In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the cast of How the Other Half Lives at The British Players, meet Peter Harrold.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
Peter: My name is Peter Harrold, and I recently retired after 30 years at the World Bank, both in Washington and in various locations around the world. Retiring has permitted me to do more acting, which is wonderful, and in addition I teach part-time at GWU — it doesn’t really feel like retirement! Many of the shows I have done over the years have been with the British Players — I am British and I really don’t do American accents. I have been in the last two BP farces, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and Bedside Manners. I have also appeared in Rockville Little Theatre’s last two “winter” productions of Go Back for Murder and An Inspector Calls (both nicely reviewed on this website!).
Why did you want to be part of the British Players’ production of How the Other Half Loves?
I really enjoy good comedy. Not slapstick, but sophisticated comedy, where the humour is in the words more than the actions. Alan Ayckbourn, the author of this play, is among my favourites, and I have been in several of his plays before. This is one of his (early) classics. There are few people who can capture the pure humor of middle class angst better than he, and so I was really keen to be part of this production.
What did you perform at your audition and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
The auditions were cold readings from the script, which I much prefer over doing monologues or improv at an auction. Actually, it was right after the audition that the director offered me the part and I was really happy.
Who do you play in the show, and how do you relate to your character?
I play Frank Foster, who is more or less the same age as me, but I hope that is where the similarities end! He has a tendency to get hold of the wrong end of the stick, and indeed in this play that is core to the humour. He also seems to suffer a bit from adult attention deficit disorder – he’s very easily distracted! But he is at heart a good, kind man, and he has good motivations, so I hope I relate well to that side of him.
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?
I have been directed by Pauline twice before, and it has been interesting to see how she has grown as a director over recent years. The first time I worked with her, she was very much of the “pick them, then get them on and get them off” school. Now, she is really good and bringing out the nuances and the key scenes, and helping the actors understand what mood and feelings we should be creating in the play. Above all, though, she really trusts her actors and is very quick to give us positive feedback. I appreciate this. I don’t need my ego massaged, but it can be dispiriting if you work really hard and only get a litany of what you’re doing wrong from the director. So she has managed the balance really well between over-directing and under-directing, which is really not easy, and this comes from her enormous experience.
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
I had never been in it before, nor had I seen it before, and had I not read it before the auditions were announced (or at least not for many years). I actually don’t think this is a play that needs to be different or unique, I just hope that it is a really good production of what this great author wrote.
What is your favorite scene in the show that you are not in, and what is your favorite scene that you are in?
I am in an awful lot of the scenes! I do enjoy the short scene between Bob and Terry when they appear to be arguing, but are actually (in their own slightly odd way) preparing to make up. In terms of my own scenes, I am very fond of most, but especially a scene early on with William and Mary where I talk for quite a long time and they have absolutely no idea what I am on about. For the cast as a whole, the first act ends with a very complex dinner scene, and for the cast as a whole that is the biggest challenge.
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
I suppose my own character is the one most like me (but not all of him!) because he is someone who does consider the people around him and wants them to be happy.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmates’ performances?
First and foremost, that several off them were off book two weeks early! Actually, they are all terrific, and, if you get what I mean, they are serious about comedy. Comedy is not easy, and has to be technically very well done to be funny. A bad farce is torture. My fellow castmates are taking this responsibility very seriously, and that is great.
How did you prepare for your role, and what were the biggest challenges you faced; and how did you resolve them?
I recognized the character very well, and so have had the image of people who resemble Frank very much in my head as I have prepared. The biggest challenges are not so much character based, but all to do with speed and timing, so we are entering into the period of rehearsal now that is the most challenging. Comedies are primarily composed of lots of short lines that come very quickly one after another, and not always in logical sequence. So the biggest challenge is getting to the point when you feel the lines, you know longer have to think about them, and we are getting there. That issue is resolved by work and by good, well-focused rehearsals, and we are certainly having those.
Why should audience goers bring their families to see How the Other Half Loves?
Small children would probably be a bit bored and confused, but for the rest of the family audience goers should bring them for the simplest of reasons for going to a British Comedy: to relax for a couple of hours and laugh out loud, and then go home feeling good. That is why actors do plays like this, and I am very confident that is what this production will deliver.
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.
Meet the Cast of ‘How the Other Half Loves’ at The British Players: Part 1: Susan R. Paisner.
Meet the Cast of ‘How the Other Half Loves’ at The British Players: Part 2: Karen Romero.