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A Touch of Platinum, a Taste of Steel :: Liz Adams Chats About The Hub's 'Magnolias'

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jul 11, 2019

Liz Adams has graced the Boston theater scene in Shakespearean tragedies and Bard-o-licious neo-noir; taken a turn with Zeitgeist Stage Company's final production and been a recurring cast member for Hub Theatre Company's shows; studied neuroscience and taught primary school kids about stagecraft. She's back with Hub Theatre Company now for a role in the classic "Steel Manolias," a play about women whose beauty is not a hallmark for wilting weakness, but is rooted in their fundamental strengths. (An extra jigger of fun is to be found in the fact that the production is this year's visit by the Hub to the performance space at Club Cafe, an annual tradition by the company that's always a good time.)

EDGE was delighted to catch up with Liz Adams and hear her thoughts about the play, her career, and the end of a longtime local critics' organization (to which, full disclosure, this writer once belonged).

EDGE: To start with — congratulations on your recent Elliot Norton Award nomination for the role of Gertrude in the world premiere of "Noir Hamlet."

Liz Adams: Thank you!

EDGE: You've also been honored with a win, in 2017, from the IRNEs, for your role in "Wit." What is your response to the recent disbanding of the IRNEs? I know that many Boston theater artists had advocated that the IRNEs diversify and better reflect the city's theatrical landscape — do you have a sense something new will emerge in the wake of the IRNEs?

Liz Adams: The whole discussion blew up. I'm so grateful to the IRNEs, for their encouragement and for their support of my work, and more broadly, for all they've done for so long to help nurture Boston's theatre artists. I have tremendous affection for the IRNE reviewers I've gotten to know over the years — this art form is a conversation, really, and they've been a hugely important part of that conversation for me.

I signed on to the letter fairly late, hoping we could all discuss some things. And the IRNE folks have been working so hard for so long, and trying to expand their ranks with new writers from different parts of the community for so many years, that I certainly understand their decision. I'm truly sorry to see the organization disband. I certainly hope something new emerges, and I'm hopeful. I've heard people kick around various ideas half-seriously, but I also know people are so stretched thin trying to keep the work going that I don't know what will develop. Maybe we can do something sort of like what the Obies do, with a Boston flavor.

EDGE: You've been in so many plays I'm not sure I could list a representative selection of them here, and despite that you have done work in neuroscience and you're also an English teacher — plus, you've been working with school kids in a bilingual school, teaching them about theater! You clearly have many interests — is theater a way to explore them all?

Liz Adams: Ha! Yes, the body of work seems to be a combination of brand new work and Shakespeare (or both! Noir Hamlet, and Bad Hamlet!) — go figure. Theatre definitely gives me a way to use more of my whole self, more of the time, than anything else I do.

EDGE: Hopefully this isn't a matter of pure superficiality, but — a year or so ago you suddenly embraced a different look, with a striking bleached, short hairstyle. I had the sense that maybe your acting changed a little along with the hair color. Did that switch enable you to explore new avenues or new kinds of characters?

Liz Adams: What an interesting question! I think my work has developed and changed over the years — at least I hope it has! — but how interesting to see your perspective on that journey. It did solidify some new opportunities for me, though I didn't really notice that until you asked about it.

From my perspective, the hair thing was functional: I'd just shaved my head for "Wit," and as the hair grew back, and I had only directing projects coming up for a few months, I thought it'd be fun to mess around with bleaching it out and dyeing it green. I've always been open to doing anything with my hair that a role requires, and it's been neat to see designers really lean into that. My headshot photographer David Costa helped craft a spiky blonde image for my most recent set of headshots, and I'm still really having fun inhabiting that. I dyed it red for "Trigger Warning" at Zeitgeist, and it's back to blonde now for the time being.

EDGE: You're playing M'Lynn in the Hub Theatre Company's production of "Steel Magnolias." You've been in several Hub productions before now — did Hub approach you for the part, or was it something you heard about and decided you would try for it?

Liz Adams: It was a little of both. They approached me about it and asked me to come in and read, which I did, and then some while later asked me to come in again, which I did, and then they offered me the role. I love working with this company, so it was an easy "yes."

EDGE: Would you say a little about how you see M'Lynn and what your approach is to playing her?

Liz Adams: I'm going to be pretty inarticulate, I'm afraid — we're deep in rehearsals and basically everything I have to say about the role is going into the role itself. I see M'Lynn as very practical, and torn — there are no painless options for her, for so much of what she goes through in this play. The wedding, the baby, letting go, trying to not be in control of everything all the time — she struggles with all of that. We just get on with things as best we can, and M'Lynn embodies that.

EDGE: Paula Plum is directing, which must be a sublime experience. Have you worked with Paula as a director before?

Liz Adams: It is indeed sublime; I'm so lucky. This is the first time I've worked with the great Ms. Plum as a director. She's a delight.

EDGE: Is directing something you might like to get into, along with acting and teaching?

Liz Adams: I do a little bit of directing now and then; it's such a different way of working on a piece. I do have to contend with the problem of only having so many hours in each day...

EDGE: "Steel Magnolias" was a play (1987) before it was made into a feature film (1989) — I have the sense that it was an early stage work in showing a strong female cast, and regrettably that's still something of a rarity even now. Does it seem to you that the central metaphor of "Steel Magnolias" — feminine strength — is something that we're still, in a remedial way, in need of seeing represented on stage?

Liz Adams: You're right — it is still rare, and that's not really how things should be, is it? Thirty years later, you'd think we would have moved a little further along, right? It's still a bit of an event to see a play with a bunch of women in it talking about what their lives are really like, so yes, let's hear more of the voices of women, and let's make sure that especially includes women of color and non-binary women; the world is so huge and magical and we need to tell more of the story of what the world has in it. We absolutely need to make theatre with as full a range of human voices as we can.

EDGE: I read on our blog that you'll be back with the Hub this fall for "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot." What can you say about that project?

Liz Adams: Oh gosh! Good question (what *can* I say?) Well, Steve Bogart is directing, and it'll be lovely to finally get to work with him again. I'm really excited about my cast-mates, and intrigued by where we'll go with this script.

EDGE: What other projects do you have coming up?

Liz Adams: Other than "Judas," I'll be doing my usual assortment of oddball performance work heading through the fall and winter: murder mysteries, singing, and I just signed on to start doing tours with Ghosts and Gravestones, plus I'll continue being a pretend senator at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate, being a pretend patient for medical students, and whatever else comes along.

I have a couple of small directing projects, too: A friend wrote a really fun piece that she premiered in New York, and we'll be retooling it a bit for the end of August in Chelsea ("Captain Cobalt and the Sinister Scientist" — there are a lot of bananas involved), and there are some shorts here and there, too.

Thanks so much for asking :)

"Steel Magnolias" runs July 19 - Aug. 3 at Club Cage. For tickets and more information, please go to http://www.hubtheatreboston.org

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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