Primary Stages sat down with The Tribute Artist cast member Cynthia Harris to chat about her character, the rehearsal process, and highlights from her extensive career on stage and screen.
What is your role in The Tribute Artist?
Adriana, my character, dies a natural death and Jimmy, played by Charles, borrows my identity in the hopes of selling the townhouse in which I live.
What did you think of it after the first read?
I found the play funny and quirky. And well suited to Charles and Julie – a fun vehicle for them and for the audience to watch as the plot spins out.
What do you look for in a director?
What I love in a director is someone sure of where they feel the play – and the actors chosen – can carry the plot and the style of the play to a happy and meaningful conclusion. A good director can follow the course and yet be open to new discoveries that inevitably happen in rehearsal when all the different artistic personalities and strengths come together.
Speaking of those new discoveries, have there been any challenges or surprises about your character during the rehearsal process?
There are always wonderful surprises that only happen after you have worked with the words and the other actors. The interactions between the characters grow as the play comes to life and the people involved learn to trust others and themselves… Then there is the magic and the surprise where it leads you to places you never thought of at the beginning of the process!
Onstage and onscreen, what has been your favorite role?
I have loved many roles in my career, but among the most intellectually stimulating, and exciting on many different levels, was playing Mrs. Simpson in the TV miniseries Edward & Mrs. Simpson. I learned history, style, English actors up close and personal, a different way of approaching material… It was great to live in another country for an extended period of time and change my lifestyle! It takes you to a different place in your entire being. Quite an exciting ride, and one I treasured.
Could you talk a little bit about your role at TACT? Aside from acting, what kind of work do you do there?
I am Co-Artistic Director of TACT, along with Executive Director Scott Evans and Jenn Thompson. We choose the plays each season (21 years now) which requires a really huge amount of reading theatrical literature. We cast the actors from in and out of the company and, in essence, produce the entire season – two fully mounted plays and four additional concert performances – in our own studio at 900 Broadway, in addition to performing in wonderfully exciting plays. It has been a truly amazing experience.