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an interview with...Joan St. Onge
photo by
Monica Humsjo
STARTING OUT

How did you get started in theater?
My father took me to my first audition at the age of eight. I would always watch T.V. and recreate the dramatic parts for my parents. 

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 enjoyed being a child actor but didn't take it seriously until I saw "The Illiad" performed by The National Theatre of the Deaf.  I was hooked for life.

What was the first play you ever saw?  Ever performed in?
My first part was Mary in "The Children's Hour" at the Alley Theatre in Houston,Texas.  It was also the first play I saw.

Did you study acting?  If not, how did you get into it?
I went to the High School of Performing and Visual Arts in Houston for 2 years to study acting.  I've also taken several classes in New York.


GETTING IN

What was your first audition?
See my first play

How do you choose what play you will audition for?  The piece itself, the director, theater, you were pre-cast, etc.
All of the above

Speaking of pre-casting, tell us how you really feel about the subject.
As an actor I have been pre-cast and as a director I have pre-casted.  Sometimes it's a necessity.

What types of parts do you normally play?  Do you feel typecast?
Recently, I've played the "comic relief" ( i.e. the nutty neighbor, the goofy gardener).  I've never felt typecasted.  Every part is completely different.

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 "Joan St. Onge" type?
I think directors see my stand-up comedy background and that's what makes them cast me in those type of roles.  Fred DeFeis (director for the Arena Players) once said that I'd do anything for a laugh.  He may be right.


CHARACTERIZATION

What is your approach to developing your character?
I always do an extensive internal background on the character.  That way I can approach it from many different angles

Of all the characters you have portrayed, who is your favorite?
This is a tough one because I have so many favorites.  However playing Queen Gertrude in "Hamlet" gave me the most prestige and I didn't go for the laughs.

What do you think were your best roles?  your worst?
My best roles are yet to come.  My worst?  Well, I played a brontosaurus in a childrens play for 479 performances.  I thought I died and went to hell.

What roles offered you the greatest challenge and why?  How well do you think you met the challenge?
I loved playing Elizabeth in "Catholic Schoolgirls" because the audience sees her go from 6 years old to teenager to adult all within the span of the play.  I think I did pretty well, on my last speech I looked over and saw my husband crying.

What role do you wish you could have a second shot at and get it right this time?
The actress in Lewis John Carlino's "The Exercise".  I was so young when I played her, now with my life experience, I think I could do a better job and I WILL play her again.

What roles or types of roles would you most like to play in the future?
I would like to do more Shakespeare.


MOTIVATION

How do you feel when you perform?
More alive then any place else on earth.

What motivates you to keep on doing what you're doing?
The next role.  You never know what's around the corner.

During opening night jitters each one of us has said, "Why do I do this to myself?"  Why do you do it?
The applause, of course.


SHARING

What is your favorite theater story?
I've had over 35 years in the theatre and that's a lot of stories.  I once auditioned for Joseph Papp and peed in my pants ( I was so nervous)

Did you ever miss an entrance, drop enough lines for it to be noticeable, crack up on stage?
Oh god, yes.  In the play "Wings" I rolled Hume Cronyn out for his scene ( his character was a stroke victim in a wheelchair and I was his nurse).  I was so sick with the flu that I laid down and forgot to get him  off stage for the next scene.  He had to roll himself off stage.  It was very awkward but he was real nice about it.
          
What was your worst theater experience?
See Brontosaurus

What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you on stage?
In "My Fair Lady"  my dress got caught on a nail that was on a moving set piece.  Wherever I went, the set came with me. 


OTHERS

Why do you perform at the theaters you do?
Because they ask me

Do you think regional theater will continue to grow on L.I.?
I hope so.  There's alot of great theatre here if people would just get over the stigma that it's not Manhattan.

Who are some of the actors you've most admired or who have been particularly rewarding to work with?
I've worked with some big name actors but some of the best actors I've worked with are right here on Long Island.

Who's the best (in your opinion) that you've done a show with?
I just finished a show with Michael Lang and Linda Ramzell, and all I can say is WOW.

Who is your favorite performer? favorite L.I. performer?
I like actors who completely immerse themselves in their roles ( i.e Robert Duvall, Gary Oldman). Naming my Favorite Long Island performer would get me in trouble


LIFE ISSUES

How do you maintain your career and do theater?
theatre is my career

Why do you spend so much time toiling in L.I. Theater?
Toiling implies hard, exhausting labor.  It is only a labor of love.

Do you find that your family supports your love of theater?
Without the support of my family I wouldn't be in this business.  My husband is my greatest fan

How has performing enriched your life?
Performing gives me a creative outlet.  If I didn't have that I'd probably be up on some water tower shooting at people.


FUN

What brings you the greatest joy?
Lights going down, music coming up and the show is about to begin.  Whether I'm in the play or watching one that rush never goes away.

What really irks you?
People who don't learn their lines

If you won LOTTO tomorrow you would.
Definitely buy me own theatre.

Is it true that you'd really rather be rich than good looking?
Who said that?  I want names

What's your favorite word?
Champagne

Assuming that there is a heaven, what do you want to hear when you get there?
Rehearsals start tomorrow


FUTURE PLANS

Do you have any projects on the horizon that you want the readers to be aware of?
I am working on an original sketch comedy and improv show to be performed at The Arena Players Second Stage Theatre on February 27th.

Given your choice of parts in plays, which play and role is your heart's desire?
Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"