Courtney Rose Brown
Wellington actress Harriet Prebble sits down with me in a break from rehearsals to discuss life as an emerging artist. Her performance in Gifted last year (written by Patrick Evans and directed by Conrad Newport), earned her a nomination for both Most Promising Newcomer and Best Supporting Actress in the 2015 Wellington Theatre Awards. This year, she has performed a leading role in the Caryl Churchill double bill season at BATS Theatre and now she is tackling Stage Kiss, her second Circa Theatre show, written by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Ross Jolly, for a season this July.
With a degree in European Languages and postgraduate study in Publishing including an internship with Penguin books, Prebble has made a conscious decision not to study theatre. Prebble has still managed to constantly perform without study, ranging between amatuer and more profesional work.
“I think you do learn by doing and you learn by watching, well at least I do. There’s definitely a lot of technique that you can learn, that I have had to learn through trial and error. So people come out of drama school and they can project and they know how to move their bodies and those kind of things,” Prebble says. However, she mentions that it has worked in her favour with directors liking her difference in style.
With other performers having attended drama school together, Prebble says it’s difficult as they have pre-established connections and relationships with each other. “Connections are good because lots of directors just want to know that someone is easy to work with and is friendly and will turn up on time and that sort of thing. Being a good actor is important but it’s also those other hard working aspects. So once they know that you can be there for the show, once you’ve proven that aspect of yourself it’s easier.” Prebble says.
“Of course it would be a dream to do nothing but drama everyday for three years.”
Writing is something Prebble may be interested in pursuing in the future, but it is not a short term goal as she is choosing to focus on performing and not to pursue other aspects of theatre. “Backstage roles kind of terrify me. There’s so much responsibility and they work so hard. If you forget your lines you can improvise. But if there’s not a prop onstage or the lights haven’t come up or something, it’s obvious. You can’t fluff your way through it.”
“A lot of people ask if I’m a performer because it makes me happy. But I would say that I am a performer because not performing makes me unhappy. Performing brings me up to neutral, as opposed to giving me extreme levels of ecstasy. It’s just what I need to do to survive, and when I don’t for a long period of time I get all grumpy and sad.”
“A performance life, it just needs to be there.”
Prebble likes to keep busy, which is true of her current schedule; starting work at about 6 or 7am until 10am, straight to rehearsals from 10am-4pm and then returning back to work afterwards as well as working weekends.
With full time rehearsal over four weeks and then a run of four weeks Stage Kiss “is really great. It’s a comedy, it’s really funny and I think that it’s particularly funny for actors because it’s kind of meta. It’s about actors having to act with each other and it’s a play within a play. It’s a lot of fun to do.”
The cast is tight and professional, Prebble says and “everyone has that right combination of professionalism but also ability to not take themselves too seriously.” Through performing Prebble says that intense connections are formed with cast mates, sometimes creating bonds that last forever as well as providing many learning experiences.
Stage Kiss is a “quick-paced, modern, witty, comedy. A play within a play, and the play within the play is a 1930s melodrama. The changes in between that are funny, have a New York style chatty, modern ‘Friends’ kind of thing and then it goes to the melodrama and then it goes to them dropping out to ask the director questions.”
Stage Kiss at Circa Theatre
July 2-30 (preview July 1)
Show times vary - to book tickets or to read more visit circa.co.nz