Mary Williamson found herself auditioning for When She Danced thinking in the back of her mind that she was young to physically fit any of the roles. But before walking into her audition she felt a familiar feeling. The same natural actor-friendly feeling that she felt while training at The Theatre School at DePaul University. Then as she turned to walk up the stairs, a recognizable face appeared — Ann Wakefield, a former professor who wished for her to “break a leg.” Soon Mary was cast as Mary Desti, Isadora Duncan’s best friend and manager.
For those who may not know, TimeLine Theatre was founded by graduates of The Theatre School. When She Danced is the second show of TimeLine’s 13th season.
Mary added that When She Danced is not a play that is typically produced. Challenges include the language, set design and costumes, plus finding an actor who can portray a piano-playing prodigy who plays Chopin and speaks Greek and Italian. It is not easy finding the resources needed. TimeLine is presenting a piece that is rarely done, because it hard to do.
Mary imagined herself playing traditional theatrical roles when she got out of school, but she found herself doing character work in children’s shows while stretching her limits playing strange characters. Additionally, Mary developed and appeared in Redmoon Theatre’s Fall Spectacle. While she loved all of her recent theatrical experiences, she is excited to work in the traditional theatrical atmosphere she is familiar with and experienced while studying at DePaul.
Q. How would you describe the play in a single sentence?
A. It’s a slice of an infamous person’s life (Isadora Duncan) and the wacky people who are in it.
Q. How would you describe your character?
A. She (Mary Desti) is a very interesting character because every time she walks into a room she takes control of the scene, whether the people like it or not — and a lot of the time the other characters don’t like it. Mary (the character) is a very difficult person to play. Finding the balance between her crazy eccentricities vs. the woman who is trying to micromanage Isadora’s dance career. There is a dichotomy of working for someone while being his or her best friend.
Q. How were rehearsals?
A. The play itself sort of comes off as fairly light and funny, but it’s also heartbreaking. It is intense to deal with all of the different languages that are spoken. Mary, my character, fights with Sergei, a Russian poet, and it is frustrating to be working on a play as you are still learning. Especially when you’re yelling at someone who is yelling back at you in Russian. As the actor I need to know what he’s saying, but also as the character I do not understand what he is saying. Also, finding how to communicate through the language barrier and using movement to translate moments of the play that are in other languages.
Q. Do you have any exciting or memorable moments from rehearsal?
A. There is a scene in the play when food is being thrown. The person who plays Isadora was rehearing throwing dinner rolls using a bag of Skittles. The first bag she threw hit one of the actors in the face. We knew that we had to find something else to use as a rehearsal prop! A pair of rolled up socks, perhaps.
In the play, Sergei says to Isadora that “your art dies when you die, but my art will continue living when I die because it’s written.” Modern communication (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) are remarkable elements that have transformed our culture, but breaking the language barrier still poses challenges. The remarkable attribute of When She Danced is that the audience is able to understand what is going on in the story, but can also create their own dialogue. I hope that you will come and see When She Danced and allow yourself to create your own story.
Mark Kijek is a 2nd-year Theatre Management student at The Theatre School at DePaul University.