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Spotlight on Amanda Lenhart, performing Gillian in Gillian

By • Oct 26th, 2007 • Category: Backstage, Interviews, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday

Listen to Mike interview Amanda Lenhart, about her role of Gillian in To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday [MP3 7:32 3.5MB].

Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio. Today I am backstage at the Port City Playhouse’s rehearsal of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday. Tonight I am talking with Amanda Lenhart, who plays the title role of Gillian. Thanks for talking with me.

Amanda: Thanks for talking with me.

Mike: So, you are the title role in the show. Who is Gillian?

Amanda: Gillian is the wife of David, and Gillian actually appears in the play as a ghost because she’s dead.

Mike: Is she really a ghost or is she just in his imagination? We don’t want to give too much of the show away.

Amanda: That’s actually a really good question. It’s something that we’ve been thinking about as we’ve been working through the character and how to play the character on stage. Is she really a ghost? Is she there or is she not there? Is she a figment of his imagination or is she a creation of everybody’s minds? Or is she an independent entity? I think we’ve kind of hit on that she’s a little of all those things. She comes out of people’s minds and that she still is also independent.

Mike: Has it been hard getting into the mindset of a ghost or inside someone that’s inside David’s mind? Has it been tricky?

Amanda: I think certainly every character has it’s challenges. I think what’s interesting for me is not so much that Gillian is a ghost, though that does provide some challenges because acting a lot of it is about reacting to other people’s words. Giving you something back on stage by making eye contact. Because 3/4 of the cast can’t see me, I don’t get that kind of eye contact on stage. That certainly provides a challenge. In term of embodying a ghost character, I’ve been focusing more on sort of who was Gillian? Who is Gillian as an independent individual? How do you act that on stage and all of her good and bad qualities.

Mike: So is she like you or unlike you in real life?

Amanda: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think every character is like you on some level. That’s how you act that character is by finding the parts that that person has inside yourself and pulling them out and displaying them on stage. Sometimes that’s having to go down and find parts of yourself that you like and sometimes it’s having to go down and find parts of yourself that you don’t like. I think in cases where you feel very different from the character I draw upon people that I know who remind me of her. Friends in my life or non friends or enemies or people I’ve met. Thinking about them and how they act and I pull from that to embody the character.

Mike: You have only one person in the show that you directly can talk with. Has that been challenging?

Amanda: The person who plays the character David, Dan is great. So on one level my attractions with him are with any scene partner. Of course not being able to make any eye contact during other major scenes I’m in is challenging. But certainly Dan has made it easy to work with him so I wouldn’t say it’s been too hard.

Mike: What about that relationship with him? Are you married? Do you have things like that that helps you with your relationship on stage?

Amanda: Am I personally married, so that I think about things like that? I am not personally married, but I have had long term relationships. Sure you draw upon them and when you think about what it’s like to be in a long term relationship. What it’s like to lose someone that you love? Certainly my character, even though she’s stopped in time that doesn’t mean she’s stopped feeling and doesn’t realize her situation. Of course she does.

I’m somebody who’s experienced loss as well. Thinking about what it would be like to lose somebody. What it would be like it if you suddenly couldn’t talk to your daughter or touch your daughter or kiss your husband goodnight. Thinking about what that means and you draw upon your other experiences of loss whether that’s the death of somebody that you love or the break up of a relationship or any number of things.

Mike: What is the theme of the show? Is it loss? Is it getting over loss?

Amanda: I think the theme of the show is about overcoming grief. It’s about moving forward. It’s about the celebration of the good in life and life as an affirmative experience. At least from my perspective. The goal of my character is for my husband to be happy. I love him and I want him to be happy so therefore my goal is to push him back into life instead of having him be in this limbo of grief.

Mike: Switching gears a little bit. How do you learn you lines? Everybody I’ve talked to has had a very different way of doing that.

Amanda: I learn my lines by repetition. I either speak them aloud or read them over and over. I actually have a tendency to do it at the gym. I find that physical movement in combination with learning the lines somehow sort of solidifies them in my mind better. I learned that trick in the last show that I did. I have put it to use in this one as well.

Mike: Are you wanting to continue doing acting as a career? As a hobby? Where does it fit into your life?

Amanda: I think it’s certainly a hobby at this point. It’s something I enjoy very much and I feel very strongly and passionate about, but it’s something that I have kind of come back to. I did a lot of theater in high school and even as a child. Then I stopped and returned to it as an adult in the past few years.

Mike: What would the role you would just kill to do? What would that part be?

Amanda: It’s really tough. I love Shakespeare. I love a lot of the Shakespearean heroines and the challenges they provide. I guess that the role that I would love to have are the roles that challenge me, that push me, that make me get out of my comfort zone and force me to be people that I’m not. I really enjoy playing villains because I think the challenge in those roles are is to understand that person and where they come from and find the humanity inside somebody who is evil or mean. That’s really kind of fun.

Mike: Do you interact with Rachel (Gillian’s daughter) in the show?

Amanda: We don’t speak. I look at her, but she doesn’t look at me and I hug her.

Mike: I don’t like your character. I like it at the beginning, but at the end I really don’t like Gillian. I think she’s pretty selfish.

Amanda: I think that’s absolutely right. I think my character is not… That’s the beauty of the experience of this character, of her being in his show. She is set up as this icon. As sort of this paragon of love and womanly devotion. She has a career. She has a child, then it’s sort of unraveled. The picture frays and you realize that she is a human being. She’s definitely not perfect. I think she is selfish to a certain extent. I think that she’s ambitious and flawed and imperfect and sort of a reluctant mother. But I think that ultimately she is trying to be true to herself. She never tries to be anybody that she’s not. I actually admire that about the character even if I don’t necessarily like her.

Mike: One thing I have asked other people is the character workshop that you all did a few weeks ago. Have you done anything like that before?

Amanda: Not quite that format. In the previous show that I did some character work where we were asked to go home and write documents about the character, about the person and what we thought. Sort of underpinning some of their decisions and the choices that they made in the show. We also had to do research on the character historically. So I have done a little bit of that and I find it very helpful. I’m the kind of person who likes that kind of thing anyway so I find that part fun.

Mike: Well, thank you very much for talking with me. I appreciate you taking the time.

Amanda: Thanks for chatting with me. It was great.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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