You know when you set out to do one thing, but then that one thing turns into something else. That’s pretty much the story of this interview. It was supposed to be something else entirely, but when Amanda Sox gives you such splendid and detailed answers…you just have to run with it. Thus we are not giving you a story today as much as sharing a peak at a truly honest and terrific interview. Folks…here’s long time Warehouse veteran, Amanda Sox.
Warehouse: Your roles since 2015 have been about as varied as one can get. Lady Anne in Richard III, Cindy Lou Who in Christmas on the Rocks, Mrs. Givings in In the Next Room, Desdemona in Othello, and now Jen in this very contemporary play, The Cake. You covered a fantasy and three different earthly centuries. What’s that overall journey been like?
Amanda: Hmm. Which one is fantasy? The journey has been absolutely delightful and deeply challenging. I sure do miss Cindy Lou Who when I’m getting murdered. Honestly, I feel so fortunate that I’ve been able to explore these diverse characters in just a few years. In a way, this has become my controlled laboratory to experiment and grow as an artist among trusted friends and colleagues…frolleagues…? It feels like a gift. To not be boxed in as an actor was always my dream beyond traditional measures of success like fame and notoriety.
Warehouse: Do any of those roles tie together (other than getting killed in both the Shakespeares) for you in any way?
Amanda: Yeah being murdered by asphyxiation is getting to be a little much. Is that my “type” now as an actor? Well here’s how I see it. I’m always stringing together connections in my life, or looking for the poetry, so yes, these roles are connected. If Lady Anne weren’t murdered, she’d probably end up like Cindy Lou Who, right? Aside from Anne and Desdemona, who do not pass the Bechdel Test, I think the through-line is self awareness/discovery. Cindy Lou is on the extreme side of awareness and teaches a cautionary lesson to other women. Mrs. Givings and Jen are both going through some major moments of discovery and identity questioning.
Warehouse: With In the Next Room and The Cake, you find yourself back in the same seasonal time slot with the same director in two shows that focus on a lady’s journey? How have the two experiences been similar? How do they differ?
Amanda: Both of these plays have been so personally difficult for different reasons. Here’s the thing about excellent female playwrights like Ruhl and Brunstetter: they write real women who are complex and going through real issues. As it turns out, I am also a real woman! And the issues I face as a complex human woman are represented in both plays. The obvious similarities between both shows/characters are themes of sexuality and intimacy. Catherine’s journey was more about self-discovery and the pursuit of true intimacy with a partner, whereas Jen’s journey is more about integrating two different identities defined by her sexuality and desperately trying to hang on to her loved ones from both of the worlds that she lives in. Discovery, identity, self-acceptance, courage, and honesty.
I cannot imagine working on either of these two shows without Kerrie. Talk about intimate – sheesh. I’ve had to bare vulnerable parts of myself for both Catherine and Jen, and that has only been possible because of my trust in Kerrie. I am my true and honest self in her rehearsal room. Also, we’re both complete dorks that make each other laugh and I feel like that shows up in the work.
Warehouse: The Cake…this is only the third production of this very new script. Have you ever had this opportunity before…to work on a fully realized version this early in a play’s life?
Amanda: Yes! I kind of cut my teeth in professional theatre working on new plays. When I was in college I was lucky enough to be in the world premiere of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s play Rough Magic at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, NY. I was also in the first production of a Mac Wellman play there, School for Devils.
I also spent a couple years doing costume work, first as a stitcher then as a design assistant at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. So I was able to work on two Humana Festivals (of New American Plays). I was the design assistant for Elemeno Pea by Molly Smith Metzler and Bob by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb.
In addition to acting and designing, I worked with an ensemble to produce a play in The New York International Fringe Festival by an excellent playwright friend of mine, Emily Feldman.
Beyond the aforementioned productions, I’ve been involved with many workshop productions in various producing/designing/acting roles. And while I was living in Seattle I worked with a great company there that does new work exclusively by female playwrights (Live Girls! Theater).
I LOVE NEW PLAYS.
Warehouse: The Cake explores personal faith and marriage in various ways. What would you expect an audience to take away from or maybe prepare for in the play’s content?
Amanda: Well first, there’s a marital relationship at the core of this play. It’s actually pretty similar to Mrs. Givings and Dr. Givings, except it’s more like if Catherine and the Doctor stayed married for 30 years without the rupture and repair we see at the end of In the Next Room. In The Cake, you see a relationship that has gone unexamined, and we meet Della in a pivotal moment of exploration and self-discovery.
But beyond Della’s marriage, we see a very real relationship between Jen and Macy that is beautiful and flawed in all the same ways as any relationship. There are moments in any intimate relationship when one partner grows/questions/changes and it shakes the foundation of the partnership. This happens for both Della and Jen in The Cake. Both women have to find the courage to be honest with themselves and to their partners. And choices have to be made to stay and love or cut losses and leave. “Love’s always harder.” That’s universal to anyone, anywhere on any spectrum.
Warehouse: What’s been the most pivotal moment in rehearsal thus far for you (or for the cast)?
Amanda: Perhaps the first read through? Not to speak for everyone, but it was so enlightening (and kind of magical) the first time we had everyone in the room to read this play. It was the first piece of the puzzle. That, and the time Louise played a fart sound effect instead of a beautiful music cue.
Warehouse: So you had a great audition and you gave the director, Kerrie Seymour, what she was looking for in the character of Jen. But putting that aside for a moment, is there something in you that you’ve found relates to Jen in a significant way?
Amanda: Absolutely. Whether it’s the casting, or my acting process, or some divine life lesson – whatever role I do, I (try to) bring a truthful part of myself. Jen was terrifying to play because she is so similar to Amanda, so in crafting the character I’ve paid special attention to the ways in which she differs. I have no desire to use all of my personal baggage onstage as a sort of therapy, but I do tend to spend a fair amount of my prep work in self-reflection. So here are some of the ways in which I, Amanda, identify with the character of Jen:
The compulsion to hide or perform versus the longing to be truly known.
The need to keep the peace in personal relationships at the cost of dishonesty.
The desire for security or safety.
Identity confusion – who am I really and why? Can I be seemingly contrary things? What if something that feels comfortable is wrong? Am I really this thing or am I performing this thing?
Warehouse: Maybe we’ve asked this before, but it’s still a good question when working at The Warehouse…you are one of our teaching artists throughout the year. You work with elementary, middle, and high school students on their language arts skills. Is there a connection for you between the work you do on stage here and the work you do in the classroom?
Amanda: I got through school because of theatre. I was a student at the Fine Arts Center (under Christina Keefe, West Hyler, and then Monica Bell), and the script analysis and performance tools I learned there activated my English/Language Arts understanding. My time spent in that old FAC building among inquisitive minds and creative thinkers (and the guidance of Roy Fluhrer) unlocked my joy for learning. My Theatre and English grades got me through high school and into college. I could not be more passionate about arts education in public schools because it gave me, someone who always felt queer or misplaced in school, access to higher education. When Shakespeare was unlocked for me in high school, I not only gained confidence and success academically, I gained access to universal themes and complex relatable characters.
Every play or character is a puzzle for me and it’s a such a fun game to find the pieces and how it all fits together. My aim as a teaching artist is to help the students find the game, find the connections to their own lives, and increase confidence.
See Amanda Sox in the brand new play from Bekah Brunstetter, The Cake. Opens December 1st and runs till December 17th.