Now for something quite different, I have interviewed my fellow actresses. It seemed appropriate in this male-driven story to give voice to the ladies - and what incredible ladies I get to share the dressing room with. There is no debate that these three actresses imbue their characters with remarkable and complex humanity. Here is Equus through the eyes of its women!
|Peter Simon Hilton, Steven Maier, and Mallory Newbrough|
Who do you play in "Equus"?
Anne-Marie Cusson: Hester Salomon
Julie Rowe: Dora Strang
Mallory Newbrough: Jill Mason - the girl.
What fascinates you most about your character in "Equus"?
Anne-Marie: Hester listens to and witnesses Dysart’s musings and longings -- which to me, Anne-Marie, are very compelling -- and ultimately advocates for the professional stance of maintaining his psychiatric mission.
Julie: Dora is an incredibly strong woman with a passionate belief system. I admire those qualities. She is able to keep moving forward in spite of upheaval.
Mallory: She is the one who is the catalyst for the catastrophic event. Her desires, her throughline, her objective from the moment she meets Alan is what happens to instigate the climax of the play.
What do you hope the audience will take away from seeing "Equus"? Give us a specific quote you'd love to overhear as the audience walks out.
Anne-Marie: Perhaps continuing the conversation of the doctor’s psychological conundrum. Perhaps: ‘THIS is why I come to see theatre!’
Julie: Are you following your passion and living it? Or are you going off into the concrete world and following the drill?
"Worship as many as you can see - and more will appear."
Mallory: After a matinee the other day I was having lunch with a few friends who came to see the play and one of them mentioned something that the rest of us connected deeply with. She said: “Honestly right now...I feel kind of personally attacked by Equus... I feel like there's a lot of eyes on me...”
Our whole play is about eyes staring straight at you...like the picture of the horse staring over the gate that hangs at the foot of Alan’s bed. I very much enjoy the moment in the show when Julie Rowe, who infuses the role of Alan’s mother with a fierce desperation and compelling intensity, responds to Dysart’s probing her to describe the picture, she says:
"...it’s most extraordinary. It comes out all eyes...”.
The eyes of this horse are constantly staring straight at Alan, just as our main character, Dysart, is having eyes on him the whole time - his own eyes, other eyes, everything - audience members can personally feel like eyes are on them within their own lives. They can have a cathartic reaction to whatever is going on onstage. They can relate in such a visceral way to our play. I spoke with one woman who said: "I wasn't able to stand up for the first five minutes after the end of Act One."
|Meredith Bartmon, Peter Simon Hilton, Steven Maier and Julie Rowe|
What is your favorite moment in "Equus"? Why is it your favorite?
Anne-Marie: I can better give a montage of moments: first hearing the HUMMMM and then watching the collective head-tossing of the horses; the reverence on Alan’s face when he first sees the collective embodiment of his ‘god’ approach him in the stable; hearing Alan bite out the word ‘Swizzy’ to Dysart when he feels forced to tell his first horse tale; the sudden silence of the audience when Alan confronts Dysart with ‘we’re playing what I say;’ the layered effect of listening to Dysart’s monologues and hearing NEW things, performance after performance...
Julie: The opening moment when Alan gives the Horseman playing Nugget his mask to begin the story. So simple, yet so layered and powerful.
Mallory: Out of the many favorite bits that I have stored into my memory bank from this never-to-be-forgotten play, I think I most enjoy certain moments of lightness. The moments of levity are the most poignant to me because a lot of the time the audience doesn't realize they have permission to laugh when Shaffer has granted them permission to do so several times throughout the piece.
There’s a whirlwind of darkness piercing the minds of those on stage and still, there's so much comedy in this play.
Some of the significant moments that I enjoy giggling at are: when Alan is having the time of his life riding a horse for the very first time, when Dora starts cracking up at Alan’s dad after they get covered with water and sand at the beach, and the many humorous and beautifully connected moments that Dysart shares with the Magistrate in both acts.
Somebody said that to me after seeing the play. They said "I didn't realize it would be that funny. It's really funny." It's funny because it's real life.
What is the most memorable audition experience in your career?
Anne-Marie: Oh, auditioning! I remember having prepared for ‘Josie’ in A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN and being asked to do a scene that I had NOT prepared; I went into the hallway to look it over, feeling that panicky ‘I-don’t-know-this-section’ sense, and basically took hold of myself to LEAP into it.... what followed was one of those moments of stars aligning/fully connected experiences that one relishes -- both in the audition room and onstage. It’s actually a great touchstone reminder to follow instincts and trust.
Julie: I walked into the audition room, shut the door behind me and the door knob fell off in my hand. The pianist said, no one leaves until she gets the job!
