In “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at NC Stage, Rebecca Morris stars as a strong, independent woman quick to stand her ground. In many respects, she’s the woman Morris wishes to be.
“So in the rehearsal process, there was a lot of drawing that out (of me),” Morris said. “Your personal power or potency, standing on my own two feet and speaking my mind, whether I think people are going to agree with me or not, is very difficult for me to do.”
Morris lives with her husband in Marshall, but she hasn’t lacked for big roles. She has starred in more than 25 plays, a dozen small, independent films and appeared on the TV shows “Sleepy Hollow” and “Drop Dead Diva.” Her voice also made it onto an episode of “House of Cards.”
Morris turned 40 this week and, like many approaching that milemarker, Morris couldn’t help looking back at the forks in the road she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, take.
“A lot of it was being afraid of going out into a big city and failing and being swallowed up by all the people pursuing that thing,” she said. “But I still had that little girl dream of being on the red carpet and having all these Oscars, but I never made the choices that are really required to seriously put you on the track for that to happen.”
Morris grew up one of five girls, along with two brothers, and carries memories of a happy, stable home in Dover, Del. All her sisters went into acting, and Morris struggled to distinguish herself.
“So it’s that drive to be unique and stand out in some way, and I think that translated into this concern over perception,” she said. “What are people going to think of me? That has really boxed me in for a great deal of my life, and that’s something I’m trying to get out of.”
In 2002, Morris hiked nearly the entire Appalachian Trail and, along the way, met the man she eventually married. As with many couples where one is an artist, there’s been tension in the marriage around Morris’ prospects for earning consistent money as an actress.
For the past year, Morris has worked for her husband’s solar energy business, cold-calling potential clients. It’s part compromise, part financial necessity.
“He’s very supportive, but there was this desperation around (my career), and it just made everything feel so small and crunchy and awful,” she said. “I cannot really write a business plan I can follow exactly. There’s only so much in my control. It was just a very challenging dynamic and it’s still a work in progress.”
Morris earns at least union scale whenever she performs. Still, her agent questioned the wisdom of committing to “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” which would mean turning down potential offers for more lucrative work.
“For me, at this point, theater is where you really get the meaty, juicy stuff where I can dig in, and I really miss that,” she said.
This show, in particular, is speaking to Morris about her own life. The character she portrays is about her age and, like Morris, finds herself questioning corners of life she hadn’t doubted before.
“The subject matter of this play is very much involving middle-age crisis stuff,” she said. “Part of the reason I’m still acting is it keeps me face to face with all this stuff I’m still working on as a human being.”
So Morris continues hunting for that sweet spot of contentment between a vital career, economic stability and harmony at home.
“I used to think balance was this place you come to, and you stay there, but no--that’s death,” she said. “I’m interested in being open to all the possibilities, and seeing them as possibilities as opposed to obstacles. That’s a big project for me, but in the moments where I’m like ‘Hey, I just did that thing,’ that's pretty wonderful.”