Rachel Jeffreys: Greenville Bound
Rachel Jeffreys is new to Greenville and new to us at The Warehouse. She’s currently making her main stage debut here in Uncle Vanya as Vanya’s well-read mother, Maria. Rachel has worked nationally in New York City, DC, and most recently in Charlotte. Rachel is also just as well-read as her character having voiced a number of books for the radio over the years. We sat down with her recently to discuss her first experience with Greenville and her time in Uncle Vanya.
WHT: This production marks your first production with The Warehouse. What’s the journey been like thus far?
Rachel: I’m having a ball working with director Roy Fluhrer and all these wonderful actors, and with The Warehouse staff and crew. I’m so glad to be surrounded by such intelligence and talent.
WHT: What’s been the greatest challenge of working on this play?
Rachel: Getting to sleep at night after rehearsals and performances that are so much fun!
WHT: From the beginning of rehearsal until now, what’s been the biggest shift in playing a supporting role like Maria?
Rachel: I wouldn’t say there’s been a big shift in the way I thought of Maria from the first day of rehearsal until now. Supporting roles always require a good balance between creating a complete character and not trying to “take the spotlight.”
WHT: Have you been surprised at the audience reaction to the humor in the play?
Rachel: Yes. We all knew in rehearsals that there were many spots where we could expect laughter, but the audiences have found even more! This isn’t to say that we’re hearing laughs where we don’t want to, but that Chekhov’s words can sometimes be taken in various ways. Each audience is different in its reactions, its smiles and laughs, and its silences, and I enjoy not knowing exactly what to expect from one performance to the next.
WHT: What was the single biggest influence upon the way you approached your Uncle Vanya character?
Rachel: Definitely our director Roy Fluhrer. His words to me and to the other actors have made these performances exacting and precise while always keeping us loose and not tight. I remember his stressing that the word “good” in a particular line should be savored. “It’s a delicious word—g-o-o-o-d!” And his directions on keeping our foot and hand movements clean and not muddy…“This is almost choreography.” Roy has encouraged and supported us in being thoughtful but spontaneous performers. Thank you, Roy.
WHT: Was there anything in the scenic, lighting, or costume design that affected your choices on stage?
Rachel: I think the scenic and lighting designs work wonderfully to enhance our performances. But the costume design really did influence my Maria. In the last week of rehearsals, when we were trying on costumes and wigs, I was first given a grey wig with a bun. This made me say to myself, “Now I look older, so I should make my walking look a bit older,” and I practiced that. However, director Roy Fluhrer noted that the wig looked exactly like the one worn by Anthony Perkins’ mother in Psycho, and we didn’t want that image! So it was switched to the black-with-a-little-grey-in-it one that I wear and I happily went back to my less old manner of walking. Maria is, in many ways, the most ALIVE of all the characters in Uncle Vanya, and I’m glad my look shows that. She stands up very straight and is even able to follow briskly after her son Vanya to reprimand him.
WHT: You only had three weeks of rehearsal time for a fairly difficult show. Did the truncated schedule help you and if so, in what ways?
Rachel: Mostly, it made me appreciate the strength of the actors playing major characters. Three weeks is a very short time to work on a play with such richness and depth and these actors are amazing (a word I don’t often use).
WHT: After joining the cast you also made the move to Greenville from Charlotte. What’s been your favorite part of living in Greenville thus far?
Rachel: Going for long walks downtown. It’s so enjoyable it hardly seems like exercising. Now if only there weren’t all those chocolates backstage all the time.
WHT: The ladies cast in this show represent four different generations of women, which is really awesome when you think about it. Has this lead to interesting perspectives regarding the show? Or fun dressing room conversations?
Rachel: We four women became friends right away. In the dressing room we tell about our theatre experiences and other life experiences, or we make silly jokes as we help each other with buttons, zippers, and hairdos. I think our love of good theatre links us more strongly than the age differences divide us.
WHT: What is your next gig after Uncle Vanya closes?
Rachel: Two days after we close I’m auditioning for the upcoming season at Flat Rock Playhouse. Fingers crossed!
WHT: Break a leg indeed, Ms. Jeffreys!
Get your tickets now and catch Rachel Jeffreys’ Warehouse Theatre debut in Uncle Vanya.