Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Grey Gardens - meet cast member Nicky McDonnell

Meet Nicky McDonnell who is playing Big Edie in Act 1 and Little Edie in Act 2 of LTA's Grey Gardens.

What do you find appealing/interesting about your character and this show?
I prefer musicals that feel more like plays - when they touch on deeper themes and characters.  Grey Gardens explores the terrain of humanity that is typically left behind.  Big and Little Edie defined a social circle and due to their circumstances, they fell from grace.  No one was there to truly catch them when they fell despite their pedigree, but they had each other and held on to one another to survive.  Exploring which character needs the other one more and when and why it is fascinating to me - that shifts throughout the show and the documentary.  It touches on many of the great Greek themes of loss and despair, betrayal, courage and survival - hopefully all that pathos will draw the audience more deeply into the story.

What have you learned about yourself in playing these roles?
To play Big Edie and Little Edie you have to have the deepest sense of compassion and tenderness.  You have to rid yourself of judgement and cliche.  You have to make these women real and steer clear from caricature.  You have to go further than you want to go into yourself emotionally.  Though the characters are larger than life, they are also incredibly nuanced.  I've learned that I relate to these women deeply as I see their circumstance all around me in our world.  All around us millions of people are in need - looking for dignity - the Beales just happened to make front page news.

What do you want the audience to take away from Grey Gardens?
I want them to try and relate and discover the intricacies of the story.  I want to evoke compassion rather than judgement.  I think a lot of people will see crazy instead of courage.  I want them to see nostalgia instead of nuts.  I want them to see bravery instead of bonkers.  Most of all, I want them to see and feel the love that exists in this story.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
It is an incredibly well written show, both libretto and score.  It's a very difficult show.  It's also way off the beaten path of your typical musical.  I've worked on difficult shows before but I think this may be the toughest show I've ever done.  It's daunting to be sure.

What single word would you use to describe your character in Grey Gardens.
Extraordinary.

How long have you been acting?  What made you get involved in theatre?  How did you get involved with LTA?
I've been on stage since I was four and never left for good.  After twelve years in New York City pursuing theatre, we moved here in 2001.  I was in the middle of a career change.  In 2002, I saw that LTA was doing Master Class.  I auditioned and got to play Callas.  I've been working with LTA ever since - as time permits.

What advice would you give others who want to work in theatre?
Just do it.


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