What kind of strategy do you have before a performance? How do you win the crowd over?
T: Well, we put the girls in the least amount of clothing and have them work the crowd beforehand… No! [Laughs] It’s not about being perfect all the time, it’s about being a good communicator and a good performer so that you engage your audience. I don’t care what audience you’re performing in front of, if they see you’re having a good time, that’s infectious. There’s absolutely no way an audience is not going to have a good time if they can tell the performers on stage are having a good time and communicating with them. That’s the bottom line.
R: Well said, Tim.
What’s your tolerance for tears during rehearsal?
R: You can cry, but put on your Big Girl and Big Boy pants and keep moving. [Laughs] No, I mean we cry all the time! People cry, and I’ve made people cry before, Tim has made people cry before. It’s tough love to make them the best performer they can possibly be.
Traditional show choirs have anywhere from 50 to 60 people. Is there a reason why you keep your group smaller?
T: Well when we first started out we thought we were going to be a traditional, 50 person [group] and then when everybody auditioned and showed up we found out, “Oh, we only have 25 people… that’s not going to work.” [Laughs] So, we kind of molded it to do this theme park-style show and it just evolved into what we liked. And we didn’t want to work with 50 people’s schedules. It’s hard enough to work with 18 people’s schedules.
Since La Crosse is a small town, have you ever had any awkward run-ins with people who were upset they didn’t make the cut for GRS?
R: We’re pretty vocal people and if someone approached us in a grocery store or in public and wanted to give us their two cents, I would stop them cold in their tracks. If they want to talk to me in private, they can, but you know what? I’m not going to be talked to in public that way.
T: That doesn’t happen very often. I can’t even think of a time where that’s happened. Most of the time people will ask why they didn’t make it and most of the time they just want to have a learning experience.
Does the small talent pool in La Crosse ever frustrate you?
R: Well, Grand River melded into this weird, dysfunctional, nontraditional family and that’s kind of one of the things that I like about this group. I like that not everyone is perfect. Everyone has their strengths, but everyone also has some weaknesses that they need to address. We try to help push those weaknesses along to make them better. Take Josh, for example. He came to us and couldn’t step-touch and now he at least blends in, so he’s come a long way in two years.
T: As far as having a “ringer,” would that make our job easier? Yeah, the easiest way to look like the best director in the world is to have the best performers. For me that takes away the educational experience, and that’s why I love doing it. I love teaching someone and watching them grow throughout the year; I love watching the evolution of that whole process.