“Finner! Get your hands off the cornbread. Mattie’s tryin’ to say the blessin’!” – Alora Swanson
Pictured Left to Right: Caleb Grindstaff, Alesa Bryant, Doug Shaw, Carole Lynn McKinney (photo by Rob Storrs)
Q: Why did you audition for Walking Across Egypt?
CLM: I’m writing a romance novel that revolves around characters who perform in and support a community theater that is about to be re-zoned right out of existence and replaced by a mega-store. I got stuck midway through the book and decided I needed to do some research so maybe I could get it going again and give more life and verisimilitude to the characters. Anticipating that I might get a minor part, probably in a non-speaking role, I auditioned – and I was astonished and delighted to land the challenging role of Alora Swanson in Walking Across Egypt.
Q: What has been your favorite moment from rehearsals?
CLM: Being encouraged to explore the parts of my character that are least like myself is both a challenge and an adventure. My favorite moment has to be one of those: when the director encouraged me to have Alora come on to another character, a stranger, while he’s trying to have a normal conversation with her and their hostess. I’m very retiring and shy when it comes to that in real life, so it meant I had to cut loose and take a scary risk. The stage manager was standing in for the other actor at the time, and when I invaded his space by stages, the expression on his face was priceless. I kept on keeping on until he was nearly ready to fall out of his chair to get away from Alora, then I ran my fingertip around his earlobe and I think he nearly swallowed his tongue. The startled and half-terrified look on his face was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Q: What is your favorite line from the show? Why?
CLM: I have several. My favorite line of mine is “No I wasn’t!” when Alora is told, as a very unsubtle hint, that she was just about to leave. It’s marvelously, unthinkingly rude and belligerent, and she’s so self-centered in that moment, she has no idea how inappropriate she’s being. It’s fun to let that part of yourself have free rein to come out – you get to say the things you’ve always wanted to say instead of being polite. But my absolute favorite line in the show has to be Mattie’s “Please don’t go away…. Angry…?” BL delivers that line so brilliantly, with so much helplessness and tender emotion. I wouldn’t have had any idea how to do what she does there, and I love seeing it done. And nobody can thunder “Holy crap!” like Doug….
Q: Are there people in your life who have never seen you on stage?
CLM: Lots! I think they will be surprised to see the flirtatious and forward side of Alora; I don’t express things that in real life very often. I also think some of them will possibly be somewhat surprised to see a peer actually do it – a lot of my co-workers have said “I always wanted to try out for the Parkway Playhouse, but…!” Well, here I am, living the dream, and finding out both the pros and the cons of it. It’s been a great life experience, and one I wouldn’t trade for much. I would encourage anyone to give it a shot, though ideally they wouldn’t want to land a role with lots of lines during the busiest grading season of the year, the way I did!
Q: If you could appear onstage with any classic actor or actress, who would it be and why?
CLM: Does Ewan McGregor count as a classic? If so, him. And if I could be onstage with him, I’d want to do a scene that has us sing a duet and then kiss: Sister Sarah to his Sky Masterson? Hey. A girl’s gotta dream. 😉
Seriously, though. I won’t say I’d love to act with Branagh or some such. Those sorts of actors have me totally outclassed. I admire them enormously, but they’d scare me to death. If I couldn’t choose a romantic role, I’d love to have a chance to work with some of the screen comedians I think are geniuses, people like Bill Murray, Madeline Kahn, John Candy (so sadly lost, but never forgotten), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, or the guys from Monty Python. I love comedic actors who do broad, a little exaggerated, physical and emotional comedy with a lot of heart and some smarts, comedy that doesn’t just rely on fart jokes and fat jokes for a cheap laugh. I think my own natural talents are strongest in that direction.