by Matt Keeley. @reallymattkeeley.
AKRON, OH - In a stunning display of advanced physical verisimilitude, teenage actor Nicki Long wowed her rehearsal room by transforming into an elderly character after squinting her eyes and hunching her back.
“While rehearsing a section of ensemble characters, I encouraged our actors to experiment by making some stereotypical physical choices,” recounted director Marty Simpson, observing Long holding a pantomimed coin purse in front of her with the posture of a tyrannosaurus. “And that’s when we found it. I felt like Nicki wasn’t even Nicki anymore, but the striking image of a wiley old lady. That’s just the power of physical theatre.”
We sat down with Ms. Long during a break to discuss her methods.
“All the greats have their processes. Daniel Day-Lewis stays in character all day, Laurence Olivier grew his roles from the shoes he wore, and I hope I can follow suit with cartoonish aging characteristics,” Long confided, caking on a layer of extra thick laugh line makeup. “And what amazing discoveries I’ve made along the way! It’s so natural to want to place my nondominant hand on the small of my back, shuffle with a wide gait, and wave a quivering index finger to tell off an upstart youth. I’ve named her Maude.”
The 15-year old freshman and self-described horse enthusiast has been working closely with different members of the production team to actualize her vision.
“In addition, we had to develop the character’s unique voice in an immediately recognizable caricature to evoke her age,” emphasized dialect coach Ruby Jones, pausing her reference video: The Best of Granny from Looney Tunes. “We’ve got a simple sentence here - In my day, we walked fifteen miles in the freezing snow to get to school. Have a Werther’s, Sonny! Nicki transcribed it phonetically to read - ɪn maɪ deɪ, wi wɔkt fɪfˈtin maɪlʃ ɪn ðə ˈfriʃɪŋ ʃnoʊ tu ɡɛt tu ʃkul. hæv ə ˈwɜrðərʃ, ʃʌni!”
At press time, the production has announced the role of Cool Teenage Skateboarder will be played by Long’s 75-five year-old grandfather, Herman.