Beth Hylton is currently playing Sarah in Everyman Theatre’s production of Time Stands Still. She has previously appeared at Everyman in All My Sons, Filthy Rich, and And A Nightingale Sang. At Fringe NYC Beth has appeared in Lucky Man and 3D World. Other NYC credits include shows at Todo Con Nada: Loves Labors Lost and Vital Theatre Company: Disappearance Conundrum. Regional credits include productions for Maltz Jupiter Theatre: The 39 Steps; Delaware Theatre Company: Blithe Spirit; Weston Playhouse: Death of a Salesman; Public Theatre of Maine: On Golden Pond; Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre: House and Garden, Private Lives, An Ideal Husband ; Olney Theatre Center: The Savannah Disputation, The Heiress; Woolly Mammoth: Martha Josie and the Chinese Elvis ; Ford’s: The Heavens Are Hung In Black , Member of the Wedding and Kennedy Center: Mister Roberts. Beth is co-producer and co-founder of The Actors Salon in DC.
What was your first professional job as a performer?
Oh my. Well, I made a star turn as a purple panda in Revenge of the Space Pandas (by David Mamet) (clearly early in his career, or at the end of a really cold, hard Vermont winter) at a children’s theatre in Memphis just after I finished college. I wore an enormous furry purple panda costume and painted my face purple; as I recall, there was a whole scene where we ate instant oatmeal dyed violently pink and blue with food coloring. I worked at the theatre for a year: after the summer children’s theatre a small company of us toured Shakespeare to junior high and high schools. I moved to NYC at the end of that contract.
Can you please tell us about your character in Time Stands Still?
It is such an honor to play this role! The basic character outline is that she is a war photojournalist wounded in a roadside bomb, who comes home to recover and consider her future as a war photographer, and her future with her longtime partner, a fellow journalist. Director Jason Loewith really steered this ship with great integrity, and had us all asking really interesting questions about bravery, commitment, about walking nobly in the world. We were lucky enough (through cast member Jimmy Whalen, who plays Richard) to get to meet with some National Geographic photographers and photo editors including a celebrated war photojournalist who covered the Balkan wars through the 90s and now covers the Middle East. There really are only a handful of people, we learned, who do what Sarah does at that level. So I think she feels a real obligation to help these stories, the stories of what happens to ordinary citizens in the middle of a war zone, get told. As an artist, on a personal level, of course I feel a kinship with some of the choices she makes: I have missed a lot of events in my life and in the lives of my family and friends, in order to be at opening nights or to make a callback. I spend a lot of time on the road. And I love what I do, intensely, and feel sometimes that is IS a calling. I think most artists will say that they feel that way. But unlike Sarah, I have a 9 year committed marriage with the most supportive husband imaginable. Of course, he isn’t sending me off to a war zone, and when I hit the road it’s usually for two months at a time, so it’s easier to support than Sarah’s choices might be!
It’s also really delightful to play someone as clear-eyed and unstinting as Sarah is: she really says what she thinks. I get to say and do things (particularly in my scenes with Mandy) that perhaps we might be THINKING but we so rarely ever say OUT LOUD. How much fun is that?!
One of the questions raised in the play is about addiction, whether or not Sarah is addicted to the adrenaline rush of her work, but I don’t really think so much about that: I don’t know that Sarah is ready to talk about her work as an addiction (at least not yet), so as an actress inhabiting her, I am not really thinking so much about that either.
You have performed in a good number of the classics (Ibsen, Coward, Wilde). Are you particularly drawn to those kinds of plays or does it just happen that you are cast a lot in those kinds of shows?
You know, I am not exactly sure! I am certainly drawn to good plays and have some good classical training: I feel very comfortable in the world and with the words of these playwrights. I pride myself in not feeling that I live less authentically in a Noel Coward play than I do in, say, a Margulies play. I don’t treat “style” as this otherworldly thing: it’s just the framing of the play. Within any kind of “style” or historical context, plays are always just about people and relationships: it’s our job as actors to make those people seem absolutely real, and human, and hold the mirror up so the audience can see themselves. Of course, Wilde and Coward use such fabulous words, and the people featured in their plays are sometimes terribly glamorous. I think I am pretty smart about comedy and that may have more to do with the casting in those classics than anything (my comedy skills had nothing to do with Ibsen, however): comedy is math, and figuring out jokes, how to play them, is like a really satisfying crossword puzzle with a long laugh at the end. And being able to show that I understand comedy in an audition is probably how I ended up in so many Coward plays, for sure. I love working on new plays, as well, and find it thrilling to be in the room with the playwright as he or she wrestles with a new work. Hopefully I will get to do more of that in the coming years.
You are co-founder and co-producer of The Actors Salon in DC. Can you please give us a little history?
Gladly! I co-produce The Actors Salon with actress Liz Mamana, and actor-director Cody Nickell recently joined us as a fellow actor-producer. Liz and I started talking about what eventually became the Salon shortly after we met in 2003: we finally produced our first Salon (Philip Barry’s HOLIDAY) in the fall of 2009. We wanted to find a way to combine the excitement and exhilaration we feel as actors in rehearsal with the celebration of an opening night, and bring that exhilaration to the audience, so that they can feel more actively a participant in the act of creation: in that first moment of discovery. We produce rarely-produced American classics in an event setting, modeled after the Salons of the early 20th century: it’s really a lovely elegant cocktail party, and then a play starts, right in front of you, no light change, no filter or illusion of filter, scripts in hand, and marvelous (truly marvelous) actors doing plays we might otherwise never get a chance to hear or see. We fully stage these plays in one short weekend, so you do actually get a chance to “see” them, not just hear them being read. We do American plays because there is a wealth of great plays from the 20th century that simply aren’t done: it has been such a joy to rediscover these plays and share them with an enthusiastic audience.
After Time Stands Still at Everyman Theatre closes where can we see you next?
Well I have a little slot in October-November that I am trying to fill but I am so glad to say that I get to return to Everyman to play Ivy in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY as they open the new building in early 2013! I get to work with a really marvelous group of resident Everyman artists and guest artists: it is going to be so much fun and such a thrilling ride! DC is home, but I divide my time professionally between DC and NYC and have, of late, mostly worked out of town: things in NYC cast closer to the date, so I will be auditioning to fill up the rest of my season in the coming months!