Breaking Down the Characters with Alexandra Ficken
Sometimes a show lives with you after bows and occupies your brain until you address them. Goodnight, Tyler did that for me. It’s a play that sticks with you because it opens you up without you realizing it. This is an interview with Alexandra Ficken, who plays “Chelsea” in Goodnight, Tyler. We’re talking about how she “breaks down the characters” and prepares to share her life and heart with this show. Before we get into that here’s the Alliance Theatre’s synopsis of the show and of course, spoiler alert.
“Goodnight, Tyler is a contemporary and unexpectedly humorous drama. Depending on who you ask, Tyler Evans was “a beloved best friend, grandson, mentor, and fiancée,” or, “Tyler Evans was a young Black man killed by a police officer.” Desperate to control the contradicting narratives of his untimely passing, Tyler haunts his best friend as his other friends and relatives argue over his legacy, seeking an elusive common ground. An important and timely world premiere, Goodnight, Tyler is the winner of the 2019 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.”
What was your initial reaction to the Goodnight, Tyler after your first read?
My first reaction was ‘whoa. I just experienced a piece of writing that I’ve never really experienced before.’ I felt like I knew the characters so well and could see them, hear them so vividly… And I remember laughing out loud. A lot. 🙂
When rehearsals started, how did you start discovering who Chelsea is?
To be honest, I had a difficult time finding her at first, but I really owe it to the other people in the room – my fellow actors, the playwright, and the director. They really helped me find her. With new changes to the script, a lot of great discussions with BJ, and incredible direction from Kent, I was able to find her strength, her confidence, her independence, and also her grief.
Where do you see yourself the most in the character?
Her ambition and her drive. She’s got a plan, and I have so many plans!
Do you identify with any other character more than Chelsea when it comes to processing grief?
Probably Davis, trying to appease everyone, making sure everyone is always okay, taking control.
How would you describe Chelsea’s arc throughout the show?
A roller coaster ride, so many ups and downs, turns and loops, and at times I’m not even sure where she is.. emotionally or mentally. Ironically, I think it’s her last scene where her journey starts to become clearer; I think we see her start to heal in a way.
There’s a scene in the Goodnight, Tyler’s second act that retells Tyler’s death. If you haven’t seen the play, it’s a very intense moment. The best way to describe it is imagining all the air being sucked out of the room and all you can hear is rain and the actors. This question refers to that scene specifically.
Could you breakdown how you navigate Tyler’s death scene and what you’re experiencing beat to beat.
It was one of the hardest parts of the show to memorize because it needed to be quick but also flow as one, as if one person was telling the story. And it needed to feel as though we were really reliving what happened that night.. the inside jokes, the calendar, the rain, the jacket, the officer, the gunshot. I take each beat moment by moment, because if I get too far ahead, I’ll lose it and the rhythm. Once I hear the gunshot, my brain goes into a kind of panic mode. In rehearsal, we talked about her PTSD and what that might look like, and I think after the gunshot, it starts to creep in. I’m doing a lot of deep breathing too, cause if I don’t and I tense up, I will lose all the words.
What have you learned from Chelsea?
That it’s okay to not be liked by everyone. She knows she is not liked by everyone, and it still doesn’t stop her. She just keeps going.
How are you protecting yourself emotionally/physically in a show that so demanding?
Sleeping as much as I can! But sometimes I come home and have to physically lay down, rewatch Bob’s Burgers (or something that won’t make me cry), with some lavender tea before I have to get up to do it again.
What’s your favorite scene in the show?
I think it might be the scene with the three women, we call it “The Trojan Women” scene. I just love acting with Danielle and Andrea, it’s an honor.
What do you want people to receive from Goodnight, Tyler?
I want them to experience a piece of theatre that they have never been able to get anywhere else. With this story and its importance, I really hope it resonates with them days, weeks, maybe even years after they have seen it.
Goodnight, Tyler is written by BJ Tindal, and directed by Kent Gash. It runs at the Alliance Theatre’s Hertz Stage through March 10th, 2019. Using the promo code GOODNIGHT25 you can get 25% off your tickets to Goodnight, Tyler. Click here to buy tickets and you can call the box office at 404.733.4690