In preparation for the upcoming workshop and reading of NOMS DE GUERRE as part of Pasadena Playhouse's HotHouse series, I connected with our company about their careers in the theatre and the relevant themes of the play. HotHouse readings are by invitation only. Click here to learn more and please enjoy this wonderful interview with cast member Deidrie Henry.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: To begin, why did you decide to get into theater? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
DEIDRIE HENRY: I decided to get into theatre because, not only was I told by Mr. Richard Leitgeb, my High school drama teacher, that it was something I was really good at, but acting was something that I absolutely loved and enjoyed doing. I loved putting my feet into another character’s shoes and telling their story. I started out playing the violin in the pit orchestra in the school musical, The Wiz, my first year of high school and after seeing the actress playing Dorothy on stage, I knew that I could do what she was doing, so the next year and all subsequent years until graduation, I was up on that stage. My school became a school of Performing Arts the year after I graduated.
JL: NOMS DE GUERRE is a socio-political drama that addresses the U.S. military policy and the damaging impact of PTSD on veterans and their family. Why do you feel this play is relevant to today’s audiences?
DH: Well, it’s relevant because it IS relevant. We have thousands of young men returning home from having witnessed the most horrific circumstances, and who are on their third, fourth, fifth deployment, and they still haven’t dealt with the horrors they either witnessed or endured in their first deployment. The psychological wounds that these men have suffered from watching their brothers and sisters dying on the field, if not addressed, will manifest in their lives and interactions when back in the “real world”. As of March of this year, it is reported that there are more soldier suicides than any other time in history.
JL: NOMS DE GUERRE also addresses women’s rights and recent restrictions places on health care for women. It’s been 50 years since the Women’s Liberation Movement swept the nation, where do you feel we are in terms of gender relations in the U.S.?
DH: Oomph!! I think we’ve made huge strides forward since the day of the suffragettes. I mean, we ARE able to vote, buuuut, we’re still having to fight for the right to own our own bodies, to receive pay that is commensurate with our male colleagues, to be taken seriously and not be blamed for being raped,….to name a few. I feel that it IS getting better, slowly….we’re winning some of those battles, but with this country still so staunchly patriarchal, it’s going to be a long war.
JL: Which character are you playing? What, if anything, do you have in common with this character’s passions, values, intentions or belief system?
DH: I’m playing the role of Mira. Described as “ambitious, proud and focused, staunch Republican and Attorney General of the state of Virginia, wife of Douglas.” At first glance, she and I are polar opposites, but upon reading and trying to understand her motivations, I see that we have more similarities than differences. She is a strong and intelligent woman. At least, I’d like to think of myself in the same way. The one glaring difference is her Political choice. I have a very difficult time understanding any person of color or female being a Republican, Libertarian? OK, I can understand that, but Republican???? It’s difficult for me. However, I know they exist and I know that they believe wholeheartedly in their convictions, as I do mine, I suppose, so it is my job to imbue the character with her truth.
The other descriptions of ambitious, proud and focused…I’m familiar with. Before I became an actor fulltime, I went to and graduated from a predominately male University where I learned to fly planes and studied Aeronautical Science. I’m sure that, had I remained in the field and pursued a career as a pilot, I would have had to employ the same focus and ambition to make it in the male dominated field of Aviation. The other issues Mira has to come to grips with are love she has for Douglas and loyalty to the marriage and friendship. Those are human and bi-partisan. I can appreciate her struggle and challenge in making the choice between her heart and her ambition.
JL: What’s next for you as an actor? Where can we follow your work?
DH: Auditioning, auditioning, auditioning. That’s about it. The life of an actor is always about the hustle.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!