Columbus Makes Art Presents: Behind the Scenes with Mandy Fox of Actors’ Theatre
Mandy Fox is an actor, director and voice specialist. She is an Associate Professor and Resident Vocal Coach for the Department of Theatre at The Ohio State University, and is also a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Voice and Speech Trainer Association. We sat down with her in anticipation of ATC’s upcoming production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, playing June 21 – July 15, in which she is in the director’s chair.
Scott: Describe your art and your creative process.
Mandy: I am a director, actor, vocal coach and theater-maker. The process for Frankenstein has included extensive preproduction work including collaborating with a composer, Theo Jackson, and adapting the script for modern audiences. Rehearsals began with extensive conversations about the history and traditions associated with the novel, which helped us develop some final details about our backstories and approach. Then we got up on our feet and we’ve been on our feet ever since.
Scott: How do you recharge and/or refine your artistic process?
Mandy: I recharge my artistic process by stepping away. That can mean to completely stepping away like spending time in my garden or it can mean merely stepping back, like watching a run-through with fresh eyes. I’m a big believer in keeping fun and spontaneity in the process.
Scott: How long have you been acting and what is the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself along the way?
Mandy: I’ve been acting since the fourth grade. I’ve been singing even longer than that. Of course I did plays in school and when I graduated high school I went onto Otterbein University where I received a degree in Musical Theater. After that I went on to the Yale School of Drama and shortly after that I was on Broadway in The Last Night of Ballyhoo, which won the Tony that year for best play. When I was still living in New York, I decided to escape the heat and run a summer camp drama program in upstate New York. While there I had a bit of an epiphany and realized that what I really wanted to do was be in the rehearsal room with other artists every single day and the most exciting way to do that was to teach at the university level. So now, I train other artists and I learn a little something new from them every day.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself is to trust my gut. And to encourage other artists to do the same.
Scott: What role are you most proud of?
Mandy: I’d say it’s a tie between two different roles: Sister Mary Aloysius in Doubt by John Patrick Shanley and Nancy in Frozen by Bryony Laverly. Both were electrifying experiences, each for different reasons.
Scott: What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Mandy: Why not you!? Why can’t you be the one in a million to succeed!? [Thanks, Mom].
Scott: What’s the best advice you feel you can give?
Mandy: Same as the answer before.
Scott: How do you feel about the difference between teaching and performing? Do you have a preference?
Mandy: It’s hard to compare teaching and performing because they’re like apples to oranges. I guess I “perform” every day as a teacher by way of my classroom persona but I don’t think that’s the nature of what you’re asking. It’s thrilling to see a young artist surprise themself with what they’re capable of. Often times, the actor may not be the most talented, but if they’re willing to work hard, they can quickly surpass others who might be more naturally gifted. The truth is, there will always be people better than you, but if you set your mind to it, no one can outwork you. When I encounter a student who understands this and is up for the challenge, it’s very inspiring; it’s just as inspiring as a great performance. When I’m directing, I get to experience both joys simultaneously and that’s divine.
Scott: Describe one of your favorite moments working with Actors’ Theatre.
Mandy: There are so many favorites, it’s hard to choose one. One that pops to mind was a few years back when I directed a 1980s version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. When Malvolio gets locked in a dark cell, we pulled up the stage manager’s cherry-red convertible VW bug and stuffed Malvolio in the trunk. It was so strange and fabulous and it never could have happened anywhere but the park.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.