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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Proof Positive

All things come to an end, and so did our 5 week run of David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Proof" at the Ritz Theatre.  Whenever a show closes, an actor takes stock of the journey, what was learnt, what was gained, what will be missed.

As I mentioned before, I was never crazy about my character, Claire.  The older sister who has ended up in the mother-role in the family, Claire is domineering, controlling, and believes herself to be 100% in the right in all her actions.  The audience, who naturally sympathize with Catherine, the lead character whose story the play mainly is, will easily dislike Claire for all the negative aspects about her character and behaviors.  I knew this going in, and almost turned the part down thinking I could not possibly bring enough sympathy and humanity to the part which is written to be quite black-and-white and two-dimensional.  I had read the play when it first came out in print, and seen the film version, and the task seemed insurmountable.  The words of one of my acting teachers also kept ringing in my head: "As soon as you judge a character, you can no longer play her."   And boy, had I judged her.

On the other hand, Claire was a challenge, and there was something titillating about trying to play her and make her live as a real person, instead of the bossy-bitch-know-it-all-I-only-care-about-myself who was on the page.  The other reason I decided to go for it, was that I had never, ever, been cast in such an ungrateful role — I suppose with my round face and blonde hair people casting me could only see me in the "Sweet Girl" or "Loving Wife" or "Blonde Bombshell" roles.  Since changing my hair color to Brazilian Brown out of boredom in January, I've been offered many more calculating, evil, smart, etc. roles.  And I tell you, after playing your umpteenth [temptress, mistress, pining wife, tragically wronged queen] you might go "yeah, lemme play a bitch for a change."

Except, Claire didn't end up being a bitch, and of that I am proud.  She ended up being nagging and bossy and annoying, for sure, but at the same time it did translate to the audience that she loved her sister, had loved her father, and was only doing the best she knew to keep everything together and to take care of her less-grounded-in-reality family members.  I approached Claire from the point of view of a Willem Dafoe quote when he was asked whether he preferred playing heros or villains: "Ain't no different - we're all heroes of our own story."  Also, creating an extensive back story for Claire worked wonders.  While some of the particulars did not match exactly to the script, it did not matter — there is never objective truth, and how Claire saw the 'facts' would always be very different from how Catherine or Dad saw them.  The conflict was there in Auburn's script.  My work was to find the love, the humanity, the warmth of Claire.

It helped tremendously that I love and respect Aaryn, who played Catharine.  I could feel sisterly towards her, so Claire felt it.  Aaryn and I also had immediate chemistry on stage from our first read together — we could instantly play off each other and create sparks.  Once the rehearsal process really got going, and certainly by the time we reached show, our scenes together became like fencing matches — two skilled players dancing a dangerous dance around each other, countering, parrying, striking.  It was delicious as an actor to be able to trust that no matter what I threw at her or she threw at me, we could counter.  This also kept us fresh, since every night there were slightly different nuances, and discovery happening throughout the run.

Claire has no scenes with Dad, and thus I never got to act with Steve, but we both hope we'll get the chance in a future play.  Claire and Hal have little stage time together, but it was quality time.  Chris is so effortless and sweet on stage that it was a pleasure.

We had a brilliant run and I was ready to say goodbye to the show.  I will miss dreadfully, however, the crazy fun we had backstage, volleying pretend-insults at each other, flinging movie trivia and Hollywood gossip around, telling jokes, and just hanging out.  It is rare that one has a great time onstage and offstage in the same production — usually, one or the other is less than stellar.  We were blessed on this one: we created a little family, and I will always cherish that memory.

Tags: Proof | Theatre


Blogger Mitch's Airsoft Spot said...

ANNINA! How are you? Just wanted to stop by and say Hi. So HI! Also, to let you know that "Escape Of The Red Death" is in Pre-Production and there is still a role of Constance for you if your still interested. Be in touch.(email-

From the only man who can make Vegetarian Chili. Or was it Chalupas ?

June 11, 2006 8:19 PM  

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