Interview: Chatting with Carman Lacivita of EMMA at Guthrie Theater

This production runs June 24 through August 21.

By: Jun. 21, 2022

Interview: Chatting with Carman Lacivita of EMMA at Guthrie Theater Emma Woodhouse prides herself on being a matchmaker with an impeccable track record, much to the chagrin of her dear friend Mr. Knightley. Her latest scheme revolves around the sweet Harriet Smith, whom Emma advises to reject a perfectly good marriage proposal in favor of another eligible bachelor. However, her best-laid plans are turned upside down by unpredictable displays of affection, unexpected rivals and Emma's sudden realization that true love may have been under her nose all along. With screwball comedy and surprises aplenty, this fresh, fast-paced world premiere interprets the Jane Austen classic with delightfully unconventional flair.

We chat with Carman Lacivita who plays Mr. George Knightley about his role and the production.

How does it feel to have live audiences and theatres back?

It feels incredible. It's a gift really for everyone.

What inspired you to pursue theatre?

There were several factors. The one I think of the most is my theater teacher, Linda Adami, back at Southwest High School in San Antonio, TX. She gave me the support I needed and guided me in the belief of my ability. Also, I wanted to see more Asian Americans in roles. I didn't have that growing up. As an Asian American actor, I want to be able to show younger AAPI artists, "why not us?" Representation is important.

How does this role compare to other roles you've played?

I've played several of Austen's men, particularly in Kate Hamill's adaptations, including Mr. Darcy, Colonel Brandon and Mr. Bingley. Knightley is somewhat similar, but kind of a blend of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice. He's definitely more playful than Darcy, but not as carefree as Bingley. The last role I played was very different from Knightley. I originated a role in JC Lee's play To My Girls at off-Broadway's Second Stage, directed by newly minted Tony Award nominee Stephen Brackett. That role required so much intense emotional preparation on the entrance and the exit. So, it will be nice to play Knightley where I can ease into the story, at least emotionally!

What was your process for developing your character?

I base everything I do in truth and in moment-to-moment work. I like listening and responding, and playing with those reactions. Having done several Kate Hamill productions, I know the freedom she allows within the structure of the period, so allowing myself that opportunity for irreverence was also a part of the development process. I usually listen to music and daydream about what my character is doing in these moments. Something my late great acting teacher, Bill Esper, taught me.

Do you have a favorite moment in the show?

There are too many to count. There is a lot of brilliance happening onstage. Truly. In the writing, the performing, the direction.

Did you face any challenges with your character or the production?

The biggest challenge was rehearsing with a mask on. As we got deeper into the process, it became increasingly difficult to maintain breath support, especially after dancing or an emotional monologue. Also, there is a lot of time between scenes, meaning time passing, so to thread those moments from one to the next was challenging. That's where my imagination to help craft the arc of a character came into play.

How was working with the cast and the creative team?

The cast and creative team on this show are a dream. I've worked with Kate Hamill many times, both as a castmate and with her as a writer and me as an actor. I've also worked with several members of this cast before and have found it to be a very fulfilling, creative and judgement-free process, because we know each other so well and understand the style inside and out.

What do you hope the audience takes away from seeing this production?

I hope they take away joy for the experience they just had. I hope they fall in love with theater, if they already haven't, and I hope they have a great time and want to come back again!

What are your favorite local spots?

I haven't had as many opportunities to visit all the gems Minneapolis offers because of rehearsal...but I did LOVE Young Joni and will be going back for sure! One of the best dining experiences and meals I have had. I also love supporting a fellow Asian. I love bike riding around the city, especially along the river. And I have also enjoyed Pryes Brewery a couple of times!

Thank you Carman!

For more ticket and show information, please click the ticket link button

Photo courtesy of Carman/Guthrie Theater