Meet The Artists Of Carter’s Play

Patti Moore (Tracy/Faith) holds a BA in Drama from Ithaca College, and has most recently seen as Ann Deever in All My Sons and as Jo Briggs in Independence. Patti has worked in Los Angeles and at several regional theaters, including The Kitchen (Ithaca, NY), Midnight Productions (Philadelphia, PA), and the Pennsylvania and Southern California Renaissance Faires. Patti is the co-founder of The Theatre Ensemble of Nashville, where she acted variously as actor, producer, director, stage manager, scenic artist, graphic designer, and just about everything else. Passionate about improv, she has performed in shows at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, the Philly Fringe, and at iO West. One day, she will stop talking about stand-up and actually do it.

Q: Where were you born? Where have lived? Where do you live now?
Patti Moore: I was born in Richmond, VA, and grew up in Newtown, PA. Ready for this? I’ve lived in: New York, NY; Ithaca, NY; London, UK; Los Angeles, CA; various locations in PA; and Nashville, TN. I spend most summers in Chillicothe, OH, and currently live in Bensalem, PA.

Q: What was the first play you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
PM: Kindergarten circus? I actually decided to pursue acting after I dropped out of Parsons School of Design’s interior design program. I thought I loved design, but I was miserable. I sat on the sidewalk outside the school and thought about what I loved so much that no matter how frustrating it got, I still loved it. And that was theater. It had been a hobby, but I never imagined I’d pursue it as a career.

Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
PM: For four days I stacked documents for scanning, making sure there were no staples and that all the edges lined up. I quit on the fifth day.

Q: Talk about your character in Carter’s Play and  your approach to her.
PM: I mine the text for clues about my character and build it from there. I don’t have any kind of weird thing that’s any different from other actors. I have been working out more out of a terror of how attractive Tracy’s supposed to be. And I just do a lot of thinking about Faith. Her history takes more construction, as I can’t just sort of cut and paste and rearrange my own like I can for Tracy. Other than that, I just listen.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work, artistically speaking? What’s the easiest?
PM: I have very few life experiences to draw on in playing Faith. And I have a ton of life experience to draw on in playing Tracy. So they are at opposite ends of the spectrum of ease for me.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
PM: I play a couple of orchestral instruments, primarily the upright bass and the clarinet, but also the violin and euphonium. I can also play the cello, trumpet, and piano, but not with any degree of artistry. I was co-captain of my scholar’s bowl team in high school and a Mathlete, so that’s some un-Tracy-like awesomeness. Otherwise, I’m super boring. Although I did learn how to do a one-handed cartwheel after injuring my shoulder doing a one-handed handstand.

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Jennifer Summerfield (Chrissie/Margo) is a company member of West Philadelphia’s Curio Theatre, where she recently completed a production of Slaughterhouse-Five. Favorite past productions have been A Moon for the Misbegotten at the Arden (u/s), Collected Stories, The Fool, which was a play about Sir Francis Drake, in which she was able to play one of my historical idols, Elizabeth I, and the world premiere of Pardon My Invasion at Plays and Players. She has also starred in three SmokeyScout shows (Boat Hole, Merry Fucking Christmas, and DEER HEAD.) She is a graduate of Smith College and the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

“Little competes for, or captures the attention more than Summerfield’s penetrating portrayal of a woman under siege.” Jim Rutter, News of Delaware County

Q: Where were you born? Where have lived? Where do you live now?
Jennifer Summerfield: I was born in Hollywood to a theatrical couple and lived there for the first four years of my life. Since then, I have lived in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Manhattan, Northampton, MA, and Paris, France. Currently, I live in the University City area of Philadelphia, a part of the city I love.

Q: What was the first play you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
JS: A college production of Dancing at Lughnasa. I played Rose, and it was the first time I can say I truly inhabited a role and felt what it was like to walk in another’s shoes. Both intellectually and emotionally, it was a wonderfully complete and fulfilling experience.

 Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
JS: Personally, I find every 9-to-5 job I’ve had “soul-numbing” after the first month. Anything that keeps me from auditioning is deadening after the novelty wears off.

