Ted Sod, Roundabout’s Education Dramaturg, sat down with actress Spencer Kayden to discuss her role in Don’t Dress for Dinner.
Ted Sod: Why did you choose to do this play and this role?
Spencer Kayden: To me, farce is pure joy. There is nothing deep or pretentious about it. It’s just finely-tuned silliness.
What kind of preparation or research did you have to do in order to play Suzette? Do you use an accent?
Suzette is French and I suppose the accent comes easily from having watched Peter Sellers in so many "Pink Panther" movies when I was younger.
I know you’ve played the role before in a previous production. How is this character relevant to you? Can you share some of your thoughts about Suzette with us? What do you find most challenging/exciting about this role?
When I first read the play I was delighted by Suzette’s ability to turn everything to her advantage, even in the midst of so much confusion. She is so unassuming at first, and then the situation demands more and more of her and she really rises to the occasion. One of my favorite things about playing this role in Chicago was that I would purposefully try not to get any laughs for as long as possible. The play has plenty of frenzy from the get-go and I think it serves the play best for me to just be honest and simple at first. Suzette gets to have an extreme amount of fun later on and I wanted that side of her to be unexpected.
What do you think the play is about?
Oh come now, it’s not about anything. It’s a really funny sex farce.
What is it like to perform in a farce like Don’t Dress For Dinner? Is the audience’s response vital?
Performing farce is one of the most enjoyable things I can think of. The characters in this play get put in such ridiculous situations and for it to work, we all have to take it extremely seriously. The less we play for laughs, the funnier it is. The audience’s response is certainly vital. Actors always feed off of their energy. It is so deeply satisfying to hear an audience belly-laughing.
How do you collaborate with a director?
I enjoy it when a director has me on a really long leash, reigning me in when necessary. In Chicago, Joey (John Tillinger) was great about letting us play and explore to our heart’s content. He didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about how the play was supposed to be performed. In fact, if he ever had me on a leash at all, he ended up taking it off entirely. He gave me such freedom it was delightful. That happened partly because Joey decided to make my character French, making it necessary to rewrite many of my lines to make them authentic for a French-speaker whose English is not perfect.
Where did you get your training? Did you have any great teachers who influenced you?
I’ve been performing since I was 8 years old when I tagged along with my brother to an audition for The Hobbit at the local community center. I was cast as the Elfen Queen and my minions were all much taller than I was. (I have a photograph from that show up on the wall in my house. It still cracks me up.) I acted in the Young People’s Conservatory at South Coast Repertory. I did drama all through high school and then went to theater school at Northwestern. There was a moment when I was about to go to Berkeley and major in classical languages, then I woke up and realized that I would be denying myself what I like best — theater.
Don't Dress for Dinner plays at the American Airlines Theatre through June 17, 2012. For more information, click here.
2011-2012 Season, A Conversation with, Don't Dress for Dinner, Education @ Roundabout, Star Spotlight, Upstage