Friday, May 18, 2012

Intervew with Erik Harrison, Arthur Kipps in LTA's The Woman in Black

Erik Harrison, playing Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black, shares some of his insight in his experience so far with this season's late night show!  Erik is a LTA veteran who has performed in several shows on our stage.  You may remember seeing him in Move Over Mrs. Markham, The Visit, and A Christmas Carol here at LTA.

What do you find appealing about your character and this play?
One, this show is just bloody good. It's a joy to rip into a script so high quality with a cast and crew that are so top notch. It's also just different - "The Woman In Black" is a ghost story, and aside from "Hamlet" and "A Christmas Carol" there aren't that many ghost stories for the stage.

But I think my favorite part of the show is how challenging it is. Arthur Kipps is so different from anything I have played before, and the show puts so much weight on the performances that I have to dig extra deep to keep up.
What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Arthur Kipps?

I'm not a very good mime.

What do you want the audience to experience/take away from this play?

Anything I have to say about the play the play hopefully says on its own. But I think it isn't spoiling anything to say that I hope the audience enjoys being scared by us, a little and in a safe way. It's fun to get goosebumps once in a while, and there should be plenty of good old fashioned spookiness and adrenaline in this show, but also the chance to face your own fears while sitting in a comfortable seat, surrounded by other people, with the chance of having a nice drink a talk after. That's an opportunity not to be looked at askance.
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?

Here is a secret: eventually shows become just work. After months of rehearsal and tuning, the comedy ceases to be funny for you, the drama ceases to be moving. An audience reignites that but the last few weeks before opening you can become a little numb to the show.

But this one still scares the crap out of me. Every night.

Do you have any personal ghost stories that you would like to share?

The Carson House is an historic home in Marion, NC where I grew up, a plantation seat. It's still kept up, the caretaker living in the old overseer's home behind the house itself. Ordinarily, the thing is a quiet museum of antebellum artifacts, but on the 150th anniversary of McDowell County where it sits, the house was opened up for the celebration. The caretaker was a friend of the family's and I clearly recall his enthusiasm of making the house live again, function again. I remember him ringing a bell that hadn't been sounded since the attic had been closed over a century before, clanging it loudly from the third story balcony, calling the festival goers in for the night.
The Historic Carson House in North Carolina.
Image credit from

A few kids my age remained behind, children of the event organizers. I knew about half of them. We were given the responsibility and distraction of locking the house up after all the guests had gone, the adults attending to real work back at the caretaker's home. We had just locked the house up, I remember that for fact. Maybe ten of us, the oldest just barely teenagers, sat on benches on the front porch playing I don't recall what game. And then we heard a tapping. She was standing in the window, not tall, but striking. She could have easily been one of the costumed re-enactors set about the place for the celebration, except we knew all of them personally, they had all been actor friends of our parents. She we did not know. And she was looking at us sternly, tapping her fingernail against the glass.

And then she was gone.

We screamed. All of us, at once, screaming bloody murder, we ran back to the caretaker's house, and tried desperately to explain what we had seen. We raised a sufficient fuss that Scott, the caretaker, verified that the house was locked and empty. The conclusion was that it was well past everyone's bedtime.

Did we see a ghost? That would be a remarkable claim, especially since I don't believe in ghosts. But we saw something. And so did that house. That house had seen the birth and death of slaves, of slavery itself, of the Confederacy. The birth of America. Something was left behind, even if only memories, a long silent bell, and a spooky old house. That night, those things were enough.

Make sure to check out Erik and the rest of the cast in The Woman in Black opening on Friday, June 1.  Tickets and show information can be found at

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