You most recently performed the role of the pompous Victorian Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. In Peace Mountain Theatre’s production of Other Desert Cities, you play the role of Silda, an alcoholic, left-leaning black sheep of the Wyeth family. These roles couldn’t be further apart.
Q. What helps you in the process of creating such completely different characters?
SH: Every character is different. All characters are influenced by everything in their world and by the language the playwright puts in their mouths. So a wealthy English woman in a comedy from 1895 would think, dress, walk, and talk differently than an American woman in a drama from 2010. An actor would use all of her training, skill and experience to portray these as she would every role.
Q. As you bring Silda to life, do you develop an empathy for her?
SH: Merriam-Webster online defines empathy as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present..." Therefore yes, to be successful, I must have empathy for Silda and for every character I portray.
Q. Why do you think she became an alcoholic?
SH: Why does anyone become an alcoholic? I would say a variety of factors created Silda's dependence and addiction to alcohol: living among drinkers, her successes and her failures, and her biology.
Q. What do you want your audience to take away from Other Desert Cities?
SH:Several characters in the play say that actions have consequences while failing to see the consequences of their own. I'd like the audience to see how a trauma for one family member rips across the entire family, no matter how hard some may try to ignore it. Polly says that a family is only as strong as its weakest link. I disagree; I hope the audience sees that a family can reinforce all its links to maintain the family strength. Finally, I'd like the audience to take away an understanding and sympathy for every member of the Wyeth family.