Wednesday, March 30, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Cal Whitehurst

Meet Cal Whitehurst who is playing Horace Gilmer in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tell me a little bit about your character? What single word would you use to describe him?
Horace Gilmer is the prosecuting attorney from a nearby town who has been assigned to handle the rape case against Tom Robinson. Ruthless would be the best single word to describe him

What were some of the challenges for you in working on this piece?
I like to think of myself as by nature and by upbringing a polite person and definitely not somebody who uses ethnic slurs. I have played ruthless, snide and dislikable characters before and I have always found it a challenge – although ultimately an enjoyable one – to bring out an aspect of myself I keep suppressed in real life.

What do you hope the audience experiences/takes away from this show?
I hope we succeed in immersing the audience in a very specific time and place – the rural Deep South of the 1930s. And since I imagine that most people in the audience have read Harper Lee’s novel – and probably seen the movie – I hope we meet their expectations and bring to life the world and the characters Harper Lee created. Also, as with the novel and movie, that the audience comes away with an appreciation of the great progress this country has made in achieving equal and mutually respectful relations among racial and ethnic groups.

How does this show differ from other shows you’ve worked on?
It’s the first show I’ve done that was set in the Depression-era South – and while I have done other plays adapted from novels, none of them had the widespread impact of To Kill a Mockingbird.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?
I did plays in high school and college and then, to my regret, didn’t do any theater for about 25 years. Kind of on the spur of the moment, I decided I missed it and wanted to give it a try. I had been to several LTA shows going back as far as the 1980s. So in the fall of 1998, I tried out for a murder mystery-comedy set in a stately English manor – I’ve forgotten the name of the play – and while I did not get cast, I did get called back, which encouraged me to think I had some actual talent. The following summer, I tried out for the LTA production of 1776 – and did get a role. So I took some acting classes and have been at it ever since.

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Go for it. There are plenty of community theaters in the area who are desperate for volunteers – especially in set-building, stage managing, working the light and sound boards, costuming and set dressing, and front-of-the-house box office staffing and ushering. Even if you just want to act, you can make contacts and earn a lot of good will doing volunteer work – and it’s the best way to learn what it really takes to put on a show. For actors, take classes and audition as often as possible. And remember, the director is always right!

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Horace Gilmer?
That, apparently, if I weren’t afraid of being shunned and possibly beaten up on a regular basis, I could be a real bastard.

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