Singer-actress Sally-Jane Heit gives Berkshire Music School a lift

PITTSFIELD — On Friday evening, the Berkshire Music School welcomes friend, supporter and renowned local actress Sally-Jane Heit in her latest one-woman show, "My Alternative Facts of Life."

The show — comprising what Heit describes as "irreverent stories, skits and songs (brought) to life with music, comedy and other truths" — is a benefit for the school. It will be performed in the school's Taft Recital Hall at 30 Wendell Ave.

Heit was born in Brooklyn into what is described on her website as "an arts loving Jewish family with eight children and modest means."

The mother of three girls, Heit continues performing in theaters, nightclubs and cabarets across the country; on- and off-Broadway; in film and on television, where her credits include appearances on "Law & Order," "The Secret of My Success," "Tiger Warsaw" and "Night Court," among others.. She now makes her home in Great Barrington and in Sanibel, Fla.

In a recent interview with The Eagle she talks about her life, her love of the Berkshires and her motivation to perform for this benefit.

Tell me about your experience with the Berkshire Music School and why you've chosen to do this benefit performance?

I am so thrilled to be doing it for the Berkshire Music School because it's just an extraordinary organization with a great message for music. They open doors and windows for all ages.

It's an organization that I feel very close to. I've done some master classes for the seniors and teenagers who wanted to perform in cabaret. The school is one of the best things ever in Berkshire County. The school does valiant work and the value that this benefit will have for the school is why I do it.

What kind of material will you be performing?

I have grouped together many characters and they all come out of a "truth" in my point of view, but they're all pieces of what I think we're all about. I think people relate to me through their own sense of experience. They can laugh at me more easily than I think they can laugh at themselves, and yet what they're really doing is seeing the absurdity of the situation.

Did you write any of the music for the show?

No, but I have wonderful friends who wrote the original music and my music director Uel Wade has the same absurd sense of humor as me. He's my backbone and has been with me a very long time. Musically, he's brilliant and we bounce off each other.

I've noticed that you take situations of adversity and bring humor to them. Will you bring the same element to the show?

For me, this year we have forgotten so much about the American Dream and it's a little painful. That's why I call my show "My Alternative Facts of Life" as my life is an alternative fact. The show is not going to be tremendously political, however I can't not put my own two cents in about the mess we're in. I will do the things that make people laugh because there's so little to laugh at now! Bringing some kind of humor to a situation where in truth it isn't funny at all — but if you do a little slant on it, you can get a giggle. Everything that I do is based on falling on my face, picking myself up and dusting myself off and starting all over again. Everything.

How long have you had a home in Berkshire County?

I absolutely love my home in Great Barrington. Now I'm in Florida, happy and warm, but I miss the sweetness of Berkshire County. It's just a sweet place where you can always find a friend. You just have a cold winter that's all!

I will always be a New Yorker; I was born in Brooklyn and attended the High School of Performing Arts and did the due diligence of getting married, having children and never stopping my career. Yet I feel closer than ever to the Berkshires because it brings me closer to nature and maybe that's because I'm closer in age to where nature makes a real big difference.

Who would you say is the most influential person in your life in conjunction with your acting?

I'd gone to see Lily Tomlin's first one-woman show with someone who knew her; we went backstage and I kissed her rings and everything! I said to her, "I want to do with my life what you've done with yours. I want to get up there and make the absurd commentary about how I pursue my life." She was marvelous! She sat down ... and she explained how she put together her first show.

She went to coffee shops and places like that and tested her material, and that's what I did. Suddenly I was no longer at the behest of producers and directors doing material that I did not want to do. I remember a producer once said to me, "You should just shut up and write your own material." And I did.

Do you think it just comes from your heart and you just go for it?

That ability is the human condition, and it comes from every cell in my body; heart, lungs, my blood flowing through. It is what I feel and what I think. I feel fortunate to have gained this insight early on enough to have written the material and to be able to continue performing it.

What gives you your biggest inspiration?

I think initially being one of eight children my inspiration was to be seen and known more than my brothers and sisters. You just have that competition going all the time."Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!" And so performing was a great way to do that. I'd like to think I came out of the womb singing and dancing. Whatever gift I have I want to share it. I don't want to live it alone — I don't. I live it with and for people.


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