Intimate Apparel actor Brandon Greenhouse was interviewed by Isabel Corona about his experience with the play and the rehearsal process, and here is what she found out!
Acting for the better part of the last fifteen years, Brandon Greenhouse, has recently been nominated for the Ossie Davis Award (Best Featured Actor in a Play) for the Black Theater Alliance Awards for his portrayal of George Armstrong in Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel. This is his Eclipse Theatre debut.
Greenhouse graduated from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design with a BFA in acting and after moving to Chicago he went to Northern Illinois University for his MFA in acting. He has worked with American Players Theatre, American Theatre Company, and American Film Institute. He trained in the Meisner Technique, a technique he continues to apply to his work.
“At the core of what it is is being alive in the moment and being present with your scene partner,” Greenhouse said. “I struggle to do it in my own work – to actually be present. I always refer to it as being electric and being able to respond to any stimuli whether you knew it was coming or not.”
As the Barbadian George, Greenhouse has to portray him as the sweet and charming man writing letters and then switch over to someone almost entirely different. Greenhouse sees him as an outsider from all the outsiders in the show and he said it “feels like two different plays sometimes.”
“He’s coming from a very patriarchal world and now finding himself in these circumstances where he has a wife who is the breadwinner and doesn’t quite understand him,” He said. “They can’t seem to find a common ground. I think that’s where it comes in most, where I allow myself to truly hear things for the first time and try to keep that alive.”
With his later actions in the play, George is often painted as the villain, but it’s not always so clear.
“I think George is a good guy who’s been put in really complicated situations,” Greenhouse said. “I think it’s interesting to watch the play and walk away with the feeling that this person’s the bad person and this person’s the good person. What I think is really wonderful about the play is that it’s not that simple and it never really is that simple in life
“Steve [Scott] was really clear in the fact that just as Esther didn’t get what she thought she was going to get, George didn’t necessarily get what he thought he was going to get. So it’s two people that present false versions of themselves to one another.”
While the complex character was a bit confusing at first, Greenhouse was able to approach and connect the two versions of George after some thought.
“I was able to stop trying to reconcile the two of them and create this sort of like line between the two of them. Trust that there were going to be things there that existed in the first act that were true to who George was in the second act,” he said. “But also more than anything understanding that those pieces are going to fall where they may.”
His good relationship with director Steve Scott throughout the production served as good learning experiences as well.
“The thing that I took away from Steve the most is that he’s super intelligent. He knows what he’s talking about but he’s super open to others opinions at the same time,” Greenhouse said. “He doesn’t talk down to you. He has a lot of passion and love for this play and it just showed in the way that he directed with such love and such heart. That’s contagious. When you feel like you’re working with a director who is striving for excellence it makes you want to meet that standard as well.”
Even though he said he feels most like George, Greenhouse said he wishes he “has as much fun as Mayme, and was as sure as Mrs. Dickson, and had the sensitivity of Mr. Marks and Esther’s strength at the end of the play” likely due to his hope of the audience being able to connect with the characters.
“I think the idea that although life may not turn out the way that you want it to turn out, there’s always something to be grateful and there’s always hope,” He said. “Hope for rebirth and growth and the idea that there’s something to be learned from every struggle and trial we go through as human beings. It’s a metataking on loneliness and a celebration of humanness.”
Nottage doesn’t offer any information about the future of the characters, so does George get his horses?
“There’s a little part of me that likes to believe he does get his horses, but for some reason I feel like he starts a new life,” Greenhouse said.
Intimate Apparel will run through Sunday, August 24.
Interviewed by Isabel Corona
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