In part three of a series of interviews with the cast of Pygmalion at The British Players, meet Daniel Owen who plays Professor Henry Higgins.
Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on stage before. What roles did you play in these shows?
I’m Dan Owen. I was born and bred in London and I work as a Sr. Social Development specialist at the World Bank, currently focusing on post-conflict reconstruction and refugee programming in Africa and on developing new standards at the World Bank on labor and working conditions for World Bank projects. I live with my wife Lisa and our four children and dog in Bethesda.
My last show was at the Capital Fringe Festival in the summer of 2016 where I played Anthony in Too Close, awarded Best Drama at the Fringe. This followed a decade of disappearance from the stage thanks to life’s perennial struggles of work, travel, family….In years gone by, I performed as Deeley in Harold Pinter’s Old Times at DCAC and in Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest at Dominion Stage.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of Pygmalion? It is, of course, an extremely well-known play. What inspired you to audition?
It’s a marvelous play and the subject matter is as ripe and relevant today as it was when conjured into play material by [George Bernard] Shaw. I am especially cognizant of this, being a Londoner, and the every present background malingering of class classification back home from the moment you utter a word. Where you are from, what you do, which school you went to, what your class status is – your spoken English is your passport and your ID card. Class, identity, class mobility, the middle class morality – all subjects as vibrant and political as they ever were…and Shaw’s subtle treatment through Pygmalion is a wonderful landscape analysis of this political minefield.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to him?
I play Professor Henry Higgins. I can’t admit to relating very much to him in real life – after all, he is a misogynist and an arrogant and trumped up SOB. But I can think of plenty of people in our everyday news who would relate very closely to him. The one exception is the line I do very much enjoy and will perennially taunt my American-dialect children with …”you incarnate insult to the English language….”!
What is Pygmalion about from the point of view of your character?
A gamble, a game, a test and another string in my bow. One more experiment, one more challenge, one more notched up victory. I can create a new human being and turn her from a squashed cabbage leaf into a consort fit for a king….
What challenges have you had preparing for the role, and how did Director Pauline Griller-Mitchell help you through these challenges? What was the best advice she gave you on how to play your role?
Actually the biggest challenges have been those I have created for Pauline. Being a World Banker, I have to travel frequently and with 6 weeks to go before curtain up, I had to disappear to Uganda, Ethiopia, Lebanon and Paris and London….Pauline’s approach has been wonderfully open – letting the actors find their own space, their internalizing of the person and role…
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
As said, “you squashed cabbage leaf, you disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns, you incarnate insult to the English language…” I love Doolittle’s lines, his speeches, wonderfully rich, wonderful language, wonderful sentiment and emotion…and Eliza’s lines as she “performs” in Mrs. Higgins’ drawing room…”drinking, something chronic…”
If you could change what happens to your character, what would you like to see happening to your character at the end of the play?
See him weep. Or walloped by Mrs Pearce with a broomstick…?
Why should local theatergoers come and see Pygmalion?
An entertaining play with an important social message. A great set and costumes and a lovely company!
What’s next for you on the stage?
Possibly a revival of Too Close…..