Prior to the opening of Quotidian Theatre Company’s next play, Brian Friel’s Irish drama Dancing at Lughnasa, several actors in the cast are writing here about various experiences they have during the rehearsal process.
David Dubov last week explored his role as actively-involved narrator. Thursday, Steve LaRocque will disclose his dance rehearsal experiences. Here, Quotidian favorite Laura Russell discusses how a character’s shoes inform a performance.
I once had a director who, immediately upon casting me, asked, “And, um, do you still have those black vinyl go-go boots? Could you wear them in the show?”
My closet is full of shoes I have worn in shows. Sadly, the go-go boots and Tweety Bird hi-tops have worn through and gone to the trash heap, but I still have the yellow patent Blanche DuBois T-straps, Elmire’s red satin mules, and the combat-style boots I wore in as Neasa in Quotidian’s Shining City last fall. So I was not surprised when, even before the first rehearsal, our costume designer Stephanie Mumford emailed me a photograph of the shoes I will wear as Agnes, the character I am playing in Dancing at Lughnasa.
Actor Andrew Long once described to a classroom of students how the boots he wore in Cyrano helped to define his character. The high heels changed his posture, the way he carried himself. I have found this to be true and like to start rehearsing in a character’s shoes as soon as possible.
I have been wearing Agnes’ shoes since rehearsals began. She now has two pairs! The Act I shoes have sturdy leather laces and are a goes-with-everything taupe. But they also have modest heels and decorative scallops; practical but feminine in a quiet way, like Agnes herself. Agnes keeps a pretty tight lid on her emotions. She feels deeply, but rarely shows what is going on inside. And she is proper. Agnes would never cross her legs, even at the ankles. When I see one of my feet, clad in Agnes’ shoes, swinging in the air, I am instantly reminded that I am not fully in character.
The footwear for Act II is more utilitarian: flat, brown, stiff and unyielding. And yet, it is when wearing these shoes that Agnes, at least for short time, gives herself up to the joy of the moment.
Both of Agnes’ feet are planted firmly on the ground, except when she is dancing. And I am loving learning who she is by walking in her shoes.
Brian Friel’s masterpiece Dancing at Lughnasa is a drama about five unmarried sisters eking out their lives in a small Irish village in 1936. It won the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, and Time Magazine called it “the most elegant and rueful memory play since The Glass Menagerie.” Our production opens April 20. Tickets and further information are available here.