Lara Macgregor – Misery and More

Lara has worked as an actor, director and performance coach in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. She studied acting in New York City with Uta Hagen, Anthony Abeson and Alec Reubin, and has appeared in more than 30 productions throughout the United States. Lara holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Directing from The National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney. 

Hey Lara! Please introduce yourself to the readers. 

Hello my name is Lara Macgregor. I don’t have a middle name. I’m currently playing Annie Wilkes in Misery. 

Congratulations on Misery! Three more to go! How did you feel about it tonight?

Good! It was a little different because we got notes from Dan last night. He just told us to tighten it up a bit and not revel in the laughs so much. He just wanted more tension, because otherwise Annie just becomes a kooky thing rather than a character. Usually you want an arc with your character right? You want to take them on a journey, so tonight was just about exploring that journey in a slightly different way.

Misery has many incarnations. First as a book, then a film, and then a play. With so many different variations on the same story. Did you find it difficult to know where to begin for research or did you just stick to the script?

Interestingly there are actually two plays. So there was a British adoption too. I’m not certain when it was written but it has been done on the West End. But yes, for this incarnation at The Court, the script was written by William Goldman, who wrote the movie. And this play script is very film like in its structure. It has twenty-four scenes.

In terms of the research. I’m of the era of the film and the book, so I was in my early twenties when they came out. So of course I saw the movie and read the book. I actually remember reading the book at that age, although not in great detail. What I did for this production though was read the book again but steer clear from the movie. I found the book was fantastic for me in regards to Annie Wilkes, because there’s so much depth. 

I would love to know what techniques you used getting into the physicality of Annie Wilkes. You trained in New York and Australia.

That’s right yes. I did my directing training in Australia and my acting training in New York. My training is essentially Stanislavski based. I studied with Uta Hagan in New York and Anthony Abeson who I consider as one of the best teachers ever. And a lot of the tutors there were influenced by The Actors Studio and came out of that era.

In terms of physicality I always try to delve into the truth of who the character is. I think that psychologically Annie doesn’t think very much of herself and she’s had a pretty horrid upbringing. She doesn’t look after herself and is clearly psychotic. I just touched on all those traits and tried to adopt this way of moving, which is hell on my neck by the way! Also I’m not as big as perhaps I would have liked Annie to be for this show because we have to believe that she can lift this man off the floor and that she can carry a rifle the way she does. That’s where the thinking started for me. I just asked myself how I could make myself feel bigger than I am. Also the costumes help a lot too.

You’ve had a lot experience with directing. What’s it like going from directing a show to acting in one and vice versa? Do you find you have to put a different thinking cap on for each job?

Yes, for sure. I find it very difficult sometimes to take my directing cap off. For example the rehearsal room for this show was very relaxed but I just had to get straight into the character. I just couldn’t spend time thinking too much. There are certain times that I do find it difficult to not be so analytical because I love both directing and design. So even on the first day of rehearsal I’m looking at the set design and analysing the choices made. I believe though that you do have to separate your thinking for each job.

A dream role or two?

Annie has actually been pretty great. Roles like that don’t come along often. Especially in New Zealand. 

Lady Macbeth was a good role to get my teeth into. Two years ago I performed in Macbeth here at The Court. 

Perhaps a role like Martha in Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

There’s some pretty great roles out there, both contemporary and classic. Who knows what may come along.

Any last words of advice? Shout outs to current artists or hopes and plans for the future?

I have this motto which I always carry round from a Spanish poem and the jist of it is “Put all that you are into the least that you do, and the moon will shine on you for she lives aloft” And in my opinion you just never want to be phoney. There’s always something new to discover and create no matter how many times you’ve done it. I’m not sure if that’s advice, it’s just what I live by.

I’ll be back at The Court to direct Elling in January which should be a hoot! 

Thank you very much Lara!

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