Updated: Jan 27
Our latest edition of the Get to Know series features new Director of Development, Brandi Underwood! Brandi is an administrator, director, writer, photographer, and designer in Indianapolis who has joined the Monument ranks. Read below to find out more about our latest Revolutionary!
MONUMENT: What’s your favorite color?
BRANDI UNDERWOOD: Green, but a wear a lot of blacks… so I don’t know…
M: Favorite food?
BU: Mussels (the shellfish).
M: Favorite article of clothing?
BU: Black blazers.
M: Any tattoos?
BU: No, but soon I will.
M: Favorite weather/time of year?
M: Do you enjoy sports?
BU: I used to be the only girl in an all-boys baseball league, so yes! I was an athlete all my life.
M: Coffee or tea?
BU: Tea. Coffee tastes like what cigarettes smell like to me. Sorry coffee drinkers…
M: Cat or dog?
BU: Dogs all the way, but I am not against cats.
M: If you had to guess, what's your spirit animal?
BU: Either a horse or an orca.
M: What are some hobbies or interests of yours we might not know about?
BU: I enjoy interior design. It's a new thing for me so probably a lot of people don't know that yet.
M: What do you do to relax?
BU: Play video games.
M: What video games?
BU: The Uncharted series, Horizon Zero Dawn, Call of duty, Detroit Becoming Human, Kingdoms Hearts (all three main games), Skyrim (a little), and some other ones I love are really bold cinematic games. And choice based games for sure!
M: Dream Vacation?
BU: Somewhere in Europe. Probably Scotland… because I am obsessed with Outlander.
M: Do you have a favorite author or poet?
BU: Michael Cunningham.
M: Favorite actor?
BU: At the moment, Caitriona Balfe (Outlander).
M: Who is a hero or inspiration of yours?
BU: I have a fab five of sorts when it comes to heroes. Idina Menzel was the spark to the change that allowed me to lead the life I lead today. Jeanne Bowling is the reason I found my voice (but literally and metaphorically). Kat Comer Paton is the reason I’ve learned to find balance. Erin Jordan for giving me the power to overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles, and last but not least, Jackie Grove, for not giving up on me, ever.
M: What do you admire in people?
BU: Honesty and being vulnerable.
M: What do you despise in people?
BU: Pretty much the same thing. I know it’s hard for some, which is why I tried to live up to being both those things. Because being genuine with people involves knowing how to be both honest and vulnerable.
M: What charms you in a person?
BU: Seeing people that give a damn about what makes me me. Like people who genuinely want to get to know the real me usually are the people, I stick to.
M: Where are you from?
BU: Chicagoland. Dekalb/Villa Park to be more specific.
M: When did you develop an interest in theatre?
BU: All my life I’ve grown up with a learning disability, and it was always my goal to beat “my disability”. I was a kid who dreamt of being a writer with a language-based learning disability. Those two things seemed like oil and water to most, but I didn’t care. I knew I wanted to write, so I just developed this mentality that I was going to prove everyone who thought I couldn’t beat my disability and become a writer wrong. I grew up as an athlete, so the only theater I knew was Hello Dolly because we had a random copy of it, and I loved and grew up loving Barbara Streisand.
One day during my senior year of high school, my Mom mentioned how she heard this singer on the radio with a unique name, who just happened to be in Enchanted, a movie I was obsessed with at the time. Coincidentally, there was a PBS special called A Broadway Celebration that was being held at the White House. One night, browsing through to find something to fall asleep to, I clicked on PBS, saw this interesting named actress in the info description of the show, and decided to watch it. I jumped in halfway, eager to hear what my Mom was raving about. Turns out I had just missed both of this “mystery person’s” performances. But I was in luck, and there was a later showing. I scheduled it to record to watch it the next day.
The next day, I got home and was alone. Sat down on the couch, and I had no idea how much my life was going just suddenly become so much clearer. Halfway through, the host, announced this “mystery person’s” name, Idina Menzel. She was to sing a song called Defying Gravity.
To give even more backstory, I was also a kid who was ostracized because I was label as different because of my disability. Though it wasn’t severe or obvious, my peers could still tell, which left me with few friends. Yet, it still didn’t phase my goal or dream.
Then I heard her sing that song, and my whole life made sense. From then on, I was able to view my world from a different perspective. I took voice lessons because of songs like Defying Gravity, which lead me to meet Jeanne, which led to getting into the theater department at Marian University, which led me to shift my writing focus to playwriting.
And I believe none of that would have happened if I had never seen Idina perform that song that random day in October.
M: When did you decide you would pursue it as a career?
BU: I’ve always told people I don’t have hobbies, I have passions. And no passion of mine is off the table as far as a career. Theatre is a passion of mine because it’s where I can feel 100 percent me and not feel ashamed of who I am or what I bring to the community. That’s how I knew.
M: What are the kinds of stories you gravitate to?
BU: Family stories seem to be something that strikes a chord for me. I just really like subtle stuff that will capture your attention and not let it go over something as simple as a family photo.
M: What is the effect you want your work to have on the audience?
BU: I want people who have seen my work feel from seeing my example of a family dynamic or situation allows them to reflect on their own experiences and heal or process stuff that might be hard or difficult. It goes back to the whole being honest and vulnerable thing for me.
M: Was there any specific thing that drew you to Monument?
BU: The community and the level they were producing at. They weren’t cutting corners to cut corners, they challenged themselves to make the best theater without flashy or big sets, but they do with integrity and commitment. I also wanted to surround myself with people who felt similar about the type of theater I wanted to create.
M: You're coming on board as the Director of Development, what about this job excites you?
BU: Having the chance to work with writers to push their work to be the best it can be, and help writers explore and go on that journey. Because developing a play is more about the journey to me than the destination.
M: To date, what has been your most gratifying theatrical experience?
BU: Directing and developing the play Letters Sent last spring was an experience I will never forget. And I think its because instead of just directing actors to go on a journey, I truly felt like I went on that journey with them. It was a show that had mixed reviews, but to me, reviews are the last thing you look at. Theatre is about the experience, and to me, the experience that the actors have within the process of making a show is just as important as the audiences’ reaction. With that show, everyone was touched by the subject matter in some way, which made the performances palpable and even more real.
M: A hundred years from now, what would you like to be remembered for?
BU: Being the writer, who embraced the saying “it’s kind of fun to do the impossible."
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