When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
I can’t remember the date, but as a young girl someone was patting me on the head and saying, “And what are you going to be when you grow up? I know it was in England as they were speaking in English, and I had heard this word ‘actress.” It sounded like a good word, so I said “actress.” And it has never changed. All I need to do now is ‘grow up.’
What has been your proudest performance?
I was appearing in Kathmandu in Nepal to a full house full of members from the prestigious Gurkha regiment. They seem to have enjoyed the show, but as I was taking my bow I noticed that several were walking down the center aisle towards me. They were holding beautiful scarves which they placed around my neck. Everyone in the audience had brought a scarf which they presented to me. I was covered in a small mountain of silk scarves. Overwhelming. I still have the scarves. Beautiful.
What was your most embarrassing moment on stage?
I was playing in “Two For the Seesaw” in England. It is key to the play that the two actors talk to each other on the phone. I take my place in the opening blackout: NO PHONE. Devastating! Suddenly there is a knock on the door, and when I opened it a backstage technician is holding a phone. “I’ve come to fix your phone.” Which he did. We finished the play uneventfully. After the show, a member of the audience came up to me and said that there was a mistake in the program. There were three people in the play, not two. Why hadn’t that been rectified! Speechless!
What was your most memorable experience as a casting director?
I had been invited by the President of Costa Rica to develop a project prescribed by UNESCO to solve the problems in a poor barrio of San Jose, the capital. It was rife with all the tragedies of poverty. Theatre had been selected to take care of all the social problems. I said that I couldn’t do it. Easter was coming up and they wanted to stage their own version of the Passion. I still said I couldn’t do it. But I was inveigled to meet some of the residents of the barrio. They won me over.
I started casting. More and more people turned up every evening. We wrote our own script, we devised our own structure. I was rehearsing more than 300 people in the cast. It became the center of their lives. But there was a group of young lads, really young, who were so wild that everyone told me they shouldn’t be in the show, that they wouldn’t work with them. An open window, however, gave Guillermo, their leader, the opportunity to vent his feelings. A carefully aimed knife flew past my right ear. I brought them in. “Okay, what can you do?” Anyone that dedicated deserved to be heard. Guillermo gave it some thought. “I can jump.” “Show me!” He jumped. His whole gang jumped. It was true, they were good jumpers. I fitted them into the production. I still have the knife. I treasure it.
What is your greatest lesson as a director?
I was exhausted. I was dealing with every problem, never saying “no” to anything that came up. Eventually, I collapsed. When the doctor was called, he looked at me and said, “All you need is rest. When you are on your feet again, I want you to go down to the cemetery at the end of the road, and look at all the tombstones. The world is managing very well without all those people. You don’t have to join them yet.” I have never forgotten his words.