Topher Payne, third year Hilberry actor, is currently appearing in The Lunar Stratagem’s production of Dead Letter Office at the Berkshire Fringe Festival. The performance is being directed by past Hilberry guest director, Matthew Earnest (Much Ado About Nothing, Marat/Sade). Over the next week we will chat with both Matthew and Topher about their experiences with the festival!
This is your third time working with Matthew Earnest…What do you enjoy about having him as a director?
My favorite thing about working with Matthew Earnest is his all-encompassing vision. For Dead Letter Office he has written the script, staged and directed it, choreographed the dances, and designed lights. His shows are such strong cohesive pieces, focusing on the narrative and spirit of the play.
What kind of character do you play? Have there been particular challenges to it?
My character is a lover of language, history and words. He relishes his job, but at the same time loves to complain about the facilities and company. My favorite part of him is that he will get personally offended by people who use bad grammar or commit what he calls a “postal code foul” (using the wrong zip code)! he’s the funny old guy who’s worked at every company way too long!
What has the preparation for the piece been like? Describe the process a bit for us…
The process was a little tough. I’m replacing one of the original cast members so I had to come onto the rehearsal process 100% off book, and having watched the DVD of the original production. It was challenging to jump into the show with two other cast members who were so comfortable with the show and had such a strong bond between them. Fortunately, both of the other actors, Shawn and Nicole, have been very friendly and welcoming — making me feel like I fit right in.
Have you ever performed in a big theatre festival before? What are you most looking forward to with being in the Berkshire Fringe Fest?
I’ve never performed in a theatre festival like Berkshire Fringe. One of the things that surprised me was that we got 6 hours in the space the day of our performance and then we opened that night. So our opening night performance was the first time I had run through the play with lights and costumes and scenery. Pretty scary, but we got through it unscathed! I am most looking forward to seeing all the other plays and meeting the other artists
You wear a pretty crazy wig, right? How has that experience been?
The wig is awesome! And the make-up designed by Will Bezey is beautiful. Getting dressed up is one if my favorite parts of doing the show.
Dead Letter Office plays at the Berkshire Fringe Festival now through July 24, 2013.