Actor Spotlight

Dallas actress signs off on misinterpreting lyrics and fun with swords

Dallas actress signs off on misinterpreting lyrics and fun with swords

Though she initially thought she’d take the directing route, Marianne Galloway has emerged as one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s most formidable actors. The multitalented performer (she’s versed in American Sign Language, but more on that later) has turned in several memorable roles, but her latest keeps her on her toes.

Before she opens John Strand’s dark comedy Lovers and Executioners at Circle Theatre in Fort Worth (it plays August 20-September 19), she took the time to fill out our survey of serious, fun, and sometimes ridiculous questions.

Name: Marianne Galloway

Role in Lovers and Executioners: Julie, a woman whose husband secretly (and erroneously) thinks her guilty of infidelity. Without confrontation or explanation, he punishes her by leaving her for dead on a deserted island. She is rescued and returns three years later disguised as Frederic, a young courtier with a mission: uncover her husband’s reasons for his murderous actions and seek revenge!

Previous work in the DFW area: I founded my company (Dallas’ Risk Theater Initiative) in 2002 and launched a professional career as a director with Waiting for Godot in 2003. Over the next five years, I directed such projects for Risk as a co-production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Shakespeare Dallas, the first Dallas production of Angels in America: Millennium Approaches in over 10 years, and the world premiere of a new adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five by Academy Award winner Eric Simonson.

I received my first DFW Critics Forum Award for my production of Lawrence and Holloman for Second Thought Theatre, and began freelance directing for larger theaters such as WaterTower, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas (CTD), Shakespeare Dallas, and Uptown Players.

By 2008, I found myself wanting to focus on being one dot in the Seurat painting, rather than being responsible for stepping back and ensuring that all those dots were coming together in a complete whole. I lucked into a small role (Eunice, the brassy upstairs neighbor) in a beautiful production of A Streetcar Named Desire (directed by Rene Moreno) at CTD. From there, I started playing leading roles at smaller theaters and supporting roles at larger theaters.

I won my first DFW Critics Forum Award for Acting in 2010 for playing Izzy in the regional premiere of Rabbit Hole at CTD. That began a stretch of roles in musicals that included Janis Joplin in Beehive: The ’60s Musical and Susan in the the regional premiere of [title of show], both directed by Bruce Coleman for Theatre Three. I began performing in American Sign Language (ASL) in 2009 for Sanders Family Christmas at One Thirty Productions (directed by Cheryl Denson). That led to my biggest and most successful role to date: Sarah Norman in Children of A Lesser God for CTD (directed by Susan Sargeant) in 2013.

Hometown: Garden City, New York

Where you currently reside: Plano

First theater role: Angel #2 in the Sacred Heart Seminary’s Christmas pageant. I was 5. I spent hours in the front hallway of our house practicing kneeling with extreme piousness and not moving. My mother mourned the end of that rehearsal process.

First stage show you ever saw: The New York City Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker when I was 5.

Moment you decided to pursue a career in theater: My parents took me to a production of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera when I was about 5 years old. (A lot happened when I was 5.) I was sitting in the audience, and those breathtaking Sputnik chandeliers designed by Dr. Hans Harald Rath began their dramatic ascension, and I was hooked.

Most challenging role you’ve played: Sarah Norman (the role made famous by Marlee Matlin) in Children of A Lesser God at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas in 2013. I began learning American Sign Language (ASL) in 2008 when I learned that, not only was the severe bilateral hearing loss I’ve lived with all my life getting worse, but that there was a very good chance that my future children could be born deaf or hard of hearing. I needed to ensure that I could still communicate and connect.

When CTD decided to produce Children of A Lesser God, they launched a nine-month language intensive with myself, my co-star Ashley Wood, a wonderful ASL coach, and an incredible sign language interpreter. Together, we translated the written script into the words we painted in the air with our hands for the production. That alone was challenging enough.

But in playing the role of Sarah, I got to tell a story that has lived deep in my heart for a very long time. Sarah hides her beautiful and scarred heart within an abrasive shell in an attempt to ward off the continual wounds inflicted by a world she can never fully understand and which can never fully understand her. Love cracks that shell, and she allows herself to be vulnerable.

The story is emotionally exhilarating and heartbreaking, hilarious and tragic, beautiful and hideous; I call it my Heartsong. Every time we performed, I got to open up my heart and tell that story. And I think we all know what a challenge in can be to stay open-hearted in this world sometimes.

It was such a gift. I can barely talk about it without tearing up.

Special skills: I can play the spoons. If I concentrate.

Something you’re really bad at: Hearing

Current pop culture obsession: Doc McStuffins. I have a 3-year-old daughter. Her obsessions are my obsessions by default right now.

Last book you read: The last book I finished was Laline Paull’s The Bees — which made me go outside and have really embarrassing conversations with those bees foraging for nectar in my backyard. “Welcome, Forager! I shall ward off the Myriad for you! Collect your fill, then dance your dance to tell your sisters of our abundance of Zinnias!”

If you haven’t read the book, that probably sounds like Star Trek meets House Beautiful. Anyway, now I’m in the midst of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

Favorite movie(s): I would tell you, but then you’d know the password to my Starbucks account. And we can’t have that.

