Vancouver theatre goers will have a unique opportunity to see three generations of actresses on stage together as 27-year old Meaghan Chenosky, 50-year old Beatrice Zeilinger and 70-something Anna Hagan appear in the Western Gold Theatre production of Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women.
[pullquote]“Each one of these actors is so right for the role and the play itself is like a prism that includes young and old, laughter and tears. There are times when you will be laughing hysterically and times when you are struck very deeply.” – director Terence Kelly[/pullquote]“It fits perfectly with the Western Gold mandate, offering opportunities for senior professional actors” says Hagan, who is also the company’s Artistic Director.
Acknowledging that there are currently few roles for senior members of the theatre community, Hagan believes that with our aging population, that is about to change: “The whole population is getting older and sooner or later we are going to be represented.”
But she also acknowledges that change doesn’t come overnight and it is plays like Three Tall Women that provides the outlet for not only older actors, but for women as well, both reasons that drew Zeilinger to the project among others.
“I’ve never done Albee before and haven’t done a classic for a while,” she says. “This is a real meaty part and it’s challenging, and I haven’t been challenged like this for a while.”
Another offshoot of this particular production has also been an opportunity for mentoring, and as the youngest of the group, Chenosky was not only drawn to the play’s woman-centric themes, but acknowledges it as a learning experience as well.
“I’m still so new to all of this … my first paying job was less than year ago,” she laughs. “Working with these woman for some time now has been really wonderful to see how they approach things. To have someone to look up to and I can learn how they do it.”
For Hagan, the opportunity to help younger actors is definitely a bonus, part of a two-way process she says is important to the future of theatre. “We get all funny about the word mentor,” she says, “but mentoring younger colleagues doesn’t mean that I am more talented. What they and other young people bring is the energy and fire. I wouldn’t want to be part of this profession now if it wasn’t for these younger professionals coming in. Terry [director Terence Kelly] and I both feel there is a lot we can give, and a lot we can learn.”
For Zeilinger, it is an opportunity to see both sides, something she finds reinvigorating: “It’s both learning from Anna and Terry who have been around longer than me, and at the same time you kind of forget what it is like to be a younger actor,” she says.
Three Tall Women explores the life of a sometimes acerbic 90-year old life woman played by Hagan. Also in the room are two versions of herself at different ages: Chenosky as the self-assured 26-year old and Zeilinger as the cynical 52-year old who is seen as the elderly woman’s caretaker. In accessing these characters the three looked to different touch points in their own lives. For Zeilinger, it is her role that appears to hit closest to home.
“My mother has Alzheimer’s,” she says. “Act one deals with senility and dementia and how sensitive you have to be, and patient, and understanding. That is my life at the moment.”
Hagan points to her own life as well, as she sees her own power diminishing as she grows older, but she also relishes in playing such a negative person, someone who is the opposite to her in real life.
“The thing I like most about this woman is that she is quite the nasty,” she laughs. “It plays against who I really am. To play this character is a great deal of fun.”
For Chenosky it is a little more difficult, having been spared any exposure to Alzheimer’s and dementia in her own life, and not having been close to her grandparents.
“In act two though it does resonate a fair bit for me,” she says. “When you’re in your twenties and you feel everything a little too much. You love really hard, and when you’re unsure you’re really unsure.”
Giving director Terrence Kelly the final word, he points to not only the cast he has assembled, but what he has come to refer to as an entire spectrum of life that the play touches on, as reasons to see Three Tall Women.
“Each one of these actors is so right for the role and the play itself is like a prism that includes young and old, laughter and tears. There are times when you will be laughing hysterically and times when you will be struck very deeply.”
Three Tall Women plays the PAL Theatre ( 581 Cardero St, Vancouver) October 23 – November 9. Visit http://westerngoldtheatre.org for tickets and information.