Interview by Laura Ng
Meet our newest featured member, Celia Maurice! Before breaking out to Bay Area theatre audiences, this witty Brit’s acting and music career was already blooming across the pond. Her Bay Area stage journey has leapt and bounded since her early appearances at TBA’s General Auditions—most recently, she received a TBA Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Principal Role in a Play, recognizing her stellar turn in a play by fellow English national Harold Pinter.
|TBA featured member (and TBA Award recipient!) Celia Maurice. Photo: Ben Krantz
You’ve had a wealth of work onstage, not only in the theatre, but also a career as a violist (among mastery of other instruments and languages) and volunteer-administering the Braille Transcription Project. How have these experiences/endeavors influenced your path?
Each time I have had a job outside of the theatre, it is a reminder that I’d rather be on stage. That having an exhausting, annoying, fed-up day in the theatre world is many thousands of times better than having a mediocre day stuck behind a desk listening to people prattle on about, well, whatever Excel spreadsheet or flavored latte is of desperate importance that day.
Working with Braille, I initially had hoped to have a job that would make a difference in people’s lives. My father was a corneal researcher, so this made sense. I have never taken a job in order to discover how people think, react or behave in order to inform my acting. Afterwards, though, I can use snippets. However, working with the Braille project only made me realize that I have an easy life. Can’t think it informed me much otherwise. I know it would educate or elucidate if I said that now I have a basic understanding of what it is to navigate the world, sightless, but I don’t.
As for the viola and piano—music is the one thing I really deeply know. And the practice, daily, of scales and the repetition of phrases within a piece has, indeed, been of massive use when translated into theatrical terms. Actors don’t really have the same sort of daily work unless we are actively preparing for a part (at least that’s my m.o.). On my first day at the Neighborhood Playhouse, Sandy Meisner’s question to our class was whether any of us played an instrument. When I bravely (since I was innocent enough not to be terrified of him at that point) put up my hand, he asked me what I had to do to get to (the proverbial) Carnegie Hall, I gave the answer—practice. Every day. If one can’t manage to play a scale in every key/mode, train your fingers and the bow hand, every day, you’ll have no foundation at all on which to grow. He agreed and then proceeded to tear every notion of “acting” out of our angst-ridden, ego-laden heads.
Still hot off the 2015 TBA Awards, we have to congratulate you on your award for Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role in a Play! It’s fascinating that you were previously nominated for this same role portraying Meg in Pinter’s The Birthday Party just last year. Did that come up when you joined the new cast/production? What was it like to reprise the role so soon?
Thank you! So, last year was funny that way—I did Breaking the Code with Theatre Rhino twice, interspersed by two different productions of Birthday Party. When I joined Off-Broadway West’s production, I was asked some questions about staging and acting styles. But it felt as though we all started from scratch, which made our Finalist nomination for Ensemble feel so happily deserved. The only real benefit was that the lines came back in a snap, so I could really just concentrate on discovering Meg in a deeper, rougher way. Anyway, I love Pinter, and coming from the same area of North London, the words just fit.
You started performing in London, or as you put it, north of “Ye Olde Thames.” Tell us more about coming to the Bay Area, why you chose to be here and growing into the TBA community.
Did I really say “Ye Olde Thames”? How embarrassing. Remove it immediately! Otherwise, next thing you know I’ll be belting out “Consider Yourself” and wearing ragged trousers with a Union Jack embroidered on my bum.
Ah, well, moving here. That’s far too long a story. I didn’t choose to come here. We moved from London when I was a teen. Of course, now I feel as though I have been embraced, and am really a part of the community.
What is your favorite part of being a Theatre Bay Area member?
Having a family that speak the same language, can play together and cheer for each other.
Having lived so many lives, what are your dreams for the future? Is there anything else you’d like to tell our TBA readership, as an actor or otherwise?
There is plenty more theatre I want to do. Restoration and Jacobean isn’t done much, and I’ve barely done any Shakespeare and would love to do so. I’m now interested in new pieces as well (thanks to Jeffrey Lo)—updated classics, etc. I can’t really do anything else, so I’m happily stuck with you lot. There are a couple of actors and directors I’d love to work with, and if I had any sense of how to market myself, I’d list them here, in bold. Next up, I’ll be reunited with director Susan Evans as Mrs. Warren at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre.
What to say—I’ve been very lucky to have had near-constant work in the last four years. One's time does come. As I stumble into my dotage, I hope to meet many more of you out there in the trenches and continue the lively exchange of humanity in all its forms. And if there’s a lot of giggling, count me in fer sure*.
*“Fer sure” was in an American accent just so y’all know I can do one.
Theatre Bay Area members: Creative. Committed. Community.