ROUNDABOUT BLOG

2013-2014 Season

Interview with Actress Tracee Chimo

Posted on: September 16th, 2013 by Roundabout

 

Before rehearsals began, Education Dramaturg Ted Sod spoke with Tracee Chimo about her role in Bad Jews.

 

Ted Sod: Please tell us a little about yourself. You started your career as a dancer, correct? When did you decide to become an actor?

Tracee Chimo: I was born in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts called Saugus. My parents were both born and raised in pretty tough neighborhoods of the city and are both products of ethnic, blue collar families.  My Dad’s family came here from Albania, and they spoke no English. I have big admiration and respect for my Dad, how he was brought up, how he conducts himself, and how he’s worked for everything our family has. He raised us good. So did my Mom. She busted her ass to be a great mother. She gave up a lot to be with us. My parents both pushed me to leave Saugus right after high school because it wasn’t the best town to grow up in, as far as “making something of yourself” was concerned.  Acting was just something I liked, not something I thought I could do for a living. I was supposed to become a choreographer, or teach dance classes like my Mom. It was the only thing I thought I was good at. At the time, I saw acting as fun and awesome. I didn’t really know how to “be an actor.”

Come senior year, I was all set to go off to college on big dance scholarships. One night in the middle of a dance performance, I blew out my left knee.  In one week, I lost all my dance scholarships, could no longer attend the school of my choice, and was told by doctors I'd never dance again. After my injury, I learned the only school that accepted late submissions was Salem State College. So that's where I went. I auditioned to be in their BFA program, but because of my strong Boston accent, they wouldn't accept me without dialect training. So I had private dialect sessions after school to learn how to speak properly. I re-auditioned the following semester and got in. It was great. After school I moved to NYC and thought I'd try my hand at dance again. I missed it. So I went on some auditions and was offered a 10 month contract dancing for Carnival Cruise Lines. After the contract was up, I came back to NY and said, "Well, that was fun. I think I'm done now." So I hung up my dance shoes and poured everything I had into pursuing acting.

 

Tracee Chimo (Daphna) and Michael Zegen (Liam) in Bad Jews. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

TS: Why did you choose to do this play and the role of Daphna?

TC: To be honest with you, I did not choose this play or Daphna. She chose me. I was sent the script and read the first two lines and thought, “Oh my God. I know her. I know this girl.”  That was it. Truly. It was simple. I just fell in love with her immediately. I agree with her way of thinking and I like how bold she is. She’s unapologetic. I wish I was that unapologetic. I’ve only just begun to embrace not apologizing for myself all the time. I’ve only just begun to stop doing that. I admire how she owns who she is. That’s a tall order in this day and age. It can be hard to stay yourself in this world. You’ve got to work at that every day. For Daphna, it’s effortless. I love that about her.

 

TS: When we did post-play discussions during the Roundabout Underground run, audiences were always surprised that you are not Jewish. What kind of preparation or research did you have to do in order to play Daphna?

TC:  No, I’m not Jewish, but I do come from an Eastern European background.  My Mom is Italian and Irish and my Dad is 100% Albanian, so I’m a good mix. I found myself focusing less and less on the religious aspects of this play, and more and more on the family dynamic. To me, this play is not about Judaism. It’s about doing what’s right by your family. Being loyal to your blood, where you’re from, where your family’s from. That’s what this play’s about in my eyes. Yes, of course I did research on the significance of the Chai and the Israeli Army and things like that, because they mean something to Daphna. She wants to join the Army. She’s got big dreams. I wanted to have a full understanding of why those things mean something to her. I try to understand Daphna’s upbringing and family life in the same way I recognize certain things from my home and my past in Boston. Jewish, Catholic, Albanian Orthodox, Hindu, this play is about family. The religious aspect to it is deeply important to Daphna, but it’s certainly not the crux of this particular story.

 

Bad Jews begins previews at the Laura Pels Theatre September 19. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Bad Jews


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Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon, the 2013-14 season’s first production at the Laura Pels Theatre begins previews September 19.

You may already know about Bad Jews, since this play had a big impact at our Black Box Theatre one year ago. We selected Josh’s play, under the direction of the wonderful Daniel Aukin, to be produced as part of the Roundabout Underground program, which gives productions to emerging playwrights. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the response that this play received. Our 62-seat theatre was being rocked to its foundations every night as the audience went absolutely wild for Josh’s work. When closing night rolled around, it just didn’t feel right to be saying goodbye to this one.

So, it’s time for a first: a direct transfer from the Underground to the Pels, as those Bad Jews move one story up and add a few hundred seats. I’m thrilled to be bringing this production back, particularly because the complete original cast and design team are with us once again. There is something truly special in the chemistry that Tracee Chimo, Philip Ettinger, Molly Ranson, and Michael Zegen developed on stage, and I think they are as happy to be back as we are to have them with us.

As with any show that gets such a strong response, I always find myself examining exactly what made it come together so beautifully. I’m willing to bet that the title alone was enough to intrigue many people. Would it be serious? Funny? Divisive? To me, the play is difficult to pin down, but that’s part of its charm. Somehow, Josh has found a way to be both reverent and irreverent on the subject of religion. At the same time, he creates characters who will feel like part of your own family but express their feelings far more vividly (and hilariously) than most. I suppose that calling the play a comedy is closest to the truth, but that characterization shouldn’t make you think that this writer isn’t getting down to serious business. What could be more serious than being stuck in a studio apartment…with your family?

