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BWW Interview: Felicity Jones Latta of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at Winspear Opera House

BWW Interview: Felicity Jones Latta of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME at Winspear Opera House

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with FeliciTy Jones Latta, who is currently playing Judy (the mother) in the national tour of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. She was in Chicago getting ready for a packed day. "It's a two-show day and two of our castmates are doing a little holiday reading of A Child's Christmas in Wales at our dinner break, which is going to be so great. And then, we have a holiday party afterwards. It's going to be a pretty full day, but a pretty nice day!"

Name: FeliciTy Jones Latta

Hometown: "Our next stop is Hartford, CT - and I live in Connecticut! So, I am going home ahead of the company and I'll be staying at home this holiday week which is really a good stroke of luck for me."

Current Role: Judy in the national tour of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME


Jared West: Thank you for taking time to speak to me this morning. We are looking forward to having you and the cast of CURIOUS INCIDENT come to Dallas soon.

FeliciTy Jones Latta: "I've never been to Dallas, so I'm excited. I think the only place I've been to in Texas is San Antonio. It's a big state and I am not familiar with it at all. So, this is exciting and exotic for me!"

Jared: Growing up, what first inspired you to perform?

Felicity: "There are two things. My mother was a brilliant oral interpreter and she read to us. I think that's where it came from. She was so good, and she developed characters so fully in the stories that she read that it was just part of how I thought about things - that you can inhabit other characters and inhabit other characters' lives. My mother also took us to an amazing theatre company in Minneapolis called The Children's Theatre of Minneapolis. In my memory, it feels like we were going there every Sunday to see a show, but of course that couldn't have been true. It was a tiny little theatre right in the Minneapolis Institute of Art museum and they did such spectacular work that it also inspired me. I'm an identical twin and my sister and I would come home from those productions and we'd go through our little costume trunk which consisted of Mom's old slips and prom dresses and things and we would reenact whatever play that we had just seen. My sister usually took the "pants" roles, and I would play the girls."

Jared: Did you get your performing start there at The Children's Theatre of Minneapolis?

Felicity: "It was theatre by adults for children, but they did have a lot of children in the productions. Eventually, they had a school there. Minneapolis had something called the Urban Arts Program and public school kids could audition either for Minnesota Dance Theatre or Children's Theatre. They were allowed to go and attend classes at these arts institutions and get public school credit for it. I did that: I went to the Children's Theatre School when I was older. It extended the day until about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but we got extra school credit for it. Nothing like working with professionals when you're a kid and being thrown right in the mix! We were allowed to audition for the mainstage productions and, during the time that I was there, I maybe got into one every year that I was in school there."

Jared: I understand that you made your Broadway debut in the theatrical adaptation of Ovid's METAMORPHOSES. What else can you tell me about that experience?

Felicity: "I was introduced to Mary Zimmerman [playwright and director of METAMORPHOSES] in a production that she did in Chicago at the Goodman. It was THE ODYSSEY, an epic production, and I played Penelope. From that time on, she continued to call me to do projects. I did Shakespeare in the Park with her in New York and then METAMORPHOSES came up off-Broadway, and she invited me to do it. I already had a relationship with Mary - and Mary is someone who works the same people, if she can, over and over again. Whenever I would do a production with Mary, it was like a company, because I already knew most of the people that were in the production. [CURIOUS INCIDENT] is like that, too. It's an ensemble piece where we're all working together. We're all very close. It's a different experience as an actor to work that way - and it's the way that I prefer. But, it's also a different experience for the audience to see something where a group of actors is so tight and working together completely, working for one goal. We're using our bodies and there is a kind of a childish, playful creativity in the telling of it where these bodies in space can create space travel, or they create the street where Christopher [the main character in CURIOUS INCIDENT] lives. Mary's work was similar to that. It was a different aesthetic, but the same kind of technique of really putting the performer in the forefront to make it happen. I say that about CURIOUS INCIDENT a lot. It's got a lot of tech in it. It's a spectacular technical show: the lights, the projections, the sounds. It's spectacular. But, the real magic is the people. In the rehearsal room, I would watch this without the tech and I would be moved every day, even when I knew what was coming. The magic is really the people who are doing it.

Jared: Speaking of CURIOUS INCIDENT, how did you first get involved in this production?

Felicity: "My agent called me. It's funny. I live in the country, pretty far away from New York, and I have children - and I prioritize my children. So, I'm a mom. Very often, my agent sends me emails with the subject line "I think I know the answer to this, but..." meaning that I would say no, I'm not interested. [In this case,] he assumed that I would say no to the idea of going on tour for a year. I hadn't seen the show, but I had heard about it. I looked into it and it looked really interesting. So, I said, sure, I'll audition for it. I didn't really think that I'd have much of a chance, to be honest. But, I did three auditions. Two acting auditions and then there was a movement audition where I was brought into a room with five other people - two of those people who were in that room are also in this cast! It was very nice. It was a challenging audition, but it was nice to already be laughing and joking and sweating with people, because that is the dynamic of this show.

