Audrey Ahern talks about Acting in The Ghost Sonata
Many of our readers have expressed an interest in seeing more interviews with the artists who work at Undermain. With that in mind, I sat down with Audrey Ahern, who plays the Young Lady in The Ghost Sonata, to chat about her experience with the show, her training, and her return to Dallas.
Last Spring, Audrey received her MFA in Acting for West Virginia University. As an undergraduate, she studied with Patrick Kelly to receive her BA in Drama. Audrey is a native of Texas and moved back to Dallas after earning her MFA.
Q: What has your experience been like working with Patrick Kelly on The Ghost Sonata?
A: When I worked with Patrick as an undergraduate, I couldn’t really compare his style to anyone else’s because I hadn’t actually worked with any one else before. Patrick is a real actor’s director. He gives you room to play and to make your own creative decisions. Some directors will be very rigid about what they want, and that’s not a bad thing, but its also not the most fun. Patrick is able to guide you along without telling you what to do.
Q: Do you think that any of your past roles have helped prepare you for your role as the Young Lady?
A: This role is like no other role. (As a side note, in the first play I did with Patrick at UD, Mary Rose, I had to sit on a guy’s lap for a very long time. So when I saw the publicity photos for The Ghost Sonata, I thought, ‘it’s just like my first play with Patrick!’ It was pretty funny.) Though I really think that every role prepares you for the next one.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the 3rd Scene of Ghost Sonata, which is a notoriously difficult text. What did you do to prepare for that scene in rehearsals and on your own?
A: The problem with Act 3 is that it is very vague, and as an actor, vagueness is your enemy. In rehearsals we worked a lot on making poetic sense of the language. I’ve probably never worked on one scene so much, ever. From there, I did a lot of work on my own and in rehearsals bringing in specifics. It was like going back to the very beginning of actor training, just finding objectives, because in this text things are just so unclear. One thing I worked on a lot was the section where I list my chores and then interact with the cook. There was a challenge in making that foreboding rather than silly.
Q: Has your understanding of The Ghost Sonata changed drastically since working on it? Do you feel very differently about the play?
A: When I read the play in college as well as before I began working on it, I just thought it was the weirdest thing. Working on it, I’ve come to appreciate that you can enjoy The Ghost Sonata as a theatrical experience and not necessarily understand it completely for it to move you. It resonates with me emotionally differently every night. Strindberg takes the things we feel and can’t express and puts those feelings into a highly poetic, theatrical language.
Q: Do you have any favorite moments of the play?
A: The very end of the play is so much fun to do. I also really enjoy doing the bracelet magic trick. I have different favorite moments every night. I always enjoy listening to [the end of act two], but I have never actually gotten to watch that part.
Q: Why do you think your favorite moment changes so often?
A: Every role I do changes every night. Maybe its because this play is so poetic that what resonates with me has to do with how I’m feeling that night. What resonates with me isn’t based on clear given circumstances so I have to recreate those circumstances for myself every night.
Q: This is a very broad question, but how did your experience in grad school help you as an actor?
A: WVU’s program is almost entirely based on Meisner technique and honestly, that helped me more than anything I’ve done as an actor. It helped me to stop thinking so much, to live in the moment, react off my partner, be very specific, learn how to bring in my own emotional truth without putting anything on top of the script, so that it’s in harmony with the script and then to play and its intent. I also learned a lot of vocal stuff in grad school. Like how to say “pen” instead of “pey-un” like I used to do, which helps because I say that word about 3 times in Ghost Sonata.
Q:How has it been to be back in Dallas?
A: It’s been great. I signed with an agent, and working in Ghost Sonata has been awesome. I’ve also done a few other shows around town. It’s nice being home. I’m hoping I can start working in multiple cities and hope to start auditioning for parts in Austin as well as Dallas. It’s also a lot warmer than West Virginia.
Q: I just have to say how much I love the costume that Giva Taylor designed for you. You must feel very regal wearing it.
A: I do feel very regal in my costume. I love the riding hat and it kills me that I only get to wear that for a few seconds.