Lisa Herceg. I was born Elizabeth Marie Herceg but I have no idea who people are talking to if they call me “Elizabeth.” I’ve always been called Lisa by everyone except people glancing at my driver’s license (or my mother when she’s pissed).
Where are you from?
South Bend, Indiana, but I’ve lived in Chicago longer than I ever lived anywhere else.
What made you decide to pursue theatre?
At 14 years old, I saw Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett in the Mark Taper Forum production of Sweeney Todd that was video-taped for PBS. It never occurred to me that you could DO something like that for a living until that moment.
What drew you to stage combat?
I had to take a year of stage combat when I was studying theatre in London during a Junior Year Abroad program. In the first semester I felt like I would never be any good at it; that I’d never get it. By the end of the second semester I realized my size and intensity level as an actor were assets in stage combat -not detriments, for a change – and I started to enjoy it.
What’s your favorite weapon?
Broadsword. It’s not my best, but it’s my favorite.
What drew you to Babes With Blades?
I saw one of the early productions, a collection of vignettes, because my friend Leigh Anne Wilson was involved. I remember thinking, “Who ARE these women?? They’re incredible!” I went to a couple of fund-raisers and got to know some of the company members and went, “Okay, AND I like these people.” When Stephanie Repin called me a couple of years later and asked me if I’d be interested in doing Choose Your Adventure, I was like, “hell, yes!” That show was so much fun, I jumped at the chance to audition for Los Desaparacedos – which I got cast in. I realized I’d found a family and I was asked to join the company shortly afterward.
Who is your role model (and why)?
I have a few, but Angela Lansbury and Helen Mirren have always been my two biggest. Angela Lansbury is a phenomenally talented character actress who has always owned her inability to be pegged as an actor. It made her career a crazy patchwork quilt and it meant she played older than she was so often that by the time she did Murder, She Wrote people figured she must be 80. (She was 59.) Angela carved out a place as an actress that I don’t think any female had carved out before – a leading female character in her 60’s in a wildly successful TV series – and ended up one of the most beloved celebrities of the 80’s. Through all of it she remained gracious, elegant, and down to earth. I finally got to see her onstage a few years ago in A Little Night Music and I am thrilled to report she was THE best thing in that show. Angela spent the entire play in a wheelchair and she still blew everyone else off the stage. Helen Mirren is just…incredible. She’s a tiny little woman who burns with an intensity and a sensuality that you feel from eight feet away. (I’ve met her twice and seen her onstage twice.) Helen has also beaten her own path: married for the first time at 51, no interest in having children (and totally unapologetic about it), outspoken as hell on many issues, and fiercely articulate about all of them. But she’s never taken herself completely seriously and is much funnier than you’d think. Both of these women are whip-smart, strong, and independent as well as supremely talented. If I end up with 1/10th of either of their careers as performers I will consider myself successful.
What women’s issue is most important to you?
Workplace equality and equal representation in government is important to me. Neither of these will happen until our society figures out a way to make child-rearing equally the responsibility of men & women and offers couples a financial way to make that happen. (i.e. on-site childcare, longer maternity leave, actual paternity leave, flexible hours for both genders and a greater focus on work-life balance.) If child-rearing continues to be mainly the domain of women, we will never, ever have true equality – we’ll always have women who feel that they need to stop everything to focus on their children because someone needs to. Getting back into the workforce after that means years lost, pay lost, equity lost, and opportunities lost. Equally important to me in terms of women’s issues is the representation of women in theatre, film and television – especially in film and television. This goes for numbers as well as for HOW we’re represented. It’s another subject near and dear to my heart. (And a raiser of my blood pressure.)
What is one small thing people can do to effect change in their community in regards to this issue?
Be aware of the double-standard that we have for men and women in these areas. We don’t ask male politicians or male businessmen how their careers affect their family lives, but it still seems to be the first question people ask women. Other than that, I’m frankly not sure. It’s a systemic issue that really can only be addressed by women already in power looking out for other women on their way up by being vocal about it.