Whoosh! Issue 69 - June 2002

INSIDE THE HEAD OF ELIZABETH LAIDLAW
By Amy Murphy
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by WHOOSH!
6457 words


Introduction (01-03)
Elizabeth's Head (04-145)
Elizabeth's Résumé
Acknowledgments
Articles
Biography



INSIDE THE HEAD OF ELIZABETH LAIDLAW



Introduction

Head still firmly attached, thank you very much.

Elizabeth Laidlaw
Chicago actor and professional Xena impersonator


[01]Any person who reads this will be floored by the answers. Elizabeth is so much more than her Xena character. Yes, she has beauty, grace, humor, education, and strength. I am impressed. It is easy to love both Elizabeth Laidlaw and Amy Matheny in the Xena Live show. Both Amy and Elizabeth are outstanding women and their family and friends are lucky to have them.

[02]Elizabeth is classically trained and she can do one mean Xena. I was fortunate to meet her and listen to her answer questions from the Bards (Chicago Conventions, April 13th) who were visiting the live show. She showed manners and never took herself seriously, always had a smile or a joke to tell, and could she sing. She was a joy to be around. The whole cast was.

[03]I cannot say it enough,Xena Live is a gift to us HardCore Nutballs. Thank you Amy and Elizabeth for bringing our favorite heroes to stage and making us laugh. Elizabeth is tall, sexy, sings, and battles! She is Xena! It is an honor to get in the head of this incredible person.



Elizabeth's Head


INTERVIEWER:
[04]Why did you start acting?

ELIZABETH LAIDLAW:
[05]I decided I wanted to be an actor so long ago. I can't really remember the WHY of that decision, or even making the decision. I was so young. I suppose because it was something I was good at and I really loved it. Now, I can tell you why I remain an actor, despite the difficulties in making a life in this business. I still love it. I love being on a stage, I love being an active part of a common experience for a roomful of friends and strangers. I love traveling to distant times and lands in my imagination and bringing all those other people with me. It's probably going to sound a little pat, but performing in front - WITH - a live audience is how I understand the word transcendence.

INTERVIEWER:
[06]What possessed you to do Xena as a play?

LAIDLAW:
[07]Amy Matheny and Alexandra Billings sat on me until I said yes. Just kidding -- sort of. This is Amy's question. I wasn't part of the initial decision. I was brought in later. As you may know, I had never even seen an episode of Xena before I was asked to be in Episode 1.

INTERVIEWER:
[08]What have been the high points of the play?

LAIDLAW:
[09]After doing this on and off for more than two years, the high points are too numerous to count. With both episodes, we have worked with an incredible crew of people and that's such a joy. Every night of every performance something makes me laugh my head off. Oops, heh-heh, figuratively speaking, of course. I have also loved being able to use my fight training so much. Overall, there still aren't many venues for women to perform fights like this.

INTERVIEWER:
[10]What have been the low points?

LAIDLAW:
[11]They certainly have been few and far between. There have been some nights during the late-night run of Episode 1 where I was near tears I was so exhausted by the end of the show. The body does not want to be doing leaping high kicks and swinging around a ten-pound sword at 1:00 in the morning. Also, parking sucks at that theatre.

INTERVIEWER:
[12]If you had to do it all over, would you be an actor?

LAIDLAW:
[13]No question. However, in a parallel universe I am an anthropologist looking for hominid bones in Africa and studying the bipedal and quadrapedal motility of various primates. Seriously.


Later, the greenscreen behind them was replaced with images of all
Gabby's lost loves.

Elizabeth Laidlaw is Xena and Amy Matheny is Gabrielle on the Chicago stage


INTERVIEWER:
[14]Give us a brief day in the life of Elizabeth.

LAIDLAW:
[15]An average day gets me up with my husband. We make coffee together and check in with each other. Since he's a chef, he goes to work later but gets home much later than most, so mornings are our time to hang out with each other. Then he goes to work and so do I. Fifty to seventy percent of an actor's time is spent preparing for auditions, networking, planning future projects, and trying to stay abreast of what's happening in the community. Your job is looking for and creating the next job.

