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Annie Parisse Is Truly Bard

The popular stage and television star talks about spending the summer doing Shakespeare in the Park. logo
Annie Parisse
in All's Well That Ends Well
(© Joan Marcus)
Annie Parisse has made memorable stage appearances in such works as Prelude to a Kiss, Clybourne Park and Becky Shaw, and is well known to television viewers for her work as Julia Lindsey Snyder on As the World Turns, and Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia on Law and Order. This summer, Parisse will be playing Helena in All's Well That Ends Well and Mariana in Measure for Measure as part of the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park season. TheaterMania recently spoke with Parisse about her upcoming summer gig.

THEATERMANIA: This is your first summer doing Shakespeare in the Park. Was this something you wanted to do for a while?
ANNIE PARISSE: Actually, it never occurred to me, to be quite honest. I studied Shakespeare in college, but this isn't what I have been doing recently. I found my niche doing new plays, but my agent called and said Dan Sullivan, who I worked with in Prelude to a Kiss, is directing and asked my thoughts. I feel it's good to look at Shakespeare from time to time. It's good to work that muscle.

TM: I think it's safe to say that both of these plays are two of Shakespeare's lesser-known works. Were you familiar with them before you were cast?
AP: No, I've never seen either one. I had read them in school, so I had to reread them. A lot of people in the audience have probably never seen them either. These are weird plays. The ideas are complicated and not fully resolved. The audience will have a lot of questions.

TM: In All's Well, you play Helena, the orphaned daughter of a famous doctor. What drew you to her?
AP: Helena is in love with someone who is above her class. I admire that bravado and hopefulness. The journey she goes on is both fairytale-ish and earthbound, if those two make sense in the same sentence.

Annie Parisse and John Cullum
in All's Well That Ends Well
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: Do you consider this play a romantic comedy or a tragedy?
AP: Maybe it's a romantic comedy if you have a really dark sense of humor, but I would consider it a romance, not a tragedy. However, I can see how people would watch the play and think of it as a tragedy.

TM: In Measure for Measure, you play Mariana, who was actually supposed to marry Angelo, the play's villain, but he calls off the wedding. What happened to their relationship?
AP: Two things. First, she lost her dowry in a shipwreck and had no money; and then, Angelo suggests Mariana's reputation was not too great after their engagement. He is a very complicated guy.

TM: Do you find any similarities between your characters, other than their doomed relationships?
AP: The characters don't have a lot in common. Mariana is a much more worldly and wiser woman than Helena. She is of a much higher class and understands more about the world. This is Helena's first love, and she thinks that she can get the guy if she shows that she is worthy of him.

TM: What are you looking forward to most from this experience?
AP: I love New York in the summer. I have never performed in a show outside, even though I've been to Shakespeare in the Park and have seen shows outside. The idea is so crazy and fun. You come out at 7pm or 8pm, and the weather is beautiful. It's such a romantic evening; the sun is setting, and you get to see Central Park at night!

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