Ms. Levine: Teacher by day, actress by night
Ms. Levine, theater teacher and director for Apex Peak Players, is starring in the Raleigh Little Theater’s production of James and the Giant Peach as James’s Aunt Spiker. Peak Student Media sat down with Ms. Levine to learn more about the show.
Tell me a little bit about the play and your part? What made you decide to go for the audition?
So, I’m in James and the Giant Peach at Raleigh Little Theater, and I play Aunt Spiker–who’s not the bug the ant but James’s relative, and she’s very mean, and over-the-top, and funny–I hope–not scary…Well, the schedule fit in between our musical and the next play, Hamlet, which is in May, and I like to try and fit in some kind of acting during the year if I can, and I’ve worked at the theater before and with that director and had a really good time
How did you prepare for it?
You have to prepare a one-minute monologue, so I found a monologue from a playwright that I really liked and memorized it and got ready for the audition.
What’s your favorite part of the show process?
My favorite part is the early part where we get to talk about [the] character and kinda play around with how they are going to interact and the staging. Sometimes you can kinda come up with new ideas and say “hey what if we tried this?” and the director will let you try kinda whatever you want.
Has the experience enhanced or changed the way you teach theater in your class?
Yeah, it always helps to see how another director works because you can pull from some of their techniques and exercises to get the actors prepared. So I’ve used–for example, a game that we played during the rehearsal–I’ve used it in class here…Sometimes if it’s relevant to what we’re doing, and I think it will help, I will talk about [my experience doing a play]. Like we’re doing Hamlet in the courtyard this year, and I’ve done some outdoor, traveling theater, so for example yesterday, we were working on just volume and how different it is outside than inside.
Does being part of a show and having a day job hard to juggle? How do you handle it?
It’s difficult to manage time sometimes but it’s fun because it’s a totally different job.. So here, like all day I’m teaching, and directing, and rehearsing things, but then there, I’m not in charge so I get kinda play a different role in the process.
Say this is your big break and you get discovered: would you choose acting over teaching?
I would not. Unless it was like a twelve season show or something.
What interested you in being a theater teacher as opposed to going into theater?
I like it because we still–I mean we work on shows all the time, and it’s a consistent job. Being an actor, or any kind of artist, is like you find a job that lasts for so many weeks or whatever, and then you have to find a brand new job every single time, so it’s really difficult and not a very stable career, which would be really hard for me.
Directing or acting? What is it like going from director to actor?
I like directing; I have more experience acting, but I really prefer to have a sort of combination of both because it’s totally different sides of the process, so there’s things in both that really fun and interesting to do…When I am acting, I don’t really miss being a director because it’s nice to have like a time when you are not the one who’s suppose to make all the decisions. You still get to decide about your own character, but you don’t have to do the whole big picture, and I really like to see other directors, and get some ideas from what they do because I haven’t directed as many plays. I have directed maybe four or five plays so far I have a lot to learn for sure
Has the experience interested you into doing more plays in the future? What kind of plays would you be interested in doing?
I think during the school it’s a little bit easier since it is a time commitment to do ones that are a little bit lighter and more funny. But then in the summer, when I have more time I try to do some stuff that’s a little more challenging… I would love to be in the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, so hopefully that will be an opportunity before I get too old to play the part, but that’s one of my top one.
What advice do you have for students who also want to audition and be in plays, but don’t think they have it in them or think they are not adequate?
Your job as an actor is to audition so there is a lot of rejection and you can’t take it personally. But my best advice would be if you are interested, just go for it because it’s not your job to decide how the character should be, [and] you don’t know what the director is looking for, and you may have what they’re looking for. And if you don’t, you know, it’s not necessarily something you can control so you might as well just go and try if you’re interested.
What is a funny or enlightening experience you had working?
One thing I really like is that there’s some kids in the show–like some elementary-school aged kids– and so it’s really cool to see [them], like they’ll jump up to read a part if someone was sick or something, and it’s really fun to see them just be totally open and free and make huge choices because they’re not afraid yet of being embarrassed or whatever, so that’s been really fun and cool.