Billie McBridge shares with The Pickwyck about performing in Outside Mullingar at the BETC, challenging experiences and her love of fantasy films.
Where did you grow up? Do you have a theatrical family?
- "I grew up in Illinois starting life in the small town called LeRoy. My family was not theatrical. Mom played the piano and dad had been in a play in high school but that was the extent of it all."
is your earliest memory of theater?
- "I always said I got the calling because when I decided I wanted to be an actress I had never seen a play or television and only a couple of movies. My earliest memory of Theater was probably seeing a play on stage in high school."
What is your favorite book, TV show, movie?
- "My favorite book would be anything written by Charles Dickens. Although I'm a bookalcoholic and would tend to read instead of eat, breathe, etc! I don't really have a favorite movie. I love the Harry Potter's, the JRR Tolkiens and the Hunger Game movies the best right now! Fantasy anyone?"
Tell us about your first car, first job as a teenager and first job
- "My first car was a Toyota Tercel which I bought shortly after leaving New York City. My first job was at the age of 11 as a babysitter, something I did all the way through college. The first play I ever acted in was Ask Any Girl in high school. The first thing production I was paid to do would have been Oklahoma in summer stock."
For those who aren't familiar with the play Outside Mullingar, could you tell us about it briefly? What was your prior experience with the play? What was something that stood out to you most while reading the play
- "Outside Mullingar is a love story. Difficult to summarize the story but it really is about love coming when it's supposed to. I had no prior experience to the play before Stephen and Rebecca asked me to do it. What struck me most when I read it was the humor and how authentically Irish it felt."
Tell us about your character Aoife?
- "She is a woman at the end of her life but like all Irish women of an age she is not unhappy about her life coming to an end. She's a recent widow who loved her husband mightily and loves her daughter. Her whole goal is to make sure Rosemary will be fine after she passes away."
What is your favorite moment for your character?
- "My favorite moment for this character is an argument she has with her next-door neighbor Tony."
What was an aspect you honed in on during rehearsals to bring her to life?
- "The biggest thing I worked on was the accent, we all did! We worked with a dialect coach, Gabriella Cavalero, who was instrumental in getting us to be as authentic as possible for this location in Ireland and helped us be understandable as well for American audiences."
This is your BETC debut! Congratulations! Tell us about working with BETC thus far and what attracted you to working with this theater.
- "I'm very excited to be working with this company. I've hoped to get a job here since I first saw their work. They do cutting edge plays, and they do them so well. The experience working on Mullingar has been terrific because of this cast of A-team actors and to finally work with Rebecca, who has been a very gentle guide throughout this journey. We also have amazing designers and as always the unsung hero in any company, our stage manager Miranda."
You have a wonderfully extensive career. Is there an experience you can recall having faced a challenging character, theme or direction and could you reflect on that briefly? What was an important lesson you learned from it, as an artist and personally?
- "Oh my goodness, I've been doing this for so long starting back in high school, getting my degree in theater and working with some amazing talent that it's difficult to pick just one experience. The first time I ever stepped on the Broadway stage as an actress was doing the play Torch Song Trilogy. We all think of Broadway as being something somehow otherworldly but what I discovered was that it was no different than working in any theater, anywhere. It's all about the audiences. You're just paid a whole lot better. I will add the story about the first time I performed in Denver. I was in town with the national touring company of the play the Gingerbread Lady. The complex had not been built yet. The only thing there was the Auditorium Theatre. It was my first big job out of New York and I was an understudy for two actors. Closing night five minutes after one of my characters entered, she doubled over and ran off stage. They closed the curtain, grabbed me out of 'the audience, made an announcement and set me out on stage in my street clothes. Quite an introduction to the city."
- "My advice to all aspiring actors is make sure it's what you really want to do. And then don't ever give up. Every time you do a play, experience something. In life you grow as an actor. I learned to act by watching actors who were good and actors who were not so good and I learned more from those who were not so good. If they want to go to New York, do so but give it a real good shot. Don't come running back after only a few months. You'll always regret it."
In your opinion, what makes theater so timeless?
- "The energy. You can see movies and you can see television but only in live theater can you actually feel the energy of the audience. If you're doing your job right, they can feel yours. It's a relationship."
If you could star in your choice of show, who would you want as your costar and why?
- "Maggie Smith, Judy Dench or Angela Lansbury because that's who I want to be when I grow up."
What is your weakness/something you would like to improve on, personally and professionally?
- "I don't think of it as a weakness, but I always love that I get to learn from every actor I'm on stage with and every director I work with. I learn something I didn't know before. That sends me forward into the next play."