Monday, November 22, 2010

Character vs. Caricature in Performance by Kristin Alexander

Somewhere between dress rehearsal and opening weekend, I sold out for cheap laughs. A theater critique might – or might not – have been the catalyst. Or perhaps I misinterpreted a director’s notes. Or maybe I was just testing the limits of “going big.” The reason doesn’t matter; it was the wrong choice.

“There are some people who will always laugh at caricature,” my assistant director, Julie Weinberger, said during a pre-show pep talk.

She and Gold From Straw’s artistic director Aaron Schmookler both knew I was capable of more. So did I. As I digested their advice, I heard a third voice. Freehold Artistic Director Robin Lynn Smith wasn’t in the Green Room, but her words were in my head:

“What do you want?” “Where are you coming from?” “How is your partner affecting you?”

Nine intensive months of Meisner Technique training at Freehold had prepared me for living authentically in imaginary circumstances. Even in a world of silliness, slapstick and “aw–shucks” moments like John Cariani’s Almost, Maine, reality has a place. Combining Schmookler's vision of what critics describe as "deft physical comedy" with Cariani's "unapologetically romantic fable," the play is a hilarious, heartfelt reminder of what it means to be human. The cast of six is made up of new and old friends including Lori Evans, who was my Meisner classmate and is currently enrolled in Freehold’s Ensemble Training Program.

For the next performance, I prepped longer and answered those critical questions that all actors must ask themselves. Successful acting is based on a simple premise: “You are enough.” When the lights came up, I played a character instead of a caricature. I laughed. I cried. I connected.

And you know what? The audience laughed even louder that night.

Kristin Alexander and Lori Evans can be seen in Gold From Straw Theatre Company's production of Almost, Maine through Nov. 27 at Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. Info: 253-301-8004,

Alexander also serves on Freehold’s Board of Trustees.

Photo above:
Kristin Alexander as "Marvalyn" and Alex Smith as "Steve"
Photo below: Lori Evans as "Sandrine" and Aaron J. Schmookler as "Jimmy"

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