Friday, April 15, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Kirstin Apker

Tell us a little bit about your character. What single word would you use to describe him/her? 
Early in the show, Jean Louise refers to Miss Stephanie as the “neighborhood scold,” but I prefer to think of her as a busybody. She always has her nose in everyone else’s business, so in her mind, she knows better than anyone how things really are in Maycomb--and she isn’t shy about letting everyone know it!

What were some of the challenges for you in working on this piece?
Figuring out how to interpret my character was a bit tricky because her lines actually come from two characters in the book--not only Stephanie Crawford, the Finches’ neighbor, but also Aunt Alexandra, Atticus Finch’s sister. Frank really wanted us to draw on the book to flesh out our portrayals, so I’ve tried to meld the traits of the two characters together into a composite person who essentially embodies the status quo in Maycomb. Also, my preparation time is limited because I’m home with my two young boys during the day, so I’ve had to make every moment count, especially during rehearsals themselves.

What do you hope the audience experiences/takes away from this show?
I think every playgoer can find his or her own version of Maycomb and its citizens wherever they happen to live. If the audience can take this timeless story and use it as a lens by which they may gain insights into their own little corners of humanity and how they themselves can be the change that they want to see in the world, then we have done our job well.

How does this show differ from other shows you’ve worked on?
To Kill a Mockingbird is easily the most iconic show that I’ve ever had the privilege to be part of, so I feel a tremendous responsibility to do my part in weaving together the tapestry of Maycomb, Alabama, as Harper Lee envisioned it.  Our cast is also the most diverse group of people in terms of age, race, background, etc., with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of working. I feel so blessed to make this journey with all of them as I learn from their experiences and appreciate the diversity of talents that they bring to the table. 

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?
During grade school I did some children’s plays and theater camps, and I also showed some promise in competitive speech.  However, throughout high school and college, academics, dance and choir took up all my time. I rediscovered acting only after I finished my master’s degree in theology and needed something to keep me occupied while my husband finished his doctorate. On a lark I auditioned for Opera Notre Dame’s production of Faust, and lo and behold, I was cast in the chorus. I enjoyed that experience so much that I sought out both acting and technical opportunities at community theatres in the South Bend area, and I ended up working on 14 shows in just over two years (before children, of course)! When we moved to Alexandria, LTA was the first place in the DMV that I auditioned (for Widdershins) and later received my first callback (for Witness for the Prosecution). Thanks to Mary Hutzler and Bobbie Herbst, I scored my first behind-the-scenes gigs painting an artistic mural (which I had never done before!) on the set of Heaven Can Wait and also working on the props crew. A few years and several ASM and props assignments later, I also frequently serve as a house manager, and as of last November I am also the coordinator for the Floodlight. 

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
First, be persistent and keep auditioning! To Kill a Mockingbird marks my first appearance onstage at LTA after 12 auditions; even though I was discouraged at times, I just kept trying until the right show and the right role came along for me. Second, be open to embracing a role other than that in which you may have originally envisioned yourself. In both this show and in my previous one, Moon over Buffalo, I was called back for--and ultimately cast in--a role that I hadn’t considered at first. Finally, take advantage of the backstage opportunities that may come your way. You’ll meet so many wonderful people, make connections, and gain an even greater appreciation for the many different talents that come together in order to bring a story to life onstage.

What have you learned about yourself in playing this role?
I have learned to do exactly the opposite of what Stephanie does! Rather than assessing people based on their reputation, family, or other gossip, take the time to get to know them as individuals. Burst out of your safe little bubble and, to paraphrase Tennyson, truly become a part of all whom you meet. This is how we become more fully ourselves, more fully human.

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