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Life imitates art

Mo Perry, voted Best Twin Cities Actress of 2010 by City Pages

by Adam Overland

Mo Perry 165
Mo Perry

September 28, 2010

Mo Perry says she's never added up the number of hours per week she works; she thinks it would make her cry. She's 80 percent time at the U, and when she’s not here, eating, or sleeping, she's acting. Somehow, in the midst of all that, she finds time to run 25 miles per week. The City Pages hailed her as the Best Twin Cities Actress of 2010, and her boss, OHR’s director of communications Lori Ann Vicich, is equally enthusiastic about the work Perry does as administrative assistant to the director. Mo may very well be on par to become Best Administrative Assistant, should such recognition be formalized.

If life experience makes an actor, Perry has it in spades. Have you ever heard anyone wax nostalgic about a once-insatiable desire to live in a van, but who never saw the dream through? Perry has lived in a van. And she was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. She's also led international tourists on camping trips on the west coast of the United States. And she’s just 29 years old.

Her philosophy of acting is fairly straightforward. She is not a method actor, who in preparing for a role imitates living the life of the subject. Such a technique could result in a quandary with her job at the U, in say, her upcoming role as the Virgin Mary with superpowers in this December’s comic-book-themed “Super Powered Revenge Christmas #1.”

“Rarely as an actor are we playing actors,” says Perry, “and if your only life experience is being an actor and thinking about acting, I kind of question your ability to portray anything outside of that… and let’s face it, I work in a cubicle. Be a human being first, and an actor second, because ultimately actors have to portray human beings.” This would probably be a good time to mention that Perry has an upcoming role as Fly, the sheepdog, in the Children’s Theatre’s production of “Babe, the Sheep-Pig.” She's very funny.

The Children’s Theatre part is something of a dream come true. Perry says she’s loved theater ever since she was a little girl and her parents had season tickets. "My mom would take me to see every show, and I just loved it, loved it, loved it. I knew that when I’m working with the Children's Theatre, I'll really have made it.”

The beauty of the stage as opposed to film, says Perry, is that it draws so much on the imagination. Rather than bash the audience over the head with “machinegun fire every five minutes,” a production like “Babe, the Sheep-Pig” will not have the luxury of animating a talking dog’s mouth. “We’ll have to suggest a lot of dogness, pigness, and sheepness,” says Perry. “But that’s part of the fun.” It’s more mental work for the audience, to be sure, but young minds are only beginning to form ideas of “pigness,” and so Perry, even as an admin assistant, is really an educator.

And she should be around to educate in the Twin Cities for some time. Unlike so many actors, she harbors no desire to go to New York, where she feels concrete and crowds would oppress her. “I love the quality of life here. I can have a vegetable garden, and I can go for runs in the evening.”

Whether the characters Perry plays will be around for as long is another story. For one reason or another, she says she’s usually cast as much older than she is. “I don’t know if it’s that I’m tall, or that I’ve got a deeper voice, but I’m already reading for the mom roles and the 35- to-40-year-old roles way more than the 20-something roles. By the time I’m 35 I’ll be playing 50, and by the time I’m 40 I’ll be reading the grandma role. By the time I’m 60, I’ll just have to play corpses.”

Alas, poor Yorick, is all that comes to mind…unless Weekend at Bernie’s takes to the stage.

Mo Perry is currently performing in “The Last Seder” at Park Square Theater in St. Paul, through Oct. 3. Tickets are $36-$56 ($15 if you’re under 30). For more information, visit Park Square’s website.