Getting Intimate with Lesley Smith

Halifax-based actor Lesley Smith is excited about her role in Neptune Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel, the story of an African American seamstress living in a New York City boarding house for women who sews elegant undergarments for socialites and prostitutes. On the eve of the play, AE spoke with Smith, who plays the role of Mrs. Van Buren, about her passion and her profession.

AE: What inspired you to start acting?
LS: When I was quite young I saw my first play, Les Miserables at Neptune, and I remember seeing young Cossette and Eponine and thinking, "I want to be up there too!" I started taking classes at Neptune and fell in love. It was make-believe and storytelling, it was imagination let loose.

AE: Are they the same reasons you still act today?
LS: Yes.

AE: What are the greatest challenges of the profession?
LS: You've got to be adaptable because you only have so much control over how much work you get, when it will come, where it will happen and what it will be.

AE: What are the rewards?
LS: When you open a show and get to experience it with an audience there. It's hard to articulate it, but the audience adds so much. Their energy changes the chemistry of the piece and then the play really begins. I also love finding a real connection to the character, that's when it becomes a joy to be onstage, there's a beautiful sense of freedom.

AE: How did you get involved with Intimate Apparel?
LS: I auditioned for (director) Philip Akin in the spring of last year and was offered the role shortly after that. And I said yes.

AE: What do you enjoy about the role?
LS: The first time I read through the script I remember thinking how badly I wanted the part, but of course chances are slim and so after the audition I sort of put it out of my mind. All of the roles in this play are written so well, they are fully fleshed out and so heart breakingly human, there is so much to connect to, so much to play. I'm also in love with the design for Mrs. Van Buren, she is very upper-class, and Sean (the designer) has created a beautiful set and stunning costumes that suit the period and her standing.

AE: What can audiences expect during its run at Neptune?
LS: It is certainly a very moving, beautiful and elegant piece of theatre. It is such an exquisite story and has such heart. I think they will fall in love with it.

AE: What's next for you on the stage?
LS: I'll be working with Once Upon a Theatre Collective on our next Evening of Short Plays.

Intimate Apparel, until March 28.

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