Searching for an Act of Selflessness -Interview with ORANGE JULIUS’ Rae K. Hendersen
The World Premiere of ORANGE JULIUS is closing this Sunday, October 18, 2015. Rae K. Hendersen, who plays the central character “Nut”, has received rave reviews for what the critics are calling a breakout performance.
“She offers a performance star worthy and commanding. She takes us places most fear to tread.” -Examiner.com
We caught up with Hendersen to talk about what the ORANGE JULIUS process has been like.
Will you tell us a little bit about your character, Nut?
Nut comes from practical, working-class people, but is a poet at heart. They narrate the play through memories, fantasies, and moments that hover between the two. During the length of the show, Nut is trying to discover where the missed connection was between their father and them, where things may have gone wrong, where opportunities passed unfulfilled. They are searching for and working toward a final moment of connection, of some great act of selflessness for Julius before he goes. I think Nut is a very old soul, but lost in the way that young adults often are. They are the sort of person you’d like to sit down in a dive bar and have a beer with – a storyteller, an empathizer, someone sweet and tough and a little broken.
How are you similar to and different from Nut?
Like Nut, I am good at seeing things with clarity when looking back at them – but terrible at understanding events and relationships in the moment. I think Nut is very self-critical, but also shows themself grace in their faults and mistakes, which I identify with.
Nut is also the first time I’ve ever gotten to play a queer character, which has really meant a lot to me. I feel so fortunate that this is such a beautiful show, and that this character’s queerness is like mine – a part of their identity, an influence in their relationships, but not a constant struggle or problem to be overcome. Nut is neither a LGBT hero nor a victim – they are a character that I think everyone can relate to, never presented as an “other”. I so appreciate that aspect of Basil’s script and Will’s direction. I also am just really enjoying not having to “femme it up”, as it were, like I almost always have to do for shows. It’s comfortable and pleasant.
What research or preparation will you be doing to get into character?
I’ve read up a lot on Agent Orange – both its use during Vietnam as well as its legacy. The continuing political battle over the very real, human consequences is astounding and terrifying.
What do you expect to be the biggest challenge for you as an actor in working on this production?
Prior to this show, I had only ever done one other non-musical (I played Antigone in a college production). Every show in my professional career has been a musical, so this has been a very different experience for me. I was very very nervous coming in to the rehearsal process – I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to do it, that I would be unprepared for a very different style of theatre art – but it has been an absolutely wonderful and comfortable experience. Doing a play is a completely different animal than a musical, and (based on this experience) is easier in some ways and tougher in others.
One thing I was not expecting was the challenge of being patient with people as they try to figure out how to talk about gender in the context of and around this play. That has been very very interesting, and not something that had really crossed my mind during the rehearsals. I had literally never thought about how audiences or critics were going to feel about and talk about Nut’s gender presentation until after the preview performances, which now seems like rather late in the game.
What moves you most in the script?
Every time Nut says “I didn’t ask” it breaks my heart a little.
I also love it every time Jeffrey tells me a story.
Catch Hendersen, along with the rest of the outstanding ORANGE JULIUS cast before the production closes Sunday Oct 18th at 2pm. Tickets at http://www.moxietheatre.com/orangejulius or call 858-598-7620