Special Report by Journalist Luscinda Dickey
I am filled with excitement! My heart is pounding, and I feel my energy surging. “Break a leg!” says my friend Caroline Mendenhall as I walk down the hall with my reading partner Rene Walek. “Thank you!” I whisper.
For days I have prepared for this audition. I have developed my character by researching and writing and through bodywork. On arriving at the audition, I warmed myself up. Then, Mrs. Rene and I ran over our scene five times.
I am all set. Director Gene Johnson smiles. “Begin when you are ready,” he says. After weeks of anticipation, it is finally time for my audition to be a part of Little Theatre of Winston Salem’s production of Wait Until Dark. I am reading the character Gloria while Mrs. Rene reads Susy.
I take a deep breath, settle into Gloria, and say my first line: “Is the grocery list ready?” “Yes it’s on the table by the phone,” says Mrs. Rene (Susy), “and five dollars. Can you see it?” “I’ve got it,” I say miming picking up a list and the money from off a table, “what else?”
I am not me. I am Gloria, and before me I see that Mrs. Rene is not herself. She is Susy. It is amazing! The character of Susy is blind, and if I had not been with Mrs. Rene when she was herself and not her character I could have guessed that she was blind as well. Even when I speak she does not look directly at me or focus on anything in particular.
It is a few seconds later when the scene gets more intense: “That’s the girl, thanks!” Mrs. Rene (Susy) says. “For what? “I laugh. (We are coming to my favorite part.) “Oh! I thought you shut it.” “Well, I didn’t.” I reply. “Look here four-eyes, I thought I made this clear: when I open the icebox I shut it, and when you open it…did you drop that by mistake?” The way Mrs. Rene says her lines is wonderful! The level of emotion and meaning she offers read into my portrayal of Gloria. With the whole reading, she gave me something real to play off of—something that inspired my character choices.
Now let’s cut to Wait Until Dark’s final performance in Reynolds Place Theatre on October 20, 2019 in Winston Salem. “Don’t you ever call me that again!” says Gloria (Caroline Mendenhall), “and I do not steal!” “Steal!?!” cries Susy (Rene Walek), “who said anything about stealing?” Wow! All the emotion and truth that Mrs. Rene had in the reading with me is exploding on stage—plus even more! Not only in this scene but throughout entire the show, Mrs. Rene—with everything in her—made every person in the audience feel the character of Susy.
As an actress, you never know how you come across on stage unless someone tells you. Looking back over my audition with Mrs. Rene and her performance as Susy, I think one of the things that she has taught me is that if you feel your character and you truly believe in the story you are telling, your character choices will be right and real.
Wait Until Dark was an amazing show. From the thrilling script to the talented actors and actresses, it lifted you up in suspense only to drop you down in surprise!
Congratulations to Mrs. Rene, Caroline, and the rest of this great cast for their truly chilling run of Wait Until Dark.