by Moe Yousuf
Posted on February 22, 2016
Eunice Wong (Performer) is a classically trained actor who works in professional theatres across the United States and in New York City. She was Gretchen in TMT’s Faust at Classic Stage. Also: Smart People (Huntington – My Theatre Boston Award, Best Actress), Intelligent Design… (Studio – Helen Hayes Award, Lead Actress), Infinite Ache (Walnut St. – Barrymore Award Lead Actress nom.), Atlantic, Guthrie, Yale Rep, NAATCO, Pearl, Sex & the City, Law & Order, many others. www.eunicewong.com
TMT: The last time that you collaborated with Target Margin was in 2006 with Faust. What’s different this time around with Drunken With What?
EW: Goethe and Eugene O’Neill? Is there a difference?
TMT: You took several years away from the stage to have a family and raise children. How do you determine which projects to work on? Is it difficult to balance family vs career in the arts?
EW: I took seven years off from acting to be pregnant twice, give birth twice, breastfeed both babes for two and a half years each, co-sleep, wear my babies in a carrier close to my heart for a few years — the whole wonderful attachment parenting thing. I have a son who is now eight, and a daughter who is now five. The first show I did after those seven years was in Boston at the Huntington, and I was able to bring my whole family up with me, including my husband Chris. This time I have a four hour daily round trip commute, which is four more hours away from my family. (Though that’s when I do all my work. My script remains in my bag once I get home. Don’t tell David.)
So yes, it’s tricky balancing a career in the arts with my family. And yet I firmly believe that one of the most important things a parent must show their children — show by example, not by mere telling — is how to live with creative passion, fulfillment, and joy. Children are robbed at a life-shaping level if their mother – or father – is depressed, frustrated, and resentful, no matter how loving and conscientious they are. The boundaries between children and their parents are so porous. Unhappiness is a toxic gas.
The way I choose my jobs now — and even auditions — is whether they feed my soul, corny as that may sound, and still allow me to come home at night. I can’t fly off to Minneapolis for three months anymore. It’s not about career ambition, which — family or not — lead many astray into barren ruts. I ask, is it a role that allows me to excavate deep within myself? Is it a great script? What is the director’s vision and the mission of the theater company? In this case: Lavinia Mannon, a battleground between Puritan repression and the pagan life force? Eugene O’Neill, one of the most revolutionary American playwrights ever, channeling Aeschylus? The brilliant, mad, and ever lovable David Herskovits and Target Margin? YES PLEASE.
TMT: Lavinia is a tough character, and definitely not somebody you want to mess with. O’Neill’s description suggests that Lavinia is more like her father than her mother. In your real life, who are more like, your mother or your father? Or a fictional character, perhaps from Star Wars?
EW: Oh yes, I am exactly like a particular Force-sensitive scavenger on an epic quest to know her own origins and learn from the mysteries of the universe. But what artist isn’t? I’m also like Harriet the Spy. Data from Star Trek. Yentl. Kylo Ren. May Sarton in Journal of a Solitude. Roy Batty from Blade Runner. Emily of New Moon. Emily Webb from Our Town. My mom. And my daughter. If my soul had a physical shape it would look and move like an aerial silks act from Cirque du Soleil.
TMT: Lavinia wants to take her mother’s place of authority in the family. Tell us a little bit about your character development and what you have found along the way?
EW: I’m not spilling any secrets about Lavinia. That stuff is delicate, and if articulated too early and thrust out in the world, has a tendency to wilt. I will say that Lavinia is a tremendously fortressed character, and I am fascinated by why and how she became that way. What tiny seed is the nucleus of that fortress? What’s the grain of sand that lies inside the pearl, which is enclosed in the clamshell? And Eugene O’Neill isn’t the father of psychological realism in American theater for nothing. He’s laid down a trail of tantalizing clues for the observant actor. John Dewey, in “Human Nature and Conduct,” writes, “Suppression is not annihilation. ‘Psychic’ energy is no more capable of being abolished than the forms we recognize as physical. If it is neither exploded nor converted, it is turned inwards, to lead a surreptitious, subterranean life.”
TMT: What’s next?
EW: After seven years of not acting, I came back to the stage and found that I had grown by incredible bounds as an actor in that time away. I’m sure that’s an infuriating thought to, say, a ballet dancer or a violinist. But I find that now, my emotional palette and range and depth are exponentially greater and easier to access than they used to be.
So, what’s next, what’s next is I’m going to keep growing and developing as an actor because I’ll be growing and developing as a human being (thanks Stella Adler for articulating that thought).
But specifically? I recently received a grant to start an investigative column on Truthdig.com on violence against women, which I will commission and edit. I have been Chief Editor for the Truthdig Book Review for several years.
I’m a dedicated vegan and will keep educating people on the devastating environmental and health impacts and ethical implications of supporting the animal protein industry. I recently wrote the text for the companion book to the documentary, Cowspiracy. The book is called “The Sustainability Secret.”
I am a yoga teacher at an incredible studio, YogaStream, run by my own phenomenal teacher and friend, Lara Heimann. I’m also addicted to my inversion-based practice (I spend my rehearsal lunch hours doing sun salutations, handstands, and arm balances).
I’d like to continue teaching English at the men’s super-max prison in Trenton where I’ve taught before.
I’d like to continue my circus aerials training.
I’ll keep researching and mulling all things O’Neill for the next installment of Mourning Becomes Electra.
Above all, there are the two small humans who are my children, and my husband Chris, who is the blond and blazing sun in my solar system.
In short, the Jedi training continues.