26 June, 2018

Ask Al: FAQs! - Part 4

1. You got a flat-out rave review for your portrayal of Guinevere in Camelot from the Washington Post. Was there anything the critic noticed that was especially meaningful to you?

     I always love to know that the production we’ve worked so hard on building is received so warmly.

     I’m not alone in being an actor who does now read my own theatre reviews. I find they “mess with my head” and regardless of positive or negative feedback, they give me specific adjectives that stick in my mind and body that infuse my performance. I wrote about this in a former post a few years ago. The extraordinarily difficult thing about theatre reviews is that the actors have to RETURN to the work the reviewers love or hated the following day, week, month, etc., with the knowledge of those words and opinions.

     In contrast, I do not feel this way about my book reviews! And I suppose I would feel similarly about acting work captured on film. The work, in those instances, is “over.” One cannot change it, it is preserved forever in the form it is and is not a “living” work of art. The distinction of the living work is what makes reading reviews particularly difficult for me, and I suspect, for many others.

2. One of the songs you sing in this show is "I Loved You Once In Silence." Who is someone you loved, but never expressed it to them?
Believe me: they know who they are.

It was expressed. The sentiment of the song remains exactly the same. Sometimes loving is hard.

3. What drew you to the role of Hodel and then Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof— are the three of you alike in any ways?

     There are too many to mention. I honestly feel this question is best answered within the pages of After Anatevka— and not only the similarities, but the differences, and the growth every human being hopefully acquires as they age and experience life. I had the uncanny joy of being able to understand each woman more deeply as I embodied the other— much like members of the same family come to more deeply understand their siblings as they all become adults.

     One of my most treasured passages from After Anatevka is from the penultimate chapter, an epistolary exchange from Tzeitel to Hodel:

“Home, Hodelleh. That place beyond the place where we rest our heads every night. Where our centerpieces, our sewing, our carefully prepared meals, simply do not matter. Where our petty little differences and competitions with one another do not matter anymore.

And I thought of you.

It is odd, Hodelleh. Because I do not know if you shall ever read this, I feel compelled to tell you more than ever. Home—where love shall reign supreme. The kind of home you always held within your heart, my dear sister, the kind no meaningless skill of mine could ever fully capture. How I love you, Hodel. It aches within me that I failed to show you in so many ways. That I provided you with every comfort but the comfort of my heart.

Yet I know that we shall both, as we always did, return to each other. For the love beneath our struggle is so strong. Perhaps in time, the Lord shall reveal to us why it is so difficult.”

     My goodness, to embody two such women. What a privilege.

4. Since you started your career how have your future aspirations changed or stayed the same?

     One of the wonders of being a human being is that your dreams really do come true. Not all of them, and not always in exactly the way we envision them, but dreams DO come true, and what happens after they do? Well, we gotta get some new dreams!

     The way I would put it is like this: if the book of my life/career is 25 chapters long, I know that I want Chapter 25 to be someone pulling me off a stage and putting me in my coffin in my costume. That remains the same— the interim dreams alter. I can’t wait to work with people I’ve yet to meet. I can’t wait to play Cleopatra. I can’t wait to originate roles that haven’t been written yet. But ultimately, the final dream remains the same: a life in the theatre.

5. What are your strengths and as an actress?

     Hm. I believe I have a very quick access to the emotions many people consider to be “beyond the comfort zone”— particularly sorrow and anger. I also enjoy using my vivid imagination to create emotional backstories that fuel me. I also have a very active academic mind, curiosity about the world around me and a strong sense of empathy. Those help!

6. The arts in schools are often so low in the chain of importance that it’s mostly overlooked, how can students, teachers even parents shine more light on the importance of the arts?

Interlochen Center for the Arts
     The first and most important aspect of arts education is that is must begin at home. If parents and families value the arts, they will pass that import on to their children. But the arts belong in schools, for a myriad of reasons.

     Music, visual art, creative writing, and dance all belong in schools, but because my background is predominantly in the theatre I will use a theatrical example: theater’s earliest origins extend back to Ancient Greece, where participation in the Festival of Dionysus, a multi-day cultural event, was a requirement of citizenship! The theater was not about celebrities or spectacle; it was about telling stories for the purpose of the public having a cathartic experience together. Aristotle defined it as “the purification of the spirit…by witnessing the playing out of such emotions or ideas on stage.” The result is positive change. Especially in fractious times like ours, when there are great fears and even greater uncertainties, the theater can be a place of emotional and societal healing.

     Further, not every human being possess numeric or linguistic intelligence (the two “kinds of smart” that are predominantly measured in conventional schooling), and the arts offer students an additional way to excel, process and experience the world and to deeply contribute to society.


  1. I will always love the Ask Al series

  2. I really like your writing style, great information, thank you for posting.

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