/or pay something.  I also prefer to work with a company that has a good reputation and one that isn't afraid to try rarely done or daring material.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I can understand the director's reasons for it, especially when a lot of money, etc. is at stake.  Although I'm not fond of it, pre-casting is really no different from type-casting, when you think about it  it's a drag but it's just an unfortunate fact of theatrical life one must accept.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast? 
It's hard to really answer that as I'm grappling with the whole "what's my type" issue myself these days as I sail through my 30's.  I was never the ingénue, unfortunately, though my voice is a high soprano.  I've been the sexy vamp, the crazy witch, the charwoman, a queen.  I also get cast in ethnic roles a lot too. 

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Gina Mazzara" type?
That's a tough one to answer  I really couldn't say although I wish I knew for sure.  I guess, they see me as the voluptuous, Italian/ethnic 30-year old lady type, if that makes any sense?


What is your approach to developing your character? 
I first try to do a thorough history on that person.  I try to find what in the character's personality/circumstance I can relate to.  I believe that we intrinsically share with others the same basic fears, concerns and desires and I have to tap into that part of the character that I resonate with.  I believe that by digging deep enough it's possible to find the truth and meaning of someone else's reality that mimic our own.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Sharon Graham of "Masterclass" was probably the most challenging for me, not only because of the vocal demands, but because I had to play a character so much like me, and I felt very exposed and vulnerable as a result.  So I guess my real favorite, believe it or not, was the Wicked Queen in "Snow White" because I got to act crazy and kooky and very much NOT like my usual boring self.

What do you think were your best roles?
My best roles, in addition to the above-mentioned, also include the unwitting murder suspects in some of the murder mystery productionsyour worst?  Anything that involves dancing.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?  What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I think the role of Sharon Graham was probably my greatest challenge for the above-mentioned reasons  and also because I was working alongside someone with a lot more experience and expertise than I have.  I did pour my own personal feelings of insecurity into the role to give it an honest depth.  But I definitely would like a second shot at that role somedayI think I could do it justice next time around.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future? 
Aldonza in Man of La Mancha  I think I'm perfect for that role, and also I'd love to play Mimi in La Boheme and Carlotta of Phantom, and Eva in Evita.  Any takers?


How do you feel when you perform?
Awesome  a feeling of joy that I can't quite articulate.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
The end result, being a work of art that moves people and makes some sort of impact.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it? 
Because I'm a masochist and I don't know when to quit?  No, really, because I always like a good challenge  I'm a believer in the notion that a brave person does great things and takes risks despite their initial fears.  Great art does not always feel warm and cozy.


What is your favorite theater story? 
I was able to pull off a particular children's show without ANY rehearsal timecan you say "paraphrase?"  It was actually pretty funny.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
I plead the fifth on that one but let's just say I can usually cover it up decently.

What was your worst theater experience? 
I was in a production of "Hair" and I had been battling a nasty cold.  At the last performance, which was attended by the playwright himself, I was stricken with laryngitis  I'm talking COMPLETELY voiceless.  Luckily, as it was an ensemble show I was able to get away with lip-synching my way throughout the entire evening.


Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
I will perform for almost anyone who will have me.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.? 
Yes I do.  People will always find ways to express their creativity.  And avid theatre-goers will continue flocking to local venues to see quality productions that are not as expensive and hassle-inducing as traveling to Manhattan.  The need to perform for some folks is so strong  I think we will continue to see new little theatre troupes sprouting up as others may close down.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with? 
There have been SO many.  I hate to narrow it down to a few names but here's a sampling: Paul Fraccalvieri, Ed Heuther, Joe Hoffman, Lydia Gladstone, Mary Ellin Kurtz, Cathy Hiller, Cathy Baker (never worked with those last three gals but really admire their work), Beth Linzer, Amy Goldmanthe list truly is endless. 

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with? 
Lorraine Serabian  she's amazingly talented and knowledgeable and Elaine Malbin  an opera singer with gorgeous presence.

Who is your favorite performer?
Madonna, Cher, Maria Callas, Renee Fleming, Liza Minelli, Judy Garland

favorite L.I. performer?
(There are) too many to narrow down.


How do you maintain your career and do theater?
Luckily my part-time day gig is very flexible and supportive of my performance needs.  A lot of coffee helps too.

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater? 
Because I'm working on my craft while providing enriching, entertaining experiences for the public.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Yes.  I am very lucky that my new husband is extremely supportive of me and is my biggest fan.

How has performing enriched your life? 
It's made me able to laugh more at the human condition and not take things too seriously.  It's also allowed me to meet some wonderfully talented people and make some very dear friends.


What brings you the greatest joy?
My darling husband who is my best friend and soul mate  he always makes me laugh.

What really irks you?
Rude, self-aggrandizing folk, cruelty, long lines at the grocery store

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
Travel throughout Europe with my better half, quit my day job and open up my own entertainment company.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
No.  I'd want to be beautiful forever, and thinner, preferably.

What's your favorite word?

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
My husband singing to me.


Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I'm putting together a demo CD of myself singing classical works.