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Denizen Theatre presents "Apples in Winter"

Denizen Theatre presents "Apples in Winter" -- poster/online artwork
Denizen Theatre

Robert, a death row prisoner about to be executed, wants an apple pie. So that’s what his mother Miriam is making him. After his turbulent childhood, this is the one final thing she can give him.

Denizen Theatre in New Paltz, New York presents “Apples in Winter” by Jennifer Fawcett and directed by James P. Rees Thursdays-Sundays until November 14. The one-person show stars actor and activist Jennifer Delora - who joins us now. Jennifer, welcome to The Roundtable.

Jennifer Delora - Sarah, thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

Sarah LaDuke - It is absolutely my pleasure. Tell me how you became involved in this play. And tell us a little bit more about the plot and what the production has meant to you.

Jennifer Delora - Without giving away too many secrets, right? I did a staged reading with the Denizen over the summer, which was a wonderful experience. They're a great company, everybody there is fantastic. And I really love that. And then when they were holding auditions for apples in winter, I got contacted and asked if I wanted to audition. So of course I did. And I got it, which was just amazing. To me, it's a one woman show, it's the first one I've ever done. And I'm almost 60 I'll be 60 in March, which is frightening. And there's not that many roles for women of what they call a certain age, in theater or in anything. So to have this opportunity is is a pretty sweet deal and amazing opportunity at that. So, so happy to get it. And I'm thrilled to be working with everybody at the Denizen and the writing for this play is absolutely amazing. It's so well written, the material is so good and rich. And then you add in the direction of James B. Reese, and working with him was like a master class and acting every single day. So he was able to really pull out just the most wonderful things out of me as an actress and really challenged me more than I've ever been challenged in my entire over 40 year career. So it's been an incredible ride. And in the play, I, as you said, I'm Miriam, and I'm the mother of a death row prisoner and I'm actually while the play is going on live, I make an actual pot, which is pretty cool. Because I'm not a baker, I do not bake. And that I thought was gonna be the biggest challenge of the whole thing was getting me to bake a pie live on stage, while I'm speaking to the audience, and I do engage with the audience throughout the play. And it's been great, the pies turnout, terrific. And the audience is the pies have been great and the audience has been great. And it's really about the relationship between a mother and a child. And and reconciling throughout the entire 75 minutes of the play reconciling you know how a parent contributes to what a child turns out to be or what they do in their life. And what did what part did you play in that? And how do you feel about that? And, you know, her, her loving Him is the biggest thing. It's, it's really it's her love for her son, and that she's willing to do anything for him. And throughout the play. We we take the audience on this wonderful journey of discovery of her talking about it and his childhood and what happened and how he ended up where he is and and how did that all happen? What is my role in that? As opposed to an adult child making their own decisions? And do you have anything to do with that? Or don't you have anything to do with that? Is it nature versus nurture? So it's a fascinating ride and the audiences have absolutely loved it and cried, they laugh, you cry. It's a wonderful roller coaster of this journey of this mother figuring it all out as well while she talks to the audience about it and makes apply at the same time.

Sarah LaDuke - Before my next question, a quick little sidebar, who gets to eat the pies?

Jennifer Delora - Anybody who wants it! I had suggested we auction them off to put the money towards the theater but I've taken one home and it's turned out really delicious. But we usually keep one just in case we need you know an extra pie. God forbid I dropped one or something. But yeah, we we give them to people sometimes one of us takes them home or something like that. Great.

Sarah LaDuke - Tell me about the rehearsal process for this production, please.

Jennifer Delora - Oh, the rehearsals were wonderful. We rehearse every day, every weekday, all day in the theater, with the props with this with the table you know, I cook at a prison table and it's all the stage and the sets and the props are absolutely fantastic. The team has done an amazing job and making it look very ominous and frightening and gross. And all those things you imagine a prison kitchen to be and So we rehearse the very first rehearsal, we did a read through. And then the next rehearsal, my director, Jamie, and our production stage manager, Joe and I made a pie. Together, we had a little pie bootcamp, which was really, really fun. And then throughout it, we did we real I made a pie in every rehearsal, in every single rehearsal. So I've made dozens and dozens of pies by this time.

Sarah LaDuke - That's incredible. How do you keep track of all of the dialogue you have to deliver while doing that complicated business of baking a pie?

Jennifer Delora - Well, it's interesting, because I guess I thought that this, the baking the pie would be the biggest challenge, quite frankly, because again, I am not a baker, by any stretch of the imagination, if I do anything, it's from a mix, you know. So this was a challenge, I mean, I have to use a really big, sharp knife, that's, you know, attached to a wire, because they'll never let you have a loose knife in a prison. And that was challenging. But then the lines, you know, it's a lot, it's a lot of lines. So there were wonderful ways that Jamie helped me to connect certain lines to what I was doing, or to, you know, or what I was doing was a previous lie. So it all really set each other. So the the action of making the pie helps me feed into the lines. And the moments, of course, I'm not talking about the emotionality of the play, but in terms of just the lines, and then the lines, help me remember where I am and making the pie. So it really works hand in hand. And it actually made it an incredible way to work, all of this intense dialogue, to be able to connect one to the other, and vice versa. It was pretty cool.

Sarah LaDuke - You just mentioned the emotionality of the play, what did you draw on to find those moments and the emotionality of the play?

