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Mackenzie Lesser-Roy might be making her SpeakEasy debut in our production of Once, but she is no stranger to Boston or this show. After leaving The Conservatory in her junior year to join the national tour of Once, Mackenzie performed the role of “Girl” at over 300 performances. We sat down with Mackenzie to talk about what makes Once so special, and how performing this Tony Award-winning show at SpeakEasy is a whole new adventure.
Don’t miss Mackenzie in Once, running Mar 1-Apr 7, 2019.
You are an alumni of The Boston Conservatory. What’s it like for you to be back in Boston for an extended stay?
It’s a treat to be living in Boston again. When I was studying at The Boston Conservatory, I admired all of the nearby regional theatres and hoped to one day work professionally in this area. I consider myself very lucky to be here.
And what’s it like to be back on stage playing “Girl” in SpeakEasy’s production of Once?
It’s very full circle for me. I left The Boston Conservatory during my junior year to play “Girl” in the national tour of Once, so coming back to play the same part I left school to play is very special.
How long were you out with the national tour the first time you did the show?
We toured the country for a year and a half in total.
What is your most lasting memory of your time on the road with the Once tource?
We traveled to 44 states, and usually visited those states multiple times, so I got to see parts of the country I never would have seen otherwise. Also, when you travel with a group of people that you’re also performing and living with, you inevitably become a family; so the cast was a huge part of what made my experience on tour so memorable.
What is it about this show that made you want to be a part of another production of Once?
I had come to love the show so much growing up; but after seeing how the story and the characters resonated with people all over the country, I knew I wanted to tell that story in some way again. On tour, sometimes we would see an audience member very moved by the show or someone would come to the stage door to thank us for telling this story. That’s when I learned that this show is much more than just entertaining. It can heal wounds and mend people’s hearts.
Tell us about your character “Girl”. Who is she, and what is her most notable characteristic?
“Girl” is a young mother living in Dublin with a small circle of friends and family. She is selfless and caring, determined to bring light and happiness to people’s lives. But she is also tough, has a hard exterior, and is incredibly persistent. Despite her difficult, complicated past, she tirelessly makes better the lives of those she loves.
Do you think you are anything like your character? How are you most alike? Most different?
I think we both are determined and passionate people. We want to make others happy and bring out the best in the people we love. I love playing “Girl” because she teaches me how to be a better person. I look up to her and strive to be as kind and honest as she is.
Are you still making new discoveries about the character now that you are in rehearsal for the SpeakEasy production of Once?
Every day! With a new cast, new creative team, and new setting, the character is bound to be different. It’s exciting. And it goes to show that, no matter how much work you’ve done on a character, there is always more you can learn about them. I have loved getting a fresh take on a character that means so much to me.
Why do you think this show resonates so much with audiences?
I think audiences see real people with real life problems and relationships. This show is unique in the sense that there is a true connection between the people onstage and the people watching them. While there are magical and theatrical elements in the show, the characters are multi-dimensional and face issues that we all face too.
How did you get your start as an actress?
My parents decided to enroll me in acting classes and singing lessons; and from an early age, I fell in love with all of it.
You are also a classically trained musician – with years of training on the piano and the cello. Did you ever consider a music career?
I trained classically on the cello and piano while I was also training to become an actor. Music was always there for me, but I knew that I wanted a career in theatre. However, there is a lot of crossover between what I learned in my music lessons and how I learned to perform in a show. I use my music training all the time, especially for a show like this.
Why did you decide to pursue cello?
I loved the sound of string instruments as a child and I was especially drawn to the cello. I would listen to Yo-Yo Ma and Jacqueline du Pré in awe of what they could do with their instruments; so I pursued the cello in hopes of making beautiful music like that.
Are you from a musical or theatre family?
My whole family appreciates seeing both musicals and straight plays, however we have an affinity towards musicals. It’s one of the things that binds us all together, despite all being on different career paths.
As a performer, is there a different pleasure derived from playing music than from being on stage in a play?
It’s almost a relief to be playing music on stage. Since I grew up as a musician, I’m so comfortable playing that it takes away some of the nerves and vulnerability that comes with saying lines on stage. Doing a scene on stage is thrilling because of the risk being taken and the chance to step into the character’s shoes; but playing music is a lot closer to home for me and let’s me show the audience more of who I am.
Other than music and theatre, what are your passions?
I love to travel and experience new things. Last year, I got the travel bug after traveling to Morocco, Israel, the UK, and Ireland.
What, in your opinion, is the key to a successful travel adventure?
I think the most important thing is to stay open-minded and seek out adventure wherever you can. I like to take risks and try new things because those experiences are the ones that make lasting memories.
Have you been to Ireland? If so, what are your memories of your visit?
I visited Dublin for the first time in September 2018 and fell in love with the city. There’s a magic in the air and everyone is so friendly. My favorite part was walking into any pub and listening to incredible musicians play folk songs all night long.
What is the likely next stop on your world tour?
I have a long list of places I’d like to see and explore. I’m hoping to travel up the west coast to see some of our country’s national parks. I’d also like to see more of Europe and eventually make my way to South America. However, living in the South End is special enough for me right now!