In Part 6 of a series of interviews with The Playwright, Director, and cast of Calendar Girls at McLean Community Players, meet Anne Megan Hilleary.
Joel: Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Anne Megan Hilleary: As a native of the DC area, I have appeared in several productions throughout my school years and as an adult on the community theatre circuit, including Alexandria, Burke Centre, Falls Church, and Springfield. Favorite productions in which I have trod the boards included One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Nurse Ratched), Harvey (Aunt Ethel Chauvenet), Dylan (Meg), and The Odd Couple (Female Version) (Olive).
Tell us about the character you play and how you relate to her. Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
My character…Lady Cravenshire…is a true “lady of the manor.” As a member of the British aristocracy, she has from childhood been made aware of the importance of her position and how her appearance and actions affect other people, including those from different classes. Thus, she takes her responsibilities quite seriously and tries to put her “best foot forward” on all occasions. But I can most relate to Lady Cravenshire’s desire to inject a bit of fun into everything she does, a trait that I’ve had since I was a child. She brings to mind an approach to life we’ve always had in our family: “Do your best at whatever you do, but do your best to have fun at it, too!”
What has been the most fun playing this character?
Interacting with other actors onstage has always been one of my greatest joys in putting on a play. And in this case, these folks have been the most fun to act with. I find that I get a surge of energy when onstage with other people who are as dedicated to their craft as they are. I have also thoroughly enjoyed bringing the character of Lady Cravenshire to life by finding the little things…the clothes, the walk, the voice, the gestures, the props…that all come together to make her into a flesh-and-blood person.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and how did your director help you with these challenges?
One of the most challenging aspects of this play has been to ensure that the British accents were as authentic as possible. As an upper class British woman, Lady Cravenshire’s accent was going to be somewhat different from the accents of the other women of Yorkshire. It was most helpful that the director—Bob Sams—engaged for us an experienced dialect coach who was familiar with the wide range of accents throughout the British Isles. Also, I was most impressed by the freedom that Bob gave me to explore and develop Lady Cravenshire’s character. For example, he encouraged me to use props during rehearsals and try different interpretations of the line readings until I found the “magic formula” to make me feel totally comfortable in the character’s skin.
Which character in the show is most like you, and why?
I think I most relate to Chris, the lady who “starts the ball rolling” with respect to the calendar. I admire her spirit and ingenuity in not being content to stick to the “status quo” in raising money for a good cause. She approached a devastating issue…cancer…in a most imaginative way and helped lead the way for others to confront their doubts and fears. Chris thought outside the box…indeed, she recycled the box, which is something I’ve consistently tried to achieve in my own life. Also, I am impressed by the fact that in the process, Chris grew…she learned some things about herself and her relationship to her own husband and to her friends, especially Annie.
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members?
I’m most struck by their strong work ethic, professionalism, and dedication to finding the core of their individual characters. Also, throughout our rehearsal time, the cast members were very patient with and supportive of one another while developing their characters. In addition, I believe that their willingness to try to bond with one another off stage has translated well to establishing onstage a realistic atmosphere of the long-standing friendship among these women.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Calendar Girls?
First and foremost, lots of smiles and laughter. I’m hoping that everyone will get an enormous kick out of Lady Cravenshire and her antics. But also, I’d like to think that the play as a whole will remind audience members of how fragile life can be…of how important it is to appreciate what we have and to live our lives with loved ones as well and as fully as we can while we can.
If you were a Calendar Girl, what would your page look like, and which month would you be and why?
Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve been a huge movie fan, especially of old movies. As a Calendar Girl, I can see myself in February, a chilly month when most folks are stuck indoors with nothing much to do…the month during which Turner Classic Movies runs its marathon of Oscar-winning movies. I’d be in the altogether, of course, standing strategically beside an old style movie projector that was showing all the greats like Casablanca and Citizen Kane. Gives me goose bumps just to imagine it, never mind that the month is February!
What is your favorite line that your character says? What is your favorite line that another character says?
Rather than a favorite line, I think one of my favorite moments is when Lady Cravenshire walks in on the ladies in the buff as they are posing for the month of December. It’s such a shock to her system…she is dumbfounded and from her vantage point, Lady Cravenshire can’t figure out whether they’ve lost their minds or she has! Regarding other characters, there are so many moments that are memorable for their poignancy and sheer joy. For instance, the scenes between John and Annie never fail to bring a tear to my eye. And moments such as when Chris says that “…we need bigger buns…” I find myself laughing out loud every time. Also, when Ruth shouts, “I did it!” when she finally decides to participate in the calendar with her friends…a true transformation on Ruth’s part…it makes me want to stand up and yell, “Good on ya…you go, Ruth girl!”
Calendar Girl plays from September 18- October 3, 2015 at the McLean Community Players performing at McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre – 1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For more information, call (703) 304-3176, or visit their website. Tickets are available at the Alden Box Office, through OvationTix at 1-866-811-4111, or online.
Meet the Cast of McLean Community Players’ ‘Calendar Girl’: Part 1: Diane Sams.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ at McLean Community Players, Part 2: Kathryn (Katie) Johnston.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ at McLean Community Players, Part 3: Liz Weber.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ at McLean Community Players, Part 4: Jennifer Levy.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ at McLean Community Players, Part 5: Jennifer Greene.
Meet the Director and Cast of ‘Calendar Girls’ at McLean Community Players, Part 6: Anne Megan Hilleary.
McLean Community Players Presents Tim Firth’s ‘Calendar Girls’ September 18 – October 3, 2015.