updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Performer Profile: Harlie Sponaugle, on the way to November 20th

It's November now, and the show is less than three weeks away;  time for a close look at another wonderful D.C.- area performer.

Harlie Sponaugle in "A Mother Feels her Estranged Daughter's Labor Pains"

Harlie Sponaugle - "A Mother" in the Idylls

     The incident referred to in the title of this piece has its source in the French writer Colette's books Sido and La Maison de Claudine (Sido and Her Mother's House in an English version of the two together), with all marks of its being a real moment in the writer's family life;  though the mother in my Idyll is not "Colette's mother," this piece nonetheless should excite fans of Colette, because of its embrace of her feeling for people and the world of her place and time.

     The acting techniques developed for this project apply with precision to a piece having its basis in prose of such intricate detail, without poetic rhythms for the performer to rely upon as mnemonic and motive;  rather, the flow of the piece is internal (or, of internal person-to-person connection across external and psychological space, an increasing instinctual, sympathetic knowing), so that the "poetic" here is in illuminated moments of the movement of the character's soul in its reaching - or being pulled - towards her child...

     Harlie brings to bear her strong stage presence borne of experiences on the D.C. stages, as well as her skills as a singer applied to the handling of voice and phrasing of spoken word, so that she immerses herself in the flow of the language.  Again, this is a placement and moving within and between the internal and the (created-out-of-imagination, on a bare stage) external, with natural shifting back and forth.  One of the points of focus for the acting technique involved is, literally, a "point of focus":  actor's attention to "direction of address," a technique of fluid, shifting "direction of address" throughout the piece.  At different moments, Harlie's character - the mother - extends her presence and attention outwards towards her absent daughter, or closer, to the surroundings of her own window and yard, or inwards to her memory and thoughts, and viscerally, intensely, to the sensations of her body linking her to the estranged one. 

     Harlie Sponaugle’s most recent role was Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir, the real life story of a New York socialite who followed her dream to be a classical singer, despite her lack of any sense of pitch or rhythm. As a classically trained singer, Harlie found performing iconic arias badly to be a new but exciting challenge. She has appeared in three Shakespeare productions this year: as Duncan and the Medicine Woman in Impossible Theatre’s Macbeth; as Nym in Vpstart Crow’s Merry Wives of Windsor; and as Camillo, Antigonus, and Emilia in the Shakespeare Factory’s The Winter's Tale. While enjoying a satisfying career as a classical singer, Harlie got hooked on acting while playing the role of Bertha, Rochester’s mad wife in the attic in Jane Eyre: The Musical, a role in which she had no lines, sang only vowel sounds, but got to bite and scratch and burn down the house, literally. Other favorite roles include Jenny in Company, Mrs. Verrinder-Gedge and the Singer in Glorious!, another tale of Mrs. Jenkins, and Emilia in Un Ballo in Maschera. Harlie was an ensemble member of the Kennedy Center’s production of Regina with Patti LuPone. She is a 2010 graduate of the Honors Conservatory of The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, and earned her Master of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance from George Mason University. See http://harliesponaugle.com/ for more info.

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