People Behind Summer and Smoke: Heather and Marliss

When I first approached Mary-Ellen Perley (the Director) and Eric Rice (one of Walterdale Playhouse’s Public Relations Co-Directors) about doing a behind-the-scenes look at Summer and Smoke, we thought it would be a good idea for me to profile those involved in the production – both the actors you’ll see on the stage and the production team who do the magic backstage & leading up to the production to help create the world of the play – the hair, the costumes, the sound, the light… you get the picture.

My last installment of the Behind Summer and Smoke series profiled Kirk Starkie (Reverend Winemiller) and Joan Hawkins (Set Designer). This installment will shine the spotlight on Heather Patton (Mrs. Winemiller) and Marliss Weber (Dialect Coach).

Actor: Heather Patton

1. Why (and when) did you decide to become involved with Walterdale?

I received an audition notice for Sweet Charity and had never done a show there.  I liked the idea of performing with the audition so close to the stage.

2. What character do you play in Summer + Smoke?

Mrs. Winemiller.

3. What commonalities, if any, do you have with your character?

Ha ha, well some would say it’s not a stretch for me to play a character who is a little off her rocker.

4. What other productions (at Walterdale or elsewhere) have you been a part of? What was your role in those productions?

I have been involved in community theater for 10 years.  As an actor, stage manager, prop master, costumer designer and mistress.

5. Why do you act? What are you trying to do every time you go on stage, no matter what role you’re playing?

I like to engage the audience.  Make them laugh, cry, evoke an emotion.

6. In a small paragraph, describe the highlights of the last 5 years or so of your life.

Well, the best highlight of the last five years is my discovery of hiking and kayaking in the mountains.  This past April, I went to Kauai and hiked a 16 kilometer trail along the coastline.  The only way in to the trail head was to be dropped off in the ocean and swim to shore.

Dialect Coach: Marliss Weber

1. Why (and when) did you decide to become involved with the Walterdale?

I’ve been involved with Walterdale for seven or eight years, mostly as a dialect coach, and as a sometimes actor. My husband, Randy Brososky, was the Artistic Director a few years ago, and he brought me into the fold. We love Walterdale so much, we actually got married there!

2. What is your role in the production of Summer and Smoke? In layman’s terms, what do you do?

I am the dialect coach. I am in charge of teaching the cast the Tennessee Williams Mississippi accent. I approach it from a socio-cultural perspective, as language is intimately tied up with where you grew up, what kind of family you had, how much money/education you and your family had, and historically what was going on at the time of the play.

3. Why do you choose to be involved in the production side of the show? How did you get started doing this?

In my non-Walterdale life, I’m busily building a business (I’m a writer and a corporate storyteller). My work life, as any self-employed person will tell you, is insane. So unfortunately, I don’t have the time to commit to being on-stage in a production, which is my first love. But I’m thrilled to be able to participate in other ways, and dialect work is something that I absolutely love. I’ve been studying dialects and language since I was a kid. I got started by studying Speech Arts and classical voice. As a classical singer, you often sing in other languages, and so while I certainly don’t speak them, I did learn the proper vocal placement and accent of many different languages. That translated nicely to the work I was doing in Speech Arts (basically, the study of the spoken word, as applied in theatre and other settings), which is how I learned many of the British dialects. I learned to pull the sounds of language apart and reassemble them into specific dialects, which is how I approach teaching a cast a certain sound. The journey is part historical and socio-cultural, part intuitive, and a whole lot of technical science (“the tongue goes here, while your soft palate does this” etc).

4. Most audience members know when an actor has done a good job. What does it mean for the audience when you’ve done well in your portion of the production?

When no one mentions the dialect. It shouldn’t stand out – it should be an integral part of the character and flavour of the play. It’s a big part of the actor doing a “good job.”

5. You’re a volunteer with The Walterdale, what is your “day job”? What else are you involved in?

I am a communications consultant and corporate storyteller with my company Parodos Communications. I work with businesses and organizations to help them tell their story (and everyone has a story!) in the most interesting way. So, I work a lot with video/film, social media, print, advertising and the traditional media to get the word out. I’ve been doing this for the last six years, and it’s so much fun, if all-consuming. I also write freelance, coach professional speakers and singers, as well as adjudicate voice, musical theatre and speech arts at music festivals across the country. So, yes. I guess I’m a bit busy, but that’s the way I like it!

6. In a small paragraph, describe the highlights of the last 5 years or so of your life.

I think the major highlights involve getting married (to Randy Brososky, a fellow Walterdalian), getting my Masters Degree (Master of Arts in Communications and Technology) and birthing my company. And my involvement in Walterdale has always been a source of joy as well.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island, what is the one thing you would bring with you and why?

Lip Gloss. Can’t live without. Ask anyone…

Read more articles in the Behind Summer and Smoke Series

– Jenna Marynowski

There is one comment

  1. Behind Summer and Smoke: Fights and Accents | Sound and Noise

    […] Summer and Smoke takes place in Mississippi, the production also brought in Marliss Weber as a vocal coach to help the actors develop both southern and Spanish accents. While I missed the […]


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