DEBUT OF THE MONTH: MERCHANT's Heather Lind
Each month, Broadway World is shining the spotlight on stage actors making their Broadway debut as part of our "Debut of the Month" series.
This month, Broadway World is showcasing actor Heather Lind, who is reprising her role as Shylock's daughter, Jessica, in The Merchant of Venice. She previously took on this role when she was cast in the Shakespeare in the Park production this summer. Lind graduated in 2005 with a B.A. in Theatre Performance & Philosophy from Fordham College at Lincoln Center and received an M.F.A from NYU earlier this year.
Entertainment Reporter Nick Orlando spoke with Lind about the production and what it's like to work alongside Al Pacino.
This is some way to make your Broadway debut. Congratulations on all of the success. You graduated earlier this year from NYU and then you land this role?
Thank you so much! The timeline is very interesting. I auditioned for Shakespeare in the Park while in school, this was back in mid-March. I started rehearsals on my birthday. I was able to finish school, but I had to adjust my schedule. I did The Merchant of Venice and The Winter's Tale over the summer and then we had about a month and a half break before the transfer to Broadway. I'm really lucky.
Are you star struck?
Of course! I remember the first day I saw Al come into the rehearsal studios. I was star struck for about ten minutes. He is so generous. I was in awe of everyone's talent and experience. Everyone was really welcoming.
Did you know of this play prior to your audition?
I have never seen a production of it. I read the play in school, but had to re-read it for my role. I didn't know it well prior. Jessica does not speak much, so we didn't know much about her.
Since Al Pacino was already familiar with the play (he played the role of Shylock in the 2004 film version), did the cast rely on him for his interpretation?
That's interesting. He brought a lot of work to the table in the beginning, but he was open to learning this interpretation. He is always open to new ideas, but he did come in with ideas of what this man, Shylock, is about. Also, when we did the transfer to Broadway, he was very involved with rehearsals again. It is admirable. He never settled on anything. It's remarkable. I learned a lot.
How would you describe your character, Jessica?
I'm a 16 year old rebel inside. My mom is no longer alive. It's me and my father against the world. I want to experience the world. I don't want to end up like my father. He is bitter and has reasons for it. I have to live with the repercussions of abandoning my family and neglecting my culture. It's bittersweet what happens to Jessica. Love is complicated. I think of different aspects of it every night.
Has much changed from Central Park to Broadway?
The stage got really small, it shrunk. We had to recast some people. It was an interesting challenge. Dan Sullivan was looking, in a more detailed way, at certain elements. We refined certain details.
What have you learned from working with Al?
His curiosities are inspiring. He is an artist. He is not what probably everyone thinks he is - a mega star or diva. He is always trying to explore things more deeply. It's great to know him better as a human being.
And from your director, Daniel Sullivan?
Dan is one of the smartest men I have ever met. He is soft spoken and I couldn't tell how things were going in the beginning! He never put any pressure on me. He is patient. Dan knows how to make a story come to life. I have nothing but respect and gratitude towards him.
Have you seen any celebrities in the audience?
Yes! It is a life changing experience. Meryl Streep came over the summer to see the show and spoke with me. Barbra Streisand came the other day. It was surreal. I was so giddy when I saw her. James Earl Jones came as well. The audiences are always filled with interesting and enthusiastic people, celebrities and non-celebrities.
Are there talks about a possible extension?
There are talks. I don't know what the final decision is yet.
What type of jobs were you doing while auditioning?
When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, I was waitressing, worked as a nanny, and was teaching over the summer. I did this for about a year.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
I feel like I am still one. Try hard not to be misdirected. Be cautious about projects you don't believe in; participate in the projects you do believe in. I've been in auditions and I do well, but there is something that doesn't feel gratuitous, or feels cheap. My agents have helped me with when to object; when it's not in my soul or it's not my art.
Do you remember the first Broadway show you saw?
On the Town - I was 16 years old. It was one of the first times I've been to New York. We were in the nosebleeds; all of the actors looked so tiny. It was something really magical, so energetic. I knew I wanted to be here and do this.
What are your favorite things about New York City during the holiday season?
I love the Christmas markets - the vendors, Christmas music is playing, drinking hot chocolate. I love walking through them, but I don't usually buy much. I also love the storefront. Christmas is my favorite time of year.
I'm auditioning for another project. I am also considering spending time in Los Angeles, where I've never worked before.
Hobbies / Special Skills:
I grew up dancing. My mom was a dancer and I did it until I was 18 years old. I am also a writer.
Guilderland, NY. It is right outside of Albany.
The Merchant of Venice is playing The Broadhurst Theatre (235 W. 44th Street) through January 9, 2011. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.merchantonbroadway.com or www.telecharge.com.