To say that Christine Deaver is big hearted is a massive understatement. Teatro ZinZanni’s comedienne is as generous with her praise as she is with her laughter.
Tall, well-built with a dusky voice and a hefty bosom, Christine’s gestures are delicate and light. Silky blonde hair peeks out from beneath her baseball cap.
Christine is itchy to get back into Teatro ZinZanni’s spiegeltent. She just arrived in Seattle on Monday night after the long slog of a drive up from LA.
“I’m really looking forward to having just one job for a while. It’s great to be home,” she declares. “In LA you’re always dodging fires or mudslides or earthquakes or O.J.”
A graduate of Ballard High School, Christine completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Washington, emerging from the Professional Actor Training Program in 1989. All along the way she was performing around town – at Seattle Rep, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Group and ACT Theatre. She appeared in “Strike,” directed by Peggy Shannon, at the Empty Space Theatre when it was in Pioneer Square. For several years she appeared at the Cabaret at 111 Yesler, also in Pioneer Square, singing in Sh’Bop, a musical she wrote herself. “It’s as if Saturday Night Live did a 1950s show. Great music, excellent harmonies. I was joined by three great guys. We took that show all over the place, including Ashland.
“I left for LA right after I finished the PATP program. When I left, the Empty Space (may it rest in peace) was the limits of fringe theatre in Seattle. Now the place is crawling with small edgy companies. It’s great.”
Christine has been a member of LA’s Zoo District Theatre Company since 1998. “I love that stuff. It keeps me sane. Every day in LA is an artistic adventure. I do voice-over, film and TV work. I used to teach at a performing arts high school. It’s a constant hustle, LA is.”
Cast as the first female chef in Teatro ZinZanni in 2004, Christine took to the concept of busting through the fourth wall instantly. “I love the fact that audience’s participation is key to the whole success of the show. Choosing the right audience member is something I’m totally at home with. It’s a social study in a way. I choose people who send out a great vibe. Their body language and energy tells me everything. People think that by keeping their eyes on the tablecloth when I pass by they’re safe. That whole idea of no eye contact is a total myth!
“My intention is never to embarrass or humiliate people. If I pick you, it’s because there is something about you that’s unique and fun. The right person is the real star of the evening. When you succeed, then so do I.”
Paradoxically Christine does admit to some empathy for audience members who don’t want to be chosen.
Her last engagement with Teatro ZinZanni was in San Francisco. She and Kevin Kent (another Seattleite) created an all-new show entitled “Beaumont and Caswell.” Loosely based on the Lunt-Fontaine dynasty of 1930s Broadway, their characters were constantly bickering, upstaging, marrying and ultimately remarrying each other, using the audience as foils for their fights, flirtations and reunions.
“On a night off, Kevin and I decided to go see a show at the Berkeley Rep and as we sat down, we learned from the people next to us that the show involved quite a bit of audience participation. Since we had these great seats down front and on an aisle, I just knew we were easy marks. So we moved! So you see, I do have some empathy – somewhat.”
Christine’s characters are completely original. “I tend to develop characters from an outward-in approach. For instance, right now, I’m fascinated by women with big hair who wear ridiculously small barrettes. That image can spark a whole new character.
“My idea for “Voluptuous Panic” started out as a German performance artist type. I saw her as a little darker with a militaristic look, but not too traditional. Beaver Bauer, one of TZ’s two amazing costume designers, would meet me over lunch and start sketching as we talked. She is very open to creating collaboratively.
“Penelope Wilde is a smoothie of Dame Edna, Madame Arkadi (a character from a Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit) and Mabel Albertson (from the film What’s Up, Doc?). I love the image of older women who wear clothes that are way too young for them, go go boots, mini-skirts for instance.
“When we created the Juliet character for the “Elizabethan Elim-i-date” sketch, I had just finished a play in LA where I played a 13-year-old brat called Little Eva. So I softened her up a little bit, had her trying to play Shakespeare. She’s kind of Lucy (from Peanuts) meets Shirley Temple. Juliet is a little bossy, she only plays on her terms.”
She describes her new role in “Hearts on Fire,” opening the new venue on November 28, as Titania meets Glinda the Good Witch. As the Good Fairy of ZinZanni, her mission is to help right the misfired love interests that are happening all over the tent. By the end of the evening everyone is paired up correctly. For the first time, she will not play the role of Chef.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Thelma [Houston] again. Thelma can really light up the audience. The entire cast is a dream.”
Now in her third year of performing in Teatro ZinZanni, Christine finds that she never tires of the show. “I recently saw the show in San Francisco and as audience member, I watch it with a sense of genuine awe and wow. I love watching real joy on people’s faces. And when I’m in the show, one of my favorite parts is visiting with people at their tables between acts.”
Besides reconnecting with family, Christine is looking forward to walking to work every day, undertaking a full exploration of Northwest wines, and seeing how Seattle has changed. “Seattle is a kinder, gentler city. It’s good to be home.”