Friday, October 3, 2014

No Strangers to Chemistry: Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton

Graham Hamilton and Jaimi Paige in Venus in Fur.
They’re perfect strangers. A playwright-director and actress meet for the first time when she arrives late for an audition. Thus begins an unexpected battle for power as they discover more about each other.

In real life, actors Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton are no strangers. Earlier this year, they worked on a production in Los Angeles and bonded from that experience. Venus in Fur by David Ives reunites the pair for another heated battle between the sexes. We talked with the two about their first meeting, working together again and what they really think of each other:

Earlier this year, you both worked on another play called Tender Napalm in Los Angeles. Can you tell us how that came about?

Jaimi Paige: My good friend—and our director—Edward Edwards and I had found the script and we wanted to produce it. We knew how important it was to find the right actor to play the male role and started brainstorming and searching. Edward found Graham's information online, and about a week later I met him randomly at an audition. We read together at that audition, and I knew immediately he was the guy.

Graham Hamilton: She told me that she and her director were looking for someone to play the role of Man. Within a couple hours I was reading the script for Tender Napalm. I can honestly say that I'd never encountered anything like it. The language, the story, the depth of the characters and the outrageous ambition it would take to bring it to life absolutely floored me. As soon as I finished the script I wrote Jaimi to ask what the next step was. A week later Jaimi, Edward and I gathered in her living room to read it out loud and see what we had on our hands. Our tremendous chemistry was evident as we played off each other with incredible ease. We read the play cover to cover without stopping and I'll never forget the feeling in the room after I spoke the final words. The three of us stared, agape, in silence.

Jaimi: It felt like magic to me.

Graham: I can't remember who, but one of us said, "So, how do we do this?" Long story short, we began envisioning the production we wanted to create. Everything from the space, to lighting, to design, to fundraising and to the team of artistic collaborators that we wanted—it all fell into our laps.

Jaimi: It proved to be a really extraordinary experience for all of us on many levels.

Did that experience make it easier for you to jump into Venus in Fur?

Jaimi: Of course! I've had so many people over the course of Tender Napalm point out our chemistry. We do have incredible chemistry together, and that is so much fun to play with. More important to me is the trust that I share with Graham. Chemistry is one thing, but when it is anchored to a deep trust and mutual respect for each other, then you can really dive in and explore the story without hesitation or fear.

Graham: Yes, in many ways it's been easier. We play together so well that the process had moved rather quickly, with leaps and discoveries happening daily. On the other hand, it remains a challenge. Venus in Fur is a very tricky play, and there are many traps for the actors to fall in; some of which I'm still crawling out of. Its multi-dimensional nature entices the mind to analyze, but from an acting standpoint, it really wants to be shot out of a gun and played to the end without too much thinking. There's so much going on for these characters, but beneath it all are simple motivations that we anchor ourselves to constantly, no matter how intricate and ambiguous the story seems. It's easy, so long as I trust myself and stay connected to Jaimi.

What’s it been like to reunite for another intimate two-person play that deals with the power play between men and women?

Jaimi: Incredible. Graham is an amazing partner, he is so powerful and he digs so deep into his work, which is essential in this piece. He challenges me every minute and I feel myself having to raise my game all the time. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working on this piece with Graham and Casey [Venus in Fur director, Casey Stangl].

Graham: It's been a blast. It's easy to be intimate with Jaimi because she's so damn good! I'll never be able to take all the power from her, but it's always fun to try.

What have been some fun moments for you during rehearsals?

Jaimi: It's such a fun show to do. There have been so many moments. I really do enjoy the dynamic between Graham and Casey. They've worked together before and they have such a great relationship, and that makes for a really great and comfortable place to play.

Graham: Aside from cracking up at Jaimi's hairpin turns, it's been fun watching Casey, who has directed this play before, discover it all over again. It's a great rehearsal room and I enjoy laughing at Jaimi vicariously through our director and the stage management.

What’s one word you would use to describe your cast mate?

Jaimi: Connected. Graham is such a deep, connected individual. He is so connected to the story, each moment and he’s always locked in with me. He's that way in life, too. He's connected with the earth, with the people around him and he makes such an impact in everything he does. On stage and in life, he's been a huge inspiration to me.

Graham: AWESOME. Jaimi's work is awesome. It fills me with awe. I tease her sometimes and say that she's 'scary', but it's true. Working so closely with her is like standing beneath a mountain or paddling into a pounding sea. She draws you in like a precipice.

See this duo electrify the stage and get your tickets to Venus in Fur now!

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