In the conclusory installment of #weirdfrance, TheatreBloom readers are invited to meet the woman behind the— well, the woman. The world’s most beautiful, albeit unlucky, woman, Deedee as played by actress Casey Dutt. Cohesion Theatre Company is nearly ready to debut their production of 13 Dead Husbands but not before hearing what Casey has to say.
Give us the usual introduction if you would be so kind.
Casey Dutt: I am Cassandra, otherwise known as Casey, Dutt. I am playing Deedee in this production of 13 Dead Husbands. I actually moved to Baltimore about 18 months ago so I did my first show in Baltimore about a year and a half ago. It was last January at the Fells Point Corner Theatre, I was in Boeing, Boeing as Gretchen, the German. That was one of my absolute favorite shows, it’s how I made all my friends when I moved to Baltimore. I absolutely adored working on that show. I also did Legally Blonde with Charm City Players, and I was in Edward II with Brad (Director Brad Norris) over at Spotlighters Theatre and most recently I did Seminar back at FPCT, which was also a blast. I need to work in that theatre in the summer, when it’s a little bit warmer. I absolutely adore it there, heat or no heat. Maybe I’ve just never had a warm costume to work in. Oh but I’m really happy to be here working on this production with Cohesion too!
From your point of view, who is Deedee?
Casey: So we find Deedee in a very interesting place in her life. She’s living alone working as a barista in this charming café overlooking the river. She has had 12 ex-husbands. There isn’t a specific age for Deedee so we’ve kind of played around with it. Her first marriage would have occurred because it was an arranged marriage. So in my head it happened when she was 16 or 17. She’s had these dozen husbands over a course of time, she’s probably in her late 20’s. None of them are overlapping, and some of them say things like “he wrote me letters for many years” so you assume the courtship might have gone on for some period of time. So maybe early 30’s.
You said 12 “ex-husbands.” How do you get to have 12 “ex-husbands?”
Casey: Well…12 dead husbands is really what it is. They have all died either the day that they were married or briefly after their wedding. She hasn’t’ been with any of them for very long after the actual wedding, if they were lucky enough to make it through the wedding. She doesn’t have the greatest luck and that’s quite honestly how she sees it. She has met these wonderful men, and not so much met them because they’ve all come in search of her, but she can’t hold onto them.
Why do they come searching for her?
Casey: So as Marcel (Matthew Payne) will tell you in the beginning of the play, he gives you a little bit of exposition on it, she is the most beautiful girl in the world. There is this legend that follows her though. Her first husband? They get married and during the ceremony a giant concrete block falls from the sky and lands on his head. So he passes away in this horrific manner and she is urged to remarry quickly. So she does. But the next husband passes away in the same sort of horrific and fantastic manner. The story begins to spread. And spread. And then people are like “Wow! I’ve heard about this girl and the luck that she’s had with her husbands…but she’s so beautiful!” And they all decide that they want to be the guy who will survive where all others have failed. They are coming in search of the most beautiful girl in the world, they want to win her heart and live to tell the tale.
People come from miles around with all kinds of fantastic things. And the guys who have come for her are really fantastic creatures. They are the stuff of fairytales. It is the Prince riding off into the sunset to find the girl, rescue the dragon— no. Slay the dragon and rescue the girl— it’s like every Disney Prince. They are all the leading man of their story. She has lived 12 separate fairytales. And that is quite honestly who she is when we find her; an amalgamation of 12 different stories. That’s how she identifies herself. She doesn’t stand alone as a solid character or person. She’s had all of these stories happen to her in the past and these stories mean so much to her that that is who she has become.
How do you find yourself relating to Deedee? How do you find yourself differing from Deedee?
Casey: This show is wonderful and I absolutely love the character but with Deedee it’s been a real struggle to find a piece of a person who is so fantastic that she doesn’t feel true and somehow make her relatable. I definitely differ from Deedee, especially where she is at the beginning of the play, because I do like to stand as an individual person. But then again I always love a good story. Deedee lives her life in this way that “this is what is expected” and “this is what I expect” and “this is what I know to be true.” I know I have a tendency to be a little bit hard headed like her.
I’m an engineer and as an engineer I work with a lot of hard headed people. We all know that this is how it is and this is the way it’s supposed to be and this is what’s supposed to happen next. And when something is not going according to plan— whoo! I lose it! I try to be better about that? But she is definitely the same way, especially in her interactions with JP (Bobby Henneburg.) She does not get him because he’s not like the other guys and immediately it’s “Why are you not doing what you’re supposed to be doing?” or what she thinks he’s supposed to be doing just like every other man has. In that way I’m very similar to Deedee.