[16]I do a lot of voice-over work, so many days I am running around the city recording auditions or laying down tracks for commercials, CD-ROMs, and such. I also teach theatre at an elementary school, so a few hours a day goes toward preparing for the next class. Other than that I pay bills, do laundry, and work on our little back porch garden. Then of course, many days of the week, after spending a full workday on all that, I go to the next half of my day, getting over to the theatre and performing. On a day I have a show, I usually put in 18 hours.

INTERVIEWER:
[17]Do you also write?

LAIDLAW:
[18]Boy, I used to. I won several prizes for creative writing in school and loved to write critical analyses in my poetry classes. I loved being a student, once I got to college. I loved writing papers -- kind of a nerd actually. These days, I don't find much time for it. Some of my best writing lately is firing off witty salvos with my friends via e-mail, and of course, none of that is preserved so.... there are a couple of short stories I have adapted into plays. One of them was performed by my students. A couple more I would like to do. I would like to write more. Now there just aren't enough hours in my day.

INTERVIEWER:
[19]How do you handle stress?

LAIDLAW:
[20]Frankly, my life is happy and I don't have any abnormal stress. I have always made it a rule to walk away from an audition and not look back -- always look forward to the next one. Some actors work themselves into froths over every audition and one can't do that. It isn't healthy. So, I mostly handle stress by keeping it down to a manageable level in the first place. And I do yoga. I know, I know -- how hip. But it works and I love it.

INTERVIEWER:
[21]In general, do you think fans expect too much from actors?

LAIDLAW:
[22]That's a complicated question, and my perspective is different from a Hollywood actor who is constantly in the limelight. I am not [a Hollywood actor]. I don't think the small group of friendly faces I see returning to Xena Live again and again compare to having people shove cameras in your face day in and day out and who feel they have a God-given right to know every gory detail of, say, your recent divorce or miscarriage. I can't imagine living that way and it is one of the main reasons I have no interest in moving to Hollywood or trying to become a movie star.

[23]To return to the main question, it is true that many actors love all the attention and do put themselves out there in the limelight. There's a price to be paid for that, however. The more you draw attention to yourself the more attention you'll get and the less able you are to control the kind of attention it is. Not every famous actor is interested in that much attention. When was the last time you heard about a scandal involving Meryl Streep? Not her style. She shows up at work, is gracious and hardworking and disciplined, she does her job and then goes home to her family and lives most of her life in the privacy of her own home.

[24]So, to a certain extent, I believe the onus falls upon the actor to limit the access her fans have to her life, so that she does not feel encroached upon or invaded. However, I think that we as non-celebrities (I can really speak from both sides of the fence here as my "celebrity" is marginal at best, thankfully), always need to remember that when actors are in front of us playing roles and affecting us in whatever capacity they are doing so, that they are in fact, playing roles. The character we are connecting with is not really that person, just a character. It very often has very little to do with the actor's real life or personality. The actor does his work for us. We engage with him, appreciate, and connect to the work.

[25]In effect, as audience members, we have a working relationship or partnership with the actor, and we need to know that that working relationship, however respectful and friendly, should not extend beyond the boundaries of such. It's up to everyone to respect and maintain those boundaries, actor and audience alike. This does not imply that walking up to an actor and saying "I loved your performance," would be rude or invasive. On the contrary, everyone likes to be complimented on his work, but we always have to remember that there's a line to be drawn.

[26]For example, people in the grocery store very often, for some reason, approach me. Usually it's a very nice exchange. The person compliments me on the work I did in whatever show she saw, and then I thank her, we wish each other good day, and that's it. However there have been a couple of occasions where the person dragged the conversation on and on and started asking questions that weren't necessarily rude, but just somewhat inappropriate for two strangers in a grocery store. And here I am thinking, ok I have to finish my shopping and I don't really want this person walking down the aisles with me, watching what kind of toothpaste I pick out, or if I buy Midol or Kaopectate or something, you know? It has only happened a couple of times, but it is always unnerving.

