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Six Utah actors, six questions, so many connections

Utah theater » Six local actors, familiar and unfamiliar to one another, take six questions on Utah’s collective stage.

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What inspired you to start acting? » I wasn’t inspired. I had a nice compliment from my drama teacher at Provo High School, who said he thought I had talent. I never aspired to be an actor. But when someone gives you a sense of direction as you finish high school you think, "Really?

First role? » I attended one year at Brigham Young University, where I got involved in a production of "Taming of the Shrew." I applied for the crew, but the director said everyone had to audition. I got the role of Kate. It was frightening, overwhelming and scary.

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How many Utah productions have you acted in? » I’m the last person who can answer that. When I hear people say they’ve been in more than 100 plays, I think to myself, "I have no idea how many I’ve acted in." It’s not as many productions as people think. I started late and was pretty selective when I started raising my three sons.

Favorite role or performance? » Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s "Master Class" was a favorite. She really got into my bones —a huge role. You’re onstage the entire time. I’ve done it twice, three years ago for Salt Lake Acting Company and 13 years ago, also for Salt Lake Acting Company. Roles based on real-life people get to me the most. Sculptor Camille Claudel, lover to sculptor Auguste Rodin in Aden Ross’ 1992 play "K-Mille" for Salt Lake Acting Company.

Role you’d most like to play but haven’t? » I’m too old for it, but Eleanor of Aquitaine from James Goldman’s "The Lion in Winter." I had the chance to play it when I was young, but vacationed with my sons instead. She’s a feisty, wonderful and dynamic woman with brilliant dialogue. Again, I lean toward historical characters.

What does Utah theater need now more than ever? » Not a 2,500-seat theater, that’s for sure. However, a 200-seat theater for local productions inside it would be nice. It’s really a hard question for me to answer. I’d like to see more productions like Pioneer Theatre Company’s "Clybourne Park." We also need more stages for intimate theater. We need more venues for provocative, live performances.


What inspired you to start acting? » I’ve been a singer, mostly, then found out while onstage I could also act. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and got some roles with meat on them, that I finally considered myself an actor.

Your first role? » Rheba, the maid, in Grand Theatre’s 2001 production of "You Can’t Take It With You." I went to the audition thinking it was a musical, but because they needed an African-American they needed to fill the role. I said, ‘But I don’t act! I sing!" The director wanted to see me anyway.

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How many Utah productions in all have you acted in? » Probably 13 or 14. I don’t think I’d go any further than that.

Favorite role or performance? » I’d have to say it’s Billie Holiday. I love the character’s arc, her complexity, and that I was interpreting what people thought of as just a character, but she was more complex than anything anyone ever knew. She was such a full person to interpret for an audience.

Role you’d most like to play but haven’t? » I’m not that savvy about contemporary theater just yet, but there are some wonderful roles I’d want to be a part of. Theater is something in which you start all over again. Every time I finish an amazing role like Billie Holiday, I ask what I’d do next after such an incredible role. The answer is, "You start all over."

What does Utah theater need now more than ever? » Utah as a theater community is growing up. What we need most is an audience willing to be open-minded. What upsets me most is watching an audience member get up and walk out — right in the middle of the performance. To think that walking out is somehow less rude than staying in your seat to listen what a production has to say is appalling. All people have to do is read the liner notes to figure out if a play is for them. Be willing to be uncomfortable for just a moment!


What inspired you to start acting? » I first caught the bug from Kent Burrell, a great drama teacher at West Jordan High School. He did everything: acting, directing, set design and lighting. Every single day — between classes or after school — I hung out in his class to learn everything I could.

First role? » Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" during sophomore year in high school. I was far too young to play such a role, and far too inexperienced to realize just how in over my head I was.

How many Utah productions in all have you acted in? » More than 100 if you count my school roles.

Favorite role or performance? » Sweeney Todd my senior year at Weber State. I love that it’s an opportunity to explore the dark side in all of us. Sweeney goes to a place we never get to go in real life, but playing him, you learn that if the circumstances are right, most of us have the potential to become a killer.

Role you’d most like to play but haven’t? » I’ve always dreamed of playing Iago. He’s so wicked and loves it so much. He has such a great time being bad. I do seem to be drawn to playing bad guys, but I’m not alone in that. Actors are drawn to the opportunity of doing something different from everyday experience. Besides that, the bad guy is always better written than the good guy.

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