Amanda Sox:  “The Absurd is my Jam”

When last we saw Amanda Sox, she’d just been smothered by King Richard III and carted off into the netherworld in her night gown.  She’s back this time in Christmas on the Rocks and things are looking a little bit better for her this time around.  Well, sort of.  At least there are no stage deaths in this one.  That’s progress, people!  We recently caught up with Amanda to talk to her about Christmas, this show, and taking advice from Anne Tromsness.

WHT:  Glad to have you back, Amanda.  Also glad you didn’t bring Cordelia (Amanda’s daughter) with you.  She gives some mean side eye.
Amanda:  Yes.  We practice it at home all the time.

WHT:  So let’s skip the theatre talk for a moment and just start with the holidays.  What’s your favorite Christmas-time show or film?
Amanda:  I love Elf because it’s uplifting and hilarious.  Comedy bordering the absurd is my jam.  I’ve always loved Home Alone, but was always secretly saddened by Kevin’s plight.  I mean, his parents FORGOT him.  I used to be bored by the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, but I’ve found that I appreciate it more as an adult.  I appreciate all of the Peanuts specials more as an adult.

WHT:  So with that in mind and this show being Christmas related, your research probably had a lot of “Christmas” in it.  How did the research for this show affect the portrayal of both your characters?
Amanda:  Boris Karloff did a spectacular job of telling the Grinch’s story, so Chip (our director) was always interested in me channeling his dexterity and variety of the Seussian verse.  But, I only watched the Grinch twice.  I used it primarily for imagery, definitions of Seuss words, and Boris’ masterful interpretation.  I watched a lot of Charlie Brown specials to get an idea of my other character’s role in Charlie Brown’s story.  She’s based on a real person that Schulz was in love with, but couldn’t be with…heartbreaking.  So I definitely approached the role as the most “human” as opposed to cartoonish with Cindy Lou Who.  She epitomizes unrequited love and that is as real as it gets.

WHT:  How much did the iconic movie portrayals of the characters mean to / affect your choices on stage?
Amanda:  Cindy Lou Who in the Grinch served as an antithesis to the Cindy Lou Who in this play.  She has changed drastically since we last saw her.

WHT:  Being a small cast, you are in a dressing room that consists of just you and Anne Tromsness.  What’s the most sage piece of advice you’ve gleaned from Anne during this process?
Amanda:  Never marry a puppeteer.

WHT:  Oh, Anne.  Back to you though…did your own feelings towards this time of year…puppeteers aside…whether good, bad, sorrowful, happy…affect your character choices in any way?
Amanda:  Thanks for the therapy session, Dr. Johnson.  I usually lean towards the sorrowful and anxious this time of year.  However, I’m not sure that it has affected my character choices.  I try to lean into the playwright and character’s intentions no matter what’s going on for me personally.  I’m in one of the darkest scenes and in one of the lightest scenes, and both have their share of the other colors.  Perhaps having a personal understanding or experience of the complex depth of this season helped paint a more dynamic picture.  Perhaps?

WHT:  So on that note, putting your personal feelings in or out of a role can always be a challenge.  What was the greatest challenge or favorite thing about working on this script for the first time?
Amanda:  I like being able to surprise the audience.  And I like working on a play that needs the actors to do some of the leg work.  It’s a bigger puzzle to work on with a great sense of personal and ensemble victory.

WHT:  Was there anything in the costume, lighting, sound or scenic design that shaped anything you are doing on stage?
Amanda:  EVERYTHING.  Cindy Lou Who is definitely using it all.  Every technical element is a gift for an actor…a gift of infinite choices, as well as grounding in the world of the play and reality of the moment.  Having the real bar was very helpful for my physical actions as Cindy Lou Who.  I won’t divulge more than that.  And the music used in the final Peanuts scene, which was written into the play, hits right at the emotional core of that character.

WHT:  Moment in the show that has changed the most for you from the beginning of rehearsal until now?
Amanda:  There’s a line that Cindy Lou Who has that Chip and I have been tweaking from the start.  It is a hinge point for the character, and we’ve explored all of the options for the sake of clarity and comedy… but mostly comedy.  Ultimately, we landed on an interpretation that is very similar to the way I did it in the first week of rehearsal.  Anne has described it as very “Penthouse Forum.”

WHT:  Oh, Anne.  Given that there were seven different authors giving voice to each of the scenes, did this create any advantages or challenges in your process?
Amanda:  My characters are already very different, so the different writers only amplified that.  So that’s an advantage to me as the actor.  Less work…shhhhhh!

WHT:  The space is set up in a configuration that I’ve never experienced at The Warehouse.  Even though it is the same theatre, does it feel like a totally different experience working in a different configuration than last time you were on stage here in Richard III?
Amanda:  This configuration feels very intimate, but still traditionally fourth wall theatrical…if that makes any sense.  I kind of feel like we are shooting a sitcom in a smaller room with no cameras. That answer is so convoluted and confusing.  Ahem.  Let me start over and say that the set enhances the intimacy between characters onstage and hopefully the audience’s experience…intense, intimate, and unexpected…but the height and distance from stage to audience still creates a pretty solid fourth wall.  I think it will be like watching 3D TV.  You will feel very much “in it”, but you don’t have to worry about actors sitting on your lap or sweating all over you.  Except for Brock.  So many winter clothing layers.  Is it different?  Sure.  It’s like cuddling up and telling stories around a campfire compared to Richard III, which was more similar to taking off and flying a small plane in straight lines inside of an airplane hanger.

WHT:  What was your favorite part about this rehearsal process or the show’s progress?
Amanda:  I loved watching the other scenes during rehearsals and I miss it now.  This is a funny group of people.  And watching Chip work is also a delight.  And a masterclass.

WHT:  What was one thing you learned during this process or something you rediscovered about yourself, others, or acting in general?
Amanda:  Actor Amnesia is real.  I often forget what I did as Cindy Lou Who, which can be problematic at notes time.  But Anne assured me that it’s real and it happens to her as well. And I believe everything Anne tells me.  Vote for Bernie!

WHT:  Oh, Anne.  When do we see you on stage again?
Amanda:  Ahem…single tear…I don’t have anything lined up.

WHT:  Bummer.  Sorry I asked that.
Amanda:  You should be.  Cordelia would give you the side eye if she were here.

We’re sold out!  But come down and get on the waiting list at show time and hope that you get to catch Amanda Sox playing a few of your Christmas favorites in our Christmas on the Rocks now through December 20th!