Long-time TIP member, Barbara Taylor, who plays Mother Francis in upcoming show Elvis’s Toenail, shares her Mother Superior secrets.
I believe it is not your first time to play a woman of the cloth?
This is my third time to inhabit the habit.
Where do you draw inspiration for such characters?
I was a student of the Dominican Convent, Eccles Street, Dublin and no stranger to “The Nuns”. I had a particularly challenging relationship with a Sister Mary Henry or The Hen as we all called her. She certainly supplied me with lots of experiences to draw from. Each of the roles I have played as a nun have been different but being educated in a convent provided me with a wealth of Sisters to help develop my “holy” characters.
Do you relish playing imposing characters?
I enjoy playing a role of any kind but I do feel finding the right level of being imposing is important. I love the process of developing a character. Once we have got to the mid stage of rehearsals I like to read the play again and note what all the other characters in the play have said about my character. I like to make a decision about how my character got to where she is at and build on that. I find this helps me to feel and embrace the character so that the audience truly believe in me.
What was your last mother superior role?
I played Sister Aloysius in the Village Players production of Doubt a Parable by John Patrick Shanley in 2012. It was hard work but a very rewarding experience and a great production. It was the tale of a very different challenge for the church. It was wonderful to research and develop the character to make sure the audience actually left the theatre in doubt!
What is the most important element of getting it right for a mother superior?
I feel Mother Francis has great passion for the church and is not a fan of change. She has very high standards for herself and everyone around her. The author has cleverly given me a glimpse of who she was as a young girl and the material to see what framed who she has become. I think the most important element is to make her real. I like to think that the work I do through the rehearsal process successfully brings her to life for the audience. The play is very well written and has a wonderful array of characters.