Baltimore’s Rosemary Knower stars in ‘Good People’ at Arena Stage in D.C.

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Baltimore’s Rosemary Knower returns to Washington, D.C., for her latest role. She plays an eccentric, bingo-playing landlady named Dottie in Good People. Set in South Boston’s Lower End, the dark comedy runs through March 10 at Arena Stage. A familiar face at Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre, Knower has also performed in Arena’s productions of Agamemnon and His Daughters and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

Q: What drew you to Good People?

A: I was drawn to this play because I like [playwright David] Lindsay-Abaire’s work. He’s created a funny, real view of the people living on the edge in Southie, but it might just as well be Baltimore or Philly or any city where jobs are tough to find and easy to lose. … Everybody is one paycheck, one unexpected medical bill or car problem away from hitting the bottom.

The good people in South Boston are people I recognize. They’re not far off the neighborhood I grew up in in south Baltimore, where everybody had three mothers and a couple extra grandmothers sitting on the porches and keeping track of who did what. One step out of line and the news travelled faster than a speeding bullet.

Lindsay-Abaire’s characters are a delight to play. …They’re fierce and funny and stand up for what they believe and draw us into a world where the laughter’s one step from a punch in the belly, a roller-coaster for the audience.

Q: How did you prepare for the role of Dottie?

Q and A photo
Rosemary Knower plays an eccentric, bingo-playing landlady named Dottie in Good People at the Arena Stage.

A: I was drawn to Dottie the first time I read the play. She describes herself as realistic, but she’s a curmudgeon, always hoping for a world where things would work out for the better. In the meantime, she freely and profanely expects the worst. That’s a nice change from a lot of my recent roles, which have been grieving mothers or loners. Dottie is in a vibrant, crowded world where everybody freely exchanges opinions and sharp shots with hilarious wit trotting right along with explosive anger.

I prepared for the part by watching a lot of YouTube home movies of older people from south Boston talking about what it was like living in Southie when they were growing up. I read short stories and biographies, watched films that were set in South Boston, especially The Fighter.

But the real research came when we met for first rehearsal and saw the thrilling design for the set, which is based on real Southie buildings. … Our Director, Jackie Maxwell, called us to an exploration of Lindsay-Abaires’ “rich, fat scenes.”

She charged us at the beginning … to embrace this world for the potential that we each, individually, could bring to it. This is rare. So often, beginning a play, you’re told how and where to move, told how you will look, and what you will think.

But every play is open to many interpretations, many possibilities that go far beyond the “move here, and pause a count of three before putting that coffee cup down.” Sometimes, rarely, as in Good People at Arena, the director, designers, composers, and actors collaborate; and when that happens, the result is something that will be new every night, with every audience.



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