INTERVIEWER:
[27]Do fans matter?

LAIDLAW:
[28]Of course, they matter. Without fans, no one is buying the tickets, in my line of work especially. I mean, without the audience, live theatre sucks. Frankly, most people are good natured and rational and don't take fandom past the point where they are upsetting anyone. Artists put their work out there to be appreciated. A fan is the other half of the equation.

INTERVIEWER:
[29]What is your footwear of choice?

LAIDLAW:
[30]That depends. Where am I going? To a fight rehearsal? Good sneakers. To a party with my husband? High heels. (And yes, that makes him much shorter than me and no, he doesn't care. On the contrary...the taller the better, as far as he's concerned.)

INTERVIEWER:
[31]What do you think of Shakespeare's work?

LAIDLAW:
[32]Shakespeare is my first love. I am classically trained and I have always been specifically drawn to the Shakespearean canon. His work is neither perfect nor easy, but the depths to which he explored the human soul and condition is nothing short of amazing. You could examine any of his great characters for a year and still only feel like you've scratched the surface. Scholars have spent lifetimes analyzing a single play. Shakespeare invented something like 20,000 words that are now in the common vernacular. "Excellent", for example. His language can be so exquisite it brings tears to my eyes merely to read it.

INTERVIEWER:
[33]Is the glass half full or half empty?

LAIDLAW:
[34]Always half full! What's the point of seeing things any other way? Life's too short.

INTERVIEWER:
[35]What are your feelings on the events of September 11th?

LAIDLAW:
[36]For some reason, I was awake 30 minutes before the first plane hit. This is very early for me. Then, after the first plane, my best friend called me and said, turn on the TV. Then my mother called on the other line. She and I watched it on TV as the second plane hit. I will never forget that day, but perhaps not just because of the horror we all experienced.

[37]My husband and I went down to the blood bank and it was so crowded with people desperate to do something, anything to help. The poor staff was so overwhelmed that a bunch of us just started volunteering to help. Getting people organized, making lists, and trying to give people estimates of how long they might be waiting. A few people went out and got food and water donated.

[38]What finally overwhelmed me about Sept 11 was the bravery, the compassion, and the desire to help and heal everyone exhibited toward one another. Unfortunately, I fear, and I only say I fear, cause it's still too close to us to be certain, but I feel we are forgetting that compassion and graciousness too quickly. It already seems unreal. We are getting back to "normal", a little too easily, it seems. I would very much like to be wrong about that, however.

INTERVIEWER:
[39]Has it changed you in any way?

LAIDLAW:
[40]I suppose it's made me a little more wary. Recently there was an accidental explosion in Jeweler's Row and I know for a 1/2 hour or so, until we found out that it had in fact been an accident and that the damage was containable -- well, we in Chicago were nervous, very nervous. But I will admit, that I too may not have been changed ENOUGH, by what has happened. I fear too few of us have been changed enough by 9/11.

INTERVIEWER:
[41]Years from now, how would you want to be remembered?

LAIDLAW:
[42]I hope to be thought of as gracious. I hope to have contributed in some valuable way, even if in a very small way.

INTERVIEWER:
[43]What is your pet peeve?

LAIDLAW:
[44]People who say "irregardless". It is NOT a word.

INTERVIEWER:
[45]Do you love the theater?

LAIDLAW:
[46]It's my church. It's my life's work.

INTERVIEWER:
[47]Do you enjoy doing Xena Live or years from now will you be hitting yourself for doing it?

LAIDLAW:
[48]I have never regretted any show I have done. I have learned something from every role I have played. Xena has been a blast and has allowed me to use skills many people didn't know I had. It has afforded me the opportunity to work with two terrific casts of people, and fans as far away as Bath, England has flown into see it. What's to regret?

