Point Park Globe

Musical theater alum in ‘Pride and Prejudice’

Mercier lands role immediately after graduation

Photo by Michael Henninger

Photo by Michael Henninger

Written By Daniel Strickland, For The Globe

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With a brand new creative director, The Pittsburgh Public Theater’s new season has added a recent Point Park alumni to one its productions. This season brings a promising diverse and collective group of shows to the Pittsburgh area. Among it is Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Sweat,” Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and many more. 

This season’s opener, “Pride and Prejudice,” an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic 19th century romantic novel, opened this weekend. Already having performed one weekend and a week of previews, the production’s cast includes recent Point Park University alum Emma Mercier, who graduated this past spring with a bachelor of fine arts in musical theater. 

Mercier plays Lydia Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in this new play, written by Playwright Kate Hamill, whose work reaches all the way to New York stages. Hamill is no stranger to Austen’s stories. She also adapted and produced Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” off-broadway back
in 2016. 

Having been recognized under the Wall Street Journal as Playwright of the Year in 2017, Hamill now shares this piece of theatre with the Pittsburgh area. This production takes a contemporary twist, all while preserving the traditional elements to this timeless story. This particular cast comes from all walks of life with diversified representation of race, gender and background. 

“Our mission is to make sure the theater is reflecting the world that we live in, which is really the direction where the theater itself is heading anyways. It is super apparent in the show, and it has made it an incredible working environment,” Mercier said. “A lot of people in the cast have said ‘Oh, I would never have seen myself in this role, but this theater, this mission, this script, has made me understand that there is place for me here; there is a place for me here at this theater.’”

A San Francisco native, Mercier came to Point Park University to study, and took on roles in Edward Bond’s “The Sea,” a play showcased in the Conservatory Theater Company’s 2016 season. 

Mercer immediately landed a spot in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s new season, just three days after graduation. 

“It was a huge sigh of relief, and so, of course, I spent my summer looking forward to this. Now, I am open to staying in Pittsburgh if it ends up that there’s more work here,” Mercier said.

In her first piece of work post graduation, Mercier shares her initial feelings going into the company.

“From the beginning I definitely knew I was going to have to bring my ‘A-game’ and really step up,” Mercier said. “I am surrounded by a company of people who have been working for years and years in the business. They are working professionals and wonderful, wonderful actors. It’s all about going in focused and prepared.” 

Mercier also expressed, through this process, how this role is challenging her as an actress as well as an individual. 

“Every character in the show has baggage. They have these stereotypes because they have been around for hundreds of years,” Mercier said. “Being Lydia, my primary character, is often written off as this dumb, party girl. She is silly, she’s funny, she is frivolous for sure, that all exists within her, but it is really interesting to look at characters like that and find what’s human about them, find what’s real, what’s truthful.” 

As “Pride and Prejudice” opened at the Public this past weekend, Mercier reflected on her time at Point Park and the professors who guided her to this experience. 

“All of my professors were incredible during my time at Point Park,” Mercier said. “I would not be here without the faculty I had at Point Park University, so thank you.” 

With all this in mind, especially with the education Mercier has gained, Mercier wanted to stress one thing to current students going into the acting profession. When going into an audition, one must have a certain level of commitment in order to be successful in the business.

“A universal thing, the most important thing that anyone in the program can do, is do the work, take it seriously, read the books, develop your own process, work outside of the class, make sure you have that audition material ready,” Mercier said. “Be ready to walk into a callback and hold your own against all these other people.”

 Point Park professor Philip Winters, who teaches Theatre History, Voice and Speech, among other acting courses at this University, agrees.

 “I think she has that exactly right, and in the right order,” Winters said. “Young actors should realize that if they’re truly passionate about this it takes more than desire, it takes effort.”

Winters reflected on his time teaching Mercier across several classes over the years.  

“I’m not at all surprised, because Emma is not only a talented actress but also has a very strong work ethic, which is extremely important, especially when you are just starting out,” Winters said. “She’s prepared, she’s persistent and she wants to get better. Those students are a pleasure to teach.”

 Many Conservatory of Performing Arts students, current and former, are celebrating Mercier’s success fresh out of college. Melvin Holley, also a recent Point Park alum in musical theater, spoke on his time learning alongside Mercier. 

“Emma and I worked together in the staged reading ‘Crazy Mary Lincoln’, in Spring 2017. She always works very hard on her roles, so of course she was fabulous,” Holley said. “We were both in the ensemble, but we had stand out parts where she got to shine, and not to mention that her vocals were on point, as always.”

Holley also reflected on this newly adapted piece at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, and on his
colleague’s role. 

“I’m not surprised she is killing it in that production,” Holley said. “When I heard she was cast in ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I said ‘That’s where she thrives!’ High styled period pieces are Emma’s specialty…to see her now in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is no shock. In fact, I can guarantee that she’s making her mark in what’s sure to be the start of a fruitful career.”  

“Pride and Prejudice” is currently running until October 28th, 2018. Tickets can be purchased via phone  at (412) 316-1600 or at the box office at the O’Reilly Theater. Student discounts are offered online at ppt.org.

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