Company Profiles: Marissa Molnar
This is the first in a series of posts profiling our company members — get to know the Synetic family of actors. I sent a few questions out to some company members, and their responses, as well as some info on the actor, can be found in this series. Enjoy!
Marissa Molnar has been working at Synetic since 2006, performing in the family show Grimms Brothers’ Tales at the Family Theater in Shirlington (then referred to as Classika). Her roles on the main stage have been: Hen in Animal Farm, House in The Fall of the House of Usher, the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
1. Where are you from? What is your training?
I’ve been in DC for 10 years, but I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio– ironically the same suburb (Worthington) where Vato grew up, and where Irina’s parents still live. Small frikkin world. Training was at American University, B.A. in Music (Vocal Performance), minor in French. I did mostly classical recitals and music theatre there– I did the singing roles, and then went to the back row for dance numbers because I couldn’t dance.
2. What was it like to start working with Synetic? How was it different from your other experiences?
I was in Grimms Brothers’ Tales at Classika, and Irina [Tsikurishvili] came and did a little movement workshop with us– and I was fascinated. Not only was the creativity and cleverness of the expression boundless and nothing like anything I’d seen before, but it was the first time in a long time that my movement had been encouraged and praised rather than frowned upon because of my lack of formal training. Paata and Irina invited me to come to warmups, which were at Theater J at the time (during The Dybbuk), and I was immediately hooked. The structure of the movement is very logical when broken down– which appealed to my classical-music brain– yet emotionally charged, and leads directly toward storytelling in a way that pure dance doesn’t. As I trained on and off for the next year between gigs, I was struck by the incredibly supportive environment that the company created– there was nothing but gentle encouragement from everyone, especially company vets like Iko [Irakli Kavsadze] and Philip [Fletcher]… you’d get help if you wanted it, but otherwise you were left to work at your own pace, and it just came down to how hard you were willing to work and how long you stuck with it. There was none of the cattiness or subtle competition that I had experienced in class-like situations before, mostly because when you are working that hard, you don’t have extra energy for that stuff– and I noticed that the complainers were, for the most part, naturally eliminated pretty quickly!
Each Synetic show has been a progressive learning experience for me in many ways, but what really struck me my first couple shows is how different the directing/rehearsal process of Synetic is from that of most American-style processes. Where usually, in my experience, we start with a script as the detailed structure and work to bring it to life, make it deeper, and do the writing justice, in Synetic, it seems to be almost the exact opposite in some ways… We start with archetypal characters and a broad plot outline, and then bring the details in as we go along– and what’s amazing about this is that if the plot has to change a little, if scenes have to be dropped or added, if even characters have to be dropped or new characters emerge out of the process, it’s totally okay. It’s painting in broad strokes, yes, but the final picture is flexible– which gives the actors an unusual amount of power and freedom in the process and final product.
3. Do you have a favorite role?
- — the incredibly supportive environment the company creates both in training and rehearsal for learning, trying new things, and working hard as an ensemble
- — the amount of power that the actors have in the overall process, from conception/development in rehearsals to the final product
- — the chance to work with a very different process than anything else you’re going to find in DC
- — the challenge and art of storytelling and expressing details without speaking
- — keeping in shape– or rather, keeping moving– i’m addicted
One night in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Roger and Scott and I were having a ball onstage working up to the big and generally very funny moment when I would get de-skirted. Part of the secret of this was that I would go on for that scene with my skirt’s hook undone, and then just before the big moment I’d surreptitiously unzip it and hold it up behind my back while the audience was distracted by the boys’ antics. Unbeknownst to us, however, my skirt had somehow gotten re-hooked onstage– and when the time came for Scott to pull it down, it just stayed securely on. Oh did the scene get interesting then: we all shared a sweet moment of panic. Scott was literally clawing at the fabric more and more frantically, I was trying to push him away with my elbows so I could undo the hook in the back while making faces so the audience wouldn’t know it was a mistake, while Roger was trying to look like he was pulling Scott away without actually pulling him away… talk about wardrobe malfunction. We never did get it off. Then, to make things worse, we all silently realized that we had no way to get offstage at the end of the scene, since the whole exiting gag was built around the skirt– we had to think fast. When the end moment came, I thought I was brilliant: I pointed off stage right as if I were “distracting” them so I could run the other way… but at the exact same moment, they both decided they were going to look stage left, as if anticipating where I was going to run. Awesome. It was like a moment out of Noises Off where everyone is trying to solve a problem and it goes just exactly wrong. After finally managing to get offstage, we had to re-choreograph half of the next scene in our heads backstage– the big fight scene, mind you– in order to get the stupid skirt off and then get it offstage so we wouldn’t trip on it and die. In the end we did it, and I don’t think the audience realized that we were making it up as we went along… but it was, shall we say, a little less funny than usual.
(Your humble blogger really really wishes he had seen this)
6. What’s next for you?
The Midsummer remount. After that I’ll be at Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo with Jeremy Skidmore’s The Little Engine That Could.