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THE FOSSIL RECORD: An Interview with Actress Liz Whittaker

Q: Hello there! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Liz Whittaker (she/her/hers). I’m an actress, intimacy director, sound designer, director, and teaching artist.

Q: Have you done any other shows with us at AOTC? If so, what show(s)?

I played Norma in Perfect Arrangement, directed and sound designed Safe, assistant directed and sound designed The Moors, and sound designed Angels in America, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and The Rapture Happens at Midnight.

Q: What drew you to The Fossil Record? Why did you want to be involved in this production?

I was really fascinated by the premise. Because it’s such an unusual (and devastating) circumstance, this little family of flawed individuals has to navigate their trauma essentially on their own. (Which is what it often feels like to navigate any trauma.) There’s no “correct” way to deal with something like what this family experiences, and I was really interested in exploring the different ways each character does their best.

Q: Tell us a little about your character! Who are they? What was your first impression of them after reading the script?

I play Laurie, and she is an Oldest Daughter—she feels responsible for everyone, and feels guilt about the times she failed at taking care of everyone. (Think Luisa from Encanto.) Laurie’s pain growing up has made her a little bit prickly sometimes, and she doesn’t have the greatest self-esteem, but by god, she is doing her best. She had to grow up fast, and it wasn’t fair, but she’s resilient as hell. I loved Laurie's assertiveness and vulnerability the first time I read the script.

Q: What three words would your character use to describe themselves?

The words Laurie ACTUALLY uses to describe herself aren’t very loving…she calls herself an asshole, “exhausting,” and someone who brings poison to the surface. But I think she would also call herself responsible, organized, and tough.

Q: How have you approached your character and their role within this story? What insights have you gained about your character through your acting process?

Acting is always a fine line between bringing yourself to the role and putting on the personality of someone else. I’ve tried to notice when I’m judging the character and why, and to approach Laurie with compassion. I think the biggest thing I learned about Laurie is how good she actually is at connection with other people. She’s often bantering and deflecting, but when it comes down to it, she’s able to be very honest and direct, and connect with the people she cares about.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge in taking on this role? The biggest reward?

As an Oldest Daughter in my own family, I recognized some of the pressures that Laurie feels. While my family has never gone through anything remotely like what Laurie’s family does, I connect with Laurie’s need to be overly responsible and to take care of everyone. I’ve worked hard to make sure I’m keeping myself as an actress in a healthy space as I approach this role—doing lots of warmups and closures and de-role-ing practices, while still allowing my personal experiences to inform my performance. The biggest reward has been to see the growth of the cast as a whole. I've learned so much more about Laurie from what others bring to the script. Everyone is so incredibly talented and dedicated, and everyone's work strengthens the group as a whole. We’ve essentially put together this show in about three weeks, and there have been times when it’s felt like the production is hanging by a thread (#pandemictheatre). I feel really proud of the story we’re telling.

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope audiences see that there’s no script for dealing with trauma, big or small. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have, and we all deserve compassion. That also includes compassion for ourselves.

Q: What's your favorite line (*no spoilers*)?

“The damage is done?” “I guess so. But okay.”

CONTENT WARNING: “The Fossil Record” contains themes and depictions that some viewers may find distressing. Visit our ticketing page to see full disclosures.

THE FOSSIL RECORD is a limited streamed production. Performances are Feb 4th through Feb 27th (four weekends) with streaming being available Thursdays-Sundays. All performance links are accessible from 6pm - Midnight for each performance. You can find your tickets here.

Chelsea Hickman

Literary Manager

An Other Theatre Company

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