On Stage

Getting the part

Actress finds depth in characters she plays

By Michele DeVinney
Susan Domer’s love of and commitment to the arts has taken her in many directions, both personally and professionally, over the years. But while she scratched her creative itch through jobs at places as diverse as the Embassy Theatre, St. Joseph Hospital and the Civic Theatre, she never lost her love of the stage and desire to perform. Her visibility on Fort Wayne stages has remained constant, despite the demands of her current job as marketing director for the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne College of Visual and Performing Arts. A recent appearance in “Althea’s Well” even netted her a coveted Anthony Award this past summer. But there have been challenges to Domer’s desire to carve out an acting career in the “third chapter” of her life.

The love of acting is nothing new, but Domer looks back upon her previous experiences — a long list of credits accumulated over the years — and sees a peculiar fact: she has never, even as a youth, played a character under the age of 50. While that more or less defines a character actress, Domer has often felt she didn’t have the real world knowledge to portray characters of such depth and often despair.

“I played Martha in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ when I was 26,” she said. “I think I did a good job because I think through what I’m going to do through the rehearsal process. But I really don’t think I had the life experiences to be able to fully understand those kinds of disappointments. I hadn’t lived enough to know what it would feel like to have all those feelings.”

Now having a deeper understanding of what those feelings might be, she enjoys digging into those complex characters, women who have enjoyed and suffered life’s ups and downs. “Althea’s Well” provided a unique forum for those talents and had her on stage for the entire duration of the play. But even though she brings a wealth of knowledge to the table, Domer still relishes the rehearsal process, feeling the journey to find a character is even richer than the ultimate moment of performance.

“Maybe if I were a professional actress, and I was performing to pay my bills, then the performance would be as important to me as the process of rehearsal because that would be my goal. But as a volunteer in the theater, I love walking away with a better understanding of who I am because of all the things I’ve gotten to work out in rehearsals.”

But while Domer loves rehearsals, she also enjoys the interplay with a receptive audience — what she calls the final ingredient — and the entire experience is something she craves regularly. She says her supportive husband Tim will often encourage her to tackle a new role when she begins “acting out” at home when her creative juices start building up. She looks ahead to her future with hopes of further exploring her creative options as an actress or a professional storyteller, but she knows figuring out her options and what path to take will be the fun part.

“I guess that’s why I also love rehearsals so much — because the fun is in figuring out how it’s all supposed to be and what you’re supposed to do. When we were preparing for ‘Althea’s Well,’ sometimes we’d just all look at each other and think ‘This is as good as it gets.’ And you know, it really is as good as it gets.”

Posted: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 10:55 am
Last updated: Mon, 10/29/2012 - 1:49 pm