Christine Morris, associate professor of theatre, is resident voice/dialect coach at Triad Stage. She started coaching there in 2006 and first acted there in 2008. She averages one acting role a year. She has a prominent role in “Providence Gap,” which opens this week – and she coaches actors for many of the productions throughout the year. “If it’s got an accent, I have probably worked on it.” Lots of subtleties in voice help you embody a character. She notes that she is from the North Carolina piedmont, and which syllable in “police” a person stresses, for example, can convey a lot about their social class and education. Before she and her husband Jeffrey West (Theatre, adjunct) came to Greensboro, she’d been on the Duke faculty for more than 10 years. Duke would host productions before they went to Broadway. She was brought in to coach a kid on “A Thousand Clowns,” starring Hollywood actor Tom Selleck. “He was very aware of his Magnum PI thing [his image].” It was his first play. He said, “Well, why can’t she coach me?” She did. “He was a very willing pupil.” She acted in the Triangle area, just as she had in the 1980s in New York. There she’d worked with the New York Shakespeare Festival, as well as at Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre and with the avant-garde Richard Foreman. Her acting has included voice-over work – even on IVR voice system recordings. For CW, she channels the role: “Press 1 for ___. Press 2 for ___.” Hey it was an acting role, of a sort, she says. She has also coached privately, including work with television journalists. And directed. When she came to UNCG in the mid-1970s on a four-year Spencer Love Scholarship in the Arts, who knew all the roles she’d ultimately play and people she’d get to know. She and West watch the Tony Awards each year, pulling for various individuals they’ve crossed paths with. This year they’ll record it – there’s a “Providence Gap” performance this Sunday night, when the Tony’s air. This year, the set designer for Triad Stage’s “Providence Gap” and “Bloody Blackbeard,” Alexander Dodge, is up for a Tony for Broadway’s “Present Laughter,” she notes. And 2001 graduate Chris Chalk has a role in “Fences,” which is nominated for best revival. There are plays Morris would love to direct someday, such as “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore,” Sam Shepherd’s “Curse of the Starving Class” and “Fen” by Caryl Churchill. And there are roles she’d like to act. Like Coriolanus’ mother, whom Shakespeare depicts as rather cruel. “I’m not sure what that says about me,” she jokes. And other Shakespearean roles as well. “I never played Juliet. It sure would be nice to play the Nurse.”
Playwrights I love
- Anton Chekhov Great female characters. We just did “The Seagull” [at UNCG Theatre]. It’s messy. Really funny and sad at the same time. Life, if we’re lucky, is like that. … I like characters who are muddling through the best that they can.
- Tennessee Williams Blanche Dubois [in “A Streetcar Named Desire”] is doing her best. Stella is doing her best. Leaving for New Orleans is the best she could do for herself. The Williams family is such an interesting family. I wrote and acted in a play about his sister, Rose, who had mental illness and a lobotomy. It was “Blue Roses,” for Chapel Hill’s Archipelago Theatre. I did some of the research in the Williams archives, which are held at the University of Texas. [As I held family letters in my hand in the Williams archives] I had to move my face to not shed tears on them – they’re screwing up but they’re doing the best they could.
- Romulus Linney A treasure of American theatre. If you talk to theatre people, they’ll say “Ahh, Romulus Linney.” Father of Laura Linney, who is up for a Tony. North Carolina often claims him – he spent his childhood in Boone. … I was directing a play of his at Duke. [We conferred about an idea.] He asked my age. He said, “I have a one-woman play. I want you to look at that.” He gave me this play, called “Silver River,” which is based on an early novel of his. Over a period of two years, I did it in several venues throughout the U.S.
- Caryl Churchill Ahh, Caryl Churchill. Engaging playwright who uses language in real exciting ways. “Top Girls” is great fun.
- William Shakespeare He gets it – the ways the sounds play off each other. He tells you when to breathe. If you can figure that out, you can do anything. … Pay attention [is what I tell students]. The good ones give it to you on a plate. Sometimes, as an actor … just pay attention. Don’t make it hard.