Erin Weaver on playing Luciana in the Folger’s The Comedy of Errors
It didn’t surprise me when Erin Weaver was awarded The Helen Hayes Award for her performance as Thomasina Coverly in Folger’s Arcadia; I have been a fan of hers since I saw her face full of schmutz and swinging an oversized broom while singing about a “Castle on a Cloud” in Les Misérables. In Philly, I watched her perform in musicals at The Arden. Here, in Bethesda, Erin captivated audiences with her funny performance in the musical based on a Mark Twain short story at Round House Theatre. This year she wowed critics and audiences with her performance in A Wrinkle in Time. Now she’s running in and out of doors in her husband Aaron Posner’s marathon-running The Comedy of Errors. What’s her secret? Read on…
Joel: How would your character, Luciana, explain The Comedy of Errors?
Erin: Well, Luciana is young and inexperienced in the world of love… so at first, when her sister, Adriana, is so upset about her husband being late for lunch, she doesn’t understand why it is such a big deal. As far as Luciana is concerned, Adriana’s husband should be free to do as he pleases. After all, he is the man of the house.
But as time goes on and error after error occurs, Luciana stands by her sister. Gradually, Luciana learns to have real sympathy for her sister and the struggles of marriage. So much so that at the end of the play, when the Abbess is lecturing Adriana publicly about being too harsh a wife to Antipholus and needing to be more obedient and patient (something that Luciana herself, earlier in the play, would have agreed with) Luciana steps up and defends Adriana when it seems her sister is speechless and defenseless before the Abbess.
Also, throughout the course of the play Luciana has fallen in love. She must suppress this love because, she thinks, it’s with her brother-in-law who has professed his love to her earlier on. Thankfully, it was not her brother-in-law, but his twin, so she is free to marry him at the end of the story. However, I believe throughout the play, Luciana feeling love for the first time – and how complicated those feelings can be – provides more reason for her growing and standing by her sister while she struggles with marital problems.
You and Suzanne O’Donnell play sisters Luciana and Adriana. How would you describe the relationship of these two characters?
It is the center of the play for us in many ways. We are together all the time. We have each other’s back.We love working together and have been able to bring much of our own love and devotion for each other as friends into these roles.
Are there things about your character(s) in The Comedy of Errors that you specifically relate to?
To be honest, at first I really struggled with Luciana because I do not agree with her philosophies about love and marriage. However, it’s my job to stand by my character and truly plead her case. What helped me to love my character was her sisterly devotion. I have a sister, Caitlin, who I love so much, and no matter how much we may disagree with something (luckily, we rarely do) I will stand by her no matter what. That is what sisters should do. That is, ultimately, my character’s best quality, her devotion to her sister. Also, I appreciate how Luciana is willing to grow and change. I admire people who are willing to look twice at their principles and at times, change them.
Tony Cisek’s ‘door-slammingly good’ set adds to the craziness of this production. Describe the set for our readers.
The set is outstanding and has helped provide so much of the comedy in this production! There are 11 doors of all shapes and sizes. I don’t want to give away too much, as discovering how we use them is half the fun. However, I can tell you that we were lucky enough to be on stage with the set already built for most of our rehearsal process, which was a tremendous help. Figuring out which door to come in and go out of was certainly brain breaking but a lot of fun at the same time. It is like a grown-up jungle gym. Slamming doors is surprisingly therapeutic too.
I am a big fan of Jesse Terrill, who is a musician and provides the original music for The Comedy of Errors. How does he and his little band contribute to the lunacy that is happening on and off the stage?
Jesse was an outstanding teammate and collaborator on this production. He was at EVERY rehearsal watching, improvising, and coming up with bits here and there. Aaron would sometimes just ask him to come up with totally new things on the spot and he would always jump right in. No ego. No fuss. Just great work. He is vital to the show…
Kate Turner-Walker has provided you with a “patchwork” of a costume.
Suzanne O’Donnell and I often say we found our characters after our first costume fitting! The aesthetic of this production is a rough mix of the Edwardian period and the 1960s… so, as an actress, trying to figure out how to move in the space, your mannerisms and so on, was pretty tough for a while. We weren’t always sure how to behave, but once we put our costumes on it felt as though the rest of our characters fell into place.
You are surrounded by an amazing ensemble of actors including Stephen D’Ambrose, Catherine Flye, Nathan Keepers, Darragh Kennan, Bruce Nelson, Suzanne O’Donnell, Darius Pierce, Matthew Wilson, and Rachel Zampelli. What have you learned by working with them?
