The cast of the Guthrie Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s co-production of Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman. Photo by Dan Norman.
Actor Felicity Jones Latta has had a few homecomings in the Twin Cities, but her current one is blue. Guthrie Theater blue, to be precise. In an uncommon piece of sibling scheduling, Jones Latta and her twin sister Charity Jones are simultaneously performing at the Guthrie Theater – just in different shows. While Charity plays Duenna/Mother Marguerite across the lobby in Cyrano de Bergerac, Felicity Jones Latta is getting down as a goddess – Aphrodite, among others – in Metamorphoses.
- Read Basil Considine’s review of Metamorphoses.
Jones Latta spoke with the Arts Reader‘s Basil Considine about professional highlights, the dynamics of on-stage pools, and career avenues.
Where is “home base” for you these days?
I live with my family in the country in northwestern Connecticut.
Do I correctly recall that the last time you performed in town was during the 2016 tour of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time?
Yes. I loved doing The Curious Incident – there’s something about doing something for a year – it was a little more than that, and living that long with a character is really gratifying.
How often have you been back since?
I try to come once or twice a year, since my entire family and my husband’s family is from here. We were just here at Christmas, right before we had to go off to Berkeley and I spent the winter in California. We come for Christmas and family weddings, and spend some summers here because of my twin sister.
Besides getting ordained as the Archbishop of Canterbury by Hartford Stage, what are some of your personal and professional highlights of the past few years?
From the last few years? The Curious Incident was one – the touring company was wonderful and the experience was really great.
I got an opportunity to do a less commonly done Arthur Miller play, Broken Glass, which we did at Westport Country Playhouse; I enjoyed that very much. Those were my favorite recent productions.
Farther back, I got to play Baba Yaga at Yale Repertory Theatre in The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, which was hilarious.
In a 2016 interview with Rohan Preston of the Star Tribune, you mentioned that you had to change your stage name because you had been getting mail for a certain other actress who’s not your twin, Felicity Jones of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story fame. It’s three years later, is this still going on?
We have solved that at long last. It took a good 7 years or so for the union – the Screen Actors Guild – to figure that out.
What happens when you get checks for another actor? Do you just write “return to sender” and pop them back in the mail?
You really do have to send it back, but you also have to call the union and tell them what has happened. Then you have to call a different department at SAG because, if you don’t deal with it, it will affect the dues you’re charged and your taxes. It’s not a minor occurrence, but happily, that seems to be over – it hasn’t happened in about a year.
In Metamorphoses, you play a revolving cast of different characters. Does your pre-performance (or pre-scene, as the case may be) preparation differ significantly when you’re playing a multiplicity of characters versus a single role?
I think it does – it has to impact how you do the show. In Metamorphoses, we really just hop into these characters very quickly and then hop out again. And sometimes I’m playing Aphrodite, but narrating the story as Aphrodite…so it’s very different from playing a character where you’re tracing out an arc.
I love this cast. Our best preparation is that we like to see each other and make ourselves giggle and just have a few laughs before we go on.
Tell me about the rehearsal process for the action in the pool – it’s not exactly a common rehearsal room feature. When and how did that process begin, and when did you actually get to start using the water?
This play was created a long time ago and has had numerous remounts, and there’re always people who’ve done it before in the cast. For the newcomers, there’s a process of learning what has come before, and there’s a process of teaching the order of things and how things flow. When I first joined the cast of this show about 15 years ago, when we were doing it Off-Broadway, we had maybe 5 days before we went into the pool. Then once we got into the pool there was a whole discovery process.
In our pre-tech rehearsals, we don’t actually get the pool – we have a mat instead. Then, when we get the pool during tech, we learn so much more. And sometimes there are things like how the pool can be slippery, and the deck around it gets slippery even though it has a grit coating. The pool is a character of its own.
How does having the water to work with accent or shape what you do as an actor?
There’s the technical process – being careful when we speak about the splashing, so that we make sure that our voices can be heard over it, as well as lighting and reflection issues. The other part is that, water being one of the four classical elements of life, it’s not fake – the water’s “for real”, and unlike so much in theatre can be directly imbued with truth. It brings a depth of feeling to us as performers and to the audience, because you can’t deny the reality or vastness of the water.
It’s also not necessarily cooperative – we can anticipate some things, but it will always fool us with something, because it’s a real thing.
Your twin sister is also performing in the same building in Cyrano de Bergerac – do you get to spend time together near/around the Guthrie, or is this a “two ships passing in the night” thing?
It’s a lot of “two ships passing in the night” – but sometimes she’ll pop into my dressing room on the way to hers. Sometimes, after the show, I’ll also pop upstairs and say hi. We certainly have had a lot of time to meet for a cup of coffee or go for a walk on the river…
How often do you normally stay in touch?
My sister and I talk multiple times a week to check in, and email each other daily. If I don’t have a reason to come to MN, she’ll come out east, so we see each other at least twice a week. I also have two brothers that I try to keep up with, as well as nieces and nephews.
Having grown up with each other and with theatre, what sorts of things do you like to talk about when you touch base?
We usually talk about our troubles with the current production.
None of those right now, right?
Oh, no – it’s always stuff during the rehearsal process. You don’t want to bring your insecurities there, so it’s nice to have someone “safe” to bounce those off of who’s in the same business, who understands, and who you can express the ridiculous (and I mean ridiculous, sometimes) insecurities with.
We also both garden and talk about the birds that Charity’s spotted (she’s a birder).
You were strongly involved with Theatre de la Jeune Lune back in the day, an organization known for its participatory creative process. Does the director’s chair hold any appeal for you at this point in your career?
No, it doesn’t. I did direct a couple times, but to be honest, I don’t like being in charge. I’m interested in creating, but not in being the one who has to answer all the questions.
I do have some projects that I’m interested in developing with other people collaboratively. Ultimately, however, I don’t know if those require a director or would be self-directed.
What’s coming up next for you?
I will have been away from home for 5 months at the end of this show, so my family and I are taking a long trip to Europe. No work – it’s family time in the month of July!
I don’t have anything lined up for the next year, but I do teach creativity at the University of Hartford. I teach two units, on Mondays – the actor’s traditional day off, which lets me teach and do a show at the same time.
How does that work out in practice?
The university has been very accommodating. If I’m going away for a whole term, they hire someone to fill in for me, but they’ve always been happy to take me back. It’s also very flexible because my husband also teaches there, so we can fill in for each other when one of us is, say, in tech rehearsals.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.