INTERVIEWER:
[49]What do you like most about the part?

LAIDLAW:
[50]I love that I have to be the "straight man". There's all this mayhem going on around Xena and she just has to take it as it comes. Her first night back at the circus and the big top is on fire and all the elephants are loose. And of course, I love the combat.

INTERVIEWER:
[51]What do you think of the Xena Fans?

LAIDLAW:
[52]The only Xena fans I know are now Xena Live! fans, and I surely do appreciate their support. Like I've said, live theatre sucks without an audience.

INTERVIEWER:
[53]What has been your strangest experience with Xena Live or in general?

LAIDLAW:
[54]I guess I was initially surprised at the response to our show by Xena fans. Not having ever watched Xena until then, I wasn't aware of the following it had. It really freaked me out the first time I walked onstage in the outfit and heard the cheering and screaming. It was strange to be asked to sign pictures of Lucy Lawless dressed as Xena. I said "Listen, this picture isn't going to be worth anything if I write MY name on it! It will be ruined." Then it got out on Whoosh! and the Chi-pups that I had said that, so fans started to bring photos they had taken of me after the show to sign. I was flattered, but still, it took me a while to get used to.

INTERVIEWER:
[55]Have you ventured into the small or big screen yet?

LAIDLAW:
[56]I've done a few films, independents, shot here in Chicago, and I popped up as a day player on some of the TV series shot here over the last few years. It's not really my bag, though. Too much sitting around on a film set. I get bored. It may be hard to believe, but I really haven't been interested in pursuing a film career. I'm too busy with theatre.

INTERVIEWER:
[57]What do you do on those days when you want to give up?

LAIDLAW:
[58]I can't say as I've had DAYS like that, and well, if there's the rare moment, well you can't give up, can you, so get your duff off the floor and get going.

INTERVIEWER:
[59]What do you see yourself doing in the future? Any future projects?

LAIDLAW:
[60]Theatre, theatre, theatre. I will definitely pursue more opportunities to perform Shakespeare. I have some projects in the works, some stuff to be negotiated. Nothing I can go into detail about yet, but I plan to be busy in the next year.

INTERVIEWER:
[61]How do you handle depression?

LAIDLAW:
[62]Depression is a serious medical condition and I can honestly say I have never experienced it. Like anyone else, I have had good times and bad times and I just try to remember something a friend of mine once said when I was complaining that the rain was going to ruin the day. He said, "There's no such thing as bad weather. Just different kinds of beautiful weather." You can apply that thinking to almost any situation you encounter. It might sound a little naive, but beautiful doesn't always mean warm and fuzzy either. There is a value and a beauty even in devastation. Aristotle spoke of the golden mean, and of the extremes necessary in life. The values of joy or happiness are defined by their opposites. The ying and the yang. Finally just means you take the good with the bad and, I repeat, get up off your duff and make the best of your day.


Lisa wonders if she'll have to buy her own clam vehicle.

Lisa Velten plays Alexandra Tydings -- oops, we mean Aphrodite


INTERVIEWER:
[63]What advice can you give to future actors?

LAIDLAW:
[64]Ask yourself why you want to be an actor, and then decide what kind of actor you want to be and make your decisions accordingly. And brace yourself, cause it's not going to be easy. Finally, always take the high road. Don't be petty and don't be cruel. It's too easy to fall into that kind of behavior in this business. Don't give into it.

INTERVIEWER:
[65]What attracts you more to a mate? Looks, or a sense of humor?

LAIDLAW:
[66]Sense of humor lasts forever, looks fade. My husband's a very handsome man, but I've met many handsome men in my line of work. I went out with him a second time because he made me laugh.

INTERVIEWER:
[67]What are your favorite kinds of movies? Horror, comedy, or romance?

LAIDLAW:
[68]I like a well-made movie, and I like movies that manage to be many things at once. I like the ones that are harder to describe in one word. I don't like gratuitous films, whatever the genre.

