Part 3: Behind the Scenes of ‘Pride & Prejudice’: An Interview With Caitlin McWethy by Joel Markowitz

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Here is our second interview with the cast of Pride and Prejudice at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Meet Caitlin McWethy.

Caitlin McWethy. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Shakespeare Company.
Caitlin McWethy. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Shakespeare Company.

Hi! I’m Caitlin McWethy and I am from Virginia Beach originally, but petitioning to count as a surrogate Annapolitan as about 15 members of my extended family live in this beautiful city and I’ve been coming to visit since I could toddle. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey and since then I have had the pleasure of working with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena/Snug); Virginia Stage Company – Julius Caesar (Cassius); Theatre West Virginia; and Georgia Shakespeare – The Tempest (Miranda), Romeo & Juliet (Juliet). I’m thrilled to add Annapolis Shakespeare to that list!

Introduce us to your character and tell me how you relate to her. Why did you want to playher?

I play Elizabeth Bennet and I have a hard time imagining someone not identifying with her character. Even if you don’t understand every choice she makes, (I certainly don’t, at times she still completely baffles me with her complexity) there is something in her for everyone.

She is more than just and “Everyman” though – and that’s what makes her an icon. I am sure I’m not alone in my envy of her stinging wit and ability to turn a phrase into a joke. Above all, I admire most her determination against settling for anything less than what will make her truly happy – that’s what makes an audience respect her as well as connect with her.

What did you perform at your audition and how long was it before you were offered your role?

I did a Viola monologue from Twelfth Night and one from another comedy of manners play, The Way of the World, starting with the line, “There is not so impudent a thing in nature as the saucy look of an assured man, confident of success.” – I was totally trying to get Sally to think of me as Lizzy. Absolutely. She called me the next morning to offer me the role, so I guess it worked.

Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy), Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley) and Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet). Photo by Corey Sentz.
Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy), Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet), Grayson Owen (Mr. Bingley) and Alyssa Bouma (Jane Bennet). Photo by Corey Sentz.

How did you prepare for your role?

I didn’t do anything terribly groundbreaking. I read the book twice and watched every film version I could get my hands on. I’m not at all opposed to being inspired by other actors’ performances.

What scene or scenes or line or lines was/were the most difficult to learn?

Secret confession: I found all of my lines more difficult than usual to learn. The frilly upper-class Georgian-era speech is very different from our modern speech. Also, though P&P is a classic and being done by ASC, it’s not Shakespeare – so the text isn’t written in verse, which always makes memorizing Shakespeare more like memorizing a song. Jane Austen also never seems to use one word when she can use five – great for reading, bad for memorizing!

What was the best advice or direction that Sally give you that helped shape and/or improve your performance?

Be nice to Mr. Darcy. It will make your love scenes easier… and here’s an Altoid. No, but really. One day Sally said, “Love is never the obstacle.” I realized I was thinking about some of my interactions with Mr. Darcy backwards – I had been thinking Lizzy’s need has to pull Darcy down off his high horse or something like that, but she couldn’t because of her attraction to him.

Instead, Sally pointed out that what she needs is to be physically close to him, to have him smile at her or kiss her, but she won’t allow herself to have those things because of her prejudice against him and the manners of the time period. That’s what makes it so compelling to watch, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth need each other constantly, but are kept apart by one obstacle after another.

What does Pride and Prejudice have to say to audiences in 2013? Why do you think it’s still so popular today?

Here’s a cliché – It’s timeless.

But it is! Even within the confines of upper-class Georgian England, it’s a story about two people who love each other who can’t be together when they want and – more agonizing – won’t be together when they can. It’s that simple! Love. Love is universal and timeless and everyone gets it. Everyone needs it. Everyone wants the happiness it brings.

That rush from the story was the same for readers in 1813 as it is in 2013 as it will be in 2213.

What scene that you are not in do you really enjoy watching? 

Whenever I am offstage I get to watch Lauren Turchin, who plays Caroline Bingley, in her scenes with Ryan as Mr. Darcy and Grayson Owen as Mr. Bingley. She is super friendly and wonderful in real life, but on stage as Miss Bingley she makes your skin crawl at her mean-ness while also making you giggle at her ridiculous personality. I think it’s a wonderful performance.

Does the character you are playing remind you of another Shakespearean character(s) and why?

Elizabeth of course brings to mind Rosalind from As You Like It. They’re both in the tiny group of female characters who guide us through their stories. They each have a quick wit and a discerning personality, but I prefer Elizabeth (I might be a bit biased) because her story is entirely realistic, as opposed to Rosalind’s which requires some suspension of disbelief.

What has your Annapolis Shakespeare Company experience been like?

Oh my goodness, fantastic! It’s thrilling to be part of an up-and-coming company – there are no jaded, tired artists who have been here forever. Everyone in the company is fighting tooth and nail for this company to succeed and that underdog spirit is a powerful thing and it’s what keeps us wanting to work longer and harder than usual for the sake of a truly wonderful show.

Sally is our fearless leader in all of this and she sets the bar for the rest of us. No one works harder or longer than she does and no one’s passion rivals her own. She’s an inspiring person and director and makes you want to find the best performance possible.

Any roles you have not played yet that you would love to play?

So many! Goodness. My answer to this question is always different. Obviously, Rosalind, Viola, Portia are all on the list. I would love to find a brave director who would let me play Hamlet. Someday I want to be Tamora and Constance and Lady Macbeth. I’ve also never done any Tennessee Williams, which is something I need to remedy soon. I just can’t – there are too many that I love!

Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet) and Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy). Photo by Corey Sentz.
Caitlin McWethy (Elizabeth Bennet) and Michael Ryan Neely (Mr. Darcy). Photo by Corey Sentz.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Pride and Prejudice?

I hope we make the audience happy. This isn’t Brecht, so it’s not like we’re asking people to go and change the world after seeing this play, but I don’t think we should underestimate the power of a happy audience.

This play leaves you with a sense that we have the power and the right to pursue happiness. We are the one thing that can keep us from settling for less than what we want.

If people leave here with a smile on their faces, maybe they’ll go home and give their kids or parents and extra hug or a kiss. Maybe they’ll take their spouse or significant other out for a date after the show. Even if this show inspires one person to open up to another, we made a difference. Small and personal, yes – but that’s where all change starts.

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Pride and Prejudice plays from April 11-27, 2013 at  Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD – in White Marsh Park. For tickets, call (410) 415-3513 or purchase them online.

LINKS:
Part One: Behind the Scenes of Pride and Prejudice: Meet Annapolis Shakespeare Company by Terry Bouma.

Part Two: Behind the Scenes of ‘Pride & Prejudice’: An Interview With Michael Ryan Neely by Joel Markowitz.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.