Theatre Geek of the Week: Mark Ulrich

Introducing Mark Ulrich, our next TGotW: Guest Artist Edition!

IUST Guest Artist Mark Ulrich

A Chicago-based member of Actor’s Equity, Mark offers  some insight and humor, as this week’s TGotW. Mark can be seen this summer in IUST’s productions of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (Stage Manager) and The Foreigner (Charlie).

1. When did first you realize you were a “theatre geek”?

Even after three decades, I’m still not entirely certain that I’m included in the club.  Every morning I expect a phone call or an email informing me that there has been a grave mistake – my equity card is being revoked, and all past shows in which I was cast only occurred because of a clerical error.

2. What is your favorite thing about the theatre, and why?

My favorite thing about theater is its impermanence – it vanishes with very little trace, if any at all.  That, and the snacks at opening night. 

3. Do you have a favorite show or role? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite role was in a college production of THE VISIT, where I played one of the blinded twins.  My twin and I could finish our scene, then go to the Wendy’s drive through in full blinded eye makeup, and be back in plenty of time for the curtain call. 

Mark and Martin Yurek in “Assassination Theater” by Hillel Levin. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

4. Who in the theatre world inspires you, and why?

I am inspired by the group with whom I am working right now.  The experience and craft work of the directors, designers, and professional actors are a constant source of inspiration.   And the enthusiasm and energy and optimism with which the IU Theater students approach the work is a refreshing wave of good hope that an old crank like me can easily lose sight of. 

5. Do you have any words of advice for our theatre students?

My advice for the theater students?   I find blue Hi-Liter makes the script difficult to read.  Use yellow, or pink.

6. When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?

Someone is always watching.  

Mark Ulrich appears courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association.

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‘Our Town’ reveals secrets shared by many a small community

Asked my fellow audience member after the show Friday night: “Have you ever seen a BAD ‘Our Town’?” She referred to another high-quality Indiana University Summer Theatre production, this time Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer- Drama Desk Award- and Tony Award-winning play about wasted moments, overlooked treasure and other notorious human behaviors.

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Joshua M. Smith, Karen Janes Woditsch, Marya Grandy, Jimmy Hogan, Max Weinberg, Glynnis Kunkel-Ruiz, Katie Swaney, Justin Smusz, and Matthew Weidenbener. Karen Janes Woditsch and Marya Grandy appear courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association.

The behavior that strikes me most is in a line from the play’s choir director, Simon Stinson (Joshua M. Smith): “To be always at the mercy of one self-centered passion or another.” That is I. And, I suspect, many others, and Smith’s delivery of that line snapped at my conscience. We ignore the spouse, grab a bag of hot wings instead of taking the half hour to cook something, blow off a friend for a work assignment.

The early 1900s citizens of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, where Wilder’s characters work and play, ignore and deny, are all people we know, in disguise (costumes by Heather Milam), whether we live in Beijing or Bedford. We do these things and probably always have. Maybe it’s imbedded in our instincts for survival. After all, if we noticed all the homemade breakfasts and listened to every bluebird call, wouldn’t we have died out eons ago? When we should have been focused on hunting, gathering, achieving.

The play’s ingenue, Emily (Nina Donville) pleads, “. . . all that was goin’ on, and we never noticed! Do any human beings realize life as they live it?” Stinson answers no, except for some saints and poets.

This play intrigued me decades ago and still does. It’s one that lingers for days afterward, maybe months. A story about all of us, it stabs us in the gut as it describes our floating through life so immersed in our (seemingly) teensy trials that we are deaf to the joys and tribulations of others. The final scene with young George’s (Michael Bayler’s) once adoring mother (Karen Woditsch) barely noticing, and anything but interested in, him will haunt me forever. I won’t say more to avoid spoiling the ending.

The man seated next to me commented that because he grew up in New York City, Wilder’s plot doesn’t apply to his experiences. “We had no chickens to feed or cows to milk,” he explained. But his mother worked in Manhattan’s garment district, his father in a Manhattan restaurant. One person’s chickens are another’s bolt of percale or 30 dozen eggs to fry. Regardless of the town or city, “Our Town” is indeed our town.

Wilder describes the little things: mothers making thousands of breakfasts, births, a responsible paperboy on his route, ice cream sodas sipped by young lovers. How little are they, really? These are the moments that make a life, a town, a world.

