Playing the Part, Again

Actress Laura C. Harris guest blogs today about revisiting the role of Mandy Bloom for the upcoming staged reading of Time Stands Still at The Phillips Collection. 

Laura Harris_staged reading time stands still_headshot

Laura C. Harris

I have never gotten to play the same part twice, until this reading. I actually avoided the opportunity after I played Mandy in Studio Theatre’s 2012 production of this show, rejecting an audition invitation for the same part in a production that was to happen just a few months after Studio’s production closed. I had a good reason: were I fortunate enough to be cast, I didn’t believe I’d be able to enter the new process with an open mind as to the new possibilities that come with a different team, director, cast, and crew. I didn’t feel that enough time had passed for me to let one production go and therefore be able to freely commit myself to the next.

A few years have passed since then. Over the years I have been able to differentiate what I believe is true about the character, no matter what the setting, from the production itself, and it’s that character knowledge that I’m so looking forward to re-examining in this reading at The Phillips Collection.

Mandy is simple, but not stupid, in spite of what others may initially think. She speaks her mind, but never with negative intent; there is always a positive reason behind her words and actions, even if she doesn’t think through how those words and actions may be received by others. She is unencumbered by sarcasm, ulterior motives or pretense and is instead fiercely earnest in her belief in the power of love,compassion, and happiness. She is fair, and loyal, and funny, and impressively emotionally intelligent.

With this knowledge, I’m excited to get going on this reading for two main reasons:

  1. Mandy is a rare type of person in today’s world. As an actor, it’s a joy to play someone who is so positive and open and to follow that emotional journey, particularly when the character stands in such stark contrast to the others in the play. Experiencing the effect that Mandy has on the other characters, as well as how they mold her over time, is a really fun journey to take.
  2. Having never repeated a role before, I can’t wait to see how the Mandy I know evolves with this group of characters that my Mandy hasn’t met yet. How will she change now that she’s presented with new personalities, moments, and motivations that the other actors and the director provide? And what effect will my own growth as a person over the last 3+ years have on her? What will that teach me about myself?

There’s a lot to look forward to; I can’t wait to get started!

Actress Laura C. Harris

The Shape of Things: Prep List

Next week, Neil LaBute’s play The Shape of Things (2001) becomes the latest in a line of staged readings to grace the Phillips’s narrow but noble stage. Shakespeare Theatre Company‘s Alan Paul directs this one-night-only art-world drama in an art-world context. Here is our cheat sheet to prepare for the program (other than, ahem, reserve your tickets):

1. Ask yourself soul-searching questions, like “what would I do for love?” and “how far would I go for art?”

2. Visit a college art museum. In D.C. you might choose AU’s Katzen Arts Center or GW’s Luther W. Brady Art Gallery. Can you imagine a chilling saga of seduction and manipulation unfolding here?

3. Read up on art projects that involve transformations of the human body–the play made us think about ORLAN especially.

4. Watch the 2003 movie (or take a shortcut with the trailer below), starring Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz. LaBute directs the original cast with whom he had premiered the play at London’s Almeida Theatre two years earlier.

5. Listen to some Elvis Costello. The Grammy Award-winning English singer-songwriter wrote the brooding, abrasive soundtrack for the 2003 film.

See you at the theater!