On Golden Pond features a couple of theater’s most beloved characters. In this Feature Q & A, Jackie Prucha and Theo Harness discuss the production at Stage Door Players, the characters and how the play has stood the test of time.
1. Who do you play, and how would you describe the character?
Prucha: I am Ethel Thayer, Norman’s wife of 48 years, with one daughter, Chelsea. She is patient, loving (especially with Norman) energetic, optimistic and outgoing, basically a happy person, but dealing with the circumstances that life brings as you age.
Harness: Norman Thayer, Jr., a man who has lived a good life as a typical father of his generation, and who has the mind and spirit of a teacher; as he approaches his eightieth birthday, he is somewhat preoccupied by the fact that he is drawing near to the end of his life, and he has allowed that fact to gently overwhelm his psyche. He has become forgetful and a little resentful that his best days may be all behind him now. Norman Thayer, Jr., a man who has lived a good life as a typical father of his generation, and who has the mind and spirit of a teacher; as he approaches his eightieth birthday, he is somewhat preoccupied by the fact that he is drawing near to the end of his life, and he has allowed that fact to gently overwhelm his psyche. He has become forgetful and a little resentful that his best days may be all behind him now.
2. What do you enjoy most about playing your character?
Prucha: There is a lot of Ethel in my life. I feel quite comfortable in her skin, but perhaps not so content about aging ;-). She pushes on and does what she thinks best at the moment. She loves people, and as I have always said, acting expands your ‘family’. She gathers friends old and new into her life to enrich it – and hopes to entice Norman to take advantage of that as well. I wish my thoughts and words were as profound as hers, but I don’t always handle being me as well as Ethel does!
Harness: All his human traits–which are universal enough that Norman sounds and thinks like my own father, and probably like most fathers who were cultured in the ways of middle class Twentieth Century life in the United States with its urges toward upward mobility, with the impact of World War II, and especially Norman’s cleverness and sense of humor which he can apply to any situation, and, thereby let us know that he has a degree of wisdom and enlightenment within the outward grumpiness of his repressed emotions. His struggle to come more fully alive is there, waiting to be boosted by the next emotional connection that hooks and reels him in.
3. What is the best part of working with your fellow cast members?
Prucha: Everything! See above about building ‘family’! Theo and I first worked together at Atlanta Lyric Theatre in Cabaret, and though it sounds a bit corny, there was an instant connection. We loved working together, were comfortable with each other immediately. Actually, I think everyone has that response to Theo – he is loved by everyone! We seem to ‘fit‘ these roles well, and have had great fun as well as great challenges, being the Thayers, – at least from my point of view! Meeting and working with Dori, Sam, Matt, and Jim has been a delight.
Harness: The support that is there for all of us to tell this story, from a company of alive and emotionally available actors on stage together: Jackie Prucha as the soul of Ethel’s love and concern and reprimand; Sam Constantino as the spark of the memory of life’s goodness that hooks Norman; Dori Garziano Leeman as the beating heart inviting her father to see that it is never too late to come alive; Jim Dailey, the jovial reminder, the embodiment of life as it is capsuled and regimented day to day; and Matt Lewis, grounded, courageous, honest and willing- the nice person that Norman still recognizes that we all can be.
4. What three words would you use to describe the play?
Prucha: Emotional, thought-provoking, relatable (if that is a word) – perhaps familiar would be better and of course, great fun, and enjoyable, from our stand point and hopefully from the audience as well. Sorry – more than three!
Harness: Heart, soul, humor.
5. Why do you think audiences still love this play (what draws them to it?
Prucha: It is a mostly humorous family story with concerns about challenging parent-child relationships; it deals with growing older and the issues and problems that aging involves; it shows change in the family dynamic, and when all is said and done, it is hopeful and loving.
Harness: It is the story of the heart’s power to change the mind, of winning the struggle for a good life, no matter how long it takes.
6. What makes Stage Door Players a great place for this production?
Prucha: The Stage Door space is perfect for this sort of intimate look at situations. It allows the audience to fully see emotions and concerns of the characters. It provides a wonderful setting (and SET) for the show, hopefully putting the audience at ease immediately. PLUS – free parking and easy access!
Harness: The audience at Stage Door is like an old and intimate friend invited to the house on Golden Pond, from whom there are no secrets to keep, and who gently urge the telling of the story.
7. What would you say to someone on the street who asks, “Why should I see it?”
Prucha: It is a piece about family that everyone can relate to in some way. The good, the bad, the uncomfortable, the fun, the history, the future – warts and all, you can enjoy it all on Golden Pond!
Harness: Because it is a beautiful story, perfectly guided by the director and well told: life is good, and it is never too late to realize that and to enjoy and bask in its golden glow.
On Golden Pond plays at Stage Door Players in Dunwoody through February 16, 2014. For tickets and more information, please visit the theater’s website.