Thursday, March 31, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Brenda Parker

Meet Brenda Parker playing Calpurnia in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tell us about your character.  If you could describe her in one word, what would it be? 
Calpurnia is an example of a strict but nurturing matriarch personality. She is described by Jean Louise as "all angles and bones with hands as hard as bed slats." One word description. Cast iron. Strong, well seasoned and reliable.

What were some challenges you faced while working on this piece?
Speaking from the perspective of a woman of color and a mother, I have found it most difficult to repeatedly be confronted with the reality of our lives in the past with comparisons to the present. I have taught my male children to be wary and respectful. Having to hear repeatedly in rehearsals the lines from Tom Robinson, " Mr. Finch, if you was black like me, you'd be scared, too" is a constant reminder of my own reality.

What do you want the audience to take away from this play?
What I hope the audience takes away from this show is that there are more Atticus Finches out there in the world. We should all strive to be like him by following his lead to "make others stand in my shoes for a minute."

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
It is about all of us, humankind. Yes, it is told from a child's unbiased, unaffected point of view, without hate, malice or agenda. It's a pity that I have just discovered it as an adult. It was not on any of my required reading lists growing up. Regardless, its life lessons are still quite applicable.

How long have you been acting?  How did you get involved with LTA?
I started performing/acting professionally over 20 years ago. I love to sing! I had seen and fell in love with Little Shop of Horrors. It was one of the first musicals I had seen with actual black people in the mixed cast. As a married adult with 3 children at the time, I saw an audition notice. I didn't know I should have a headshot, resume and stuff. I didn't even have sheet music. I ended up singing Sunny Side of the Street acapella. I thought I was just getting it out of my system, so to speak. Ha! Was I wrong!  I came to LTA after about 5 years of "no thank you's" from the DMV theatre community. I auditioned for Hairspray and was cast as Motormouth Maybelle. I was welcomed with open arms and a couple of "where have you been?"

What advice would you give others who want to get involved in theatre?
If you're interested in theatre, just do it! There is always a place for you. Always! Volunteers ARE the theatre! Usher, work lights, box office, costumes, back stage, and of course be a patron! This is the most rewarding, therapeutic entertaining thing you can ever spend your time on.

What have you learned about yourself in playing this role?
I have learned how little we appreciate what we've got until it is gone. I never realized how much different my life would have been without my mother. My mother, like Scout, lost her mother early in life. She went on to become other people's "Calpurnia." She had her fair share of people who, along the way, helped her be the woman I knew as mother. As a woman, I guess you never know how strong you are until you have to be. Cast Iron!

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