Emily K. Townley is currently playing the role of Elizabeth in Skin Tight which makes up half of the two one-act productions at Studio Theatre called Pas De Deux. She previously appeared at Studio Theatre in Rock ‘N’ Roll and The Bright and Bold Design. Most recently Emily was seen in Tryst at Washington Stage Guild. She is a company member of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and has performed in many productions there including A Bright New Boise, Spain, Wonder of The World, and Maria/Stuart. Other area credits include La Bete, Shaker Heights, and The Woods at Source Theatre, The Tempest at Folger Theatre, Our Town at Everyman Theatre, and Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. Emily has also been seen in two films as well as industrials and commercials. I have seen Emily in a few plays and always enjoy her work. Pas De Deux is no exception.
What was your first performing job in the DC area?
Here at Studio actually! Joy Zinoman cast me in a play called The Bright and Bold Design a few weeks after I graduated from college. She was here for the Pas De Deux opening, we had a long chat after and she was really enthusiastic and complimentary about the whole thing. It’s been very gratifying to have known her for over 20 years and to have had her support.
The role you play in Pas De Deux is quite physical. Can you tell us something about your character and what your typical pre show warm up is for playing this role?
I kept getting notes from our director, Johanna Gruenhut, during the rehearsal process to keep “Elizabeth”, my character, more “earthy, raw and sensual” and I think those are pretty good descriptives of her. She’s passionately in love with life and with her husband, “Tom.”
This show is a lot more physical than anything I’ve done in recent memory. Jens Rasmussen (“Tom”) and I, after really struggling with all of the fighting for a number of weeks and enduring a lot of bruises and sprains and torn muscles, have gotten a lot more comfortable with what we’re doing. So we just do the standard stretch, loosen up and fight call before each show. I couldn’t ask for a better partner for all of this intense fighting stuff than Jens. He’s had a lot more movement/fight experience than I have and he does the majority of the work on stage that makes us both look like we know what we’re doing.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you approach a new character at the start of the production process?
Along with the usual stuff – getting off book as quickly as possible, reading lots of research material, looking for pieces of music that I find to be evocative of the character, time and place – I also personally like to begin drinking heavily and whining incessantly to anyone who will listen about how difficult whatever show I happen to be working on at the time is.
You have performed in a wide range of plays from A Bright New Boise to Our Town. Are there any roles that are particular favorites for you?
Tough call, I really love what I do and the people I get to work with. But two come to mind; Wonder of the World, a David Lindsay-Abaire play, I did years ago at Woolly Mammoth – we were the original cast and he was there writing it as we were rehearsing, so things changed daily which was very exciting. I played 7 or 8 different characters, all of whom were screamingly funny. I didn’t have to do anything other than go on stage and say the words he had written and it was hysterical.
And The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? What an amazing play and an amazing emotional roller coaster that was. I got to work every night with my beloved Bruce Nelson, who is so brilliant – I’ve been lucky enough to have been paired with him a number of times, and I would be happy if every show I ever did had him in it. Plus, I got to shatter every piece of furniture on stage nightly – if that isn’t a cathartic experience, I don’t what is!
After Pas De Deux closes where can we see you perform next?
I’ll be back at Woolly in September, in a play by Lisa D’Amour called Detroit. It’s directed by John Vreeke and stars Tim Getman, Gabby Fernandez-Coffey, Danny Gavigan and Michael Willis – a tremendous group of folks – and at its core it’s about addiction, my character is quite the alcoholic. I won’t think about what it says about me as a person, but I tend to play women who do not very nice things on stage… I’m actively looking for a script that lets me play all of those things at once… Haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure it’s out there!