When your friends are really your enemies you get the modern-coined phrase “freinemies.” And when Bridesmaids meets Mean Girls you get Bachelorette now playing at Dominion Stage for a limited engagement. TheatreBloom takes a minute to get inside one of these zany character’s brains by sitting down with actress Maura Hogan to get her perspective on the show.
If you could introduce yourself to our readers, we’ll get started!
Maura Hogan: I am Maura Hogan. I play the role of Katie in Dominion Stage’s production of Leslye Headland’s Bachelorette. You may have seen me as the title character of Mary Poppins at Toby’s Dinner Theatre. Before that I was working on a cruise ship so I was gone for the better part of the year. I was on Aida, it’s a German-based Carnival cruise line. The shows on the boat are based on different artists, it was a lot of fun.
How did you come to be involved with the ensemble piece, Bachelorette, at Dominion Stage?
Maura: I had seen the movie and I had heard of this really cool feminist writer, Leslye Headland. I saw the audition posting of it online while I was understudying Man of La Mancha at Shakespeare Theatere Company, and the rehearsals sort of coincided with the run there so I figure I could make it work if I got in. I wanted to stretch myself in a direction that I hadn’t really done, and I was hoping it would be a really cool experience.
For those of us not familiar with the movie or the play, can you tell us a little bit about the story that you’re a part of?
Maura: Bachelorette is this story of four friends who have been friends since high school and one of them is getting married. It takes place the night before her wedding, and the other three friends just sort of wreak havoc on this hotel room, on themselves, and on each other. It’s one of those shows that is so funny until it is not. One of my friends came to see the show and she said it shows you how girls talk to each other when no one else is around. It’s definitely a dark comedy, a dramadey if you will. The night starts off really high and it ends at sort of a low. It takes you on a lot of turns. For a 75 minute long show, it takes you to a lot of places, which is what’s so great about it.
You have a lot of musical theatre experience, but this is not a musical, correct?
Maura: Definitely not a musical. This is a straight play. That’s one of the reasons I really wanted to do it. This has actually been a really challenging role for me. I think a lot of people tend to think that in musical theatre songs carry the performer through those difficult moments or those funny moments; that we fall back on songs. I don’t think musical theatre actors really fall back on songs, I think they’re multi-talented because you’re singing and you’re acting at the same time.
Can you talk to us about some of the challenges you’ve had with this straight play?
Maura: I think it has less to do with it being challenging for me because it’s not a musical and more to do with the fact that there are, like I said just so many highs and lows, and the piece itself is just a bear. Katie as a character is a very, very active person. She’s up and she’s up and she’s up until she hits the ground and when she hits the ground she hits it pretty hard. That’s the challenge, keeping up the energy. I think it’s different from what I’ve done recently, but it’s definitely something I would love to do again.
Now Katie is not the character that is getting married, correct? Do you have any personal experience being a bridesmaid or one of those “night before the wedding” kind of friends?
Maura: No, Katie is not the one getting married. And I will say that I have been a bridesmaid. These girls are not bridesmaids. This is definitely not— I would not want these girls to be my bridesmaids, let’s just say that. If I was getting married I would not want these three next to me, or really anywhere near my wedding. Now that’s just the characters. The actresses? They’re wonderful. Claire O’Brien (playing Gena, one of bride Becky’s three friends) and I have gotten pretty close, I love her. But the characters themselves? Katie and Gena and Regan? You don’t want them on your team. It’s a little like Mean Girls with Regina George and her click. It’s Mean Girls meets Bridesmaids that’s the way I would describe it.
The show is happening in a very unique found-space black-box. How does having the audience right there in that intimate space effect a show like this?
Maura: I will say that it’s a challenge, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference to me having the audience so close. But I think for an audience member this is a great show to be so close for, we have these really small and sweet moments that happen and having the audience so close to the stage really helps them see those moments more fully. We don’t have to worry about whether or not they can see me in the back row. As an actor for me it’s no big deal, but for an audience member I think it’s pretty great. That’s what’s great about it; you get these intimate moments with the characters and you can really see what’s going on.
