Megan, Beth and Dorea are actors playing three sisters in The Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley at Everyman Theatre. Everyman Theatre is a professional theatre celebrating the actor, with a resident company of artists from the Baltimore/Washington, DC area. The theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Megan and Beth are resident company members of Everyman.

“Our company members draw energy from each other, pushing for the best.” —Vincent M. Lancisi, Artistic Director

When I go to an Everyman production I come away understanding not why they thought a play would sell tickets, but why they thought it was important for me to experience it.

That’s not easy.

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Beth Hylton
I play Lenny, the oldest sister. Her story is a quest to bring her family together. There’s been a tragedy. They have a shared story that is unique. Bringing family together makes you feel less alone. And it also gives you a sense of individuality that isn’t freakish.

Megan Anderson
I play Meg, the middle sister. Meg left the small town and her sisters and the tragedy of their family to try to have a career singing. She went to Hollywood. I think the tragedy kind of stunted her emotionally for awhile and she’s fallen into a pattern of making really bad decisions that have led to more ruin. She’s coming home to try to put herself back together by being with her sisters. There’s a lot of conflict with her sisters. These women speak each other’s language. We all come home to help our little sister Babe, who has done something a little crazy.

Dorea Schmidt
With good reason! I play Babe, the youngest sister. Her story is about finding herself again. She’s been married for four years to the top lawyer in town at the height of society. In those four years a lot of her was squelched. She couldn’t take it anymore, so she shoots her husband. She comes home to reconnect with her sisters, but as her new self. She’s not the little Babe anymore. She wants to be taken seriously and make a mark on the world. It’s about how I go back to where I was before I got married, but with all this new knowledge.

Beth
It’s darkly funny. It’s a black comedy about families and the struggle to be an individual.

Dorea
About anyone coming back and needing to redefine relationships. People see you one way and you want them to see you another.

Megan
Everyone has a role that serves a function in a bigger picture; in a relationship, whether family, workplace, or school. I think the playwright (Beth Henley) has an uncanny ability to peg that and make a fun and interesting human journey for each of these characters.

Dorea
Each of the characters is fighting for the life they wish they could be living. Everyone is clawing for that life. We all are.

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Peter
How do you figure out the relationships?

Megan
To get the sisterly vibe you need to start with the basis of trusting each other as performers. Saying, I’m not afraid to hurt you if my character needs to hurt you. If my character needs to reach out and love you, that’s what my character needs. We’ve created a safe environment for all the parts of sisterhood and family. We’re not afraid to go where it’s ugly.

Beth
You have to throw yourself completely into it and fulfill the obligation of your role. When you get ugly it’s often really funny because it’s really recognizable. That’s the job.

Dorea
The more we’re onstage (rehearsing), the more we’re in the script, we find the parts that are true (not only of the characters) but of us. It feels very sisterly and real as the characters, and as the actors working together onstage.

Beth
The reason the play won a Pulitzer Prize is because it is an amazing well-built, smart, funny, and captivating play. It’s not just about Southerners. It’s about people.

Peter
What do you need from the director to do right by a play as actors?

Dorea
I need a director who is honest, so that I can be honest on stage going for what my character needs for the story to be well told.

Beth
Each process is unique. You have to have an open dialogue and an intelligent person at the helm. Being able to communicate is important to an actor.

Peter
Is there a collective intuition that develops between you as to whether to play a moment dark or light?

Beth
That’s where the audience comes in. They are our last scene partner. The collective sense won’t be complete until the audience joins us.

Peter
Is there a point in your process where you second guess yourself?

Megan
Once the first light bulb goes off, then it catches and that leads to the next thing and the next which can be really exciting. Often, there is an “I’ve hit the wall” freak out usually right after the halfway mark in rehearsal. Over time I’ve challenged myself not to be intimidated. It’s par for the course.

Peter
How do you overcome it?

Megan
I try to find one little nugget that’s been stumping me and figure it out, rather than look at the entire picture. There’s a point where we all groove and merge. My Meg merges with your Lenny and your Babe. Our circles are overlapping with each other and that’s makes the relationships better.

Beth
I’m envious of your freak out. Mine is always tech, and it’s always, like, too late then! I freak out, realize that an audience is coming. Do I know everything? So, I read the script twice a day!

Dorea
By opening it’s not like you have to finish working. You have the whole run to keep working. All your boundaries, guidelines are in place. You’re not going to stretch past those. I love how you can get to opening a show and the run of the show is a whole new exploration. We’re going to learn so much when we’re in front of people.

Beth
That’s the benefit of working in this company. We’ll continue to deepen.

Dorea
My freak out is always at the beginning and feeling like I should come in having it, for some reason. What’s been awesome about this show in particular is it’s the most gracious that I’ve been with myself. Inevitably what you’re feeling is linked with your character. Babe is always fighting. She never chooses defeat. That’s been inspiring to me.

Peter
What makes an Everyman show?

Megan
For me, it’s that you (the audience) feel like you are right there in the room with the people onstage. That’s what we strive for. Vinny (Everyman’s Artistic Director) would say, “We’re going for the truth all the time.” People have been coming here for years getting wrapped up in and embraced by the story.

Beth
A play’s or theater’s style is often in the writing. That’s the playwright’s job. Ours is to play with the truth in the writing. As an artist, I play the truth of the writing truthfully. The style will take care of itself. Our job is to tell the truth. In my experience as an audience member and an artist that’s what Everyman does really well. Find the truth, illuminate the truth, and share it with an audience so it feels immediate and happening right now.

Dorea
Everyman offers a space that’s safe. It’s safe to play, safe to try new things, and to take risks so that you can get to the truth. They create an environment that values risk.

Peter
I can’t wait to see the show.

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