By Brian Walker
Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Brian Walker. All rights reserved
Susie Stevens is a Walden Theatre alum returning home to perform in Actors Theatre of Louisville’s upcoming production of Tom Jones with her husband, actor Greg Wood. They are passionate about working in the theatre and travel the country (sometimes together, sometimes apart) performing in productions at some of the best regional theatres, including Actors Theatre, which Susie considers “home.” They took a moment from their busy rehearsal schedules to answer 17 of my questions.
Brian Walker: You both are performing in Actors Theatre’s upcoming production of Tom Jones; what roles do you play?
Susie Stevens: Everyone in the show is double cast, with the exception of the actor playing Tom Jones. I play Woman #4: Jenny Jones, Mrs. Waters, and a maid.
Greg Wood: I play Man #1: Squire Allworthy, Black George and McLachlan.
BW: Number 2. This is a new adaption by Jon Jory. What’s your favorite thing about the new script?
SS: We both attempted to read the novel by Henry Fielding.
GW: I succeeded.
SS: I ran out of time but got about half-way through.
GW: It’s about 800 pages long, but well worth the time. Jon’s adaptation is very fast-paced, exciting, and manages to tell the story in two brisk hours…
SS: It’s wildly entertaining and surprisingly funny!
BW: Number 3. What’s it like being directed by Jon Jory?
SS: Exhilarating…exhaustin…and a lot of fun. Jon is a perfectionist who has a clear picture of his vision of the play. He literally hears the music in his head, I think, and then sets about to orchestrate it. He’s extremely precise about what he wants, and he’s not afraid to run scenes many, many times to achieve it! He comes prepared to work seriously at having fun in the theatre, and one can’t help but get on the ride and go with him!
BW: Number 4. Is this the first show you guys have done together, or have there been others?
SS: We met doing a reading of a play called The Pavilion by Craig Wright in Portland, Maine. In 2003, we did a full production of that play here at Actors Theatre of Louisville. We have probably done about 10 shows together, including Hamlet, God of Carnage and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, where we had to be naked onstage together.
BW: Oh my! Number 5. What’s it feel like to be back in Louisville and performing at Actors Theatre?
SS: Actors Theatre is “home”; along with Walden Theatre, it’s where I got my start, and where I am always most happy. I owe so much to my artistic mentors Jon Jory, Nancy Sexton, Bill McNulty, Adale O’Brien and Drew Fracher. I am thrilled to be back in Louisville! My dad still lives here, as do many friends from high school, and it’s wonderful to have some real quality time here with them.
GW: Louisville is my adoptive home; I’m from Aston, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. But I have so many friends here now that it’s like coming home for me.
BW: Number 6. Favorite hangout in Louisville?
SS: We love popping over to Heine Brothers for a latte to get ready for the day’s activities. Also we love Captain’s Quarters, when the weather’s nice and we can sit outside by the river. That brings back memories from years ago. Our daughter loves the Louisville Zoo. And anytime I get to just drive along River Road, I’m happy.
BW: Number 7. What’s the best thing about performing with your spouse?
GW: I trust Susie absolutely.
SS: Yeah, it’s very reassuring to look right into the eyes of my best friend onstage. And we get to spend a lot of time together, which we really like!
BW: Number 8. What’s the most challenging thing about performing with your spouse?
SS/GW: Bringing work home with us…keeping the work going long after rehearsal or performance is over. Also finding babysitting, since we are gone at the same time.
BW: Number 9. What’s one role you have to play before you die and why?
GW: George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s a monumental role, and I’d love to do it with my wife.
SS: Yeah, I’d vote for Martha in the same play as well. We’ve talked about doing it for a while, we are still at an age where it could happen. Anybody want to take a crack at it with us?
BW: Number 10. What advice would you have for local actors thinking about leaving Louisville to pursue acting?
SS: Seems to me that Louisville has more theatre going on than ever before. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to get out and audition everywhere! I’ve been so lucky in that I manage to come back every once in a while and do some really great projects, and I would encourage any other actor to establish strong roots here, and then go out and see NY, Philadelphia, L.A., Chicago, Seattle…. They all have their own theatre scenes and are worth exploring.
BW: Number 11. Do you have any performance rituals, anything you consistently do to prepare a character?
SS: Work hard during rehearsals, trust that work and have fun during performance!
BW: Number 12. What’s next for you guys after Tom Jones?
GW: I’m headed into Other Desert Cities at the Walnut Street Theatre, and then out to Milwaukee Rep in the spring to do a new play about the creator of Superman.
SS: I start rehearsals in January for a production of The Exonerated at Delaware Theatre Company.
BW: Number 13. What do you guys do for fun when you’re not acting?
SS: We have a 5 year-old daughter and she gets more fun every day! There isn’t much more time beyond that, but an hour at Heine Brothers, or a dinner catching up with old friends – both of which we’ve had the opportunity to do since being here – counts for big fun offstage.
BW: Number 14. What’s your opinion on tweet-seats? Using social networking while watching a production?
GW: As long as it’s not disruptive to the actors or other audience members, it’s fine. But we can see cell phones from the stage, and that can be a problem.
SS: I’m going to sound like an old fart, but I don’t see how one can be fully immersed in a story, in the world of the play, and still be in the real world, real time. Live theatre is different than any other medium. Tweet while watching TV, but the beauty of the live performance is that it is absolutely unique to the moment and then lost. What if you’re looking at your screen at the exact moment something breathtaking happens onstage? You’d have to read someone else’s tweet just to know about it, and the experience – that for which we attend the theatre in the first place – is gone forever.
BW: Number 15. If you had to name one, what’s the coolest thing about doing a play at Actors Theatre?
SS: This is the 50th anniversary of this amazing theatre, and just to be here – especially with Jon Jory, who pretty much gave it the national and international reputation it enjoys today – is pretty meaningful and exciting. We haven’t hit the Bingham stage yet, but it’s going to be a blast, and we can’t wait!
BW: Number 16. If you could act in a play with any living celebrity, who would it be and why?
GW: It would have to be Alan Rickman or Derek Jacoby for me. And oh yes, Geoffrey Rush! There is such a simple truth to what he does; I believe everything.
SS: It may sound cliché, but I’d love to be in the same room with Meryl Streep just to watch her do what she does. She is still the most amazing actress to me.
BW: Number 17. Who is someone who inspires you and why?
GW: Mark Rylance always inspires me. He always pushes the boundary and always takes risks.
SS: My friend Jen Childs inspires me. She’s the artistic director of 1812 Productions in Philadelphia, which is the only professional theatre company in the country devoted to comedy. She writes, directs, acts, runs her company, is involved in community outreach, and still is able to be a great mom, wife and friend. She’s a daily reminder to me of the potential in each and every day.
Tom Jones opens November 14, 2013, at Actors Theatre
316 W. Main Street
Louisville KY 40202