September’s “Actor Stealing the Spotlight” (ASS)
Hiya! Welcome to a regular feature at TBO. Every month we highlight an Actor who is currently Stealing the Spotlight (or, the ASS). This is someone from our community who particularly stood out for their performance or body of work the previous month (obviously from the shows that we actually reviewed). We think it’s fun to shine some light on those who continue to make the Baltimore theater scene just fucking great.
AND THE ASS FOR SEPTEMBER 2014 GOES TO:
Stillpointe’s Vanishing Point really blew our minds in September. The ensemble was fan-fucking-tastic. One of the hardest things we’ve ever done is to try to pick a favorite of the three ladies who starred: Zoe Kanter , Nina Kauffman and Ines Nassara. They were all irrationally good, but it was Zoe who especially stood out to us with her comic, intense, lilting, half-cray take on famed mystery penwoman Agatha Christie. Here’s what we said about her in the review:
Zoe Kanter used a delicate touch of whimsy, a consistent British accent, and subtle intonation to breathe life into her wordsmith [It took a second, but I finally realized that I saw Kanter in Stillpointe’s Sweeney Todd as a crazy feral Joanna and I LOVED her in it. Loved her here, too! – TBO].
I scammed Zoe into an interview, so here’s what she said.
Zoe! How’s it going? What are you doing right now?
Hi! It was my friend’s birthday yesterday and we had a bonfire, so everyone got up late and made breakfast. I’m hanging out on the porch right now.
What do you do for your day job? To make money, I mean?
I teach voice lessons at different places – I’m a grad student, I’m still in school getting my masters in vocal performance, so that’s lots of hours. I also sing at churches and synagogues on the weekends.
Fun! Before we get into Vanishing Point, I really have to tell you that I LOVED you as Johanna in Sweeney Todd this spring. I always wanted to ask you what possessed you to play her like that – so weird and great.
Thanks! When I got cast as Johanna I thought, “Oh, I haaaaaaate this character. God-awful, poorly written, with the most boring song on the planet.” My goal during the whole process was to make her likable or different in some way. I had to delve into the similarities between Joanna and myself. I realized that you do really feel bad for her – she’s so sheltered, so used to getting everything she wants. I really found it in her relationship with Anthony, the way she bosses him around, kind of a little bitch. I mean, he’s this guy that’ll do anything for her and she’s so bossy, prissy.
Okay, so, what made you want to get involved with Vanishing Point? You’re a company member at Stillpointe, aren’t you?
Yeah, I’ve been with Stillpointe a while and I’ve worked with Rob Hartmann [the playwright] before. He gave us a bunch of things to look at and we got to choose which one we wanted to do. Vanishing Point sounded so interesting and with our season’s theme “Well-behaved women rarely make history” it seemed to really fit. Also, it was a small cast, which was good, a big cast can be such a scheduling nightmare. And our next show is Caroline or Change and that’s going to be a big cast. And then there was the prospect of working with Ines and Nina. We’re already close friends. I’ve never done something like this either, usually I play the role with the most singing, you know. I’m not used to all of this patter. I had to push. Ryan [Haase, director] pushed us all really hard, but he was incredible. I know everybody feels that way.
How did you get into character? Did you have to, like, read a lot of mystery novels?
You know, everybody always thinks of Agatha Christie as an old lady . One of the first things Ryan told me was “No, this is when she’s younger.” She’s so interesting, historically, but the show was kind of a fantasy in a lot of ways, kind of sci-fi. So there was room to make up some of your own interpretation of the characters. I knew she was kind of a dreamer, she believed that her mother was clairvoyant, for instance. And she fell in love with her husband right away. Rob also wrote her to be kind of neurotic, which I’m not sure if she really was so neurotic and insecure at the beginning of her career or not. It was a combination of historical fact, Rob’s writing and my interpretation.
How was working with Ines and Nina? You were all so intertwined!
Oh, my gosh. We were already close and we got so much closer in the process of doing this. There was so much trust. The show moves so quickly, there’s barely time to think, let alone to mess up. You have to keep going. We had each other’s backs, it was like a security net. We’ve been laughing about it, how we’re so much closer with each other now, and closer with Ryan. We had to get pretty vulnerable, too. We related so much to these women.
And working with Ryan?
He’s incredible. I’ve never met anyone like him before. Everything we did, he wanted to see, like, ten more ways of doing it. We had all of these characters, all the different reporters, people, family, and he was like “Do it again. Now, can you be fat, old, young, male? Do it again.” But there was so much freedom, too. He didn’t micro-manage us. In fact, he would let us work through the whole scene, make up all of the blocking, and then he would come in a tweak it. And we knew if we went too far, he’d pull us back.
The show seemed pretty difficult to sing. We loved your tea song. Of course, everyone loves a good “murder your husband” song, right?
The hardest part really was the amount of words. Trying to articulate everything and having the accent – it moved really quickly. I had to plan out my breath, there were parts where there was almost no time to breathe. It was tiring, the patter, the tongue twisters. There’s not as much projection, when you’re talking over like that, and I had to make sure I could actually be heard above the music.
So, where do you think Amelia Earhart went?
Oh, man. I don’t know. I would really hate to think she crashed and passed away and no one ever found her. In the show, it’s different, in the play…I don’t know, it’s not about where she literally went. It’s more about her coming to the end of her journey, wrapping up her story as a woman and as a pilot.
Wanna talk some shit about anyone in the cast or crew and have it attached to your name forever on the internet?
I have literally nothing to say. I’ve been in a lot of shows where I was like “This is an okay production.” or “This is a good production with a couple of weak links.” This was the first time I invited all of my friends, colleagues, everyone to come see this. I was so proud. I got to work with my best friends, Nina, Ines, Ryan. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Who is the best actor in Baltimore?
Hmmm…tricky. Let me think. I guess it really depends on the genre. Is that not fair? Oh, she’ll be so mad, but I really love Ines. She blows me away, her control of her voice, her resonance I loved hearing her on stage. Amanda Rice, who’s in Electric Pharaoh right now –
Oh, yeah, I just saw that last night!
Did you? Was it good? I’m going next week.
You’ll have to read the review.
I will! But Amanda Rice is great. Also my voice teacher, Ah Young Hong, is just incredible. I just heard her sing a Mozart mass concert. Unbelievable.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m doing a lot of classical stuff. As much as I love the musical theater, I am in school, so I thought I should do some of that. I’m doing Handel’s Messiah with Concert Artists of Baltimore and the Towson University opera symposium. The cast from Next to Normal, at Centerstage, recently came to see the show and there’s been some talk about a collaboration with them, but we’ll see.
Want to say anything to the community at large?
Baltimore is a beautiful city with a lot of potential. A lot of twenty somethings and thirty somethings who are building it up out of nothing. What I love about Baltimore is that it’s not really d0g-eat-dog, there’s a lot of help within the community. Single Carrot, Stillpointe, the BROS – everyone supports each other. I’d say keep supporting one another and doing important work in a city that needs it.
Got someone you’d like to nominate for next month’s ASS? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.