Q: Talk about your character in Carter’s Play and  your approach to her.
JS: Chrissie is fairly close to who I am in real life, an actor who maybe takes herself a little too seriously at times, so the challenge is to play her as simply and honestly as possible. Margo, on the other hand, is the person I’d like to be, strange as that might seem when you’ve seen the play. She’s not afraid to step on toes and has Bette Davis’s flair for the dramatic. The challenge with her is to let the drama of the lines themselves speak for her and not take it into the realm of complete insanity.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work? What’s the easiest?
JS: The easiest part is having a great team to work with and knowing that they’ll take whatever you dish and will also keep you on your toes. The hardest part is also the fun part: getting into the skin of the character and seeing where that takes you.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
JS: I speak French, have a pinball machine in my living room and a coffin for a coffee table, and am married to an awesome photographer.

Josh McIlvain (writer/co-director/actor) is a Philadelphia-based playwright who has had more than one-hundred productions of some sixty-five plays throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., including 38 New York productions. For the past 4 years, he has mounted critically-praised work with his company SmokeyScout Productions. Last fall, he performed in his one act Waiting For The Boss alongside James Tolbert (fascinating psychological performances,” said Broad Street Review) and was recently seen in his 15-minute play The Sighting alongside Bert Archer at a short play festival in NJ.

Q: Where were you born? Where have lived? Where do you live now?
Josh McIlvain: I grew up in Philadelphia, and spent my twenties in New York, then back to Philly, then back to New York, then back to Philly again where I live in Chestnut Hill with my wife Deborah Crocker and son Jasper.

Q: What was the first play you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
JM: It was either 5th or 6th grade, and I played the bad guy and I hammed it up in an über-arch fashion.

Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
JM: I was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for several years. While it was soul numbing, I produced a lot of creative work during that time and read a lot (sneakily, it was not allowed), and even developed an appreciation for decorative arts after staring at them for hours on end.

Q: Talk a little about your character in Carter’s Play and how you are approaching working on him?
JM: I am playing Carter, and the character has a need to draw attention to himself both from the audience and the other characters, so I have to be willing to do whatever necessary to keep people engaged. While he is a writer-director, and so am I, he is a quite different personality, much more effusive and talkative, which makes it easier for me, because I am not playing some version of myself, which can be deadly when you wrote the part. What’s interesting though is that I now have a hard time seeing the play from my own point of view (the writer’s), and it’s become very colored by Carter.

Q: Did you plan on playing Carter?
JM: No, I had planned on being the writer-director-co-producer, which was plenty, but we had a hard time finding a Carter, as all the people I invited to audition had conflicts. So I started playing him to get rehearsals going, and still no one was available and now it’s no turning back. The main reason this became possible, however, is that John Rosenberg of Hella Fresh Theater, who originally signed on just to help in whatever way he could, has taken over the main director duties, and that has opened up the play tremendously. I also find myself much less anxious as actor-producer than director-producer, because I don’t spend all my time worrying.

Q: How do you divvy up the directorial duties with John Rosenberg?
JM: John has really taken up the brunt of the directing duties, especially during rehearsals, and especially with working with the actors, and opening up the play. Roughly speaking I do some of the broader outlines, and then he takes over and does the detail work.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work? What’s the easiest?
JM: The hardest thing is administrating. Because it can be a real time suck. The easiest thing is rehearsing because I can be in the moment.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
JM: I haven’t acted all that much in the past 20 years, even though that was my first love in theater. I’ve had a lot of stage time as a frontman/singer for bands I was in, and more recently as a solo performer. However, in the past year, I did start acting again, in a few 2-person short plays of mine, mostly because I’ve give the juicy part to someone else, and I could play the foil and it would just be easier to put together. I then started thinking about making a solo-show at some point so I could have a traveling theater production, so I thought I had better get my chops back so that I could pull that off. I acted in a longer one act of mine for Wild Punch in my play Waiting For The Boss (still the secondary character but much more stage time) last November and took a 2-week Pig Iron intensive class this past January. If I hadn’t done those things, acting in this play would have made me a nervous wreck.

Chris Davis is from Oakland, CA. He received training from the National Theatre Institute (Fall 2004) and received a B.A. from Albright College. Recently his screenplay Ringo was selected for the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. His most recent play was Lion (El Leon) (“Most Original Script” Philly Urban Theater Festival 2011, Philly Fringe 2011, Finalist Wordbridge Development Conference 2010). He has acted, directed, and produced theater for the last 3 years in Philadelphia.

