by Len Lear
Not that I am an expert at such predictions, but I would not be at all surprised if Melody Ladd becomes a household name someday as a stage/screen actress nationwide. Ladd, who was stunning in February as Hennie Berger in Quintessence Theater’s production of Clifford Odets’ “Awake and Sing,” returns to the Mt. Airy theater in Irish playwright John Millington Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World” and in one of Synge’s three one-act plays, “The Synge Triptych.” “Playboy” opened on Sept. 26, and “Triptych” opens on Oct. 10. Both run alternately until Oct. 27.
When Ladd, 26, graduated magna cum laude from New York University in May, 2016, with a BFA in Theater, the commencement speaker was TV and film star Bryce Dallas Howard. In an interview last week, Ladd said, “She told us that a full-time actor can expect to hear 75 ‘no’s’ (at auditions) before getting one ‘yes.’
“Therefore, when I hear the word ‘no’ after an audition, I figure that I only have 74 more to go … Nevertheless, whenever I go into an audition, my mindset for the three or five minutes of the audition is that ‘This part is mine!’”
Ladd, who is tall (5-foot-9) and striking, was born in England, where her mom was working for the Bank of America, and raised in Sacramento, CA. She has loved acting since she was cast in her first play in the second grade. She had one line: “I think she’s cute when she’s angry.”
Ladd has been in 12 plays and had a leading role in two of them. She has also acted in nine independent films and had starring roles in three of them. She is skilled at foreign accents (The Irish accent definitely helps in the current Quintessence productions), and she plays the trombone and baritone horn (in case roles come up requiring that skill). She also can carry a tune but is very shy (so far) about singing in front of a large audience.
No matter how often actors rehearse, one thing about live theater is that unpredictable, surprising things can still happen such as props not working.
For example, “One time I was supposed to answer a phone, but it did not ring, so I picked it up anyway. The audience enjoys that type of thing.” In another play, “I was playing a man with a mustache clipped onto my face, but it fell off my face. The audience was forgiving.”
Another occupational hazard is that after all of the rehearsals and memorizing all the lines, the audience may be full of empty seats.
“I was once in a show where there were five people in the audience,” said Ladd. “There were more people in the cast than that, but the show must go on.
“When we were doing ‘Awake and Sing’ at Quintessence, there was a snowstorm one night, and 15 people showed up. But you do it for the people who show up. They deserve that. The story is worth telling, no matter how many people you’re telling it to.”
Regarding her current role in “Playboy,” Ladd said, “When I read the play, I thought it was good, but then when I heard it read out loud, I thought ‘Oh, wow!’ Then at the first dress rehearsal, I realized that it is so funny at times but so heartbreaking at other times.
“There is this idea out there that Irish theater is really, really sad. But without humor the play would not work. The sadness has to have some relief. The end of ‘Playboy’ is heartbreaking, for sure, but right before that there is some really funny humor.”
When not acting at Stagecrafters, Ladd lives in New York and spends her non-acting time traveling and eating at some of the overwhelming number of restaurants in the city, especially the Italian ones. How can a stage actor (who is not exactly rolling in dough) be able to afford those New York restaurants?
“Fortunately,” said Ladd, “there are lots of really good and inexpensive ethnic restaurants in New York. Of course it’s great if you can eat at a fancy one once in a while, but in the meantime it is possible to eat very good food without spending a lot of money.”
Knowing that the odds are astronomical against winding up in the pages of People magazine or a movie theater marquee, is it difficult to maintain enthusiasm when pursuing a career in the theater?
“My goal,” answered Ladd, “is just to work with really great people who fill up my cup and feel artistically fulfilled. Of course it would be great to make a good living, win Tony awards, etc., but I always want to be in a room with people I admire and who challenge me.
“My dream would be to have a career like Stanley Tucci. He does not have a household name, but he gets to work with everyone and has been in so many wonderful comedies and dramas and always does so well. I want to work with great people and have been fortunate to be able to do that at Quintessence.”