Juliet Hart, one of TimeLine’s founding Company members, was rushing to get to the theater but was suddenly stopped by a young man who wanted to recite poetry for only a buck. Meanwhile, at the theater, Artistic Director PJ Powers received a call from Juliet saying that she was going to be 10 minutes late. After 10 minutes, it was decided that we would start our interview. As PJ and Janet Ulrich Brooks, also a Company member, prepared themselves for the questions, Juliet suddenly opened the door and looked straight at PJ and said, “That was pretty good, right?!” PJ smiled and responded, “Only two minutes over, pretty good. I’m impressed.” The room then filled with laughter.
Seeing them laugh together, I understood what Juliet meant when she later talked about the family the seven Company members have created together over the years. PJ and Juliet have known each other for more than 15 years, so it made sense why there is a sense of a family bond. Janet joined the gang about a year and a half ago, which made PJ’s eyes open wide because he felt it had been longer. That just shows how all three of them have a strong connection together.
Once everyone was settled down, my first two questions were asked: How have the All My Sons rehearsals been, and how has it been working together in this production?
It was funny to see the three Company members look at each other trying to figure out who would answer first. Janet, who plays Kate in All My Sons, began by explaining that the rehearsals have been going well. PJ, who plays George, added, “It’s going great. And it’s really a blast for the three us working together. Juliet and I realized that it has been eight years since we have been on stage together. And Janet and I have been on stage together once and that was about five to six years ago in TimeLine’s Paragon Springs.”
Juliet, who plays Sue, was in a state of shock and said, “Seriously?!” I was as shocked as Juliet because although they are Company members, time on stage together is rare. It’s also rare that three Company members are in a production! Even though they work behind the scenes together constantly, they still continue to surprise each other. PJ explained, “It’s great to sit on the side and watch each other work. It’s fun to constantly be surprised by people who you think you know like the back of your hand.”
Janet strongly agreed and remembered the first All My Sons rehearsal. She described a scene that Juliet was in and how she was surprised at how Juliet read her part and created her character. “Oh yeah, it was awesome. It was just a great scene. And to see Juliet create this other woman was amazing.”
I also asked them how it was working with director Kimberly Senior. They all agreed that it has been amazing. “Kimberly is just a positive person. It’s really a delight to work with her. She is just very giving. And she has a great handle on the text,” Juliet said.
PJ added: “She’s great. One reason why she was interested in the three of us being in this play was because she loves working with actors who have history together. This play is about people who have history together. So when Kimberly brings a group of actors together who have relationships off stage, she finds more of a fertile ground.”
Janet nodded her head in agreement and explained, “There is knowledge of each other and a trust that comes from that. It seems that you can get deeper faster.”
One thing that came up in our conversation is the idea of wearing two different hats: the Company member hat and the actor hat. Wearing her Company member hat, Janet explained the reason why they chose the play All My Sons: “We think that it really speaks to, as far as our mission goes, the time we are in now; it’s so global. It’s so important to realize that there is much more than just your own backyard or neighborhood. There is a commitment to a larger population and not just your own personal responsibility. Of course you have to take care of yourself and your family because if you don’t, then you can’t participate in the greater good. There is a larger social responsibility.”
Juliet, also wearing her Company member hat, explained, “The more I listen to this play, I find it to be an incredible script. It’s just a beautiful play. Janet and I together run the TimeLine Outreach Program and it’s a great play to talk about with young people. It’s a play about a young man who goes through a life-changing event and is trying to decide how to be a citizen of the world. It’s just a really interesting message for all of us and for young people of today who are living in a different kind of crisis. It’s opens up a lot of interesting discussions and it forces you to examine how you want to live your life.”
Being a Company member is different from being an actor because being a Company member is about planning what is going to be produced next season and why. They don’t use their acting hat to plan next season because, as PJ explained, they are not looking for plays that suit them as actors, but for plays that fulfill TimeLine’s mission.
Now that All My Sons is about to open, the three Company members’ hope is that they “don’t screw it up.” There are always new discoveries that the three Company members don’t shy away from — like the production being performed at a different space, the Greenhouse Theater Center. This is something really new for PJ, since his office is no longer right upstairs where he would normally be able to run up and work for an hour when he is not on stage. Janet remarked, “It will be good for you, PJ.”
“Yes, we expect great things from you,” added Juliet.
This is an exciting time for TimeLine and for these three Company members. They hope that once the production is finally seen, that audiences will leave with new and different thoughts even if they have seen the classic All My Sons before — that it will be a uniquely TimeLine production.