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Lend an ear to this busy Seattle actress

Look for this busy Seattle actress in local productions of The Amish Project and Julius Caesar.
Look for this busy Seattle actress in local productions of The Amish Project and Julius Caesar.
Terri Weagant

Local actress, director, and teacher Terri Weagant delights in playing all types of characters. Currently starring in the one-woman show "The Amish Project," Weagant next tackles the role of Shakespeare’s Marc Antony in Wooden O’s all female production of "Julius Caesar" playing in local parks this summer.

A two-time Gregory Award nominee for her work at Book-It, she also has received Theater Puget Sound's Member Voice Award, two Seattle Times Footlight Awards, a Gypsy Rose Lee Award, and Broadway World Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Seattle theaters. When she’s not acting or directing, Weagant teaches theater or serves as a dialect coach at Cornish College of the Arts.

She recently discussed what it is like to play seven very different people in “The Amish Project” as well as one of Shakespeare’s most iconic male roles.

Last time we talked, you were directing a roller derby play for Balagan. Now you’re doing a one-woman show. How did this come about?
This winter I performed in “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at Harlequin Productions in Olympia. A couple years ago, I performed at the Solo Performance Festival at Theatre Off-Jackson, where I met the incomparable Patti West. They had an opening this spring and Patti invited me to bring “Search” to Seattle. But there was a rights snafu and we had to change the programming to another solo show, “The Amish Project.” And I’m so happy we did. It is a beautiful, challenging play centered around the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting in 2006. There are seven characters woven together. Their stories are revealed as they try to come to terms with the fall out.

How do you keep going in an intense show like “The Amish Project”?
Luckily it’s a multi-character show so every character hands the baton off to the next one. The playwright, Jessica Dickey, has crafted it beautifully and there is a balance of light and heavy moments. The play centers around hope, forgiveness and resilience. That and I usually chug a five-hour-energy before the show. The show is only 70 minutes, so I technically have three hours and fifty minutes of energy left afterward.

What's the hardest moment for you in this play?
Without giving too much away, there is a sequence that relives the shooting itself. It jumps between the gunman, his victims, townspeople, and his widow. It’s technically challenging and an emotional ride that gets cut short.

Next you’re playing Marc Antony for Wooden O and urging Roman citizens to lend you an ear or two. How did that happen?
“Julius Caesar” came about because of Vanessa Miller and Amy Thone. I think originally they were going to do the play with men and women playing the roles as depicted in the script, but with a female Brutus. Somewhere in the casting process, the concept shifted and they decided to produce an all-female production. Yes! There are those roles that you love, but you doubt you’ll ever get a chance to play them. That was Marc Antony for me.

So which part of this Wooden O project are you looking forward to the most?
Seattle is chock–full of kick-ass women actors, but we don’t get a chance to share the stage together too often. I’m stoked to work with many women that I’ve admired for years. And I get to say, “thou bleeding piece of earth,” and “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” four nights a week for a summer!

You've done several outdoor Shakespeare productions. What's it like spending your summer outdoors with the Bard?
All of the elements are against you with outdoor theatre: bad weather, screaming kids, people getting in fights, planes, dogs, and potholes. I love it. It’s all that stuff that keeps you on your toes. You have to be able to roll with anything. It brings a cast closer together and the audience gets to share in the experience. For lots of young people this is their first exposure to Shakespeare (it was mine too), and I love seeing the light bulb switch on when they realize that they understand what the actors are saying. It’s the best when they get the bawdy jokes, and turn to each other and say, “Shakespeare is dirty.”

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“The Amish Project” opened last night (May 22) at Theatre Off-Jackson and continues through May 31 (Thurs – Sat performances). Look for Wooden O’s “Julius Caesar” in local parks starting July 10.