Sunday, June 14, 2015

Spotlight On...Becca Ballenger

Name: Becca Ballenger

Hometown: Boise, Idaho

Education: BA in Theatre from Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Moscow Art Theatre School, Interlochen Arts Academy.

Select Credits: Steel Magnolias and The Tempest (Idaho Shakespeare Festival), The Hero (Metropolitan Playhouse), American Stare (NJ Rep), Occupy Olympus and Richard 3 (FringeNYC), Beckett in Benghazi (Horse Trade/Less Than Rent) among others, as well as workshops with Shirley Knight, Pam MacKinnon, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel, Jackson Gay, Daniela Topol, and Anthony Rapp.

Why theater?: Because sometimes when I'm at a show, I look around at the audience and am just overwhelmed by intimacy of this art form. Here we are, sitting in the dark, having an emotional experience-- one that's both individual and shared. If we could invest more in the kind of openness and vulnerability we allow ourselves in the theatre, the world would be a much more compassionate place.

Who do you play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?: I'm playing Helena, who is way cooler than she thinks she is.

Tell us about this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: First of all, it's a 90 minute cut, which I think is simply fabulous. The pace and energy just crackle, and it truly feels like we've made the whole theatre a joyous playground. As actors, we're investing very deeply in what the characters want, and taking them at their word. When Helena says, "Teach me how you look," she really wants to know! This production is accessible, but not simplistic. It's just so much fun.

What is it like being a part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?: It's such a joy and such a challenge. Helena, like all the characters in the play, is caught in a major dilemma:  I have to hear Demetrius' cruel words, but I have to love him even more for them. I have to feel like I'm worthless, while simultaneously fighting my way to success. Midsummer lives in a world of extremes, and it's been so much fun investing in those extremes with such a wonderful and playful cast.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatre that simply must be theatre; theatre in which the relationship between the form and content is symbiotic. In other words, if I have to see another play set in a living room where rich white thirty-somethings "wittily" banter, I will scream. To be fair, I'm frustrated by Shaw for the same reason. Dude should've written essays, not plays. Anyway… I love to be surprised. I love to lose myself in feeling. I love to stumble out of a theatre a little vulnerable and a little more human.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Any role in which I could never conceivably get the note: "Can you just make her a little bit dumber?"

What’s your favorite showtune?: This question is impossible, so instead I'm going namedrop my friends James Presson and Alex Oyen, a superb young writing team. They will write my favorite showtune.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Sam Gold, Rachel Chavkin, Rob Askins, Sarah Ruhl, and all the amazing women listed on the Kilroys

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Sydney Lucas (who is a genius) would play me at 11, and Marin Ireland (also a genius) would play me at 30. At 60, Meryl. Why not, right? Actually, that can be the title, too: "Why Not, Right?"

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: This is so hard! I guess I would go back to 1949 and see A Streetcar Named Desire. My grandmother, Carmelita Pope, was Kim Hunter's replacement (previously her understudy) in the role of Stella. It would be amazing to watch her work. She's 91 and kicking, by the way. Fingers crossed I get those genes. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home is extraordinary. I'm also a huge fan of Hand To God-- I saw it way back in 2007 at Ensemble Studio Theatre and couldn't stop talking about it. I've seen every production and it's just remarkable.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Netflix, wine, and homemade ice cream (I'm very, very talented in that regard).

What’s up next?: Ideally, spending a week in rural Vermont reading books. In a canoe.

For more on Becca, visit