By Rena Bryson
The Latte journey has been anything but linear, we initially performed a rehearsed reading of a shorter version of the play during Culture Night 2019. Following an enthusiastic reception from a full house, we swiftly made plans to revisit the play. The talented Sarah Fahy was on board and agreed to complete a full-length script. We planned to produce the new full-length version of Latte in the summer of 2020. But… you can guess how that went. However, this gave both the playwright and director time to thoroughly examine the text and make changes. During this time director, Hazel Doolan decided that Latte would be more suited to a site-specific performance than a traditional stage production. We’ll never know what the 2020 version of Latte would have been like, but I truly feel that the time, patience, and momentum gained from the wait benefited the creative process and therefore the final production.
I loved playing Sophia in 2019 and really wanted to explore what made the character tick! I was very drawn to the complexities under her reserved surface. She is a very different character than I am usually cast as, I’m usually drawn to louder, wilder characters. I wanted to play Sophia not only to push myself outside my comfort zone but because I deeply empathized with her story. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away so I won’t go into detail, but Sophia’s story is one shared with Jillian, although they are strangers to one another they share the same hurt.
I’ve absolutely loved working with the gifted Moira Mahony, she has been so open with her creativity. She shares her thoughts freely but is also totally responsive to others’ imaginings of the characters and their world. She brought a strong passion to the text analysis, this carried joy and fun into the investigation, which was greatly appreciated during a long day in the rehearsal room. I found out during rehearsals she played Sophia in the original Latte by The Seumas O’Kelly Players in 2017. So she has seen the show grow and expand over the years. She also has the unique insight of being in both Sophia and Jillian’s shoes. Although I am sure the characters have also evolved over the years, being there for the first seed will carry with you an understanding of the play’s message and energy.
It’s been a very unique rehearsal process due to the structure of the play. Although there is a cast of seven I do not interact with many of the other characters. My story is mainly contained to my table so I primarily act opposite Moira. The energy in the room the first day we all rehearsed together really brought the play to life. I had felt confident about portraying my character and her story but didn’t feel truly connected to the world of the play until that day. Each cast member has really given the play 110% and has been a joy inside and outside of the rehearsal room. The creative team has been equally brilliant and open to questions. Whether I’m asking Hazel Stanley about what type of engagement ring Sophia should have or Sarah Fahy about a line, they have always been patient and passionate.
Hazel Doolan was back in the director’s chair after a long break for this production. She had directed the rehearsed reading back in 2019 and had continued to work with Sarah on the text. Throughout lockdown, she was reading drafts and offering feedback. She had a deep connection and love for the text before we even got to the audition stage. Hazel’s approach was very actor-led, instead of stating “move this way” she would instead ask “how does your character move?” By giving us the freedom to explore and play with our characters she created an organic and authentic performance. I really enjoyed this process as Sophia was such an interesting character to dissect and each week we added more and more layers. I feel this process really worked for Latte specifically as the play is driven by its textured dialogue. A deep understanding of the characters was essential and impacted every aspect of the performance.
I’m so excited to share the wonderful world of Latte with a live audience on Saturday! The site-specific nature of the play will add a whole new element to the performance. The audience and performers share the cafe as customers, creating an interesting relationship between us. I can’t wait to see what effect that has on the play. This is the true magic of theatre, the performance is alive and ever changeable!