Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spotlight On...Virginia Baeta

photo by Ben Strothmann
Name: Virginia Baeta

Hometown: Fremont, California

Education: Officially, I trained in the School of Theatre, Film and Television at UCLA. Unofficially, I learned pretty much everything else I needed to know getting around New York City

Favorite Credits: Almost every role I played with The Queen’s Company (from the title role in Edward II to Clown #3 in Antony and Cleopatra); Pepe in Robbie Robertson’s wildly funny stage adaptation of Satan in High Heels (directed by Mark Finley); and recently an awkward, elderly Irish Nun in Ed Valentine’s lovely Each to Each.

Why theater?: I started in the theater because someone I had a crush on was auditioning for the school play and I thought it would be a good way to get close. I stuck with it because I wasn’t all that bad at it and there was something electric and unexplainable in those moments when - in live performance - audience and actor agree in real time to an alternative reality. It became my calling when I learned about the origins of acting and storytelling as sanctified, holy ritual and community-building activities.

Tell us about Damaged Goods: Damaged Goods is a gender-skewiering homage/send-up of 1940’s film noir. It follows Thomas Sparks - a private detective with some secrets of his own through three extremely eventful days in New York City as he pursues a baffling case and a dangerous dame. As a send-up, Damaged Goods delivers a fair shake of laughs. As an homage, it is dark when it needs to be. The choices have consequences, and running away isn’t an option.

What inspired you to write Damaged Goods?: So I started writing Damaged Goods with the intention of having a fun, two-actor play that could play the festival circuit. I was curious about how much fun could be had with noir's highly gender-coded archetypes - the always-male, almost-always doomed protagonist, the always femme fatale. About half-way through the first draft, I found that the two-actor conceit was limiting the story and the characters, so I set it free to be whatever it ended up being.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am drawn to theatre that is honest, direct, efficient and that has a mission. From a one-person show in the Fringe to the biggest Broadway musical, my heart leaps when that sacred, magical thing happens that can only happen when artists on a mission engage with enthusiasm with an audience that is ready to be escorted into the world. It is a fragile dance, but when the steps are right, theater artists can ignite hearts and minds. I’m inspired by artists who put it all out there, especially when they don’t have a lot of money or production value backing them up. I could list folks, but I know I’d leave someone important off of the list.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Anyone? Oh, yikes, that’s a super tough question. I’d give you a different answer tomorrow, but today I’ll say Janet McTeer. And I’ll add Lin Manuel Miranda. See the answer below.

What show have you recommended to your friends: I’m going to be the jerk that says Hamilton. Here’s why. I saw Hamilton at The Public - before the show became the phenomenon that it is today. I walked out of the theatre and thought “well stick a fork in me, I’m done.” What Lin Manuel and that committed team of artists created in that space was exactly the kind of theatre I long to see and create. An immersive, joyful, powerful, thrill-ride of an experience with a laser-focused purpose. Right then, I told all of my friends to run - not walk - to arrange tickets to see it before it became prohibitively popular.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called: These questions just keep getting harder! I think I should be played by a really good glazed donut in a movie called “The Kitten Said: Mew.” Any movie about me right now would make about as much sense as appetizers at The Last Supper. Check back with me when there’s a story about me worth telling.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I’m really really mad at myself for missing the Donmar Warehouse production of The Tempest that just closed at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Just had my head screwed on wrong and missed it.

What is your biggest guilty pleasure: Sleeping in.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ______: A New York City firefighter

What’s up next?: I will be directing a reading of Merril Mushroom’s Bar Dykes for TOSOS this Spring. I’m also making a decision about which partially-finished play I’m going to “finish” next. But - before that - I’m going to see if I can catch a couple of really good baseball games.

For more on Damaged Goods, visit http://www.tososnyc.org/