An alumna adds her voice to an uplifting virtual performance project.
Tamara Siler ’87 has always wanted to play the role of Mama Morton, a sultry character in the musical “Chicago,” and sing “When You’re Good to Mama,” a song she says is a natural for her alto and contralto voice.
Her dream virtually came true. She was asked by Main Street Theater (MST) to perform the song online as part of the Art Together project that the theater launched in April. This project helps the communities of Houston get through the COVID-19 pandemic by showcasing the arts and artists from the confines of their homes. The project asked 25 artists to sing a song or play a role that they wanted to perform some day.
“We hope this will be engaging, meaningful and just fun for anyone who needs a respite from our ‘new normal,’” said Rebecca Greene Udden ’73, founding artistic director of MST.
As the project was being put together, Udden reached out to Siler, who had performed at the theater many times before in such shows as “Caroline, or Change,” “Dog Act,” “Putting It Together” and “Working,” and was a sure bet to inaugurate the project with a splash.
“We hold Tamara in such high regard and knew she would create something wonderful and inspiring that our audience would love,” Udden said.
And Tamara did not disappoint. In the video, she sings a cappella, hitting all the notes with clarity and smoothness and adding the necessary pauses to emphasize the sexual innuendos and spicy humor. Siler shows the beauty of her range, from the warmth of her lower register to her powerful upper register, ending the two-minute performance in a crescendo of high notes that at a regular theater would have certainly drawn a round of enthusiastic applause.
“She was amazing,” said Shannon Emerick, director of marketing and communications at MST. “We love Tamara!”
Tamara said she enjoys performing a song that has double entendre lyrics. In the musical, Mama Morton is a matron in a women’s prison, where she exchanges favors for bribes. Her song is laced with words that appear innocent on the surface but carry earthy undertones. Siler added that she is a big fan of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriters behind “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and a host of other Broadway shows. “I like the social commentary of their musicals, as well as the fact that their musicals lend themselves to diversity.”
Singing and acting is nothing new to Siler. She graduated from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and studied history at Rice. While she was an undergraduate student, she started performing at MST.
“Main Street Theater was one of the first places that I explored as a semiprofessional actress, and my relationship with the theater continues to enrich my life today,” Siler said.
Over the years, Siler has performed in more than 80 theatrical productions at different venues in Houston, including Stages Repertory Theatre, Theatre Under the Stars and the Ensemble Theatre.
When she is not acting, Siler is deputy director of admission, access and inclusion at Rice. She said that working in the theater has benefitted her day job.
“Theater makes me a better communicator and connector,” she said. “It allows me to see life through the eyes of another, to tell a story — all of which have been invaluable skills in my career as a college admission professional.”
See Siler’s performance online, here.
“Tiny Acts of Kindness,” a project from Rice’s Office of Public Affairs, features stories about Rice Owls responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in kind, creative and effective ways. Read the Rice Magazine series here.