Sunday, August 14, 2005
From a Glamour magazine article:
Getting Over Being the Adopted One
By: Kristin Chenoweth
I can't remember the specific moment I was told I was adopted; I just know that at some point, my parents said, "After your brother Mark was born, Mommy couldn't have any more kids, and that's why you're so special."
Growing up in Oklahoma, I never spent time wishing I could meet my birth mother. That's because the family I already had was amazing: My brother and I were close, my dad and I had the same sense of humor, my mother was -- and still is -- my best friend.
But there were differences: I'm 4'11" and blond, while the rest of my family is tall and dark-haired. I can’t balance my checkbook, while my brother is a brilliant mathematician. I on the other hand, could sing -- while no one else in my family could. At 28 I went through a period of severe depression, and at 30 I suddenly got adult-onset acne. When you're adopted you can't help but wonder, where did that come from?
Here's what I do know about my biological mother: When she had me she was 21 years old and unmarried. She came from money and worked as a flight attendant. She was Catholic, so abortion wasn't an option. At the same time, a young woman had been forced to have a hysterectomy at 25 because of a medical condition. The adoption couldn't have worked out more perfectly -- just as my mother's scars were healing, she got to bring me home.
My family never made me feel like an outsider -- not even once -- but it is impossible to grow up as an adopted child and not sometimes feel like maybe, just maybe, you don't fit in. Look at all the references to Angelina Jolie and "her adopted son, Maddox." He's her son, not her "adopted son" -- yet we are constantly being reminded that she did not give birth to him.
Growing up in the eighties, I used to watch episodes of Sally Jessy Raphael in which the show's producers would track down the biological parents of an adopted child. I remember thinking what of they don't want to be found? My brother, Mark, must have intuited how scary things was for me. Once, when I was about 11 and he was 16, my parents were having an argument and he and I took off in the car. He took me to a chapel and we prayed together.
On the ride home, he said, "By the way, no one will ever be able to take you away from us, I checked." In that moment, I felt so safe and loved. For the first time, I truly understood that blood is not necessarily thicker than water. I also knew with certainty that I didn't need any family other than my own.
Sometimes I wonder if I have a sibling out there, or if my biological mother has seen me on TV. And if you told me she was standing in line at the deli downstairs, I might take a peek. But do I need to meet her or establish a relationship with her? Not really. My biological mother gave me life -- I really want to thank her for that. But my parents always say they struck the lottery when they adopted me. It isn't true: I struck the lottery because I got the parents I was supposed to get.
Last September I gave my first solo concert at Carnegie Hall. Amazingly, it sold out. As I walked onto the stage, people leapt to their feet. I thought about all the women who'd stood there before me: Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters. I looked into the footlights and saw my parents just beaming. I performed a surprise song I'd written for my father, called "The Ride Home," about the countless ballet classes and piano lessons he'd driven me to and from. Though my father is not a crier, when I finished the song he stood up and blew me a kiss -- and I saw big, fat tears rolling down his face. I remember thinking...if that isn't my father I don't know who is.
Celebrating the release of her new CD, As I Am, Tony-winner Kristin Chenoweth took the time to tell BroadwayWorld all about it, and to talk about why shes one of the busiest performers in show biz.
As I Am, released by Sony Classical, combines an array of country, and spiritual tunes, all representative of Kristin Chenoweths influences, and of an album that shes been wanting to make for a while. I wanted to do a spiritual album, not necessarily at this point in my career," explains Kristin,"its just something that I always wanted to do. I grew up singing gospel and country music, and it was one of the biggest influences for me musically. I loved singers like Amy Grant and Sandy Pattyand I was also listening to Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland, but these are the singers that really made an influence on my life."
The albums been an idea she had in mind for a few years, and that dream finally came to fruition with the CDs April 5 release." Ive really wanted to make this spiritual, inspirational record since the events of 9/11, and Im glad that I can finally put it out there."
The material on the album runs the gamut of country, inspirational music, and a bonus theatre track as well - the perfect mix as far as Kristins concerned. "The whole feel of the album was important to me and the song choices came out of that. On the CD, I cover a Faith Hill song about friendship, and a story song by Trisha Yearwood and a musical theatre song too. The consistent thing though is that I just wanted a record that people could pop in their CD player, or while working out, or whatever they want to do, and just be happy. Listen to it, and feel good."
The amount of songs in the spiritual, and country catalogues is of course vast, making picking which to sing on this release a journey filled with tough decisions. "I really wanted to choose songs that influenced me growing up. For example, theres a hymn on there called Just As I Am, and when I became a Christian, that song was playing as I was walking down the aisle to make that decision. I had to sing a Sandi Patti song, just had to, and we included Upon This Rock. I wanted to sing this song because I love the message, and of course I love the high notes too," she says with a laugh.
"Its that combination of the message of love, and hope that resound throughout the CD. I love Amy Grant, and she wrote a song called There Will Never Be Another that we included. You can actually take that as being a song about God, or about a lover, it can be about a friend, it can be about someone whos influenced you in your life, and thats what makes it so great."
The album deviates from what Kristins become known for in her Broadway, and concert appearances, making this a departure from the norm, as much as it is a return to her roots. "I just really wanted to get back to my roots, and thats the main thing. People know me for my operatic style and for my musical theatre work, but this is how it all started. "
There is a nod to musical theatre however, and that comes in a bonus track of Taylor, the Latte Boy, by the writing team of Zina Goldrich, and Marcy Heisler thats become a Chenoweth standard. "I first sang the song about 6 years ago on Rosies show. I can go into concert and sing an aria, anything, Candide, just anything, and people will scream for me to do Taylor. Its become one of my signature pieces, and we added it to the CD because it makes people happy. I was glad that I was the one that got to bring it out on Rosie, and Id love to do more of their songs, to get the word out there about them, because several of their songs are so amazing."
