November’s monthly potluck is Tennesee Williams’ Orpheus Descending, initiated by Gigi Bermingham. Antaeus volunteer Jane Whitty interviewed Bermingham about why she was drawn to the play, her history with Antaeus and the enduring power of Williams.
1. Orpheus Descending is not one of Tennessee Williams best known plays. What attracted you to this play?
The heat, the passion, the fearless BIGNESS of Williams’ writing and characters. What a challenge to make it real! I identify with the protagonists, all of them, the feeling of being outside, different, misunderstood, even hated. The desolate sadness that comes after youthful hope has been dashed, and the courage necessary to survive crushing disappointment. I love Lady’s passion, I admire her courage.
2. Tennessee Williams wrote mostly during the 40’s and 50’s. What do you think makes his plays relevant today?
Nothing has changed. The brutality of humankind, the ease with which people behave cruelly. It’s throughout history. Most of the population in the present world is faced with hunger, violence, lack of freedom that we in this country can hardly understand and that the protagonists in this play, each in their own way, experience.
3. What themes in Orpheus Descending do you find to be the most essential?
The outsider – as one who is despised and feared and envied by those who choose to follow the social current, however harmful to themselves and the world. The brutality of humankind. And of course LOVE – it conquers all.
4. What do you most look forward to when working on this play?
Despite the inherent impediment of reading the dialogue off the page, I hope for communion. By that I mean connection with the other actors and the director, releasing – for a time – the social mask, how I think I must behave – as Gigi – to be accepted. I get to be LADY – if I can figure out who she is! And as painful as her life may be, it’s always a relief to release being Gigi for awhile. I would be looking forward to tearing up the scenery – if there were any!
5. How long have you worked with the Antaeus Company?
6. What do you most enjoy about the experience you have had with Antaeus?
Antaeus is my creative family, I don’t have to prove myself, I take chances and I fall flat on my face and I won’t be kicked out. I’ll get another chance; in fact I can create another opportunity for myself. It’s the joy that comes from sharing a pure love of theater. We aren’t on salary here. We are here because we love plays and theater people and the intimacy that is created when we come together to share our gifts.
Gigi Bermingham: Antaeus: TONIGHT AT 8:30, PERA PALAS, MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, several CLASSICSFESTs and many more. Los Angeles area theater includes productions at the Rubicon, The Old Globe, Theatre@Boston Court and the Odyssey/Circus Theatricals. Film/TV credits include Alex and Emma, Days of Our Lives, The Bachelor: London Calling, C.S.I., Judging Amy, Any Day Now, State of Grace, Third Rock and Beverly Hills 90210. Awards include a 2004 Ovation Award, a 2003 Garland Award and a 2002 L.A. Drama Critics Circle Natalie Schafer Award “to an emerging comic actress.”
Jane Whitty: Originally from the east coast, Jane moved to Los Angeles in 2006 after receiving her BFA from Emerson College in Boston. At Emerson she majored in Design / Technical Theatre focusing on Scenic and Property Design. In Boston, Jane has served as Scenic Designer for the east coast premier of A Long Bridge Over Deep Waters and Assistant Scenic Designer for the 2006 Evvy Awards, among other work with Emerson College. In Los Angeles she has worked as the Scenic Designer for Diary of a Catholic School Dropout at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre. Jane is excited to be volunteering for the Antaeus Company and looks forward to working with them on upcoming projects.