Meet Erin Gallalee who is playing Maudie Atkinson in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Tell us about your character. What single word would you use to describe her?
My single word would be strong. Maudie is the neighbor to the Finch family. She loves life and teh simple beauty in the world around her. She is a friend to the children and doesn't "protect" them from the world as many adults would instinctively do, but encourages them to think bigger than their own perspective; similar to the lessons they already get from their father. There are a lot of important things happening throughout the story that the children observe and she doesn't waste any opportunity to help answer the tough questions they have and gently challenges them to think about and process what they are seeing and hearing around them.
What were some challenges you faced in working on this piece?
I always fee a little more pressure when performing either a well known play or one based on real people. It's a balance to try and make it on your own while still being true to the original story or person and managing audience expectations who are waiting for those pivotal moments. Most audiences know this story, either by book or the movie, so its trying to break through something they might have seen (or read) dozens of times and still make it new.
What do you hope the audience takes away from this play?
That this story, despite being published almost 60 years ago, is just as relevant today as it always has been. We've made a lot of progress since 1935 but we still have a long way to go in our society in efforts for equality and acceptance. It'll take all of us to exact change.
How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
I think this show is different because although we do have fun and enjoy the process of building the production, we are also all aware of the message this show brings and the responsibility of portraying it in a way that people hear it. I think we as a cast and crew all have this mindset and you can feel it as an undertone in everything we do. It's more than just putting on a show. I hope the audience can feel it too when the show runs.
What have you learned about yourself while playing this role?
I think it was just more of a reminder that what we say and do are on display for the younger generations to see. And they learn how to view the world from us. We have to be mindful of what we're actually teaching them, because they absorb more than we realize. And to never waste an opportunity to appreciate the life we have.
How long have you been acting? How did you get involved with LTA?
I've been acting ever since I was little in church choirs and pageants and then in school plays as soon as I had the opportunity. I've been very lucky to have worked on so many stages and with many wonderful people throughout the years in the DC theatre community. I first worked with LTA in 2005 on A Christmas Carol and have been involved with them off and on ever since. They have so many gifted and kind people who work with them. The atmosphere is always professional and conductive to learn and grow. Even though I venture away for other shows and opportunities, I always seem to find my way back. They have a way of making you feel like you're home.
What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
It's never too late to get involved and there will never be a perfect time, so just do it! You won't regret it. If you're looking to perform, we're so fortunate with the volume of theatre we have in the DC area. I would recommend auditioning as much as you can, take classes, read plays, go see theatre, and volunteer wherever you can; the opportunities to get plugged in are out there! If you're not sure you want to be a performer (or the very thought of being a performer gives you hives) there's still a place for everyone and you will be welcome. It takes a small army to put on a show (and run a theatre). There are dozens of places to get involved and be a help, just as you are, with the skills you possess. And there's a million ways to learn and grow. The hardest part will be raising your hand to say "yes" or walking through the door to audition.