Cheeze&Crackerz is an improv duo from Sarasota, Fla., featuring Suzanne Beaulieu and Valeria Sloan. The two will make their Countdown Improv Festival debut in the 8:20 PM show block on Thursday, October 21 at the HCC Mainstage Theatre. In this spotlight interview, Beaulieu and Sloan discuss the genesis of their duo, the mechanics of their format, and their preferred cheese-and-cracker pairings.
We’re very excited to have Cheeze&Crackerz performing at this year’s festival! Can you tell us a little bit about your show and your format? What can audiences expect to see on Thursday night?
Cheeze&Crackerz: Our live show is a modified Armando. We get a word suggestion from the audience and one of us does a short monolog inspired by the word. Then the first scene. Then we do a “Bergman”, a riff on an inspiration in the style of Ingmar Bergman; moody, pithy and sometimes surreal. A second monolog, a second scene. Topping the set off with a blistering critique our own set (in character, of course).
Your show is really fun, and you both do a great job weaving big character choices in with resonant emotional moments. Can you talk a little bit about the strategies you’ve found to strike a balance between the two? What’s the secret to going big while also keeping it real?
CC: Emotional instability comes naturally. Let’s just say neither of us is currently in therapy so we both have a lot of material to work with. We are both drawn to strong characters with a definite point of view. We pay attention to each other, the whole person, words, postures and expressions. We can keep it real because we know each other so well and underneath, it’s all grounded in a real relationship. It’s us together, having a good time!
We love a good duo origin story. How did the two of you first start performing together? And how has your chemistry evolved since you’ve been working together?
CC: We met in an improv class many years ago. The class was called “Act your Way into Being.” For some people it was a class to release emotional repression. For us, it was about having fun, playing games, flying our freak flags, not performance at all. We became good friends and, low and behold, so did our husbands. During Covid, we were both bored out of our minds and needed a creative outlet. So, Cheeze&Crackerz was born. We made a lot of videos and were jonesing to bring our energy to the live stage. Now, we can! Our chemistry has always been there and it’s really nothing we have to work on or think too hard about.
How do the two of you like to get ready for shows? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
CC: We enjoy a good breath mint before each show, for the benefit of our partner. Some interpretive dance followed by primal screaming and we’re good to go.
You’re both based in the Sarasota area and have both been there for a while. What is special about the improv scene in Sarasota?
CC: Florida Studio Theatre is a huge asset. Having a venue with high-quality classes really is invaluable. Add to that a town filled with talented, creative people who have taken advantage of all FST has to offer and you have a strong, vibrant improv community in Sarasota.
Finally, could each of you give us your preferred real-life cheese and cracker pairing?
CC: Suzanne makes a lovely Hawaiian Cheeze Ball with pineapple, which pairs wonderfully with Triscuits and the highball of your choice. Valeria seeks a robust, assertive Manchego, unafraid to sit atop a buttery club cracker with a thin slice of cherry fruit paste.