INTERVIEWER:
[69]Have you worked on something that made you ask, 'Why Am I Doing This?'

LAIDLAW:
[70]I've found myself reading copy for a commercial and thinking, "I have 9 year old students who could write a better ad! Do I have to actually say this?"

INTERVIEWER:
[71]What would you say every actor needs?

LAIDLAW:
[72]A sense of humor about themselves, a lot of patience, and a tough skin.

INTERVIEWER:
[73]Who would you say is the best person you have worked with?

LAIDLAW:
[74]Impossible to narrow down, I have worked with the finest people in Chicago theatre. I couldn't single someone out if I tried.

INTERVIEWER:
[75]Who was the worst?

LAIDLAW:
[76]I don't like to speak ill of individuals. But I don't like to work with unkind, self-interested people, people who are selfish and thoughtless -- fortunately, I don't know many, not in Chicago anyway.

INTERVIEWER:
[77]What have you worked on that gave you the most pride in?

LAIDLAW:
[78]I was very fortunate to have been a part of two huge, difficult and multi-award winning productions, The Kentucky Cycle and Angels in America. I still give those productions special billing in my bios because they were such important plays, they needed to be seen, and I feel the productions served the plays extraordinarily. I was and am very proud to have been a part of them. In another aspect of my life, as a teacher, I am very proud to have a positive effect on my young artists, to take on a mentoring role with them, and to perhaps open up a means of expression for them. They are great kids and I always feel such a rush of pride when they take their bows.

INTERVIEWER:
[79]From what you have seen, can working in Sci-Fi be a death sentence on a career?

LAIDLAW:
[80]I bet Harrison Ford or Sigourney Weaver would argue that. So would Lucy Lawless. I think that it depends on so many factors. I think making repeated bad choices can be the death of a career, and an actor has to fight being pigeonholed. I think doing nothing but pulpy romantic comedies or violent gangster movies can also really limit your potential. It is critical to be able to gauge the worth of a project, and be willing to say no to something that doesn't meet your standards or offer you something creatively enjoyable, regardless of the genre. Actors have to learn to say NO.

INTERVIEWER:
[81]What theme would you like to tackle in your next work?

LAIDLAW:
[82]I've never done a drama about war, about the fallout, and the unseen victims. With so many wars brewing right now, I would like to address some of the issues inherent. For my own edification and understanding of such things as much as the audiences. I use my craft as a means to research and to study, and some of the conflicts brewing in the world today are things I would like to understand better, more personally.

INTERVIEWER:
[83]You now have absolute authority over the world. Omnipotent in all areas. What is your first move?

LAIDLAW:
[84]Get rid of all the weapons. Ban everything but whiffle ball bats. Let everyone work out their problems with whiffle ball bats. How can you stay p----- off at someone who is brandishing a whiffle ball bat at you?

INTERVIEWER:
[85]How would you categorize your best acting?

LAIDLAW:
[86]When I am being truthful, then I am at my best. Whether it's Xena or King Lear, I need to be truthful.

INTERVIEWER:
[87]What stupid thing did you do as a teen?

LAIDLAW:
[88]Made an a-- of myself over a cute boy who turned out to be dumb as a box of hammers. Lied to my mother about where I was going on a couple of occasions. Never lie to your mother. She always ALWAYS knows. And she will always find you.

INTERVIEWER:
[89]What, if anything, can stop you from acting?

LAIDLAW:
[90]Either my being physically incapable or when the day comes that it no longer challenges, fulfills, or interests me.

INTERVIEWER:
[91]In your opinion, do you fit your astrological sign?

LAIDLAW:
[92]I really don't know a lot about it, but Geminis are supposed to be flighty and duplicitous and fickle and well, that ain't me. I am not flying around in the air. I am well planted on the ground. Most people who do know about Astrology are very surprised to find out I was born under Gemini. My rising sign is Leo and I guess that is a lot closer to my personality. Both signs are gregarious and TALKATIVE and well, that's certainly accurate. When I was a kid, I was (and am!) a Star Was freak. I confused my "Gemini" with "Jedi" and maintained that misconception for some time. I informed my mother repeatedly that since I was born at the end of May, that made me a Jedi. I still entertain the notion, however.

