In Theatre and Media Arts

Emily Moore, Madison Haws and Maddie Hall share their experience portraying the character of Maggie Tulliver in the stage adaptation of George Eliot’s novel

First Maggie (Emily Moore) in “Mill on the Floss.” Photo by Savanna Richardson/BYU.

First Maggie | Emily Moore

Emily Moore felt excited and nervous after getting cast as First Maggie. However, after rehearsals started, she said the nerves went away. She loves working with her fellow cast members to depict a story about the importance of love and acceptance within familial relationships.

“This play stands apart from other productions in multiple ways,” said Moore. “We are using a more abstract way of telling the story in terms of the set, theatrical devices and casting. We are asking the audience to pay close attention to details and see as much as possible in every way. We are pulling on heartstrings in a way I have only experienced once or twice in my lifetime. We are asking them to connect with us on a personal, vulnerable level in order to tell this beautiful story in the best way possible.”

First Maggie is rambunctious, emotional, fiery and stubborn, traits that Moore shares, to a degree. “I am very stubborn and can get quite emotional at times. While I am not as rambunctious or impulsive as she is, I really do feel a connection to her. We both want to be who we are without the opinions of others affecting us, but those opinions tend to shape who we are and where we go. We both have minds of our own.”

Moore said the play illustrates moments of beauty, love, pain and struggle. She feels audience members will leave the theater thinking about the importance of losing those around them.

How is this Maggie different from the other two?

“This Maggie is much more impulsive and does what she wants without thinking of the consequences. She is very vivacious and wild. She wants to read, play and be a child. She tries not to let others affect how she acts, she just is who she is.”

Have you had a favorite rehearsal experience or moment?

“I think my favorite rehearsal experience was after the second run-through. It was our second time going through the show as a whole, so it felt better than the first and we had a better idea of what we were doing. We had a better feel for how the show was going to run. It was wonderful to run the whole show and experience it in full once again.”

What has been the most challenging or trying part of your role in this production?

“The most challenging part is definitely the dialect. We are doing a Yorkshire dialect and it is a very trying experience learning it. It has consisted of lots of tedious work and has challenged me in ways I didn’t think it would. This is how Maggie speaks so it is imperative that I sound consistent when acting. It has also been a very rewarding part of all of this. It’s awesome to know this incredible dialect and to put it to use in such a wonderful production.”

 

Second Maggie | Madison Haws

Second Maggie (Madison Haws) in “The Mill on the Floss.” Photo by Savanna Richardson/BYU.

The moment Madison Haws read the script for “The Mill on the Floss,” she knew she wanted to be a part of the project. She admires how the story has an amazing potential to make people feel and think about the world around them.

Haws said that at first she was very daunted by the task of personifying Second Maggie. She explained that at times, an actor may perform a character who is experiencing trials that are similar to their own, causing him or her to shy away and build a wall between them and the character.

“This ultimately becomes a hindrance,” said Haws. “It took me a while to accept Second Maggie and be open to really telling her story. I found many similarities between her and myself, namely the desire to self-sacrifice for others, her desire to be righteous and emulate perfect goodness, and the way she chooses to make her family happy before herself. I have learned so much about myself as I explore who Second Maggie is and have found a real connection.

Haws said people should see this show because there are many good things that can be taken and applied to everyday life. “It is a reminder that all people have the need to be heard, understood and valued,” said Haws. “Everything about this story is applicable today to every human being. Audiences should expect a story of love and struggle. This is not a musical where everyone sings and dances their troubles away. It is theatrical look into real problems and real struggles. Not everything is solved and our characters are flawed in the way that real people are. Mistakes are made, love is found and lost and the constant struggle to find one’s self is evident.

“Every once and awhile you come across a script and you realize that it is something special,” said Haws. “In a way ‘The Mill on the Floss’ is a representation of the author’s personal struggle being a woman who had the potential to move mountains and faced great resistance because of her gender. The more I think about this play, the more layers I find. This is not a production that you will just sit idly through, you will hopefully be an active participant and continue to think about the production long after you have left the theater. This story has easily entered and changed my heart and if audiences let it, it should do the same for them.”

How is this Maggie different from the other two?