Friday’s production began and ended in the dark, opening just before dawn and closing in the local cemetery, underground. The minimal use of props and scenery made Wilder’s writing and the cast’s ubiquitous talent all the more striking. Mark Ulrich claimed the night’s biggest share of applause. A flexible actor, he varied his pitch and style, even taking on additional roles, one as a vociferous neighbor lady. In answer to my friend’s question, “Have you ever seen a BAD “Our Town,” it would be “Yes,” if the director (Dale McFadden, here) doesn’t cast an excellent stage manager character. But he did. Ulrich narrates the story, keeping us informed and the plot rolling.

Last month I reviewed a play in which the young mother dies, but I couldn’t manage to care enough about her to feel the loss. No chills, no squeezing back tears. Without spoiling the ending of “Our Town” though, I will just say it produced those chills. And not just when the characters I had grown to like died. Donville’s Emily is dear and spunky. I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to buy her an ice cream soda. Her scene with George as they admit their mutual love is one of this production’s best.

Bayler is the epitome of a sweet, eager boy stammering his way through exuberance in being face to face with his long-lived crush. Later, he is every man whose feet have gone cold on his wedding morning. Donville is equally darling here as the cherished daddy’s girl. “Just look at (George). I hate him. I don’t wanna get married,” she informs her daddy. At that moment, before the wedding march, she would much prefer to “run away” with Dad, who has always called her “My Girl.” The scene is too wonderful. Any woman who has loved a father would be rummaging for a Kleenex.

Glynnis Kunkel-Ruiz brought some necessary laughter as the officious Mrs. Soames. She looked beautiful in her crimson shawl and flower-trimmed hat, too. This is my favorite of the roles I’ve seen her play, and her characters here (lady in balcony, also) showcased her range.

The two mothers (Woditsch and Marya Grandy) were believable and well cast. I particularly enjoyed their roles in reminding me how women behaved in the early 20th century, postponing their own dreams, skirting any talk of sex and keeping those fresh breakfasts coming. Wilder’s many mentions of the day’s first meal reminded me, too, of our current granola bars and sugared lattes. A parent emerging from a warm bed and making oatmeal says something. Says many things.

Sean Blake played a lovable father of the bride. I get why Emily wants to escape with him and do his cooking and cleaning instead of marrying her dashing George. Smith’s alcoholic choir director has some of Wilder’s pithiest lines, and Smith handled each cogently, even, maybe especially, while drunk.

Andrew Hopson designed the sound, which was a highlight. From this minimalist set, we heard rain, thunder, trains, chickens clucking, a cow clopping and crickets rubbing their legs together. Allen Hahn’s lighting design was chilling — literally — in the cemetery but also in a more cheerful scene using spotlit ladders to indicate teenaged Emily’s and George’s bedroom windows.

Our town has “nobody very remarkable,” the stage manager announces. Untruer words were never spoken.

Shared from https://www.heraldtimesonline.com/entertainment/our-town-reveals-secrets-shared-by-many-a-small-community/article_b2bf92a2-5b1b-593c-952b-f302ac5f091a.html

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Five stars for IU’s ‘The Foreigner’

If you have laughter-induced asthma, take your inhaler when you see Indiana University Summer Theatre’s “The Foreigner.” Yes, that was I laughing and gasping Sunday evening, all through this hilarious, insightful and exquisitely cast play about how we view and treat The Other among us. And, maybe more important, how we view and treat ourselves when we are with The Other.

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Mark Ulrich (Charlie) and Jimmy Hogan (Owen) in “The Foreigner”. Mark Ulrich appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.

Although this production earns a 9.9, I will begin with the negatives, of which there are two:

It ended — two and a quarter hours can be long for many plays, but not for this one.

The playwright, Larry Shue, died young, truncating the list of what might have been more plays like this.

Highlights are missing, because every performer was so splendidly suited to his or her role, so no one stands out. I don’t remember when I have witnessed that. Who chose this play? Who chose this cast? Thank you for one of the most joyous, funny, thought-provoking plays I have seen, ever.

“The Foreigner” is the perfect complement to IU’s summer repertory season of three plays, the other two being the Americana drama “Our Town,” and a peppy musical look at our obsessions with winning, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

And, remember, repertory usually means these actors switch roles — and plays — from night to night, a daunting task for both performers and crew.

