Interview with Mary Lynn Owen who will be playing Vera Joseph In Aurora Theatre’s upcoming production of 4000 Miles.
Aurora Theatre: What is the most attractive thing about this play for you?
Mary Lynn Owen: The relationship between Leo and Vera is so loving! It does have moments of tension, and moments that are bracingly honest, and moments that are confrontational. Yet, underneath it all, these two people have somehow signed an unspoken agreement to let each other be who they are. It’s lovely, and unexpected. The two most unlikely people you could put together become necessary to each other in a quiet way. They affect change just by living with each other. It speaks to grandparents and how benignly loving they are.
AT: What are the major challenges you see to taking on the role of Vera Joseph?
MLO: To allow her to respond, not adding on to her age but to simply let it be present. I don’t want to do a lot of extra. There’s something about getting older that seems to be about tearing away, leaving behind what’s unnecessary, and I want to explore that simplicity.
AT: What will it be like playing a 91-year-old woman?
MLO: I’ll do some physical adjustment around that, and yet Vera is as alive as anyone who is 26 or 46; she still very much has a beating heart and an active mind. What I must layer in is the urgency of time. Time is of the essence at 91.
AT: What do you think this play has to say to a younger generation? An older generation?
MLO: Well, it might have something to say to those of us in the middle, about not trying to force things. As someone in the middle of [a young and an old] story I’d say, “Wow, there’s a real gift in getting older.” It forces you to slow down, really talk to people, really listen, and to care deeply and yet not care so much. Parents care so much, and Vera cares so much, but her caring doesn’t have strings attached.
AT: Have you had a grandparent or an older person who was to you what Vera is to Leo?
MLO: Ironically, I think my father is taking that role with me now. He’s 85, and he has advanced Parkinson’s and he rarely leaves the bedroom. But he is more accepting of me now than ever in my life, very tolerant of other people, my children. He’s gotten more patient. And he says important things, and sometimes he says them in what seem like very unimportant ways. It’s a funny thing getting older. The older I get—the closer I inch towards Vera—the more I really respect the treasure it is to age. Physically not so much, but I get this other view of things that seems a little more rounded, and a little more whole. I get so focused on the trees, and my father sees the forest, and says “what a forest!”
AT: Why would you come to see this play?
MLO: I think that it’s exciting to see stories that involve generations. [Vera and Leo] enter each other’s lives, and two very different worlds come together in a human way, not in a stereotypical way. It’s a story that you don’t hear and see. I’m always curious about stories that are new to me.
Ms. Owen was interviewed by Aurora Theatre Apprentice Company member Timothy Whitson.