Rosie ODonnells show helped to put Kristins talents in front of a national audience, for which she is quite grateful. Rosie is my buddy, and shes been really good to me. I always thought that if you can get the stamp (of approval) from someone like Rosie, that nothing else matters. "I am close with her and her family, and thats all thanks to her coming to Charlie Brown, and seeing me in everything through Wicked, and just being such a support. She always had me on her show, and she was just a supportive person in television, that we as Broadway performers really need. 60 years ago, Broadway stars were movie stars, they were the stars, and now its all changed. Now, really Broadway stars are just Broadway stars in New York, and thats kind of it, so Rosie was a big help in getting people out there like Audra, and like myself. Shes amazing because shes never going to stop doing things for the Broadway community and she really knows talent. I always think of Rosie, as having the soul of a Broadway singer, she just doesnt have quite the instrument as shell tell you. Frankly the world is just a better place with her in it."
Traveling to a more recent stop on memory lane is Kristins experience in Wicked. Looking back at my time in Wicked, it was such a rewarding, and a great learning experience. "I learned so much doing that show, and I think that you always do though when you create a new show, and when youre part of something thats being done for the first time. You go through so many emotions, and so many changes and thats all part of the creative process."
Kristin left Wicked in July which she sees as closure to the Glinda chapter of her life. "I left when my contract was up, and I took a little bit of heat for it, but, I loved Glinda, and had so much fun with it. I was with the show though from the start, and from then to the finish was 3 years, so it was time for me to go. I felt so proud though with what we were all able to create, all of the cast."
She doesnt see herself as returning to that part, but the theatre world she will definitely be back to. "I think I did all that I can with Glinda, but Ill definitely be back to Broadway because its always my first love, always."
In terms of dream parts for future stage appearances, Kristin crossed one off her to do list a few months ago. My dream role, I already got to play and that was Candide. I would love to do My Fair Lady, and I have a concept there that would be different and I think it would be a good one. Theres talk of Young Frankenstein and my involvement, and that would definitely be something of interest to me. Theres also a couple of things Im thinking about developing myself, so theres lots of things on the shelf for me to come back to Broadway on.
Being on the developing end, is an area which she feels shes always been a part of. I feel like Ive been on the artistic end a lot, because Ive had the opportunity to create a lot of parts. You do a lot of work when you do that, to create the character. When it comes to picking a part these days Im lucky, Im very lucky, because I can choose a bit more, be a little bit more choosy and Im going to take advantage of that.
In the meantime, that choosiness has led to a packed schedule, traversing some other mediums of entertainment. In addition to being scheduled to appear back on the West Wing next season, shell be appearing shortly on the big screen in a multitude of roles. Next coming out movie wise for me is Bewitched, which we filmed in the Fall, and itll be out in June. I did Pink Panther in the Spring while I was doing Wicked, and itll be out in September. Right now Im shooting Running with Scissors which was a great book by Augusten Burroughs, and is being directed by Ryan Murphy, who created the show Nip/Tuck. Thats starring Annette Benning, and Im filming that at the moment. Im loving it all and I feel like Ive got lots of fingers in lots of pies.
Enjoying being able to do a bit of everything, Kristin doesnt see much of a difference between the worlds I do like switching between all the mediums, because its all acting, and its all different. Like if youre doing a sitcom, its the same as doing a drama, you just pull it back less. Its all acting, its all the same.
She doesnt feel however that anything can replace being on stage, which is why she returns to New York for the Citys Center Gala performance of Encores! The Apple Tree from May 12-16, 2005. I just feel like I have to. Im incredibly overwhelmed with my schedule, but I had to do that part. Im stepping into some big shoes, but I love the score, and I love the City Center, which has been so good to me, and has given me so many great opportunities to play other great parts. Im ready to do it, Im ready to get back on stage. Ive been doing concert work, which sort of fulfills that need, but Ive been playing Glinda on and off for 3 years, so Im looking forward to getting out there in a different part.
After Running with Scissors, she films Fiction with Emma Thompson, and after the May concert she goes into summer filming of a larger part in a Robin Williams movie called RV. All of this is naturally keeping her quite busy. I dont vacation or have any sort of life. Its true, but there are bigger problems to have. I love my work so much, that I just want to do it all. I just went to Hawaii for a little 3 day vacation, and that will tide me over for the next few months. Ive got a little bit of career ADD I guess you could say, in that I have to keep myself in all arenas. If we just didnt have to sleep...
The lack of sleep does leave Kristin little time on the Internet, but when she is online, you can often find her checking in on her web site. I go on my web site and read stuff on occasion, but rarely do I go elsewhere. I dont find chat rooms very helpful, actually I refer to them as devils tool because Ive read some nasty things about my friends, and about myself. When youre an artist, and youre putting yourself out there doing your thing, things like that can derail you from the work you do. But, I do check in with my web site, because those are important people to keep in touch with people I know, and friends, and fans.
Those friends and fans will surely be following Kristins very active career for years to come. The wonderful new CD is entitled As I Am, and is available now from Sony Classical Records. Click here for more information on the release, and to purchase the CD. The Apple Tree runs from May 12-16 at the City Center, for more