Interview with Actress Allison Mack

Allison Mack Impresses in "Red Velvet"

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Allison Mack

What’s it like working with the Old Globe?

It's fantastic. They're a delightful company. Working with Barry [Edelstein] again is great. He's such an incredible wealth of information, and he's the encyclopedia of all things Shakespeare. It's really a privilege to have the opportunity to meet with him again. And just the company of people who work on this show, from the costume designers to the people who are taking care of us. Everyone is just warm and accommodating and kind. I feel very spoiled, actually.

San Diego's beautiful, which is a given. It's so lovely to be able to walk through [Balboa Park] every day to get to work... It's weird, because [in San Diego] I'm like, "Is everybody in a good mood? What's going on?" Coming from New York, this is not normal.

Tell me about Red Velvet. What do you hope audiences take away from this play?

It's an incredible play and everyone needs to come see it––and not just because I'm in it. [Laughs] It's a play about hope and transformation and cultural evolution. Ira Aldridge is the center of the play, and he was the first black actor to ever play a Shakespeare [character] on the London stage, and he was not followed up by anyone for another hundred years. He was a pioneer of the theatrical world for black people, and Red Velvet tells his story.

It's a deeply moving and very emotional and painful and challenging piece––both for the audience and for us as actors––because it shows and reveals a certain type of immaturity in our cultural thinking, and it explains it in a very human way. And the play is very current. It takes place in the early 1800s, but it's so relevant given the nature of our social climate these days and the things that we're trying to overcome as a community.

It's a funny, sad, thoughtful, and tragic play that I think people will get a lot out of.

Allison Mack Old Globe

What can you tell me about Ellen?

I get to play this incredibly cool woman, Ellen Tree, who was based on a real person. She was the Meryl Streep of her time––she was a significant, strong pillar of the theatre world. She was theatrical royalty, married to Charles Kean (who is also a character in the play), who was the son of one of the most famous actors in the 1800s. Ellen Tree is the Desdemona in the production of Othello [depicted in Red Velvet]. She represents the one that supports Ira Aldridge, the one that wants him to succeed. She has a platonic love affair with him throughout the 48 hours that she knows him because she is captivated by his capacity and passion. Her relationship with Ira is beautiful because it transforms her in a way she didn't expect.

Finally, give us a pop culture plug. What are you watching, reading, or listening to now?

Oh my god, okay. I'm a total fiend for podcasts. I'd addicted to What It Takes, On Being, and Invisiblia. Those are the three podcasts I'm constantly listening to. 

There's also something else I want to plug––there's a website called Brain Pickings by a woman named Maria Popova, and it's awesome. Maria has curated the most beautiful articles and poems and pieces of artwork that reflect the human struggle and human spirit. 

Tickets for Red Velvet are available at the Old Globe's website.

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