A Play You Don’t Want to Miss: Mara Lamont and the International Lady

Mara Lamont is one of the lead characters in the upcoming play La Dama Internazionale (The International Lady) performed by the students of ITAL 290 Commedia dell’arte. You can see the play on April 6th from 7:30-9:00 PM in Leacock Room 132. The play is free and you don’t need to speak Italian to see it; there are French, Spanish and English characters and each scene will have translations. I got the chance to talk to Mara about the International Lady, nerves before performing and songs that make you feel like everything is going to be okay.

Her Campus McGill: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Mara Lamont: Hi, I’m Mara, I’m 19 and I’m doing a Political Science major with a minor in Marketing and Italian.

HC McGill: You are also part of ITAL 290, a class where you practice a play and perform it at the end of the year. Can you explain how the class works?

Mara: The first few weeks, we learn about Commedia dell’arte (form of Italian theatre). Unlike British theatre, there is no actual text in Commedia dell’arte; there are just characters and a summary and each writer writes their own version. Then we audition for the characters we want. Our professor, Denise Agiman, wrote the play and she’s super committed and cares a lot about the play and students. She actually wrote in more characters as more people who wanted to do backstage before saw how fun it was and wanted to join in. Now that we are close to the date of the actual play, we practice every Tuesday and Thursday for 4 hours. There are also three TAs that help us with the diction. There are different levels of Italian in the class and you don’t even need to be taking a minor in Italian to take this class.

HC McGill: It sounds like a different kind of experience, one that you don’t usually get in other classes at McGill. What is the play about and what kind of messages is it sending?

Mara: There are two sisters, my character has lost her husband and has different suitors from all across Europe. Our father is trying to marry off my sister to an older man who is his friend. There are also mystical forces involved which messes with the nature of things. It is kind of about how when you try to fix things too much, they get worse and how you need to leave it to fate. It’s also saying don’t try to manipulate other people’s lives.

HC McGill: Those are definitely important messages. The character you play, the International Lady, has 4 suitors. Can you tell us more about her?

Mara: Each character in the play has their own quirk. My character is a bit spoiled and bratty which is why I did not like it at first. But in the end, she just wants true love. She has been married to an older man she didn’t like. She thinks everybody is out to get her and doesn’t trust people, making finding love difficult for her. But she knows what she wants and you see at the end that people love you for who you are. She puts suitors to test, to see who actually loves her for herself. There’s actually a quote in Italian from the play where she says she’s “not only a little crush”.

HC McGill: Was this your first acting experience? Is it hard to act in another language?

Mara: I had always done theatre but in another language, it is more difficult to memorize your lines and easier to miss your cues. It’s harder but kind of a fun challenge. Every day, we start with Italien which is where you say your lines straight off without emotion to practice the diction.

Photo credits: Ava Zwolinski

HC McGill: That definitely sounds like a challenge. Are you nervous for the opening night? What are some things you do to fend off nerves before performing?

Mara: There is always nerves when it comes to theatre. I actually have this thing I do before a test or anything. There are two specific songs that I listen to: This Time Tomorrow by the Kinks and Vienna by Billy Joel. This Time Tomorrow relaxes me because it says even though everything seems like a big deal now, this time tomorrow they won’t matter. And in Vienna, there is a lyric that says “slow down, you crazy child and take the phone off the hook and disappear for awhile." It lets me know that not everything is the end of the world and that everything is going to be okay.

HC McGill: What are the most difficult and the most rewarding parts about performing a play like this?

Mara: Personally, I really love the adrenaline rush of being on stage. It is also interesting to be someone else with none of your worries life seems less scary. I also like seeing everybody become their character. When you’re playing a character like mine who is being pursued by 4 suitors, it is awkward at first. A lot of people in the class were nervous in the beginning, but now everybody is starting enjoy themselves. It was nice to see people both come into character and come closer as class went on. I knew a couple of people before but now we have become like a family almost.

The hardest thing is nailing the Italian. And if someone messes up, it would be harder to improvise because it’s not our native language. The play is also a lot of time commitment, and as a university student it was hard to find time.

HC McGill: I know what I will be doing on April 6th at 7:30 PM. For the ones that are still not convinced, why should people see this play?

Mara: There is something for everyone love, humour, drama. It is a really creative play and it is free fun and not super long either; you can go out with your friends after. The play is also not all in Italian. There is a Spanish, a French and an English character. For every scene, there will be a summary on a Power Point of what is happening. And maybe you’ll be inspired to take the course, maybe even start taking Italian.

Images provided by the interviewee. Photo credits: Ava Zwolinski

 

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