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Conversations with Marisa Caddick

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marisa Caddick.

Hi Marisa, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I’m a theatre-maker from Las Vegas, so that’s where I should probably start. I would be remiss without mentioning how weird it was growing up there and the influence it had on me. My dad is a prominent musician who has worked in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but finally made the permanent move to Vegas a month right before I was born. So, I lived there my whole life up until moving to LA about four years ago. He supported my whole family as a musician, which I didn’t know was incredibly difficult when I was younger. My dad is one of the most hard-working people I know and one of my biggest influences. He’s a musician, but he’s primarily a storyteller (and a very good one at that). 

He also gave me a realistic picture of what it would be like to be a working artist, so I was always realistic about doing what I wanted to do. I knew I would be making theatre for the rest of my life in some capacity. 

Musician dad aside, Las Vegas was a beast of its own. I probably passed by at least a dozen Adult Video or Toy Emporiums on my way to high school every morning. I saw girls half-dressed on billboards and accepted it as commonplace.

When I first moved to LA, I remember feeling a comfort of home at the first strip club I saw. It’s a weird headspace to exist in all the time. To add to it all, I attended the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts as a theater major for high school, and my fate was sealed. At LVA, I didn’t even realize how lucky I was. I was surrounded by other young artists who were just as passionate about what I wanted to do, and they were working at the tier of professionals. As a junior, I played Heidi in a production of “[Title of Show]” and was able to meet and work with the original Broadway cast. (That’s insane!) In the same year, I started writing plays for me and my friends mostly to get a laugh out of them, and it kind of stuck. We produced entire shows ourselves. I don’t even know how many of my plays ended up being produced at the end of my time there, but I knew I wanted to keep making my friends laugh. And I was so lucky to be able to pursue a degree in it.

I think what sets me apart from other theatre-makers out here is how long I’ve been doing what I do for someone who is 22? Maybe? I can honestly say I have worked in every single capacity in a theater. In college, I started out as an intern at Skylight Theater Company in Los Feliz and they became like a second family to me. They mentored me and encouraged me to write and also taught me the realities of running a non-profit theater in Los Angeles–and I continued working for them until the pandemic hit. 

I’m also an activist. I hope that everything I make or help to make is pushing us in a better direction as a society. Right now, I am most passionate about intersectional women’s rights, reducing homelessness, worker’s rights, and Black Lives Matter. I spent a lot of my time as an undergraduate educating myself and taking classes that would better equip me to use my privilege to fight for equality. And I plan to create shows that will reflect our changing world.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I don’t think I would have liked the road if it were smooth. And I also know that I have a long way to go, so I don’t even know what this road will look like compared to the next. It’s a cliche, but every trial I’ve had up until now has only added to who I am. As for the trials? What I didn’t mention before was that by the time I got to the end of my high school career, I was completely burnt out. I had been working in a professional capacity for four years already. At LVA, I woke up at five in the morning to go to school and wouldn’t get home until five or six at night on my earliest days. If we were rehearsing for a show, I could be there until eleven at night, every night, for an entire week.

Then, I had homework for AP classes, so I usually ended up going to bed around one or two in the morning. And that was my routine. I still wonder if my high school teachers had any idea about the kind of time we were all putting in. And my schedule was pretty standard for everyone in the Theater Department. Yet somehow, I still managed to graduate as Valedictorian—but I don’t know how I managed it. I’m sad to say I didn’t really learn to protect myself or my energy until years later.

Then, I got to USC. I knew my background was very different from others pursuing Theater, and I knew I was very fortunate to receive the education I did. I also wanted to pick up right where I had left in high school, but instead, it felt like I was starting over. I had been training in acting every day for the past four years with some of the best artists I know. It definitely took some adjusting. I also had planned to attend college on the East Coast, but in my style, I changed my decision to USC on the deciding deadline. So, when I got to USC, it still felt like a second decision. I unintentionally isolated myself. I was so focused on making theatre that I had forgotten why I loved it in the first place. LA felt a lot like Las Vegas to me, so I just felt like I was moving backward even with everything that was in front of me. But I still pushed forward and tried to make the best of it all. After all, I knew how fortunate I was, and I wasn’t about to throw everything away because I wasn’t in the right headspace at the time.

By the time sophomore year rolled around, I had met some of my now best friends and really found my community. But creatively, I was still feeling the burnout. I needed to find something else to put my energy into. I remember at this time, I also had an obsession with stand-up comic Tig Notaro. I used to venture out every month or so with my friend Olivia to see her perform live at The Largo at the Coronet. It was my form of escape. One time I even got to volunteer to help her out with a bit onstage. Then, I started doing stand-up. It scared me to my core, so I knew I should probably keep doing it. The only problem was, I thought I was terrible at it.

