Q&A with Peggy Cosgrave of Kalamazoo
Updated: Oct 22, 2019
Peggy Cosgrave is no stranger to the stage having been in a multitude of both Broadway, off-Broadway, and regional plays. We’re so happy she came back to the Upper Valley to play Peg in Kalamazoo. You may have seen her in previous SBT shows as well, like 4,000 Miles, Other Desert Cities, and Miracle on South Division Street. This time around, we took advantage of our time with Peggy by interviewing her about her impressive resume and more...
SBT: How did your acting career start? Did you have an “aha moment” when you realized it was something you’d like to pursue, or did it begin differently?
Peggy: I got my Equity card in 1971 so I’ve been a professional actor for almost 50 years but I really started acting in high school. I didn’t really have an “aha moment,” I honestly just wasn't good at anything else. A lot people going into acting worry that they won’t make enough money. So, if you do something else well that you will be rewarded for, that’s what you’ll probably end up doing. But I knew that acting was something I could really do well and succeed in.
SBT: The role of Peggy in Women Who Steal, which premiered at Geva Theatre Center, was written specifically for you, correct? How did that come about?
Peggy: I met Carter Lewis later in his life when he was working at Geva. We became friends and I said, “Why not write a play for me?” So he wrote this one for me and his other friend Karen. Of course, I’m too old to do the part now, but other actors continue to perform the role.
SBT: Considering you also originated the leading role of Clara Nowak in Miracle on South Division Street in its debut at the Penguin Theatre, you’ve had some experience with being the first actor to take on roles in new plays. Is it more difficult to study a character that hasn’t gone from page to stage yet or is it easier because you can’t be influenced by other actors' interpretations of the role?
Peggy: Professional actors don’t study other actors. If a play’s well written, it’s like reading music. You know how some people read music and hear the score in their heads? I hear the play in my head. I can tell if it’s right for me and if I want to take the role right away. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new play or one from the 1800s.
SBT: Is there one role you’ve played that’s the most memorable for you?
Peggy: No, I always like whatever role I’m doing at the moment best in that moment. They’re all very different. I’ve always been a character actor, but when I was younger the roles for the character actors where small and medium size. Now that I am older they are leads, so I have much more to memorize. It is wise for actors of any age to learn the lines before coming to rehearsal as all rehearsals are short now. It gives you the time to get the lines into your body as well as your head in a solid way. The acting part has nothing to do with learning lines. The acting is all in the time you work with the other actors and directors.
SBT: That sounds like a lot of work! How do you memorize all those lines?
Peggy: People ask me this all the time, but I can’t memorize anything faster than anyone else can. When you memorize lines for a play, it’s different than other kinds of memorization. The lines are deeply connected to the character and the script prompts help. There are some actors that have photographic memories but my mind doesn’t work that way. It's harder on actors when theatres cut the rehearsal time to save money. It’s not that I want to extend the rehearsals either, but you need to have enough time to get the play physically in your body
SBT: What has been your favorite part of returning to the Upper Valley to act at Shaker Bridge Theatre this time around?
Peggy: It's been about seven years that I’ve been coming to the area now so I have friends here I’ve made through Shaker Bridge Theatre and it’s always great to see them. I like to play trivia at Salt Hill on Sunday nights. I’m a New Yorker in the country so I also like to drive around the little roads and see the barns, leaves and the lake.
We’re always thrilled to have the talented Peggy work with us at SBT. She has been nominated for many awards throughout the years including the Helen Hayes Award for her portrayal of Chick in Crimes of the Heart and the Outstanding Performer Award from the Connecticut Critics Circle for Marilyn in Ripcord. If you came to see Kalamazoo, you understand why Peggy is so acclaimed!