October 29, 2015
Meet Allison Plamondon
By Bob Dreyfuss
Perhaps it’s special to create a character on stage when you have something very much in common with the person you’re portraying, and that seems to be true for Allison Plamondon, the exceptionally talented actress who plays Sarah in our current production, Trying. Like Sarah – who, in the play, is from Canada’s western province of Saskatchewan – Plamondon hails from Edmonton, Alberta. (If you’re weak on Canadian geography, that’s the next province over.) And Plamondon, with a smile, is happy to say that she probably has a lot in common with Sarah. “She’s a prairie girl, but she left the prairie. And she’s more like me than I’m comfortable admitting,” she says.
How, exactly? “She wants to move forward intellectually and to be taken seriously as a woman, as an adult, and as a freethinking one,” says Plamondon, who creates on stage a character who quietly but fiercely manages to hold her own when up against a curmudgeonly old elitist. “The things that come out of her mouth as so close to home,” she says.
Plamondon – who’s not only an actress but a dancer, choreographer, and teacher -- still has a lot of Canada in her. “There’s something about being from western Canada that you don’t notice until you leave,” and among those feelings are the memories of wide open spaces, a climate that’s unforgiving, and a sense of family and work. Plus, there’s hockey – namely the Edmonton Oilers. “I'm a big hockey fan, and when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings we were inconsolable,” she recalls.
If you watch Trying, you can’t help noticing the grace with which Plamondon moves across the stage, and her perfect posture. That is, no doubt, the result of Plamondon’s years of experience as a dancer, which first put her on stage at the age of five. She studied musical theater and dance (“Tap is my forte. I’m a hoofer”) at Alberta’s Grant MacEwen University before moving to Toronto, where she appeared in musicals and started choreographing, too. And she delved into acting in straight plays, including memorable performances in Fire and Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival on Prince Edward Island. “That was the most incredible two years of my life,” she says.
In 2009, she moved to New York, intending a career shift of sorts, planning to deemphasize dancing and concentrate on her acting career. “I took dance off my resume, and eventually I started studying acting at HB Studio.” (It was, of course, at the famed HB Studio that Plamondon would start working on scenes from Trying with Howard Green, who plays Francis Biddle at Cape May Stage’s production of the play, and where she’d meet director Austin Pendleton.)
Plamondon would also work with Pendleton in Suddenly, Last Summer (Mississippi Mud Productions) and, among numerous other plays, she’d win an award for Outstanding Performance in a Solo Show for See Bob Run at Planet Connections. Among her favorite performances are the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the famed La Mama center in New York’s East Village, where she performed in Ping Chong’s Angels of Swedenborg.
But Plamondon found that she couldn’t get dance out of her system, and the dance world really didn’t want to let her go. She performs, choreographs and teaches in New York and she’s been on stage at prestigious venues nationwide – including performing with the band Phish at Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve. Among her accomplishments are choreographer for the Oscar-winning short film Curfew and the feature-length version calledBefore I Disappear, the NBC series Believe, and Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick.
Of the relationship between Sarah and Judge Biddle in Trying, Plamondon loves the fact that the two characters connect with such volatile energy on stage. “They ignite each other,” she says. Austin Pendleton, the director, told Plamondon, “Don’t forget that they seem like they can’t wait to get at each other.” And she adds: “I’m up for the challenge.”