They are a really diverse group, coming at Shakespeare and this production from a lot of different perspectives and ways of working, so it was a challenge at first for us all to find common ground. But once we did, I think the different perspectives just make it all that much richer and more fun to watch. Aaron was able to use the best of what each of us brought. It is a tremendously fun group to work with as well. I think we have almost as much fun backstage as we do on stage.
You just played Meg Murry in the critically acclaimed A Wrinkle in Time at Round House Theatre, which was – to say the least – a lot more serious than the character you are playing here in The Comedy of Errors.
It was a real challenge going from one role to the next. In fact, because there was a one week overlap between that show and our first week of rehearsals for Comedy, I often joked with my friends Dawn and Tonya (my fellow actresses in Wrinkle) that I felt like I was cheating on Wrinkle with Comedy. I also had to work really hard not to use an English accent while playing Meg that last week. I had such an amazing time working on Wrinkle. I loved the cast so much. The only thing that helped me not to miss them too badly was being able to jump into another tremendously fun show with another great cast.
What makes you say “Wow!” every time you perform The Comedy of Errors?
How funny the show is even without all of our physical comedy. The text is funny. I was humbled and amazed when we had our first run through with an audience, how many laughs were purely from the text. There are also so many lines in the show that are so beautiful, hard, and true. In the midst of a silly plot that many people will admit has a lot of holes in it, there is brilliant poetry and truth about marriage, sisterhood, friendship and so on. I love listening to this show every night.
You exhibit so much energy on the stage. What’s your secret?
Starbucks and sleep.
Last year you received a Helen Hayes Award for your wonderful performance as Thomasina Coverly in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia at Folger Theatre. Do you remember what you were thinking when they opened the envelope and announced your name?
I was terrified! Later, I was excited and extremely grateful, but I felt so sure I wasn’t going to win so I didn’t really think hard about what I was going to say. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win, but I knew I was up against really tough and wonderful competition. I was so frazzled that my biggest mistake was not mentioning Cody Nickell in my speech, without whom the award would not have been possible. I also regret not mentioning Suli Holum and Leigh Smiley for all of their help. If I wasn’t so surprised, I know I would have thanked them again and again for all of their invaluable help. I am amazed I pulled it together enough to thank all of the other wonderful people who helped make that moment possible.
Is there anything that’s “Stoppard-like” in The Comedy of Errors?
Yes. The Language. To quote Suzanne O’Donell, Shakespeare is the Olympics of theater. Getting your mouth and mind around the language in such a way that we bring the audiences in every night instead of distancing them is a huge job. Arcadia is a very wordy play filled with a kind of musicality and crispness to the language. And I had to do both with English accents. So, our job was to make sure the language was clear and accessible, always.
I saw you play Young Cosette in the first national tour of Les Misérables. How did you get that role and how long did you play her?
I was at an open call in Philadelphia with about 150 other girls. My mom was a great support the whole day. After my audition, they asked me to leave and send my Mom in to talk with them. I remember worrying that I might be in trouble… My Mom came back out and said they would like to bring me to NYC for callbacks. After my audition, we saw Les Miz on Broadway that night. After seeing the show I remember shaking. I couldn’t believe that was what I was auditioning for. I was overwhelmed. I wanted the part so badly after that. The next day they called my parents and informed them that I got the part! I was trained in DC at the National Theatre and then went on as Young Eponine/Young Cosette with two other little girls for four months at the Forrest Theatre in Philadelphia.
What other musical roles have you played and what musical roles would you love to play?
One of my favorites was Mary in A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage, which my husband wrote, and which we performed at the Round House Theatre a few years ago. I also loved playing Rapunzle in Into the Woods at the Arden Theatre. I have always wanted to play the Maid in The Secret Garden and someday I really want to play Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. And a bunch more…
What dramatic roles would you love to play?
Saint Joan. Juliet. Sonya in Uncle Vanya. And a bunch more…
You moved from Philadelphia to Riverdale, MD. Why did you and Aaron decide to relocate here, and how are you enjoying working in the DC Theatre community?
We love being here. The community is great, people have been really kind and supportive, and we are loving getting to know everything this area has to offer.
What’s next for you?
There are a couple of ideas floating around but nothing definite yet.
Why should DC theatergoers come to the Folger and see The Comedy of Errors?
I think this show is truly funny and at times even moving. We’ve had great audiences who have been willing to jump in with us and have a great time. Plus, it’s not a movie. We’re not a machine. We’re in the room ready to include you in this crazy ride filled with amazement, love, wonder, and surprise.
You can see the show’s trailer here.
Watch the cast and crew attempt to tell the ‘plot’ of The Comedy of Errors in less than two minutes here.