Kathryn MacLellan on Being In The Room When You’ve Never Seen Your Script Before

Kathryn MacLellan headshot (1)-page-0Tonight Kathryn MacLellan, Halifax based actor and Artistic Director of KAZAN CO-OP, will stand on stage at the Bus Stop Theatre and be handed a sealed envelope. Inside there will be a play called White Rabbit Red Rabbit, written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. She will then perform this play for this audience. As Kathryn and I sit at Two If By Sea in Dartmouth on a beautiful very early Saturday morning, this is all that Kathryn knows about what awaits her in DMV Theatre and Aurora Nova Productions production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Read on to hear Kathryn’s pre-show thoughts of how an actor tackles this unique and exciting situation.

Amanda Campbell (AC): So, you don’t know anything about the play that you’re doing on Sunday.

Kathryn MacLellan (KM): I know nothing. I know that great people are doing it all week.

AC: You’re in a very eclectic group of people.

KM: Yup.

AC: I could go every night! I keep being like, “I want to see THAT person! Oh. I want to see THAT person!”

KM: Yeah. And the age range is interesting. I will be interested to see when we all gather after- which I am very excited about- getting to gather with all the actors who have done the play over these two weeks to discuss our experiences with it. Since right now we’re not allowed to talk about it with one another. It is an experience in the room in the moment.

AC: “In the Room.”

KM: “In the Room: KAZAN CO-OP.” laughs. It will be nice to be able to share what I found and what other people found because I will go next week after I’m up on Sunday. I will go and see a few people. I like the fact that Pam (Halstead) has chosen more experienced artists. I think the youngest is probably Stewart (Legere) and Glen (Matthews).

AC: Glen is probably the youngest.

KM: Glen is probably the youngest.

AC: It’s interesting because I have heard from people who do one person shows that it is kind of a lonely experience because you have no one to share it with and so White Rabbit Red Rabbit is kind of like the extreme version of that. Not only is it a one person show, in a way, it’s also only one night and you can’t talk to anyone who has done it or seen it before and there is no director. That makes it even better to have a debriefing at the end of it all for everyone.

KM: Yes, Absolutely. Absolutely. And how you handle things. Like Janet (MacLellan) asked me, “What happens if you make a mistake?” And you can. It’s like a cold read. I’m actually not nervous or fearful, which I know some people have talked about, because it’s not really about me. It’s about the playwright. It’s about him.

AC: Right.

KM: It’s about his work. I am just the instrument. I just have to be in tune that night and nice and relaxed and have a little water on the stage, I hope. I didn’t ask Pam that yet, but I’ll just bring some. And wear comfortable clothing in case I have to move around and those are the questions I’m asking myself. What is the best way for me to prepare in order to fulfill what needs to be done? So, it’s more like going into more like an acting class, when you are getting thrown things. I am going to choose to go barefoot and wear something loose and comfortable. Something I can move in and not worry about anything and just be the instrument. And if there is a sentence that I read that doesn’t lift off the page, then I will go back. I mean, everyone in the room knows that I just got handed the envelope. Laughs. So, I’m not worried about that. Now, my heart will probably pound and I might sweat a little bit, but that’s okay. That happens. I guess my most recent experience was in Kazan’s production of Daniel MacIvor’s I, Animal where I had a thirty minute monologue- direct address- and you know, that’s not easy. I think the most challenging thing is to keep your energy up so that you can land things that need to land in the moment and then not get too internal and keep it lifted so that the audience is also with you. So, really, the audience is the partner. The audience is your scene partner. So, that’s how I’m thinking of it. It’s not about me. It’s about us. It’s about the collective. That’s what interested me when Pam asked me. His (playwright Nassim Soleimanpour) process interested me and the reason why he was doing it this way, which I don’t even know but maybe I will when the material gets revealed. I just hope there’s not too many Iranian names that I can’t pronounce. Laughs. That might be an issue.

AC: You’re not the first person who has had that fear. I had a similar conversation with Rhys Bevan-John and he said, “I just want to be able to pronounce the guy’s name!” And I was like, fair enough.

KM: If I don’t, it’s charming right?

AC: Exactly. We’re from Nova Scotia… where everyone’s last name begins with Mac. Laughs.

KM: So, yeah. I don’t know. We’ll see. I think the most challenging thing is the energy level- keeping it up and keeping connected with yourself and the audience and the material.

AC: I find it interesting because I have seen the play twice and I think that, probably, White Rabbit Red Rabbit will be the only play that I will ever go into knowing FAR more about the script, the play and the show than the actor performing it. That’s a weird position to be in as an audience member! I have heard your script and you have not. Also, because there is no director, watching the different actors’ choices- their instinctive choices, is very cool. Since there is no director, the actors can do whatever they want.

KM: Right. Yes. Which is sort of like what rehearsal is. But in White Rabbit Red Rabbit we’re doing that entire process- all in one night!

AC: Yes. Exactly!! All in front of an audience on Sunday at the Bus Stop!

Kathryn MacLellan will perform Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit tonight, Sunday September 29th at 8pm at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street). Tickets are $15.00 and available at this website or at the door. There will be a different actor for each performance and the artists lined up for next week are: Ann-Marie Kerr, Stewart Legere, Marty Burt, Mary-Colin Chisholm, Chris Shore, Susan Stackhouse and Pasha Ebrahimi. If you come more than once all return tickets are only $5.00. Come be in the room with Kathryn tonight to discover something very special in the theatre simultaneously together.

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