By Madelyn Olsen
Tracey Scott WIlson’s “Buzzer” confronts issues that are typically shied away from in a “proper” social context, including issues of race, class, addiction and privilege.
Actress Lee Stark stars as Suzy, a white school teacher who moves in with her boyfriend, a successful African American lawyer and — coincidentally — childhood pal who comes with his own set of baggage.
The theatre is an incredible medium to portray these struggles, where they can be observed from an audience objectively and discussed by characters who are “in the thick of it.”
On the stage, Stark expertly depicts Suzy’s struggles with harassment by men in her neighborhood and her troubles with telling the people who love her about it. Along with dealing with this issue, there are other instance of trouble Suzy endures that Stark plays out perfectly.
“It’s very hard to step back and say, ‘This is me; this is her,’” Stark said in an interview with the Torch. “This process, as most are for me, has been very personal, and I’ve done everything I can to develop my own sympathies towards Suzy. She’s a very complex character. She has a huge heart. She wants what’s right, badly, and she messes up — and she knows she messes up right away — and she doesn’t know what to do to fix it, but she desperately wants to. I’ve been there.”
The audience wants a character to be believable. They want to empathize with their struggles, and Stark plays into this perfectly for her audience. The only time she is not performing her heart out is when she’s getting into character. Stark shared her secrets into her character development.
“It’s very personal, and it’s the one time no one is watching you,” she explained. “I have this ridiculous, huge dressing room all to myself to do whatever in. It’s the one time that, really, the only standard that matters is your own, and the only job to do is the one in front of you, and that kind of privacy and integrity is really important to start a performance off right.”
Stark’s vivid portrayal could not be possible without Wilson’s exquisite writing and characters, particularly Jackson and Don.
“I think the really fun thing about this script is that the characters are all very current and very passionate, and that, with the possible exception of Jackson, they could be played many different ways,” she said. “This is our production, that we hammered out with our director and playwright, and it’ll end, eventually, and someone else will do it differently. That’s fun.”
Stark pulls off an incredible character that the audience sees struggle and develop on stage, and the actress said she loves doing it in each performance.
“The great blessing of this job is that it never gets boring,” she said. “You’re constantly in a changing relationship with the text — with your ensemble, with your own work, with your audience. It’s always slipping away from you, and it always ends. There’s nothing precious to hold on to at the end of a run, and so you do it for the present moment, as much as you possibly can.”
Her zeal for performing reflects the very beginnings of her interest in the world of theater and acting.
“I had great, encouraging teachers,” she said. “A few I sought outside of high school or college, but [they were] people who said, ‘You want to do this? You can. It’s going to be awful and hard, but you can do it if you want it.’ … Somehow my parents thought acting was a good idea, too.”
“Buzzer” doesn’t brush off or sweep serious issues under the rug, but rather confronts them up front and presents them in a way that is realistic and lifelike for the audience to follow. You can catch Stark and her co-stars at the Goodman Theatre for one final week, with the last show on March 9.