For CFA's Head of Acting, Huntington Role Required Discretion, Listening

Posted March 29, 2024

Melisa feat website

Doug Most, BUToday

Anytime a new play opens, the theater hosting the production usually wants as much publicity as it can get, especially reviews and profiles of the cast members that might help attract audiences. But when the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight opened at the Huntington Theatre in Boston earlier this year, veteran stage actor Jim Ortlieb was highlighted everywhere, while there was not a peep about the second, and only other, cast member, Melisa Pereyra.

It was no accident or oversight. Her role is hard to explain unless you were lucky enough to catch the show in person (it’s live run ended March 23, but it’s streaming through April 20). Playing a man desperate for human connection, Ortlieb commands the stage by himself for nearly the entire performance, engaging with the audience and inviting their participation. But only toward the very end, when he starts talking with a particular, and extremely reluctant, audience member and calls her up on stage, does it become apparent that she might not be just a random theatergoer, but the second cast member.

Pereyra, who is Argentinian, is a veteran performer at regional stages across the country. She is also the head of acting at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, as well as an assistant professor of acting and cochair of performance. She could not talk about the Huntington show, do interviews, or say anything on social media until now because keeping her role secret was essential to the audience experience and to maintaining the surprise factor.

But now that the show has pivoted from an in-person performance to a digital streaming show, Pereyra is free to talk about the uniqueness of the role, what’s next in her acting career, and her work at BU, which she joined in summer 2021. (Watch a CFA video of her talking about her career here.)

Below are excerpts from our conversation with her.

Find the full feature here!