Meet Lillie Richardson
At Arizona Theatre Company we get to bring amazing artists and creators together to manifest wonderful pieces of art. In the upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Lillie Richardson has joined our team to play the one and only Amanda Wingfield. We sat down with Richardson to get to know her a little better and how she came to accept the role.
Lillie Richardson graduated from ASU with her Master’s in Theatre and Child Drama and immediately went on to work Childsplay Theatre Company in Tempe, Arizona. When we asked how she got into the theatre in the first place she remarked, “My story is called ‘What you resist, will persist.’ I resisted this for a long time.” While her father was a performer, Richardson often found herself more drawn to sports. She played basketball, volleyball, ran track, and was a cheerleader.
It wasn’t until a professor at her junior college in Florida cast her as Viney in The Miracle Worker by William Gobson that she had her first spark.
“I’ll never forget this moment, I walked off stage – everybody says they have this – this moment when you walk off stage and you’re in the wings and you go, ‘I just feel at home.’ That was when the bug bit the first time.”
While the bug bit, the burning didn’t last very long and Richardson continued to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation. As fate would have it, that degree brought her out to Tucson to work at Reid Park, Parks and Recreation. While she was in town, she decided to take a course in acting which led her to Harold Dixon, who asked her to audition for a play called “Skin of Our Teeth”. Dixon cast Richardson in the play, but she was so “green” that she didn’t know you had to go and look on a board somewhere to find out if you got a role or not. “So I never showed up!” she said.
Years later in 1990, she worked with Dixon’s wife on her first ATC show, Amadeus, where she bumped into Dixon again. He remarked how Richardson “snubbed” him after he cast her in his show. To which she replied, “I was cast in that?” Then the rest is history.
We were lucky enough to have Ms. Richardson return to ATC for another show, but getting her to do it wasn’t so easy. She was reluctant and confused as to why Chanel Bragg would want her to read for a role like this.
“I would have never thought of myself as playing Amanda. Amanda and I have nothing in common. The thing I struggled with personally is that I’m a person that allows … I believe in allowing. Allowing a person/individual to do what they need to do for their course of learning. Amanda is controlling, extremely controlling. And she sees it one way … she is lost in her own world of how it worked for her, how she envisioned it would work for her. So it becomes annoying to her children. What she believes she is doing right is actually causing her children to disconnect! To want to escape. But, there’s a relatable factor in it too … You want all the designs to be the same. You want everyone to stay in their roles. You want everyone to play their right part. You’re a husband, I’m a wife. You’re a father, I’m a mother. Sometimes it works because people know how to play the role, but sometimes it doesn’t work because everybody is growing.”
When we asked what Chanel said to convince her to take the role, Richardson said, “She had to do a lot … She was not trying to make a statement with her casting. She has a story she’s telling with a classic that now puts us in the space of everyman instead of it being ‘This is only a period of time that is a select sort of people that should tell this story. She is saying it’s an everyman and everywoman story and I agree with that. What people forget is that as much as things have changed, many things have remained the same. If we tell the story as you believe it was told in that particular time then you’re not telling the whole story. Because this is a story about humanity … We’re all trying to survive, we all are operating from the principle of love, loving your family, trying to find love. Love is at the core of this and that was her selling point for me. That’s where I’m similar to Amanda. That’s where I operate from. Even if it’s a mess or even it’s judged or even if someone is looking at it and they’re saying this is offending me — if your intention is based in love then you’re going to keep doing it. Because you really think you’re doing the right thing … So when you look at a classic and you’re talking about a time period and you’re talking about family, and you’re talking about a single mother, and you’re talking about struggle, there’s no period to it. That’s still happening today. Classic issues. So that was a selling point.”
“There is an aspect of me that’s coming out that I didn’t know existed in here. And that’s what all actors find when you use your imagination, you can go to places you didn’t even know existed. With her vision, I trusted her and am embracing this and am enjoying finding who Amanda is and what her voice is through me.”
Now, with rehearsals in full swing, our excitement for what is to come grows alongside Richardson’s. Chanel Bragg’s vision paired with the stellar cast of Lillie Richardson, Aaron Cammack, Michelle Chin, and Paul Deo Jr. is sure to move every audience to witness Arizona Theatre Company’s upcoming production of The Glass Menagerie.