Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am a professor of Psychology at Misericordia University with a specialization in child clinical psychology. I teach courses including Intro to Psychology, Child and Adolescent Development, Child Psychopathology, and Child Interventions. I fell in love with Psychology because it is the study of you and me, and I wanted to learn what makes us the people that we become. I’ve lived in NEPA for eleven years and have enjoyed working with a variety of theater companies. I’ve recently delved into film and commercials and directed/produced a documentary that aired on WVIA called The Voices Project: Disability.
What can you tell us about your character/role in this production (without revealing spoilers)?
Perhaps without knowing it, Rachel Strayer writes like a psychologist in terms of how deeply she understands the core factors that motivate human emotions. That might be one of the reasons I felt so connected and drawn to the script even from the first day of auditions. I wanted to learn more about Jane: what secrets is she keeping in her trunk and why are they buried in there? I loved the idea that Ophelia—who first appears as Jane’s nemesis—becomes the key to unlocking the secrets.
What do you find exciting and challenging about this project?
I found this project (or perhaps it found me?) at the exact right time and space in my personal, professional, and acting life. I’ve been craving a meaty, robust female character to explore and I identify with Jane in authentic and meaningful ways. It has been exciting to work with Jonathan Strayer whose directing style is organized, creative, motivating, and collaborative. I love how he encourages us to explore our characters and try scenes with a variety of emotions and goals to see what feels best. My most challenging moments have occurred when there is a part that feels like I’m missing something or isn’t quite right. Rachel’s script is so deep and layered that I find myself thinking about these moments until, finally, a lightbulb goes off and I get it. I can’t say enough about the beauty of this story—I think most people will actually need to see the show twice in order to fully appreciate how everything comes together.
Have you ever worked with Gaslight Theatre Company before? How has it been working with them on this show?
This is my second production with Gaslight. My first show was a comedy called Incorruptible directed by Ryan Baran and co-starring Sam Falbo, Skippy Isgan, and Jason Alfano. I remember laughing constantly during our rehearsals and it was a great experience. I am always impressed with the professionalism and talent of Gaslight’s production teams! Our current stage manager (Helen Kaucher), costume designer (Jill Kemmerer), production manager (Dave Reynolds), graphic designer (Brandi George), and sound designer (Mike Little) are all fantastic. I can’t gush enough about Jonathan, our director, who has taught me so much.
What is it like working with a living and local playwright?
Meeting and talking with Rachel was a profound experience and completely changed my understanding of the script. I love her Tarantino-esque writing style which gives all the necessary information but forces the audience to put things together. Everything about this play—from Rachel’s writing to Jonathan’s staging—grabs hold of the audience and almost forces them into the room with the characters. Knowing that we are acting out the work of a writer who will be sitting in the audience is an honor and privilege.
What is your favorite part of the process so far?
I have loved so many aspects of this show, but my favorite part has been the collaboration with the director and cast. From the beginning, Jonathan has encouraged us to ask questions about the story, characters, relationships, goals, and discuss our ideas together as group. This works so well because all four characters are so intertwined that one character’s actions directly affects the others. My cast members--Jessica, Tim, and Jeremy--are incredible. We have been able to create so much trust as a team, which is essentially because this show forces all of us to lay out our deepest emotions and vulnerabilities. By the end of the show, we have truly bared our souls on stage.
What is your favorite line from the play (and who says it)?
My favorite line is Ophelia’s opening line: “’Tis in my memory locked, and you yourself shall keep the key of it.” For me, this play is about Jane’s story which is unique and poignant just by itself. But it is also about the secrets we keep and how easily we become imprisoned by them, sometimes without even realizing it. We all need an Ophelia in our life who reminds us when it is time to find our key.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
I really believe that this production is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I hope that people come to see it. There is something magical about how all the pieces come together that makes time stand still as you watch everything unfold. I haven’t even mentioned the technical elements (avoiding any spoiler alerts) that bring the staging to a new level. This has been an unforgettable experience for me and I think the audience will feel the same.
Drowning Ophelia opens January 28 at the Theater at Lackawanna College and runs through January 31. Head on over to our Up Next page to find out how you can see it!