In Part 5 of a series of interviews with the cast of How the Other Half Lives at The British Players, meet John O’Leary.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you in the past year on local stages?
I am an ancient Briton who has long made his home in the United States. I am now enjoying a second life on the stage after a career behind the scenes in television. You may have seen me in the past year in The British Players’ 50th anniversary Music Hall, and also in their Christmas pantomime, Aladdin, both performed at Kensington Town Hall.
Why did you want to be part of the British Players’ production of How the Other Half Loves?
While Music Hall and pantomime are great fun I wanted to perform in a ‘straight’ play, in which I would have the chance to develop a character. The combination of The British Players and Alan Ayckbourn was too good a chance to pass up.
What did you perform at your audition and where were you when you got the call that you had the role?
We were asked to read different parts from the script. I believe I was at home when the call came.
Who do you play in the show, and how do you relate to your character?
I play William Detweiler. Since William is possessed of some disagreeable characteristics I hesitate to emphasize how closely or otherwise I may relate to him. Suffice to say that I seem to fit the character; maybe too closely! Being a Brit playing a Brit helps of course.
What advice and suggestions did Director Pauline Griller-Mitchell give you that helped you prepare for your role?
In addition to the obvious ones of ‘speak up’ and ‘don’t turn your back to the audience’, Pauline has made many suggestions aimed at encouraging me to project the nature of William, particularly with respect to his long-suffering wife, Mary, who is played by far too nice an actress to warrant William’s treatment of her. ‘You are being too nice to her’ was a recent comment.
Have you worked with Pauline before? And how would you describe her style of directing?
No. Her style is deceptively relaxed. We are encouraged to project our own ideas and interpretations, but she has a very clear idea of what she expects to see from each character and moves us quite persuasively in that direction. She is not afraid to make changes as we go but always with the view of improving the scene and not just because we may be finding something awkward. She has commendable reserves of patience, which is helpful for those of us with less experience, but not to be confused with a willingness to accept a less than satisfactory performance. And she treats her actors with respect, and receives it in return.
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
No. This play is new to me.
What is your favorite scene in the show that you are not in, and what is your favorite scene that you are in?
Not in: the opening scenes in which we are introduced to the other two couples, which neatly encapsulate the characters’ traits which we then see played out during the play. My favorite scene involving me is from our first appearance through the dinner party.
Which character in the show is most like you and why?
William, I am ashamed to say. He is impatient and inconsiderate, traits I do occasionally display. I’m not nearly as handy as William with a monkey wrench or a ball-cock, though.
What do you admire most about your fellow castmates’ performances?
Everything. It’s a treat to work with people who take what they are doing seriously and yet can have fun doing it.
How did you prepare for your role, and what were the biggest challenges you faced; and how did you resolve them?
Challenge? Learning the lines; remembering the blocking and saying the lines at the same time; remembering which plate I am eating from during the dinner party. Who says I’ve resolved them? Seriously, all that works is repetition and rehearsing. Over and over again. I did get a rather clever app but it doesn’t replace the old-fashioned way. Looks cool though.
Why should audience goers bring their families to see How the Other Half Loves?
Because it’s funny, clever, and an entertaining examination of the foibles of human nature, accessible to all, in spite of a few British-isms. Oh, and I’m in it.
How the Other Lives plays through March 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.
Meet the Cast of ‘How the Other Half Loves’ at The British Players: Part 3: Peter Harrold.
Meet the Cast of ‘How the Other Half Loves’ at The British Players: Part 4: John Allnutt.