January 31, 2015

My name is Kate Meehan, and I'm guilty of shoddy character choices.

 

 

 

I was the first person in our company to play Ruffiana, an older female stock character of the Commedia dell'Arte. This was some twelve years ago, and when I played her, I went straight for the laughs. Ruffiana translates to "lady pimp," and in my young mind, the joke was that she was a woman deprived of her sexual comeliness after decades of hard use. I played her drunk, raunchy, sexually forward and repulsive. It was an easy choice - prostitutes in America are one-dimensional figures, depicted as the very definition of desperate, powerless women. What few madams we have in our cultural lexicon - Miss Jessie at the Chicken RanchLulu White's Mahogany Hall, are anomalies in a history of male-run brothels filled with downtrodden women.

 

It set the tone for how she was played by everyone after me. Genevieve Kinney, who's been performing with us for a decade, played her once and determined never to do it again, finding...

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