Miranda Barnett – Our Lady is Back:
Miranda Barnett is not a stranger to The Warehouse Theatre, but she’s been away for a couple of years completing her MFA in acting performance at University of North Carolina Greensboro. We are very glad she’s back for her return to the stage as Catesby in Richard III. Miranda’s been busy the last few months with leading the in-school residencies of our fall touring show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and working as a Warehouse Teaching Artist. We recently corralled Miranda and asked her a few questions about Richard III:
WHT: So give us the low down on the training?
Miranda: I have a BA in Music…vocal performance…from Florida State and I just finished my MFA in Acting at UNC Greensboro last May.
WHT: Remind our readers, you are from here, right?
Miranda: Greenville is my hometown, but I’ve come and gone a number of times. I came home after college for a few years, then lived in Las Vegas for six years, then was back in Greenville for a stretch before starting my MFA, and now I’m back again. Greenville will always have my heart no matter where I am.
WHT: This is what? Your fifth or sixth performance at The Warehouse?
Miranda: This is my sixth production, beginning with the first incarnation of The Rocky Horror Show in 2010. Richard III is my first production back at The Warehouse since Cabaret in 2012.
WHT: Did you have some favorite moments you can share from any productions you’ve been a part of or seen?
Miranda: The answer I’m about to give is not the first one to pop up in my mind, but the more I think about it, if not my favorite experience, it has certainly been my best experience to date. For my thesis in grad school I performed Mascarille in Moliere’s The Bungler (another role written for a man but played by me as a female). It is the longest role in all of Moliere and the line load (in rhyming verse, of course) was intense! But all was going well until our preview performance, when, at the top of Act 5, water from a small pool at center stage was accidentally dripped on the floor via another actor’s costume. Well, no one saw the water to clean it up and when I came flying in for an entrance I slipped and went down – HARD! Long story short, I finished the scene, but the show was stopped. I went to the hospital to find that I had a broken wrist and opening night was postponed. I had surgery and was then back at the theatre in less than 24 hrs for costume adjustments for my sling and a blocking rehearsal to adjust to being one-handed, and that night, riding on terror and adrenaline, we opened. So, it was definitely not my favorite experience – it was TERRIBLE – but it was also amazing! You truly learn what you’re made of in the face of adversity, and most importantly you learn the value of community. I was blown away by the way my cast supported and encouraged me, and all in all, the run was a huge success because of our ensemble.
WHT: What’s your favorite part of being an actor?
Miranda: Getting to live in another world for awhile.
WHT: Is there someone’s work that you greatly enjoy? Maybe someone else you admire in acting?
Miranda: I love Cate Blanchett! She is a chameleon – she transforms so completely!
WHT: How many Shakespeares do you have under your belt now?
Miranda: This is my second full production. I was cast to play Lady Macbeth with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, but right before rehearsals started, the company closed due to financial hardship. That was unfortunate for a number of reasons!
WHT: What is your favorite thing about working on Shakespeare’s plays?
Miranda: All of the nerdy text work! It’s something of a mathematical word problem inflated with incredible imagery to me! It’s very satisfying to my very evenly split right and left brain mind!
WHT: What’s been your favorite part of this rehearsal process? Is there something that you’ve rediscovered in the work or something newly learned that comes to mind?
Miranda: To answer the questions, I know it’s a controversial point amongst actors, but I am reminded how much I, personally, enjoy coming into a rehearsal process largely off-book. I find it so freeing to have the ability from day one to begin exploring and connecting to my scene partners and to not be bound by a script in my hand. Many of the members of our cast have come prepared in this way (special kudos to Jason D. Johnson on this point!) and I really believe it is why we have been able to see the play taking shape from so early on.
WHT: This show focuses more on the action and less on the historical elements of Richard III. What was that like to experience a rather well known text in a bit of a different light?
Miranda: It’s been fun to import this play to a different space and time. The historical research is important, of course. One needs to understand the events that comprise “the winter of our discontent” before we can discover our “glorious summer.” (Was that cheesy? I think, yes.) Seriously, I needed to really sort out the war of the roses, and the “who did what to who” so that I could understand what sets our stakes so high. But history buffs will certainly see the embellishments that Shakespeare has given us and that we as actors have breathed into these characters. Catesby, for example, is historically and textually Sir William Catesby. I was cast to play Catesby as a woman, and the issue of gender is, of course, hugely influential. Also, because the list of characters in the play has been truncated, Catesby has been injected into additional scenes and has been given business that traditionally would be handled by another character. I’m really enjoying the layers that all of this new information is creating for her – she’s slick!
WHT: Did a previous screening or performance of Richard III influence you in any direction?
Miranda: I’ve never seen the play live, but I’ve watched many of the notable film versions, and mostly I’ve looked for any variations in the dynamic/ relationship between Catesby and Richard. Again, all of this information had to be filtered and seen through the feminine lens, but observing another actor’s take is always revealing and informative.
WHT: Any words of advice for audience members coming to Richard III?
Miranda: Sit back and enjoy the ride!
WHT: Once Richard has been interred, what’s your next gig?
Miranda: I’ll be back here to play Gabriella in Boeing Boeing in June (for which I’ll receive my membership to Actors’ Equity Association – hallelujah!!!) and then I’m off to Clinton, Iowa in July to play Truvy in Steel Magnolias and Diana in Next to Normal with the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre.
Catch Miranda Barnett as Catesby in Richard III playing through May 2nd!