Lucy Breedlove makes her professional debut playing the middle of three siblings in Lillian Hellman’s 1941 play Watch on the Rhine. In the childhood they are having, the bogeyman is all too real. Set in 1940, less than a year before the United States entered World War II, Watch on the Rhine is taut with tensions wrought by Hitler’s rise to power in Europe. The children and their parents have fled Germany, where their father’s antifascism has made him an enemy of the state. They have come to stay with the children’s maternal grandmother in her very nice home in Georgetown. They think they are safe. But they’re not. Their grandmother has another houseguest who means their papa no good.
By way of introducing DC audiences to the play, I thought it might be interesting to look at it through the eyes of the young actors who are in it. How are they wrapping their heads around it? Curious, I drafted a set of questions, and they each kindly agreed to compose answers.
Third in this series is Lucy Breedlove. Her acting resumé includes Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods, Maria and Liesl in The Sound of Music, Wendy in Peter Pan, Jojo in Seussical the Musical, Gabriella in High School Musical, Tuptim in The King and I, Miss Dorothy in The King and I, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Gypsy, as well as film and commercial credits.
John: How old are you and what grade are you in?
Lucy: I’m fifteen years old and attend tenth grade at James Madison High School.
What made you want to act, and what was your first experience performing on stage?
I’ve been singing since before I can remember, which is probably traced back to the fact that both of my parents are musicians. When I was about ten, my mom asked if I wanted to audition for a local production of Annie. Since then, there’s rarely been a time when I wasn’t rehearsing or performing for a show.
What are some of the shows you’ve been in and some of the roles you’ve played?
Over the past few years I’ve been in several community productions but recently started auditioning professionally for film and theater. Miss Dorothy in Thoroughly Modern Millie is one of my favorite roles that I’ve played, because it was my first exposure to tap dancing, which I now love, and the Baker’s Wife from Into the Woods is a dream role of mine that I had the opportunity to perform recently at a local theater.
What character do you play in Watch on the Rhine? And how would you tell a friend who your character is and what your character does in the play?
I play Babette, who is the twelve-year-old middle child and only daughter in the Müller family. She and her mom love to sew, leaving Babette with a vast understanding of fabrics and colors. She and her siblings have gotten used to moving from country to country, allowing them to experience the harsh 1940s European world, an experience that has caused them to grow up quickly. She is mature beyond her years and never fails to make a killer potato pancake.
Watch on the Rhine takes place in 1940, shortly before the United States entered World War II. Your mother is American and your father is German. What do think it means to your character that your father is against fascism and the Nazis?
Babette grew up in Germany as fascism was on the rise. Due to the nature of her father’s job, she and her brothers have gotten used to a lifestyle where they’re constantly in fear that their family will be caught by the Nazis, even when they move to America.
How can someone your age relate to the themes that are in Watch on the Rhine?
Watch on the Rhine is timeless in that it combines the stories of a family reunion, a relationship, and a political feud. Despite being written in 1941, the themes are still relevant today because it focuses on a modern family that has complexities in all fields.
You are working with many Broadway veterans and stars, including Lise Bruneau as your mother, Sara Müller; Andrew Long as your father, Kurt Müller; and Marsha Mason as your maternal grandmother, Fanny Farrelly. What are you learning from them and what do you admire most about them?
Several people have inquired about how I like the rehearsal process with mostly adults as opposed to being surrounded by friends or other people my age. I absolutely love that I have the opportunity to observe and learn from so many trained professionals, particularly because of how much there is to learn from each of them in not only acting skill but etiquette. I’ve gotten used to being a big fish in a small pond and although those experiences are useful for the practice of memorizing lines or expanding your repertoire, the way you grow is by constantly surrounding yourself with individuals who challenge you to push yourself.
What suggestions has Director Jackie Maxwell given you about your role?
Babette has grown up under fairly unusual circumstances, and Jackie has encouraged me to explore her background more in order to fully develop my character. Because I’ve grown up performing only in musicals, time is rarely set aside for research and character development between choreography and vocal rehearsals. Participating in rehearsals that are dedicated to analyzing the script and creating childhood stories that have formed my character into her full self are the most beneficial experiences I’ve had thus far.
What advice would you give to a young actor like yourself who is preparing to play your role?
Do a lot of research! My mom and I searched everywhere for the 1943 movie with Bette Davis to watch before callbacks. After scouring the internet we were able to buy it and watch together to better understand the plotline of the play and where Babette fits in. I also set aside time to read over the full script a few times, because Lillian Hellman’s work is so intricate that you often miss important details the first time. I even went to my drama teacher to get help with speaking my sides in both a German and French accent in case I was asked by Jackie during callbacks.
Why would you urge theatergoers to see Watch on the Rhine?
Watch on the Rhine will not only appeal to theatergoers because of the talented cast but because the story is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat. No matter your interest in the performing arts, everyone has something to gain from Watch on the Rhine.
Watch on the Rhine plays February 3 to March 5, 2017, at Arena Stage’s Fichandler Stage – 1101 Sixth Street SW, in Washington DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 488-3300, or purchase tickets online.
Meet the Three Young Actors in ‘Watch on the Rhine’ at Arena Stage: #1 Ethan Miller.
Meet the Three Young Actors in ‘Watch on the Rhine’ at Arena Stage: #2 Tyler Bowman.
Meet the Three Young Actors in ‘Watch on the Rhine’ at Arena Stage: #3 Lucy Breedlove.