Sunday, December 8, 2013
Caroline Hewitt knew exactly who to call for advice when she was cast in the role of the painter in the play "Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh."
Ellen Adair, left, and Caroline Hewitt in a scene from “Marie Antoinette: The Color of Flesh” at Portland Stage.
Mark Rockwood photos courtesy of Portland Stage Company
Hewitt portrays painter Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun in the Joel Gross play.
"MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE COLOR OF FLESH"
WHEN: Final preview at 7:30 tonight. Opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and continues at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and May 10. Through May 20.
WHERE: Portland Stage Company, 25A Forest Ave.
HOW MUCH: $30 to $39; $27 to $36 for seniors; $15 to $19.50 for students.
INFO: 774-0465; portlandstage.org
She called her dad.
Her father, Duncan Hewitt, is a well-known Maine sculptor. Daughter Caroline doesn't paint, and knew the success of her portrayal hinged on her ability to convince the audience she was creating while standing at the easel in this play, on stage through May 20 at Portland Stage Company.
Dad offered ideas, and also put her in touch with real-life painters who could help with posture and technique. She ended up sitting in on a painting class to get a sense of how it feels to make magic with oil and canvas.
Hewitt -- born in Portland, raised in Falmouth and now living in New York and working as an actress -- portrays Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun in the Joel Gross play. The playwright taps the emotions of a love triangle to create the show, which is historically based but full of a writer's imagination.
"The piece is incredible," said Hewitt, who attended plays at Portland Stage while growing up, and is acting here for the first time. "I have always enjoyed playing roles from different time periods, and am often cast in different time periods. This play is perfect for me."
"Marie Antoinette" tells the story of young Elsa, an up-and-coming portrait painter, the French Queen Marie Antoinette and Count Alexis de Ligne.
Elsa uses her friendship with the count to win an audience with the queen in hopes of landing a commission to paint the queen's portrait. She succeeds, and over the course of several sittings, the painter and the queen become friends and confidantes. Eventually, they both fall in love with the same man.
The play involves history, politics and human drama of the deepest kind. It's set in 18th-century Paris, and plays out over the course of two decades. The French Revolution serves as a backdrop, as does the guillotine. Elsa's final portrait session is in the queen's jail cell, just before her execution.
Rounding out the cast are Ellen Adair as Marie Antoinette and Tony Roach as the count. Daniel Burson directs.
Hewitt loves playing Elsa because of her depth.
"She is more complicated and more real to me than many characters I get to play," she said. "It's a meaty and rewarding role. She does not always do the nice thing. She is complicated and passionate."
Hewitt got her start in theater while living on Long Island, N.Y., as a young girl. She moved back to Maine in the fourth grade, and got involved with the children's theater at Mad Horse and the Children's Theatre of Maine.
Hewitt left Maine again at age 18 for college. She earned a bachelor's degree in French from Vasser College and a master's in acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco in 2010. She has acted regionally and in New York. Most recently, she appeared in "The Rivals" at Baltimore Centerstage.
Hewitt comes home to Maine to visit family, but being in this show has given her the chance for an extended stay in Portland. She has had fun rediscovering the city from the inside out.
"It's fun to be in the heart of it. It's nice to work in a place where you feel like you know where to go when you want your coffee," she said. "But it's fun to be in the heart of it. I am surprised by all the new places."
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:
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Hewitt and Tony Roach