Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Lauren Modica, appears in “Henry IV, Part One” and “Henry IV, Part Two,” where she portrays multiple roles including Peto, the gal pal of Falstaff and Price Hal. Next season she will be playing in “Romeo and Juliet” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Modica is from Portland, where she developed her extensive resume by performing in many of the remarkable theaters there. She was hired after she submitted a video audition to OSF.
LM: Working here is the best education, in terms of who you get to work with and watch and learn from. It’s never an easy path for anyone who wants to act in theater. It’s a hard career to break into. It’s made all the harder if you are at all outside the norm; and I, as a 4-foot, 8-inch woman with dwarfism, who’s half African American, recognize now as an adult what some professors may have been trying to communicate: which is that any little thing makes it so much harder, makes your path so much longer, or more intense in terms of obstacles. But at the time, having some cold hard realities introduced, was so disheartening: Having something that I loved, that I was encouraged to do and explore — and having someone say there’s no way I could possibly make it as a professional actor. I’m very happy that I have the chance to prove them wrong. I’m just grateful for the chance to make a fool of myself, to learn, to grow.
EH: What makes a great actor?
LM: Curiosity, a sense of hospitality, and a sense of humility. When performing for an audience, if an actor views the theater space as home, you’re inviting people in — of course you share hospitality. You’re coming together, and you’re saying: “Hopefully we’re going to have this experience together, and you will leave satiated in some way, cleansed in some way, and thinking. You will leave actively engaged in what has just happened.” I always want the audience to feel that they have a right to respond, however it moves them. I want them to feel comfortable, to make that human connection.
EH: What makes theater unique among the other arts?
LM: To me, it’s always the immediacy; you get that real time reaction. You’re setting something in front of someone, and you’re hoping that it’s palatable, at the very least. And you know right away if it’s not. It’s that communal and always a unique experience. There are times where it’s almost transcendent, where there are no barriers; there’s no sensation of performing; it’s that special. It combines what I love about all other art forms. I get to enjoy every bit of what makes all art great — in this really unique experience.
EH: What makes great directors?
LM: I’ve worked with really fantastic directors who have a firm clear (yet collaborative) vision, who coax out of their actors a performance of bravery and boldness, and cleanly get that vision translated on stage.
EH: What do you see in your future?
LM: I want to continue taking chances, taking risks, doing roles that scare and excite me that I don’t think that I can do. Doing roles that showcase me in scenarios and situations that are familiar to audiences, even if my body is not, because I think that broadens perspectives and widens horizons. I would love to continue to do exciting, brave and provocative work.
William Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part One,” directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, runs through Oct. 28. “Henry IV, Part Two,” directed by Carl Cofield, runs through Oct. 29. Both are in the Thomas Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. For tickets and information, call 800-219-8161, or visit osfashland.org.
Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.wordpress.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.