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Olivia Miller - Bloody Mary: Live! Interview

Set to rock regional venues this Spring, Bloody Mary: Live! sees Mary Tudor work on her reputation in an iconic stand-up show as she heads on a revolutionary UK tour! Produced by Part of the Main, a Pleasance London Associate Company for 2022-2024 and funded by Arts Council England, Bloody Mary: Live! is a gleefully vicious comedic special that tackles the drama every #queenager has to deal with, from divorced parents, sibling rivalry to first crushes and burning heretics at the stake.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood.

Part of the Main are an innovative and exciting upcoming theatre company based in London that curate political, provocative, and accessible work. After frequent performances at New York City venues including Club Cumming, Pete’s Candy Store, and Caveat, this electric production will be returning to the UK, where it was shortlisted for the 2020 Les Enfants Terribles Award and completed a successful run at VAULT Festival in 2023, earning the show OffFest Nomination and Part of the Main the Excellence in Accessibility Award. Investigating how women in power have fought for their right to be heard, this raucous stand-up set, and a coming-of-age narrative will transport one of England’s most infamous queens into Gen Z.

Bloody Mary: Live! strives to resonate with anyone who has ever struggled growing up, or ever wanted to burn it all down. This witty, irreverent blend of stand-up comedy and a one-woman show is written and will be performed by Olivia Miller, an American artist based in New York City.

Ahead of the tour we caught up with Olivia to discuss the show.

Where did your performing journey begin?
I first auditioned for the role of Brigitta in a community theater production of The Sound of Music simply because I had loved the movie. I was 10, and my mom came with me to the audition with my younger sister in tow. The production team saw my sister in the hallway and asked her if she wanted to audition too. She hadn't planned on auditioning so I think she sang "Happy Birthday" or something random like that in the room. She ended up booking the show. I didn't. And that's show biz baby!
How did you approach a career in the arts?
It was never a question for me. I don't think there was a particular moment where I said "yeah, this is it" for myself - I think it just always was it for me, even from the moment when I didn't get Brigitta. I largely followed where my interests led me. There was a time I thought I was going to be an opera singer and, though I performed in plays and musicals all throughout high school and college, I didn't even major in theater in college (I was an English major, I read a LOT of Jane Austen). I think that approach, a very fluid one that follows the fun of it all, has helped make this a sustainable career for me. There are a lot of ups and downs in the arts, but if you are able to let go (even a little bit) of the expectations around timeline and visibility, things become so much more enjoyable.
How would you describe your writing/performing style to anyone who doesn’t know you?
Sharp, cheeky, and heart-forward. 
How did you approach bringing this show to the stage?
This show originally was my 20 minute senior thesis for my MFA. It was a homework assignment, really. But I love homework and I LOVED creating this show. I had great support from my mentors at Brown in the acting, playwriting, and movement departments, and they all created dynamic environments for me to test out different parts of what would eventually become the show. I revisited the footage from that first version recently, and it's crazy to me that probably 90% of those original 20 minutes are still in the current version (60 minutes) of the show. After graduating my program, I knew I wasn't done with the piece. I immediately started pitching it to other people and theaters, and it quickly found its way to Part of the Main.

Photo by Graeme Braidwood.

Why did you decide to set it through the eyes of Mary Tudor?
I originally wanted to write a musical about the dead wives of Henry VIII. Somehow, everyone else knew that SIX already existed but me. At that point, I had already sunk a bit of time into research, so I went back through everything to see if I could salvage any idea from the wreck. I thought it was interesting that, amid all the information about Henry and his wives, his eldest daughter, Mary, was just kind of...there. She was a somewhat shadowy footnote. That felt like a very fertile area for me - an eldest daughter with 5 stepmothers and a fraught relationship with her father? I mean, that was a story begging to be told. It helped that I saw a lot of myself in Mary as I pushed further into the bones of her story - we're both eldest daughters, both children of divorce, both high achievers, both older sisters to very fabulous younger sisters. I felt that I could meaningfully share her story because it was already my story in many ways. Minus all the burnings at the stake.
What research did you have to do whilst developing the show?
I read a couple books (I'm sorry to say that I don't even remember the titles or historians I leaned on in the early days of the process). Perhaps this will be controversial, but I ended up using Wikipedia the most. At one point, I didn't want to get too bogged down in the exact facts. I wanted just enough of the truth to inspire the theater of it all. Because at the end of the day, I'm not trying to pretend that this is a documentary. It's theater! I want people to learn about Mary, yes, but I also want people to have an experience that allows them to reflect on their own lives. I want people to be invited to discover something about themselves or the world around them, I want people to laugh! In order to get to those places, I myself needed to free myself from being a faithful historian. Wikipedia was great for that. 
If you had to spend a day in Tudor times, how do you think you’d get on and what would you get up to?
I wish I could say I would be something cool like a bar wench, but I get the sense I would have died young if I had been born in Tudor times (I'm a plague magnet). If I got to spend just a day there though? I'd definitely see something at The Globe and throw a tomato. I'm a theater kid, what did you expect?
How do you prepare for a show?
8 hours of sleep minimum and staying hydrated. A little vocal warm up, a little physical warm up. There's no special sauce here. Your drama teachers are right. 
Where can people see your show and follow your career beyond?
I'm on tour in the UK with Bloody Mary March 19th through April 6th! And I'm always popping the show on here and there in New York City when I start to feel separation anxiety from Mary. I'm on Instagram and TikTok via @thatoliviamiller and my website, though infrequently updated, is  

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Photo by Graeme Braidwood.

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