BWW Interview: Margaret Odette On Her Quest To Being A Fierce Badass in REVENGE SONG
Qui Nguyen's REVENGE SONG: A VAMPIRE COWBOYS CREATION will receive its world premiere at The Geffen Playhouse opening February 13, 2020 (with previews beginning February 4). Nguyen's musical, historical comedy centers on real-life 17th century opera singer/swordswoman/lesbian Julie D'Aubigny and her road towards self-discovery and acceptance. Under Robert Ross Parker's direction, the REVENGE SONG cast includes: Noshir Dalal, Beth Hawkes, Tom Myers, Amy Kim Waschke, Eugene Young, and Margaret Odette in the pivotal role of Julie D'Aubigny. I had the chance to query Margaret on her path towards becoming Julie D'Aubigny.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Margaret!
Tell us about the first time you worked with Qui Nguyen and his Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company. SHE KILLS MONSTERS at The Flea in 2011, right?
SHE KILLS MONSTERS was one of my first professional acting experiences. I auditioned to be a Bat-the non-equity resident acting company of The Flea. I didn't realize it at the time, but my callback for the company was actually my audition for Qui's play and, by extension, the Vampire Cowboys! We were cast as an ensemble without a script, so we workshopped various ideas and scenes for several days, then Qui went away for a few weeks and wrote us this epic tale.
Working on a new play of that style and scale was transformative for me. I learned how to use my body in wholly new ways, it cemented my love of developing original work, and I gained a vast community of talented collaborators that I continue to navigate this industry with.
Was Qui knowing your work a factor in landing you the role of Julie d'Aubigny? Or did you have to go through a series of auditions?
Absolutely! We stayed in touch post-SHE KILLS MONSTERS, and reconnected in earnest during my first year of grad school at NYU Tisch. At the time, Qui was writing an original piece for the third year class, and I was assigned to be part of his run-crew for that project. Once I finished my MFA, we began working together again; and in the summer of 2019, the VC team brought me in to workshop REVENGE SONG at The Orchard Project. I'd say that week and a half living with the VC team to further develop REVENGE SONG was my unofficial audition, because if I sucked or the vibe was off, there's no way I'd be hanging out at The Geffen with them now!
What would your three-line pitch of REVENGE SONG: A VAMPIRE COWBOYS CREATION be?
I'll give you three words: Fierce. Fun. Revolutionary.
If you were to submit Julie on an online dating app, what qualities of hers would you list?
Loyal, know my way around a rapier and dagger, wicked charming, killer hair!
What flaws would you finesse or neglect to add in her description?
Difficulty being vulnerable, but willing to go there if I can trust my heart will be safe.
You received your MFA at NYU Tisch Grad Acting and trained at the British American Dramatic Academy in Oxford, England. How would you compare and contrast the learning communities of the two?
My time at Grad Acting and BADA were both so tremendous. I was awarded a full scholarship to attend BADA as a result of my training at NYU Tisch, so I quite literally couldn't have experienced one without the other! Each program has a phenomenal capacity to attract some of the sharpest artistic minds to train its students, and both cultivate a culture of rigorous, thoughtful play.
The greatest difference for me was living in a major metropolitan city versus a smaller, more traditional campus. At BADA, the whole school ate prepared meals together at Magdalene's dining hall (of Harry Potter fame), and we lived within a 5-minute walk from one another, so it afforded us time for extracurricular adventures and mischief that's a little harder to do when you've got a 1-2 hour daily commute to consider.
In an alternate universe, under what circumstances, would you find these characters you've played (Julie d'Aubigny, IN THE NEXT ROOM's Elizabeth and Hero in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING) interacting together? A weekend swap meet? A trendy neighborhood bar? At the opera?
I think they charter a yacht and enjoy an epic girl's trip together! Tulum for lush beachside relaxation and self-care, Costa Rica for some ziplining and volcano action, Brazil for the parties, and round it all off on a remote oasis like Fiji or Bora Bora.
I love reading the skills section in an actor's resume. Your 'other' skills include 12" stilts, school bus operator, puppetry, stage combat. Have you had the opportunity to put any of these skills to use on the theatrical boards?
I pretty much only list skills after I've successfully performed them on stage or screen... and let's just say, a decent portion of mine may creep their way into REVENGE SONG!
What can the Geffen audience look forward to seeing from your Julie d'Aubigny?
I'm excited for audiences to see this play and learn Julie d'Aubigny's name, because I don't think many people know it. The historic record is so patriarchal, and recreation of figures from history can often be very rigid. Our play takes inspiration from what we know of Julie's life, and channels it into a hero's journey of self acceptance and finding one's tribe, all while making women of color central to that narrative. In a word, it's badass, and I hope people leave knowing Julie was just that.
Thank you again, Margaret! I look forward to experiencing your Julie d'Aubigny.
For ticket availability and show schedule through March 8, 2020; log onto www.geffenplayhouse.org