INTERVIEWER:
[93]What to you is the worst feeling in the world?

LAIDLAW:
[94]Realizing you have hurt someone's feelings.

INTERVIEWER:
[95]The best feeling in the world?

LAIDLAW:
[96]That moment right as you drift off to sleep.

INTERVIEWER:
[97]Favorite bodily function?

LAIDLAW:
[98]Sneezing.

INTERVIEWER:
[99]Favorite song of the moment?

LAIDLAW:
[100]"Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie. Ask me again in ten minutes, and that answer will change. Whoops, it just did. "Us Amazonians", by Kirsty McColl. Oops, I mean "Panama City Hotel", by Bob Mould. Oops, I mean, "Supernova", by Liz Phair. Oops, I mean...

INTERVIEWER:
[101]What is the first thing you think of in the morning?

LAIDLAW:
[102]Why can't the cat at least make us coffee before he makes all that racket?

INTERVIEWER:
[103]Is there one part of the acting process where you usually get stuck?

LAIDLAW:
[104]I get stuck when I don't believe in what I am doing. When the truth of the moment, as I understand it, is not being expressed or worked through. I don't care if it's Shakespeare or a Burger King commercial. If it's not honest, if you aren't playing the truth of the situation, or at least searching for it, then it doesn't work, and in that situation, I get stuck. Getting unstuck means going back to square one and finding out what's really going on in the scene.

INTERVIEWER:
[105]Does the best acting flow for you, or does it come from rehearsals or re-takes?

LAIDLAW:
[106]As a theatre actor primarily, I suppose I like to flow along. I do my best acting onstage, in front of an audience, when I can't stop and start over. So yes, I guess I flow. In voice-over, you do 20 million takes no matter what, and frankly, I think my first 5 are always my best. By take 20 or 25 I am always starting to lose it.

INTERVIEWER:
[107]Which part of acting do you enjoy most and why?

LAIDLAW:
[108]Building on what I said earlier, I love the sense of community, not just between the people creating the work, but between the artists and the audience. The ancient Greeks created a word for what happens to a group of people after witnessing, or taking part in a great performance. The word was catharsis, a release of emotion brought about by experiencing an event in community, and the great philosophers argued that this was a necessary phenomenon in a society, an integral periodic event that wove people together. Catharsis, according to the Greeks, is as critical a strand in the fabric of society as government, family and economy, or commerce.

[109]I like connecting to that strand, being an active participant, and being a descendant of an ancient tradition of storytellers, singers, and clowns. As a stage actor, my connection to that event, that phenomenon of catharsis, is immediate, whereas in film, one is more removed in some way. Not to place a value on either theatre or film in opposition to each other, but I personally prefer the live experience, is all. My favorite line in Episode 2 is "Thank the gods for theatre".

INTERVIEWER:
[110]When someone walks into your bedroom, what are the first five things that they are likely to notice?

LAIDLAW:
[111]That my husband forgot to make the bed. Hahahaha.

INTERVIEWER:
[112]Do you feel in control of your acting, or do your inspiration or characters carry you away?

LAIDLAW:
[113]I guess for me it isn't as easily described as that. As an actor you have to be in complete control, disciplined, you need to remain within a structure. However, you have to be open, to flow, to use your word, naturally and spontaneously from moment to moment. So if I am performing as Rosalind, no I am not Rosalind, I am Elizabeth playing Rosalind. But Rosalind's clothes are on my back and I am walking around in her world and therefore in that moment, under those circumstances, I am Rosalind and I must play her truth.

[114]However, in real life I am Elizabeth and I know that however spontaneous I would like to be, I must stay within the boundaries of the show that has been created. I can't suddenly decide to change blocking or intentions, freak out my fellow actors just because I feel like it that day. So you must remain in control, yet you can't be so controlled that it interferes with the freshness of the performance. It's a tricky concept, I suppose.

