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STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
It was 2nd grade, my first school play.
I played the "mom" and we had to
sing songs about America and Liberty.
I stayed involved in school plays and
took any chance I could to perform.
I even had myself convinced that I was
Shirley Temple and would tap dance
around the kitchen.  My Aunt still calls
me "Twinkletoes" to this day because
of it!

What hooked you? Was it your first school play-movie-first time seeing a Broadway Show?  What inspired you to be where you are today?
I was hooked when I landed a leading role in the musical "Good News" in 8th grade.  In my school, it was considered a big deal... I got the part because I could sing loud -- not that I was any good... I was just loud!  My high school acting career really inspired me to be where I am today.  Those were some amazing times of growth and learning.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
The first Broadway Show I ever saw was "Les Miserables".  It was magic to me.  I was in high school at the time and decided that I just had to be involved in theatre for the rest of my life.  The first non-musical play I ever performed in was "Bus Stop".

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I studied acting in college and graduated with a BA in Theatre from SUNY Geneseo.  I also studied scene design extensively and considered pursuing a career in sets and props.


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
My first audition was for that 8th grade musical "Good News".  We had to sing "I believe the children are our future" by Whitney Houston.  To this day when I hear that song I belt it at the top of my lungs.

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director the theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
Timing, really.  I'm open to all types of plays, directors, theatres.  I
prefer straight plays to musicals and will do a bit of research on a show before I make a final decision to audition, but in general, timing is everything.

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
I have never been pre-cast in a show, but I can see a need for it.  There's a limited amount of talent out there, and if a director wants to do a particular show, I can see how it would be important to insure that they would have the cast to pull it off.  I do advise that casting be open enough so that if someone new walks through your door and knocks your socks off, you can cast them appropriately and not shoot yourself in the foot.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
This is a wild question at this point in my career because when you've been involved in school and college plays for so long, you get completely typecast into a certain role.  Because I am tall and I have this deep alto voice I was always playing old people and I have to say that I got really good at it!  Directors would be amazed by how well I can play an 80 year old woman.  Now that I am doing more regional theatre, I am finally getting to explore roles closer to my own age.  It will be interesting to see if  there is a new "type" I will be cast in.

Looking back on the roles you've been cast in, do you think there's a
certain kind of role you get cast in repeatedly?  When directors look at a certain role, what do you think they see as a "Heather Fleming" type?
I am ever changing and ever evolving as a person.  I hope my skills change and evolve with me, as well as the type of roles I get to play.



CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
Play Analysis.  I read the play over and over for clues to the characters
life, and anything that is missing I take the time to make up myself.  Then I try to find pieces of the character that are "me" and bring as much of my own life as I can to the character.  Then I let the other cast members finish the character off, by listening to them and reacting to what the other actors are doing and saying.

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
Usually, my favorite is whatever character I am playing at the moment.
Right now, it is Rita in "Prelude to a Kiss".  I get so wrapped up in my
characters that I fall in love with them... until the next one comes along.
;-)

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
My favorite roles were Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!", Kate in "Brighton Beach
Memoirs", all the various roles I played in "The Dining Room", and Rita in "Prelude to a Kiss".  My worst was probably Margery in "Vinegar Tom" - not because it was a poor performance on my part, but because it was a very strange play.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
My greatest challenge was playing Felicity in "The Shadow Box".  I was a very old, dying woman confined to a wheelchair.  It took about two hours for me to get into makeup -- my then waist length hair was sprayed from roots to end in silver and, at the time I played this role, I was only 19 years old!  It was an amazing transformation for me -- to see through this character's eyes, feel what she feels.  I think I met the challenge very well and that no one else could have done what I had done with this character.  Ironically, I was originally cast as Beverly, the young, alcoholic ex-wife of one of the other dying characters.  Talk about complete opposites!


What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
I would love to revisit Dolly in "Hello, Dolly!".  Not because I didn't get
it right the first time, but because it was high school and I think I can do it even better now.  That show is just so much fun to do!


What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I would love to do more Shakespeare productions.  Ophelia in "Hamlet" is one of my dream roles, as is Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" and Helena in "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
I never feel more like myself than I do when I'm performing.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
Learning and experiencing new things, and being able to live life in other people's shoes, even if for a brief period of time.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
I love those jitters -- I get them worse than anyone I know! I'm an
adrenaline junkie I guess -- I do it for the thrill.

SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
I was watching a young theatre group perform some Greek myths -- these kids must have been about 12 years old.  The set had some tall white columns placed on it, and this kid playing Zeus sat on a platform, watching the myths being performed from above.  One of the myths had just ended and, as the kids were leaving the stage, one of their costumes got caught on the column and sent it toppling over, much to the delight of Zeus who said, "My my, that one really brought the house down!" I don't think I ever laughed so hard in my life.

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
Nope!  I'm the one who usually saves the other people who drop lines, miss cues, or start cracking up on stage.  I'm a safety net -- if you're on stage with me, you've got nothing to worry about!

What was your worst theater experience?
I haven't really had a bad experience in the theatre (knock on wood), but then again, I'm always making the most out of any bad situation.

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
I'm always embarrassed the first time I ever have to kiss another actor.
That first kiss is always the worst!

OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Because they cast me.  I'm not picky about what theatres I perform at.

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
I hope it does, as I have no place else to go!

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
The people I had the privilege of acting with at SUNY Geneseo were amongst the most talented, dedicated, and loving people I have ever worked with.  I have just started to work with people on Long Island, so I hope to add many more people to this list as I continue my career.


Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
Heather Ashby.  She and I were a fierce team in college, and she had done some regional work on Long Island, but she now resides in Pennsylvania.  I hope she's still acting, wherever she is.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
Drew Barrymore and Kevin Spacey are my favorite performers.  I am currently in my very first Long Island show, so I don't have a favorite LI performer yet.  Joe Cavagnet has been great to work with, especially when he smiles!

LIFE ISSUES


How do you maintain your career and do theater?
I work part time as a web designer, which allows me plenty of time to pursue other interests.  My hat's off to those of you with full time jobs and families who also find time for theatre -- you amaze me!

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
It's incredibly fun!  I really enjoy working with new people and learning
from them.  I hope they enjoy working with and learning from me as well.  I love the sense of family you get with a cast... those moments of hysterical laughter, of breakthrough performances, of amazing brilliance that makes all your hairs stand on end... it's just wonderful!

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
My family is very supportive of my love of theatre.  My husband is going to see my act for the very first time when I perform in "Prelude to a Kiss" in July!

How has performing enriched your life?
It has brought me amazing joy.  Performing allows me to be and experience things I would never experience in my boring everyday life.  I learn a great deal about the world and about myself when I am performing.

 
FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
Irrepressible laughter at the most inopportune moments.

What really irks you?
People who don't realize how their actions affect those around them.

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would...
I would pay off debt, purchase a house, and support local theatre.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Yes!  Beauty can be bought! haha

What's your favorite word?
Lunatic - when used fondly, of course.

FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I will be performing as Rita in "Prelude to a Kiss" at the Clare Rose
Playhouse in Patchogue (631) 654-0199
July 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21    8:00 PM
July 8, 15, 22    3:00 PM

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's
desire?
Emily in "Emily" by Stephen Metcalfe, and Catherine in "Proof" by David Auburn.

For more information about Heather, her Theatre History and other Quirky Facts, check out her personal website at  ttp://www.poesy.com.

An Interview With...Heather Fleming
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