In my first stand-up class, I bombed day after day. At the end of the class, we were supposed to do a show at Westside Comedy, and I figured I was going to bomb again, wipe my hands of stand-up, and go to bed. But I got up there and something kicked in. People were laughing and I was laughing with them. I was happy to be back onstage again. By my junior year of college, I had been living in LA full-time for a few years and had really gotten into the comedy scene. I would go to mics but would usually sit out because the only other comics were white dudes. Some of my material isn’t exactly male-friendly–at least that’s what I’ve gathered from the full-on fights I’ve gotten in while onstage–so I saved my breath and knew that I had to create space for myself. My junior year, I was able to do just that by producing a show called Happy Stand-Up Hour. It was a show for all female and non-binary stand-ups. My friend Brooke hosted, and it was a blast. That same year, I had an original one-act produced on campus and started a playwriting group with some of my best friends. It felt like I was finally getting to the other side of my burnout.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am primarily a playwright and stand-up comic. I think I specialize in the kind of theatre that makes your head hurt—but it’ll also make you pee yourself from laughter. Same goes for my stand-up. My favorite kind of jokes are the ones you can go back to and find something you didn’t see every time. Most things I make have layers upon layers of meaning that I’m hoping someone else as nerdy as I am will come back to and catch. (For example, one of my favorite stand-up bits I do is about how much I love idioms, so I planted a ton for you to find throughout my answers–can you find them all? Flip this article upside down to find out how many there are in total!) 

As for my current projects: I am currently producing a podcast with my friends Taylor Ryan Rivers and Evan Macedo called “Jayden Jones: Private Eye,” and it has been one of the most rewarding processes. We started working on it almost a year ago when the pandemic hit, and season finale comes out this April. Secondly, I just started a theater company with one of my childhood best friends, Celeste Russell, and one of her best friends from college, Rachel Rougas. I’m writing a new play for our premiere production which will hopefully be able to begin production in LA after theaters are open again. 

What were you like growing up?
I’m pretty much the same now as when I was a kid (except I’ve learned social graces and how to drive a car). I’m the youngest of three. My older brother was the one who got me into dramatic literature in the first place. He was an English major at NYU and would send me plays and critical theory on theater when I was in high school. My sister went to the same high school as me but was a Visual Arts major who later went on to study at RISD. And I was always the annoying little sister to both of them. I was really a handful until I was put in school. Then, I was that nerdy kid who always loved school. I loved getting to see my friends every day. I loved being given tasks or things to learn, and I’m still the exact same way when it comes down to it. I was a rule-follower and loved being given permission, especially to create. I was always making things with the tools I was given as a kid. For example, my parents got me a camcorder when I was eight and I recorded everything. My friends and I would spend hours making dumb movies that were all (thankfully) lost to a faulty hard drive. 

Things really changed for me in the fifth grade. I switched from my private Christian school to public school where I met Mrs. Larzik, my writing teacher. She had us do this exercise where we had to cut all articles out of a paper we were writing. I was so excited to get a new puzzle, and I wrote like I had never written before, hoping it would still make sense. When she finally read my paper, she sat me down and told me I was writing at a high school level. Even though she was probably exaggerating for my benefit, I am eternally grateful for her encouragement. For the rest of the year, she mentored me and pushed me to be a better writer. She gave me confidence, and more importantly, permission. By the time I hit sixth grade, I was filling notebooks with absurd essays and stories that I probably still have somewhere. One of my favorites was a revamped version of Romeo and Juliet where they both wake up in the afterlife, but Romeo falls for some chick name Julia (typical). In middle school, I also found Speech and Debate. Back when I was in elementary school and my brother was on his high school Forensics team (the debate one, not the gross one), my mom would bring me with her when she got stuck judging the tournaments. I became obsessed. So, when I found out I had my own Speech and Debate club, I couldn’t wait. I placed first in Public Forum at States with my friend Colette when I was only a sixth grader. I feel it is also really important to mention that I was about a foot shorter than every other kid at the time, so I can only imagine what it must have been like watching me tear apart middle school boys who could eat me for breakfast. I was a real spitfire and I look up to younger me for being so fearless.

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Image Credits:

Personal Picture: Robert Butler III Theater pictures: Las Vegas Academy of the Arts Stand-up: Jessica Doherty Headshot: Ryn Caddick

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