Any theater director will tell you that although there are plenty of talented leading players out there, vying for roles, a solid character actor or actress is as good as gold. That’s why many Ventura County companies are delighted when Farley Cadena shows up for an audition. In addition to having a rafters-raising voice, Farley possesses keen comedic skills and superb timing. Witness her robust turn as Miss Hannigan in ARTS’ production of “Annie” from a few years ago. Despite being a head shorter than some of the orphans in her “care,” Farley’s Hannigan more than made up for it with her raucously funny performance. (No one gets “drunk” on stage better than she does.) In Lloyd & Barbara Cooper’s “The Diary,” which is based on the life of Anne Frank, Farley playsa very different character, that of Auguste Van Pels, a member of the family that joined the Franks in the annex of Otto Frank’s office building, where they are hiding out from being discovered by the Nazis. Farley has the task of providing comic relief for a show that really can use it. From the looks of a rehearsal I attended last week at Oak Park High School, she has done just that. We visited with Farley afterward to chat about the show.
VCOS: Had you worked with Lloyd Cooper or Allan Hunt before?
FARLEY: Allan and I are new to each other but Lloyd and I go back about a decade. We met doing “Oliver!” for Cabrillo. He was the musical director and I was (true to form) mean old Widow Corney. Also, for both of us it was our first Cabrillo show. We’ve happily worked together countless times since.
VCOS: What did you think when you first heard that this was a musical about Anne Frank?
FARLEY: I was terribly interested, especially because of Lloyd and Barbara’s involvement in it. I felt I had to do it somehow.
VCOS: Did you know anything about the character you auditioned for?
FARLEY: Well, I had to refresh my memory as it had been a while since I had read Anne Frank’s story. Even so, I didn’t know too much about Auguste van Pels before the audition. I did my “Google” homework before showing up but Lloyd and Barbara have been the best source of information for me really. They’ve done exhaustive research, of course.
VCOS: What is her role in the show?
FARLEY: As it turns out, Mrs. van Pels is the source of humor in an otherwise tense story. She’s fussy, miserable, and irritable most of the time. I like to think I can make that funny. Even the most tension-filled stories need a bit of therapeutic laughter in them.
VCOS: Is it difficult putting yourself in the position of the people in the annex?
FARLEY: It can be very emotional and draining but at the same time one feels quite thrilled to retell the tale. It’s a supportive and fun cast, too, so we are all there for each other and constantly searching for the best way to interpret the story.
VCOS: You’ve been in a lot of shows – in starring roles as well as ensemble parts. How does this score rank?
FARLEY: I think Lloyd has written some beautiful music. Many songs have such a “classic” musical feel to them that you’ll probably feel you heard them before.
VCOS: Do you think it could go farther than just regional theater?
FARLEY: Developing musicals is such a long long process these days. I hope this show has a long life! The Coopers have invested their hearts and souls in this and I want very much for them to be rewarded.
VCOS: What’s the hardest part about doing this show for you?
FARLEY: The hardest part of doing ANY show is how much of myself I have to give over to the piece. My time, my heart, my mind, etc. Theater is a beautiful sacrifice and a risk and you cross your fingers that you’ve done enough to do the work justice.
“The Diary” plays for five performances beginning next Thursday, August 22 at the Scherr Forum in Thousand Oaks. For show dates and times, see our Calendar of Events.