‘The Night Season’: A Q&A with the cast

Jamie Gottlieb | Cadenza Reporter

Funny, sad, beautiful, undressed. It might be everything you’d ever want out of a theatrical performance. There’s dancing, singing, near-nudity, sex, love, laughter, drinking, pot, drugs—and even chocolate.

To get behind the bright lights and the costumes, Cadenza sat down with four of the cast members of the Performing Arts Department’s “The Night Season,” written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and directed by Senior Lecturer Bill Whitaker, to learn a bit more about the show.

And if the words of junior Will Jacobs, playing Patrick, sophomore Kiki Milner, playing Rose, sophomore Katie Jeanneret, playing Maude, and senior Phoebe Richards, playing Lily, don’t convince you to go see the show, we don’t know what will.

Student Life: What inspired you to try out for this play?

Will Jacobs: I worked with Bill both freshman and sophomore years, and I read the play over the summer and thought it would be a good project to engage with him on. [Will played Tim Fowler in the spring 2011 production of “The Stroke Scriptures” and Anatol in the fall 2011 production of “Anatol.”]

Kiki Milner: I auditioned for all of the PAD plays except for the musical because I can’t sing at all, but I was really interested in this play because, even just reading the script, you could kind of tell it was at once funny and beautiful. I really liked the character of Rose from the beginning.

Phoebe Richards: Well, in general, I really wanted to challenge myself this year to really act—to take acting seriously. So I decided to audition for the season, but I was especially drawn to the night season, because it’s just f—ing beautiful. It’s just so gorgeous and all of the characters are compelling and I was in Acting Two with Bill and it was just wonderful. Because it’s a beautiful play, because I love Bill and because it promised a really good cast.

SL: Tell me about your characters.

WJ: I play Patrick, who is the father of the Kennedy family, which consists of him and three daughters—his wife has left him and his mother-in-law still lives with them. At the beginning of the play he is ornery and desensitized to the rest of the world, which is different than any of the roles I have played in the past, in that he is grumpy and nobody really likes him.

KM: I am playing Rose Kennedy, who is one of the three daughters of the Kennedy family. She is the middle child. She is a little bit, I guess I’d say she’s kind of rough around the edges, but also there is a vulnerability that I think that stems from the fact that the mother left. What’s been challenging for this role has been finding the balance between the toughness and vulnerability. She’s not just a b—-, but she’s kind of wounded. It’s all a defense mechanism. The sisters have reacted to their parents split[ting] in different ways and they’re all variations on spinsterhood. She is alone but she uses sex as an outlet. But at the same time, Judith is alone because she’s not with anyone. Rose has sex, but is at the end of the day alone.

Katie Jeanneret: I play Maude, who is the youngest sister of the Kennedy clan. Maude is quite a character. She can be really obnoxious and annoying and attention seeking. I think she just wants to be cared about and understood and loved. She is a college student. I drew a lot of inspiration from my younger sisters because even though they’re early teenagers, they gave me a lot of things to draw from because I think Maude is really kind of a young spirit. She really milks the baby of the family attitude and looks for somebody to pay attention to her. It’s really fun because it’s really not me at all and I love playing that.

PR: She’s so hard to capture the essence of in a description. She’s so likeable. She’s wonderful.

KJ: Lily is the most precious thing in the world. She’s adorable.

PR: Yes. She’s losing her grip on reality but sometimes she’s as sharp as a tack. You just know that she was real popular with the boys back in the day. But then there are moments when she gets so frustrated with her age and times when she just like breaks completely and has panic attacks and I don’t know—she’s just like a huge range of things. But she’s wonderful. And all of that speaks to the role that she plays within the family. She’s a very central part of the family, but who isn’t?

SL: How has it been working with Bill Whitaker, the director?

WJ: I think this time I’ve been able to do more of the necessary work on my own. I think it has helped me—it’s helped Bill at least—place me in a better context within the rest of the play as opposed to having to worry about more general stuff.

KM: Bill is really fun and I like that he doesn’t micro-manage blocking and allows actors to be creative, which was kind of a challenge for me because not being told to do everything forced me to be independent and do my homework more. I just learned a lot and it just has been a really fun experience. It’s always a good experience and I just look forward to coming to the play every night. It’s a nice support from the crew and cast and everyone involved.