Is there a moment in the show that really defines the show for you and your character?
Maura: Huh, that’s funny. Well, Rob (Director Rob Batarla) has always said he wants the audience to be nervous whenever Katie is on stage. He wants them to be nervous that she’s going to laugh, or cry, or break something, or fall down; you’re not sure. She’s a hurricane. There’s no way to contain her. When she’s happy, it’s extreme elation, when she’s sad, she’s dismally crushed. I think you really get the sense of who Katie is from her first line, which happens to be “What the fuck?” I think my first line, I come on stage— and Rob has said it— it sets the tone. This is not a show for kids. This is fun, but this is an adult show. I think it really sets up that Katie is a loose cannon.
Is there a moment that splits your gut open with laughter or really makes you realize these aren’t the best type of people? Or a little from both moments there?
Maura: Yes! Of course there is but I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet! I think the show sort of speaks for itself in that regard. There are some really just gut-wrenching moments where you just feel absolutely gutted. There is a point in Act II where after I come off the stage, I just need a minute. People can’t come up and talk to me, I just need to be left alone for that minute to decompress everything that just happened on that stage. The first scene is all laughs, it’s just so fun. The night starts off at such a high. Me and Claire and Bri (Brianna Goode as Regan) just running around having the best time, but then…you know…it takes a turn. And those nights do take a turn. Nothing good ever happens after 2:00am. Or maybe after midnight, nothing good ever happens after midnight and this is a perfect example of that.
You are a rather sweet person. What are you doing to bring yourself to a familiarity with Katie or bring Katie to a familiarity with you since you’ve described her as this spastic, energetic mean girl?
Maura: One of the things that Rob talked to me about is that at her core Katie is very sweet. She’s very empathetic, she feels for everything. Some of the things she says are terrible, she does say mean things, but at her core you’re rooting for her. There are other characters in this show that you might not be rooting for, but for her you want to see her make it through. At her core, she’s trying, you know what I mean? The cast jokes all the time, who said it— Katie or Maura? Did Katie say this or did Maura? I think I’m a lot more similar to the character than I realized when I auditioned for the part. I am quick to say I’m very different from the character, but there is something about the energy that she has; that frenetic excited energy that I totally can relate to.
What has taking on this role taught you about yourself as a performer?
Maura: Oh my goodness, I think I’ve learned that I don’t quite love sparkling apple cider. If you come see the show you’ll see Katie drinking champagne. It is in fact me drinking sparkling apple cider. I go through about a bottle and a half in the 75 minutes of the show. And I’m really grateful that I have some off-stage time to use the ladies room! But what I’ve really learned is that I can challenge myself and it’s ok. I’ve really physically pushed myself with this show and I’m ok emotionally. It’s been a very cool experience to get to work with these actors who I didn’t know going into the show. They are so great and so kind, and they know how to share the stage well. And they’re good to share the stage with! I think I learned I can take a hit both physically and emotionally, which has been really cool. But mostly? I don’t like sparkling apple cider.
What is it you are hoping people will walk away with when they see this show? The message, maybe, or the impression they get, or the conversation they will have in the car-ride home?
Maura: Gee, that’s tough! There are so many different conversations I think people are having after this show. I know when my mom came to see it she had a lot of different questions for me. It’s hard because I don’t want to give anything away, and I don’t want to prime anyone’s mind to be focusing on one specific thing, I think that’s the beauty of theatre, people are individually able to take so many different things away from a show. What’s great about the show is that it can make you laugh, but it can also make you so uncomfortable. How do I word this without giving it all away? Well, if nothing else, it will give the audience a sense of appreciation for this really great writer. She’s a really cool feminist writer who writes great contemporary plays that just don’t get put on as often as they should be. I hope that this show will make them look up Leslye Headland!
Why should people come and see this show that you’re a part of?
Maura: People should come and see Bachelorette because it’s a fun night at the theatre and you never know what is going to happen. Because what the fuck. Because who knows. You should just come and see it because it’s great!