Today we meet Mazie Wilson, who is playing the role of Eponine in the Actors’ Repertory Theatre of Simi’s production of “Les Miserables.” Mazie graduated from UC Irvine, where she received her degree in drama. She works as music director for the South Orange County School of the Arts.
VCOS: Did you audition for Eponine?
Mazie: I initially auditioned for both Fantine and Eponine, thinking my voice and look might be more appropriate for Fantine. Eponine was my dream role, though, so when they called me back to sing “On My Own,” I was thrilled!
VCOS: What attracts you to this character over the others in the show?
Mazie: I think Eponine is such an interesting girl. She is so brave and tough, yet capable of so much love and vulnerability. I love what Marius says after Eponine dies: “Her life was cold and dark, yet she was unafraid.” She lived a life that very easily could have made her despair, but instead she chose to be a fighter, standing up to her father and later being willing to die at the barricade. Even with all her toughness, she has such a deep capacity for love, giving her this fascinating dichotomy of intense strength and feminine vulnerability. I think it’s beautiful and I love exploring the two extremes in her heart and her personality.
VCOS: Although bad things happen to everyone in this show, do you consider your character to be the most tragic?
Mazie: I honestly don’t associate the word “tragic” with Eponine. I think her life is incredibly difficult and dark, yet she fights through it until her last moment. And she gets to die in the arms of the man she loves – which is the deepest joy she could have ever imagined. I think the beautiful thing is that Eponine never loses her hope. Her words may sound hopeless, but her actions show that she constantly hopes to be close to Marius, even to the point of being willing to die at the barricade. To me, hopelessness is tragedy. I think Javert’s character is the most tragic for that reason – he fights for what he believes is right his entire life and finally loses hope in his own purpose and takes his own life. I believe Eponine dies with joy, feeling loved for the first time ever, which I think is so heartbreaking but so beautiful at the same time.
VCOS: Tell us what you did to prepare for this role.
Mazie: I saw “Les Miserables” when I was 11 years old, and it has been my favorite musical since then! I already knew most of the music going into the rehearsal process, but I take what I do seriously and was excited to look at this show with new eyes. I came ready to work hard every rehearsal and loved any feedback I got from my director, David Ralphe, and music director, Matthew Park. Any thoughts or realizations I had about Eponine I would immediately write down, and I constantly thought about who she is and who I wanted her to be. David and I would have conversations about her that constantly challenged me to keep growing and working on who Eponine is, which was my favorite part of preparing for the show.
VCOS: When you are performing, are you acting or are you indeed Eponine?
Mazie: I would love to say that I become Eponine and don’t think about acting at all! But in all reality, it’s a combination of both. I am able to let go of my day when I put on my costume, and when I start walking and carrying myself like her. I find myself on stage thinking her thoughts and reacting with Eponine’s feelings instead of my own, which is an amazing experience. There are also moments where I have to choose to stay invested and actively listen – that’s where the acting comes in and I have to work to shift back into Eponine’s thoughts and feelings.
VCOS: Do you sometimes recall moments from your own life that parallel Eponine’s feelings for Marius? Does this help your performance?
Mazie: I actually don’t think too much about that, it has been a long time for me since I experienced any sort of unrequited love (lucky for me!). I found it very easy to allow my Eponine to genuinely fall in love with Rehyan Rivera’s Marius, and feel pain when I see his connection with Alexandra Vann’s Cosette. I actually feel the pang in my chest when he gets down on one knee and I have to see it. Unrequited love is something I think almost every girl can connect to, so it’s easy to go to that place in my heart without having to draw upon tangible past experiences in my mind.
VCOS: How do you prepare vocally for your performance?
Mazie: I do vocal warm ups on my car ride to Simi Valley and then lead vocal warmups for the cast before the show. The fun anecdote I have about vocal preparation is since I have to scream in the show, I needed to work on how to do this properly. On my way to and from rehearsal, I would roll down my windows and scream repeatedly to try and find the right spot in my voice to do it. I’m sure I looked crazy but I needed to practice and I figured it was better to drive by people quickly than scream repeatedly in my bedroom for all my neighbors to hear!
VCOS: Are there any other dream roles you still would like to do?
Mazie: I have many dream roles, although Eponine was my number one on the list! Most of them are roles I won’t be able to play for a few years, like Mother in “Ragtime” and the Witch in “Into the Woods.” I’d also love to play Ellen in “Miss Saigon,” and although I did it in college, I’d love to play Marmee in “Little Women” when I’m a little older. I also want to do one soprano role one day – I’d love to play Lily in “The Secret Garden!”
“Les Miserables” plays through August 25 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. See our Calendar of Events for dates and times.