Friday, May 1, 2009

"Wildcat" Maureen McVerry on Acting, Directing and Observing

This week I talked to Maureen McVerry, who's playing the title role in the Moon's upcoming show "Wildcat." Her previous Moon productions have included "The Student Gypsy," "Pardon My English" and the recently performed "High Spirits."

Given that "High Spirits'" Ruth is such a different character from the strong and spunky Wildcat Jackson, I was looking forward to hearing how Maureen approaches the theatre and her work in it. It was good to hear the self-described “drama queen of Redwood City” talk about her direction of school musical; she says she’s passionate about passing a love of musical theater onto her teenage children and students. We talked about what she seeks when choosing a theatre, why a Masters of Fine Arts isn’t necessary for quality acting, and seeking inspiration.

EG: What about the namesake role in “Wildcat” appealed to you as an actor?

MM: When Greg [MacKellan] told me that the role was prepared for Lucille Ball in the early ‘60s, I read it and was intrigued by the fact that the show has been completely forgotten even though it was once a staple. The show’s theme song, "Hey, Look Me Over," was very popular at the time, and it’s made it easy to tell people about the upcoming production.

Which of Wildcat Jackson’s characteristics are similar to your own?

I think she’s much more emotional than I am, but I’m also very strong-willed and goofy. What can I say? I’ve never been a shrinking violet!

What drew you back for your fourth Moon production?

The Moon is such a positive company. It has a very refreshing attitude about putting on shows and retains a sense of joy and community that other theater companies don’t have. Come to think of it, I don’t know of other companies that even practice communal vocal warm-ups.

Also, any time I spend a number of weeks working with [musical director] Dave Dobrusky I come out a stronger singer with better technique.

How did you decide to teach musicals to middle school students?

I think that the tradition of great performances will be lost if we don’t expose it to kids and teenagers. We need to do a better job of making sure that this art form is introduced to them and carries on. I bring my students to see Moon performances, and I’ve never had any of them anything less than “Wow”—they’re very captured by it.

What about your own musical education experience do you hope to pass on or change for your students?

I actually hated my high school theater department because it wasn’t very well run. It wasn’t until I took a theater class at Cal in adulthood that I realized I wanted to take part in productions. Since then, I’ve found that watching good acting is a great way to learn. I don’t have an MFA as I don’t think it’s necessarily needed to be a good performer—the best way to become a quality actor is to observe people on the street and watch good acting on stage.

Maureen’s advice is applicable to actors and theatergoers seeking great acting—and as San Franciscans we’re lucky to be exposed to a wide range of theatrics on just about any street. My conversation with Maureen got me thinking about acting and presentation around us that we’ve either tuned out or shaken our heads in wonder about. What have you seen that’s stage-worthy around you lately?

Maureen can be seen in “Wildcat” at the Eureka Theatre from May 7 through 24. More information and tickets can be found on the 42nd Street Moon website.

No comments: