Hangin’ with Harper

So, somewhere amidst 4-10 hour shifts at work and final year exam study, I have been attempting to be in a play called Angels in America, as the character of Harper Pitt, and lemme tell ya… it is something’.

I play the “sex-depraved, pill-popping housewife” of Sam Ferry’s character Joe, a married mormon struggling with his sexuality, and his feelings about it all –which makes the whole thing sound very like one of those after-school black and white informational videos shown to high school students of the 60s. Something of a very “don’t sass me when I’m telling you to wear a condom after the sock-hop, son” ilk. But it’s actually pretty great, and very raw.

I guess I’d like to talk a little bit about playing Harper, even though it feels like quite a jip, seeing as the project has to go on the back burner in the build up to the end of the semester. So, although the play deals heavily with homosexuality, in a time when many people didn’t believe it was a “real”, I feel that characters like Harper or Louis and Sister Ella Chapter for example, can tend to be overlooked because their key points in the plot is not their sexuality (in my opinion anyway, but what do I know? I can go suck a lemon!). If Harper was the protagonist of the piece, we’d be dealing with a play centred on anxiety, and the mental effects things can have on one’s life. A very relevant topic for me. Anyone who’s dealt with me on a very personal level after about a year or two, will know how prone I am to worrying about stuff, and how panicked I can get about something not going down well, or at all. Also having a sister who has mental illness, that I do find familiar in Harper’s episodes of stress or hallucinations, I feel that I have a sort of window into her character. I recognise  her when her mind wanders – I happen to have a very wanderous mind myself of conclusion and panic jumping-tos, so I’ve had enough time in my life to think of such episodes, and thus to understand hers.

When working on a play, I tend to need work in the housekeeping stuff more than anything. Diction, Pace, Projection, the alphabet of performing that every actor learns and should have as second nature after theatre schooling or play-participating. And I was always a shit student. So I’ve always found the emotion in a character easier to perform, and the rehearsal process becomes a practice for keeping it reigned back, or when to draw it out, all through the lovely tight-rope walk of speaking loudly, clearly and not like an ignorant gom in attempting a language.

…the next edition awaits!

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