“Second Maggie has focused herself on God by emulating Thomas A. Kempis, a monk who wrote ‘The Imitation of Christ.’  Because of the challenges she faces in her life, of being a brilliant spirited woman in a time when that wasn’t valued, she found it easier to accept the reality that life is determined for us.  But on a larger scale, Second Maggie longs for perfect goodness, which is what is admirable to me.  Each of us has a desire to do good and to move closer to whatever our idea of perfection is and we all stumble and fail at that goal every day.”

Have you had a favorite rehearsal experience or moment?

“There is scene where all of the aunts and uncles are gathered together to talk about Tom’s future education and naturally when you have that many family members together, disputes and arguments break out, especially when money enters the conversation.  Mrs. Glegg, an aunt/my second character and Mr. Tulliver, played by Bradley MacKay, are in a near shouting match by the end.  When we were first blocking the scene, we were exploring the possible choices we could make when Bradley picked up a prop fish, which was used a little earlier in the scene and threw it at me, first hitting me in the face, then landing in my lap. I was so shocked I couldn’t remember my line, nor could I think of any proper response.  No one said anything for a solid minute then we all broke down in hysterical laughter.  I’m sorry to say, but the fish slapping didn’t make it into the final blocking of the show.”

What has been the most challenging or trying part of your role in this production?

“This production carries a lot of weight and thus requires a great deal of effort, physically, mentally and emotionally, from all of us involved.  It has required love, sweat and tears from all of us.  We have all lost sleep, we have all had to deal with a substantial amount of work the last few months because life keeps going and other responsibilities don’t disappear when you make the commitment to do a production.  But that is exactly why this production is special.  We have all put in so much of ourselves into this piece and made this experience a priority.  We have made the decision to be vulnerable with the audience and to make ourselves available to tell the story.”

 

Third Maggie | Maddie Hall

Third Maggie (Maddie Hall) in “The Mill on the Floss.” Photo by Michael Handley.

As a senior in Music Dance Theatre, Maddie Hall has been involved in several musicals and music groups. However, “The Mill on the Floss” is her first time participating in a play without music or dance, helping her expand her acting skills.

The casting process for the play included a search for good chemistry between the love interests in the play, but also between the three Maggies. The actors chosen to portray Maggie each stage of Maggie’s life had to be able to work together to create the individual characters while helping the audience believe they were all one person.

As Third Maggie, Hall is playing the eldest version. “Helen Edmundson wanted to show the inner struggle and conflict Maggie feels as she gets older. It is interesting to think about how even though we grow older, we tend to ‘grow out’ of ourselves. We are still defined by our past and the choices we’ve made. Our younger selves still dictate our opinions and lifestyle. That is something that Third Maggie tries to juggle the entire show.”

Third Maggie struggles with staying true to the innocent, curious and care-free part of First Maggie that is devoted to her family, while still honoring the strong, controlled side of Second Maggie. This inner conflict she experiences is emphasized by  Edmundson by allowing the audience to see into Maggie’s head. Audience members can then more fully understand Maggie’s choices and the decisions she makes.

“Creating Maggie has been a bit challenging because of this but ultimately a lot of fun,” said Hall. “This is the first time I have really had to rely on other people to create one character. All three of us have to make crucial character choices together because we are all portraying the same person, just during different parts of her life. So one decision my fellow actor makes greatly influences how I choose to do things.”

Hall shared that the themes of the play include shame, family, loyalty, finding one’s self, true love and forgiveness. However, the theme that sticks out to her the most is that of “growing up with certain set expectations in regards to gender, status and education, and how Maggie and the other characters react when those expectations are not entirely met. This is something I think the Latter-Day Saint culture can relate to and something our audiences will immediately identify with.”

How is this Maggie different from the other two?

“Third Maggie is a bit more refined, worldly and mature than the first two. She has finally settled more into who she really is and found a place in the world for her where she feels she can truly be herself. Her story is also centered around an epic love, which is always fun.”

Have you had a favorite rehearsal experience or moment?

“About a month into rehearsals, we were asked to do a full run through of the show for our tech crew. We had not even finished running through many of the scenes yet and so we were all a little anxious to present our very unpolished show to an audience. Although the show was very rough and obviously needed a lot of TLC, the heart of the show was very present. We all left that rehearsal knowing we had something special and excited for what was to come. It was pretty magical.”

What has been the most challenging or trying part of your role in this production?

“To be honest, the Yorkshire dialect that is required of us is really quite difficult and all of us have had to work really hard on making it believable. After that, I think it has been trying to create my Third Maggie that is different but still the same as the other two.”

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