When it was time for Leslie O’Carroll to return to the DCPA, the Arvada Center turned to her busty husband for a replacement
The Arvada Center’s acclaimed production of Moliere’s classic farce Tartuffe has undergone a deliciously farcical casting twist. For the final two weekends, the role normally played by Leslie O’Carroll will be played by her real-life husband, Steve Wilson.
O’Carroll played Orgon’s battle-axe of a mother, Madame Pernelle, through last weekend. She had to leave the show early to begin rehearsals for her 18th turn as Mrs. Fezziwig in the DCPA Theatre Company’s upcoming seasonal presentation of A Christmas Carol. It was Tartuffe director Lynne Collins’ idea to cast O’Carroll but split the role between husband and wife.
O’Carroll and Wilson are both graduates of the DCPA’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program. O’Carroll has appeared in dozens of DCPA Theatre productions over the past 25 years. Wilson was the longtime artistic director of Phamaly Theatre Company and is now Executive Artistic Director at the Mizel Arts and Culture Center.
Madame Pernelle is completely under the spell of the hypocritical Tartuffe. In her big opening scene, she makes it clear that she has eaten up Tartuffe’s every word – and she spits them back at anyone in spitting distance. But Wilson is not approaching his casting as a gimmick. Rather, he is taking the challenge very seriously.
How seriously? “I memorized my lines four months ago because I was nervous that I might forget,” Wilson said.
And then there is this: He shaved for the role.
“My goal is for people to not even realize that Madame Pernelle is being played by a guy,” Wilson said.
DCPA Teaching Artist Jessica Austgen conducts a 15-second interview with Leslie O’Carroll, her castmate in the Arvada Center’s “Tartuffe,” running through Nov. 6.
Here are our rapid-fire questions for Steve Wilson:
Are you pretty? Very.
OK … so how pretty are you? I’m extremely classy, graceful and pretty in a way that will be astonishing to all who know me.
What was your biggest challenge in taking on this role? Living up to the genius of my wife.
What was your wife’s advice? She gave me tips on how to get into the costume quickly and how to deal with the wig.
Whose boobs are bigger? Oh … mine are bigger by far.
How much bigger? Let’s just say three sizes bigger … and yet, I wear the same bra.
Name one line that’s funnier coming from you: I have a great line where I say, “Appearances can deceive, my son. Dear me, we cannot always judge by what we see.”
How do you change the character of Madame Pernelle? It’s a heaver, harder and less feminine character with me.
What’s one thing your wife does better than you? Leslie is of course a great physical comedian. Her comedy is lighter. More buoyant. She has a kind of Lucille Ball quality to her that I will never have.
What’s one thing you do better than your wife? When this first came up, I thought of when the great actor Brian Bedford played Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest on Broadway. Moliere wrote Madame Pernelle to be this big, brassy matriarch. As played by a man, I think I bring maybe a bit more of an edge to her. But gender should have nothing to do with it.
What have you learned about women? I have respect for all women – especially their wardrobe difficulties. My heels are relatively short, but wearing them is excruciatingly painful.
Best comment from a cast member: “I like the way Steve drops his voice in his old lady outfit. Hilarious!” – Jessica Austgen.
Best insult from a cast member seeing you in costume: Actually, they have all been incredibly supportive. Even Michael Morgan, who plays Tartuffe. And Michael – how shall we say? – can be a biting wit.
What has your poor daughter said? She won’t see me in the costume until Saturday night. She’s preparing to be traumatized.
Arvada Center’s Tartuffe: Ticket information
• Written by Molière
• Directed by Lynne Collins
• Through Nov. 6
• 6901 Wadsworth Blvd.
• Performances: 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays
• Tickets $45 at 720-898-7200 or arvadacenter.org
DCPA Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol: Ticket information
• Nov. 25-Dec. 24 in the Stage Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex
• Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
• Accessibility performance: 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1
Just for fun: Leslie O’Carroll performs “A Christmas O’Carroll” … in 5 minutes:
A look back at veteran DCPA Theatre Company actor Leslie O’Carroll’s DIY performance of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a solo piece … and in just five minutes. Video by John Moore.