The cast of ADORATION OF DORA is an amazing group of actors. We took some time to sit down with each of them and get their insights on the play, their characters, their personal lives and what advice they have for anyone looking to become an actor themselves.
What led you to theater?
AL: I’ve always been into playing make believe. We did shows for my parents, even as very little kids. We made our parents sit through horrible productions we made up as we went along – very short rehearsal period. (laughs) We had a dress up box, sheets and old shirts of my mom’s. Its always been a part of something I wanted to do.
SR: My dad used to take our family out to see the touring musicals that came through town. The first show I ever saw was Peter Pan with Cathy Rigby and, at the end, she flew out over the audience and threw confetti, and I remember I was able to grab hold of some and put it in my room. I was just so amazed and the spectacle was so cool.
BB: When I was in high school, I always had a crazy imagination. I was on punishment a lot so I needed something to feed my imagination. Theater was the only thing I could think of that would be a good fit for me.
KB: In fifth or sixth grade I was in a mock trial and I had to play someone. So I decided at that point I was either going to be a lawyer or an actor. My parents put me in drama and that was it.
SH: I always enjoyed it in elementary and high school. I stopped doing theater when I went to college and then to the outside world. But soon I found I was bored and wanted to find something fun to do. Ten years after I stopped, I took an acting class and was encouraged to audition for something and I got that. And then I went for something else and got that too, so I just kept doing it as long as people have continued to cast me.
What’s the most fun role you’ve ever played?
AL: Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone. It was ridiculously hard but so much fun.
SH: Ruth in A Contemporary American’s Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959. She was young and naïve, but with a very selfish view of the world and didn’t want to be alone. Though she is a villain, you have to take the audience with you, to get inside the head and make the villain real. I had to get inside her motivations, which were very real to me. Nobody thinks of themselves as the villain, so to make it real for the audience was a wonderful experience.
SR: It was at Wilmette – Adding Machine The Musical. I was in the chorus and I don’t know how many roles I played, and all of them were really angry or really aggressive. When I wasn’t onstage, I was either doing a costume change or a transition so it was all really fast. I love physical work so just going up there, doing a 5 line scene, making a costume change and then going up as a completely different character. I just ate it up, so much fun. The little evil person inside of me came out … but it was acceptable.
What is the hardest role you’ve ever played?
BB: Toss-up between Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Dora. With Maggie, there’s so many monologues and the cue lines are so tiny. Being able to keep up with the story instead of spitting out lines, to be committed and connected the whole time. That was really challenging. Dora has so many different layers, and so much research. Culturally we’re different people but you have to keep the integrity of who she was. To understand her relationships with others that influence her.
KB: Harper in Angels in America. Just because it was an exhausting role. We did both parts so making yourself emotionally vulnerable to the point of being uncomfortable, and living there for three hours. I usually don’t let myself be that vulnerable so that was hard.
What do you do when you’re not doing theater?
BB: Singing or belly dancing. Belly dancing is a big part of what’s shaped me at this stage of my artistry, in being comfortable with my body.
SH: I have a wonderful group of girlfriends who love to go winetasting. Anytime we can get together and go wine tasting, or just drink wine. Someone cooks, someone brings the wine, and we watch horrible reality TV shows. It’s a great evening. I try to be active, like riding my bike or going to yoga.
KB: I play with my son. My free time is devoted to him. He’s my little heart.
SR: I’m still trying to find that because so much of my life in the last 5 years has been either theater or school. But I’m trying to find that in my breaks. I read, I watch TV. Still trying to figure out the balance of work, rehearsal and hobbies.
AL: I’m driving home from rehearsal or working. I love to read. I like to shop, or make crafts, mosaics or jewelry. Or I’m redecorating the house.
What’s challenging about bringing this script to life for you?
SR: Finding specificity between the characters I play. Valentine is a single arc, so following that, but in between there’s all these other characters – a whore, a patron, an art critic – so just wrapping my brain around all that while making sure all these different characters are defined in a specific way.
KB: Being a friend of Dora, and watching her go through this destruction. I find that really challenging. I’ve seen that happen with friends and its hard to attach to that. She isn’t like Nusch, trying to stop it. She doesn’t know how to help her.
SH: Bringing the multiple characters to life that’s true to them but distinctive from one another. Making sure walking on as Nusch or walking on as whore, that they’re two very different characters. Coming up with distinctive tics. The culture is different, the history, the environment.
AL: I think when you meet the author, who will be at the show – you don’t want to let them down. You and Lisa and Kellie are people I respect and I don’t want to let you guys down. Jumping into rehearsals later than the rest, I want to bring my A game.
What will the audience be thinking about as they drive home after seeing the show?
AL: What a jerk Picasso was! (laughs) … hopefully, people will be inspired to follow their own creative passions no matter if they are recognized or not. And that women rock.
BB: They will be thinking what it would have been like to live during that time. The play is fun and deep but there’s also a history lesson about that time.
