2015 Best Leading Actress in a Play Nominee: Aina Adler as Emilie in Zeitgeist Stage Company's "The Submission"

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 Nominee Interview Series, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com.

Aina tackled the incredibly challenging, conflicted, and nuanced role of Emilie in Zeitgeist Stage Company's The Submission.  Her strengths included not only her never-back-down attitude, but also the moments of vulnerability. She made the story her own, and we were enraptured in her performance and story, moment to moment.

In her Interview, Aina discusses the particularly challenging moments in The Submission, what she wishes for the Boston theatre community, and some of her goals for 2016. 

Photo Credit: Shaun Mader

Photo Credit: Shaun Mader

Thank you so much for interviewing with us, Aina.  Your performance in The Submission was superb.  Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

I am an actor, based in the Greater Boston area. I was born & raised in Germany. I got my degree in Acting from Emerson College & have been working in this city ever since.

What have been some of your favorite roles onstage?  Why?

I favor the antagonist characters. Way more fun. Way more interesting.

Talk to us about The Submission.  What made it such a wonderful play?  What drew you to the production?  What did you learn about the play, the role, and yourself through the rehearsal and performance process?

I think what was great about it is it feels really real. Many shows divorce comedy and drama, like it's one or the other. That's not real life. In real life: Often at the most inappropriate times ever, we find humor, and, usually the funniest jokes have something really real going on behind them. Jeff Talbott did a really good job with capturing that marriage.

Similarly, I just loved the role of Emilie so much. She was so complex. Unlike many black roles that are out there, she felt like a real person. Fleshed out. With a real voice.

You had a few intense scenes in The Submission.  You know the scene in particular, where you could hear a pin drop in the audience because of the emotional intensity.  Can you tell us about how your prepared and what changed for each performance?  What was going through your head each night?

I was terrified of those scenes, particularly that scene.

I'd been a bad actor and not read the entire play before going to the audition. I'd only read the first half, so I didn't know, at the time, how it ended. I just thought it was a super fun comedy. A friend did tell me that it takes a real turn & it all hit the fan at the end, so I knew some stuff would go down, but I was not prepared . . .  I remember the first time I actually finished reading the whole thing-- my heart was pounding. I just thought, “Oh my God . . . What did I get myself into?! What did I just agree to- I can't do this! I am not a good enough actor for this role. I do not have the courage to do this.”

Preparation was minimal . . . I think my first mode of dealing with that scene was just: Avoidance. We rehearsed the play sort of chronologically, and I mostly tried not to worry about that scene or the fact that it was coming. I just sort of hoped that we'd work up to it and by the time we really got to it, things would click & I'd just be in the zone. Which ended up being pretty much how it happened. Every single other scene in the play was preparation for that one. By the time we get to that point, there's a lot that's been bubbling up for her for the whole show.

Emilie (Aina Adler) and Danny (Victor Shopov) discuss the logistics for their plan. (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Emilie (Aina Adler) and Danny (Victor Shopov) discuss the logistics for their plan. (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

My personal objective for Emilie in that ultimate silence was: Hold the tears in. He's done a lot to damage her dignity by that time, but Emilie's strong, so my personal impression of her was that she's not the sort of person who would give him the satisfaction of seeing her hurt. The thing that would go through my head during that silence was: “Do not give this man your tears!” As anyone who saw the show would know, I lost that game pretty quickly each night. (Early on in the run my lovely cast mates started mocking me – Diego [Buscaglia] (Pete) called me a “leaky faucet”).

So for me, what changed each night was what happened after that. That was the fun part. The more Victor [Shopov] (Danny) got me to dissolve into tears each night, the greater the urge to redeem her, regain the status, end strong and find different ways to punish him, really putting the knife in with that last line. That was the fun part- playing with it every night as we just pushed each other further and further.

What stories, or kinds of stories, do you want to see performed in Boston?  Why?

More stories like this one. This play was so current, so relevant & dealt with such important issues. Things we as a nation & a society are really struggling with right now. And that's cool. Art for art's sake is fine. But it's nice to feel like you're telling a story that's so important. So much of being an actor is just vanity. When you can be a part of something that's important and feels like it actually makes a difference and starts new conversations that need to be started, that's everything. It's so fulfilling. More of that, please.

What is your biggest challenge as a performer?  As a person?

Finding roles. I'm not referring to the mere quantity of roles available, I'm talking about roles that are a real opportunity to stretch and play and expand and challenge oneself. Not to sound too much like my character, but as a female performer of color, roles like this one that offer that level of opportunity are a rare gem that don't come along all the time.

What, or who, inspires you?

I love funny people. I think they're super talented.

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Emilie (Aina Adler) wants to be an actress, but what does she want to do to get it? (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Emilie (Aina Adler) wants to be an actress, but what does she want to do to get it? (Photo Credit: Richard Hall/Silverline Images)

Green salad! Just because that's not real life. In real life all I ever want to do is have meat and carbs and fats and sweets and booze - FOREVER! I can't get myself to eat greens to save my life. And it's a problem. If I did what I'd want to do & picked one delicious thing to eat forever, it'd be a disaster. BUT- if I'm forced to by some magic spell that's put on me & I could only eat one thing forever- duh, make it green salad. Dietary & self-control problems: SOLVED. Alas, t'would be a sad and empty life, with nothing but my smoking hot bod to bring me joy...

Do you have anything resolutions for 2016?  Goals?

I keep saying that I want to start doing film/TV. Let's have 2016 be the year where I actually do that.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am thrilled to be returning to Zeitgeist Stage Company, and reuniting with one of my Submission cast mates, Matt [Fagerberg] (Trevor), this season to do a comedy (for real this time!) I will be playing the role of Martha in Cakewalk.

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

The Submission was a dream; I fell in love with our cast.  That is one that will live in my heart forever.  Thanks for the nomination, ArtsImpulse! It's an honor.