by Justin Brady
Between 1974 and 2010, Priscilla Lindsay acted in 57 Indiana Repertory Theatre productions and directed 22 more. With that track record it should come as no surprise that her return to the IRT stage for the first time in four years has been met with rave reviews. Tom Alvarez, Indianapolis Performing Arts Examiner gave The Game's Afoot five stars, writing "from the moment Lindsay made her entrance, she charmed the audience with her portrayal as Gillette's ditzy-yet-kindhearted mother Martha...," and Katelyn Coyne of NUVO adds "... former IRT darling Priscilla Lindsay returns with an effortlessly funny performance." Lindsay now serves as Chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama at her alma mater the University of Michigan. In her Q&A she discusses her busy life as a professor, previews the The Game's Afoot and discusses her return to Indianapolis.
Sky Blue Window: What have you been up to since you left IRT to chair the Department of Drama at the University of Michigan?
Priscilla Lindsay: For the past four years (can you believe it's been that long?), I have been in Ann Arbor, chairing a faculty of 20 fabulous folks -- directors, acting teachers, designers and theater scholars. Our department has over 230 students, and we have a full season of main-stage plays, student-produced plays and all kinds of guest artists and special productions. Each year we have to fill out a "Faculty Activities Report" to send in to my dean, and I can't BELIEVE all the stuff I did!
SBW: How did your many years of IRT experience help you in the position?
PL: Well, certainly my 12 years heading up the Summer Conservatory for Youth honed my teaching and administrative skills, but I think the biggest influence on me was Janet Allen. She is an amazingly efficient and inspiring leader, and I learned so much from being on IRT Senior Staff with her, and just being at her side as associate artistic director for seven years.
SBW: As a professor now, do you have any essential words of advice you frequently give students pursuing theater as a career?
PL: I tell my students (all undergrads) to be patient, keep up classes and skill training and never make enemies.
SBW: What brought you back to the IRT for this production?
PL: It's not for want of trying that I haven't been back before this! But each semester at Michigan is chock full of events, special projects and student work to see and evaluate, not to mention the meetings and the productions themselves! So getting away is next to impossible, except in the summer, when IRT does not produce. I got special permission to leave our spring semester early so I could come to IRT for this great opportunity to work with the wonderful Peter Amster and this amazing cast of old friends and new.
SBW: What is your favorite role you performed on the IRT stage?
PL: My favorite role has to be Shirley Valentine. I did two complete runs of that show -- in '93 and '97, I think. She is a courageous, funny character and women identified so strongly with her.
SBW: Do you have any dream roles you would love to play?
PL: Boy, I try not to choose dream roles, but take what is offered to me; that way I am always pleasantly surprised! But I guess I would love to play Lady Bracknell from The Importance of Being Earnest, and Mrs. Warren from Mrs. Warren's Profession.
SBW: Can you give us any spoiler-free insights into Martha Gillette, the character you play in The Game's Afoot?
PL: Martha Gillette is a deliciously dotty gal, a wacky combination of Spring Byington and Billie Burke with a little Margaret Dumont thrown in for good measure! If you are too young to know these grand ladies of early films, then think of your favorite auntie: sweet and well-meaning but sometimes unpredictable.
SBW: You've appeared in murder mysteries before, including Whodunnit and Ten Little Indians; what is it about the murder mystery genre that makes it so perfect for the stage?
PL: It's so much fun to take the audience for a scary but fun ride into the world of red herrings and suspense. Everyone likes a good mystery, especially if it involves a little tongue-in-cheek humor and special effects. We've got all those elements in The Game's Afoot, and more than a few surprises.
SBW: How has your return to Indianapolis been?
PL: I have had a BALL in Indy ... getting together with old friends, seeing my son and daughter-in-law and their two beautiful girls, enjoying springtime in Indiana. I am reminded of what an incredible arts institution IRT is, and what it does for this city and the state. It makes me very proud to have been a part of the IRT for so many years.
Catch Priscilla Lindsay in the final performances of The Game's Afoot at the IRT through May 18.