This is the forth in a series of interviews with the cast of Spooky Action Theater’s Last of the Whyos. In Part Four: Meet Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.
Roberta: Why did you want to become a member of the cast of Last of the Whyos?
Lady: Well, I was called by Rebecca and my own reading of a musical me and Andrew Morrissey wrote called Roaring would be one night in January, so I could do the project. I honor loyalty to both people I have worked with before and to theatre companies that continue to honor and celebrate my work as an artist and writer. I love Spooky Action Theater because they produced my workshop of my one woman show Klytmnestra and continue to be vocal about my work.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to them? How different these characters are and how are you able to switch from one to another?
I play three people essentially. In 1880 I play a secretary to Sweeny. In 1987 I am the voice of Elaine a secretary to the businessman and my main character Lolly. Each character is different in their approach to life. The 1880 secretary is fiercely loyal to Sweeney and may or may not moonlight as a woman of the night lol. Elaine is simply over her privileged clueless boss and Lolly is a woman who is lonely but attempts to smile through her sadness. Switching is not that difficult; I have done a lot of physical work to embody the spirits of these women and I have time between playing them
What is the play about from the point of view of your characters?
Secretary in the 1880s– order.
Elaine – trying to make it home without cussing out her boss.
Lolly is the character I spend the most time existing as on stage. In my being I feel like the show is about humanity for her and how embodying that allows the needs of everyone to be served. Her desire to connect is not simply about comforting her loneliness, but she too for me is a modern day en- priestess in Eddie’s hero’s journey. She is a grounding presence, a being that escorts the “year king” from neglectful wilderness unto the wisdom of integration back into community.
What do you admire most about your characters and what do you not admire about them?
They are all fierce women. I don’t really judge my characters negatively.
What did you learn about the Playwright Barbara Weichmann after you were cast in the show that you didn’t know before you were cast?
Nothing new really, what I do know she is super sweet.
What advice and suggestions did Director Rebecca Holderness give you that helped you prepare for your role? You have been working with Rebecca many times now. What is her process?
Rebecca is amazing because she moves out of the way of actors. She honors my approach to theatre as a spiritual happening. So, I see her often as the grounding force that guides but allows the journey to be authentically my own; and we discover amazing moments together and if it feels right, we explore and expand. She also has an amazing aesthetic that creates a whirlwind of visually compelling artistic landscape.
What were some of the challenges you have faced in rehearsals and/or preparing for your role?
Well I have to confront my own history and battles with loneliness. The Nakedness required to being a conduit for a character really forces you to look at your own choices. As a child, I remember being heavier and simply believing that if I were thin and beautiful somehow all my issues would go away. Now I am both thin and beautiful and my womanhood, my race, my very being are still being attacked on a daily basis. Playing Lolly and experiencing parts of myself that felt incredibly lonely is offering another platform for me to speak to and heal some of those traumas. I have sessions with young Dane and I show her love that she didn’t feel before.
What character is so much like you and why?
I don’t know how to answer that.
What line that someone else says is your favorite and why?
…hate this. Waiting around for nothing. Just ta watch yerself and those ya love get squashed in the end. It’ cruel. Might as well leave.
This is my favorite line because to be honest I do a lot of social justice work and my artistic advocacy forces me to be able to have an overview of the way structural oppression manifest in the lives of people of color and recognize how it desires us to remain frozen in a cycle created by colonization. The “might as well leave” for me is a divesting of the internalized doctrines, mantras and systems that attempt to oppress us. It is about making a conscious choice to live truth and speak out against injustice.
What themes and issues does the play address that current audiences will be able to relate to? How would you compare Last of the Whyos and The Wedding Dress, both presented by Spooky Action and both directed by Rebecca Holderness?
It addresses so many themes. I think for each person the experience will feel and look different. Well, Last of the Whyos is a male-dominated play. It is super heavy with masculine energy. I am one of three actresses in the show, and the female characters appear and slice through some of that male energy while shifting it. The Wedding Dress was a very Feminine space. Although there was no shortage of amazing men, two of which are Michael Kevin Darnell and Randy Rand (who I am excited to work with again), but the women were the dominate voice there. It had two female leads -myself and Mundy Spears-and featured an array of amazing actresses. The Wedding Dress was a mystical dream adorned in white silks and lush redness; Whyos is a dream gleaming with slicing silver and sharp wandering. During both processes Rebecca has been a grounding presence and we are all crafting something amazing.
What are you doing next on the stage after Last of the Whyos closes?
Well I am excited because a theatre in Baltimore is Producing my Play Butterfly about a trans woman who is haunted by the spirit of Madame Butterfly. I am also going to be doing two cabarets. One with a few friends and another solo cabaret called Have You Brought My Book… actually have you brought my book?
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching Last of the Whyos?
I think the beauty of theatre is it is an interactive experience. As we perform the audience is living the work with us. They have signed on to take the journey with us. I am interested to ask them what they get from it.
Last of the Whyos plays through March 1, 2015 at Spooky Action Theater performing at the Universalist National Memorial Church at the corner of 16th and S Streets, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.
Review of Last of the Wyos by Michael Poandl on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Meet the Cast and Director of Spooky Action Theater’s ‘Last of the Whyos’: Part One: Meet Randolph Curtis Rand by Roberta Alves.
Meet the Cast and Director of Spooky Action Theater’s ‘Last of the Whyos’: Part Two: Meet Michael Kevin Darnall by Roberta Alves.
Meet the Cast and Director of Spooky Action Theater’s ‘Last of the Whyos’: Part Three: Meet Tia Shearer by Roberta Alves.