2015 Best Leading Actress in a Play Nominee: Veronica Anastasio Wiseman as Stevie in Bad Habit Productions' "The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?"

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.

Photo Credit: Lynn Wayne Photography

Veronica Anastasio Wiseman tackled the challenging and demanding role of Stevie in Bad Habit ProductionsThe Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia? with aplomb. Her Stevie was gritty and grounded, tearing into our souls as she struggled with her marriage and husband's infidelity.  We felt every pull and tug; we related to Stevie's desperation in our own small ways because of Veronica's intense and humanized portrayal. In her Interview, Veronica talks to us about her Stevie; whether she would have eternal youth, eternal happiness, or eternal love; and what inspires and motivates her.

Hi, Veronica!  Can you start by introducing yourself to our readers?

Greetings, everyone. I began my acting training at BU Theatre School and graduated with my BFA in 1981 (the very year that the “Huntington Theatre” was born, BTW). I left Boston that summer for New York, worked in “the Biz” there (and in various places around the country) for a few years, before deciding to get an advanced degree in speech pathology from UMASS. After a 25-year career as an augmentative communication consultant, I had the opportunity to begin writing, producing, and hosting a show on local cable TV, and remembered that I was happiest when performing. I began acting again. First in community theatre, then gradually wending my way onto professional stages in Boston and Cambridge. 

Talk to us about how you pick your projects.  How do you find them, why do you choose to audition for them, and what is the audition process for you?

I am truly fortunate to have made strong, local connections with wonderful actors, technicians, playwrights and directors. This network is really the way I become aware of new projects. Often, the projects find me. However, I lean on Stage Source and New England Actor. Both are extremely helpful (after all, I do live out in the “burbs”) in keeping me abreast of auditions and performance opportunities. I love doing new plays, and working with playwrights to develop new work, but I’m just as happy making use of my classical training. I am attracted to projects that will be creatively challenging, and will give me a chance to maximize my own growth as an actor. I find initial auditions to be rather grueling (and have a few great audition horror stories), but strangely I love callbacks. I think I enjoy knowing that I have passed muster with a director. At the callback, I can relax (sort of) and demonstrate that I can listen, lean in, take direction, and make adjustments. It also helps me learn about a director’s style and expectations.

Tell us more about your character, Stevie, in Edward Albee’s The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?  Who is she?  What does she want?  How is she similar or different from other roles that you’ve played?

Stevie (Veronica Anastasio Wiseman) stands over the remains in Bad Habit Productions' The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia (PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL CANTILLON).

Stevie (Veronica Anastasio Wiseman) stands over the remains in Bad Habit Productions' The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia (PHOTO CREDIT: PAUL CANTILLON).

I was thrilled to get a chance to play Stevie, and so grateful to the wonderful cast and team at Bad Habit Productions that made the production what it was. I believe Danny Morris, our director, made some very bold decisions in his casting, and as he guided us to interpret this very challenging piece. The character of Stevie is living her dream. Blissfully married to Martin, an incredibly successful architect and the love of her life, she seems to have no care in the world. Together with their quirky son, Billy, they have a perfect life.

When Martin is forced to make the game-changing confession that he’s fallen in love with a goat he has named Sylvia, the world turns upside down. Stevie, at first, wants to deny it, or get Martin help, but soon enough she realizes that she’s in danger of losing him. Her rage bursts open, and as she plunges into utter despair, she can see only one way to restore her world to order. It’s rare to get a woman’s role that is so complex, so primal and so multi-dimensional in a modern play. Stevie was the most thrilling and terrifying role I have ever had as an actor.  

Would you rather have eternal youth, eternal happiness, or eternal love?  Why?

Eternal love. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was raised to be a caretaker. I was encouraged as a child to amuse and engage my younger siblings, and I quickly learned I’d get approval for inventing games and activities to keep them occupied. Theatricals, songs, roleplaying, read-alouds were my mainstays to “keep the babies happy”.

And I am not so proud that I can’t admit to being in search of a kind of affirmation from an audience. Approval to be sure and yes, love. Without love, there is no path to happiness for me, and no reason to live for a day, let alone forever.

What have been some of your most challenging roles?  Why?

Stevie in The Goat wins the prize as most challenging (in this decade) for sure. Mostly because of the extreme nature of the emotional journey that she must make, and the transitions that occur between the characters in real time during the play.

That said, I have been seen as a character actress from the very start, and I was handed a great deal of high hurdles early on in my training. While still a sophomore in high school (age 15), I was cast as Ma Martin in Dead End. The role was tiny, just one scene. But it involved a highly emotional confrontation between Ma and her son, Baby Face. I recall standing back-stage waiting to go on, knowing I needed to break down in character on stage. I would walk through the inner monologue that I had written, a technique I was taught by my high school drama teacher, to help get me to the place I needed to play the scene.  It worked unevenly . . . but it worked! A light bulb went off in my head that acting was a craft, you could be taught, and I knew then I wanted to learn.

I loved your costumes in The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?  How would you describe your own personal style?  What are some of your favorite things to wear?

Luckily, in the theatre, costumers and dressers rush to my rescue, since I am hopelessly unable to dress myself. I told anyone who’d listen that I’d never have chosen the clothing that was picked for me to wear in The Goat. I have no idea what I look like. Style = comfort to me. My favorite clothing is black and soft with the fit and feel of pajamas. 

What are some of your favorite plays?  Favorite stories?  Do you have a story that you would love to see adapted to the stage?  Would you play any of its characters?

I have always loved the plays of Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neil, and William Inge. I think Death of a Salesman is one of the most amazing plays ever written. I also greatly admire many contemporary playwrights most notably Tony Kushner. I was never the same after I saw Angels In America the year that it opened in New York. 

I love children’s books, and often read aloud in character to kids in local schools. Some of the storybook characters that are so alive to them come from our nation’s history. I think Mary Todd Lincoln as a fascinating woman and her story so moving.

Stevie (Veronica Anastasio Wiseman) and Martin (Steven L. Emanuelson) pose in silence in Bad Habit Productions' The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia? (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon).

Stevie (Veronica Anastasio Wiseman) and Martin (Steven L. Emanuelson) pose in silence in Bad Habit Productions' The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia? (Photo Credit: Paul Cantillon).

Who inspires you?  What motivates you?

I am inspired and motivated by the constant surge of energy I feel for the next project, the next creative challenge. I have tremendous gratitude that by some incredible stroke of luck, fate put me here. I am always sensible of the blessings and gifts of life, and also of the fleeting nature of it. Our attachment to this world is so tenuous. There is no guarantee of endless amounts of time to do what we want to do. So I say, let’s dive in!!

If a fan or reviewer could describe you or your work, what would you hope that he or she would say?

When people respond to a performance, whether they be a reviewer or an audience member, I hope they find something in what I do that is truthful and that moves them. When folks meet me out of context, after having seen me onstage, I love it when they appear slightly confused, as if they are not sure that they recognize me.

As an actor, I hope I can disappear into a character and bring enough truth to the work so that people forget that it is Veronica the “actor” and the character is fully there.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

Currently, I am working on Speech & Debate by Steven Karam, produced by Bad Habit Productions, directed by Rebecca Bradshaw. It goes up at the Calderwood Pavilion in late March/early April 2016.

Do you have anything else to share with our ArtsImpulse readers?

Only my thanks for taking the time to read these bios, and for continuing to be a critical piece of what keeps the Boston theatre community vibrant. By coming to see shows. Without an audience, we could never know the impact or the meaning of what we did.