Spotlight Series: Meet Nan McNamara, an Award-Winning Actress, World Premiere Director, and Acting Instructor


This Spotlight focuses on Nan McNamara, an award-winning actress who I have seen in many productions at the Actors Co-op in Hollywood, perhaps most notably her performance in the 2017 Ovation Award-winning 33 Variations in which she played a journalist who was able to go back in time to interview Ludwig Von Beethoven (an outstanding performance by Bruce Ladd) about his work. That outstanding production was staged on a remarkably versatile small stage set designed by Nicholas Acciani (who also designed the accompanying amazing projections), enhanced by O'Leary's jaw-dropping, scene-changing choreography.


Here is the link to my review of that production in which that scenic description appears.

Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Nan McNamara (Nan): I am an actor and director who recently directed the Ovation Recommended World Premiere of Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water at Actors Co-op. As an actor, my credits include the Ovation Award-winning 33 Variations (Los Angeles Drama Critics nomination-Lead Performance, StageRaw Award-Leading Female Performance, Robby Award-Best Actress), A Walk in the Woods (Ovation Recommended) and Wit (Los Angeles Drama Critics Award-Lead Performance, LA Weekly Award-Leading Female Performance).

Other theatre roles include Steel Magnolias (Truvy), Going to St. Ives (Cora), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Mary), The Crucible (Elizabeth), Uncle Vanya (Yelena) and As You Like It (Rosalind).

TV/film roles include Hawaii Five-0, Major Crimes, Rosewood, Switched at Birth (recurring) and Criminal Minds. I also enjoy a vibrant career in voiceover and have recorded over 100 audiobooks, and have taught acting at The Imagined Life, Asuza Pacific University and Vanguard University.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out it needed to immediately be either postponed or cancelled?

(Nan): I directed the world premiere of Lee Blessing’s A Body of Water at Actors Co-op, and we were entering our final weekend of the run when the production was shut down due to Covid-19.  I was also understudying two roles in Marvin’s Room directed by Thomas James O’Leary which was slated to open March 20 at Actors Co-op.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Nan): We found out through the Actors Co-op board and our production manager who had been keeping abreast of the Mayor and Governor’s orders as well as what other theatres were doing.  And for the safety of our patrons, actors and production team, they decided to shut down on March 13, which was a week prior to the mandatory “shelter at home” order.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

(Nan): Unfortunately, I don’t think A Body of Water will be able to finish its run, but Actors Co-op is hoping Marvin’s Room will be able to open at some point over the summer. Of course, no one really knows the exact timing of when intimate theatres will be able to open their doors again.

(SB): What other future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Nan): The final production of Actors Co-op’s 28th season was slated to be the musical A Man of No Importance directed by Richard Israel. They were just completing casting with an opening scheduled for May 8, and now it’s not clear what the new opening date will be.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Nan): I’ve loved receiving regular email updates from various theatre companies around town as many of them have provided inspiration with links to free streaming of plays and readings as well as words of encouragement.  A Noise Within offered a couple of free Shakespeare classes that I really enjoyed, and there is a free Michael Chekhov class on Sunday mornings.  I also loved watching the Sondheim Birthday tribute.

(SB): So did I – what a magnificent evening of extraordinary talent offered to the public for free!

(Nan): It’s wonderful that there have been a lot of wonderful ways to keep engaged. But of course, I can’t wait to get back to the theatre - there is no substitute for the audience interaction of live theatre.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Nan): I really appreciate the theatre community here in Los Angeles, and hope everyone is safe and well.  I really miss seeing shows and experiencing the amazing work from so many stellar companies, and the collaboration as an actor/director that is unique to the theatre. While this is certainly an extremely challenging time, it’s my hope that we can all come back stronger than ever and ready to share our stories.  And share some hugs.

(SB): For more information about Nan McNamara, please visit Nan's website at NanMcNamara.com, her Instagram page, and find all her film credits on IMDb.me/NanMcNamara.

 


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Lee Blessing Shows Multiple Perceptions of Reality

Actors Co-op presents Lee Blessing's "A Body of Water" that opened February 5 for previews with official opening night Friday February 7. The play runs through March 15. Multi award winning actress Nan McNamara serves as director. I sat down with Blessing and here's what he has to say about the play and mounting this production.

I am always fascinated by your plays. What character is telling the truth? Or is it all a dream...or a nightmare? You keep us on the edge of our seats with your wonderful dialogue. How did A Body of Water come about? 

LB: I can't answer most of these questions, but I will say that the idea for the play occurred to me as I was waking up one morning. I was relatively newly divorced (from a long marriage) and was still feeling the very powerful (for me at least) post-trauma effects of that. In some ways I suppose this is a play about trauma in all its forms. It's about those moments in life when nothing that we think we know feels real any longer--nothing that we depended on, nothing that we knew in our hearts to be true. This happens to different people for different reasons of course, in different ways and at different points in their lives. But it happens to nearly everyone, I'd argue, whether we'll admit it or not.

You have been called our greatest American playwright because you deal with issues that are relevant. Sports are a typical love of the American culture and have played into many of your plays, like baseball in The Winning Streak and football in For the Loyal. Do sports play into this piece?

LB: Sports really don't have a role in this play, unless you count jogging. Actually I have the bad habit (for a playwright) of writing about a great many different phases and aspects of contemporary life as well as many different sorts of people encountering quite a range of challenges. America tends to favor playwrights who stick to a fairly narrow range of issues and styles and sort of do the same thing over and over again, often quite brilliantly. They develop sort of a "shingle" to hang out, so people will know what to expect before even seeing their next play. For whatever reason, I tend not to do that.

Tell our readers about A Body of Water in detail without creating a spoiler alert.

LB: This is such a difficult piece to talk about. It's highly conceptual, and one really doesn't want to ruin any surprises or sharp turns that it may contain. I will say that the two people that we meet at the start of play are in their fifties and in great physical health--just as I happened to be when I wrote it. I'll also say that while it's hard to talk about the play before seeing it, it's hard not to talk about the play after seeing it. So feel free to look me up then.

You always lace your plays with a delicious sense of humor. Is there humor here as well?

LB: There is a LOT of humor in this play. And, just like my life, it never fails to make me laugh.

What is the main theme of the play? What do you want audiences to take away after seeing it?

LB: I suppose if the A Body of Water has a theme, it has something to do with the nature of courage and our inability to live without faith. After all, something has to get us through the inevitable traumas.

Do you care to add anything?

LB: If there's such a thing as music in dialogue, I think this is one of the most musical plays I've written. Just don't expect to hum along.

To purchase tickets for A Body of Water, call 323-462-8460 or visit ActorsCo-Op.org