Diane-DiBernardo-Blenk
November 5

Bar Mitzvah Boy

Jewish Repertory Theatre
jewishrepertorytheatre.com

What’s your relationship to Bar Mitzvah Boy?

It’s a new one, for sure. From the title, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. I thought, “Is this about a thirteen-year-old’s journey to adulthood? How do I fit into this?”  Much to my surprise, I found an often funny, touching, and complicated journey for my character. It’s a story about family dynamics we can all relate to, how life can be joyful as well as trying, and how our relationship to God can guide us through our most difficult times.

What’s the best acting advice you were ever given?

I had the honor of being at Niagara University during the Brother Augustine days when Maurice Daniels of the Royal Shakespeare Company came in from England to direct our yearly Shakespeare production. I was playing Regan in King Lear and just overworking the scene. I was pushing everything, trying so hard to get the result I imagined would work. Classic young actor mistakes. Maurice gently pulled me aside and in his gravely grandfatherly voice said, “Diane, quit acting and just be.” Kaboom. I got it. I hear those words every time I hit the boards.

What’s your best “the show went on” moment?

Another Niagara story! Less than a half hour until curtain, one of the Shark girls in West Side Story twisted her ankle, and Brother Augustine decided I was taking her place in the big dance number at the gym. I thought, ‘They’ll show me some moves and I’ll perform it for tomorrow’s show. There’s no way they’re going to expect me to learn in twenty minutes what took everyone weeks to learn!’ That’s exactly what they expected. I was taught the steps and thrown into the scene that night. I was never more terrified in my life. 

What’s the role that got away? 

Quite a few. I would’ve loved a shot at Lady Macbeth or Katherine from Taming of the Shrew. But I think a lot of actors would agree that the ones that sting the most are the ones where you didn’t even get a foot in the door.

What line from a former play have you never forgotten and why? 

My first show ever was in a community theater production of Carousel in Tonawanda, fifth or sixth grade. I had one line: “Listen here, Orrin Peasley! You keep your hands in your pockets if they’re so cold.” I was so terrified of screwing it up. I had one chance to succeed. That fear still drives me today.

What “against type” role are you dying to play?

That’s a tough one because of the “against type” concept. So I’ll just answer with some roles I’d love to play: La Marquise de Merteuil (La Liaisons Dangereuses), Mark Antony (Julius Caesar), Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Doubt), and a scary clown in almost anything.

What’s your classic actor nightmare dream? 

Going blank on stage and my fellow actors just staring at me waiting for me to say my line.

What audition would you love to do over?

Most of them

What have you been up to during this time?

Gardening. Watching Netflix. Reading everything I could get my hands on. Cleaning more than usual. Power walks. Home improvement projects. Spending quality time with family and a lot of Zooming with friends.

Have you been enjoying any virtual theater experiences?

I enjoyed the Women’s Theatre Festival/Arts at the Palace’s production of Donna Hoke’s Hearts of Stone very much. They really took the whole play reading on Zoom model to a whole new level. I also found Alleyway’s Curtain Up! show, CURRENTS, engaging, inventive, and moving.

 

Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for SPREE and FOREVER YOUNG.

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