Remembering TIME REMEMBERED: Interviews with the IRC cast

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium absurd production of Jean Anouith’s TIME REMEMBERED runs at Walnut Street Theatre Independence Studio on 5 through March 5 (read the Phindie review). Henrik Eger talked to the cast about the production.

[Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5, 825 Walnut Street] February 6-March 4, 2018; idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org

Ashton Carter as Prince Albert, Paul McElwee as Bee #1 and 2, and Katherine Perry as Amanda the Milliner. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Ashton Carter as Prince Albert, Paul McElwee as Bee #1 and 2, and Katherine Perry as Amanda the Milliner. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Given the Alice in Wonderland nature of this play, certainly in this production, could you provide an example of a surreal experience from your own life?

Bob Schmidt: Because it was previously scheduled, unfortunately, we were in the theater doing tech and dress rehearsal for the show during the Super Bowl. We finished late in the 4th quarter, and while driving home, just as the game finished, a very large shirtless man ran across the street screaming at the top of his lungs, and as I continued home, amongst the random cries of jubilation, I was bombarded by fireworks—literally right on top of my car—on I-95. As I drove through Fishtown, I had to negotiate through crowds of people, spent fireworks boxes ,and empty beer cases to get home. Very surreal, wonderful, and delightful.

Tina Brock: I actually had a panic attack on stage at the second preview for this show. The whole affair started off innocently enough – a technical problem that necessitated my running to the tech booth, alerting them to the situation. From there, since I already wasn’t breathing right, what started as normal preshow anxiety developed into a full blown attack with a rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness, weak knees, and racing thoughts.

From within, looking out on the world, the feeling resembled Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: a distortion of sound, light, and color. As the play got going, I was able to breathe again and regain my center—but it was a rough first five minutes.

Corinna Burns: My life currently is a surreal semi-nightmare of too many jobs, not enough sleep, and probably more alcohol than is good for my liver, much like my mash-up of characters in Time Remembered.

Katherine Perry: I think anyone who steps into a new environment can relate to the rabbit-hole moments that Amanda experiences in the show. She encounters a world that seemingly makes no sense and is asked to perform a role she can’t see herself in.

Ashton Carter, Paul McElwee, Katherine Perry, Thomas-Robert Irvin (on saxophone) and Corinna Burns as The Singer. Photo by Joanna Austin.

Ashton Carter, Paul McElwee, Katherine Perry, Thomas-Robert Irvin (on saxophone) and Corinna Burns as The Singer. Photo by Joanna Austin.

Which lines from your part/s do you feel best illustrate the essence of your character/s?

Ashton Carter: “You cannot dispute that people are prejudiced against a man like me….It may surprise you when I tell you that it is just as difficult for a man in my position to convince people that he is not a fool, as it would be for the scion of a long line of village idiots.”  This is when you get a good glimpse at Albert with his guard down. The audience finds out that despite the persona he has displayed, he is insecure and has trained himself to not care about what others think of him.

Bob Schmidt: At the end of the play, Hector finally speaks up—probably for the first time in his life—and assuredly says, “Do you know something? I’m, I’m not sorry we’ve killed her.” It’s a bold statement, and signals that what’s happened in the play has far reaching impact for all of the characters.

Tina Brock: “Alas, I am no dancer; when I was a girl I was as light as a thistle down on my feet. Thirty years of waltzing with the poor duke proved too much for my delicate talent. A pity, but there it is.”  

The Duchess, in the final act of her life, and somewhat world-weary after living so many years, is searching for zest and meaning. Willing to play a “ridiculously unsuitable role,” she creates the circumstances where her nephew can “be stung into feeling by something alive” again. Her money and power cannot ease her life’s biggest dilemma—not having a child of her own to love—so she does everything she can to see her nephew happy again.

Corinna Burns: My favorite moment, which kind of sums up the experience of the supporting characters, who all work to maintain an illusion for Prince Albert, is when I finish singing at the Blue Danube, emotional and broken-hearted, and then see the Prince is asleep. The shift is over for the night. The mask falls away and I hustle myself off stage.

Katherine Perry: Amanda has gusto and is incredibly funny, but she doesn’t quite know it.

Bob Schmidt as Lord Hector, Tina Brock as The Duchess in TIME REMEMBERED. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Bob Schmidt as Lord Hector, Tina Brock as The Duchess in TIME REMEMBERED. Photo by Johanna Austin.

What skills as an actor did you bring to this show?

