Results tagged “University of Pennsylvania” from ARTicles

There's a lot of star power packed into the actor Barbara Tirrell. As Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn, the mayor's wife in "The Music Man" at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., she's fabulously funny and surprisingly layered in a role that could easily slide toward buffoonery. In Tirrell's care, Eulalie is a woman with an inner glow that has been snuffed by Iowan provincialism - but awakened in the show by the traveling con man Harold Hill. Even before Hill 76-trombones his way into River City, Eulalie is larger than life. Tirrell fashioned her that way based on memories of her own Irish-Italian background growing up in Nahant, Mass., not far from Boston. Her parents were both engineers, and Tirrell went to the University of Pennsylvania to study chemical engineering: She wanted to be the first female astronaut. She got sidelined to theater on a dare: A classmate challenged her to audition for a play. She did. She got the part. "And so began this journey," said Tirrell when we spoke recently. "The only thing I really looked forward to every week was the stuff I did with the Penn Players. At the end of the first year, I said to myself: I think I want to do this, and if I don't try, I'll wonder my whole life if I was supposed to do it." Clearly, she found the right answer. Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation. "The Music Man," directed by Arena's artistic director Molly Smith, plays through July 22. 

How did you develop Eulalie's personality? 
Early in rehearsal, Molly asked each one of us to create an improvisation. Every member of the cast had to come in with a five-minute improvisation including a reference to a star, a piece of music and some turning point for your character. I took this to mean: These are people who have dreams. It's not like Harold Hill brings to this town something that isn't there. What he does is awaken something. 

And the turning point? 
For Eulalie, the turning point is when it is suggested she be the head of the dance committee. I created an improv of her as a child loving to dress up in all the family's clothing and dance around her living room - until her mother said, "You look stupid. You're a Mackecknie. Don't do that." The book "The Four Agreements" talks about how you only have to say once to a child in a moment of anger: "God, your singing sounds awful. Stop it!" You can never un-ring that bell. But once the child is awakened in Eulalie again, she doesn't care anymore what people think. 
June 4, 2012 2:19 PM |


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