In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the director and cast members of Damascus Theatre Company’s My Fair Lady, meet Cara Bachman.
Joel: Introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform or direct on our local stages?
Cara: Hi! I’m Cara Bachman, and really all I’ve been in on local stages is Reston Community Player’s Les Miserables! I’ve also been in a few things at my high school, South County, and appeared in several shows at The Theatre Lab in DC.
Have you appeared in a production of My Fair Lady and who did you play?
First time doing this show!
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to her?
I play Eliza Doolittle, and I’ll try to make this brief because if you let me I will talk about her forever. Primarily I feel like I can relate to how candid she is- she really has no shame, she does her own thing, and she doesn’t worry about how it will make people think of her or anything like that. I like to think to some extent I’m like that.. I make an idiot out of myself pretty frequently. She’s also really independent, which is something I respect about her greatly. She’s not dependent on others- she’s had a hard life, and has developed this self-sufficiency that is part of what makes her so cool. She’s really strong. Obviously, all that I’m admiring about her I don’t also think of myself, but I’ve sort of had to do my own thing for a lot of my life as well.
What is it about your character that audiences will like and what may they not like.
Eliza is annoying. I’m not gonna lie. She’s not going to roll over and take anything. There is no keeping her mouth shut to avoid trouble, which is also very endearing about her. She’s incredibly raw. However, at many times she employs ZERO tact, and has quite a misguided view as to how to go about conveying such feelings. She’s not like the other leading ladies of her era. In fact, she’s radically different from both the women of the time period in which she lives and the women who surrounded her on the stage. She’s commanding, no- nonsense, honest, and real, which all contribute in some way to Henry Higgins’s infatuation with her. In many ways, she’s everything he’s looking for, everything society in that day was not. However she’s charming, funny, passionate and kind as well. Oh and intelligent. She learns a hell of a lot in six months. Her story is not centered around the men in her life, and she stands on her own. She’s incredibly bold. With Eliza, it’s all out there- and you can take her or leave her.
What are your solos or big numbers in the show and what do we learn about your character during these songs?
The first song Eliza sings is “Wouldn’t it be Lovely?” where we learn that Eliza in her heart of hearts really does dream of a better life, but a simple one. She just wants someone to love and a warm place to do it- the most simple of luxuries.
Next is “Just You Wait,” where we see a little bit of that famous Eliza feistiness. She describes the burning hatred she has for her teacher, Henry Higgins.
After that is “I Could Have Danced All Night,” quite possibly one of the most memorable songs in existence, is where we see Eliza’s romantic side- we learn that she is no exception to the giddy exhilaration and infatuation of dancing with a man that (another thing we learn from this song) she may have feelings for.
“Show Me” is the commanding Eliza, in which she basically tells Freddy to shut up and make a move. Again, she’s not a soft spoken girl, and at this point her frustration with Higgins is a driving force in her extreme desire not to hear any speaking for a while. She’s trying to distance herself from that world, as she has just decided to leave it.
“Without You” is Eliza’s assurance to Higgins, assurance to herself, and in many ways, realization that she can exist without him in her life. They have become each other’s “normal” (see “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”), and creating her own life is daunting, but she is making it known that she knows she can do it. In some ways I think she’s sort of testing him too- figuring out how he’ll react to her affirmation. But it’s that notable independence I keep talking about, this song alone is so much of what makes her so special. She doesn’t need him , and she makes it crystal clear.
What have been some of the challenges learning and preparing for your role and how did your director help you to solve these challenges?
So many things. So, so many thanks. Public thank you to Stephanie Bonte-Lebair for putting up with it. I really struggled with telling the story of Eliza and Higgins while staying true to who Eliza is and making it cohesive with her individual story. Their dynamic is one of the most intricate and impenetrable in history, but I didn’t want to let Eliza’s persona get lost in the way of creating that. Also this role is just a bear in general. I know I sound like a broken record using this word, but she really is an icon. There are some big shoes to fill there, and I really wanted to do it right. It’s a role I’ve dreamed of doing literally for years. Stephanie was so patient and willing to talk through every bit of it with me, top to bottom, so those long discussions with both her and Brian (Henry Higgins) were nothing short of beneficial to me- we put things together piece by piece, and those facilitated a good portion of my understanding of Eliza.
Which song that you don’t sing is your favorite?
Aaaah don’t ask me that! That’s really tough.. It’s a dead three way tie probably- “I’m an Ordinary Man,” “On the Street Where You Live,” and “Get Me to the Church on Time.”
Which character is most like you and why?
It’s definitely Eliza, for the reasons stated above, but sometimes I honestly feel so connected to Colonel Pickering- he’s just a friendly guy trying to keep up with all the craziness around him and sometimes he gets a little flustered and behind. I think he’s hysterical!
How would you describe the score of My Fair Lady?
Iconic, complex, unique, groundbreaking. From the minute I first heard this music, it had an impact on me so great that I don’t think I’ll ever forget exactly the way I felt the first time I heard it years ago.
Why do you think My Fair Lady has to say to the new generation of young theatergoers?
Well first off, I think it represents the golden age of music theatre in an entirely different (positive) light- it’s not some happy go lucky show that centers around an unlikely romance in a little town and ends with a kiss and a big red bow on it. It’s real life. It’s complicated and engaging, and contains many qualities in that respect that I don’t think people will expect of a show from this age. Additionally, a societal issue that’s sort of really rising in prominence lately is feminism – Eliza is a remarkable example of a woman who is not content to just accept society’s expectations of women, she’s a role model on that front. She makes it clear what she will and will not tolerate, and is an unbelievably strong woman who can thrive on her own.
What have you learned about yourself as an actor/singer during this experience?
Another thing about My Fair Lady that makes it so very special is that it started its life as a straight play. The thing about musicals (I love them more than anything, please do not get me wrong on that), is that the storytelling is primarily told through music. That’s the center of the show, so sometimes the dialogue falls by the wayside. The thing about My Fair Lady is that it began as the brilliant play Pygmalion- most of the scenes in the show come straight from Pygmalion. In addition to being stocked with a stunning score that has etched its way into our history, it’s FULL of these dynamic, challenging, emotional scenes. So, as an actor who has done primarily work in music theatre, this worked me in a brand-new way and really tested my straight acting skills. It was incredible.
Why should theatregoers come to see this production, and what makes it so unique and special?
Well if you look at my other answers that should tell you whats makes this show and this score and these characters are so special. This show is history, it’s very very special. Absolutely worth seeing once (if not much, much, more) in your life, and it’s just so good. Our stellar and passionate director (Stephanie Bonte-Lebair) adores this show, and it absolutely shines through in the top notch cast and crew she has assembled to tell this remarkable story. It will really be worth the trip out!
My Fair Lady plays from November 14-23, 2014 at Damascus Theatre Company performing at The Historic Stage at Olney Theatre Center-2001 Olney-
Meet the Cast of ‘My Fair Lady’ at Damascus Theatre Company–Part 1: Brian Lyons-Burke.
Meet the Cast of ‘My Fair Lady’ at Damascus Theatre Company–Part 2: Director Stephanie Bonte-Lebair.