In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the cast of Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Cabaret, meet Catherine Lyon and Larry Keeling.
Joel: Where have local theatergoers seen you perform before on our local stages?
Catherine: I’m Catherine Lyon, and I work for a company called The Great Courses. Unless you were attending theater at Georgetown University in the mid-70’s, you probably won’t recognize me!
Larry: My name is Larry Keeling, and I have performed in several local theaters in the area in the past few years. These include Prince William Little Theatre, The Alliance Theatre, Vpstart Crow, Zemfira Stage, Fauquier Community Theatre, Elden Street Players/NextStop Theatre Company, Gray Ghost Theater Company, and others.
Who do you play in this production, and how are you and your character alike and different?
Catherine: I play Fräulein Schneider, the rooming house landlady. She and I are about the same age, same temperament, and share many of the same beliefs about life (so what?!). And we are survivors. Different? Ah, I have had it so very easy.
Larry: I play Herr Schultz, an older Jewish fruit merchant who is also a German. Although I am much different from the character I play, I might share some of his tendency to be more trusting of circumstances and persons in life than maybe I should be.
How did you prepare for your role, and what was one challenge you faced in doing so?
Catherine: I am a reader, so I’ve done a lot of reading about the late Weimar Republic – cultural history mostly, although some political history as well. It was a highly charged, shifting, intensely artistic period, and Germany could have gone in several directions politically. I looked at a lot of pictures. I spent time rereading and rereading and rereading the script and doing the work an actor does to prepare – considering the many different motivational possibilities for the character. The challenge? I simply must keep her away from any knowledge about what eventually happened in Germany during the Third Reich. She didn’t know. Should she have known? Could she have known? I don’t know. I need to keep her in the present moment of the play.
Larry: Of course, playing a character with an accent requires researching and practice using the language over and over so that it becomes much more natural with time. We have had a great dialect coach, Ivy Elizabeth Cole, who has provided a great deal of guidance in the specific accents. There are similarities between Herr Schultz’s Yiddish and the other German characters in the show, but also very distinct differences.
Rather than this particular production (and without giving anything away), what about the show itself surprised you the most?
Catherine: I saw the movie version when I was in high school. I was in a production of it as a college student. And here I am with it once again. I am surprised that it continues to resonate, to have meaning. The history that informed it (first, of course, the Third Reich, and then, not incidentally, the social upheaval of the ‘60s and ‘70s) is filled with sorrow, and the people struggling are so very human in their efforts to live, to find love, to survive. We relate to them, here in the early part of the 21st century, and that surprises me.
Larry: I was aware of the show mostly from the movie with Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. I guess the most surprising thing is that my character was not a major part of the film at all.
What is your favorite song in the show (whether you sing it or not), and why?
Catherine: That very first one in the show – “Willkommen.” Which is also the very last one in the show… Welcome. Leave your troubles outside! In here, Life is beautiful…
Larry: I do not sing it, but the song “Two Ladies” is just a really unique and comical song, and it is performed with an equally unique dance. The performers make it a lot of fun and I just enjoy watching them rehearse it.
What’s next for you after this production closes?
Catherine: I’m off for a week in Maine to grown-up music camp! A whole blissful week of clarinet lessons and practice. And then, there’s more gardening, more knitting, and work on learning German to prep for a trip there in the fall.
Larry: I will be performing in The Wizard Of Oz at Zemfira Stage in Falls Church in August of this year. I will be playing Professor Marvel and the Wizard of Oz himself.
How is this show relevant to contemporary audiences, and why should people come to see this production?
Because … what good is sitting alone in your room? Come here the music play! Life is a cabaret, old chum! And Cabaret is all about Life!
Larry: This was a time in which political forces changed the lives of so many of the German people…slowly manipulating their lives. The changes were subtle, and so many were unaware of the eventual consequences of those changes. Because of the often divisive nature of our political system now in this country, maybe we should be more wary of promises made by our politicians and examine some of their policies more carefully.
Prince William Little Theatre’s Cabaret plays through July 24, 2016 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Gregory Family Theater on the George Mason University Campus -10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA 20109). Tickets can be purchased online, or at the box office.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Aaron Verchot-Ware and Katherine Bisulca.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 2: James Maxted.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 3: Catherine Lyon and Larry Keeling.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 4: Katie Puschel & Jared Il-Pazzo Dent.
Kendi Mostafavi’s review of ‘Cabaret’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.