Artslandia podcast host and Portland theater arts luminary Susannah Mars pulls back the curtain on her long and illustrious career.
What are the most fun and challenging parts of your current production, Portland Playhouse’s Scarlet ? I love having the opportunity to work with a large cast. That, coupled with the fact that it is a new work, is very exciting and energizing. When playing a widow of a “certain age,” I want to challenge potential groupthink about who she can be based on her age.
How is this role or project a different experience than any you’ve done previously? New work is thrilling, and the opportunity to be engaged with the playwright and composer (in this case, they are one person) is a real delight. Michelle (Horgen) is very generous and interested in conversing about the process and my character’s storyline.
What would you consider one or two highlights of your career thus far? I’d say singing with the Oregon Symphony has been of the greatest thrills of my career, in addition to playing Diana in Next to Normal at Artists Rep, which (sadly) was a confluence of events, including the death of my father. Being able to work on that show, at that particular time, was very healing and gratifying.
What role has been the most out of your comfort zone? Recently, I’d say that the role that was out of my comfort zone, so to speak, was Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd at Portland Opera. Not that it was really out of my comfort zone, but my expectations for myself were so high. I have seen, in the past, such great actors in the role—Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone—that I challenged myself probably more than ever. It was an absolute thrill, and now that I think of it, belongs in the top two most thrilling opportunities in my career! Knowing that I blasted through the same pie shop door as Ms. Lansbury was a thrill!
How do you work most effectively and efficiently? I am a firm believer that whatever I am doing in the moment is where I am most effcient, and I continue to practice that idea. When I am in the zone, I am in the zone.
Who has been an exceptionally memorable guest on the podcast so far? Each podcast is unique; for instance, yesterday I interviewed three comedians, two players from the Oregon Symphony, and an independent producer. All three provided me total enjoyment. I may be a Pollyanna, but I guess I was in the zone! That’s where I hope to be when I’m keeping company with any of these amazing artists with whom I have the pleasure to connect.
What do you hope the rest of 2018 has in store? More compassion, more love, more art!