That’s what truly captivates me so much about this piece – those familiar family dynamics that Josh has captured in all their uncomfortable glory. In many ways, family and tradition bring us together, especially as children, but what happens when the kids grow up and form beliefs of their own? Bad Jews looks at that very specific moment in time when a generation of cousins realizes that it’s up to them to decide how their culture will be perceived. Depending on their behavior, Judaism can be a collection of perfunctory traditions or a legacy of faith and survival. And the stakes are even higher when you’re the grandchildren of a man who lived through the Holocaust. For these characters, choosing to eat a cookie during Passover carries more than the average amount of Jewish guilt – it carries the symbolic weight of their feelings about the life of Judaism throughout the world.

In this play, all sides are allowed to have their say. And I think you’ll be surprised to find your own loyalties shifting throughout the evening. A character who behaves repugnantly can be both awful and absolutely right at the same time. The gentlest of souls may bring out the strongest emotions. And even the most assured can have their faith shaken. It’s a play that lives on ever-shifting ground, which is exactly what makes it so exciting to watch.

I’m thrilled to be bringing this play to a wider audience this season, and I hope that you will share your thoughts on Bad Jews with me after seeing the show. Please email me at artisticoffice@roundabouttheatre.org and let me know what you think about this provocative play.

I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!

Sincerely,

Todd Haimes
Artistic Director


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, Bad Jews


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Interview with Director, Lindsay Posner

Posted on: September 12th, 2013 by Roundabout

 

During rehearsals for The Winslow BoyEducation Dramaturg Ted Sod spoke with Director Lindsay Posner about his thoughts on the play. 

Ted Sod: I’m very curious. You started as an actor. You were trained at the Royal Academy and then, not very long after you graduated you became a director. How did that happen?

Lindsay Posner: Well, I was at university before going to RADA, where I did an English degree, and I acted and directed at university. It was always in my head that I wanted to do both, and I was given a place at RADA and a very receptive principal called Hugh Crutwell there said, “If we give you a place at RADA, do you promise never to direct?” and of course I said yes.

While I was there, I realized that my talent really was for directing more than acting. I could act a bit, but I sensed that being an outside eye and wanting to do the whole play, production, was more my inclination and talent, actually. And they let me start directing before I left. I did one or two shows and then I left. I did one acting job and went on to directing immediately after that.

 

Director Lindsay Posner with Alessandro Nivola (Sir Robert Morton).
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

 

TS: Did you always have an interest in newer work at that time, or were you interested in the classics? Because you have really done everything...

LP: To be honest, as is the case with most directors, you take opportunities where they arise when you’re very young and just starting out. I had interest in both, and the Royal Court was a fantastic place to begin because it’s the perfect apprenticeship, really. And when you’re through your twenties, coming into contact with great senior writers like Pinter or Caryl Churchill or Mamet, it’s a great education.

 

TS: What attracted you to this particular play?

LP: A few things really. I mean, first of all, I think it’s a great play and there aren’t that many great plays. It is both a great family play and it’s entertaining. It’s also a political play with political resonance. I always look for relevance in a play, or a play that I feel will be accessible to a contemporary audience when I read it. And this is particularly relevant in terms of what’s happening with individual liberty and responsibility and justice. We can make all sorts of contemporary references when we see it.

Also, the greatness of it is that the characters are so finely, beautifully written with complex psychological portraits. It’s always great to work on a really rich play that has such rich psychological detail in it.

 

Lindsay Posner with Spencer Davis Milford (Ronnie Winslow) and Roger Rees (Arthur Winslow).
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

 

TS: You first directed the play at The Old Vic in London last season. What are the challenges in remounting this production in America?

LP: Well, one of the immediate concerns for me is that I was very nervous. I didn’t just want it to be a rehash of what I’d already done because that’s not creative. So I’m approaching it as if I hadn’t done it already, and I’m finding that very joyful.

Of course, I know the answers to some of the questions I’m asking, but I’m exploring it along with an actor, a completely fresh group of people with a completely different chemistry in the room, which is exciting. And already there are things I’m thinking about in a slightly different way from the way it had happened first time round. So actually, it’s very rewarding for me.

 

TS: When I interviewed set and costume designer Peter McKintosh, he said it was a thoroughly English play. Do you feel that way?

LP: I think it is a thoroughly English play. It’s very much about the British class system and the way that affects social behavior. And it’s also about the way people repress their feelings in middle class British families; upper-middle class families don’t say exactly what they mean a lot of the time, which, clearly, isn’t so much the case in New York.

 

Zachary Booth (Dickie Winslow) and Lindsay Posner.
Photo by Jenny Anderson.

 

TS: Do you think that part of the popularity of this play in Britain is because its central idea of “Let Right Be Done” and the Petition of Right really in some way says that the Crown is not above the law?

LP: It does. I mean, that’s always been the case. But, I think there’s a kind of zeitgeist feel for the British recently that hasn’t always been the case with Rattigan. Actually Rattigan’s not been that fashionable with British audiences. Now he’s being regarded as a great writer by the British critics but he was often regarded as a bit of a boulevard writer and his star waned in the fifties when the kitchen sink writers of Osborne, Wesker, and the Royal Court writers actually gained prominence. Rattigan was always writing very fine plays, but he went out of fashion for that reason, which was a tragedy.

 

TS: And critic Kenneth Tynan was very cruel to him.

LP: Indeed, that’s true. He said his preoccupations were outdated, you know, they were middle-class, upper-bourgeois preoccupations, which was very unfair in some ways. But I think this really taps into the fact that the British public opinion states intervention without redress, whether it’s details that are being got from the internet about people’s lives or people being detained for questioning about potential terrorism without any redress.

All these things are very personal at the moment and are absolutely what this play is about in some ways. And I think it’s that that’s made it relevant to an audience and I think hopefully will make it relevant to a New York audience as well.

 

Roundabout brings The Winslow Boy back to Broadway from September 20 for the first time in 60 years. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.


Related Categories:
2013-2014 Season, The Winslow Boy


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