Quick Wit: Nancy Carroll
A familiar Boston theater face talks abouts her life on the stage.
Nancy Carroll is a native of Massachusetts, and after having lived in the midwest for most of her life, returned to Boston 14 years ago. She has performed many functions in the theater industry, including actor, director, choreographer and producer, and in particular, Carroll spent five years with the Dan Goggin musical Nunsense.
Boston audiences have seen her most recently as Evelyn in the critically received Kindertransport at the New Repertory Theater. Other Boston appearances include Penny in Four Baboons Adoring the Sun at The Tremont Theater, Elaine in A Point of Departure at The Huntington Theater, and Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa at The Worcester Foothills Theater. She will next be appearing in Melinda Lopez's new play, The Order of Things presented by Centastage at The Boston Playwright's Theater in April. What I want to know is, How do you plan a nun for five years and keep it fresh? It wasn't really five years exactly. Prior to getting the show I had never done a run longer than six months, so when I hit six months I thought "how can I do this?," but when I started in the show, I was actually the swing, so I had five different roles to play during my first four months so every day I had no idea who I was going to be. And at four months you... I became Sister Amnesia, the "satellite" of the show--definitely on her own planet. Great tour though--I bet you got to see the planet. A lot of it. I was on the road with the show on the national tour for two years playing the Reverend Mother. 136 cities. Oh my God. Not only was I getting to the see the world, but I was getting paid to see it. And to adjust to all those different cities and theaters. Oh, yes. You pull up to theater at 6pm and we had something like five different variations of the set, depending on the size of the house we had to play. Time for favorites--favorite theater you played? For Nunsense? The biggest one was West Point. Everyone had their white gloves and caps on their laps and I remember thinking how organized the audience looked! Favorite city? That's hard. Some cities just surprised me--like Omaha. The architecture! They've restored so many of their buildings. And Albuquerque. Favorite moment? That's hard too! Well, I'll tell you a great story. I don't remember what city this was, but when I was in Nunsense, the star of our show was Dody Goodman. Anyway, we would be in the house greeting people and this very elderly couple comes down the aisle--you know, they had season tickets to whatever show was coming into town and there were probably five shows coming in that year. Anyway, after they were seated, the husband turns to his wife and says "which one is Debbie Reynolds?" In all, how many productions have you done? I stopped counting around 80. And the first time you were on stage? I was seven--I took ballet from the time I was six...and my first time on stage a Christmas fantasy. And you went directly from that to an Equity contract...! Exactly! Do you have a least-favorite show? (Following a tremendous laugh.) I think it was...a production of The Music Man. I liked the show and I liked the people but the director decided to cut the children and the marching band so it was kind of...lacking. I stopped doing musicals 4 years ago. Do you miss musicals? I miss dancing. I miss some of the dance but I've done so many musicals that I don't miss them. I feel like I gave them my all. And four years ago when I decided to only go for straight plays I just needed more artistic satisfaction. Before we leave the subject...favorite musical role you haven't played? Only one...the Countess in A Little Night Music. You conquered Sondheim! I did!--I did Company--Joanne. Come to think of it, one more role--I'd love to play Mrs. Lovett. So this was quite a career change. It's been great. And the play I just closed is truly my favorite professional and personal experience. It was Kindertransport by Diane Samuels. It was done in New York--it started in England--then it was moved to the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1994. Dana Ivey played the role that I just played. My director for this production was Adam Zoller. Interesting title...what is it about? It's a compilation of the stories that Diane Samuels gathered from different individuals regarding their personal experience of being shipped out of Germany--as children--before the outbreak of World War II. The majority of the children were sent to England, some to Belgium--places where there weren't strict quotas. 10,000 children. The youngest was 18 months; oldest was 15 or 16. You were playing one of children grown up. You meet this woman who has grown, but was she one of the kindertransports--Evelyn, one of the grown-up children. And her daughter actually finds some letters from my character's parents in the play and that's when the truth about her experience as a kindertransport comes out. There must at least be some of those children left. There are a lot of them. And there are a lot of kindertransport survivors from the Boston area; sometimes they would join us every Sunday matinee for a "talk back" with the audience. Not only was the show beautifully put together, but meeting these people that we were, in a general sense, portraying in the play...it just blew me away. And these people do remember being shipped away...the transports were in 1938-39, so even the oldest child is only about 75 or 80 now. There's something very theatrical about history come to life. There is. And I'll tell you, during the "talk back" after the final performance, a man got up and said he had been on one of these trains--he was one of the transports--and he never knew what they were called. He said he had never spoken of the experience except to his wife. It was an absolutely uplifting experience. So...here's some Quick Wit questions. Near or far? Far. Up or down? Up. Black or white. Black. Yes or no? Yes. Why or why not? Why not!