Friday, October 27, 2017

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike- meet cast member Lorraine Bouchard

About this show
Even when we are adults, our families shape us. We learn to fend for ourselves through vicious sibling rivalry. We also find them to be our most loyal cheerleaders. Masha and Sonia are cheerleaders for Vanya's strange play. Vanya cheers on Sonia standing up for herself, and for being outgoing at the party.
And nobody can hurt us or love us like a brother or sister. Truth hurts, and siblings don't pull punches. 

At first, I saw Sonia as described by her sister: "sweet, sensitive, tedious Sonia. You can't face life, can you?" But it is Sonia's anger at this sister's condescending truth-telling that finally impels her out of her numbness to stand up for herself and literally step out of her shell. It is wonderfully ironic that it is the condescending and self-absorbed Masha who becomes Sonia's savior. 

This family reminds us that support is not just about money, like the money that Masha spends on the house and everything that goes along to support Vanya and Sonia. Sonia never acknowledges all that Masha has done to take care of everything concerning a roof over their heads and food on the table. What Sonia craves is attention from her big sister. She wanted Masha to answer the phone or check in on them, but Masha was off "gallivanting, having a life." "You just left us here!" is Sonia's aching complaint. 

Hope and hopelessness intermingle in the play, providing a compelling tension. Sonia has no hope in the beginning. She is afraid to hope. When Nina arrives, "full of youthful hope and enthusiasm," Masha wonders "if it makes it hard for older people to be around you." The three siblings are in their twilight years, and they are wondering what there is to live for. Nina's enthusiasm is comic in contrast to the world-weariness of her elders, and Nina's admonition that "You must always hope" is seen by Sonia as "wise, but scary." It *is* scary to hope, because we can be disappointed. But without hope, without the promise of cherry orchards to blossom in the spring, what is there to live for? 

Sonia's phone monologue with Joe is a challenging piece because of this intermingling of hope and hopelessness. Sonia has longed for just such an encounter, but when confronted with the possibility of actually going to dinner with a surprise admirer, she is petrified. He probably won't like her, it's probably just dinner, there must be something wrong with him. How do I show that fear and that hope without looking like the bipolar person that Vanya accuses her of being? 

I also love that Sonia is not just sweet and sensitive; she is snarky and has a dry sense of humor. It's great that Masha seldom catches on to this.

Another thing I've noticed about this play is the nature of apologies. Which apologies are sincere? After each of Sonia's apologies, she injects an excuse or a demand. Is she merely apologizing as a form of social lubricant so that people will hear her complaint? Does Masha mean her apology when she acknowledges offending Sonia? Does Vanya mean his apology for complaining about the coffee? It seems that apologies may unruffle feathers --a little-- but it is the biting truth that gives us wings. 

On the hobby of acting in community theatre
While I am at rehearsals or on stage, I cannot think about my life outside. It is a step away that allows me to let go of the challenges of my job or the events in my personal life. It keeps me from staying too long at the office. In December, between performances of a show that I was in, I got the call that my husband had died. The camaraderie of the cast and crew made it bearable. I took this part in this show despite the fact that it would mean that I could not be there for the birth of my grandson, and I took it after getting my daughter's blessing that she would be OK with that. My life outside the theatre brings depth to my characters, but my life *in* the theatre brings levity and perspective. It is a gift to be able to walk around in another person's skin because I see it as a way to love others by getting to know them intimately. Acting is about intimacy. When you can really feel that person, you can make others feel them too. My goal as an actor is twofold: to give others the feelies, and to make them think. 

I had done a lot of theatre from age 12 through 24, then stopped when my daughter was born and my career was demanding. I certainly missed it, but the time away gave me a more pleasurable theatre experience because I finally stopped analyzing and criticizing every production: I could simply ride along as a captivated audience member. But after she flew from the nest, and after I walked across the stage with my doctorate degree at the age of 45, I promised myself that I would return to doing something just for me: I would return to theatre. I was lucky to work with a number of theaters in Houston as well as in Florida, South Dakota, and in this DMV area. The vibrant theatre scene here is a big factor in what drew me to return after moving around the country. I am now trying to break into doing voiceover work, too. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike- meet cast member Marilyn Pifer

What do I find appealing about Cassandra and the show?
Playing Cassandra lets me be dramatically wacky, and that’s always great fun.  Moreover, the characters I’ve played in my last three shows have been either somewhat or completely evil.  Cassandra is good-hearted (if a bit of a nut), and that’s a very nice change. 

What have I learned about myself playing Cassandra?
With this role, I had to stretch farther than usual to develop my character and her backstory. I’ve never known anyone quite like Cassandra!  Fortunately, the playwright gave me a lot to work with.  I also needed help on her gentle Pennsylvania Dutch accent, which Howard, our director, was happy to give. 

What do I want the audience to experience/take away from the show?
I hope that every audience member finds a situation or character in the show that s/he relates to.  This very funny show has many tender moments and serious themes.  If we as a cast treat those moments with both humor and respect, we’ll connect with our audiences and make them all feel happy they spent a couple of hours with us.  And of course I hope they all laugh until their sides hurt!

How does this show differ from other shows I've worked on?
I love playing with such a tight ensemble.  More than many other plays with a similar cast size, Vanya/Sonia involves complex relationships between every character and each of the others.  That sociologic web is something that Howard emphasized right from the beginning, and it’s helped us work very well as a coherent team.  

How long have I been acting and what made me get involved in theater?  How did I get involved with LTA?
I acted in as many shows as possible in high school and college.  Then due to job, family, and life events, I had a few rather long stretches away from the stage.  It was only in early 2016 that I started acting in this region.  Since then I’ve joined the board of the Vienna Theatre Company and have auditioned regularly with several different groups.  This is my fourth show in the DC area, and my first at LTA. 

What advice would you give others who are interested in working in theater?
See shows at several community theatres in the area, and if you like what you see, sign up for the theatres’ mailing lists. Watch your inbox and their websites for upcoming productions and calls for auditions and volunteers. Then go for it!  Try out and/or offer your talent on the production side.  Every show needs many volunteers.  You might also take acting or technical production classes offered by LTA and other community and professional theatres.  If you don’t get cast right away, keep trying.  There are so many theatre groups in this area, you’ll have lots of possibilities.