After the birth of her son, Stacia Rice decided to take some time away from the stage. She returns for the first time in more than a year this week in Dangerous Liaisons with her own Torch Theater at the Minneapolis Theater Garage. And while having a child hasn't changed her process, it has affected Rice's overall approach to life.
"With a child at home, I'm super selective about leaving the house. I don't want to leave the house for something that I wouldn't pay money to see," she says. "And [having a child] does break you open in a way I really didn't think possible. I have loved deeply many people in my life, but it's different with this little human of my own. I'm a little less tolerant of bad behavior, and a little more vulnerable than I used to be. In some ways, that will affect how I digest this character."
Her character, the Marquise de Mertuil, definitely isn't motherly. In fact, most of the main characters in Christopher Hampton's play about deceit and backstabbing in 18th-century France are less than savory. That has been an additional challenge for the company.
"The characters do some despicable things. It's amusing at times when they are plotting, but once you see how their behavior actually affects people, it's easy to be turned off by these characters. We need to find something that people can invest in, but not push to make them likable," Rice says.
"My instinct is that if you can invest in what it is that brought them to this behavior, flesh them out, and make it as honest as possible, then you have a reason to watch," she adds. "There are a whole slew of reality shows where you hate the characters but you can't tear away from it."
So, Dangerous Liaisons is an 18th-century version of Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Well, maybe.
"These are characters who are so wealthy and have so little to do that they devise these games, but the pawns are real humans. They don't have real problems -- they seem to have good health and beautiful clothing -- so they are left to create some naughty, naughty games," Rice says.
Helping to keep this all clear is director Craig Johnson. "He really understands this style, so that ultimately, in all of these period costumes, it will be about the guts of the play. That means if the actors invest in it, it won't be a museum piece. There will be some pretty raw human spikes of emotion," Rice says.
That also comes down to the cast, which includes John Middleton as the Marquise's partner-in-crime, Valmont, Linda Kelsey, Mo Perry, and Dave Gangler. Performers Ann Michels and Matt Riehle will also provide original musical accompaniment during the performances.
"One of the main reasons to start my own theater company was that I could work with personalities I wanted to work with. I didn't want any high-maintenance actors. We wanted people who are talented and right for the show, but if they don't play well with others, we don't want them," Rice says.
IF YOU GO
Minneapolis Theater Garage 711 W. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
Friday through Feb. 4
$20 and $30
For information, call 612.870.0723 or visit online.
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