Jared: Although CURIOUS INCIDENT was a best-selling novel when it was released, there are still many theatre goers who are not familiar with it. For anyone who hasn't seen it, how would you describe the show?

Felicity: "It's the story of an extraordinary boy who, in spite of being told not to put his nose into other people's business, finds something that he needs to figure out and he goes investigating. It starts as a detective story. As he tries to solve the first mystery, he discovers other mysteries about himself and his family that he proceeds to try to solve. That's sort of what happens in the play, but what's cool about the play is that it's a retelling in this boy's words of his own story. The other people on the stage are like his brain microbes and he gets to make them do what he wants to tell the story that he wants to tell. It's like getting a front row seat inside his brain. The other thing about him is that he has social issues and is very sensitive to external stimuli. Because the audience is inside his brain, the audience is going to feel what he feels like when those stimuli are affecting him. So, it's a sensory experience for the audience, as well as being a hilarious story with spectacular almost circus-like moments in it. And, after I say all that, it's ultimately a story about a family. It's very hard to encapsulate this show."

Jared: As you mention, Christopher, the son of your character in the show, has some social issues and sees the world in a way that most people do not. How did the cast come together to approach this topic?

Felicity: "We went to a school in the Bronx and talked to people like Christopher. In spite of all the research you do, every character is just an individual. We have two Christophers [on tour]: the "regular" Christopher and an alternate, because it's such a taxing role that they can't do eight shows a week. The two Christophers are completely different: their approach, their mannerisms. Completely different. It just shows how much room there is for interpretation and for creation for the actor."

Jared: How do you approach your own character who, without giving anything away, makes some life choices that people may judge?

Felicity: "I'm a mom - so, I know what it feels like to be a mom who sometimes doesn't feel very good at what she does. So, even though Judy is having these extraordinary circumstances, I completely relate and I can completely apply my experiences as a mom to this character and I understand where she's coming from. Hopefully I wouldn't make the mistakes she makes, but I understand what drives her to do the things she does. That's what's beautiful about the play: it's really about people. People who are extraordinary in some ways, but people are people. I think that the audience will respond in some ways and see things they recognize. Both of these parents are flawed. It's about a family that's having a little bit of trouble. To varying degrees, I think that all families have a little bit of trouble sometimes."

Jared: Having seen the show on Broadway, I know that the show can be an emotional rollercoaster. How do you find the emotional stamina to do this show eight times a week?

Felicity: "We're having our 100th performance today. Eight shows a week! For me, my role is more emotional gymnastics. The vignettes are so short. One minute you're screaming and the next minute you're quiet and calm. So, in a way, it's more about being conditioned to be right there at the moment, which is nice because your preparation for the show isn't to already be in a heightened state. Your preparation is to be "empty" because you really are a player in Christopher's story. When he wants you to be mad, you're going to be mad. When he wants you to be nice and smiley, you're going to be nice and smiley because that's what he wants. It sort of takes the pressure off you, as an actor. There isn't a steady arc for Judy. It's really just popping in and out when required and that requires a different kind of prep than a more traditionally-structured play."

Jared: What would you say is the biggest takeaway from CURIOUS INCIDENT?

Felicity: "One of the things that I think is so important with this play right now is that we're constantly exposed to people who are different than we are. Sometimes we can be sympathetic. Sometimes we don't like it. But, it's rare that we can really empathize. It's rare that we can really look at someone who is different and really understand where they're coming from. I think that this play gives the audience that opportunity that they might be able to take it out into the world to look at people and say, "What am I not seeing and how can I give this person a little bit more benefit of the doubt or compassion because I don't understand, but maybe they deserve to be understood?" I think in these days, as a nation, we're not doing very well at understanding each other. I feel good about bringing this kind of message out at this time."

Jared: When your relationship with the show eventually comes to an end, are there any onstage or offstage opportunities you might seek out?

Felicity: "I actually teach Creativity at the University of Hartford and I was very sorry to let that go to do this tour because I love it so very much. So, hopefully I will go back to that. It's a very part-time thing. I obviously will want to be home for a while. And then, I will just go back to jobbing as an actress. More plays!"

Jared: Do you ever do musicals?

Felicity: "I do not do musicals. The only musical I ever did was a production of THE FANTASTICS and I played The Mute because I don't sing!"

Jared: Are there any dream roles that, if the opportunity presented itself, you would jump at the chance?

Felicity: "There used to be. As you get older, part of it is that you grow too old to play your dream roles - I am at that point right now. But, I always think that my dream roles haven't been written yet. I just love doing new work and actually working with playwrights in the room. If Virginia Woolf happened, [I would want to be part of that]. I did a production of The Homecoming by Harold Pinter which was really an amazing experience for me and I would do Pinter again in a heartbeat. There are playwrights that I would go for. Not necessarily roles. I don't think of things that way anymore."

Jared: Thank you for talking with me this morning!

Felicity: "It's been a really nice time talking to you. Thank you very much and see you soon!"

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