Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 11: Mark Steimer

In Part 11 of a series of interviews with the cast and director of To Kill a Mockingbird at Rockville Little Theatre meet Mark Steimer.

Mark Steimer.

Mark Steimer.

Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on local stages.

I’m Mark Steimer. I live with my family in Rockville. Offstage, I work in software development. I returned to the community theatre stage recently after a long hiatus. Last summer I appeared as Ewart Dunlap, part of the barbershop quartet, in Rockville Musical Theatre’s production of The Music Man. I made my debut with Rockville Little Theatre (RLT) last fall as Gooper Pollitt in RLT’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Over the past 10 years, I also appeared in a number of faith-based musical and dramatic presentations at my church in Gaithersburg.

Why did you want to appear in this production of To Kill a Mockingbird?

After working with Laura Andruski on RLT’s The Music Man, I was excited about the possibility of working with her on a dramatic work, especially one that explores powerful social lessons as To Kill a Mockingbird does. You never have to look too hard to find some kind of hurt in our world, our nation, even our community. The dreamer in me is hoping that this work will contribute in some small way to the healing.

Who do you play in the show and how do you personally relate to your character?

I play Sheriff Heck Tate. Like Tate, I grew up in a place and time where there was always some group in the crosshairs of another, more powerful group — the latter always ready to serve up the nastiness and the former positioned to be unfairly and unnecessarily beaten down by it. Through the course of the play, Tate internalizes the unfairness and utter waste of racial prejudice, slowly evolving into someone a little more like his neighbor Atticus Finch. In my more optimistic moments, I like to believe I’ve learned to live without such prejudices. During his testimony in the early part of the courtroom scene, Tate stumbles over some old habits, working hard to change his vocabulary and his attitude. When the Finch children are attacked, I see Tate making a big step forward in his understanding of exactly who his neighbors are: the individuals who contribute to the good of the town and those who do not. For better or worse, some of the things I’ve witnessed in my own life have taken me down a similar path.

What is To Kill a Mockingbird about from the point of view of your character?

Most of us are just trying to get along in this town and get through this Great Depression. But there are some — perhaps themselves feeling beaten up by life and circumstance — who seem to be hell-bent on making things tougher than they already are. This drama is about coming to terms with the difference between what is right in the eyes of the law and what is right.

What scene or scenes were the most difficult to learn and why?

The scene where we have to deal with Tim, the mad dog. There’s so much going on in such a short period of time. Between the physical movement of multiple players, the unseen movement of the dog, the challenge of appropriately handling props (including a model firearm), the conflicting emotions of choosing the safety of family and neighbors over the life of an animal, and depicting the tension as it reaches a climax (with the gunshot) then instantly yields to an almost giddy sense of relief when the danger is past… I get tired just thinking about it.

Which scene or scenes moves you the most? And why?

It’s the scene where Tate has to tell Atticus that Tom Robinson has been killed against a hateful sideshow of Bob Ewell celebrating the death. It overwhelms with remorse and senselessness as it simultaneously stirs up anger. I’m afraid I will remember the feelings involved in that scene for many years to come.

Why is this show relevant for today’s theatregoers?

Any work that challenges us to move toward a fairer, more caring community seems relevant to me.

What have you learned about yourself as a person and an actor while learning and rehearsing your role?

I’ve learned that topics and ideas that are uncomfortable to deal with on a personal level are even more uncomfortable when filtered through the rigor and repetition of rehearsal. Certain words are disturbing to hear; hearing them spoken over and over by colleagues, who in some cases are children, can be really tough.

What was the best advice your director gave you on preparing and playing your character?

“Everyone has a fatal flaw.” Tate comes across as a pretty fair-minded person who becomes even moreso as the story progresses. Working to identify, internalize, and express this flaw represented the real core of my preparation.

For those people who love the film, what is different about the stage version and why should they come see it live on the stage?

I have read the novel but never seen the film, and I chose to not view it until after we close this production. Even though seeing the film might have advanced my interpretation of Heck Tate, I didn’t want it to be possibly diluted by studying a film-based interpretation.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in To Kill a Mockingbird?

Two things: even perceived nice guys have flaws, and societal healing requires large doses of humility and forgiveness.

RLT mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird plays from April 24 to May 3, 2015 at Rockville Little Theatre performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at The Rockville Civic Center- 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.

LINKS
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 1: Nancy Lark.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 2: Kieran Duffy.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 3: Stuart Rick.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 4: Kevin Page.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 5: Sydney Lauricella-Reed.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 6: Liz Weber.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 7: Jill Goodrich.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 8: Grant Williams.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 9: Todd Mazzie.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 10: Matthew Wixed.

Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 11: Mark Steimer

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