PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Katie Finneran

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Katie Finneran Katie Finneran's Broadway credits stretch back ten years to titles like Two Shakespearean Actors and On Borrowed Time. Since then she has tallied her share of leading roles on Broadway and Off. She was a lovesick bibliophilic analysand in the Signature Theatre Company revival of John Guare's Bosoms in Neglect; toyed exuberantly with a Chocolate Soldier in the Roundabout Theatre Company's go at Shaw's Arms and the Man; played the shrillest tart in the Kevin Spacey production of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh on Broadway; and put in a few months at the Kit Kat Klub as Sally Bowles in the long-running Broadway run of Cabaret. But it was her performance as Brooke Ashton, the dimmest actor in the dizzy bunch that make up Michael Frayn's farce, Noises Off, that finally won her the critical bouquets, as well as many a media profile and talk of award potential. The fact that she was previously associated with two others shows which will have made it to Broadway by season's end—the Kate Burton Hedda Gabler and Smell of the Kill—just adds to blonde actress' current Golden Girl aura.
Katie Finneran on and off stage at Noises Off.
Katie Finneran on and off stage at Noises Off. (Photo by Photos by Aubrey Reuben)

Katie Finneran's Broadway credits stretch back ten years to titles like Two Shakespearean Actors and On Borrowed Time. Since then she has tallied her share of leading roles on Broadway and Off. She was a lovesick bibliophilic analysand in the Signature Theatre Company revival of John Guare's Bosoms in Neglect; toyed exuberantly with a Chocolate Soldier in the Roundabout Theatre Company's go at Shaw's Arms and the Man; played the shrillest tart in the Kevin Spacey production of O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh on Broadway; and put in a few months at the Kit Kat Klub as Sally Bowles in the long-running Broadway run of Cabaret. But it was her performance as Brooke Ashton, the dimmest actor in the dizzy bunch that make up Michael Frayn's farce, Noises Off, that finally won her the critical bouquets, as well as many a media profile and talk of award potential. The fact that she was previously associated with two others shows which will have made it to Broadway by season's end—the Kate Burton Hedda Gabler and Smell of the Kill—just adds to blonde actress' current Golden Girl aura.

Playbill On-Line: Performing the slapstick choreography of Noises Off eight times a week must be very exhausting.
Kate Finneran: It's very exhausting! [Laughs] I have to be careful to rest during the day and stretch out before the show and do a little yoga.

PBOL: Does a little bruising come with this part?
KF: A little bit. I think it doesn't help that I'm in my underwear most of the time and that the doors are steel. They're painted to look like wood but they are pure steel.

PBOL: After a stint in Cabaret and now this, you must be getting used to appearing on stage in a camisole.
KF: I know. In the play I did in the Berkshires [last summer], The Smell of the Kill, for a major part of the play we were all in our bras. So every show I do now has to have some sort of showing of me in my underwear.

PBOL: You've been plugging along on Broadway and Off for a few years now and suddenly you're "discovered" in Noises Off. Does it seem amusing to you?
KF: Totally amusing! It's really great. It's actually more fun than anything. It's kind of delightful that people see you as a newcomer. Why not? I'll take it any way I can get it. PBOL: How did you get the part?
KF: I just auditioned. Jim Carnahan, the casting director, had cast me in a million things. I went in and auditioned for Jeremy Sams, the director, and got the part. It's hard to audition for Noises Off, though, because there's so much physical stuff involved.

PBOL: The actress you play in Noises Off is a high-strung, unhinged character, as have been parts you've played in Arms and the Man, Bosoms and Neglect and The Iceman Cometh. Do you gravitate toward roles that allow you to perform at a heightened comic level? You seem to flourish when you're allowed to go a little bit over the top.
KF: Yeah, definitely. And I love anything with humor in it.

PBOL: You were in Hedda Gabler at Williamstown, which opened on Broadway around the same time as Noises Off. Did you have to choose between the two?
KF: I actually made that choice when they were going to Boston [at the Huntington Theatre]. And then I was offered Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway and I decided I wanted to do that. I really loved that company and I love Kate Burton so much, but to play Sally Bowles is a chance of a lifetime.

PBOL: The Smell of the Kill got good notices this summer at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, but now you're stuck in this great big hit. Do you still plan to do that show when it comes to Broadway this season?
KF: I'd love to do the show, but they're going to do it in February and it will conflict with my contract in Noises Off. We had the greatest summer together up in the Berkshires.

PBOL: Bosoms and Neglect seemed a landmark performance for you.
KF: Oh, thank you so much. I loved it. John Guare was especially great to work with, and [director] Nicky Martin. That play had lasted a week of performances on Broadway and it was really great to revisit it. We just worked really hard on it and Nicky's direction was so fantastic; we really all kind of got the play through John and Nicky. [Guare] is tough to interpret sometimes.

PBOL: The text is so dense and intricate. Was it tough when B.D. Wong came in for David Aaron Baker during the final week?
KF: No! It was actually one of those great, exciting, electric moments in the theatre: "The show must go on" type of thing. He was basically off book. He was a holding a book, but I don't remember him ever looking down at it. I couldn't believe it. And he had maybe an afternoon of rehearsal. I think my agent—he's lives with my agent, Richie Jackson. And I was talking to Richie [about Baker leaving] and B.D. got on the phone and said, "Uh, I'll do it. I'll step in. " And we're, like, "What?!" And he's said, "Yeah, when do you need me?" It was so great. But it's a thick community on Broadway and Off-Broadway.

PBOL: I once talked to an actress who played one of the tarts in the 1973 Broadway production of The Iceman Cometh, and she said one of the dangers of that show, particularly on matinee days, was actors falling asleep at their bar tables from sheer exhaustion. Did anything like that happen to you?
KF: [People] totally fell asleep! Drooling and everything. Oh, absolutely. We had a kind of thing where we would just have to carry each other. If one person was asleep, you'd wake him up and give him his first line. [Laughs] I never did [fall asleep], but my role was a lot more energetic than some of the other guys. The problem was we had a pre-show where the actors were sitting on the set drinking and sleeping, and they'd just not wake up for the top of the show! And on two-show days, everyone was always in their costumes. We'd didn't have time to change. They'd feed us in the basement and we'd take a 20-minute nap in costume and go and do the show again.