8 Questions with Tami “The Girl” Dixon

1. When did audiences last see you on-stage at City?

The City Theatre audience might remember me cavorting around the stage as Julie, the pink shoe’d, bad haired basket case from The Missionary Position. Prior to that turn I played Dora in The Muckle Man. I was also a participant in City Theatre’s past two Momentum Festival: New Plays at Different Stages as Jessica in The 13th of Paris and Dora in The Muckle Man.

2. How many characters do you play in A Marriage Minuet?

In A Marriage Minuet I play six different version of Girl. Though most of my characters didn’t have names in the script I took it upon myself to dub them as follows: Sam (total lack of interest) “Bookstore Clerk”, Cindi (with an I) “Bookstore Customer”, Brenda (Bitch) “Waitress”, Victoria (sign my boob) “Classy Chic” and Laura (I want to write so BADLY) “Sweet One”.

3. Do you have a favorite?

Though all my “Girls” are dear to me, I think my favorite is Brenda (the bitch) Waitress. I love a character that in so few lines can convey a lifetime of pain and suffering coated in a smart-ass veil of humor.

4. Is there a trick you use when playing many characters in one play? How does it affect your approach?

This is not my first go around with playing a number of different characters in one show. I have found that the trick, as with any other character, is to approach each one specifically and distinctly. Having so few lines and therefore so little time to get the idea of who these women are across to the audience is a definite challenge. In my head I have a history for each girl and that history informs my delivery.

For instance, Sam “Bookstore Clerk”, spends her days stocking the shelves and ringing up customers, but at night she rehearses with her band “Fool For Love” in her boyfriend’s basement. She’s biding her time at the bookstore until her new CD “Women Who Run With Scissors” drops. She hopes to pick up a label and an agent so she can take her leave from inventory and ISBN numbers.

5. There are so many costume changes in the play, especially for you. What’s it like backstage?

Backstage is a traffic dance to say the least. With the crew and actors running about moving set pieces and exchanging props it can get a bit chaotic. Fortunately, we have a cast and crew of professionals very aware of their responsibilities. I make 9 costumes changes. Thanks to Marcus (our wonderful costume designer) I have a basic palate from which I add and subtract shirts and accessories. With my good friend and extraordinary dresser, Ange Vesco, I am in great hands. We have a number of very quick changes and there is an art to timing what comes off/goes on first and who is going to do what. For example at one point I run off stage from Bookstore Clerk (Sam) and jump right into Bookstore Customer (Cindi). I unzip my jacket, Ange hands me my shirt. She unties my sneakers while I button up my shirt. She hands me my glasses as I slip on my other shoes and I run to the other side of the stage all the while completing a new hairstyle to enter stage right by the time Douglas finishes his speech. I thought I would have a lot of time to lounge around in my dressing room catching up on some reading, but boy was I wrong. I’m running from the minute we start to the minute we come down.

6. What makes working on a comedy different from a drama?

Tami as Julie in THE MISSIONARY POSITIONComedy comes with its own set of rules different from the approach to a drama. You can spend a lifetime working on a joke and the appropriate delivery. Stand-up comics build their sets through years of trial and error. The audience is a very important component in the delivery and acceptance of a joke. Timing is of the essence and the inflection of the voice, the hold for listening and understanding, and the send up of the punch line requires a connection between the actor and audience. I tried my hand at Stand up comedy while living in New York and though I consider myself a fearless performer, I have never been so frightened while on that little stage in my life. That experience had to be the loneliest time I’ve ever had performing.

With drama the actor weaves the story in a sort of silence and trusts that the audience is with them every step of the way. It is rare to have the confirmation of audience understanding while performing a drama barring the occasional “ooh’s” and “gasps” that comes with the deeply dramatic tragedies. With a comedy the actor gets that confirmation immediately; laughter. I think it’s easier for people to laugh (though very hard to make people laugh) then it is for people to vocally respond to a drama; it is a rare and sacred occasion that an audience member will keen during a live performance.

The stage is, at its best, a reflection of our lives, albeit sometimes distorted like a fun-house mirror. Most people will jump at the chance to escape into humor as a means of release. Whether you laugh or cry at your life reflected on stage, the result is a movement of consciousness so necessary to the growth of humanity. Neither comedy or drama is more important than the other and it’s hard to say that one form is easier to portray. I enjoy doing both, but I will say that after a comic performance I’m left feeling light and airy.

7. And since this is a play chock-full of literary references….what are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading a few books. I normally don’t like to start one book until the other is finished but I have been introduced to some many great books lately that I can’t help myself. I just finished up A New Earth by Eckart Tolle. This is a great book for anyone looking to make a serious change in the way they approach their life. I’m starting it all over again so I can really move away from my ego and towards the present moment. I’m also reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen. This book is a bit textbook-y, but full of sad information about the way we eat and the incredible destruction that method of eating is having on our bodies and our environment. Then there is Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury — my third attempt at getting through this book. I know I’ll love it but something is blocking me. I was inspired to pick it up again after reading about Elevator Repair Service’s stage adaptation running in NYC right now.

8. What is currently on your i-pod?

Currently on my i-pod I have about 300 songs. Since I live about a 20 minute walk from City Theatre I have had a lot of opportunities to listen to music on the go. I’m looking into starting an all female dance party (sometimes you just want to shake your sugar without being oogled or pushed up on by some sweaty mouth breather) and so I’ve been rocking out to Beyonce. I love that woman. She has an incredible voice and her lyrics are so damn funny. She also has phat beats which help to get me to the theatre in record time. I also love me some Amy Winehouse. That girl can throw and her lyrics are also pretty funny.


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