In Revista Mito we have a secret passion for the works of Anton P. Chekhov, so when social media told us that a production was being put up this September in New York by the Pearl Theater Company, leading New York Theatre Company in producing classics, we immediately started enquiring, to find out that there has been a Spanish actress cast in Pearl’s Vanya: Maite Uzal has been the first Spaniard to be cast by the Pearl in thirty years…Skype calling, let us know more!!
Revista Mito: Hi Maite, thank you so much for being available for this interview, how are you?
Maite Uzal: I’m very well thanks. And thank you guys for taking the time and interest on the interview, it’s my pleasure of course.
R.M. Well, first of all tell us a little bit about your career so far. How did you get to the American stages?
M.U. I had already been doing musical theatre in Madrid but I was trying to combine it with litigation and that wasn’t working out. I’ve always, always had a vocation for performing. Since I was very little and as the only child that I was, my favorite thing to do, instead of playing with dolls or outdoors (which I did too, but less maybe than other children), was to dress up and pretend I was a queen, a princess, a cook, a maid…whatever character my imagination would suggest to me that evening. Also, my parents have always been very fond of music and theater and since I was very little they would take me with them to see a lot of shows. So bearing that in mind, there came a point where I simply had to follow my call to be happy and most importantly to give to others what I thought I did with true passion, which was act. So I hung my lawyer’s toga and auditioned for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) here in New York, got in, and it’s been a little more than one year now since I graduated and I haven’t stopped working. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do theater, film, commercials and voice over work so I’ve got a little taste of many fields so far.
R.M. Have you always been drawn to this kind of material? What is it you like about classics?
M.U. Yes, I’ve always been a fan of classical material. In every field: music and visual arts too but very specifically in theatre because for some reason to this day I find it harder to play contemporary characters on stage, not so much on film. And please understand that I say this knowing that it’s a very personal obstacle to overcome…maybe to embrace too? What I mean is that somehow in contemporary pieces I don’t always find that the urge to speak is justified…I find it harder to answer the question: why is this so important that it can’t wait one more second to be told? Since this is not something that I’m proud of and that bothers me a lot, because in order to have consistent work you have to master diverse repertoire, I asked one of my acting teachers why he thought this was happening to me and I will never forget his answer: first he laughed, amused at my question, but then very seriously he said to me “well, Maite, you might have to simply accept that you’ve been born in the wrong century!”. I think that by making a joke out of it what he meant was: just do the work and stop worrying about it…so that’s my goal right now. This interestingly enough is linked to Chekhov’s message in Vanya, because it’s a play about the work, about action versus inaction, meaningless talk and impractical scholarly debate versus untold truths. I know this is off topic but I’ve felt very close to the playwright in that he was torn between two professions: in his letters he constantly mentions this being one of his main struggles: chasing two hares without being able to catch either of them (though, of course, in the end he definitely mastered playwriting…I don’t know if he was a great doctor). I’m sorry to get carried away but this is what I LOVE about exploring a character, about theater: how it can be a mirror to see inside yourself: to bring truthful action to a character you need to be revising yourself constantly…sometimes you do it asking yourself direct questions and other times making the effort to advocate for your character. It happened to me with the previous play that I did, Death Of A Salesman, working on the role of Linda Loman: I had very important epiphanies about my life, about how my parents and friends have interacted with me and about how I’ve been blind to understanding certain behaviors that I now see clear as day. And it has happened to me again with this play. When you have to pose fundamental “life questions” related to a character you have no choice but to answer them because it’s your job, and then magically it translates very easily to your own life, with breathtaking, violent clarity. And going back to your question…what I like about classics is that they speak about universal truths with impeccable literary quality. A classic, in theatre especially, will always hit you in the gut; it’s never outdated, and it never disappoints me.
R.M. Is this where you saw yourself at this point of your career?
M.U. Well I definitely didn’t see myself working at The Pearl now. This is a company I’ve always looked up to and admired, so to think that right now I’m stepping inside its doors as part of their cast instead of as an astounded member of the audience like I used to is almost unbelievable for me. Not too long ago while tidying my room I found a paper we had to write at the end of our fourth semester at AMDA stating our career goals, something like a “career plan” and one of the goals that I wrote on the list was precisely to work with this theater company…I just didn’t think it would come so soon!
R.M. So now more specifically, tell us about how you ended in Uncle Vanya at The Pearl
M.U. I took two workshops with their Conservatory: both of them taught by one of their resident actors, Dan Daily, who had been one of my acting teachers at AMDA. One of the workshops focused on American contemporary scene study and the last one focused on playwrights that had been staged at the Pearl…that’s where I worked on Chekhov, but also on Lorca, Tennessee Williams and Moliere. A couple of months after that I went to their Equity Principal Auditions…I always go to those if the material interests me because, even though I’m not a union member at the moment, I believe that one must try to get seen as much as possible and that a casting team is always looking for the best performers suiting their needs regardless of their affiliation and they will do whatever they can and they’re allowed to in order to make that happen. And around a month after that I got the offer from the Pearl to work with them!
R.M. What unique characteristics do you think that you’ll bring to the characters of Marina and Mrs. Voinitsky?
M.U. Hhhhhmmm let’s see…I certainly want to do my homework well enough to have the comedy in the play shine but other than that…I believe that I am interesting enough to watch to make these characters unique if I stay true to my personality and not try to present any idea that I think might be expected from them. Also, if I start to think what I want to bring to them, I’m already detaching myself from them…when you’re in the moment you don’t (or shouldn’t) stop to think how you’re looking…that’s up to a third party to do which can be the director, your scene partner or the audience…maybe a reviewer…but certainly not me. Perhaps if you come see the play you can tell me how my Marina and Mrs. Voinitsky were unique in your opinion.
R.M. You previously mentioned a career plan that you drafted in your last semester of your musical theater training…what else did you write down on that list? Would you add or take away anything one year after?
M.U. I don’t think I would take anything away…some of the goals I’ve achieved, so I can put in new ones to replace them…I would like to build a more solid resume in voice over because I think I’m very suitable for that. I would also like to work with many people that I admire so much…the list is very long if you’re going to ask for examples and I hate to have to pick hahahah! I would like to work at Roundabout Theater; at Lincoln Center Theater… there are so many things!!
R.M. Well, Maite, our interview has to come to an end. Thank you so much for your time and thoughtful answers to our questions…we certainly wish you all the best with Vanya and hope to be interviewing you soon about other exciting projects you might be involved in.
M.U. As I said at the beginning the pleasure is mine: thanks for your interest and certainly feel free, calendar and budget permitting, to come see Uncle Vanya at The Pearl!