Blog Less Traveled: ‘The Clean House’ star Victoria Perez speaks
blog by Scott Behrend • April 26, 2013 @ 10:54pm
We just opened the Western New York premiere production of Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House at the Road Less Traveled Theater (710 Main St., Buffalo), which allows me an ideal opportunity to spend some time chatting with one of my favorite local artists, Victoria Perez, who just happens to also be one of the stars of The Clean House.
Victoria’s work as an actress and a director has made a major impact on the local theater community over the past several years. She won an Artie Award for Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria, but intrepid theatergoers are likely to remember her most passionately for her powerhouse performance in Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman epic Twilight: Voices of the L.A. Riots. Besides being a member of the Road Less Traveled Productions ensemble, Victoria also founded and helms RLTP’s Raices: A Reading Series of Voces Latinas—staged readings of contemporary Latino plays that RLTP is proud to host several times each season. Today Victoria talks about The Clean House and director Derek Campbell, Raices and the future of Buffalo theater.
Scott Behrend: The Clean House is really an ensemble piece, and yet your character, Matilde, very much serves as the lynchpin for the play.
Victoria Perez:: Matilde’s parents were comedians. She was so connected to them, and their relationship was one filled with love, joy, and laughter. She wants and needs to find the perfect joke as a way to mourn their deaths—only through finding the perfect joke will she understand their deaths and feel that connection to them again. And that journey serves as the conclusion to the play, but all of the women in the play are the glue that hold it together. All of them are at a point in their lives where something big needs to happen in order for life to proceed.
SB: All of you are in very good hands with Derek Campbell…
VP: The trust that I have developed for him is immeasurable. He came in with a very specific and distinct vision and that allows us to have a very strong foundation to build upon. During rehearsals, he constantly paid homage to the writing—therefore, so did we.
SB: What were some of the discoveries that you and Derek made together, as a team, that you might not have arrived at individually?
VP: He gave me the right amount of space and information for me to be able to create and build the character—never too much or too little—always just enough that only through reflection am I able to realize that he always had a plan.
SB: So let’s talk about ‘Raices.’ I’m really proud that you present this series at the Road Less Traveled Theater. What was your initial inspiration?
VP: I love the Latino community in Buffalo and just always felt that what the community is missing is the power of the theater experience. I know the difference it has made in my life. Therefore I want to share it with others.
SB: Has there been a highlight of the series for you so far?
VP: Each and every one of the readings have been an emotional joy ride for me! But my favorite moment was during the first reading of La Gringa. The play deals with the identity issues of a Newyorican women who longs for her roots in Puerto Rico and her struggles in finding acceptance. During the Q&A, a woman made a comment that, during the play, her young daughter turned to her and said, “Mami, thats me up there.” That’s what it’s all about. That moment when you see yourself on stage and it serves as an immediate moment of reflection—it just puts it in perspective.
SB: That’s an awesome story. It’s been really encouraging to notice how much enthusiasm there is for this program in the community!
VP: It’s very simple—this community is ready! Rolando Gomez, Sheila Lopez and I have been theater professionals for quite some time, and we have had ups and downs when it comes to getting our community out to the theater.
SB: But ‘Raices’ is such a unique commodity in Western New York.
VP: It was just time. Creating a community that goes to the theater— I think its just the right time to make it happen.
SB: So what’s the next step?
VP: ‘Raices’ Voces Latina was a need that I had to celebrate my people, to shed light on who we are, to give opportunities to Latino actors to perform— to pay tribute to great Latino playwrights. The biggest feedback I’ve gotten out of the readings is: what do you need in order to do a whole production? What we need is the community’s continued support. ‘Raices,’ as the group of artists we have become, will continue to push to bring our voices to the stage and to keep making theater that empowers the Latino people. Hasta la proxima!
Buffalo theatergoers can indeed see Victoria soon—in The Clean House, also starring Peter Palmisano, Mark McMahon, Tina Rausa and Margaret Massman, through May 12 at the Road Less Traveled Theater —and at the ‘Raices’ Voces Latina presentation of Coser Y Cantar by Dolores Prida (followed by selections of music, dance, and poetry) on April 28 at 6 p.m., also at the Road Less Traveled Theater.