Favorite musician(s): As a severely hard of hearing individual, music is a funny topic for me. I can’t just rattle off a musician I like. Listening to music is a different experience for me than it is for hearing folks. I don’t “hear” music, per se. I feel it.

In order to “listen” to music, I have to sit down and give it my sole focus. Then I have to have some time away to allow my brain to process what I think I’ve “heard.” Then I have to sit down with the music again, this time with the lyrics in front of me, so I can try to feel the story the artist is trying to tell with what amounts to close captioning. Then I have to let my brain process the feelings I think the artist has presented me with or evoked in me.

And even after I do all that, I still get left thinking that Steven Tyler is singing “Iraq! Iraq has done it agaaaaaainnnn” and not understanding how I missed Aerosmith’s big shift into being some kind of socio-politically conscious band. Then, 10 years later, someone tells me that no, no, the words are actually, “I’m back! I’m back in the saddle agaaaaiiinnnn.” Basically, it’s a federal production with a sketchy success rate. So can I just say The Beatles?

Favorite song: See above.

Dream role: I got to play my dream role: Sarah Norman in Children of A Lesser God. I’ve since had to dream new dreams, and my new dream is Joan in Shaw’s Saint Joan.

Favorite play(s): Waiting for Godot will always have my heart.

Favorite musical(s): I love Cats. That is such an uncool thing to admit, and I don’t even care. Cats is awesome. T.S.Eliot set to music — with dancing cats? C’mon! That's greatness. Now and forever.

When I was 7 years old, I wanted Andrew Lloyd Weber to write a kitten role for me so that I could be in Cats on Broadway. I had actually written the whole role for myself in our bathroom, so all I really needed was for him to sign off on it.

Favorite actors/actresses: The ones I’m onstage with at any given moment. There’s nothing better than looking in the eyes of your scene partner and surfing the energy of that performance together.

Favorite food: Pineapple and Starbucks iced venti skinny vanilla latte. Not at the same time, though. The Great Gastrointestinal Order of Things frowns upon that.

Must-see TV show(s): I have a toddler. You know what’s “must-see” in my house? Sesame Street. Specifically the episode in which “liquid” is the word of the day. I’m not even kidding. We call my daughter “The CEO” for a reason. Personally? I must see the inside of my eyelids.

Something most people don’t know about you: I’m an introvert.

Place in the world you’d most like to visit: There are these super-crunchy-granola houses built in Taos, New Mexico, called Earthships. They're completely off the grid, ludicrously sustainable, and absolutely beautiful in a completely bizarre kind of way. You can climb up and sit on the roof of them, and it feels like you’re riding a dragon brought to life from a Maurice Sendak illustration.

If you time it just right, you get to watch the sky slowly shift through a hundred shades of lavender and melon as the sun dips behind the mountains. Coyotes start to howl in the distance, and the smell of desert sage rises up to surround you as the temperature begins to sink. It’s completely magical. I’d most like to visit that again.

Pre-show warm-up: Stretch. Stretch again. Stretch some more. Have some pineapple. Stretch.

Favorite part about your current role: The swashbuckling! I started attending stage combat workshops about a year ago, and I’m obsessed. Everyone at these things is either hardcore, or pretending to be hardcore (which is really just scary and dangerous and off-putting). And then there’s me, who’s all, YAY SWORDS! I’m the biggest dork. They’re very nice to me, much like you’re very nice to a puppy that’s just so excited to play fetch, it pees a little.

Most challenging part about your current project: The sword fighting is challenging enough on its own. Executing the sword fights while simultaneously delivering tongue-twisting verse dialogue and not sounding like you're reciting a Dr. Seuss book is a transcendent level of challenging.

Most embarrassing onstage mishap: I once had an in-character, onstage costume change from a demure dress into a sassy dress with spaghetti straps as my character quickly got ready for a hot date. The change was pretty low-stress: The dress slid easily over my head and was lightweight and filmy, and I went about my business of finishing the scene.

Unfortunately, one of the straps had broken, and the dress was so lightweight that I didn't even notice, and the period-appropriate choice had been made for my character not to wear a bra. It wasn't until I walked offstage that I realized that those people sitting in the audience owed me a lot of money.

Career you’d have if you weren’t in theater: Everything I tried to come up with to answer this question led straight back to theater. I appear to be trapped. Send help.

Favorite post-show spot: My bed

Favorite thing about Dallas-Fort Worth: The theater community, and my theater family within it. It encompasses a vivid array of beautiful, loving, supportive, creative, inspiring, empathetic, positive individuals who embrace life with open hearts. They challenge and empower me to grow beyond my self-perceived limits.

Dallas actress Marianne Galloway
Dallas-Fort Worth actress Marianne Galloway. Photo courtesy of Circle Theatre
"Lovers and Executioners" at Circle Theatre
Chad Gowen Spear (Bernard), Amber Marie Flores (Constance), and Marianne Galloway (Julie/Frederic) in Lovers and Executioners. Photo by Tim Long
"Lovers and Executioners" at Circle Theatre
Chad Gowen Spear (Bernard), Amber Marie Flores (Constance), and Marianne Galloway (Julie/Frederic) in Lovers and Executioners. Photo by Tim Long
"Children of a Lesser God" at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas
Galloway and Ashley Wood in Children of a Lesser God at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas. Photo by George Wada