Act Your Age
By Megan O’Connor
As a Company Member, I have a responsibility to work on a certain number of shows per year in any capacity; designing, performing, directing, stage managing, writing, and the list goes on. There are lots of jobs to do and I continue to try to push myself at Brelby and try new things. This year, I’ve decided to really go for it and try to perform a more and more confidently. I made it a priority to choose a few shows, before I applied to stage manage or design, that I wanted to act in. I’m still relatively new to acting but I’ve been putting a lot of effort into improving my performing skills and getting comfortable being on stage over the past year and I began preparing my audition monologues for Windfall and missing grace super early. I was feeling pretty good, but then the night before auditions at the opening night Gala for The Tempest I was talking to Fernando (the director of Windfall) and he asked me, “How much do you hate being cast as the Mother?”
Good feeling gone.
I played the Mom during Revenge of the Space Pandas and am typically cast as an older lady or some supporting role where the character is very stable and put together. I’m older than most of the actors at Brelby, I have a mature voice, I appear relatively put together so I understand the casting choice, but I’m not old enough to be anyone’s mother (not true, I could probably have a few kids, but that’s a whole other blog). But I knew the main character of Windfall was in his 30s, which would put his Mother in her 50’s, at least. I’m not even 30! I won’t lie and say it didn’t hurt my pride to know that I was being considered for an older part because I’m a human and vain so it bothered me a bit. More than that though, I found the prospect of playing someone’s Mom, again, really boring. That’s not what this year was supposed to be about for me. I knew from that one question that Fernando would only be considering me for the Mother and it made me question the amount of work I’d put into choosing and preparing my monologues if I was going to be typecast.
But I went to the auditions anyway. It was my chance to try and to show off what I had learned, what I was working on, and to grab life by the balls and maybe change someone’s mind about who I am and what I can do. To show them I can be more than “the Mother.” And I thought my audition went pretty well. I felt really good about it after and ended up getting a callback for Windfall and missing grace. Jump ahead to callbacks, I had three back to back to back; Windfall, missing grace, and Meet the Dryers (the Company Show for Season 8). I declared my desire to act in the Company Show right away because I wanted to be in this show really badly. It was a super long day, I was so sick but I stuck it out, and callbacks for all three were really fun, but I knew that if I was cast in Windfall it would be for the Mother. And later that afternoon I received casting offers for Windfall for Theresa, the Mother, and for Meet the Dryers for Corky, the Grandmother. You read that right. Grand. Mother.
Good feeling gone.
In a horrible moment, that I’m not proud of, I was really bummed. But as quickly as my pride set in, it was replaced with gratefulness and excitement because I was cast in two shows. I was cast in the Company Show among people who have theatre degrees, who study acting and are considered some of the best performers at Brelby. I was cast in a show that has six characters. That’s six actors chosen from a bunch of people who auditioned and did not get cast. Not only that, but I knew the basic story of Windfall; Theresa’s son fakes his death and then wins the lottery. How messed up is that? Her child fakes his death. What kind of crazy challenge would a part like that be? Fernando thought of me for that. I’m super green and he looked at one of the more challenging roles in the show and thought of me. And it has been intense. The emotional roller coaster she goes through during the course of the show is completely crazy. It’s only mirrored by my own experience trying to get inside the mind of this character and figure out who she is, her relationship to her son, her life after his death. The biggest challenge has been figuring out when to try and tap into her grief and when to leave it in the theatre so it doesn’t consume me. Theresa is the most challenging part I’ve had the pleasure to play so far in my super short career. I can’t speak for my castmates, but when I look around, there’s no other character I’d rather be. The things I get to do and be and say as Theresa are wonderful. I can look back on the work I’ve done for this show so far and know that I’ve learned a lot and changed from the experience of being her.
As for the Grandmother… well, I’m not sure I’ll be ok with someone calling me “Grandma” offstage (someone’s bound to try it and we’re going to put the kibosh on that real quick) but I’m on the writing team for that show and we’re making her a pretty sassy number. Grandma Corky is the dirtiest woman on the face of the planet and I can’t wait to bring that kind of filth to life; I’m going to make everyone laugh so hard and that is basically my jam, so I’m starting to look forward to it. She’s basically what I hope to be now, and I get to play her now. I’ve got great comedic timing and literally nothing embarrasses me, so this is perfect casting for me in spite of our 60 year age gap. But I know I’ll learn more from her too.
So, to answer the question Fernando had posed: I don’t hate being cast as the Mother. I hate that I’m typecast as ‘the Mother,’ but I have the chance to change that. I can keep learning from each new role, from watching the other actors at Brelby, from continuing to take classes and watch performances and ask questions and try new things. But if I’m only ever cast as the Mother, I hope I’m grateful for the opportunity to breathe life into a character, whoever they are. I also hope each “Mother” I am fortunate enough to be cast as in the future is unique and presents me with more and more challenges. If that’s the case then it won’t be playing “the mom again,” but that I get the chance to play “the Mom in this show and she’s different from the last Mom we saw because she…” Women are unique and diverse, their stories aren’t the same. But even if I’m “that Mom, again” I hope I know well enough now that, in the words of the prophet Jagger, you can’t always get what you want. But you get what you need.