In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of George is Dead, meet Fiona Blackshaw.
Joel: Please tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on our local stages?
Fiona: I’ve been a “resting” actor for the past six years. Before that, I was a company member and director of marketing for Forum Theatre; I was in Forum’s productions of The Gas Heart and Hamletmachine, Kid-Simple, Valparaiso, and Antigone. I also acted with The Inkwell, Journeymen Theater Ensemble, Longacre Lea, Rorschach Theatre, Purchased Experiences Don’t Count, Studio Theatre, and Venus Theatre. And, before the earth’s crust cooled, I was a company member and media dogsbody at Cherry Red.
What is it about George is Dead that made you want to be part of the cast?
The fantastic script. And the opportunity to work with longtime friends.
Who do you play in the show and how do you relate to your character? What do you like the most about your character?
I play Carla, who sees life as a series of obligations. She’s trapped in old patterns, and she doesn’t realize that she can break out of them.
What is the show about from Carla’s point of view?
It’s about Carla being pushed to her breaking point.
Had you ever heard of Elaine May before working on this show and had you seen any of her work before? And now that you are working on her play, what impresses you most about her writing?
I had heard of Elaine May, mostly in relation to Mike Nichols. And I saw Ishtar when it came out in theaters, though I didn’t realize she’d directed it.
I love how masterfully Elaine May creates annoying or unsympathetic people. The moral compasses of all her characters seem askew. Plus, her humor is so dry and so quick; it takes about 15 seconds after a character speaks to realize how brutally funny (or funnily brutal) he or she is.
What is your favorite line or lines in the show and what is your favorite line or lines that someone else recites and why?
My favorite line is the last one in the play—and I’m not revealing it here! You’ll have to come to DCAC and hear it live. One of my other favorites is “It sounds very time-consuming. Here’s your cheese.”
Kerri/Doreen has a lot of hilarious lines. One of my faves is: “I’m sorry to break in on your argument. I know how I feel when waiters do it.” She’s trying to relate to Carla, but the comparison she makes demonstrates that she’s on a whole different planet.
What has been the most fun for you in rehearsals? What is the craziest thing that has happened in rehearsals?
Working with Kerri has been tremendous fun. It’s hard for me to keep a straight face.
I can’t remember anything particularly crazy happening during rehearsals. We’ve had such a condensed rehearsal process, and I guess we just worked all the time!
What is the best advice or the most helpful suggestions that Director Ian Allen has given you that has made your performance better. And what suggestion made you shake your head in disbelief?
I have a super-expressive face—I’d be a terrible poker player—but Carla doesn’t reveal how she feels until the end of the play. As a way to keep my face neutral, Ian told me to concentrate on listening more than reacting. That’s helped a lot.
Ian tells actors to “Act less,” which at first seems head shake–worthy. Basically, it means don’t overendow things or turn them into excuses for artistic flourishes. If you need to walk across stage, walk across stage; avoid the temptation to “perform” walking.
As you said above, you are veteran of Ian Allen’s Cherry Red Productions. What shows did you appear in there and who did you play?
My first professional acting gig was as Susan Brown West in the world premiere of Ian’s comedy Baked Baby; I played a Mormon housewife who—spoiler alert!—cooks her child. I also appeared in four pieces of Seven Deadly Dwarves (most prominently as Donna Deville, the Mary Kay lady from hell, in Paul Donnelly’s “Careful Now”) and three rounds of Day-Old Plays.
What is it about Ian Allen that attracted you to join his new theatre company The Klunch?
Ian has a tremendous grasp of what’s funny—and what makes people uncomfortable. I love how he combines humor and discomfort.
And what does ‘The Klunch’ mean to you?
It means confrontational theater is returning to DC.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in George is Dead?
The holidays can be stressful. I hope people leave George Is Dead smiling—and grateful that Doreen isn’t sitting in their living room!
George is Dead plays through December 19, 2015 at The Klunch performing at The DC Arts Center (DCAC) – 2438 18th Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, buy them at the box office 30 minutes before the performance, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘George is Dead’ at The Klunch: Part 1: John Tweel.