Charlie (Mark Ulrich) is a sweet, good-to-the-bone proofreader who is also mortifyingly bashful. He always travels the high road, including tolerating his wife’s 23, give or take, episodes of adultery. Seeking respite, he arrives at a country lodge in Georgia with his assertive and outgoing friend Froggy (Joshua M. Smith). What to do!? Charlie must make conversation with “strangers,” other lodgers at the property, and he’s particularly reticent because his wife’s terminal illness has plummeted him into a funk.

Quick-thinking Froggy, however, devises an impromptu solution: He introduces Charlie to the others as a foreigner who cannot speak or understand English. Lucky Charlie can now vacation without the strain of interaction.

The lodge’s widowed owner, Betty (Karen Woditsch), whose dream of seeing the world has been thwarted by having to hold down the lodge, thrills to the idea of meeting a real, live foreigner. “You done saved my life when you brought ‘im here,” she tells Froggy. “He’s not a communist, is he?” she asks, just making sure. Delighting in her new foreign friend, she gushes, “We have this, this, this extra-circular communication!” Woditsch is precious.

Charlie, keen on being upstanding, refuses to go along with Froggy’s deceptive scheme, but when he overhears a very personal conversation between Catherine (Glynnis Kunkel-Ruiz) and her fiance, the Rev. David Marshall Lee (Michael Bayler), he is trapped into following the foreigner plan. After all, to do so will save the honor of the young lovers.

Catherine’s younger brother, Ellard (Max Weinberg), seems lacking in intelligence, which may cause him to lose out on his half of the $10 million inheritance he deserves from his and Catherine’s parents’ recent demise. The reverend is eager to trick Catherine into seeing Ellard as too impaired to get his, Ellard’s, half. I begin here to loathe the minister.

A good ole boy — and Ku Klux Klan member — Owen Musser (James Hogan) brings a deeply dark twist to the plot and kept me teetering on my seat’s edge. Hogan is deliciously frightening.

Admittedly, I enjoy farce, physical humor, convoluted identities and other types of comedy, but even if I didn’t, this play would have kept me laughing — and thinking.

Charlie, by default, becomes the ideal listener. At first, at least, he doesn’t criticize, analyze or advise; he just blithely listens. And as he listens, he learns secrets and gains confidences and wins friends. He has power for the first time in his life, and oh so much wishes his wife “could see me now, Mary!”

Ulrich plays Charlie to perfection. We adore Charlie, because Ulrich is so intuitive. Woditsch’s Betty is thoroughly lovable in many ways. Her facial expressions tell us exactly who this dear woman is, and her sense of comedy is the stuff casting directors pray for.

Kunkel-Ruiz hits it out of the park with this role, seemingly written for her. Creator Shue develops her character more than some of the others’, and Kunkel-Ruiz is divine. For one thing, she is gorgeous in Linda Pisano’s costumes; for another, she has this part down. Weinberg, who seemed nervous during his curtain speech, was — I hate to say it — perfect as little brother Ellard. I’l bet everyone in Sunday night’s audience is in love with him now. Sweet, honest, genuine, helpful — that person we all want living next door.

Smith as Froggy is just right here, playing a wonderful straight man to Charlie’s outlandishness. They are a team. Spoiler alert — I just despised that underhanded, apple-biting minister/fiance, played so beautifully by Bayler. And Bayler’s deep voice added to the character’s sordidness.

It’s difficult to tell what parts of a play are the director’s and what parts come from the performers themselves. And, of course, without a good, doable script, neither matters. But I imagine that since this production is so well-rounded, with every single actor getting a 10, that a lot of the credit goes to director Jonathan Michaelsen.

I don’t know when I last thought I could see the same play every week, for a long time.

Shared from https://www.heraldtimesonline.com/news/local/five-stars-for-iu-s-the-foreigner/article_94c76986-08b3-5798-ad53-fadfa975fd8e.html.

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Bee-autifully, they can sing, dance, act — and spell.

By Connie Shakalis H-T Reviewer

Ever intrigued by death, I was 7 when I asked my mother if everyone wins Scrabble in heaven. “No,” she said. “If you knew you were going to win, the fun would disappear.”

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Matthew Weidenbener, Justin Smusz, Cole Winston, Casey McCoy, and Nina Donville.

