Hooray For Shirley Valentine
We all reach a time in our lives when we ask: “Is this it? Is this all that life has to offer? Is this all that my life is?”
The answer: only if we let it be.
In 1986, a play was written by Willy Russell premiered in Liverpool, England. It was commissioned by Everyman Theatre.
It’s name? The maiden name of the protagonist and sole character, Shirley Valentine. A woman (married and mother of two grown children) who is experiencing her own, personal mid-life crisis at the age of 42 years and finds the solution in a 2-week trip to Greece.
ArtsWest Playhouse and Gallery in West Seattle is currently featuring its third of five plays this 2012-2013 season: Shirley Valentine. It runs January 23rd to February 16th, 2013. Tickets are $34.50 for adults, $34.00 for seniors, $12.00 for those attendees 25 years of age and under and $10.00 for TPS members.
It stars the powerhouse (and Footlight Award winner) Heather Hawkins (her acting resume is extensive; for example, other plays she’s performed in at ArtsWest alone include Distracted, Love Song, and Measure for Pleasure).
Your Hedonista recently attended this production as media; shortly thereafter I reached out to Heather via email with a couple of questions:
Hedonista: ”How was it preparing for the role of Shirley Valentine, which roughly equates to a 2-hour monologue?”
Heather: “In answer to your question about preparing…..It was HARD!! I was scared and nervous and not sure I could do it. But I did!!! It basically is an hour and 40 minutes split up into three scenes. The line load was incredible and for a long time I really didn’t think I could do it. But I kept reading the script out loud and soon pieces would just fall into place – really sink into my brain. Other sections were harder and I just had to repeat them over and over and run it and run it until I got it right. I really started working with the script in December and then each night in early January I would memorize pages. I listed all the pages on the front of my script and would cross them off when I got them down so I could visually see my progress. It felt so great to cross off those last three pages – which I admit I probably didn’t know really well until we got to tech weekend. Now when I perform the show it seems easy – well not really easy but as soon as I start talking my brain just knows the story I have to tell and we are off and running. It’s been hard work but I love telling this story every night – getting over those early doubts and near panic attacks were definitely worth it!”
Not only is Heather wowing us with a nearly 2-hour (less 20 minutes or so) monologue that keeps us gripped in our respective seats – sometimes laughing, sometimes tearing up – but she does it all in an English (specifically Liverpudlian) accent. (And not a bad one at that.)
Her Dialect Coach? Alyssa Keene.
Hedonista: “What about the English accent? What kind of training did you have?”
Heather: “Well I’ve done High British dialects before but I’d never done Liverpool so we worked with a fabulous dialect coach – Alyssa Keene. She is an actress, voice, speech, and dialect teacher. She’s amazing and worked with me on all the sound substitutions and general lilt of the Liverpool sound. Then it was just practice. Also Alyssa would come to rehearsal and listen and give me notes. I’m constantly working on getting the right sounds! And I certainly watched some Beatles interviews as well!”
This play is directed by the ArstWest Artistic Director Christopher Zinovitch, who says this of the character of Shirley: “I love this play because Shirley is such a strong woman. I my mind she is the Fool in King Lear – wise, but because of her status no one listens to her, including herself. But the stories and wisdom she imparts speak to all of us, regardless of age or gender.”
I would add that she in fact is far more empowered than King Lear’s Fool, for the only fool would be her if she chose not to change that in her life which she no longer liked.
But fool she was not, for she took the risks necessary to make her world a better place.
Shirley Valentine is a real hedonist, to be sure.
It’s never too late to make a change, dear hedonists.
And shaking things up by leaving one’s comfort zone may just be the trick to finding one’s bliss.
(NOTE: ArtsWest is giving away two pairs of Shirley Valentine tickets to two lucky winners for Valentine’s Day. To enter, simply “like” their ArtsWest Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “contest” n the subject header before midnight, February 4. Oh, and up until February 13, 2013, they are offering two tickets to the final two shows of their season – Next Fall (March 13th-April 6th, 2013) and 33 Variations (May 1st-25th, 2013) for $59.00 instead of $69.00.)
Note: In order to comply with FTC Act 16 C.F.R. 255, Heed the Hedonist would like to disclose that it does receive media “comps” and/or media discounts – but not in exchange for favorable coverage, or for withholding unfavorable coverage, of the given venue/meal/performance/product/service.