I’m also kind of young and in a weird place in my life. We’re all just trying to figure it out. Not knowing is sometimes really devastating and for Deedee, not knowing what’s happening in her world is really devastating too. I don’t have 12 dead exes, though. At least, not that I know of, so in that vein we’re safe. I think.
Deedee has thousands of suitors throwing their hands at her. Do you share that experience in your own life?
Casey: Haha! I don’t find that people are hunting me down. But you know what? That’s not such a bad thing. It’s unfortunate sort of but not really. In Deedee’s case people are pounding on her door, and stacking gifts up outside so that she can’t go anywhere— that sounds terrible! I mean, I would like to find someone who when I pick them I know we’re both on the same plane in the relationship. We both want to do something together where we go out and have an adventure together. I don’t want someone to come in search of me, because they won’t know who I am, much like these men who come chasing Deedee. Or any Disney fairytale princess, really. How do you know that you really like this person? You’re going to ride off into the sunset and then realize you hate the way they chew, but too late because “happily ever after.” And that’s the end of that.
What is it like being the only female on stage?
Casey: I have never been in a show where I am the only female. I have done a lot of all female productions but this is the first time I’ve worked with only guys, including a guy director. I’m really glad that Caitlin (Caitlin Carbone, Assistant Director) and Heather (Heather Johnston, Stage Manager) because sometimes it gets into this “Super-Hero-I-Don’t-Even-Know-What” mode and I just nod and smile. They start doing guy stuff and I’m like “WHAT IS THIS?” They are speaking a completely different language and I have no idea what they’re saying.
It’s funny because I do this at my job, I work with mostly men. And I mean as I was growing up most of my friends were guys, but then I was in a sorority in college and made female friends. So it’s a little bit odd working with only men. I will get a dressing room to myself, so that will be fun. I am so excited if for nothing else because my mirror won’t have to be shared. You know those men take forever in front of the mirror. It’s the best perk you can ask for in a show. I do not wish to share.
What has been your biggest challenge as a performer in taking on this role?
Casey: Because she is such a fantastic character and she has these wonderful stories that she tells, I’ve really struggled with finding a way to make her relatable. To make her not— I mean, you have to care about her. She does have this air of “birds help me get dressed in the morning” about her. And if you take it a little too far, then why do we care about her? You need to find and I need to find within myself what makes her real and relatable. She has some really strong emotions throughout the course of this play, it’s like two days of rollercoaster emotions. It’s one of those days where I have a crying headache and it’s terrible.
Finding that within myself and making it relatable so that the audience cares about her complete transformation has been really hard. On top of working with all of these guys. And remembering which number each husband is. Because THAT is a nightmare.
Do you have a husband that is— was— a favorite?
Casey: I really just love seeing them all up there. Omar Zealous is not an active character in this play but he is one of the dead husbands. His story is my favorite. It’s like Dr. Seuss gone circus acrobat saga and it goes on for pages. It’s just too unbelievable to be true but it’s so much fun to tell. He is lucky number seven. Or unlucky number seven. Remembering where they are— they all have a picture on stage somewhere— I had to draw a map for myself. So I wasn’t like “I think that’s that one? I think.”
Why do you want people to come and see 13 Dead Husbands at Cohesion Theatre Company?
Casey: I think Bobby and Matt and everyone has really said it well so far. This is a story about the greatest stories ever told. And it is simple. You can come and watch this play and you can relate. You can feel something and you can leave with a sense of hope, with a sense of redemption, with a sense that maybe there is still something good in the world even though there was traffic on the way to the theatre and I’m really angry because I had to work this weekend and all of these things going on in your outside life. This show does it for me every night in rehearsal and I absolutely love coming here.
It just transports you to— well, to #weirdfrance. There you can be a part of something too wonderful to be true. You don’t get to do that in your everyday life. Well, most of us don’t, you do because you see theatre every day all over two huge cities. But for the rest of us— there’s this story. We feel better, we go somewhere else even if it’s only an hour and a half, and you just feel good.
If we could get a handle, aside from #weirdfrance, from Deedee?
13 Dead Husbands plays through March 29, 2015 at Cohesion Theatre Company currently performing at The Church on The Square— 1025 s. Potomac Avenue in Baltimore’s charming Canton neighborhood. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.
Click here to read Part 1 of #weirdfrance
Click here to read Part 2 of #weirdfrance