megan emery gaffney

Mes amis

In theatre there are actors and schmactors; (h)acktors and performers.

qu'est ce que c'est?

qu’est ce que c’est?

Megan Emery Gaffney is a cut above. She rises above such descriptives. She is a lady and an artist. Sui generis!

As funny as she is smart and as loyal as she is kind, Megan is a modern day Anne Shirley, a kindred spirit who is pluckily pursuing a life in the theatre (and a life well lived) with wit and verve.

oh anne!

oh anne!

I have had the pleasure of drinking the occasional glass of white wine with Ms. Gaffney over the years in Brooklyn and beyond. She’s never failed to impress me as a stage actor and I am honored to call her my friend.

megan emery gaffney

megan emery gaffney!

Megan and I caught up about her latest project, Near Vicksburg, electronically (for I have been in Japan of late).  A Civil War play written by The Lady Farrington, Near Vicksburg bows at the Incubator Arts Project through March 16.

tell me about the herstory of your involvement with near vicksburg?
I was there from the beginning for this one, which has been incredible. We were nearing the end of the rehearsal process for Sara’s production of Requiem for Black Marie last spring when Sara began panicking, as she, and I (and I suspect many artists) do when one project is ending and the next has yet to manifest. However, when I panic and think “no one will ever want me to be in a play again!” it makes me want to lie on the couch with a glass of red wine and Cheetos and watch reruns of Friends. Sara’s panic, luckily, is this amazing motivating and artistically inspiring force so she declared, “I’m gonna write a Civil War play!”

my, my.
With some people you might think, okay, sure, sounds good, can’t wait to read it in a couple years, but Sara finished a draft by July.

Sara, and her husband Reid, and my husband Frank, and I sat around and read the first draft on a mini vacation in Pennsylvania and I was already in love. Sara is always eager for feedback, and we are an opinionated lot, so we gave her tons, and then she goes away and comes back with a whole new draft, I think a day later. She had a working final-ish draft by August, we held auditions in September (which I sat in on—an incredible opportunity to see things from the other side of the table), and started rehearsing in October.  She felt strongly that she wanted to direct this one, and I think she’s done a beautiful job. We did a workshop run in November at Sara’s loft at Foxy Films, and then transferred the workshop to WalkerSpace in December. When we parted ways at the end of 2013, we all hoped the play would go on. Sara called in January and said, “we’re premiering at Incubator in March!” —and here we are.

 what are the particular challenges to this role?
I recognized Jane as soon as I read her, so I didn’t ever struggle with her why’s—her motives, as complex as they are, felt intuitive to me. Sara’s characters are always so very complicated and human. She writes her characters from this place of deep love and honesty but they are not always easy people to like and I struggled a lot with that. I kept wondering, does the audience need to like Jane? I love her, I get her, but some of her behavior, though in my eyes understandable and justifiable and human, is hard to swallow.

It’s actually only recently that I have come to terms with this struggle, and it was reading something Phillip Seymour Hoffman said about owing it to our characters to show all of their ugliness and all of their beauty, not focusing on making sure that the audience likes or relates to them, but trusting that by revealing that three dimensional ugly-beauty and not shying away from it, the audience will connect to the characters as human. I love that. And it liberated me and Jane.

i saw an early workshop and you have a marvelous southern accent, where does it come from?
Sara was very nervous about the accents because she was concerned about Near Vicksburg turning into a play about actors talking in a Southern accent. She is so committed to her story being as unobstructed as it can be, that she fights for the craft and the design to be as hidden and seamless as possible. Now, Kippy, I’m an actor. I loooove a good accent.

moi aussi! and i love to do Aussie accents aussi!
I love to go to Idea Dialects Archives, I will get out my IPA and mark up my script, I will watch dozens of movies from the era and time. But I had to tread lightly because anytime the accent started to feel in the way Sara was like, “forget it! No accent!” And I was like, “I have to do an accent! We’re in Mississippi! This is how they talk!” So then I would pull back, and pepper it in so she wouldn’t notice. I admire and respect her ideas on this so much. She is very anti-museum pieces. For her, I think theater is about how we are all human and alike, not how different Civil War era people from Mississippi are with their strange accents and antiquated behavior. Her work always has a surprisingly contemporary feel, although it is often set in an earlier time. But I mean, Kippy, as I said, I looove a good accent and I’m not above some trickery to get it in…

brava! the results are splendid. this marks your third (?) lady farrington play .. what characterizes her plays + what keeps you coming back for more?
I hate to gush.

go on!
It’s quite simple: I love Sara’s work. She makes plays that I want to see and be in and think about. Her work is both inherently theatrical and breathtakingly simple. She writes about complicated, conflicted women at a time (forever?) when there is a dearth of roles like that out there. Plus, she’s a true believer. She is an evangelist for the theater and being around that energy is so inspiring and fortifying. The other truly impressive thing about Sara is she is a serious risk taker. She HAS to make theater so she does what people tell her not to — don’t go into debt to make a play, don’t self-produce, don’t put up plays in your loft, you can’t write and self-produce 2 plays the first year of your son’s life, don’t do a play with 9 characters. She does it all. I aspire to that kind of bravery and fuck-it-ness.

there is a great deal to be said of that. also your character has to get naked (or at least it was so in the workshop) .. how on earth do you navigate that? so brave!
This is the second time I have done full nudity, so it’s getting more familiar. (Both times in Sara’s plays!) I think I am strangely immodest so that helps. I was always the kid who just stripped down naked in front of all her friends and then, when they went into the bathroom stall to change, was like, “oh maybe that was weird of me?”

But, I’m still human so it’s still scary. When I did it last time in Requiem, I felt so very different from the character I was playing, Margarete, that I really felt like it wasn’t my body. She was younger and flightier and just so different from me that I felt like Margarete got naked, but not Megan. This time is different because Jane is my age and I feel more similar to her so there’s a vulnerability there.

The silly answer is I am scared that people will think my pubic hair is weird. Do I have too much? Too little? Is it weird that it’s reddish? These are the thoughts that I fight during my bad performances.

But the honest answer is that it is sooooo liberating. It’s a great acting challenge because I can’t let a hint of discomfort show or the effect is ruined. I never want people thinking, ‘oh that actress is uncomfortable, I feel embarrassed for her’, so I have to sink in to this level of focus and presence in the moment that feels so good.

what are your secret actor influences + tricks?
Forgive the moment and move on.

sounds cryptic, i like it! do you have a pre-show ritual?
Exact same physical and vocal warm up in the same order before every performance for the last ten years, with some post grad school additions, and a couple show specific elements. I aspire to eat fresh raspberries before every show.

a healthy treat

a healthy treat

Fruit is nature’s candy. Bon appetite!

a bientot,
kippy

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