Meet The Doctor, The Dean, and The Senator: Stephanie Clayman on her roles in ‘Back the Night’
What are your roles in ‘Back the Night’?
How did you approach and play your characters? Have there been any surprising discoveries during the rehearsal process?
When working on a single character, I tend to work from the inside out. I mine the text for clues and create as much of a backstory as I can, then build from there. On this project, since I had to create three distinct characters, I worked more from the outside in—looking for voice, physicality, and general temperament, then filling in the backstory.
One thing that surprised me was the development of the character of the Dean. I had initially seen her as an old hippie—someone who had been radical from the start. Then two things happened: First, I watched the documentary The Hunting Ground about rape on campus. I realized how much of the establishment, how political, the Deans in that film were. Second, our costume designer (Rachel Padula) brought in a pencil skirt and button down blouse—a very conservative outfit. I began to think, what if the Dean was a softer person? Someone who had started out believing the party line but had gradually become quietly radicalized over the years? That led to a very different (and much more fun) approach.
As an actor, what are the unique challenges of working on a new play?
Trusting the playwright to have the right words, and trusting my sense as an actor for the places where the words don’t quite feel natural in my mouth. The two can conflict at times.
What’s next for you?
I’m back in Shear Madness this spring. It’s such a joy to make people laugh. I hope to do more writing. StageSource sponsored a seminar for actors who want to write last year. Melinda was our teacher. Both she and the course were a great inspiration for me.
Don’t miss Melinda Lopez’s ‘Back the Night,’ now through February 28. Tickets