In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the director and cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s Once Upon a Mattress, meet Meg Nemeth and Mike Culhane.
Joel: Tell our readers where they may have seen you on local stages.
Meg: I’ve performed at Prince George’s Little Theater, Greenbelt Arts Center, Goddard’s Music and Drama, Laurel Mills Playhouse, Kensington Arts Theater’s 2nd Stage, and at The University of Maryland. My favorite roles over the years have been Fairy May in Curious Savage, Gwendolyn Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest and Lucy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Mike: Last September I played Stanley in Brighton Beach Memoirs at PGLT. I also performed as Huckleberry Finn at GAC’s production of Tom Sawyer, and before that I was in Pippin there as well. I was even Romeo in an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet with the theater department at The Catholic University of America.
Tell us about the character you play and how you relate to her and him. Does this character have any of your personality or character traits?
Meg: I play Princess Winifred the Woebegone, who thinks she is kind of reserved and shy. I love Fred! She’s zany and doesn’t care what people think of her. Admittedly, I am just as crazy as she is. She is so much fun to play, and she loves frogs, which holds a special meaning for me.
Mike: I play Dauntless the Drab. He’s a bit of an oddity in that although he’s the male lead, he is by no means strong or stereotypical as male leads go. His struggles with timidness is something I can sympathize with all too well.
What has been the most fun playing this character?
Meg: EVERYTHING about Fred is fun, from singing “Shy” in a way that is definitely not that, to yelling at the Nightingale. I think my most favorite aspect of Fred is that I get to spit onstage.
Mike: I’ve had fun finding the balance between portraying him as a man and a child at the same time. It’s easy to lapse into playing up one trait over the other. I like showing both equally to the audience.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and how did your director help you with these challenges?
Meg: Balancing being a Teacher, Mommy, and Fred has been quite a challenge this summer. It’s hard to kiss my son and husband goodbye and run off to all the rehearsals, but I’ve been dubbed “Princess Mommy” – so I know I can do it! My family, co-workers at my school, and the cast have been so caring and understanding.
Working with Frank as our director has been especially great because it is like he reads my mind! I come to rehearsals with ideas and he was thinking the same things! It’s wonderful that he lets me try so many “bits of business.”
Mike: I’ve given a lot of thought to the challenge of being childlike and yet grown up too. Our director, Frank Pasqualino, has been really helpful by suggesting a lot of gestures and traits which help me capture both parts of Dauntless. The physicality of the role is a big part of conveying man/child to the audience, so I have paid special attention to how I can do that.
Which character in the show is most like you, and why?
Meg: Winifred, without a doubt. We are both such goofballs! Fred is a strong gal that isn’t afraid of anything, and I enjoy brining that out onstage. We both will stoop to making funny facial expressions just to make people laugh. And like Fred, I am a pretty enthusiastic person who doesn’t give up easily on things.
Mike: Probably Dauntless! The boy is an optimist, hopeless romantic, and kind to a fault. Maybe our similarities are why I got this role. Typecasting alert!
It’s very interesting (to borrow a phrase from a song I sing) – I played King Sextimus in a high school production of this show. So now I am on the other side of our duet about the birds and the bees, and I’ve enjoyed that. John, our King Sextimus is great to play off of. His pantomines are hysterical!
What do you admire most about your fellow cast members?
Meg: This cast is so talented and dedicated. I’ve worked with some of them on other productions, but we have new performers who are making their debut with PGLT, so that has been really great, to welcome them to our “kingdom” as it were. I am so impressed with the level of performance this cast has created. It’s also pretty great to hang out with a bunch of sillies like me for 4 months!
Mike: I really admire the cast’s persistence. As community theater actors, we don’t get paid, and everyone’s lives are busy as it is. Not only have they given up the little spare time they have to make this show great, but many have long commutes to get to rehearsals. It takes a certain dedication to choose to be in a large scale musical that rehearses four nights a week all summer.
What is your favorite line that your character says? What is your favorite line that another character says?
Meg: My favorite line of Fred’s is when Dauntless asks her what kind of pets she has. (I don’t want to give it away here, but suffice to say, it is funny.) Sir Harry has a great line that is a favorite of mine, concerning what my Royal Family’s Motto is: “Roughly translated, it means, “If at first you don’t succeed…”
Mike: The line I most like to say is to Winnifred is: “You do? Alright!” In context, this line is a killer! And I find what the King says in the last scene be among my favorite lines in the show.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Once Upon a Mattress?
Meg: I’d love for them to say, “Damn! She’s funny! I’m gonna go see that show again!”
Mike: Well, I prefer that they leave their wallets. Honestly, I hope they go home with their hearts feeling a little lighter. Musical comedies like these are so much fun, I want to share high energy with the audience.
Once Upon a Mattress plays from September 11-26, 2015 at Prince George’s Little Theatre performing at Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (301) 937-7458 and press 1, at the door, or online.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 1: Director Frank Pasqualino.
Meet the Director and Cast of Prince George’s Little Theatre’s ‘Once Upon a Mattress’: Part 2: Meg Nemeth and Mike Culhane.