INTERVIEWER:
[115]Would the world be a better place if women ran it or would it be the same?

LAIDLAW:
[116]Aw c'mon. Women run the world. We just aren't as obvious about it.


Elizabeth later writes a book entitled Alti's Dream Interpreter for
Dummies.

Alti channels herself through actor Elizabeth Rich


INTERVIEWER:
[117]Do you feel the gay community clings to any role model they can get? If so, is that too much pressure for the star?

LAIDLAW:
[118]Another tough question. I think the gay community, comparatively speaking has so few positive role models to choose from that it would be hard not to grasp at all of them that are available. I guess the emphasis is on the word positive. If Lucy Lawless appreciates being a gay icon then, good for her, and I applaud her for using her celebrity in a positive way, to acknowledge and embrace a huge and important section of our population.

[119]However, on the flipside, I really object to "out-ing" people and celebrities. If I were at a party with friends and acquaintances and I just decided to out someone sitting on the couch next to me, I would be considered a real jerk, among other things.

[120]Why do we feel we have the right to force celebrities to expose things about themselves that they don't want to expose, for whatever reason that may be? Anybody who has come out can acknowledge what a scary and difficult process it can be, how deep and personal. While it's a dreadful shame that so many gay celebrities still feel that they must hide who they are, it is their right. It's for them to decide when they are ready to make that decision. No one on the outside knows the facts of these celebrities lives, and none of us have the right to force that person to become an icon or a role model in a lifestyle they are not willing or ready to lead.

[121]Like so many aspects of the celebrity/fan relationship, the rule of thumb is respecting the boundaries. Fortunately this whole issue changes for the better all the time. Gay role models are stepping out from every walk of life and young gay kids are coming out earlier and earlier because these role models are letting them see they don't need to be ashamed. It's far from a perfect world, but compare it to ten years ago. I'll be interested to see how we might answer this question in another ten years.

INTERVIEWER:
[122]Will there be a Xena Live Three?

LAIDLAW:
[123]I haven't the faintest idea. For a while, no one thought there would be a #2, so anything is possible.

INTERVIEWER:
[124]How hard is it to rehearse for a live role?

LAIDLAW:
[125]Rehearsal is very challenging demanding work and wonderful fun work. Many film directors don't bother to rehearse much at all and I think that's a shame. Rehearsal is the time to make mistakes, to screw up, to challenge yourself and the other players, to discover, to learn. To make rehearsal worthwhile it requires everyone's focus and patience. It's another reason I love theatre. I love rehearsal, I love the process, and I love the discovery. How hard it is depends very much on the nature of the show you are rehearsing, and the nature of your role within the play. But, no matter what, you tackle it all with the same level of focus and intention to do your very best, to give as much as you get.

INTERVIEWER:
[126]Are the stunts difficult to do?

LAIDLAW:
[127]Nah, they're fun. If they are too hard or dangerous, then they don't make it into the show. Although, sometimes second show on Saturday can be a little tough. When I have to hoist Elizabeth Rich into the air during that second show, we both quietly groan at each other, lamenting our old knees.

INTERVIEWER:
[128]How long did you have to rehearse them?

LAIDLAW:
[129]The rule of thumb is one hour of rehearsal for one minute of stage fighting. However, a particularly difficult section will require more time. I spent hours learning how to moulinet, or twirl, a sword around. I hit myself in the head a lot, at first.

INTERVIEWER:
[130]Did someone teach you how to use the weapons?

LAIDLAW:
[131]Yes, I and others in the show have had fight training and are certified S.A.F.D. (Society of American Fight Directors) combatants. Others among us have had dance training, which is very helpful. Then when rehearsals started our fight choreographer, David Woolley made sure everyone was familiar and comfortable with the weapons and the moves. It's all about safety!!