Q: Where were you born? Where have lived? Where do you live now?
Chris Davis: I was born in Oakland, California and lived there for 14 years. Then I moved to Pennsylvania and attended high school. And years later I ended up living in Mexico (Chiapas and Mexico City) for three years, until finally I returned to Philadelphia. I currently live in beautiful South Philadelphia.

Q: What was the first play you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
CD: Acting wise, definitely my second play, Three Sisters. I auditioned for the role and was not cast, but fortunately the actor cast as Kulygin had some band commitment and suddenly I was asked to fill in the role. I played him as a dork, nerd, or whatnot, and there was something about going up on stage as another character nothing like myself (because I am really cool in real life) that I loved.

Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
CD: Tough choice because there were so many. But in high school I worked the Auntie Anne’s cart for $5.15 an hour in the mall which sucked, or maybe the furniture factory in Reading, PA, where I was forced to listen to oldies non-stop and wrap crates in shrink-wrap.

Q: Talk  about your character in Carter’s Play and  your approach to him.
CD: Well my approach is always to be honest to my character, not to try and add layers that aren’t there, whatnot. Matt is a sarcastic wise-ass but not devoid of a heart, which is important. I try to separate the characters physically, so when I play Cyrus, who is a sort of brow-beaten New Englander stuck in a diner with his exhausting wife, I try to inhabit that character first physically, and then vocally. Most importantly I want to make a distinction between the two characters, and yet what I like about it, is while Matt has so many comedic walls up and is always having the last word in life, when he plays Cyrus he suddenly has to act very vulnerable. Nice contrast Josh!

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work? What’s the easiest?
CD: [Hardest is] no doubt money. If all theater artists were paid even two dollars per hour we’d all be filthy rich. Easiest is when you are in a room with people you respect and like creating a new work. It’s fun and easy as long as you stay open to the process.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
CD: So I am a fluent Spanish speaker. I learned it after 3 years in Mexico. Besides that something kind of strange is that I actually appeared in a small scene on a telenovela called Tormentas del Paraiso as a photographer.

Photo by Erin Desmond.

John Rosenberg (co-director) runs Hella Fresh Theater at the Papermill Theater in Kensington. He have written, directed, and produced Use Both Hands, Jericho Road Improvement Association, Cheap Guy Hall of Fame, California Redemption Value, and Queen of All Weapons. This year he is doing Automatic Fault Isolation and Alp D’Huez. In November of 2011, John put up Wild Punch with Josh McIlvain and Annie Wilson, which featured three works, one by each artist.

“Impulsive and crude—but, above all, effective.” Bruce Walsh, Philadelphia City Paper

Q: Where were you born? Where have lived? Where do you live now?
John Rosenberg: I was born at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Panorama City, California on 28 October 1976. (Same hospital as actor Jennifer Summerfield!) I have lived at my parents house, my dad’s apartment, my mom’s apartment, dorms at Berkeley, homeless in Berkeley for a bit, student co-ops at Berkeley, a few houses in Oakland, a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco with my ladyfriend, and a two-bedroom apartment with my ladyfriend in Center City Philadelphia.

Q: What was the first theater experience that you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
JR: I wouldn’t say I remember a thing, but I skipped a birthday party in the 4th grade because I wanted to go to my mom’s rehearsal—she taught theater at a junior high in Los Angeles. During a break one of her former students stormed in (they had been fighting), laid roses at her feet, bowed to her and then left. I was like, whoa, this bitch has powers.

Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
JR: I worked at a movie theater in Los Angeles where they only showed the Disney movie Pocahontas.

Q: How did you get roped into co-directing Carter’s Play?
JR: I didn’t see the rope.

Q: Talk a little about your approach to directing Carter’s Play and does it differ at all from directing your own work?
JR: Above all, I try to make sure the actors are comfortable and doing what they want to do. Big difference from directing my work is having to respect the writer, which I usually don’t have to deal with.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work, artistically speaking? What’s the easiest?
JR: It is still the honeymoon, pressure hasn’t showed up yet.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
JR: I got a show opening in June.