KJ: Awesome, fabulous, I love Bill. I first met him when I worked on “Anatol” last year and I knew that I wanted to take one of his classes and be in one of his shows. When I got the opportunity to do both of those I was really excited.

PR: Wonderful. It’s a dream. He’s just adorable. It’s kind of intimidating because he really likes to see your impulses and not micro-manage the scenes. He is so clear exactly what he wants through his—I don’t know—these hand gestures [blowing kisses] and it’s so cute and it’s just like, “Oh I get it. I get exactly what you want.” He conveys the tone of what’s going on very well. I don’t know. He’s just great. He’s funny and wonderful, and I love Bill.

SL: How do you think the costumes compare to those of Cabaret?

KM: They are the costumes from Cabaret. I will be wearing Pete’s costume. Just kidding.

WJ: I think they are more subtly enticing.

KJ: Well, [laughs] I would say they’re less seductive, but two of the girls get into their underwear so I will say that I am the only sister who does not get into her underwear in the show. I think they’re both equally reflective of the time period. When you picture a small Irish town, you picture heavy cardigans and warm-weather clothing. Not as outwardly seductive.

SL: Who’s your favorite cast member and why?

WJ: Charles [Morris]. [Charles plays John]

KM: Connor [McEvoy, who plays Gary Malone] because of his long eyelashes. My favorite cast member—that’s an unfair question. I think we should all say Charles. Charles because Charles’ life is a series of mediocre events that happen to him and he just tells ridiculous stories backstage. I would say my favorite person is Abby [Mros], our stage manager, because the show wouldn’t go on without her. I like everyone, which is one of the best things about this play, and some people came in knowing other people better than others, but it’s been great.

KJ: Should I just go along with that? Um, I can’t choose. Can I just say I can’t choose? That I love them all? Even Claire [Stark], who isn’t in the cast but is the assistant stage manager.

PR: Charles is everyone’s favorite. “You shouldn’t have favorites” [in Irish accent]. Everyone is perfect. I can’t pick a favorite. Everyone is perfect. It’s true. It’s just, like, this cast is just such a joy to be around.

SL: How does it feel to have people stare at your faces on posters all over campus?

KM: I think it’s more effective to put actors’ faces on posters in terms of getting audience members because people come up to you and say “oh you’re in a play” and you say “haha yeah” and force them to buy tickets. Oh yeah. It’s weird. My teacher recognized me.

PR: Oh it’s so awkward. I’m so uncomfortable. And also it’s such a terrible picture and that’s not what my makeup looks like for the show. I’m not orange for the show. I’m pale. They picked such an awkward picture. I hope they make people want to come to the show because, if not, I’ll be glad I embarrassed myself all over campus for nothing.

SL: How many people have texted you close-up pictures of your face?

KM: Like seven. My suitemates hung up posters of my face. It’s weird.

KJ: None, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Claire Stark did. My parents are now really excited to have pictures of me with whiskey.

PR: Oh, several. Definitely multiple people.

SL: Why should people come see this play, besides the fact that you’re in it?

WJ: People should come see this play because most people haven’t seen plays at Wash. U. and they should. This play in particular because the relationships engaged with or confronted in the action of the play pertain to a lot of families. Not the specifics, but the conflicts they are in. And the scene design—it’s very unique.

KJ: Because the whole cast is awesome. Shirtless men. Um, I think it’s like everything you could want out of a play. It’s a really perfect balance of humor and comedy, but also with emotional and sentimental moments too. It’s timed really perfectly so just when you think it’s getting too sappy and emotional, someone pops out and says something sassy. I think that everyone has worked really hard on it. Find out what Bill Whitaker’s doppelganger looked like or what Will Jacobs will look like in thirty years. The play is a total emotional rollercoaster, but that’s kind of what I love about it. You never know which way it’s going to go.

PR: It is beautiful. It’s just so—it’s not ever going to happen again and I can’t imagine not seeing it. To not see it would be such a loss, because it is so beautiful, with all of the lights and the set—it’s just gorgeous. I mean, it’s hilarious but also you’ll cry. It’s everything. It’s everything, and I feel like this isn’t a compelling argument at all, but it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. It’s just important. It’s not something you get to see everyday. It’s a different quality of theater or performance than you get to see, and it’s just really good.

“The Night Season” runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinee shows Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are sold at the Edison Box Office.