5 Questions with Peggy Pharr Wilson

Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is presenting their 12th Annual “10×10 New Play Festival” tand along for the ride is the indomitable Peggy Pharr Wilson who has appeared in all 12 iterations of this evening of short plays. 10 plays under 10 minutes for 12 years? Let’s crunch the numbers with 5 questions for the Barrington Stage Associate Artist, Peggy Pharr Wilson.

Peggy Pharr Wilson

PW: Congratulations on your twelfth 10×10! Is there anything specifically that is different about entering rehearsal or performance for these short plays rather than one full-length play?

PPW: The difference between prep for short plays and a full-length play is that in a short play you have to make a bold decision right away with your character because there’s no time to let it develop. The short play characters tend to be broader and, obviously, the story unfolds very quickly, so you have to jump in with both feet right off the bat. It’s all storytelling, but 10 minutes is more difficult to form a complete character, given the time restraint. 

PW:  After twelve editions, do you know how many short plays that you’ve been in? 

PPW: I think I’ve done more than 50 plays over the 12 years of the 10×10. 

PW: Do you have a favorite or one that sticks out as being especially memorable?

PPW- I think my absolute favorite piece I got to do in the 10×10’s was “Still Point of the Turning” by Emily Boyd Dahab. It was a solo piece, a British librarian, dying in the bombed library in World War 2, comforting herself with her favorite poetry. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and to this day I still get stopped by audience members who remember it fondly. 

PW:  What’s the range of roles that you’ve played in the 10×10’s?

PPW: The range of characters is insane! And the most fun part. Everyone from a woman describing a southern funeral gone wrong, a woman who entered a tontine with a friend decades ago and has to take matters into her own hands, a woman talking a man out of jumping off a ledge, a woman with her daughter tossing her husband’s ashes out of a helicopter, a ghost (or was she?), the Virgin Mary’s overbearing mother, a woman who visits her father’s remains that he donated to a science exhibition, an employee of a department store dealing with the same man every year who returns his Xmas tree the day after Xmas, and a woman holding a gun on her date to make him taste her lasagna (“Stay Please,” which was expanded into a full length show called “Boca,” by Jessica Provenz).

PW:  Is there a play that changed your life?

PPW: There are several plays that changed my life, but what pops into my head is when I did “His Girl Friday” at BSC. It was three months after my mother died and I was just numb with grief, and being in a huge cast, many old friends, doing a scenery-chewing wild part and laughing until our sides hurt every single day was a balm and it brought me back to life. Great theatre is transforming to watch, and many times to perform in. I’m not sure I would be a sane person if I didn’t have that outlet! 

Catch Peggy in “10×10 New Play Festival” at Barrington Stage running now through 3/5. Tickets: barringtonstageco.org or 413-236-8888

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