In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of How the Other Half Lives at The British Players, meet Susan R. Paisner.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
Susan: I am Susan R. Paisner, an actress who is also a criminologist/journalist/triathlete. My most recent role was as Judy last May in Honeymoon Motel, a one-act play by Woody Allen, produced by Montgomery Playhouse.
Why did you want to be part of the British Players’ production of How the Other Half Loves?
I have been a member of the Players since 1982, either performing onstage or working front-of-house. I saw this play in London many (many) years ago, and knew I would love to be a part of a very funny farce with a terrific, solid company I’ve known and worked with for so long.
What did you perform at your audition and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
We did cold readings from the script, and I was home (actually awaiting word about another play I had just auditioned for). When I informed the producer I had not been cast in that play, she confirmed that I was cast in this play.
Who do you play in the show, and how do you relate to your character?
I play Fiona Foster, a well off, elegant British married woman. Um … we’re very different people. That’s the fun of acting – portraying someone you’re not.
What advice and suggestions did Director Pauline Griller-Mitchell give you that helped you prepare for your role? Have you worked with Pauline before? And how would you describe her style of directing?
Pauline has a wonderful directing touch – just the right balance of suggestion and participatory discussion – and over-direction. What I particularly like is how willing she is to take our suggestions and how willing she is to change her mind about her initial directorial choices, all in furtherance of the best possible show. While I have known her for years, I haven’t worked with her before as a cast member.
Have you appeared in or seen other productions of How the Other Half Loves before, and if so, who did you play and how is this production different and unique
As I said above, I saw this play in London. What I remember from that show – aside from it being very funny – was the fascinating set.
What is your favorite scene in the show that you are not in, and what is your favorite scene that you are in?
It’s difficult to select one favorite scene (whether I’m in it or not), but I continue to be delighted with Peter Harrold’s delivery and eventual delayed joke (and he deserves a huge laugh then) about “boots.”
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
None. None of the men, obviously. And none of the women.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast-mates’ performances?
Their simultaneous professionalism and generosity. That’s about their performances. I also greatly admire and appreciate their friendliness and warmth. It’s nice but not always the case that all cast members get along so well.
How did you prepare for your role, and what were the biggest challenges you faced; and how did you resolve them?
Easily my biggest challenge was learning the lines, something made extraordinarily difficult by the complex blocking and the close-to-absurd number of props. I finally learned my lines by going over and over and over them with a non-performing friend of enormous, apparently endless, patience.
Why should audience goers bring their families to see How the Other Half Loves?
Because it’s a very funny play. And in the world of farces, it’s an extremely sophisticated one. So, it’s a funny, sophisticated, fast-paced comedy. Hell, that’s how I like to spend my time as an audience member.
How the Other Lives plays through March 13-28, 2015 at The British Players performing at Kensington Town Hall – 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets call (240) 447-9863, or purchase them online.