Compiled from email conversation with Kalinda Gray:
Patrick: How are you approaching the role this time? Have you experienced anything different this time around?
This is my third time with the show after opening it for the first time in 2019, and I’m sincerely happy to be back and seeing even more sparks this year. It was a creative behemoth to pull off back in 2019. Even up until our final dress rehearsal, we weren’t sure if it was going to work, and – up until the eleventh hour – we were praying for the best. With three separate “stages,” props, puppetry, miniatures, multiple cameras, special and visual effects, a giant screen, and lots of quick costume and prop changes to boot, there are SO many technical aspects to the show that have to be just right, including standing in a specific spot on a large green screen backdrop with no “mark,” maneuvering and landing in Kong’s hand and making sure it doesn’t tip over, timing the green screen effects with live actors. It may look easy from the audience, but it’s absolutely a well-oiled machine backstage with only a few amazing crew members helping everyone else out. We gave it all we had that first weekend, knowing that we were holding something magically fun and unique. We wanted to see how it flew, and to our delight (and relief), it took off, and the audiences loved it. After the first six-week run in 2019, there was talk about bringing it back in 2020. Well, we all know what happened with that year, so it was a wonderful respite to bring it back to life in 2021 and have fun after all the theaters and artists had experienced with COVID-19. Last year, we introduced some more inserts with “Kong” for the big screen and a few other big surprises, fleshed out a few scenes further, welcomed a few new cast members, and – I think – found a new groundedness for the production.
This year, it’s a wonderful mix of all of the above. I’m grateful that we have all relaxed into the show and have even more of a joyful impetus to “play” with our characters and find new bits and pieces. Because of that, it feels more organic in some ways this year, which is pretty neat going into a third run! I feel we’ve also kept that same grounded quality, which I think was a big part of the 1933 film and is imperative for a tongue-in-cheek production like this (and certainly to comedy as a whole). I’m trying some new things with Ann; there’s a bit more knowingness there this time around. Even in comedy, you still have to approach a character seriously and mine through the depths. She’s an actor that’s been through hell and back (which probably feels like a familiar story to performers in the past few years, especially) and finds kinship with another lonely soul. There’s humanity in the show – even with its camp.
Patrick: For those who have seen the show before, can we expect anything different on the acting or technical side of the show?
We have some different effects, a few new cast members, and – if audiences didn’t see the show in 2021 – another big surprise they can interact with during and after the show. We are always finding new things to add! The beauty of this production is the audience usually comes in not knowing what to expect – whether they’ve seen it before or have seen it several times. The technical aspects of the show make every performance unique. And if something goes wrong (we hope not, but it sometimes does if technology refuses to cooperate), it’s a challenge for the actors to work around it, improvise, etc. I still laugh thinking of certain ways the actors have played off a mishap in previous years. The camaraderie has only grown, and I love it. I can’t give too much else away – audiences will need to come see for themselves.
Patrick: Would you recommend someone watch the original king kong or even the more recent film version before coming to the Maverick?
Absolutely – especially the original film, which this production is based on and uses some of the same “visual effects” techniques. There are some needed tweaks and changes, and we have a lot more humor and camp thrown in, but it’s all done in homage to what made the landmark 1933 film famous in its own right. The original movie was a product of its time. Yet, it inspired and led to much of what we see today in feature films, including original soundtrack scores, stop motion animation, and miniature projections. Fans of that film will notice a LOT of similarities, ranging from the music to the intricately recreated costumes (even the same buttons and details on Ann’s island dress), certain camera shots, etc. The most significant difference is that Kong is, of course, played by a human (well, for the most part – you’ll see what I mean if you see the show), so it gives more colors, emotions, and realistic movement to interacting with him “onscreen.”
Patrick: Do you and the character of Ann Darrow have anything in common?
Aside from being blonde and screaming a lot, sure – I think I’ve got a few things in common with “Ann Darrow.” We both have a deep affinity for animals and adventures, for sure. I’m an avid traveler (I love the sea, too) and adore exploring the old and the new. I feel that introducing new and truthful experiences helps keeps artists sharp and become better humans and fine-tunes a humble appreciation for the world around them. I take the opportunity to explore or experience a new place whenever I can. One of my dreams is to shoot a film on location in another country, and I’m currently working on that being a possibility soon!
I’d also mention that we both have a thing for tall, dark, handsome strangers – but that’s a sore subject with Mr. Kong – and you may need to ask him about that one.