2015 Best Student Actress Nominee: Tricia O'Toole as Helen McCormick in Boston University College of Fine Arts' "The Cripple of Inishmaan"

Before we announce our 2015 ArtsImpulse Award Winners, we are proud to present our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.

NOTE: If you were nominated for a 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Award, and you would like to participate in our 2015 ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Tricia O'Toole was brash and daring in her performance as Helen McCormick in Boston University College of Fine ArtsThe Cripple of Inishmaan. While her Helen ridicules, belittles, and bullies, Tricia found opportunities and moments to show Helen's vulnerability, confusion, and growth. We are proud to recognize student actors who are able to create such nuanced characters from bold character choices. 

In her Interview, Tricia talks about her training at BU CFA, the rehearsal process, her guilty pleasures, and her strangest moment onstage. 

Tricia, thank you so much for joining us for our ArtsImpulse Nominee Interview Series.  Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thank you, I am very excited to be nominated alongside so many other talented artists. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where I started acting and singing at a very young age and made a habit of it! In high school, I found myself especially drawn to Shakespeare and classical text, and finally landed at my dream school, Boston University College of Fine Arts (BU CFA). I graduated BU CFA in the spring of 2015, and I am currently living (in the tiniest apartment)  in New York City.

Talk to us about the theatre program at Boston University College of Fine Arts. What classes are you taking? How is it preparing you for a career in theatre?

Attending BU CFA has been the most defining decision of my young artistic career so far. BU CFA’s curriculum takes and pulls from a number of different acting techniques. During my time there, I had the opportunity to study Linklater, Stanislavski, Meisner, Grotovski, Commedia dell’ arte, Laban technique, Alexander technique, accents and dialects . . . the list goes on.

The eclectic nature of the program is what drew me to it before college, and it is still the thing that I most appreciate about my training. While starting my career here in NYC is intimidating, to say the least, I am constantly reminding myself to trust in and lean into my training.

What was the rehearsal process like for The Cripple of Inishmaan?  How was it similar or different than other BU CFA shows or other productions that you have worked on?

This process was a blast. It was similar to other processes at BU in that our cast had the opportunity to explore so many different versions of each scene and our individual characters. Our director, Thomas Martin, encouraged us from the very start of the process to make bold, unapologetic choices. We talked a lot about it being a “hostile” piece of theatre, which I wholeheartedly believe. There was nothing timid about the process because there is nothing timid about the characters.

Who is Helen McCormick?  What was her story in The Cripple of Inishmaan?  What was the most fun part to play?

I can’t help but smile at this question. Playing Helen was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. Helen is the toughest young woman on Inishmaan (or at least believes herself to be), and the desperate crush of Cripple Billy, who she incessantly bullies throughout the play. Throughout the process, I encountered so many similarities between Helen and me . . . she is always on the defense, but has a lot of softness and vulnerability boiling beneath the surface.

Helen McCormick (Tricia O'Toole) has a quick laugh and a sharp tongue in Boston University College of Fine Arts' The Cripple of Inishmaan (Photo Credit: Thomas Martin). 

Helen McCormick (Tricia O'Toole) has a quick laugh and a sharp tongue in Boston University College of Fine Arts' The Cripple of Inishmaan (Photo Credit: Thomas Martin). 

What is the strangest thing that you have been asked to do onstage?  What happened?

While studying abroad in Italy, another actress and I were asked to “milk” ourselves. She tried it out in rehearsal, but needless to say that part didn’t make it to the final performance.

What are some of your guilty pleasures?

True crime documentaries. Also, Milkduds.

What character that you have played have you connected to the most?

During my junior year at BU CFA, I was cast in a devised production called The Women of Henry VIII. I was cast as Anne Boleyn and had the opportunity to research and collaboratively develop my character. Each character’s fragile journey was in the hands of the ensemble and because of that I think many of us feel very strong connections to the characters (and historical women) we were cast as.

If someone paid you to live in a cabin in the woods without Internet or cable, how long could you last?  How much money would you want?  What would you take with you?

I think I would last about a month?! I could definitely use some relaxation and quiet, but I would miss my friends and family too much! But I would use that month to read all of the books I always said I would – I’d finish the Harry Potter series, (I know, you guys!), I would love to start a garden and cook my own fresh delicious food.

What is one thing that you wish that your family and friends understood about your life in theatre?

I think my family and friends get it! Theatre has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I feel very fortunate to have the love and support from so many people in my life. But, also, I am sorry for any weddings or funerals that I miss because of rehearsal!