KB: “Holy shit! What was that?” But in a good way. I think they’ll identify with something in there, the script is very accessible. Getting into a relationship and losing yourself. Finding your voice as an artist. The battle between conscious and subconscious. There’s something in there for everyone to identify with. I think they’ll talk about it in context of their lives.
SR: A lot of what the script is saying is how a person defines themselves within their world. There’s one scene where Dora and Maar are trying to define themselves without Picasso. She defines herself through her art and then she tries to figure out who she is with him … causing her to crack. All around her, life goes on, but she’s going through this personal and emotional journey. And the lengths people will go to for their art.
SH: I think there’s many elements in the script that are very universal. When we first sat down with the script, I know a lot of the cast was relating to so many parts of the story. We had great discussions about relationships that had similar dynamics to Dora and Picasso, and the relationships between Dora and her three friends, as well as what it means to questions yourself in your art. Those experiences are universal enough that I think the audience will find so much to relate to.
What do you think is going to surprise people about the show?
SR: The theatricality of it, how it is presented. The whole surrealist aspect of it, the meta qualities of it. I didn’t know what to expect when I heard of it, but the script is so different. And that there’s no Picasso in it, that its all from Dora’s perspective.
SH: I hope the comedy surprises them. You expect it to be strange and avant garde, but I hope they’ll be surprised at how funny it can be.
BB: The nudity. Very basic but so many people, they’re intrigued or shocked by that. But I also think they will appreciate the space. They will feel like they are in their imagination instead of being separated from it.
AL: I don’t know if people know a lot about Picasso. I never did, I’ve been to Musee de Picasso twice but now, doing this show, and hearing the ideas behind what he was going for – there’s this line about “shattering the mirror the others hold to him” and about him painting “the past and the future all in the same moment,” that I find interesting and I would like to go back and see more with those ideas in my head. The insight into his creative expression.
KB: The humor. There’s a same amount of ridiculous as there is serious.
How is this character like you and how is it different than you?
SR (Valentine): I’m discovering how alike we are. I was thinking about why she chose to join these ladies. She grew up at an army base, then she moved to Paris. Growing up between those two different environments and learning freedom and how to express herself. That’s what theater is to me. To do whatever and have it be acceptable … to work out the weirdness. Valentine surrounded herself with these ladies that encouraged her to do that.
AL (Marie-Therese): I was pretty naïve when I was younger. I think I could’ve been swept up [like she was]. To be 17 and have someone come up and tell you that you’re beautiful and I want to paint you, it just seems exciting and like a fantasy. But the reality was that it destroyed her more than helped her. She’s different from me in that I’m a lot stronger, so I want to make sure I’m not overpowering. I have aspects of that and I’m proud of that, so its hard to not bring that out in other characters I play.
SH (Nusch): She was very independent, like a lot of the Surrealists. She was very sexual and an erotic person. I’d like to think the sort of headstrong, independent part of her – that she owns who she is – I’d like to think that is part of me. But I think we’d all like to think that. I know myself to be independent so that struck a chord with me. Not like her in the whole sexual part, some of the things she says I would never say in public. That kind of openness, I probably care a bit more about what people think about me.
KB (Jacqueline): Trying to stick up for your friend, that’s who I am. When she doesn’t make a stand, that is different than me. And the whore isn’t really me, so I make her more streetwise which is very me. And the patrons are the ridiculous, silly part of me.
What advice would you offer to aspiring actors?
AL: Be honest with your performances and do your best. If you go to an audition, and you’ve done your best and they don’t cast you, that’s their loss. That’s how you grow. Rejection is part of the business so just keep working at it. Watch people as you work, watch what other people are doing and learn from that. Never stop wanting to learn. Even if you get chorus girl #10 (which I’ve played a million times), make it something. Give yourself a whole backstory, make it something important.
SR: It comes down to having no fear. You’re going to have hang-ups. Push them out of the way and go for the jugular. That’s where you’ll find the moments of clarity in the haze of the rehearsal process. Its not a logical business and so much is out of your control. Keep your passion fueled. And have fun.
BB: Understand and explore yourself before diving deeply into accepting any role. Be truthful with yourself with how you see the world. Its important to train. But understand why you want to do what you want to do. As vessels and artists, we have a really great responsibility to be truthful. To be truthful you have to know first who you are. Never stop training. And never throw theater out of what you do. Start at the foundation of honesty.
KB: Just keep learning, no matter where you’re at. Learn from watching performances. Subtle things can be the most impactful. Never stop learning because you’re never done learning as an actor. People like to judge, but no — watch what they’re doing. File it away and you can use that different places. The “no”s are good for you. Not being cast is good for you. Build the tough skin and find out what gave that person the edge because that’ll help you learn.
SH: Start yesterday. The most you can learn, practice, do – take classes, try things out – just get up there and start doing it. There is no substitute to doing the work. See things you like, see things you don’t like and start to decide for yourself what works for you. My grandpa has this saying “just do something even if its wrong.” Just do something, it might spectacularly fail, but that’s how you learn.
ADORATION OF DORA opens this Friday, Oct. 23 and runs through Nov. 14. Tickets are selling so get yours today!