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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Veanne Cox

Veanne Cox

Today's subject Veanne Cox is currently living her theatre life onstage at Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) playing the role of Arsinoé in The School for Lies. The show runs through July 9th at the Lansburgh Theatre.

Originally from Norfolk Virginia, Veanne's work has been seen on stages all across the country as well as on TV and in film.

As an STC affiliated artist Veanne was seen in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night, The Way of the World, and The Beaux' Stratagem, which garnered her a Helen Hayes Award nomination.

Many of us know Veanne as a musical comedy performer and on Broadway she's done a number of musicals and plays. Select credits include An American in Paris, A Free Man of Color, La Cage Aux Folles, Caroline or Change, The Dinner Party, Company (Tony/Drama Desk nominations), and her Broadway debut production, Smile.

Equally at home working on some smaller stages in New York, Veanne's Off-Broadway credits include The Old Friends and The Most Deserving (2014 Special Drama Desk Award for Excellence), Paradise Park and Spain (Obie Award for Sustained Excellence), Last Easter (Drama Desk nomination), Damn Yankees!, Blind, The Altruists, Freedomland, House and Garden, The Waiting Room, The Batting Cage, Labor Day, and the show that introduced me to Veanne's talents, Flora the Red Menace.

She has performed in some of the country's top regional theatres. A sampling includes Murder on the Orient Express at McCarter Theatre Center, Present Laughter at Two River Theater, Private Lives at Guthrie Theater, Betty's Summer Vacationat Bay Street Theater, The Prisoner of Second Avenue at Berkshire Theatre Festival, The Importance of Being Earnest at La Jolla Playhouse, and Steel Magnolias at Paper Mill Playhouse.

You might have seen her in the films Erin Brockovich, You've Got Mail, Marci X, Big Eden or Beethoven's 4th or maybe on TV in episodes of Incorporated, Odd Mom Out, Smash, Pan Am, Louie, Two Broke Girls, Royal Pains, Joan of Arcadia,Law & Order (several times), Seinfeld, and Cinderella with Whitney Houston and Brandy.

I've been following Veanne's career since 1987 so I I've been watching this enormous stage talent for thirty years now. I even had the occasion to work with her once back in 1990 at Paper Mill Playhouse on Steel Magnolias. Veanne is what is known as an all-around performer. She can do all musicals, comedy, serious drama, and more, and do it all brilliantly.

Do yourself a huge favor and get a ticket to The School for Lies at STC and see why Veanne Cox will have you "Sing Happy" as you leave the theatre. She has a wonderful company to work with that includes Tom Story, Michael Glenn, and Dorea Schmidt and is directed by STC's Artistic Director Michael Kahn. Do you really need any other reasons to go?

How did you get interested in theatre and where did you receive your training?

My parents took me to the Fairfax Ballet Co. to see Swan Lake and to the community playhouse, I forget the name, maybe the Arlington County Players, It was run by a man named Roland Gomez, who owned a dress shop where my mother worked. I saw Once Upon a Mattress, I was maybe 8, and I was attacked by and attached to performing ever since. I had strict ballet instruction for many years ending with the Washington Ballet. I started voice training with Richard Hartzell, and acting classes with Joy Zinnoman. I then moved to NYC to 'attend' the 'school of hard knocks.' which was just a difficult and diverse and dedicated path to learning.
What was your first professional performing job?
In DC, I was paid to dance in the corps de ballet a few times and at New Playwrights Theatre in a musical called Out of the Reach of Children.
Veanne Cox in Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of The School for Lies. Photo by Scott Suchman.

Can you please tell us a little something about The School for Lies and the character you play in the show?

The play is an adaptation by David Ives of The Misanthrope by Moliere. It is frothy and skewers society using 1666 and 2017. We never learn! I play Arsinoé, 'a sanctimonious goat.'
This is not your first time performing at STC. What do you enjoy the most about working for them?
The DC audience is smart and game. It's a great theatre community all around. I admire STC for its commitment to classical theatre. And I love Michael Kahn and the artists on stage and off who create the success of the theatre.
Theatre in general attracts an older audience. What do you think is the secret to getting young people involved and engaged in theatre and the arts in general?
We should all be mentors who commit to bringing young people to the theatre. In England (and elsewhere) going to the theatre is a part of life, like going to the movies. It is not 'a special occasion.' I wish theatre tickets could be more in line with that economically. Arts education and access is a bottom line for its future.
Veanne Cox as one of the evil stepsisters in ABC TV's 1997 adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella.

You were part of a television adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella which featured Whitney Houston. Can you please talk a little bit about that experience? What was it like putting it together and how did the pop stars in the cast work with the theatre types?

Cinderella was a wonderful confluence of film and theatre. That's very rare. There was great generosity and care given to the vision of making it happen. Whitney, God rest her soul, produced it as well and was fearless, I think, in making it happen. I am very proud to have been part of it. I think it made a difference to many kids when it came out.
My first introduction to Veanne Cox. Here she is with Peter Frechette in the 1987 Vineyard Theatre production of Flora,The Red Menace. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

I know your work as a musical comedy performer going back to Flora the Red Menace at the Vineyard Theatre in NYC. You seem to be doing more plays than musicals these days. Is this a conscious decision and if the opportunity arose, would you consider performing in another musical?

I am a lucky one to do both. And will go where I am asked.
The company of Shakespeare Theatre Company's The School for Lies. Photo by Scott Suchman.

What is next for you after The School for Lies concludes its run?

I am unemployed as of now.... then in January I will go back to playing Princess Dragomiroff in Murder on the Orient Express.

Special thanks to Shakespeare Theatre Company's publicist Amy Hughes for her assistance in coordinating this interview.
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