Brooke Rowland plays the maid in Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” a chipper comedy about psychics and ghosts, so it seems natural to ask: If she could communicate with someone from the afterlife, who would it be?
“Oh, goodness, the possibilities!,” she says. “I think I’ll have to say Lucille Ball. She’s one of my favorite actresses, dramatic as well as comedic. She was very ahead of her time in the business world and a feminist icon. She was so driven and passionate, I believe I could learn a thing or two from her.”
Rowland, 15, is a sophomore at Fresno High School and is already making a mark on the Fresno theater scene. She appeared in Good Company Players’ recent “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” as George Bailey’s wife, and she returns in the company’s “Blithe Spirit,” which runs through Feb. 26. We caught up with her via email to chat about her and the show.
Q: For those who aren’t familiar with the plot of “Blithe Spirit,” give us a brief synopsis.
A: “Blithe Spirit” begins when Charles Condomine, a novelist, invites a rather “spirited” medium to conduct a seance in hopes of gathering research for his latest novel. However, the skeptic gets more than he bargained for when his dead wife is summoned. As you can imagine, the current Mrs.Condomine and Elvira, the first wife, do not get along all that well. From there on it’s a plethora of seances and mishaps.
Q: You play Edith, the maid. Tell us a little about your character.
A: Oh, Edith is an interesting character alright. She’s the Condomines’ newly hired maid. She is always running everywhere and must be constantly reminded to slow down. (I will be in fantastic shape by the end of the run). Edith is odd, you can’t help but laugh at her.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts yourself? Have you ever had a psychic experience?
A: I’m definitely not opposed to the idea of ghosts. In fact I’m quite like the character of Mrs.Bradman (the Condomines’ friend) who wishes to experience some psychic phenomena. Unfortunately, I have no exciting story to share aside from the suspicious flickering of lights. However, what with my involvement in theatre (theaters being especially prone to ghost stories), and attendance at Fresno High, home of the historic Royce Hall (supposed home to a ghost), I expect I may one day encounter something more exciting.
Q: In your last show, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I was quite impressed with your portrayal of Mary, who was George Bailey’s love interest. Is it tougher being in a comedy, especially one with so many veteran comic actors?
A: Well, first off thank you so much, that really means a lot! I don’t believe it’s tougher to do comedy, just different. I’m still testing the waters for different theatre genres and don’t know of any specific strengths or weakness for me yet. Cheesy as this may sound, when you’re portraying a character you’re immersed in their life, not the genre they’re presenting, so you don’t really think about it that much.
As for being in a show with so many highly skilled and experienced and skilled comedians, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. This cast is very well loved and respected, and for good reason. I definitely worried about matching their level, so that the show flowed nicely. I’m glad to report that the majority of those nerves are gone, as working with such remarkable talents has done nothing than fill me with admiration and strengthen my own understanding of comedy. Similar to learning a new language, you learn best by immersion. I was thrown into a pool of highly seasoned actors, and I’d like to believe it has strengthened my abilities as an actor, and made my job in fact easier.
Q: Do you think Noel Coward’s brand of humor is different than what we’re used to today? Does he have to be updated, so to speak?
A: On a broader level, humor has been for the most part the same since the dawn of time and followed similar themes. However Noel Coward is definitely more intelligent humor rather than the slapstick people have grown accustomed to today. I by no means think he has to be “updated” per se. I find much more enjoyment in quick witted humor, a witty comeback, or clever joke you could easily miss as opposed to humor that requires no thought process at all.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself and your interest in theater.
A: My first theater experience was in the black box theatre now known as the Fresno Soap Co., which was known as The Broken Leg Theatre at the time. I played a young “girl next door” character to the main character in the play “The Boy Next Door” directed by Brandy Steiner. After that I spent a lot of time back and forth between Fresno and Salinas and didn’t have much time for theater. I got back into it around middle school, taking various classes and workshops but far too shy to do much else, and had a few not-so-good auditions at Second Space.
Through getting involved in Fresno High’s theater program I found myself falling in love with theater again and building my confidence. I tried out for “It’s A Wonderful Life” on a whim, and found myself in this marvelous company. I must say I am extremely happy here. Everyone has been so welcoming and kind. I wish to continue to be a part of this company for a long while. I absolutely love it.
Q: You’ve taken some acting classes and workshops with GCP. How have those helped you on the stage?
A: Taking GCP classes and workshops has been immensely helpful! I began taking them when I was struggling with social anxiety, and putting myself in the center of attention and vulnerable allowed me to build the confidence I have to go on stage today. Everyone who leads the classes is extremely talented and knows what they’re doing. You really do learn a lot, even how to audition. I highly recommend them for anyone wishing to get into theatre, build up their confidence, learn a thing or two, or just have fun!
Q: A personal note here: I’ve known your mom and dad since you were 1 year old. (Which, incidentally, makes me feel VERY old considering you’re all grown up and a local actor.) You actually lived in a house in the Tower District that I moved into after your family moved. Do you have any memory of that house?
A: I do remember that house! I don’t know if it’s a mixture of pictures, or spending time in the twin house next door, but I do indeed recall that house, and have very vague memories of being in that area.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say?
A: Yes, my mom mentioned that there’s a picture of you on our fridge! Anyways, I hope you enjoy “Blithe Spirit”, it’s a very fun show.
- Through Feb. 26
- 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive Ave.
- www.gcplayers.com, 559-266-0660
- $20, $17 students and seniors