That’s what happened Saturday night at Indiana University Summer Theatre’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Competitive speller Marcy Park (Nina Donville), an ultra-achieving, multi-talented adolescent, has grown so accustomed to winning at everything, that she finally loses the bee on purpose, to free herself of the pressure. Like an overheated tire that has picked up a nail, she deflates, and for the first time in her Jesus- and parents-pleasing life, enjoys happiness. Marcy gets perhaps the wittiest number in the show, “I Speak Six Languages,” which seems to describe some of today’s over-scheduled kids.

The play, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, is about all those smart but weird kids we knew, or were. It’s really about all who hope, try, win and lose, but Sheinkin cleverly selects this subset of the population, to good effect.

I’ve seen productions of “Spelling Bee” that consisted of adults trying to remember what puberty was like, either nasally screeching lines or gyrating like Jim Carrey after three double espressos. This production, however, directed and choreographed by Richard Roland, seemed real enough to make me believe these young adults were 11-ish.

Musical director Hana J. Cai could have softened the volume in “The I Love You Song.” I would have been moved more had the good — and strong! — singing varied in that respect, but her direction of “Pandemonium” (”That’s the reason we despair. Life is Pandemonium”) was excellent. Just as in a spelling bee, some performers Saturday were better than others, and this is a mix of good singers and good dancers, with their respective strengths. But boy do they sound good singing together. Cai highlighted not just the best soloists but the clever score’s harmonies. What “The I Love You Song” lacked in nuance, the rest of the numbers made up for.

Maybe surprising to some, because of its title, this is not for young children. It’s a wordsmith’s piece full of double entendres and sophisticated one-liners. Olive (Katie Swaney) — she went as roadkill for Halloween — in one of her literary musings, notes that “if you take the ‘w’ from answer, the ‘h’ from ghost, the extra ‘a’ from aardvark and the ‘t’ from listen, you’d have the word ‘what.’” And you could say it all day, and no one would hear you.

Part of “Pandemonium’s” — and other songs’ — verve was the talent of one of the night’s stars, Sean Blake. Comic timing, pathos, authenticity, singing voice: he’s got them. The other star is Marya Grandy as spelling bee past winner and current bee facilitator, Rona; she also plays Olive’s mother. Grandy’s stage presence and singing stood out, which is saying something in this deep sea of IU talent. Nearly as good as Blake and Grandy was Matthew Weidenbener as William Barfee (”Bar-FAY!”). His trick for spelling is his magic foot, which he projects and projects. He writes the spelling words on the floor with it, so he can “see” them. Weidenbener is a comic dancing, singing delight, and this challenging role, with its clogged sinuses and flowing arrogance, suits him.

Cole Winston is Chip, the Boy Scout and athlete who must suddenly compete not only with the other smarties but with his own emerging puberty. Winston, exuding a certain genuineness, is endearing in every role I’ve seen him play. Justin Smusz’ Coneybear, the kid whose family is smarter than he and reminds him of it, is entertaining as the competitor with ADHD. Vice principal Panch — the action takes place in a New York state middle school — (Jay C. Hemphill) snags a wonderful moment, where he breaks down ranting that he’s long been passed over for principal. Hemphill is hysterical in this surprise vignette. Casey McCoy made a good daughter of two men, struggling to please them both.

Costumes, designed by Linda Pisano, helped set the youthful, summery mood. A three-piece band sounded more like seven, its accompaniments stirring and intense.

After having seen Friday night’s IU production of “Our Town,” “Spelling Bee” lifted me back out of pensiveness. Whew, I needed that.

Shared from https://www.heraldtimesonline.com/news/local/bee-autifully-they-can-sing-dance-act-and-spell/article_bdaca59c-83d1-11e8-aaf6-eb9d77570f5e.html

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Theatre Geek of the Week: Marya Grandy

Introducing Marya Grandy, our next TGotW: Guest Artist Edition!

A Chicago-based member of Actor’s Equity, Marya will be entertaining IUST audiences as Ms. Rona Lisa Peretti in 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and as Mrs. Webb in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

1. When did first you realize you were a “theatre geek”?

My parents would say it was when I was about 2. They were doing summer stock in New England, and apparently on a break I toddled my way onto the stage and belted out “Yankee Doodle”. I have no memory of this, but I also can’t remember wanting to do anything else.

