Women are at the forefront at Seattle Repertory Theatre in March, and actor Keiko Green reports that her role in the Rep’s current show The Comparables continues to be part of a long process of artistic and personal growth for her.
“Any chance to work at Seattle Repertory Theatre is of course a dream come true,” Green said, “and it was my first audition for them, so it was already exciting for me.”
Green plays the role of Iris in this three-woman play about the tough business climate for real estate agents. “As soon as I read the script, I knew I really wanted to play Iris,” Green said.
Green appreciates the commonalities between her character and herself. “Iris is ambitious, and she has no sympathy for self-victimizing women,” Green said. “Of course there are exceptions in the world (when it comes to victimized women), but as a woman of color, I have encountered different obstacles than many of my peers, and my tenacity and drive refuse to give up.”
Green has had numerous chances to practice her tenacity throughout her career. “Being a half-Japanese actor, I often get called in for Asian roles—but I’m 5’9,” and I have freckles,” Green said. “I just don’t have the right look most of the time. Too white or too Asian.”
Following training in the nurturing environment of NYU’s Experimental Theatre Wing, Seattle has been a challenging place for Green to launch her career. “Many companies and directors assume a character is white unless specifically marked otherwise,” Green said. “That’s something that needs to change.”
Although she feels that Seattle theatres have work to do in terms of engaging in more multi-ethnic casting, Green appreciates some recent opportunities she’s had. “My favorite roles are both from last year: Frannie in Chaos Theory at Annex Theatre, and Viola in Twelfth Night at Island Stage Left on San Juan Island,” she said. “I played racially unspecified humans.”
It was in the latter show that Green felt the enchantment of theatre come alive. “In Twelfth Night, my character’s twin brother was played by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man, and the magic of theatre made the audiences forget,” she said. “It was one of the most hopeful and inspiring experiences I’ve had in a long time.”
Green believes that theatres need to trust their audiences and their actors more. “I find it offensive if a company only calls me in for their roles written as Asian or Asian-American,” she said. “I think theatres don’t give their audiences enough credit sometimes.”
Because of these challenges in being cast by theatres, Green has taken it upon herself to develop more direct relationships with her potential audiences, by embarking upon playwriting. “When I first moved to Seattle, I was having a hard time getting cast in anything, but I strongly believe in creating your own opportunity.”
Watching the example of her peers helped Green pursue a solution. “Right before I left New York, I saw Jesse Eisenberg’s original play Asuncion, which he had written in between big projects when he wasn’t getting the roles he wanted,” she said. “I thought, if Jesse Eisenberg is writing plays because he’s not getting the work he wants, why wouldn’t I at least try?”
After self-producing two original plays, Green is finding that her plate is suddenly full. “I’m finally working as an actor now, but I can’t stop writing,” she said.
Next up, Green has an original musical, Bunnies, with music by Jesse Smith, premiering at Annex Theatre, and numerous writing projects in the works. “I’m working on four plays right now, all prompted by other groups, and I plan to move more into screenplays this year.”
Green’s ultimate career would combine the best of both performing and writing. But for now, she’s enjoying the lessons that have arisen from her role in The Comparables.
One of those lessons: “Stop apologizing.” Green found herself doing just that after a grueling week of rehearsals, script changes, and preview performances—all of which brought her to tears on two occasions.
As Green recounts, “Our playwright was in Chicago for most of the process, and came back into town just as we were starting previews,” she said. “At 12:00 p.m., we would come in and get new pages, rehearse various things for five hours, and perform (with our new lines) that night at 7:30. It was a lot to deal with.”
But when Green apologized to her fellow actor Cheyenne Casebier for feeling overwhelmed, Casebier advised her to accept her feelings rather than regret them. “I realized that’s one thing that made her different from me,” Green said. “She knew that her feelings were hers to have and to own, and I thought they were something to be ashamed of. I’ll never forget it.”
With that realization, Green has embraced the essence of her character Iris. “I love playing a woman who creates the world she wants for herself.”
The Comparables runs from March 6 to 29 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, 155 Mercer Street, Seattle. For more information, click here.