DIVA TALK: Chatting With NYMF Stars Jenna Leigh Green, Karen Mason, Jane Summerhays and Lynn Wintersteller

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12 Jul 2013

Lynne Wintersteller

Lynne Wintersteller
Castle Walk at PTC Performance Space; July 22-28

How did you get involved with this production?
Richard Stafford and I are friends - I worked with him as a choreographer a million years ago. And, Milton Granger and I recently worked together at The York Theatre. Richard and Milton sent me the script to Castle Walk, so I jumped at the chance to work with them both again! Of course I read the script, loved the role and immediately began pouring over any Vernon and Irene Castle research I could get my hands on once I agreed.

What other NYMF productions have you been a part of?
Castle Walk will be my fourth NYMF production.
Richard Cory, NYMF 2005 (Ed Dixon/A.R. Gurney – Jim Brennan, director - NYFM Best Actress Award)
The Mistress Cycle, NYMF 2005 (Jenny Giering/Beth Blatt – Joe Calarco, director)
Such Good Friends, NYMF 2007 (Noel Katz – Marc Bruni, director)

How would you describe the character you’re playing?
Well, Irene Castle was a real person, so there is a lot of historical information on her. Personally I’m not interested in playing a biographical character. There are definitely clues I can use from my research, but I don’t necessarily want to force any sort of imitation of her. What interests me in Milton’s storytelling is the aspect of a woman past her prime, who’s forced to deal with real life aging: jealousy, losing physical beauty and ability, finding renewed purpose, being heard when no one is listening or cares, dealing with the emotional ghosts in life both past and present. At the elegant turn-of-the-century era, Irene was a trendsetter straddling both the dance and fashion worlds. Unintentionally, she and her husband Vernon found themselves international stars, sought after, copied and revered. Now, 20 years later, RKO Pictures signs Irene on as technical advisor of her own life. She finds 20 years after her fame, that she’s basically forgotten. The universal appeal of Castle Walk (maybe not as dramatic) is learning how to tell your own authentic life story and choosing to gracefully handle all of life’s milestones as they come.

Why do you think audiences should attend this particular production?
For those historians who pour over history long forgotten, this is another forgotten love story. For those who love the Astaire/Rogers duo (similar appeal and notoriety as the Vernon/Irene Castle partnership), this was their comeback and last musical movie together. For those who love dance, especially ballroom dance, this is its homage. The songs are stunning, and the period costumes are elegant. Everything old is new again.

Why do you think NYMF is so important?
NYMF provides an avenue for young writers to produce fully realized productions in New York City, while exposing their work, names, as well as their talents to the New York theatre community. Energy flows from there!

Lynne Wintersteller in Light in the Piazza.
Maine State Music Theatre

NYMF celebrates new musicals, but which role in a classic musical would you most like to perform and why?
You mean my bucket list? HA. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a diverse list of leading lady roles on my resume. My current classic musical wish list would be Desiree Armfeldt in A Little Night Music and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd – for the diversity of these two roles and the brilliance of Sondheim; along with Auntie Mame in Mame – for the sheer magnitude of the role.

What is your most memorable onstage mishap?
Other than going blank for a second or a line flub here and there, my most memorable onstage mishap would have to be as Dorothy Brock in 42nd Street at Sacramento Music Circus. In the round, opening night, the spotlight hits me during the song "Shadow Waltz," which literally blinds me for a moment and I spin, as choreographed, and exit the stage (or in this case, run up an aisle). I have a two-minute quick change, and since I’ve run up the wrong aisle, my entourage of dressers can’t to be found. I panic, run furiously around the perimeter of the entire building, finally meeting my dressers head on because they’re frantically running to meet me; we quick change. I’m tying my belt while I sprint back onto the stage from another wrong aisle, run into a few dancers who aren’t expecting me to be on their side of the circle, knock them off their choreography, miss the timing of my song entrance, and winded from running, I open my mouth to sing. To this day I still couldn’t tell you what I sang - something along the lines of a deranged obligato from a completely made-up Aria. The reviews were spectacular, and I haven’t worked there since!

What was your most enjoyable theatrical experience of the season (as a member of the audience)?
I’m one of the easiest audience members to have at a show. I don’t want to sit there for two hours, pay good money and end up miserable. To be overly critical doesn’t serve our business or the process. Nor does it serve the courageous person(s) who put their creativity out there to be judged. With the end of out-of-town tryouts, internet blogging, instant social media chatter, there’s no place to fail. At the expense of being called Pollyanna, I can always find something positive and enjoyable - so to answer this question, I don’t have a "most enjoyable." I clearly need to work on discernment.

Do you have any other projects in the works?
I’m currently trying my hand at a stage adaptation from a novel that I’ve fallen in love with. The characters and the story are enchanting. I don’t consider myself a writer per se, but I’m challenging myself to see if I can tap into unchartered creative waters. And if it comes to Broadway, remember how I answered in the question above – BE KIND!

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.

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