Mallory: I went in for Janis Joplin at The Wick breaking ALL the rules I was told to follow in school. When it comes to auditioning, in college I was advised to not wear a costume or dress for the part, sing songs from the show, wear your hair funny and to not do this and not do that...etc. Well, I showed up completely hippie-ed out as if I were just getting off a bus at Woodstock, I sang two songs from the show and I wore round purple sunglasses similar to the ones you see Janis wearing in many of her iconic pictures... I never took those sunglasses off from the moment I walked into the room till the moment I left. Some people say it’s better to not wear glasses during an audition so that the auditors can see your eyes and facial expressions...I guess my thought about that was ...Nope. I like going against the grain, just as Janis did.
Tell us about one of your career favorite onstage moments.
Anne-Marie: How about the fluffs of falling? The college production when I was dressed as ‘Sir’ in ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT/SMELL OF THE CROWD: surrounded by a group of actors as I leaned against a shooting stick and fell over backwards off a platform.... or having forgotten my shoes and borrowing some weird flat rubber ‘water-wear’ shoes and tripping UP the top platform as ‘Titania’ in an outdoor production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM...
Julie: I’m in Equus.... that is amazing. And certainly a career favorite.
Mallory: Its so very difficult to choose a specific all-time career favorite onstage moment...but I think I’m going to say ALL of the many moments that I had onstage in HAIR at The Kravis Center. I was cast as a tribe member and was given the opportunity to create my own character with absolutely no rules of limitation. I ended up creating this crazy, free-loving, hippie-flower child who I appropriately dubbed Looney...last name Bin. I got to create thousands of beautiful unscripted moments throughout that production with my fellow tribe members and the audience for that matter... One specific instance I remember is being pinwheeled round and round on the hips of Elijah Word as Hud Johnson during Black Boys...it was epic.
|Anne-Marie Cusson and Peter Simon Hilton|
If you could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party who would you invite?
Anne-Marie: (Only three?)
Scenario One (Esoteric:) Leonardo DaVinci (just to hear what he had to say,) one of the Apostles, Thomas Edison (all that ‘trying & failing & trying some more’);
Scenario Two (Inspirational:) Alan Alda, Judi Dench, Bette Davis;
Scenario Three (Ancestral:) The young Irish lass who came to America on her own; the patriarch who moved his large family from Canada to New England; my Mum (she’d be all ears WITH me;)
Scenario Four (Just Plain Fun:) Nora Ephron (she had a famous Roast Chicken recipe and KNOWS how to keep a lively conversation,) Bill Murray, Elizabeth Gilbert
Julie: Patrick Stewart, Oprah, my great grandmother Marie.
Mallory: Oh my god. Alright, Ian McKellan - he'd be one of them. Anne Frank. No, I don't know about that. I mean I would love to know Anne. Carol Burnett. Judy - no, no - Elaine Stritch is first. Elaine Stritch is definitely on the invitee list. Ian McKellan too. I also want Shakespeare. OK, Shakespeare, Elaine Stritch, and Ian McKellan.
Do you have a dream role? What is it and why?
Anne-Marie: (I really don’t...)
Julie: Honestly, not really. I just want to do great stories with great artists.
Mallory: Well I have several dream roles...one of which, I am so excited to say, I have been cast as later this season, Yitzhak in Hedwig. That story connects very closely to me. Another dream role happens to be in my favorite musical of all time - I do have a favorite musical of all time, I can't help it - it's Les Mis. I would like to play either Eponine and Fantine. Or Madame Thenadier even. Anyone of those three roles in Les Mis would be a dream come true...Fantine probably the most. I also very much want to play Diana in Next to Normal when the time is right.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors or theatre-makers?
Anne-Marie: Know Thyself.
Julie: Have a hobby that has nothing to do with theatre.
Mallory: I want to quote our play - when Dysart talks about a thousand local gods. "Worship as many as you can see and more will appear." I would advise that it's a continuous flow - information will always continue to be influx-ed into your brain so there's never a final answer in theatre. Take in as many Gods as you can, take in as much as you can, and more will appear. I would say shut down nothing, absorb everything. Everything is a learning experience at the end of the day. No matter if it's a good situation, a bad situation, a horrifying situation, an embarrassing situation - you can learn from everything. AND - observation is one of the strongest tools for learning. To observe others - to watch them explore - exploration is key.
Describe "Equus" in three words.
Anne-Marie: Intense, intriguing, visceral.
Julie: Riveting, spiritual, haunting.
Mallory: Raw, riveting, realness.
|Peter Simon Hilton, Director J. Barry Lewis, and Mallory Newbrough|
Come see Equus at Palm Beach Dramaworks playing until Sunday, June 3rd. Call the box office at 561 514 4042 ext 2 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org for more information.