|A disapproving Miss Brent (Michelle Feneberg) surveys the situation |
as General Mackenzie (Eric Goldstein) looks on.
PHOTO: Jan Cartwright
Rude. Righteous. Relentless. These three Rs describe Miss Emily Brent to a T. Miss Brent is one of ten characters at the center of And Then There Were None, the Agatha Christie classic murder mystery in which everyone is both a potential murder victim and a suspect.
In the Farmington Players production (February 9 – 25), Michelle Feneberg plays Emily Brent in her first show at the Barn and her first play anywhere since high school! Michelle describes Miss Brent as “an uptight, fanatically religious Bible thumping spinster who can be unbelievably rude in her comments to other cast members. What I like most about playing her is that she is the complete opposite of me, so I can really explore what it is to be rude and nasty. A real alter-ego.” Michelle has modeled Emily after certain fanatical people from her youth in South Africa: “Overly pious people who would proclaim moral judgment on others without even the slightest concern for the mitigating circumstances these poor people found themselves in. They never showed any empathy for others and everything was simply black or white, there were no grey areas to consider.”
In rehearsal as Miss Brent, Michelle’s words cut like a knife and she spares no one’s feelings. But in real life, Michelle is so nice that she feels bad about playing a bitch. As she confides, “I find it simply exhausting to be so uptight. I really feel quite drained after practicing Miss Brent’s lines because of her steadfast beliefs and vehement opinions. And although it is fun to spit my words out rudely, I am also grappling with the uncomfortable way that it makes me feel. I could just never speak to anyone the way Emily does, and as I utter my lines I tend to want to apologize to my fellow cast members or at least give them a look with my eyes to say I don’t mean it.”
While playing her opposite personality type is challenging, Michelle does have one advantage over her fellow actors. Her native South African dialect is a natural fit for the English dialect required of her character. As she says, “I was a little more comfortable auditioning for this role knowing I would not have to learn an American accent. It is a bit of a cheat for me that my accent is close to the British accent. I have done a fair bit of film work over the last seven years, primarily in China, but there is not a lot of film work here in Michigan. So community theatre is a great opportunity to continue following my passion.”
Michelle knows that Barn patrons will enjoy And Then There Were None because the “audience will be kept on the edge of their seats guessing who the murderer could possibly be, and who could be murdered next. I think the audience will also enjoy seeing the great talent we have on stage. I have been blown away at the professionalism of the cast members as well as their ability to adopt a foreign accent. It is a talent I really admire, because you have to have an ear for accents - like an ear for music.”
Originally from South Africa, Michelle has spent the last 17 years living in Germany, UAE, China, and the USA, moving for her husband’s job. She loves reading, learning languages, writing stories and articles, and ballroom dancing. She is also a professional speaker on international cultural topics.
And Then There Were None has 9 performances at Farmington Players Barn Theater from February 9 - 25. The show is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing email@example.com or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.