Friday, January 29, 2010

Interview with an Actor (Day Four)

One of the great things about Makeshift is that we consistently get to work with a wonderful group of vibrant and exciting actors each of whom has a passion for entertaining audiences young and old alike. We consider ourselves a family, and while we have many actors that come and go throughout our seasons, we do have close friends that return season after season to entertain and inspire young audiences. As part of our Anniversary season, many faces of Makeshift old and new are happy to offer their own personal thoughts and memories about their experiences in theatre. For the Previous Update, click Here!

Today I'm chatting with Debra Mein, who returns to the Makeshift Stage after having previously appeared as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel. For Emperor's New Clothes, she portrays fashion designer Pennyloaf, Mistress of The Revels. In addition to her work with Makeshift Deb teaches Creative Drama and Musical Theatre at Riverside TheatreWorks in Hyde Park and at Adams Montessori in Quincy. She took a few moments out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her experiences in theatre.

What do you like most about Pennyloaf?
I like that she is a good balance of zaniness and put-togetherness. I love playing characters like this because you can really delve into what makes them tick-- and it's usually something unexpected. Penny for example hates designing for fashion shows, but rather loves seeing her designs on stage. Although she'd like to be planning other events, the thought that there might be someone better at designing clothes than her is just un-thinkable. So, this really drives her into unknown territory. On one page, she has to battle both her pride and her dislike of her present position.

You've worked with Makeshift previously on Hansel and Gretel. What inspired you to return for Emperor's New Clothes?
This was an awesome and challenging role and really the reason I auditioned for Makeshift a second time. This script, by local playwright Jack Neary, was an excellent example of good children's theatre. The jokes were spot-on for kids-- without being pandering. My brief experience with Makeshift has shown me that they choose shows that are silly, fun, wild-- but that still require kids to think. The jokes are not just handed to the children (and adults!) in the audience and I think that's important. I also think that good children's theatre is important. We are building the next generation of theatre-goers and if we give them bad or boring theatre, then ultimately they'll be turned off from it.

What is your favorite children's story and why?
Perhaps "The Giving Tree" for it's story of beauty, humanity and selflessness. I'm a Shel Silverstein fan in general. I know-- it's easy to be one. Like my thoughts on children's theatre, he really sets the bar high for kids as well. He doesn't settle for the obvious joke or story line in his literature and song-writing.

You and Tim Fairley (Rags) have worked with (director) Caitlin Stewart-Swift previously. What is it like working with her as director?
Caitlin is a true "actor's director". She understands the process that each individual actor goes through and works to manipulate her directing to fit the actor. In my opinion, she gives just the right amount of direction. I like Cait's point-blank blocking style and her feed-back is always helpful.

Tell us something unique about yourself.
I grew-up on a farm in Kansas. I can drive a tractor, "pull" calves and buck bales. Both of my parents are veterinarians (just like the Prince and Susie they set up their own animal hospital.) I had a golden childhood-- honestly. Growing up wild and on the farm really shaped me into the person I am today. There's no place like home and, yes, I'm not in Kansas anymore. You know-- it's funny-- as many Wizard of Oz jokes that I get-- I've never been in a production of it. :)

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