Not many actresses can say that they have played the role of Mother Courage three times. However, Barta Heiner is not just any actress.
A member of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, Heiner has performed more than 100 roles and directed more than 40 productions. Some of her favorite theatrical roles include Lettice in Lettice and Lovage, Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir, the title role in King Lear, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Mary Whitmer in The Fourth Witness. Her recent roles in film have been Verlene Bennion in Cokeville Miracle and Sergent Major Nedra Rockwell in Once I was a Beehive.
Barta Heiner is on the BFA Acting Committee at BYU, where she teaches acting and directs productions during the theatre season. She received her bachelor’s degree in theatre from BYU and her master’s degree in acting from the American Conservatory Theatre. Upon completing her academic degrees, she acted professionally with the Denver Centre Theatre while both teaching and directing for the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver.
She has served as an acting and dialogue coach and consultant on such films as: The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd and Emma Smith, My Story. She also was involved with a student-mentored film project called Diantha’s Crossing, a project inspired by her great, great aunt, Mormon pioneer Diantha Farr Clayton. It has been aired on BYU television.
As busy as she is with this production of Mother Courage, Barta kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions in this short interview:
Eric Stroud: How does it feel to be doing Mother Courage as your last play at BYU before you retire?
Barta Heiner: Honestly, I’m not sure I have had time to think about that…There are about four other shows that I would have rather done. Shows that were of a lighter vein, but still had pathos and important things to say. Since we have gone through three versions of “Mother Courage”, it has been a bit of chaos for me trying to memorize lines and forget some of the ones I had already learned.
ES: Having done Mother Courage in the past more than once, what themes or parallels do you find that the director of each production has held in common?
BH: The same theme that Brecht had. It is a classic anti- war play. For me the difference between this and the original anti-war play “The Trojan Women” is that Euripides showed “humanity” on both sides. You saw the loss and pain and suffering of the women of Troy, but you also saw the compassion of the Greek, Talthibius who has to carry all of the messages of “doom” to the women. “Mother Courage” shows more darkness, irony, stupidity, futility, horror, but it also shows how the people still find humor in their lives in spite of the devastation and hunger around them. Katrin, who is the only gleam of goodness in the war is silent, yet still finds a way to make a difference by her actions.
ES: What is Mother Courage’s mission to you?
BH: Mission??? Survival…”All I want is for me and mine to get through this war.”
ES: What has been your favorite part about playing Mother Courage?
BH: Hmmm…Favorite part….I don’t know if I have one yet…I’m still memorizing. But I do like that there are many levels to her, there is both comedy and drama.
ES: What perspectives have you gained specifically from this Brechtian play?
BH: In spite of chaos, it is important to care for one another.
This show is going to be fantastic. Barta is one of the most talented and connected actresses that I have seen on stage. It has been a joy watching her exploration in rehearsals and I can guarantee you will not be disappointed when you come and see the show. Tune in next week for more information about Director David Morgan’s concept.