A resident of Madison, Samara Frame plays the dual roles of Brianne and Chaya in Forward's production of Mary Jane. Samara has been seen on the Forward stage in the 2017 Wisconsin Wrights Festival, and more recently appeared as Susan B. Anthony in the Two Steps Forward Monologue Festival. We asked her a few questions about her work in and preparation for Mary Jane:
1. Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with an all-female cast.
It’s a privilege to work with such talented cast and crew. Full stop. To answer your specific question – working with an all-female cast and mostly-female crew is fantastic! In the arts, we’re seeing more storytelling by women and it’s about time. We get each other – in the text, in the movement and especially in the moments of silence. We’ve found a rhythm and a poetry. We’ve got each other’s backs.
2. You play two characters in the show. What has gone into your thinking so far with regard to how to play each of them? Has that changed since rehearsals began?
As an actor, I love dramaturgy. Research helps me flesh out my characters, find authenticity and explore the “spirit” of the play. It also helps differentiate characters when I play more than one. So that’s usually my starting place. By understanding Chaya’s faith, for example, I understand more of her “why.” Making specific choices about the illness that each of my character’s children has, deepens their journeys.
Then rehearsal starts, which is where the thrill of discovery kicks in. During rehearsals, we build relationships, which bring the characters to life. I rely heavily on Mary (the director) to help keep each character unique and full. Characters will definitely grow and change. I think it’s safe to say that in theater, characters are constantly evolving, even into closing night.
3. Mary Jane is an intensely personal story. Did anything particularly resonate with you the first time you read it?
The first read, sitting at my dining table, while my two daughters happily watched Finding Dory was hard – a lot of tears. Herzog’s writing is very natural, so it was easy to put myself into her pages. When someone we love is in pain, we would walk through fire to make them well. A parent, a friend, a child. Grief and loss. Feeling out of control. But there’s also laughter during grief. And bonding. Unlikely friendships, and beauty. And miracles. In my first reading, I also laughed a lot, which surprised me, but is so spot on. Laughing and crying, sometimes in the same breath.