October 25, 2012

The Actors from “Wounds to the Face” Discuss their Process

In the days before opening I had the chance to interview three actors from the cast of Wounds to the Face written by Howard Barker and directed by Geoffrey Hyland. 

Kayla Childs as the Woman at the Mirror

Kayla Childs plays the Woman at the Mirror, a character who suffers from body dysmorphic disorder and is constantly unsatisfied with her appearance.  Childs is onstage for the entire length of the play and says, “It’s really hard to keep the thoughts going.  Breathing is important.  Having patience with yourself.  Find the detail.”  Childs’ pride for her classmates is evident as she describes her regret that she must focus on her own area of the stage and cannot watch the scenes by her fellow cast members.  She explains she must be aware and oblivious at the same time.

Sheri Godda and Mishka Thébaud Sheri Godda and Mishka Thébaud
as the Mother and Soldier

Sheri Godda appears as the mother of the soldier.  She finds their relationship to be a classic archetype of a mother and a son, with the mother experiencing an intense pleasure when her son requires her again.  For Godda a main challenge was finding the specificity in her movement, both in her scenes with her son and then again with her lover. 

Alexandra Augustine Alexandra Augustine as the Doctor

Alexandra Augustine plays the surgeon, whom she describes as having a major “God complex” and who is obsessed with making more beautiful people in the world.  At the beginning of the rehearsal process Augustine struggled with performing an archetype of a surgeon instead of a realistic doctor.  She says, “I was holding back.”  She found the invitation to see the world as a dream extremely helpful to finding the largeness of the character.

Augustine states director Geoffrey Hyland really stressed the dream like quality of the play.  “Anything is possible,” she states and this context helps to unify the various images of the play.  Wounds to the Face contains a collection of moments between characters from different places and time periods, all that relate somehow to the notion of the face.  The play switches between scenes of intense debate and moments of internal monologue.  Augustine comments on the heightened language of the play saying, “Barker has chosen really detailed words.  It is contemporary language turned up all the way.”  Godda enjoyed the challenge of working with Barker’s text, in particular with a monologue of single words.  This fragmented monologue gave her the “opportunity to fill in the blanks with thought and meaning.” 

This element of collaboration was also apparent in their work with director Geoffrey Highland.  Childs states, “Geoffrey trusts us.  He expects us to come in prepared.”   “It’s not a student teacher relationship.  We get to be professional actors,” says Augustine.  Another aspect of professionalism Childs enjoyed was working with the production team.  Fourth year brings together students who have not worked alongside each other since they began at York.  “They are all so established,” Childs says of her classmates in production.

Wounds to the Face is a violent play and the actors must find ways to protect their own well being.  Childs quoted her professor Paul Lambert as having said, “The art of the actor is to have the resources to quickly get in, but also the techniques to quickly get out.”  She also explained the strong level of trust the cast has built up over the years as a class.  Godda laughs and describes how after a very intense scene one of the stage managers always offers a hug to help her shake off the moment.  Through both the training they have learned from their professors and the trust they have with their peers Godda, Childs and Augustine feel ready to handle the material.

Childs describes theatre as “A relief from the façade of everyday life.”  She feels theatre is a space where you can show the reality of human behaviour even if it is grotesque.  Augustine loves the give and take between an actor and the audience.  She expresses theatre as a space where “you can’t hide.  It is a constant relationship.”  Godda says that with theatre “I get to go into deep places with characters.  It is sensual and visceral.” 

All three actors have mixed feelings about leaving York University.  Childs finds as she watches the students just beginning their acting training she feels, “I want to start all over again.”  Augustine credits the faculty for helping her feel prepared for the next stage.  “They’ve really helped us get on our feet and mature.”  Childs agrees and says, “I feel like I am five to seven years older than people in my year in other disciplines.  You grow up fast in this program.”  Godda expresses her excitement for beginning her career and hopes to breathe, have a plan and trust that, “I know what I love to do.”  Childs, Godda, and Augustine are certainly full of passion and eager to keep learning and growing as professionals.

—EmmaRose MacDonald