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BWW Blog: Clarissa Moon - Talking with Lauren Culver from PRIVATE LIVES at The Studio Theatre 

BWW Blog: Clarissa Moon - Talking with Lauren Culver from PRIVATE LIVES at The Studio Theatre 

To start off the new year, The Studio Theatre at the Villages presents Noel Coward's classic, PRIVATE LIVES. Lauren Culver plays Amanda, who discovers on her honeymoon that her ex, Elyot, is staying with his new wife in the adjacent room. I talked with Lauren about the stylized comedy of the play, her character, and presenting this classic to a modern audience.

BWW: How are you presenting this classic to a modern audience?

Lauren: You know, the truly wonderful thing about Coward, and this piece in particular, is the timelessness of the story. It is a classic, but the driving conflict, and all of the humor, are still very engaging in our modern world. Our costumes, technical design, and the language in the play will set it in a specific era; our job as actors is to make all those things seem truthful, and very natural. If we can achieve that, the story will feel accessible even to a modern audience.

BWW: How do you prepare for the stylized acting that Noel Coward plays require?

L: Interestingly enough, much of my prep work remains the same no matter the style of the show. I always begin and end with the text; all the information an actor really needs is there. I'll dig through it again and again, looking for underlying meaning, repetition, and anything else that should inform the character. In the end, no matter how heightened the language, my goal is to make it come from a place of truth. Much of the heightened style, and comedy, of the piece has been coming to life in rehearsals. That credit I give entirely to our fantastic director, Trevin Cooper. He has such a clear vision for the movement of the piece, and has created brilliant stage pictures with our blocking that nod to the style so beautifully. Much of what we find funny as an audience has to do with specificity and timing; Trevin is a master of both. There is certainly more work to be done in memorization and dialect than with the shows I am used to; Noel Coward writes in a way we don't necessarily speak anymore. However, I find it all to be a glorious and energizing challenge.

BWW: How does it feel to be playing a role portrayed by iconic actresses such as Maggie Smith and Elizabeth Taylor?

L: My immediate gut reaction to this question is a quote by Theodore Roosevelt: "Comparison is the thief of joy." Going into this role, I knew from the word 'go' I couldn't place myself alongside such iconic actresses, even in my mind. I admire so many actresses who have played this role; more than anything that excites me! It excites me to try and sink my teeth into a character that fulfills so much of what I always thought I would want to portray onstage. It's daunting, sometimes incredibly frightening, but mostly...thrilling. One never truly learns from a role, or life experience, that doesn't scare one a little bit. I am learning, still, to turn into the fear and enjoy it for what it means. At the end of the day, to be an actor means doing the best you can in the given moment with the full understanding that any (and all) of the audience members will form an opinion on your performance. Now, they may have no qualification to do so, but they will, and that's perfectly acceptable. What I can't do is let that opinion stop me from learning, growing, and doing my job for the love of storytelling.

BWW: How would you define Amanda and Elyot's relationship?

L: Passionate, and combustible. Two stubborn, strong, very spoiled human beings who have met their match. For Amanda, Elyot is the only person (or thing, really) that can pull her off of her center. She has learned to be guarded and specific; that to be strong means to hide all feeling and manipulate the world like a chess board. Everything goes out the window around Elyot, a fact that both disarms and excites her. They are both excited by challenge; they find that challenge in one another. It's combustible because passion unchecked can go two quite different directions, and either one is explosive.

BWW: Have you found any similarities between yourself and Amanda? What's something surprising you've found about her?

L: I do love a good debate! I can't claim to enjoy arguing as much as Amanda, but completely understand being excited and intrigued by any other human who can keep up with (and challenge) my intellectual, nerdy, or anxiety ridden rantings. All of my closest, most lasting friendships are with people who do just that. Her biggest surprise, for me, lies in the way she can vacillate between jagged retorts and loving statements. It doesn't surprise me that this is possible. A beloved acting professor once told me "picture a number line: if you love someone at a ten, you can hate him or her at the negative ten, because he or she has such power over you." However, Amanda and Elyot are written at quite that extreme peak. It is a joy, and a challenge, to find all the moments of playful extremity within the text.

PRIVATE LIVES at The Studio Theatre is already sold out! The production begins previews on January 16th, opens the 20th, and runs through February 12th. The theatre's next show, THE LAST 5 YEARS, begins previews on February 20th. For more information, visit thesharonstudio.com.

Photo courtesy of The Studio Theatre.

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