Quotidian Theatre Company presents the US premiere of Conor McPherson’s The Veil, opening July 18. Chelsea Mayo plays the role of Hannah Lambroke in the production.
Before I auditioned for The Veil, I read a review that described it as being like a Chekhov play but with ghosts. Nina in The Seagull is still one of my favorite roles that I’ve ever played, so I was intrigued before I’d even read the script. I was drawn to the eerie setting (I’ve never done a show set in a haunted house before), I was drawn to the character’s troubled past (you’ll find out early in the play that Hannah’s childhood was not a carefree one), and I was drawn to the gaps in McPherson’s story. He shares enough information to create distinctive, believable characters, but he hints at certain events and leaves others entirely to our imaginations. An actor always has character choices to make, but The Veil presented me with several exciting challenges that I hadn’t encountered before.
Most of my work in DC over the past few years has been Shakespeare, and I’m one of those actors who believes that all of the clues to playing his stories are in the text. Of course, there is still a lot of work involved in unpacking that text, but I trust that all of the information I need is there and I’ve just got to find it. Working on McPherson is different – I’ve found myself creating quite a bit of Hannah’s backstory, staying true to what McPherson outlined for us but taking liberties within the outline. One of the aspects I’ve loved most about working with this company is discussing our many opinions about how and why our characters do what they do. That questioning is always part of making theatre, but this process has been especially collaborative. I’m the only actor in the cast who is new to Quotidian, and I think the trust and familiarity they’ve developed over the years has been very helpful in shaping complex, believable characters and relationships.
A haunted estate in rural 1822 Ireland is such a specific setting, and one that is very far removed from contemporary DC. In exploring Hannah’s character, I started reading Jane Eyre to hear the voice of another Gothic heroine. While discussing the séance with Stephanie, she mentioned Ophelia’s mad scene, which inspired me to look at film versions of Hamlet. Another friend suggested I watch Penny Dreadful. Of course, we never want the audience to be wondering how or where we found our inspiration while they’re watching the performance, but I do think that the breadth of materials we’ve all researched will allow us to tell McPherson’s story more fully and more clearly.
The Veil is truly an ensemble drama, and even the most unsympathetic characters in this story have at least a moment or two when I can’t help but feel for them. I’m excited for the audience to discover those moments; maybe they’ll agree with me and find they can connect with a character whom they couldn’t understand before, or maybe they won’t, and they’ll leave the theater still wondering how certain characters could be so self-motivated. Either outcome is positive, I think. As director Jack Sbarbori told us in one rehearsal, it’s all right for there to be some mysteries.
Quotidian Theatre Company presents the U.S. premiere production of
by Conor McPherson
July 18 – August 17, 2014
The New York Times calls Conor McPherson “the finest playwright of his generation”. Set in a haunted mansion in rural Ireland in 1822, surrounded by a restive, starving populace, The Veil weaves Ireland’s troubled colonial history into a transfixing story about the search for love, the transcendental, and the circularity of time.
Featuring Christine Alexander, Michael Avolio, Jane Squier Bruns, John Decker, Steve LaRocque, Chelsea Mayo, Stephanie Mumford, and Michele Osherow. Directed by Jack Sbarbori.
All performances are held at The Writer’s Center: 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD. The venue is a short walk from the Bethesda Metro Station. There is free parking on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tickets are $30, or $25 for seniors and students, and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets.
Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, with one additional 2pm performance on Saturday, August 16.
Subscribers, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-816-1023 for reservations.