Theater Chat With Betsy Butoryak
By Dan Tingley
This month I had the pleasure to sit and talk with a great Erie talent. She has been on the stage for a long time. Every time I see her, whether it’s on stage or sitting watching and supporting actors, I get a big hug. I’ve seen her perform many times and this month I got to know her a little better. This month I chat with Betsy Butoryak.
LETS US START WITH A LITTLE BACKGROUND.
“Well, I have been married for 40 years to a now retired fireman. I have two boys whose ages are 36 and 30. I am a manager at UPMC Hamot and I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I worked in the lab for 33 years. I am from Titusville originally. I grew up in a very musical family. We all sang together while the rest of the family played musical instruments. I came to Erie when I was 18 years old.”
SO THEATER CAME NATURALLY?
“Oh yes, with all that singing, it was a natural jump to the stage and musicals. My first musical was in 1975 and I was cast in “Company” at the playhouse. That was when they were located in Wesleyville. As a matter of fact, that was also the last musical the playhouse did. They had another play after mine then the electrical fire closed the playhouse. I left the theater soon after to raise my family. I was gone for 20 years then did “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Erie playhouse.”
YOU HAVE BEEN IN A LOT OF PLAYS?
“Yes and I never really counted them. I guess I’ve been in 40 or 50 shows throughout Erie. I have performed on every stage except for the road house. I never got to do a play there.”
WHAT KIND OF PLAYS DO YOU LIKE TO DO?
“Well I’m done with musicals. I love to do just plays. I prefer to do dramas. I know that you lose that instant response from the audience but I love developing my characters and keep the audience on the edge of their seats. I also love doing accents.”
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR A PLAY? DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU DO FOR MEMORIZATION?
“I am different from other actors I guess. I like to establish my character before I learn the lines. I also tape the play and learn from listening. I learn all the pauses and movements and my lines all at the same time. It works for me.”
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER YOU PLAYED?
“I figured you were going to ask me that question. I guess it would be Linda Lowman from “Death of a Salesman”. I loved my character in “Daddy’s dying and who’s got the will” It was my first drama and I played Sara Lee. Also my first comedy was “Prisoner of 2nd Ave” where I played the wife.”
WHAT WAS THE WORST?
“It was a play called “Ladies in the Alamo”. It was my first lead in a play. I was called in late to fill the spot. I only had three weeks to prepare. I went blank on opening night. I just stood there. The play wasn’t bad. It was directed by Joe Laurie and well done. It was my worst because I blanked. To this day, I take a week off work before every show. I do that to make sure that won’t happen ever again.”
HAVE YOU TURNED DOWN ROLES?
“Yes I have. I have lost a good many as well. In “The Last Night of Ballyho” there were two female leads and I didn’t get what I wanted. When I started out, I would get angry when I didn’t get a part I felt I was perfect for. Now, I see the person doing a great job with it and I know the director knew what they were doing. I also will not dance.”
DID YOU HAVE A CHARACTER THAT PUSHED YOU WHERE YOU NEVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE?
“I don’t get roles like that. I get the same kind of parts in almost every play. You know the middle aged mother or wife roles. Those are the kind of parts I audition for. I don’t get asked for parts, I have to audition for them. I read them and try out for those same parts.”
WOULD YOU EVER DIRECT?
“I would probably be an assistant director. I wouldn’t want to direct.”
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WILL NOT DO OR SAY ON STAGE?
“As I said, I don’t dance. I will say anything in the script. I don’t mind swearing and I’ve been in my underwear on stage. I guess I won’t do nudity but nobody is ever going to ask me.”
LET THE READERS KNOW ABOUT ANYTHING UPCOMING?
“Thanks for asking. I have the play “Leading ladies” coming out next at the Erie Playhouse. It’s a funny show and I’ll be working with some wonderful talented friends. I’m looking forward to it.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY HOBBIES?
“Do I have any hobbies? Well, my husband and I love to go to the Erie Art museum film series. I’ve also done 4 independent movies.”
MY LAST QUESTION IS MY MOST IMPORTANT TO OUR READERS: DO YOU HAVE YOUR TOILET PAPER OVER OR UNDER?
“It’s always over.”
I had a wonderful time talking with Betsy. She has been on stage for 20 years. She is a wonderfully talented actress. I always enjoy watching Betsy on stage. Erie needs to look for Betsy on stage and see for yourselves what a fantastic actress she really is. I have found that she is a great person and great friend. When you see her next, you will be not only pleased but you’ll probably get a hug.