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A ‘Rose’ by any other name? EG’s Masse stars in play

February 4, 2011

East Greenwich’s Therese Masse is starring in the role of Rose Kennedy in the play The Color of Rose.

This week only, three Roses will be much more than an entire bouquet. This week only, three Roses will live for an amazing 104 years.
This week only, three Roses will flower on the Boston stage and the freshest one bloomed its entire life in East Greenwich.
East Greenwich’s Therese Masse, Emerson College Class of 2011, is starring this week as young Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in the world premiere of “The Color of Rose,” at Emerson College’s Paramount Center.
A BFA Acting major, Masse, 21, will be joined by professional actors Karen MacDonald, who plays middle-aged Rose, and Judith Roberts, in the role of older Rose. The three women, who will never leave the stage at any time during the performance, will convey the heart-wrenching journey of the grand matriarch of the Kennedy clan.

The show premiered last weekend at the Black Box Theatre in Emerson’s Paramount Center, 559 Washington Street, Boston. It is written by Katherine Bates, based on a concept by Chuck Fries, and is directed by Melia Bensussen, Chairwoman of the Department of Performing Arts at Emerson.
This is Masse’s second show at Emerson. She was also cast as Frances Black in Emerson Stage’s production of “Light Up the Sky,” which showed in October.
At Prout School in Wakefield, Masse performed in “The Little Prince (Desert Flower),”, “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Anything Goes (Ensemble),” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Rosemary),” and “Oklahoma!” (Aunt Eller).
Here, only in the pages of RICentral, East Greenwich’s youngest Rose speaks:

RICENTRAL: Being so young, had you heard or known about who Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was before taking the role?
MASSE: Not at all. I’d heard her name, but I must have just thought that the Kennedy boys had just sprung up out of the ground! She’s overlooked a lot.
RIC: So, did you research her young life?
MASSE: Of course. It was important for me to find this woman’s essence, more so than trying to impersonate or imitate her. I wanted to find her core.
RIC: Are you an admirer of the Kennedys?
MASSE: I have never been overly fascinated by them. Growing up, they just seemed to be a part of history. I’ve gained a lot of respect for the family, through doing the play.
RIC: What do you hope to bring to the role?
MASSE: I hope to bring parts of myself to it, certainly, my own interpretation. It’s a fascinating idea, to have three Roses onstage, at various points of her life. I take my cues off of the other actors, Judith Roberts (Older Rose) and Karen MacDonald (Middle-Aged Rose). Much of my motivation comes from listening to them and taking them in.
I was very surprised and honored to have been given the role (and the opportunity).
RIC: How did you react with the news that you did get it?
MASSE: I squealed, then called my parents.
RIC: What has it been like working with the “pros?” What have you learned?
MASSE: Luckily, our training at Emerson gives us a good glimpse into what it’s like to work in professional theater. There were many aspects of the process that I was familiar with, as a result.
I had no idea, however, what it would be like to act with two women who weren’t a part of my peer group. That was (and still is) an immense learning experience. And we’ve been given the gift of having the best director in the business and a technical team, who know their stuff so well.
Mostly, I’ve learned how to listen more. This is a vital part of acting, clearly, but it’s not as easy to do onstage as one would think.
The show has only three characters. We play Rose Kennedy at three different stages of her life. The elder one is preparing herself for a Mother’s Day interview, and her younger and middle-aged selves are invoked to help her figure out what she will say in that interview. Therefore, all three of us are onstage the entire show (about 90 minutes).
RIC: How has this helped you grow as an actress?
MASSE: It makes me realize how much work it is in this profession. I’ve always known/heard that, but it’s becoming more real now. This might also have to do with being a second semester senior in college.
The women who I’ve worked with on this show (the actors and the director, anyway) have worked SO extensively all over the country and the world in this business. It seems like they know everyone in the theater. It brings to light how connected the performing arts are.
RIC: What do you want the public or theatergoers to know about this show?
MASSE: That we’re not being literal in our interpretation of Rose Kennedy. You won’t see the iconic hairdo, or hear the heavy accent. It’s about her memories, and how we experience and interpret them.
RIC: Who do you want to thank when you get your Tony, I mean, from the old hometown?
MASSE: Most obviously, my mother and father, who, despite having a daughter in the arts, have not tried to deter her from it at all, which is pretty awesome. Also, my true fairy godmother, Wilma Miley, and my high school theater director, who is the reason for all this, David DiLullo.

Tickets for “The Color of Rose” are general admission and cost $39. The show runs through Sunday, Feb. 6. For more information, or to buy tickets, call 617-824-8000 or visit artsemerson.org.

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