2. What is your favorite thing about the theatre, and why?

I love the fact that every single performance is different, on both sides of the footlights. What we do is so ephemeral; there is no remote control with a snapback button if we miss something. It’s one of the few remaining forms of entertainment that is truly communal, so there is a huge responsibility on the actor to connect with the audience, to communicate. I really relish the challenge of that.

3. Do you have a favorite show or role? Why is it your favorite?

A couple of years ago I got cast as Hildy in ON THE TOWN, which was a role I had auditioned for over and over again and never booked. Every time I found out I didn’t get cast, I would be devastated, because I loved Hildy so much, and I felt destined to play her. When I finally got cast, the entire experience was magical. The group of people, the design of the show, the director–everything fell into place, and I was able to say to myself, “This is why you didn’t get hired before now, because this was supposed to be the production you were in.”

4. Who in the theatre world inspires you, and why?

I have a particular affinity for Victoria Clark. Our lives have many parallels: we both attended Yale University for undergrad, albeit at different times; one of Vicki’s best friends from Yale is Ted Sperling, who is a music director in NY, and one of my best friends from Yale is Rob Berman, who is also a music director in NY. In the past few years I have played or understudied roles that Vicki performed, including when she played herself in A GRAND NIGHT FOR SINGING. There is no denying that she has one of the most beautiful, malleable instruments in the business, but it is how she acts a song that takes my breath away. I was lucky enough to see her in THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, and her performance absolutely gutted me. When she sang “Fable”, I thought I might never recover.

5. Do you have any words of advice for our theatre students?

Be curious about the world beyond theatre. Read the newspaper every day, and not just the arts section. Travel, if you can. Volunteer at an animal shelter, or a soup kitchen, or read to kids who are in the hospital. Get out of your “theatre bubble” at least once a day. This business can be all-consuming, and it encourages self-scrutiny and myopia, so it is really important to experience the rest of the world. The hidden benefit to this is that it will make you a better actor.

6. When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?

I put a hurt on the entire P!nk catalogue.

Read Marya’s complete bio at https://theatre.indiana.edu/about/company/_guest-artists/grandy-marya.html

 

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“Dance is the breath made visible”

Julianne Rice in “Where the Path Leads”, Choreography by Katie Lea

There’s a beautiful face and form that will become very familiar to our audiences this year. It is Contemporary Dance senior Julianne Rice, who will grace the cover of our 2018-19 Season Brochure, as well as magnets, posters, ads and banners through the coming year.

When asked to describe what it feels like to dance, she replies, “Dancer Anna Halprin has always said that ‘Dance is the breath made visible’. When Anna speaks of breath, she is talking about life.”  And when Rice takes the stage, we feel it too.

Julianne Rice in Elizabeth Shea’s “HOT DUST (obscured galaxies)”

“Starting at such young ages, humans are eager to explore what their bodies can do. Babies will crawl and toddlers will waddle all over the place. Children skip and climb and explore. As humans, we have this natural tendency to feed into our physicality for satisfaction. Think about the first time you ever road a bicycle and how liberated you felt once all of your hard work had been accomplished. That is what dancing is to me. It is my humanness making discoveries in its physicality and indulging in the exploration.”

– Julianne Rice

 

Rice says she started dancing at the age of three, right after her sister Gina was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and her doctor recommended dance as a form of physical therapy. “It wasn’t long after when my mom signed the two of us up for ballet at the local studio. I always thought Gina was a great dancer, especially as my older sister she was someone I would look up to as a role model.”

Rice remembers watching dance classes from the doorway and imitating the moves her older sister was learning. “I had always wanted to be as good as she was.” Gina eventually stopped dancing and Rice realized it was at that point, when her sister wasn’t at the studio anymore, that she was no longer trying to out-dance anyone.  “I reached a certain point where I surpassed her level and became a dancer of my own, making what I wanted out of the art form. It became cathartic and I was dancing for myself.”

“Designed to Dance”, by Erin Powell (IU Media School, 2016)

Who inspires her?
“Liz Lerman has a powerful outlook that ‘art is a birthright’. She takes this belief and puts it to good use with community engagement and reaching out to nondancers while performing in spaces other than the typical concert stage.”

