I’m sure we would all like to hibernate and enjoy the grueling months of winter for just a little bit longer, but spring is creeping in, and that means more theater to look forward to. Maybe it also means it’s the perfect time for a little bit of spring cleaning; or, if you’re not in the mood to clean your own house, why not watch some actors and actresses performing in The Clean House.
This play, a Pulitzer Prize finalist by Sarah Ruhl, will be the directorial debut of local actor (and Smile Politely contributor) Katie Baldwin Prosise, who has been a fixture in the local theatre scene for years. I spoke to Prosise a little about the play and what to expect. Sorry none of the cast members can be hired to clean your house; you’ll just have to watch the magnificent performance on stage at the Station Theatre.
Smile Politely: What made you choose The Clean House?
Katie Baldwin Prosise: I had proposed a different show that the selection committee didn't choose. I was given another script to consider and loved it. [Then] we weren't able to secure the rights. Two days before the season was announced, I was offered The Clean House. I read it twice, fell in love, crapped my pants, and took the job.
SP: This will be your directorial debut. What are you most nervous about concerning the actual performance?
Prosise: I am sure I've overlooked something absolutely vital — as with anything I've spent a lot of time and energy on. Experience teaches me nothing; I have the same feeling with every production, whatever my position in the team.
SP: It sounds like you are very confident for this show going in. Was there someone who inspired you to get into theater?
Prosise: I did my first show when I was 9. My mom's friend had a daughter, Abby, who was my age. She had been in Urbana Park District musicals for several years and the moms arranged a play date of sorts. So I was a munchkin and loved it! I've been hooked ever since.
SP: A munchkin as your first role? How awesome! Other then family, who do you feel is your biggest inspiration as a director?
Prosise: Mathew Green and Kay Holley taught me almost everything I know about directing. Create a safe place for your actors and designers to create. If it weighs you down, drop it. A good idea is just that, regardless of whose brain forms it. You don't have all the answers. Years ago, my husband [local actor/director Mike Prosise] gave me this gem in regards to managerial style: Pick the right people for the job and get out of their way. I've applied that to nearly every aspect of my life.
SP: So now that we know what inspires you as a director. Do you feel that you share similar personality traits with the characters?
Prosise: I feel a connection to every character in The Clean House: Matilde, the comedian in mourning; Lane, the overachiever who is blindsided; Virginia, the fragile people-pleaser; Charles, the single-minded romantic; and Ana, the passionate newcomer.
SP: If you could have been cast as any of the other characters (male or female) who would you want to be and why?
Prosise: Matilde. Laura Welle gets to tell half a dozen jokes (in Portuguese!) and charms everyone around her in this play. It would be so fun! I study comedy and love the challenge of languages and accents on stage.
SP: And, on a final note, what is the biggest thing you'll take away from this first experience as a director?
Prosise: I think I expected to feel alone. Lost. It's almost like I forgot that all of my knowledge and experience could be USED now. That doesn't get wiped clean because it's the first time with this specific job title in this specific theatre. Everything has led up to this and is useful. So I used it. Also: Directing children is nothing like directing adults! I have plenty of experience putting on children's musicals, but this is a different ball game.
You can see for yourself what Katie Baldwin Prosise and The Clean House have to offer starting Thursday, February 20th, at the Station Theatre in Urbana. The show will run three weeks, with Mondays and Tuesdays dark, and all performances begin at 8 p.m. For more information, and to make reservations, visit the Station’s website.