Jennifer Delora - Well, it's interesting, because I'm not a mother, I chose very young that I didn't want to have children, I love them, but I chose not to have them. So to be able to dive into this character, so intensely, who is a mother who just adored her only child was an intense experience and the death row inmate issue of it, I did some research. And there are some other issues that my son Robert, in the play has, which I also talked to a couple of people that I knew, who had gone through a similar experience, such as drug addiction, and things like that with their children, and talk to them and just did a bunch of research. And then with the help of my director, who is just a genius, an absolute genius, he was able to sit and help me find those moments. And then I was able to find other moments in the quiet or in the lines or in what I was doing. And then it just it just grew from there. It absolutely just flowered and blossomed. And the connection to it for me, even somebody who doesn't have a child is so guttural, you know, and how, how would I feel as a grown woman? You know, how did my life? How was my life affected by how my parents raised me? And they were wonderful parents? Or how was it not? You know, were my decisions based on that, you know, you bring in your own life experiences well, and then you just as an actor, you use your research, my training, I was very well trained. And I've got a lot of experience. So you pull into all of that, into being able to make this character real and authentic. And the some of the best comments I've gotten from audience members, because they're having people write down their comments and reviews, on little pieces of paper that they're hanging on this little apple tree in the theater, which is kind of cool. And the other night, I had some of the best comments Ever After the q&a, where people said, Your portrayal of this parent in this situation was so authentic, and there was even somebody there who had a son, who was incarcerated and had drug addiction. And she was in awe of how authentically I was able to bring this character to life without having any personal experience being a mother. So those are the most amazing complements to me that people are truly being moved to the depths of their soul by the content of this and how I'm portraying it. So it's an incredible experience for me and as an actor, I'm still kind of pinching myself that number one, I get to do it. And number two, the incredible compliments and reviews regarding my performance, which again, didn't come from just me I could not be doing this without my team. You know, the costumes are fabulous and the set is fabulous, the direction everything about it is fabulous. And all of those things for me as an actor, feed into my portrayal The character, everything influences that. So I've been very blessed to have this incredibly talented team of people lift me up on their shoulders and push me ahead. And let me take this journey and take the audience on this journey in such an authentic way.

Sarah LaDuke - It seems to me that the partnership between a director and actor must be particularly close when it is a one person show Have you found that to be true?

Jennifer Delora - I have. And I think a director and an actor, this relationship is always very close. I've always had a very good relationship and great, intimate sort of relationship with my directors. I love that, I love directors. And Jamie is an actor's director. He's also an actor. So he really knows what make actors tick. And we developed such an incredibly intense and wonderful relationship. And it requires an incredible amount of trust on both parties. But Jamie was wonderful. And he took me out to lunch. After our first rehearsal, and we sat for several hours talking about life, he asked me all kinds of questions about my childhood, my entire life, what makes me tick, my family, my upbringing, my parents, and he was able to utilize that, and I'm kind of a, I'm very much an open book in terms of telling people about myself. But in terms of keeping up a little bit of a protective wall in my life, I tend to do that to kind of protect myself from, from people picking into my bits. And he was able to do that, and really find those things within me, that I had told him about. And he said, you know, remember when he told me about that? Well use that. That's incredible. And what about this, remember, when that happened? Well, you want to go into that, and had me dive into places that no director has ever made me dive into. And no director has ever been able to, or wanted to, perhaps I don't know, depending really pull that intense, very deep connected stuff out of me and out of my soul in my life, to get this to happen. And, you know, I used to be a B, movie queen. So that's very surface, kind of not very deep characters. Thank you very much. You know, and I've done some really great roles, and I loved my B movie career. So I'm not demeaning that at all, it was an amazing life to have that career. But to be able to dive into this, in such an intense manner, with a director who really just pulled out of me, the best that I could bring, was the most incredible experience and to allow that to happen between the two of us, him trusting me with this piece and choosing me for this piece, and having the confidence and faith in me that I could do it. And then me being able to open up to somebody in such an honest and authentic as well as very sensitive, kind of a way of my very personal life and things that I've probably never told anybody really made it an incredible team. It was just an incredible team to work with. And and he was able to do that and I give so much credit to him. It's because of all of that, that I am able to stand up on the stage and now own this and have fun with it. I mean, it's called a play for a reason. It should be even though it's heavy material, it's laughter There's tears of laughter There's tears and and to be able to take the audience on that journey while I'm taking it every night myself. You know, every night is new every night is fresh every night is is inspired by my audience and how they feed me as well because I make eye contact with everybody in the audience. I talk to the audience for 75 minutes. It's been a ride and none of that would have been capable or able to happen without JV trusting me with this and the producers and the artistic directors that at the Denizen and everybody believing that I could do that because I don't know if I would have believed I could do this before I got this.

Sarah LaDuke - Jennifer Dolora stars in "Apples in Winter" by Jennifer Fawcett, directed by James P. Rees. It's running Thursdays through Sundays through November 14 at Denizen Theatre in New Paltz, New York. Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today.

Jennifer Delora - Thank you so much for having me. Sarah, this is a pleasure to talk to you. I look forward to meeting you in person one day.

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Sarah has been a public radio producer for over a decade. She grew up in Saranac Lake, New York where she worked part-time at Pendragon Theatre all through high school and college. She graduated from UAlbany in 2006 with a BA in English and started at WAMC a few weeks later as a part-time board-op in the control room. Through a series of offered and seized opportunities she is now the Senior Contributing Producer of The Roundtable and Producer of The Book Show.
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