INTERVIEWER:
[132]Do you have butterflies before each show?

LAIDLAW:
[133]I really don't. I never have. I am too happy to get out there and start playing. I know, not a very exciting answer, but there you have it.

INTERVIEWER:
[134]In your wildest dreams, did you ever think you would be in a battle dress fighting farm animals?

LAIDLAW:
[135]Nope, and I don't think my Xena did either. Look at my face when it happens.

INTERVIEWER:
[136]God forbid someone misses a line, but if someone does, how do you work through it?

LAIDLAW:
[137]Sometimes those screw-ups lead to very happy accidents of improvisation. That's how half these Xena plays are written.

INTERVIEWER:
[138]What would you say was the funniest moment you have had working on this play?

LAIDLAW:
[139]Oh, there's a new one every night. One that still sticks in my mind is the night during Xena 1 when Alex Billings' wig went kah-flooey in the middle of the show and she had to just drag it off her head and say, "I am falling apart." The rest of the show was a free-for-all after that.

INTERVIEWER:
[140]What opportunity are you most happy you seized?

LAIDLAW:
[141]My first year of college was spent at a famous theatre conservatory that shall remain nameless. To sum it up, I hated it there. I thought the general atmosphere of the school embodied everything negative that could be said about actors and the business. The teachers were abusive and angry. My teacher actually kicked one of my fellow students in the groin, ostensibly to teach him how he should be feeling in a scene. That did it for me. I made no bones about my disgust for the place and at the end of the year said, I am outta here!

[142]So, I had it in my head, bitter and disillusioned and all of nineteen, which I would go to Hollywood and become a star, blah blah blah. My mother begged me to look at a couple of different theatre schools, just to see. She got me to go down to see Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington, and I met Dr. Ficca, who would become one of my professors. He met with me, interviewed me, and at the end said he thought I would make a fine addition to the theatre program. So I decided to give it a shot.

[143]It was the best decision I ever made. Unlike the other place, IWU is a real university and I not only had a great time in my theatre training, but I was able to take lots of courses that had nothing to do with theatre that I loved. I learned to be a whole person, to nurture varying interests. It made me a better actor. I will always be grateful to my Mom and to Dr. Ficca for their help in that choice.

INTERVIEWER:
[144]What questions should I have asked?

LAIDLAW:
[145]I don't mean to be flip but I can't think what else you might have asked. Thank you for taking the time to think of the questions you provided.

Elizabeth's Résumé

Xena Live Site: http://www.xenalive.com. Episode Two ends its run June 2, 2002.

Elizabeth returns to the role of Xena after appearing as Rosalind in Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's critically acclaimed As You Like It, and in The Terrible Girls at About Face Theatre. Other theatre credits include the award-winning productions of The Kentucky Cycle and The Journeymen's Angels In America, as well as productions with Court Theatre, Steppenwolf, Lifeline, The Next, Running With Scissors, Powertap, Famous Door, National Pastime, City Lit, Bailiwick Repertory, and Strawdog Theatre. Film/TV credits include the feature film Three Days and Turks for CBS. She received her BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University and holds a certificate in Shakespeare training from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Offstage, she teaches theatre to some of the best young actors in town at Near North Montessori School.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Kamouraskan for the beta. Thanks to Di again for this interview.



Articles

L. J. Maas and Murphy Wilson [Amy Murphy].One Step Beyond ... Uber, That Is. WHOOSH #49 (October 2000)

The "Inside the Head of..." series in Whoosh issues #58, 61-66,68-



Biography

Amy Murphy Amy Murphy
Amy Murphy resides in Indiana, and is an avid reader of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction. If it exists in the Xenaverse, chances are she has read it! Murphy has also tried her hand at writing fan fiction, turning out two very nice pieces that reside on a couple of web sites throughout the Xenaverse.


Favorite episode: IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Favorite line: "I Have Many Skills" Various episodes
First episode seen: TITANS (07/107)
Least favorite episode: LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE (100/510)

 

 

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