Tuesday, April 19, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Jack Kearney

Meet cast member Jack Kearney who is playing Jem Finch in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tell us about your character.  What single word would use to describe him?
Jem is the son of a small southern town lawyer.  Adventurous
is the word I would use to describe him.

What have you learned about yourself in playing the role of Jem?
I have learned what life was like in those times and how to really be engaged in acting.

What were some of the challenges you faced while working on this show?
It was hard learning the southern accent and memorizing the lines.

What do you hope the audience takes away from this show?
I hope the audience experiences how life was like in the 1930's.

How does this show differ from other shows you have worked on?
I've only been in musicals before.  This is the first time being in a drama.

How long have you been acting?  How did you get involved with LTA?
After signing in the church children's choir, I auditioned for The Sound of Music with Bel Cantani Opera Company and got the part of Kurt.  My mom brought my sister and I to the audition after watching the movie.  I love the part of Jem.

What advice would you give others who want to get involved in theatre?
Stay focused and have fun.  Find your character inside yourself and trust yourself.






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.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Bill Brekke



Meet Bill Brekke who is in the ensemble in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tell us a little bit about your character.
I am a member of the mob and also the court clerk.  I am also helping as an accent coach

What single word would you use to describe him/her?
Angry for one and attentive for the other.

What were some of the challenges for you in working on this piece?
They are pretty easy roles, but there are no small parts, only small actors. The southern accent was easy for me.  As the accent coach, trying to identify and bring in authenticity without suggesting things that would create a distraction from the actor's feeling the role and without introducing sounds the audience would not clearly understand.

What do you hope the audience experiences/takes away from this show?
I heard one time that in Shakespeare's day many people wanted to hang actors because they thought they were possessed by spirits. That's the felling I want for them.

How does this show differ from other shows you’ve worked on?
I've worked on similar shows and I get the same feeling from this one... good.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre?
About 12 years. I was in Toastmasters to help with a job I had, and when that job ended, after a while, I decided to use my bravery in getting up in front of people for some more artistic recreation.

How did you get involved with LTA?
I saw this show was coming up and auditioned for it.  It is a long drive for me but the show and LTA's reputation attracted me

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Start out auditioning at theatres that will cast you even if they are not the most heavily awarded and well heeled and work your way up. That will take some false starts and research, of course.  A professional actor friend told me that acting in a play is better than any class.  I would take one good scene study class and one auditioning class, or at least have a long conversation about auditioning with a knowledgeable person.  Also, read books about acting, such as "How to Stop Acting and Audition."

What have you learned about yourself in playing this role?
I still love great theatre.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

To Kill a Mockingbird - meet cast member Erin Gallelee

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.



To Kill a Mocking - meet cast member Nycole Bell



Meet Nycole Bell who is playing Helen Robinson in LTA's To Kill a Mockingbird.

Tell me a little bit about your character.
Helen Robinson is the devoted mother of three and wife to Tom Robinson doing her best to care for the family while her husband stands trial. 

What single word would you use to describe him/her?
Trainwreck.

What were some of the challenges for you in working on this piece?
Breaking in and out of character was a challenge. Helen's character and story resonated so heavily with me that in some rehearsals I fought back tears. 

What do you hope the audience experiences/takes away from this show?
I'd like the audience to remember that racism and classism are real and still exist even today.  The difference today is based on subtlety. 

How does this show differ from other shows you’ve worked on?
This is my first! I'll get back to you on my second show.

How long have you been acting and what made you get involved in theatre? How did you get involved with LTA?
I've been involved in theatre since high school but didn't seriously pursue a career in it until I graduated college. I took an acting class in Realism last Fall with Mike Baker (who is phenomenal by the way). He enlightened me about the audition process. Later on, a chance encounter with another friend informed me about the To Kill a Mockingbird casting and here I am! 

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theatre?
Go for it. TODAY. Don't think about it. Don't plan for it. Live a life full of "oh wells" rather than "shoulda, coulda, wouldas. "

What have you learned about yourself in playing this role?
I've learned that our struggles (Helen and I) are not too different from one another. Being Helen has helped me appreciate being a woman and more specifically a woman of color and the unique struggles battled -- and won, if not now, soon.