Laura C. Harris is having a busy season . She is currently playing Marian in Young Robin Hood at Round House Theatre. This is a complete contrast to the last role she played of Dora in Our Class at Theater J. Maybe the roles are completely different but two things are the same. Laura was great in both plays and she was directed both times by oh so talented Derek Goldman. Previous credits include Bachelorette and Time Stands Still at Studio Theatre, Amadeus at Round House Theatre, The Winter’s Tale and The School for Scandal at Folger Theatre, 26 Miles at Two River Theatre Company/Round House Theatre and Amazons and Their Men at Forum Theatre. Having seen Laura in a bunch of these shows I can attest to her talent and versatility. Going from a very intense play like Our Class to the more lighthearted Young Robin Hood, you have to be versatile. If You are lucky enough to see Young Robin Hood or anything else that Laura C, Harris might be in, just go and enjoy. You will always get a great performance.
What was your first show in The DC area?
Technically, my first show in DC was a 2-performance run at the Kennedy Center for ACTF, when a production I was in at Middlebury College of Peter Barnes’ The Bewitched was a national finalist.
My first “semi-pro” local performance was with Potomac Theatre Project (now producing out of New York as PTP-NYC) while I was still in school. I was a part of their final season in DC, performing in An Experiment with an Air Pump.
Both of those amazing experiences led me to move to DC after school, at which point my first truly post-school, professional experience with DC theater was at The Folger Theatre in The School for Scandal.
How is Young Robin Hood different from other versions of the story?
The main difference is right there in the title: Young. In this version, our playwright Jon Klein makes Robin sixteen years old, and imagines how the traditional characters might fit into his life at that age. Jon saw the themes of questioning authority and making your own way through sometime murky morality as being issues that teenagers deal with every day on their journey to adulthood.
The character of Marian is also unique; she’s been updated from a waifish damsel in distress to being a force in her own right. She’s willing to challenge authority, to make her own destiny, to fight for what she believes in, and to play with (sometimes besting) the boys.
And, I’m willing to bet that our version is the only one with a Spirit of the Forest, who affects all of the goings-on in Sherwood Forest in some really creative, exciting ways!
How do you describe your character of Marian?
When we first meet Marian, she’s on a precipice. She’s still entrenched in her life with her father the Sheriff, which we learn is a life of riches and comfort and ease, but her eyes are beginning to open as to how her father is able to provide that kind of life, and who suffers as a consequence. I like the idea that the best plays investigate a moment in time after which things will never be the same for the characters, and Jon does that for Marian in this play. The introduction of Robin into her life, and his ideas into her consciousness, disrupt her equilibrium and allow her to grow into the woman she wants to be.
And, at this point of transition and self-discovery, it doesn’t surprise me to find that Marian is many disparate things and, just like your average teenager, sometimes all at the same time. She enjoys the spoils of her life but questions their origins; she is in love with Robin while navigating what “first love” even means; she’s independent but eager to be part of the team; she loves her father but hates who he’s become; she’s fiercely intelligence but endearingly naïve; she’s an accomplished sportsman but does it all in a hot-pink, bustled jacket.
This is your second show in a row with director Derek Goldman, after just completing Our Class at Theater J. What is it about working with him that makes it a good experience for a performer?
Never having worked with Derek before, I received the offers for Our Class and Young Robin Hood on the same day (it was a VERY happy day indeed!). Of course, that is a big leap of faith on his part that I continue to be so grateful for. After quickly saying “yes” to both shows, I realized it may be a leap of faith on my part as well; what if we didn’t enjoy working together on Our Class and were unhappily still stuck together for Young Robin Hood?
My great fortune is that I have found I love working with Derek! I believe that Derek has a lot of faith in his performers and that he casts people who he trusts to do their jobs. One amazing byproduct of this is that the large ensemble casts of both of these shows have been filled both with people I already know and love, and people I’ve wanted to know and work with for years, and they are people from whom I have learned immense amounts. The other great benefit is that actors are allowed some time and space for self-discovery, or castmate collaboration, or work with the incredible movement, fight, and music teams that he builds.
The sense of teamwork and collaboration that Derek is able to foster in the room is also really invigorating. His mind has the capacity for big ideas, and for how to use all the things that make theatre such a unique medium. He starts with sharing these big ideas, and being exciting about going further and doing more, and he then invites the team he has assembled to play along. Everyone’s opinion is valid, and he’s not afraid to open questions to the room or to admit when someone’s idea might work better than his own. In both of these shows, this creativity and openness has resulted in things happening on stage, and with my own acting, that I couldn’t have imagined on my own.
And amidst the passion and preparedness he brings to the room, he also cultivates such a positive space in which to work. You walk into the rehearsal room and he’s there, smiling, joking, and full of energy and excitement for the work, and that attitude definitely becomes infectious and makes for a grand experience overall.
After Young Robin Hood finishes what is next for you?
Up next, I get to experience for the first time the unique position in which actors often find themselves: after enjoying what has been hands-down the most active and successful year of my professional career, I have absolutely nothing lined up for 2013!
So I look forward to continuing to investigate acting opportunities for next year, and to enjoying (at least for a week for two, before I surely get bored) having “normal” weekends for a while.
One exciting thing about this career is that you never know what’s just around the next corner, so I’m leaning into that and we’ll see what emerges!
Young Robin Hood plays through December 30, 2012 at Round House Theatre – 4545 East West Highway, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, purchase them online, by phone at (240) 644-1100, or in person at the box office.