Onstage / Nine Questions for Christina Rausa
(Rose in ROSE at Jewish Repertory Theatre)
The first time I played Rose, several years ago, I fell in love with her like no other character I’ve ever played. She’s not famous, she’s not a hero, she’s just real and funny and sensitive, and she’s been through a hell of a lot. But not necessarily the things you might expect from her experience living through the Holocaust. When Saul [Elkin, artistic director, Jewish Repertory Theatre] asked me to bring her back, I couldn’t believe it. So many times, I’ve wished that I could play her again. I’m older now, closer to her actual age, more experienced, and I see the play in a brighter light.
2. What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?
Don’t be afraid to look ugly. Create your own work. Become a skilled communicator when promoting your work. Don’t bite your nails; you may need your hands for a commercial. I’ve had a life-long struggle with that last one. I make a lot of commercials but, fortunately, not too many require close-ups of my fingernails.
3. What’s your best “the show went on” moment?
The most amusing was at Snyder Square during a production of Hedda Gabler. We had just purchased new plastic chairs for audience seating at the tables. Just as Hedda, yours truly, was about to throw Eilert’s manuscript into the fire in order to secure George and her future, the back legs of a couple chairs splayed and heads in the audience were plummeting. It took a moment to process, but I figured there was nothing I could do, so the show went on. The victims, both rather large men, were very gracious and we gave them complimentary tickets for the rest of the season. They asked if they could bring their own chairs next time.
4. What’s the role that got away?
I ran into a prominent Buffalo director about fifteen years ago. I didn’t know him well at the time. He told me that he was directing Three Sisters, and that my name came up for a role, but that he had been told that I only worked at my own theater. At the time, I was artistic director of The Actors Workshop of WNY. The play had been cast by then, and I was heartbroken. I would have loved a crack at Chekhov.
5. What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why?
I read Golda’s Balcony by William Gibson as soon as I could get a copy. I wanted to go see Tovah Feldshuh’s performance but never made it. I remembered reading this line in the play: “We can forgive you for making your sons kill our sons, but we cannot forgive you for making our sons kill your sons.” It really hit me. It was powerful and profound, and I thought, because of that line, I have to do this play. A few years later while preparing for rehearsal, I did my first reread through. I discovered, to my surprise, that the line wasn’t actually in the play! The actual quote is: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” I have no idea where I read [the other line], but it’s the line that inspired me to want to do it so badly.
6. What “against type” role are you dying to play?
I don’t see it as being so much against type, but I definitely haven’t been pegged for the classics in this town. I would love to play Lyuba Ranevskaya or even Firs in the Cherry Orchard.
7. What’s your classic actor nightmare dream?
Typical: opening night, never read the script, I’m in my slip stuck in an elevator that’s spinning out of control, and I can’t remember the combination to my locker. It all runs together at this point in my life.
8. What’s been the best thing you’ve seen this season and why?
I really liked John by Annie Baker at Road Less Traveled. The play is full of uncomfortable and awkward silences and pregnant pauses. It’s risky business to attempt to hold an audience in suspense like that. David Oliver is a bold director and he gets it. My husband and I also loved the ensemble work in Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, directed by Kyle LoConti at Desiderio’s.
9. Plugs for the rest of the season or something else?
I’m intrigued by the August Wilson Monologue Competition at The Paul Robeson Theatre happening in February. Other than that, how do you choose from the cornucopia of Buffalo theater? I want to see as much as possible, but I’m always disappointed at the end of the season for having missed so much. Every year I do a little better.
Rose runs from February 1 - February 25, 2018. You can reserve tickets here.
Read more on this month's theater scene here.
Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Spree and Forever Young.