If you've seen a show at Annoyance you've most likely heard Lisa McQueen's music. I got to play with her for a short while every Monday night in an improv show and I absolutely LOVED walking into the green room and getting to share space with her. We did a show together at the La Jolla Playhouse where she met my mom and every time I see her she asks me about her. Enjoy.
AS: How would you like to be described?
LISA MCQEEN: I would like to be described as a Southern Girl (steel magnolia) who works as a professional musician and composer.
From Chattanooga Tennessee - live now in Chicago. I consider Chicago my home, but always feel really happy to be in Tennessee
LIFE STORY (gulp)
Born in Atlanta, grew up in Chattanooga and studied piano from the age of 4. I got my first professional job at 18 playing in a restaurant and have played professionally ever since. I wanted to go into acting though, so attended Amer. Music & Dramatic Acad. in NYC in the 70s, but I was broke, so I returned to Chattanooga, where I acted in theatrical productions, eventually obtaining my BA in Theater with Honors from Univ. Tenn Chattanooga. I was always a big nerd and managed to get a free ride as a Brock Scholar (academic scholarship). I always kept one foot in music - the other in theater. I lived with a complete asshole for about 4 years and one New Year's Eve 1989, we got in a big fight and the next day, I booked a flight to Chicago, where I had never even visited. I got a day job and watched improv at night. I met Laura Hall, who found out I played so asked me to sub in for an Annoyance show in August of 1990. So I found my creative family and shortly thereafter, joined the National Touring company of Second City. Met the love of my life (that's another great story) in 1993 and we eventually married. Received another BA from DePaul Univ. in 2003 in Jazz Piano, so I have feet in both music and theater. The rest ... as they say... is history!
AS: That is so crazy!! It really makes sense what you do now is a nice marriage of music and theater. I gotta ask, I’m a sucker for a love story… what’s the story there?!
LM: LOVE STORY. HOW I MET MY HUSBAND.
I was enthralled with the love affair between Nelson Algren and the French feminist Simone deBouvier. I read everything about the two of them: biographies, letters, historical novels -- (check out "The Mandarins" sometime). Because I love to drive around Chicago and search for historical sites, one rainy Sunday night in November, I set off to find their love nest. I'm driving around searching for their house (on Wabansia) but I can't find it (cause the Kennedy plowed over it - doesn't exist anymore). It's like I'm literally looking for love. I'm discouraged and I want a beer so on my way home I pull over to the first bar on the left. I run through the rain into a bar I've never been in my life and I sit down right next to my (future) husband. We strike up a conversation and that - was that! Don't ever let anybody tell you you can't meet someone in a bar. Not. True.
I was pretty proud when I conducted a small orchestra (complete with a small string section) for a musical called NEVERMORE, which was based on the poetry of Poe. I was proud because I had to not only to conduct, but play the piano at the same time. I was intimidated by the strings, they always want a lot of stuff from the conductor, and I had never been in an orchestra, so had to really work to gain their confidence.
AS: Holy crap. That’s incredible. I “played” violin for three years, but it was mostly just me hovering the bow above the strings and mimicking what the other players did. That’s really impressive.
Tried to play a Brahms Trio as part of a chamber program at DePaul and failed miserably. Nobody wanted to rehearse and I just wasn't that good of a classical player to pull it off without rehearsal. The Judges skewered our group. I learned not to get involved with a group that takes preparation lightly.
AS: Great advice.
Researching some historical topic in a library in the morning, then coming home and writing a theatrical song using the information.
AS: Ah! Any history faves or recent rabbit holes?
HISTORY FAVES /RABBIT HOLES
The story of Lizzie Borden. Making a Murderer. The West Memphis Three. Adnan Syed. (serial season 1, undisclosed season 1) The story of Joey Watkins (undisclosed season 2) Shit Town. West Cork. Up and Vanished (story of Tara Grinsted) Gary Mitchum Reeves (undisclosed season 3). maybe you sense a theme here. Also, give me a good Civil War Battlefield and I'm in heaven. That would also be a perfect day. A whole day to roam through the battlefield with maps.
I GOT WHERE I AM
by always staying positive and professional. I always smile and have a warm comment for anyone - no matter who you are or what your role is (i.e., President of company vs. Maintenance Worker) I'm smiling a lot and I'm pretty self denigrating. I'm also not afraid to branch out or change it up.
MOST PROUD OF
My Southern heritage and my mother.
AS: What do you think is your Southern superpower(like what did growing up Southern give you. Does that make sense?) I’d love to hear about your mother.
I learned from watching my mother and other southern women to be strong but not abrasive. Southern female strength is something quiet but strong. And if you can learn charm and grace to clothe it in, it's quite a combo. ("you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" was a favorite saying) I actually went to charm school as a young girl (which today's millennial women would shame me for... but whatev. I still have the certificate somewhere) From my mother I learned dignity, love, fun, fairness, an easy laugh, resilience, the value of hard work and resourcefulness.
This is not probably such a great (?) thing about Southern women, but it's true nonetheless. We will smile, smile, smile while we are stabbing you in the back. It's kind of disconcerting and fake, but to be honest, I do this ALL. THE. TIME. My husband likes to say of me "look out... She's being really really nice. That means she hates you." Which just isn't true (all the time anyway). Sometimes I'm just nice. But if I'm OVERLY polite and smiling? watch out. That is the Southern way.
I'm afraid of clams.
WHAT KEEPS ME GOING EVERY DAY
That thought has never crossed my mind... I guess I would say - Life. Life is SO wonderful and beautiful. I wake up, make a pot of coffee and put on some Mozart and think - what a great day! How can I make the best use of my time today?
Undisclosed and Truth & Justice with Bob Ruff
PIECE OF ART
The Night Watch
AS: Ooh! It’s in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that was under construction the whole time I lived there. I just read that they had a trap door with an escape slide installed under it in 1934 in case of museum fire. I wonder if the slide made it after the construction!
Once I had a lot to drink and went home with a music critic for the SunTimes. His walls were lined, floor to ceiling, with cd racks in shelving and it was in order by Genre, then Alphabetical. It was HUGE. He asked me to find a CD to play while he walked his dog. He left and I was looking at CDs and fell backwards, but I grabbed onto the shelves, so the whole shelving came down and crashed into the floor. Last date with this guy, needless to say. (small side note: he dated Fran Adams for a while).
AS: Ahhhhh! I. AM. DEAD. That’s incredible.
PUMP UP SONG
Before They Make me Run -- Keith Richards
ADVICE for SOMEONE WHO IS LOST
Make note of when you are happy or when time flies. What were you doing? Just notice when you're happy --- too often, it's fleeting, but when you're happy - Stop. Notice It. Then ask yourself: What was I doing that made me happy? Then, do more of that.
Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.
WHAT GIVE ME MEANING
Work, family and friends.
I STRUGGLE WITH
Technology and social media. Still do not understand what the fuck a hashtag is.
LM: SUCCESS is having a balance in your life between work and leisure. I love my work and I feel like if I can just balance it right -- and there are some weeks that I actually do have a good balance -- THAT is success.
WORKING on a new musical based on an Undisclosed podcast and I cannot stop thinking about it. It's totally Southern Gothic, but set in the 1970s, so will have lots of Southern rock. TOTALLY geeked out.
AS: I can’t wait to see this.
LM: That's it! It's pretty embarrassing talking about myself this much! I'm pretty reserved so don't like to disclose a lot of information... Hope this helps, Andel!!
AS: This is so wonderful! I miss getting to see you every week, it’s so wonderful to read more about you. You’re such a badass!
LM: Say "hey" to your mom for me and keep me posted!!