Secret opera singer Lulu Ward talks Tennessee Williams and Dallas' best Chinese food
When we asked Lulu Ward for a list of her previous Dallas-Fort Worth theater credits, what we received easily tops 30 productions. From Echo Theatre to Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, WaterTower Theatre to Theatre Three, Ward has been a significant presence on the local theater scene for years.
Now she’s returning to the boards with WingSpan Theatre Company’s production of Tennessee Williams’ The Two Character Play, running October 10-25 at the Bath House Cultural Center. Ward plays Clare, who along with her brother Felice (Kevin Scott Keating) “arrive on a deserted theater stage where their company is scheduled to perform. They have been abandoned by their troupe and thus begin to enact The Two Character Play.
“The play-within-a-play proves to be so compelling and deeply affecting for Felice and Clare, that soon both the actors and audience are treading the fine line between what is real and what is illusion.”
Ward recently took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun and sometimes ridiculous questions.
Name: Lulu Ward
Role in The Two Character Play: Clare
Hometown: I grew up an Air Force brat and count two places as home: Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where I spent most of my school years (second grade through grad school at Southern Miss), and Oglesby, Texas, where my grandparents lived. I spent every summer and Christmas in Texas when I was growing up.
Where you currently reside: Garland
First theater role: Rosamund in The Robber Bridegroom. It was my junior year of undergrad at Mississippi University for Women.
First stage show you ever saw:Little Mary Sunshine (a tour that came to my high school).
Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: 1986 was a year of huge change in my life. My father died in the spring and four months later my first husband left me. The summer of ’86, while working on a community theater production, I met some students who were in the undergrad theater program at USM. That fall I began the MFA program in acting at USM. It was there that I fell in love with theater.
Most challenging role you’ve played: Each role has its own unique challenges. My character in The Two Character Play is pretty challenging!
Special skills: Making “crack” balls for fellow actors. They are actually called date balls, but the theater community refers to them as “crack” balls.
Something you’re REALLY bad at: I have an adversarial relationship with technology.
Current pop culture obsession: Imgur!
Last book you read: Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh by John Lahr
Favorite movie(s):To Kill a Mockingbird, Cinema Paradiso, Dazed and Confused, Imitation of Life
Favorite musician(s): Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Django Reinhardt, Stéphan Grappelli, Willie Nelson, Johnny Gimble, John Prine, Linda Ronstadt
Favorite song: There is no way for me to name only one song! I love music. So many songs speak to me or hold special meaning for me. Here are just a few: “What a Wonderful World” as recorded by Louis Armstrong; “The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys; “Steel Guitar Rag” by Leon McAuliffe as recorded by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys; “La Mer” by Django Reinhardt; “Lover Man” by Billy Holiday; “How High the Moon” as recorded by Emmylou Harris with Ricky Skaggs; “Last in Love” by Glenn Fry and J.D. Souther as recorded by Nicolette Larson; “Fever” as recorded by Peggy Lee; “Hello Walls” by Willie Nelson; “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” as recorded by Roberta Flack; “In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine with Iris Dement; “Magnolia” by JJ Cale; “Lazy River” by the Mills Brothers; “Inchworm” by Frank Loesser as sung by Danny Kaye in the film Hans Christian Andersen.
Dream role: This is always changing, but right now I’d say Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.
Favorite play(s): It is almost impossible to narrow this down. I will say that my favorite playwrights are Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Sam Shepard and David Mamet. So just about any play from any of those playwrights will be my favorite.
Favorite musical(s):Spring Awakening, Cabaret, Chicago, Grease, Miss Saigon, Little Shop of Horrors, A Chorus Line
Favorite actors/actresses: Glenn Close, Emma Thompson, Lily Tomlin, Allison Tolman, Sally Vahl, J.K. Simmons, John Malkovich, Bryan Cranston, John Lithgow, Adam Driver, Blake Hackler, Chamblee Ferguson
Favorite food: Onion pancakes from Jeng Chi. It is the best authentic Chinese food in Dallas.
Must-see TV show(s):Fargo, Breaking Bad, Archer, Parks & Recreation, Sherlock, Girls, Rick and Morty
Something most people don’t know about you: My undergrad degree is in vocal performance from Mississippi University for Women, where I studied opera.
Place in the world you’d most like to visit: Fukuoka, Japan. That is where my mother was born, and I’ve missed every trip she has ever taken there because I was in a show.
Pre-show warm-up: I do a 30 minute actor stretch/yoga physical warm-up as well as a vocal warm-up. All of my exercises (physical and vocal) are things I’ve learned over the years in one class or another or from another actor.
Favorite part about your current role: The gorgeous poetry of Tennessee Williams.
Most challenging part about your current role: At the moment? Memorization!
Most embarrassing onstage mishap: Once in a production of Uncle Vanya my wig flew off my head! Luckily it was seconds before the end of the act, and the lights came down almost immediately after it happened.
Career you’d have if you weren’t a performer: Animal rescue
Favorite post-show spot: Home with my husband and dogs.
Favorite thing about Dallas-Forth Worth: The abundance of really good theater here.
Most memorable theater moment: There have been many! The one that comes to mind right now is a production of Edward Albee’s Counting the Ways for the Festival of Independent Theatres (for Wingspan Theatre Company) in the summer of 2012.
During a matinee performance at the Bath House Cultural Center, the power went out. It was storming heavily that day. At the suggestion of castmate Adrian Churchill, we moved the show into the lobby and completed the play for the audience who wanted to wait out the bad weather and see the full production. It was a splendid “the show must go on” moment.