A successful film actor since the age of nine, Christina Ricci suffered from terrible stage fright when she made her Broadway debut in the 2010 remount of Donald Margulies' Time Stands Still, her first professional stage experience. "I never stopped being nervous," she says, "but at a certain point you realize that you just have to get out there and do it."
After playing a flight purser in last season's 1960s-set ABC series Pan Am, Ricci returns to tackle her fears once again in A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare's whimsical comedy about foolish mortals and mischievous fairies, now being presented Off-Broadway by Classic Stage Company. Ricci stars as fair Hermia, one of four woods-wandering Athenians for whom true love runs anything but smooth.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream was one of my favorite plays as a child, so I really wanted to be a part of this," says Ricci, 32. "Growing up, I loved all the glitter and sparkle of the fantasy world. As an adult, I love the idea of a dream within a dream — what's a dream, what's reality, and the merging of those two worlds."
Meanwhile, Ricci continues to merge the two worlds of stage and screen. "Time Stands Still was a huge hurdle for me," says the Emmy and Golden Globe nominee, whose films include Mermaids, Monster and the upcoming Bel Ami. "I had to accomplish Broadway to know that I could actually make theatre a regular part of my career. Now that I have a little more knowledge and experience, I don't think it will be quite as difficult." As for Off-Broadway's increased intimacy, Ricci admits, "The first time I walked into the Classic Stage space, I kind of wanted to vomit. Honestly, I can't decide if it's more comfortable or more intimidating than Broadway."
Directed by Tony Speciale, who staged Unnatural Acts for CSC, the Midsummer cast also includes David Greenspan, Anthony Heald, Taylor Mac and Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth — stage veterans who inspire without intimidating. "I actually feel incredibly lucky, because everyone's been so warm and welcoming in both of my theatre experiences," Ricci says. "I can't thank them enough for how much they've helped me."
Neuwirth's participation as Hippolyta/Titania in particular has prompted various theatre blogs to take note of her and Ricci's Addams family resemblance: Ricci famously played Wednesday in the Addams Family movies, and Neuwirth originated the role of Morticia in Broadway's musical version. "We're definitely having a fun time in the ladies' dressing room," Ricci says with a laugh.
But even a friendship with show folk like Neuwirth can't change Ricci's one deep-rooted theatrical prejudice. "I really just don't like musicals," she states unapologetically. "There are a few times in Midsummer where people break into song, and I do enjoy that, but it's done with a light touch. I only enjoy singing in theatre when it's used very sparingly."
Playbill, May 2012 issue.