Wendy Peron wrote in a 2017 article for Dance Magazine, “One of Lerman’s persistent questions is, Who gets to dance? She founded Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange in 1976 to explore this and other questions…She has activated a wide range of populations toward movement, including senior citizens, ship builders, construction workers, clergy members and classical musicians. For each project she engages different communities with a different purpose.”

Rice believes this perspective can change the way anyone looks at dancing.  “It is a mode of communication. Liz Lerman would dance as a little girl just because she enjoyed being. I can relate this to my childhood, finding kids on my block and choreographing a dance to the latest pop song. Something similar happens with the young girls I babysit. Dancing is part of our nature.”

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Does she have any advice for students joining the Department this year? Absolutely.
“Moving to such a huge university can be rather intimidating. I had a struggle adapting my freshman year but it was my dance family that got me through it. Each day you will be surrounded by such supportive and beautiful people, there is nothing to worry about. Explore the town and spend time with your classmates because those are the people that make Bloomington feel like home.”

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Theatre Geek of the Week: Karen Janes Woditsch

We’ve invited our own Professor of Practice Jenny McKnight, who directs and also teaches Acting and Directing for the Department, to introduce her friend and colleague, Karen Janes Woditsch, in this first TGotW: Guest Artist Edition!

Jenny McKnight

We Bloomingtonians are so fortunate to have Karen Janes Woditsch joining us this summer to play Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town and Betty Meeks in The Foreigner. When I was living and working in Chicago, I frequently ran into Karen at auditions – same age, same ‘type,’ so we were called in for a lot of the same projects. Then I started seeing her work onstage, and I was inspired and impressed with her range, her versatility, her connection to the material and to the other actors… she draws you in and takes you with her on her journey, which is what all great actors do. When Karen and I worked together on a production of Pride and Prejudice at Northlight Theatre in Skokie IL, I was overjoyed to discover that not only is she an amazing talent onstage, but she is also incredibly generous and loads of fun offstage. The student actors who have the gift of working with her this summer will learn so much from her professionalism, her craft and her kindness. And those of us in the audience are in for a real treat!   – Jenny McKnight

Karen Janes Woditsch*

When did first you realize you were a theatre geek?

KJW: I’m not sure I’ve ever been a “theatre geek”. But I remember seeing the film The Sound of Music on television when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. The next day in school I cut up white and black construction paper and stapled them together to make habits for my friends. Then we ran around the classroom singing songs from the movie. That’s the first time I so badly wanted to BE someone else.
(yes Karen, we think that qualifies.)

What is your favorite thing about the theatre?

KJW: I believe Story, in whatever form; told through theatre, novel, painting, song; is one of the few ways humanity gets the chance to view itself and learn about itself. And you cannot have theatre without an audience. The audience is the other character in the story. So you get the chance, night after night, to discover with an audience who we are. I think there is something terribly exciting about that. And sacred.

Do you have a favorite show or role?

KJW: Oh it’s so hard to pick one!! Some roles I loved doing because they were a huge challenge like Sister Aloysius in Doubt. But I may love Julia Child in Mastering the Art the most because despite her struggles, joy and perseverance is what she led with. So doing the show was a pleasure every night. Beatrice in Much Ado... is the role I would still love to do-and maybe Iago in Othello.

A magical moment where Julia Child discovers the greatness in a grape. (VIDEO)

Who in the theatre world inspires you?

KJW: Emma Thompson is my hero. She has spent more time in film now than on stage. But she started out on stage doing sketch comedy with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry (no comic slouches) as a member of the Footlights troupe. And I got to see her on stage in two productions with Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company, as Helena in Midsummer and the Fool in Lear. She was wonderful in both. I admire her because she always seems so real to me. She gives ‘warts and all’ performances (literally in Nanny McPhee). She combines her truth with wit and a heap of passion. I think she’s just gorgeous.

Do you have any words of advice for our theatre students?

KJW: I’m sure the students at IU could give me advice!! But I think the most important thing I’ve learned is 95% of good acting comes from fiercely listening to your scene partner(s) in the moment. And have fun daydreaming about your character when you’re off stage.

When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?

KJW: These things only happen in the sanctity of the kitchen. I sing a Colin Hay song called “Waiting for my Real Life to Begin”. And waaaaaaay back in the day, dance to Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”. And I don’t even like Madonna….much.

* Karen Janes Woditsch appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

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