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Southern Florida by Kevin Johnson


Margot Moreland: Sheer Magic
Interview by John Lariviere

Also see John's review of Shear Madness

Margot MorelandOn October 28th, the Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables will pay tribute to actress Margot Moreland with a special celebration to commemorate her 1,000th performance in Shear Madness.

Miss Moreland is a perennial favorite of South Florida audiences and has been honored by fellow theater professional and critics with 10 Carbonell Nominations, 3 Carbonell Awards, and 4 Curtain Up Awards. In addition to her career on stage, her film and TV credits include roles in Cape Fear, and Meet The Patersons. She is a member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA and has taught various classes in musical theater and audition skills for undergraduates as well as litigation skills for trial lawyers to law students at the University of Miami.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Moreland, one of the area's most respected actresses.

What theater arts related experience has made the biggest impact on you?

Shear Madness! It is probably my fondest of all the roles I have done. And that sounds ridiculous because I have done some kick-butt shows and some kick-butt roles. I have been very, very lucky.

It started at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts eight years ago. Then, I knew absolutely nothing about the show. But I knew that the creator, Bruce Jordan, would be directing, so I auditioned. I was cast in the role of Barbara DeMarco even though I knew I wasn't really right for the role. I am this chunky, character actress, and she is usually tall, thin and vivacious. But at the end of the run, Bruce said "You might want to purchase that blue outfit" (her costume in the show). And within two months I got a call from the Artistic Director at the Kennedy Center asking me to come and do an eight week run of the show with them in Washington D.C. I have gone to D.C. to do the show six times, and this (Actors' Playhouse) is my third production.

Shear Madness opened nearly twenty-five years ago in Boston. It has had sixteen years in Chicago and eighteen years in Washington. There have been productions all over the United States. They have had shows in Italy, Mexico, San Francisco, Buffalo and Milwaukee. I am a veteran in this cast of Shear Madness, but I am a fledgling compared to others casts and cast members. I have worked with people who reached 3,000 performances over 3 years ago. I have been blessed and lucky to be part of it.

What is it about this show that makes it so special to you?

It is the type of show that forces you as an actor to get back to your roots. It forces you to listen. It forces you to react realistically. It forces you to up the stakes. All of the things we learned in Acting 101. As you get older, you use your techniques, but not to the extent that you have to use them in this show in order for it to be successful. This show is magical when it's done correctly. It's exciting when the audience gets involved, hearing and seeing their waves of reaction come back toward you on stage. It is a wonderful role in a wonderful show.

And also the Kennedy Center is able to pay well, so the trips to D.C have afforded me the ability to do really great shows in Florida that may not pay as much, and actually make a living off of acting, which is nearly unheard of.

To what theater arts related experience do you feel you have made the biggest contribution?

All the shows I have done are such a part of me. If I do something, I do it 150%. My life is my career, and my career is my life. I like to call it my drug of choice! I don't think I have had any one role in which I can say I made the biggest impact. I try to approach every role like it is the one that would change my life. I remember when I played Rose in Gypsy. This woman came backstage after the show with an original program from the Ethel Merman 's Gypsy, and she wanted me to sign it. She told me that no one could have been a better Mama Rose than my performance that night. I was so moved, but of course I couldn't sign it. I guess that would be it. For two hours, she forgot about all the other stuff going on in her life and had a good time and enjoyed herself. I like to think that I have touched someone. So I think that is my contribution.

What is your educational background and what post graduate training have you had?

I graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and then the Burt Reynolds Institute of Theatre Training (now closed) through the Jupiter Theatre. It was 14 months, 24 hours a day, nonstop eating, breathing and sleeping theater. You would be rehearsing, working on and performing four shows at once. It was the most brilliant theater experience that ever happened. After that, I obtained my Master in Fine Arts from Florida State University so I could teach. It is difficult to find classes here that are not usually given on evenings and weekends when there are shows. When you are a working actor, it is hard to fit classes into your schedule. Anytime I am in New York, I go to this amazing voice teacher that is hard to get into. And I seek out local teacher Warren Broome when I can as well.

What recommendations would you make to someone aspiring to a career in the theatre?

Get your foundation - your training! You have to know what it is you want to do as an individual, and what it is that will make you happy. I find that when I teach, maybe 80% of the students don't know why they are in acting. I ask them to stop, take off the rose-colored glasses and take a look at themselves. Be honest with yourself, be realistic - you are your greatest judge. Learn how to know what you want and go for it. And don't let anyone tell you differently!

As an actress, why did you chose Florida rather than New York?

I believe that Florida chose me, and I am supposed to be here in Florida. After school I went to New York City and had a successful career underway there. Then my great-grandmother suddenly became ill, and I came home to help my mother take care of her. Since I was here, I auditioned locally, and my career has grown from there. My family is still in Florida and I audition here because I like being around them. But if something comes up somewhere else, I will go where the work is.

South Florida has award winning playwrights such as Pulitzer Prize winner and Tony nominee Nilo Cruz. We also have many transplanted New Yorkers who are accustomed to attending theater. Yet, along with the rest of the country, we have seen some local theaters close in recent years. Where do you see the local theatre scene in 5 years?

I don't mean to sound political, but I do fear that the arts are in danger under the current administration. There is a tremendous amount of work involved in keeping theaters, especially non-for-profit ones, up and running. I am on council for Actor's Equity. And I know the same trends that are in Florida are everywhere across the nation. I am hoping that it will have changed in five years. Here in Florida there is much to compete with. Anytime something bigger and better comes along, people put their money there. We have huge sports and music arenas, beaches, and weather that is beautiful 90% time. That is why people move here.

The key is in marketing and in education. Getting them at an early age and showing them what theater can be. Even beyond theatre on stage. Learning how to utilize acting skills when you're not even a theater person. Acting can be used to learn how to listen, communicate better, how to argue effectively. With most people, adrenaline takes over, and they are flustered and angry. Learn to use that energy for something else. How to confront someone when you are not a confrontation person. To handle a situation as a consumer where you feel you are being taken advantage of. To talk your way out of a speeding ticket. It is focusing energy to problem solve. A + B = C. What is my need? How can I get what I want? What is my conflict? These are just life skills that can be taught through acting.

If there is anything else you could be doing other than acting, what would it be? Where do you see yourself in five years?

There are several things I could do. I do love teaching. I love giving back. I love seeing the lightbulb go off in someone's head. And teaching gives back to me the reinforcement of the foundation of acting. It helps me in my own performing. The things that I may forget for 5-6 years for auditions, I am suddenly forced to remember because I am teaching it. The other thing I have toyed with in my mind is being a trial lawyer. When I have taught litigation at the University of Miami, I have thought, "I could really do this." The litigation part is something that I would be really good at - convincing a jury or a judge. But I don't think my conscience would let me be happy. A lawyer's duty is to their client even if they are guilty and you know it. There are too many things involved in being a lawyer other than the litigation.

I see myself continuing what I am doing. I have always wanted to be a performer and have known that if I could make a living doing that then I would be a success. I didn't have to be on Broadway. I have a lot of talented friends in New York, Chicago, L.A. and not many of them work 52 weeks out of the year. As long as I can keep learning my craft and doing productions and performances that I am proud of - that are not just for the sake of work. As long as I am O.K. with myself in the morning when I get up and look in the mirror and can say, "I did the best I possibly could." Because too many people can't do that.


-- John Lariviere


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Kevin Johnson



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