Friday, October 28, 2011

Jill Bari Steinberg - Part III

After introducing you to Evan Nasteff yesterday, today we're back for Part 3 of our interview with Jill Bari Steinberg. I guess we're testing your ability to multi-task. I'd know for sure what we're doing but I'm too confused. Anyway, in case you need reminding, Jill Bari is appearing this weekend and next in Kimberly Akimbo, the quirky comedy that is attracting new fans every day. Kimberly is produced by Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Barksdale's Theatre Gym. Following unanimously rave reviews, its final five performances are as follows: Saturday Oct 29 @ 8 pm, Tuesday Nov 1 @ 7 pm, Thursday Nov 3 @ 8 pm, Friday Nov 4 @ 8 pm, Saturday Nov 5 @ 8 pm. We hope you'll join us for the fun!

Q - Hi Jill Bari. We're glad to have you back. Sorry we had to bump Part 3 of your interview so we could sneak in a little promo for Becky's New Car?

A - Is that what that Evan the Bartender thing was all about?

Q - Well, sort of.

A - Yuuuch. (a Yiddish noise that sounds like a shoulder shrug) I did like his joke about the top hat. (deep, dirty chuckle)

Q - Anyway, Kimberly Akimbo concerns a dysfunctional family, and your character is a major part of the dysfunction. What does this family have to say to us? Why should we spend two hours with them?

A - “What dysfunction? I’m just trying to get to Miami . I don’t understand the question. Do you have a spare $20?” – That’s what Debra would say. I have yet to meet a family that was dysfunction-free. For that reason alone people should like this play. Either they will recognize themselves, recognize their family members, they will be happy they're not as crazy as the Levacos, or probably a little of all the above. Through the Levaco’s dysfunction there is a real positive message about living life.

Q - Speaking of living life, how did you meet Steve and how does he deal with your theatre habit?

A - I met Steve because of theatre. I was in a Firehouse show and the stage manager, Kathleen Boyle, had a birthday so we took her to a place she liked called Chuggers. I had never been there. Steve's band was playing a gig there and then we got married. It only took 8 years. As a musician he understands being an artist and has only ever supported me and encouraged me. He was even in Hedwig with me at the Firehouse. He was great!

Q - Barksdale strives to be a major national theatre. Does Richmond need a major national theatre, or would our community's artists and audiences be just as well served if all the theatres were of a smaller size?

A - I think the more theatre the better, that being said I do prefer quality over quantity, that being said many smaller theatres in Richmond put out great quality shows, that being said...oh, I don't know what I'm saying anymore. These questions are too hard.

It would be great if Barksdale was a major national theatre. They already are in my mind. And it would be great for our city if Barksdale gained even more national attention.

Q - All of us at Barksdale believe we benefit from constructive suggestions. If you could change one thing at Barksdale, what would it be?

A - A year ago I would have said please bring back Theatre Gym but that's what you just did! Now I wish only for calm seas and smooth sailing, financially speaking. And I know that's not easy.

Q - What's the weirdest audition experience you've ever had?

A - Years ago I was at an audition and I was in a packed room full of actors I didn't know. I read the scene and the director asked me to read it again. That was all he said – “Read it again." I don't like auditioning in front of crowds of other actors. Auditions are hard enough and that is a lot of pressure, especially in a room full of strangers. So I was already not feeling very confident and I had only been cast in two plays in Richmond at that point and didn't know a lot of people but I read it again anyway. The director looked at me and said loud enough so everyone could hear, "When I asked you to read it again I meant with more personality, not less." I must have looked like someone punched me in the gut. I just walked out. Now that I have been in this city so long I always make it a point to introduce myself to the new guys at the auditions if I can. I remember that feeling of being sort of an outsider and it sucked.

I have never had an experience like that since then and I never auditioned for that director again. But I hope he saw The Syringa Tree.

Coincidentally that was also the day I won a Phoebe Award for A View from The Bridge. After I left that horrible audition I ran into my friend Paul James in the lobby and he said “Congratulations, Jill Bari!” I looked at him like he had two heads and said “What do you mean, Congratulations? I was just humiliated in that audition!” He just smiled and said “You just won a Phoebe.”

It ended up being a pretty good day after all.

(Photo captions: top - hosting the first RTCC Awards, with Duke Lafoon and Vicki McLeod; middle - appearing in The Laramie Project with Theatre IV; bottom - her legendary performance in The Syringa Tree)

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