Hamlet’s Mother Finds Her Voice at Bruka Theatre in March
Terri Gray has been performing on northern Nevada stages for some five decades. She is cast in the epochal role of Gertrude in Jeanmarie Simpson’s When Churhcyards Yawn, workshopping at Reno’s Bruka Theatre in March.
VS: When Churchyards Yawn playwright and director says that you are “astonishingly dimensional” in the role of Gertrude. Having played the role twice and directed the show twice, that’s no small compliment coming from her. How do you feel about playing the character so far?
TG: I’m having a great time! I get to be sarcastic and snarky at times. I get to rage against the men in Gertrude’s world (including God, if you consider the deity a man). And I get to portray Gertrude’s discovery of her own weaknesses and forgiveness.
Terri Gray as Hallie in Buried Child, 2015
How did you come to be in the show?
I went to the staged reading [in July 2021] at the Potentialist’s Workshop because a number of my friends (Kirk Gardner, Michael Peters, Phil Harriman, Annika Larsen, Gary Cremeans, and Jeanmarie) were in it. I also enjoy Shakespeare and love to see any kind of adaptation or sequel to the original work. (Think: The Compleat Works of William Shakespeare and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.) I told Jeanmarie I thought it was wonderful and that if she ever got tired of playing Gertrude, I would love to play it. She told me about auditions, I went, and now (after a pandemic and a few other hiccups) here I am.
How do you feel about working with the rest of the cast?
I love working with the rest of the cast! Some, like stage manager Kathryn Weber-Karp, I’ve known since our freshman year in college when we pledged the same sorority. And through, Katie (I’m one of the few who still calls her that), I then met her now-husband Kevin, and went to their wedding reception 40 years ago! I’ve also known the Gabriellis, Cathy and Bob, for a long time, and although Cathy and I have been in a couple plays together, I’ve never acted opposite Bob before – he’s a wonderful, apologetic Claudius! The other actors are now newer acquaintances, but I really enjoy what they bring to the script.
Thoughts about the writing and directing?
Obviously, I think Jeanmarie is a wonderful writer since I wanted to be in the play after having heard it at the staged reading. I admire how much research she put into the script, and how she incorporated many of the lines from Shakespeare’s work but gave them to different players. For example, my first line, “Now could I drink hot blood and do such bitter business as the day would quake to look on,” is actually one of Hamlet’s lines in Act III, Scene ii. As a director, I like that Jeanmarie has allowed us to offer different staging ideas, and has altered her own staging when it doesn’t flow just right.
What drew you to the script, specifically? What made you want to do it?
The Churchyards script gives Gertrude a much meatier backstory and range of emotions than the original play. I think the idea of all of Hamlet’s tragic characters being in Purgatory together is thought-provoking. Additionally, I think the script is funny while pondering that big question of “Why are we here?”
When Churchyards Yawn opens March 10 to 25, 2023 at Bruka Theatre in downtown Reno. For more information and tickets, visit Bruka’s website.