Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of “Vanity Fair” by Kate Hamill, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, is now playing at the Lansburgh Theatre at 450 7th Street NW, Washington, D.C. This witty production, directed by Jessica Stone, pokes fun at the Victorian’s novel giving more depth and spirit to the women in the story. Vanity Fair runs until March 31, 2019.
Tickets are available online.
I had a chance to interview Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan who plays Actor Four which encompasses several male roles including that of George.
Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan: NEW YORK: Broadway: Thomas The Tank Engine Live Onstage. Off-Broadway: La MaMa: Agamemnon. REGIONAL: Roundhouse Theatre: How I Learned to Drive, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Helen Hayes Award, Best Lead Actress in a Play), Becky Shaw; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: Gloria, Botticelli in the Fire; Kennedy Center: Digging Up Dessa; Mosaic Theater Company: The Return; Olney Theatre Center: Fickle: A Fancy French Farce, Bad Dog (Helen Hayes Nomination, Outstanding Ensemble); Ford’s Theatre: Come From Away (Helen Hayes Nomination, Best Supporting Actress in a Musical; Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Ensemble); Imagination Stage: The Night Fairy; Folger Theatre: Richard III; No Rules Theatre Company: Late: A Cowboy Song, Stop Kiss; Studio Theatre: Contractions; Theater J: The History Of Invulnerability; Baltimore Center Stage: The Container; American Shakespeare Center: more than 30 productions including 15 of Shakespeare’s canon. FILM: Kringle Time (2019). TRAINING: STC’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University: MFA.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? (Where you were born and raised and when did you first decided to be an actor?
I was born and raised in Michigan. I’m a Midwest country girl at heart!
I kind of stumbled into acting after abandoning art school in my freshman year of college. I was a competitive dancer and sang in my choir all through high school. So, I figured, musical theater! I cringe at my lack of awareness and that jump of logic. I had never taken a single acting class in my life, and it really wasn’t until a few years into my professional career that I stopped just letting the wind take me where it would, and really decided I could make a living at this and started pursuing it seriously.
You play male roles in this production. Have you ever done that before, where, when and for what production(s)?
This type of work is very familiar to me. Though, it’s been a while since I have been back to it. I began my professional career in 2003 at what was then, Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, now known as The American Shakespeare Center. It was a rotating reparatory style, where original staging practices of Shakespeare and The Kings Men, including cross gender casting, was utilized heavily. Side note, that is also where I met and first worked with my very talented husband, Thomas Keegan!
Some of my previous male parts included Henry VI (Henry VI Part I), Malcolm (Macbeth), Hippolito (The Revengers Tragedy).
What is the difference in doing a Broadway production and one at the several local regional theatres in the Baltimore-Washington Area where you have performed?
Honestly, I am happy to say that, the caliber of work, and the artistry of the DC regional scene is on par with the limited experience I have had, thus far, with Broadway rehearsals and performances. If I can point to anything, perhaps Broadway shows require a greater need for self-reliance, and coolness under pressure. You have to come prepared with your work done, big choices chosen, and a flexibility to throw it all away in service of the show, if need be. However, I have experienced that at the best houses here as well. Time is money in theater these days, whether we like it or not, and the more flexible and self-motivated one can be, the better, no matter if you are in the DMV or NYC.
I see you worked at renowned La MaMa in New York City. Could you please tell our readers a little about La MaMa and what is was like to perform there?
The NY Times says of the theater “A multicultural hive of avant-garde drama and performance art.” It is a beautiful mission, an incredible space, and the original and culturally relevant work done there is to be admired. That being said, my personal experience was one of those classic NY nightmares. The show was an Opera adaptation of the story of AGAMEMNON. It had lofty goals, but not a realistic grasp of the time it would take to mount. Although everyone had good intentions, it was mismanaged, and exceedingly frustrating for everyone involved. In fact, one of the female leads was let go during previews. The male director completed her part for the duration of the run, because there were no understudies.
What were some of your favorite roles and why?
I have had the good fortune to play many incredible parts during my career thus far, and when I am inside of each of them, exploring their personal journey and depth of humanity, they each become my favorite. I must say, I love playing George right now in VF! He’s flawed beyond measure, entitled, self-involved, overcompensating for his height, (I’m a whopping 5’1), and has major daddy issues. It’s hard to bring an audience to a sense of understanding about him and his motivations, and I love the challenge. As for past roles, Maggie the Cat (Cat on A Hot Tin Roof) and Lil’Bit (How I learned To Drive) might be two of my favorites. Thank you, Roundhouse Theatre!!! They each taught me a great deal about myself in ways I had not anticipated, and the revelations were not always flattering. But to go out on stage every night, playing these strong, complex and beautifully flawed women, who were more like me than I thought, was a real gift. Insight into myself is one of the reasons I realized I am drawn to acting. How much can I stretch myself and examine my own understanding, or lack thereof, about the world around me, and the people I encounter along the way? Compassion is bred from understanding, and I choose to use that understanding not only on the stage, but in my life as well.