BWW Feature: The Cast of INTIMATE APPAREL at Everyman Theatre Chats about Strength and Resilience
Everyman Theatre's production of INTIMATE APPAREL has been gaining rave reviews over the past few weeks. Their production of the Lynn Nottage work is not only wonderful, but also beautifully performed by a small cast of extremely talented actors. Dawn Ursula, who plays Esther, the character whom the play revolves around, gives a powerhouse performance. She's run through a gamut of emotions throughout the show and she performs them all flawlessly.
After seeing her performance on Thursday, I was excited to chat with her and the cast to see exactly what went into producing this work. One of the first things I learned, was that the ending in my head was a bit different than the ending that was in the heads of the cast and other audience members. In short, I interpreted one thing when something entirely different had occurred. The cast noted that this particular stage direction was explicitly called out in Nottage's script. However, the cast didn't believe it meant what I thought it had. (No spoilers here!) The same goes for a few of the audience members. I had no idea it could have been interpreted another way until an audience member explained what he had seen in those last few powerful moments. That's the power of theatre I suppose - it never fails to touch people in a myriad of different ways.
The ways in which these productions are able to reach audiences is an important topic of conversation at Everyman's Talk Backs. What I enjoy most during these Cast Conversations is that Brian Francoise, the Talk Back moderator, always begins the chat with the same question: What was meaningful in the production? This question is a great start to a powerful conversation about the work the audience has just witnessed. It's a wonderful jumping off point about the power of the production and the work of the cast. This question really illustrates just how differently certain productions are interpreted by each person that witnesses them.
In the case of INTIMATE APPAREL, an overarching theme of the power of touch was felt by many in the audience. Throughout the show, the characters use touch as a way of showing intimacy, while others restrain from touch due to religion or fear. It's a compelling way to display the power dynamics within character relationships.
Another meaningful aspect to this show is the topic of resiliency and strength. Dawn Ursula feels strongly that Esther is a strong woman. Even if certain actions don't appear that way in the moment, Esther always has reasons for them. These reasons are logical in her mind and guide her through life. One of the most heartbreaking scenes in the work entails Esther giving away her entire life savings. The decision is shocking and hard to watch. Because of this, the audience had many questions, most of which being "Why? Why would she do this?" Ursula explained it in a way that really made sense to me. She said "George has a plan and that idea gets to Esther." In other words, Esther believes that George's desire for the money comes with a logical plan that includes her. As a planner herself, that idea really sticks with Esther. It's a brilliant way to look at this terribly difficult decision which makes this moment in the play a little easier to handle.
As with all good Talk Backs, we also had the chance to chat with the actors about their work and how they went about attacking the play. As it should have been, the actors Bueka Uwemedimo & Drew Kopas were given kudos for their excellent dialect work. Both actors were able to perform almost flawlessly using intricate accents. Jade Wheeler was also commended for her musical work in the piece. Not only did she act in the play, but she also sang and played the piano. She mentioned during the conversation that she's been singing and dancing since she was in middle school, but this was the first time she was given the chance to play the piano. She learned a few of the pieces in the show, and this has given her the drive to learn more about playing the instrument.
As you can see, this is truly a cast of many talents. It was an honor just to chat with them for a few minutes to hear their stories and their processes. And if you'd like even more evidence of their talent, you need only know this. The evening ended a wee bit early to allow two of the actors in the cast - Dawn Ursula & Beth Hylton - a chance to get some rest because they were due to start rehearsals for Everyman's production of THE REVOLUTIONISTS the following morning, while still appearing in INTIMATE APPAREL for two more weeks. If that's not dedication to the craft, I'm not sure what is.