Ashton Carter: I take great joy in absurd physicality. There are a few times throughout the show where I get to physically embody annoying townspeople and acquaintances. Also, I get to tumble across the floor twice! I love performing a good floor tumble.

Katherine Perry: I grew up in musical theatre and took many a dance class as a teen, which came in handy when we began to build the top of Act 2.

Bob Schmidt: One of my strengths (I think), is my ability to be in the moment, so it was delightful to be a supporting character, and to not have to worry about lines and just be present and support the play and other actors.

Tina Brock: It helps to be a little zany to begin with in tackling The Duchess. The road traveled to reach her is then not quite as far. So much of that quality I think is inherent to who you are as a person, the way you see the world.

Corinna Burns: I always try to bring the skill of having fun in rehearsal! After all, it’s not called a play for nothing!

Describe your work with director Jack Tamburri.

Bob Schmidt: It’s silly, but I happened to be snacking on a pretzel rod as I entered for one of the scenes. Jack said it was a great choice, and that it said volumes about Lord Hector, so we kept it in the performance and added an additional entrance with him eating as well. Hector is basically in charge of everything nobility-wise, so he pretty much has the power to do whatever he wants, but he chooses to acquiesce to The Duchess.

Ashton Carter: In one particular rehearsal, Jack worked with Katherine (Amanda) and me on developing our “lucid bodies.” In the exercise, we explored the “shadows and personas” of our characters. I found it to be a brilliant way of discovering how our characters really felt and how they chose to mask those feelings and present safer emotions. As a result, I was constantly aware of Albert’s shadow and persona during each performance.

Corinna Burns: Jack is super smart—who else uses the word “louche” in rehearsal?—and very good at hearing and incorporating your ideas, while remaining true to his own vision, which I always appreciate in a director. He also works to figure out an actor’s particular vocabulary or way of working and to use that language to help the actor find their way.

Tina Brock: Rehearsing The Duchess’s monologue about her nephew’s loss, Jack and I worked on the balance between moving the narrative forward and modulating her depth of feeling and how much that feeling should manifest in the playing. In the first run of it, I didn’t sculpt the moments of feeling specifically. On the second pass, we refined the process. It reminded me of a sculpting class I once took—first cuts in the block of clay are wide paths with a duller tool, the next pass is more refined using a sharper edge.

Katherine Perry: This is the second time I’ve worked as an actor with Jack at the helm. I appreciate his willingness to play and discover in the rehearsal room.

Paul McElsee as The Ice Cream Man, Katherine Perry as Amanda, Thomas-Robert Irvin as The Taxi Driver in TIME REMEMBERED. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Paul McElsee as The Ice Cream Man, Katherine Perry as Amanda, Thomas-Robert Irvin as The Taxi Driver in TIME REMEMBERED. Photo by Johanna Austin.

Is there anything else which you would like to share?

Bob Schmidt: After the first reading, I thought the play was fun, but didn’t think there was a whole lot of depth to it. It was really interesting to uncover how complicated, interwoven, and timeless it was during rehearsal.

Tina Brock: I love the beauty of Anouilh’s message through the Duchess’ actions: how wonderful it is to love someone as much as The Duchess loves her nephew, and her pain of not being able to take away his loss, and the lengths she will go to save him. There is a joy in being that devoted to a person and a cause.

Katherine Perry: Come see it!

Time Remembered (Leocadia) By Jean Anouilh, adapted by Patricia Moyes, and directed by Jack Tamburri for the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium (IRC). Studio 5, Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, (215) 285-0472 or www.idiopathicridiculopathyconsortium.org through March 4, 2018.

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About the author

Henrik Eger

HENRIK EGER, editor of Drama Around the Globe. Bilingual playwright, author of Metronome Ticking. Born and raised in Germany. Ph.D. in English, University of Illinois, Chicago. German translator of Martin Luther King, Jr’s Nobel Peace Prize mail. Producer-director: Multilingual Shakespeare, London. Retired professor of English and Communication who taught in six countries on three continents, including four universities and one college in the U.S. Author of four college text books. Longtime Philadelphia theatre correspondent for AAJT, the world’s largest Jewish theatre website. Articles published in Classical Voice, Los Angeles; Kayhan International, Tehran, Iran; Indian Express, Mumbai, India; The Jewish Forward, New York; Philadelphia Jewish Voice, Phindie, and Broad Street Review, Philadelphia; The Mennonite, Tucson; and New Jersey Stage. Contact: HenrikEger@gmail.com