Meet Gretchen Egolf, who plays Hannah Jarvis in Arcadia, and learn her tips for speaking with a British accent

Name: Gretchen Egolf
Role: Hannah Jarvis

Gretchen Egolf
Arcadia runs through June 16.
Learn more about the production and order tickets.
What are your preshow/postshow rituals? 
I warm up, have a cup of tea, and brush my teeth. And when possible, I really like to stand where I can hear the audience and listen to them a bit before the show. Or even peep out and look at them when possible! It helps me identify more specifically who I'm doing this for and who will be sharing in this with me.

What is your favorite thing about San Francisco? 
I don't know yet! Now that the show has opened I'll actually get to see more of it. So far my favorite thing is this theater.
If you could live during a different cultural period, what period would it be and why?
In the Western world, I think the turn of the (last) century was a fascinating time. In psychology, society, art . . . huge changes.
What was your favorite discovery  during the rehearsal process for Arcadia?
My favorite discovery has been in the previews, actually, when I realized that people really do understand everything in the play. So much of the play went over my head before I researched it. But thankfully A.C.T. audiences are much smarter than me.
Adam O’Byrne (Valentine Coverly), and Gretchen Egolf (Hannah Jarvis) in A.C.T.’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, directed by Carey Perloff. Photo by Kevin Berne.
What is the most difficult aspect of speaking with an accent? Do you use any fun tricks?
The most difficult aspect of speaking with an accent is that it's something you have to think about instead of totally focusing on the other bits of acting. BUT it also provides important insight into and help with unlocking the character. And once you get it down, hopefully you won't have to think about it anymore anyway.

Helpful tips for the British accent: Everything is more forward in the mouth than it is in American speech. So this is a good exercise: "A Hottentot tot taught a Hottentot tot to talk ere the tot could totter. Ought the Hottentot tot be taught to say aught? Or what ought to be taught her?" It makes you have fish lips, which is what you're going for.

What is your favorite part of working on a Stoppard play?
All the new things we get to learn about. And there are some good laughs, so that always feels nice!

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