Randall Theatre's recent production of "Man of La Mancha" featured Pam Ward as Don Quixote's revered strumpet, Aldonza. Ward makes her living recording audio books for numerous clients, including Ashland's Blackstone Audio. She soon will be performing in "Black Friday," opening Nov. 8 at the Randall in Medford. We met at Bloomsbury Coffeehouse in Ashland and discussed the art of acting.
PW: People are fascinating animals. Being an actor, you think about the opportunity to create characters, to explore other life stories, other personalities, other corners and wrinkles in another person's personality. I get to explore little crevices and nooks and crannies in my own personality that I might not have the nerve to explore in real life.
Every time you work with a new character, you bring pieces of your own personality to that character. That's inevitable. You have to base a character on someone real, and that's whom you have to work with. But I also find that I bring something back with me. I find something new about myself every time I create a new character. It can be just some interesting little thing that I didn't know about myself, or it can actually be life changing.
One of the reasons that I am so passionate about the role of Aldonza is that she genuinely changed my life when I did the first productions of "Man of La Mancha" in my 20s; and she changed my life again this year. She tapped back into a state of mind, a level of passion, that I didn't expect to experience again.
EH: Some women notice that there's an age in life when men stop looking at them. Does theater turn that around?
PW: Well, they're looking again, I can tell you that. Doing this show flipped a switch.
EH: How so?
PW: I was right on the cusp of becoming a little old lady. I was resigned to being the character woman. To do Aldonza, I couldn't be the chubby character lady anymore. Aldonza has taught me more about being true to myself than any other experience in my life. To come back to this character more than 20 years later, I found things in her that I didn't know in my 20s. To be able to bring her back to life was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had.
EH: What is so compelling about doing live theater?
PW: It's a safe place to experience things that would not be safe in real life. To have the freedom to explore the farthest reaches of the human psyche — where else do you get to do that? You can't do that as a regular human being in everyday life. They'd lock you up. There's nothing like it: the energy level, the power that flows through you, the freedom to explore.
People who are involved in theater are just magnificent. Most of them are crazy, to one degree or another. That's because we have explored beyond the boundaries of everyday life.
You're play-acting when you are on stage, but when you hear somebody in the third row sob, or when you see them after the show and get that hug, there's nothing in the world like it. That's what makes it real. It's wonderful to feel this alive again. I'm awake again. It's like plugging into a high power line.
Randall Theatre's "Black Friday," a comedy about the biggest shopping day of the year written and directed by Peter Wickliffe, opens Nov. 8 and plays at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 24. For tickets and information, visit randalltheatre.com or call 541-632-3258.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.