There is a lot of talk about the remarkable production of Gypsy at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia. This production is spectacular, and one of those productions that is memorable for the performances as well as the creative staging. To date, this is the best production of Gypsy I have seen.
I had the opportunity to speak with Caroline Dooner who plays Louise in the Arden's production of Gypsy. Dooner spoke with me about the show and about her character, as well as about her favorite part of the show and how she gained an interest in performing.
Kelli Curtin Could you tell me a little about what audiences can expect from the Arden Theatre’s production of Gypsy? Why should they come and see the show?
Caroline Dooner: Terry Nolan has reimagined the show in a way that makes it seem different. What he has done is make the show take place as if it is happening in Rose's memory, so the very beginning of the show depicts Rose in the final moments of the show and then the show goes back as she is remembering all the things that have happened in her life. It is really unique and wonderful the way that the audience sees her remembering important parts of her life that are full of emotions. However, at the same time Terry keeps Gypsy as written. So, the Arden's production of Gypsy is different enough that it will seem unique, but it also keeps close enough that it is the classic story that people love.
Kelli: Could you tell me a little about your character, Lousie?
Caroline: Louise is the sister that is ignored the most. Her sister June seems to have all the attention and is always in the spotlight. Louise is the observer and she makes costumes. She prefers that June is the star, she prefers not being in the spotlight. The musical, Gypsy, is based on a true story. The show tells Louise's story in which her mother, Rose, was focused on June until she runs away. It happens at the time when Vaudeville was dying and her mother wants one of her children to be a star. Louise wants nothing to do with performing and at a point in the show she ends up performing in a burlesque house. Louise is someone who only desires to live a simple life, she likes making costumes and she wants a life in which she can have animals and be away from the spotlight. A lot of Gypsy deals with Lousie's desire for a quiet life, and also deals with the struggle she has with her mother.
Kelli: Since Louise is based on a real person, how do you prepare for a role like this? Is there any research involved?
Caroline: I did some research on the person, Gypsy Rose Lee. I started by reading her book. The book definitely has humor to it and she is funny and sarcastic in the book. I enjoyed learning more about the person. However, there comes a point with any show that is based on a real person that you need to begin to focus on the writing of the actual show. Gypsy is a fable of sorts, so at a point I had to begin to focus on Louise in the show.
Kelli: Do you have a favorite part of the show? Why?
Caroline: Yes! There is an extended scene where they are about to leave show business and Louise is about to go to school and live a simple life. And, then June leaves and her mother, Rose, tells Louise she will have to replace June. Throughout this whole emotional scene Louise stays silent. She wants to run away, but she stays. It leads into a musical montage that spans a few years, and my character is much different at the end of the montage than she was at the beginning.
Kelli: How did you first gain an interest in performing?
Caroline: I have always been a singer for as long as I can remember, and in middle school and high school I started getting into dancing and singing. Singing will always be my first love. When I was eighteen I worked at the Arden Theatre in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Recently though, I needed to take a step back from performing to make sure this is something I really wanted to do and that I loved it. In this business you really need to make sure you love it to continue pursuing it. Luckily, I really do love this business and am very grateful to be part of it.
Kelli: Do you have any advice for aspiring performers?
Caroline: Yes, I have a business called "The F*** It Diet." It is all about body image and having an easier relationship with food. Body image is especially tough for those who want to be in performing because people think they need to look like a model. What I want people who aspire to be in the Arts to remember is that when you perform do it as a form of Art and try to depict humanity and not models.
Kelli: Why, in your opinion, is live theatre important?
Caroline: Theatre is one of the few things left where people are asked to be present. It is a place where all forms of electronics have to be turned off and theatre is live, there is no pause button. Besides that though theatre is super magical. It is a space where people gather together to experience something together. People need to be present and be present with the people on stage who are creating a magical experience in front of you. Live theatre is a special thing.
Caroline Dooner can be seen in Gypsy at the Arden Theatre through June 25, 2017. For more information and tickets visit their website at www.ardentheatre.org or call the box office at 215-922-1122.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.
Photos courtesy of Arden Theatre Company.