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As heralded stage actress Diane Kondrat prepares to bid farewell to Indianapolis and to the theater that has felt like home for 25 years—downtown's Phoenix Theatre—she ruminates about the work she has done here, fills us in on what's next, and explains why theater is such a vital part of the arts. It's all in this IM exclusive (part one of our talk with her appears here).
SHANA NGO: How long have you been planning to leave Indy?
DK: Oh, about two years now.
SN: While you’ve been here, how long have you been doing stage work?
DK: Twenty-five years.
SN: So what kept you here so long, and why the move now?
DK: [laughs] Well, [my husband] Tony Ardizzone has a job teaching literature and fiction writing at Indiana University in Bloomington. He got the job 26 years ago, and we moved to where we could pay the rent—that’s kept me here all this time.
SN: How is the dynamic going to be? Who will be with you in Portland?
DK: My daughter is in Portland, and she’s jumping up and down, waving her arms, and saying, “Mama, mama, come!” And my son is in Seattle, so everybody’s very anxious to be going to such an exquisitely beautiful place. Both of my kids, as soon as they were grown up, ran to the Pacific Northwest.
SN: Do you have something in the works in Portland that you’re looking forward to?
DK: Theater in Portland is very active. They have citywide auditions on April 6, so I’m going to go to those, and I have some lists of people’s names that I’m supposed to bother and get to know. So I’m going to do what actors do no matter where they are, which is knock on doors and try to get somebody to give me a job.
SN: What are some of your goals when you get to Portland?
DK: It’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of work I’m presented with. I have to come from nothing when I go there, and it’s very difficult to prove yourself in auditions. You usually have a minute—sometimes two minutes—to present yourself in an audition situation. It’s very difficult to manipulate a stage presence if there aren’t a lot of people in the room. So my performance in auditions, I am quite sure, is not as interesting as my performance on stage in a show.
SN: But stage is your forte. You’re not looking to go into any other industry, like film? You want to stay on stage?
DK: When I was on the East Coast, I did a whole lot of voiceover work. My son is working for Microsoft now, and I wouldn’t mind doing voiceovers for video-game characters. That’s where a lot of the voiceover work is now. That would be really fun, to do more voiceover work. And, certainly, I wouldn’t turn my back on other kinds of work. I’ll take whatever comes my way, but I can’t imagine that anything would ever replace live theater in my heart.
SN: Well, your extensive resume should definitely open several doors for you. What are some of your favorite characters you’ve played here?
DK: I just finished a lifetime dream of playing Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in Bloomington. Here at the Phoenix, my favorite part ever was named Dianne in Steve Tesich’s Square One. He’s the person who wrote Breaking Away, the bicycle movie filmed in Bloomington a long, long time ago, and he’s a wonderful playwright. I performed Square One at the Phoenix with Charles (Chuck) Goad. I also did a great show called Miss Witherspoon; it was a really funny show. [Phoenix producing director] Bryan Fonseca has cast me in some really fabulous parts.
SN: And those have been the ones that have been the most memorable for you, or for the audience, or for just everybody involved?
DK: It’s hard to tell. The one that was such an audience-pleaser was Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, and it was obviously a Christmas show. But it was like a mash-up of all these different Christmas stories. The thing to do if you’re a good actor is to give eight people the same show you would give 800 people, and so a lot of times, how many people show up or what their judgment is about your work is not as important as the work itself and your relationship to it.
SN: As you’re leaving Indy, what are some things that you want people to know? Is there anything you want to say to all of your fans?
DK: Oh, gosh, it’s so crazy. I’m very grateful that people have been so nice to me. That’s really been kind of a surprise. "Keep learning" is what I would say to all kinds of people—people who are in the theater and people who are not in the theater. There’s a danger of becoming stuck, and by happenstance, the kinds of shows that the Phoenix does are the kinds of shows that help people become un-stuck. The challenge is to stay open to others and to new ideas as much as possible, because that’s what keeps you growing as a human being. Keep challenging yourself with new ideas all the time, because it helps to open your heart and open your mind. That’s really the thing I’d like to say to people whether they're in theater or not. And don’t watch TV all the time. I mean, talk about staying stagnant; if you want to become deadened, by all means, don’t ever go to something that’s going to require that you be a human being and bring energy to a room.
SN: It’s sad that so few people are enjoying shows these days.
DK: It’s extraordinary. One of the things that theater does is arouse empathy—it arouses the spirit, and that’s really important. But people like to pretend that theater is not important. Anybody can tell a story on the street, but in the theater, you’ve got costumes, you’ve got sets, you’ve got lights, which are so fabulous. You’ve got music that somebody’s created to back it up, you’ve got a ritual—you’ve got a sacred space where people sit and listen and people tell a story. That’s a valuable human commodity that’s very rare these days.
Photos by Zach Rosing. Catch Diane in her last performance this weekend in The Lyons at the Phoenix Theatre. IM recently reviewed the performance. Again, here is part one of our two-part conversation with her.
The Lyons runs through March 31. Thurs. 7 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. $28 for adults; $18 for 21 and under. Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Ave., 635-7529, phoenixtheatre.org.
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