Who: Since moving to Bend about four years ago, actor and producer Julee Vadnais has appeared in, among other shows, “Sleeping Beauty,” from her production company, Whimsy Entertainment Theatre for Young Audiences, and “Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie,” which was part of Cascades Theatrical Company’s 2017-18 mainstage season. Both shows performed at Cascades Theatre, 148 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend, where for the next three weekends Vadnais will star as engaged socialite Tracy Lord in the 1939 comedy “The Philadelphia Story.” The show is probably best known for the 1940 film version starring Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn as Lord. “The Philadelphia Story” opens with a 7:30 p.m. performance Friday. For tickets, more show times and other info visit cascadestheatrical.org.
Q: Is it more daunting or challenging to play a character (already) played famously by an iconic actor?
A: The nice thing is that I hadn’t seen the movie for a very long time, so I would say that right there was a good thing for me. While I have seen the movie, it’s probably been a good 15 years since I’ve seen it, so I didn’t have readily available in my mind how Katharine Hepburn played it, or how she made her choices. … Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve seen the movie a few times, or even recently, you do end up trying to do your interpretation or version of the character.
Q: Is it hard not to slip into — or has anybody asked you to do — a Katharine Hepburn impression?
A: You know, that was a struggle. Just because the language of the play is very much 1930s, 1940s language. I use weird words like “holy studs” and “golly moses” (laughs). You know, and just their affectation and the way they do it. And I was playing very character-y, for like the first month and (Bend actor and director) Juliah Rae came to a rehearsal and she’s just like, “Um, Julee, you know you’re being sort of character-y.” It is a struggle when you’re doing something that’s a certain time period, especially when you listen to the play or you read it, there’s this sense that you’re reading or listening to a 1930s or 1940s movie.
Q: Yeah, that really whip-smart dialogue, right?
A: Yeah, and the cute little words. And back then, acting wasn’t naturalistic the way we do it now. It was a little bit over the top and bigger than life. I love old movies, and I grew up with a family that watched a lot of them, and it’s hard not to do it in that timbre and use the voice the way they used to do it, where it was very effective and classic and over the top. It’s hard not to put that on vocally, and I find myself slipping into it every once in a while. All I do is hope that I’ve made the character real enough that I’m Tracy now, and I’m not putting on that — but it was a very difficult character to get out of putting on that facade.
Q: Can you tell me about your cast mates and the characters they play?
A: Caleb Neet plays Dexter, my ex-husband, who shows up at the wedding unannounced and uninvited, other than the fact that he was invited to lunch by my sister, Dinah Lord (Victoria Lusk). She’s very quirky and witty and she sort of is rooting for Dexter all along and doesn’t like George (Michael Axel), the man I’m supposed to marry. … Then George, he’s a coal miner … he’s coming up in the ranks, he’s gaining popularity, he’s worked his way up to the top, and now he runs the coal mine. So he’s new wealth, whereas the Lords are old money. So the story sort of plays on that old-money, new-money thing. … We’ve only been dating a month, I think it says in the script. It was a very short meeting, fall in love, get married type of thing. Everybody seems to be in agreement that George doesn’t seem to be for me, except for me. … He sees this lifestyle, and this woman that he wants, and he feels like he’s getting it. With Dexter, with our first scene, he’s telling me that George isn’t for me, and I’m saying he is for me. It makes me stop and think about whether George is for me or not, for the first time. So Dexter’s arrival really makes me question my wedding, and what I really want out of George … (who) puts me on this pedestal. Dexter does the opposite, and pushes me off the pedestal that I put myself on. And then the reporter, Mike (Michael Goswick) shows up. And he is an amazing writer, a poet, and I’m just so enamored by his writing ability, and the romance in that. … So I’m sort of in this weird triangle.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of the show?
A: I think it’s the relationships. The hard part about this play was it sort of sets up the story, but — I mean, the hardest part was memorizing all those lines. I had 88 pages of dialogue, which is always rough. And it’s a lot of two-person scenes. … I think the overall thing about my character is I have high standards that I hold everybody to including myself. And I don’t leave room for flaws or human frailties. So it’s me coming to terms, that’s the evolution of my character, coming to terms that we all have our shortcomings and our flaws and to be patient, and loving people despite them is sort of the overall thing my character goes through.
— David Jasper, The Bulletin