We are very excited to welcome back the Irish Theater of Chicago for a new round of performances this season! For their first show, Pineapple, we asked the actors questions about the show and their acting process––here are their answers:
What does the show mean to you personally?
Morgen (Steph): I frequently am the one standing in the way of my own happiness. The way the show portrays that––in an honest, unsentimental way––is very meaningful to me.
Matt (Dan): It is a wonderful piece of writing from a relatively new and young playwright that the ITC has never produced before. To find powerful pieces like this and bring them to our audience is very meaningful to me.
Audrey (Roxanne): My Granny was born in Galway, Ireland in 1930. She left when she was 18, married my Poppy in England, and moved to the United States. Her home is everything to her. Getting to explore an Irish story feels so comfortable. It feels like the Irish part of me is able to breathe and grow in doing this, and my heart is totally connected to it.
Jamie (Paula): It’s sad and real and funny and moving. I love the relationships; I love Paula. And honestly, it’s nice to be back after a hiatus from theater.
Savanna (Antoinette): Much of Irish theater (and theater in general) focuses on men. It means the world to me to get to focus on telling the stories of these working-class women.
What is the most rewarding part of being in this cast and this show?
Morgen (Steph): It’s great to be in a contemporary Irish play with so many well-written women. It’s rewarding to act with all these lovely folks.
Matt (Dan): So far, it has been exploring the space with these characters. Inhabiting their environment and interacting with these wonderfully talented people.
Audrey (Roxanne): I haven’t had the opportunity in a professional setting to portray such a messy, strong, resilient, broken, and three dimensional person. Getting to do this with such a supportive, hilarious, and driven cast is a dream!
Jamie (Paula): Being able to work with such a talented cast and my good friend, Matt Isler. I’m also thrilled to have the opportunity to explore a more mature role.
Savanna (Antoinette): When I moved to the Chicagoland area for school, the first show I saw was ITC’s The Weir. I was blown away. I didn’t know that theater could be like that: intimate and brutally, exquisitely real … it’s a dream come true to work for this company.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Matt (Dan): Every opportunity you have, take it. Every time you take the stage or are in front of the camera do your God’s honest best and learn from every experience. Also, be a nice person.
Audrey (Roxanne): Train. Train. Train. Train in everything. Read plays … and when you think you’ve read enough plays, read more plays. You can’t be in this for praise. Advocate for yourself in the spaces you are in. Ask questions. Watch other actors, watch people on the street, watch TV and film, go see plays. Find joy in what you are doing.
Jamie (Paula): Don’t do it. Not true. I would say get as much diversity in your training and work.
Savanna (Antoinette): You won’t know everything when you graduate. You will still have questions and confusions and lessons to learn. And that is okay. Be gentle with yourself when you learn lessons that you may not enjoy. Above all, work hard and be kind to yourself and your fellow human beings, on and off stage.
How do you keep your performance “fresh” every night?
Morgen (Steph): It’s alive! Reminding myself that these next few days that are about to happen, haven’t happened yet. Steph is living them for the first time.
Matt (Dan): Take the time before performances to find your character again, whatever that may look like. Re-familiarize yourself with the play and remember the energy and excitement you had the first time you walked into rehearsals.
Audrey (Roxanne): Listening. What you can gain from another actor by truly listening on stage will give you everything you need to keep a performance fresh. Also, a more technical thing that I need to do is a pretty extensive physical warm-up before every show.
Savanna (Antoinette): Trusting my fellow cast members. If you’re truly listening and connecting with your scene partners and your circumstances, your performance won’t ever be stale.
What has been your biggest challenge as an actor?
Morgen (Steph): Fear of being inadequate.
Matt (Dan): Finding and continuing to work.
Audrey (Roxanne): Confidence. Trusting that I know what I am doing both in life and on stage.
Jamie (Paula): Self-doubt.
Savanna (Antoinette): Learning to take care of myself. I’ve struggled with mental health issues since middle school … The minute I started prioritizing my health, I became a better actor. This field can be emotionally draining if you don’t keep yourself healthy.
What has been your favorite role as an actor and why?
Morgen (Steph): They are all my favorites in their own way, but if I had to choose one, I would say Desdemona in Goodnight Desdemona when I was in college. Playing a warrior-princess in a comedy with Shakespearean text that runs around with daggers and decapitated heads isn’t something that happens every day, ya know?
Matt (Dan): Every role is different and every role I’ve had I love for different reasons. I may love a part because of the actors around me, I may love a role because of the new challenges it brings, but I love being on the stage and in front of the camera, breathing life into a character and hopefully I can do service to the playwright, director, character, and story.
Audrey (Roxanne): I think up to this point, Sissy Jupe in Hard Times at Lookingglass has been my favorite role. Sissy was full of hope, warmth, love, and wide-eyed curiosity for the world around her. She taught me a lot about myself and I loved her dearly.
Jamie (Paula): Emer in Lay Me Down Softly. It introduced me to the company and was my first professional show in Chicago. I loved Emer––sassy, smart, clever, and full of wants.
Savanna (Antoinette): The Seanchaí in Daughters of Ire (this answer might be cheating, since it’s a solo show I wrote). But I’d choose the Seanchaí because doing solo work made me a better, bolder actor.
A big thanks to Morgen, Matt, Audrey, Jamie, and Savanna for their varied and insightful answers. Limited tickets remain for Pineapple, so order yours before they’re sold out!
Irish Theatre of Chicago presents Pineapple
In the notoriously dangerous neighborhood of Ballymun, Paula struggles to free her family from generational poverty, while her sister, Roxanna is only interested in herself, boys, and Bacardi Breezers. Pineapple is a beautifully warm and bitingly funny play from Dublin writer/director Phillip McMahon. For mature audiences. No intermission.