Sarah Robinson (Genevieve) most recently worked with PuppeTyranny on Kennedy Candra’s Waterbears in Space. Previously with PuppTyranny she portrayed the psycho broom in Rails (Philly Fringe, 2009) and the stripper fairy in Peter Pan, (Summer 2010.) Other credits include: Wanamaker’s Pursuit (Arden, u/s, performance), In the Blood (Allens Lane), All in the Timing (Allens Lane), Haunted Poe (Brat Productions), Rag and Bone (Vagabond), Possibilities (Whistler in the Dark). Much love to her family and JQM. NTI/OPC 2004.

Q: Where were you born? Where you have lived? Where do you live now?
Sarah Robinson: I was born in a town out on the R5. I’ve lived in the suburbs of Philly, up outside of Boston (Waltham and Somerville) and downtown in the Gayborhood. Right now a friend and I own a house commonly known as “Jim’s House of Wayward Women” in West Philly, where we get up to tons of shenanigans and try to repair all household defects with gaff tape.

Q: What was the first play you were in that you were like, ah, I get this, I love doing this?
SR: My 2nd grade class was reading a “modern” version of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The girls were instructed to stand on top of a table and recite Juliet’s lines. When it was time for Romeo to speak, the boys were supposed to leap out from behind a chair, startling Juliet. The stage directions “Juliet leaps back” were written AFTER Juliet’s line “Ah, Romeo!” As a result, my classmates would say “Ah, Romeo!” and THEN jump back. I remember thinking “well, that’s stupid; he just jumped out from behind the chair, so Juliet would jump backwards WHILE saying ‘Ah, Romeo!’” My turn came, and I climbed up on the table. Romeo jumped out from behind the chair, and I leapt backwards while saying “Ah, Romeo!”. . . only I was overconfident, and hit the blackboard. Everybody laughed—but I felt giddy when I realized that I had made them laugh!
I was hooked. I looked at the script further, and decided that Juliet’s part was boring. I asked to play Romeo. Thus began a career filled with cross-gender casting and experimental theater.

Q: What’s the most soul-numbing job you ever worked?
SR: I was an administrative assistant to an administrative assistant. I swear, the woman I worked for was only on the payroll because she’d been with the company forever, and she knew where bodies were buried.

Q: Talk a little about your character in Carter’s Play and your approach to her?
I believe that Genevieve lives for her career and for her son. The life she thought she’d have with Tripp pretty much disintegrated before her eyes (though I’m not sure she realized it until it was too late to do anything about it) and so she’s trying to find a sense of completeness in her burgeoning career, while balancing the obligations she has to her child.
I gain insight into my characters by exploring how they carry themselves. It’s important for me to find out how they walk, and where they carry most of their weight. Genevieve’s weight is centered much lower than my own, in part because she’s got these responsibilities that weigh her down, and so she can’t afford to be affected by the changing winds of theater politics. Additionally, I’m exploring what in her body feels different when she runs into Tripp. I hope to never know what it means to loathe the person for whom you once cared so deeply, and to be so emotionally jarred in a negative way every time I see a person. It’s even more difficult to recreate this emotion because, outside of his character, Mark is an awesome person, so I can’t even get all “method” about it.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about doing this work, artistically speaking? What’s the easiest?
Playing with the other actors is the easiest part. Refraining from judging myself as I’m working is the hardest part.

Q: Any other interesting information about you?
The varsity fencing team needed a warm body my sophomore year of college, and so, for one year, I was a varsity athlete. My mother was very proud.

Mark Cairns (Tripp) recently appeared in EgoPo’s Diary of Anne Frank (Kraler), Luna’s How to Disappear (Mike, et al), Commonwealth Classic’s Richard III (King Edward, Brackenbury), and in The Lantern’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Snout/Wall, Mustardseed).  He also appeared in the ensemble (and served as Military Advisor to) the Wilma Theater’s Macbeth, where he also performed in Leaving (Albin), and Rock’N’Roll (Milan). Other credits include Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival’s Romeo and Juliet and Pericles (Prince Escalus, Ensemble), Plays & Players’ Oleanna (John), and Flashpoint’s Faculty Room (Adam).  Thanks to his best gal Aileen for her love and support, and his brother Mike for keeping us safe overseas.

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