I was recently cast in the fall production of The Mound Builders, by Lanford Wilson. I am Dr. August Howe’s 11 yr old daughter.
From my research, it seems as though ever production has either neglected young Kirsten, much as her parents do – or they have eliminated her role altogether.
While this is quite disheartening, I am determined to find the reason Kirsten is on stage and in this play. Actors already have enough ego problems without telling them that their character has no real relevance to the story, no purpose at all.
I’m really working to intuit just who Kirsten is, and how she interprets this strange world around her. I just had an idea. literally, just sitting here typing, I realized that I need to re-imagine this as Kirsten’s coming of age story.
I will be the first to admit: in the past, I’ve gotten roles that I’ve just phoned in. By its nature, the part of Brooke in Noises Off is meant to be phoned in. I’ve never needed to know why I’m on stage for a scene or to determine my (character’s) objectives and wildest dreams. This is different. I don’t need Wilson, or my director, or past critics to lett me what I’m doing on stage; I must discover this for myself, for my own peace of mind.
To a certain extent, I can identify with Kirsten: an only child, raised around intellectuals, and so must vie for attention and to be taken seriously. Like Kirsten, I’ve witnessed my parents/step-parents fight. I’ve occationally felt neglected bythe adults around me. I’ve had to rely on myself for entertainment and sanity, and sometimes for meals. I’ve used my invisibility to glean information about my surroundings.
Though I have this intention for my time as Kirsten, and I have those quirks that allow me to identify with her, I can’t escape the idea that Wilson’s sole purpose for Kirsten is sympathy. I think that’s the reason she so often gets lost in the density of the show. My new objective is this: I want to imagine Kirsten’s world, beyond that which is seen on stage. If I can convince one member of the audience (who is unaffiliated to me) that I was there for a reason – bonus points if they can identify that reason – then I have done my job. Another manifestation of this dream is that someone from my acting class finds my interpretation rich enough to write their paper over my character.[…I might actually ask Kathleen if anyone does this once papers are written/turned in/graded.]
I will admit that my worst fear is that I will put in all of this work. All of this backstory. All of this investment. And I will still be lost onstage. I think that deep down, every actor fears this, but certain roles particularly lend themselves to realize such a fear.
I guess I’ll let you know how it goes…