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Friday, August 26, 2011

Why New Plays are Important (and FUN): Shifting to an Actor's Perspective

Maureen Keiller in The Little Dog Laughed (photo: Mike Lovett)

When I first met the divine Maureen Keiller, she was playing a seductive polar bear, and from that moment on I knew I wanted her to act in my plays! Like, ALL of them. I was lucky enough to get her as the bitchy, morally challenged Dr. Platt in my play, Memorial, but I have also seen her play all sorts of other interesting roles while reading at BPT. Currently, our local gem is in rehearsals for Big River at Lyric Stage, and she will also be starring in the musical comedy, Pulp, with Georgia Lyman and Michelle Clunie for the Provincetown Cares benefit this October, benefiting women with chronic health issues. She is one busy diva! We are lucky enough to bring her in as a regular presence here at BPT, and I had a chance to chat with her about what it's like as an actor approaching new plays.

Anna Pattison: You get an email from Kate saying, "Maureen, would love for you to come in and read tomorrow." Your response?

Maureen Keiller: If I can possibly do it, I do it. I would do anything for Kate Snodgrass. I would catch a grenade for her. I would throw myself in front of a train for her. She is so passionate about nurturing fledgling playwrights and it is completely contagious.

AP: What is it about reading new work that tickles your fancy?

MK: I love that most times, you have no idea what you are about to read, so you make your acting choices on the fly and it is exciting to work that way, to discover as you go along. Also, I tend to get cast in a certain way...ruthless, bitchy, tough. It is great when you get a script in your hand from someone who knows nothing about you or your work and therefore have no expectations of you. So quite often you are handed roles that directors and producers would never hear you read. You can be funny in one moment and devastated the next. You have the opportunity to really stretch your acting muscles.

AP: How about a memorable experience of coming into read at BPT? Any disasters, surprises, thrills? (hopefully thrills?)

MK: I was doing a reading of a Michael Towers play, Five Down, One Across, and afterwards Michael asked us for feedback. We had a long chat about the character and in subsequent versions of the play, Michael incorporated a lot of my suggestions. BPT decided to to a production of the play, and on my copy of the script, Michael had written the note about my character, "I wrote her for you." I was incredibly touched and honored.

AP: Do you think new work is an important part of Boston's theatre scene? If so, why?

MK: I think new work is very important in the Boston Theatre scene! There are a lot of stories out there that have yet to be told. Each new playwright has their own life experience to draw from, their own unique voice. Kate is wonderful because she encourages people who had never even considered writing to share that voice with everyone, to be heard. And that will often bring new people to check out theatre. Playwrights like Stephen Adly Guirgis and Eve Ensler brought a whole new generation to the theatre and I believe that John Kuntz and Melinda Lopez and Ronan Noone are doing that here in Boston.

1 comment:

  1. Maureen, my dear, if you EVER try to catch a grenade for me, I'll KILL YOU! Same goes for the train. But if you will keep coming to BPT and loaning us your talent, then...I'll follow you anywhere (like everybody else). Reverently yours, Kate