As part of our ongoing Meet the Cast Calendar Girls Blog Series, let us introduce you to Karen Weber:
ROLE: Lady Cravenshire, 60s; Brenda Hulse
AS DESCRIBED IN PLAYWRIGHT TIM FIRTH’S SCRIPT:
Lady Cravenshire really doesn’t mean to be so patronizing. But the WI girls seem from another world. The world of her estate workers.
(Tim Firth does not describe Brenda Hulse in the script. She is a dull guest speaker at the WI.)
DIRECTOR MARY FINNERTY’S COMMENT:
Karen’s task in the play is to play two upper class characters very differently: Brenda and Lady Cravenshire, and I wanted someone who could play each as a real person. Karen possesses a strong upper class bearing; she can play that and is also a director so has lots of ideas to differentiate the two characters. She is an actor with a clear vision about their differences. She understands her own context and how to conduct herself.
QUESTION FOR KAREN:
Brenda Hulse and Lady Cravenshire both come from uppercrust, high society. How did you consciously differentiate the two?
I think the thing that Brenda and Lady Cravenshire have in common is that they are not originally from this tiny little dale. They are both highly educated women and come from a higher income bracket than the women of Knapely. As such, they speak with a very proper dialect, project a sense of superiority and are automatically afforded social deference as class differences are more noted in British society.
How that superiority is played, really, is the essential difference in the way I approached these two characters.
Brenda is something of a self-proclaimed, self-made Academic–an essentially insecure woman whose life has a singular focus and insular scope, and her self-esteem revolves around her rank in the national WI organization. She displays superiority over the women of Knapely with her judgmental approach and thinly veiled condescension. In her case, “High Class” doesn’t mean she HAS class.
Lady Cravenshire, on the other hand, is far more confident in her rank and right. She is the only one who is “to the manor born,” and this allows her to come from a place of appreciation and graciousness with the women of Knapely. Where Brenda finds Chris’ actions grating, Lady Cravenshire finds Chris’ actions creative and worth congratulating.
Together they help to round out the world of the play and point up the social obstacles that the women of Knapely face in choosing to do this calendar.
Park Square Communicating Doors, Becky’s New Car Representative Theatre Ordway: A Little Night Music; History Theatre: Hiding in the Open, The Grand Excursion, Fireball; Bloomington Civic Theatre: Follies, A Light in the Piazza, Master Class; Theater Latte Da: A Christmas Carol Peterson, Burning Patience; Minneapolis Music Theatre: Bat Boy the Musical, Chess; Plymouth Playhouse: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Illusion Theater: Autistic License