But when Maggie Graham freed Rowan Mackenzie from the curse that bound him to this world, she took the first step toward her new life as director of the Crossroads Theatre. As a hectic new season begins, magic takes a back seat to ticket sales as Maggie balances the demands of her interfering board president and a company of actors that includes bewildered amateurs, disdainful professionals, a horde of children, and an arthritic dog. But magic is hard to banish from the old white barn, where memories lurk like ghosts in the shadowy wings and the unexpected is as time-honored a tradition as the curtain call. And when the tangled spells of the past turn Maggie’s life upside down, it will take more than magic to ensure the happy-ever-after ending she longs for.
WLP: Can you tell us about Spellcrossed?
BA: Well, without giving too much away, Maggie has a lot to cope with, not the least of which is still yearning for Rowan. Issues from her past that she thought had been laid to rest return to throw her life into chaos. Keeping secrets from her boss and her mother threaten her relationship with both. And that forces her to come to terms with what she wants and how far she’ll go to get it.
WLP: Which book was harder to write?
BA: Definitely Spellcrossed. For one thing, the theatre’s secret is out so there’s no central mystery as there was in Spellcast. For another, Maggie’s no longer an actress and it’s much harder to make directing a thrill for readers. And in the beginning of the book, everyone on staff is determined to make the theatre “normal” so there’s not a ton of magic. Once I got to the end of Act One, I knew I was on solid ground, but I angsted a lot about getting there!
WLP: Do you have a favorite of the “secondary” characters? If so, who?
BA: Oh, that’s tough. I love Hal and Helen. They’re both so sweet. But I guess it would be a toss-up between Janet and Reinhard, because both of those characters change. At least, Maggie’s perception of them changes. Reinhard starts off as this gruff stage manager and morphs into a kind of father figure. Janet starts off as a dragon lady (and still IS a bit of a dragon lady), but in Spellcrossed, we see that she genuinely cares about Maggie. I love writing for Janet. I could always count on her for a sarcastic comment and a “get your head out of your ass” attitude.
WLP: We know you have a background in theater, so is the Crossroads based on anywhere you’ve been?
BA: The look of the Crossroads was actually inspired by an old white barn near Harrisburg, PA. (There’s a photo of it on my Website.) But I drew many of the anecdotes from my seasons at the Southbury Playhouse in Connecticut and Fort Salem Theatre in upstate New York. Southbury, alas, is gone. But Fort Salem is alive and well – and a lot spiffier than it was when I worked there.
WLP: Will there be a book 3?
BA: I honestly don’t know. I left the door open for another book with the experience that Maggie undergoes near the end of Spellcrossed. That has the potential to cause problems for her in the future. But part of me wants to let her enjoy her happy ending.
WLP: If you could cast any actors as any characters in the series, who would you cast?
BA: Ralph Fiennes or Jeremy Irons would have made a great Rowan ten or fifteen years ago, but I think they’re a little old now. Johnny Depp? He’s quirky, sensitive, boyish looking. And I adore him. For Maggie…maybe Anna Pacquin or Amy Adams. They both have the combination of vulnerability and toughness that Maggie needs.
Maggie Graham’s life is a mess. First, she loses her job. Then, her bathroom ceiling collapses. Hoping a weekend getaway will restore her spirits, she drives to Vermont and stumbles upon the Crossroads Theatre. Although she has no intention of auditioning, she soon finds herself part of a very odd summer stock company that includes moody and mysterious director Rowan Mackenzie, a man with the uncanny ability to transform a train wreck of a show into something magical. Before the season ends, Maggie is determined to discover the truth about the Crossroads. She never imagines that she’ll discover secrets about her past – and Rowan’s – that will change their lives forever.
WLP: If you could cast Maggie in a recent play or musical, which character would she play?
BA: I’d love to see Maggie play Elphaba in Wicked.
WLP: What is your favorite play?
BA: I love the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. For laughs, Noises Off: it’s this crazy show where EVERYTHING goes wrong during the run of a play. But I have a definite soft spot for Bedroom Farce; that was the first time I played opposite my future husband.
In terms of musicals? The old ones are still my favorites: Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods.
WLP: Favorite score?
BA: Sondheim’s A Little Night Music is definitely up there. Almost anything Sondheim is definitely up there.
WLP: Favorite theater you ever performed at?
BA: Gotta be Southbury. It was my first season of summer stock, my first season as a professional actress. And I met my husband there. Hard to top that.
WLP: Do you have any embarrassing or memorable stage moments?
BA: A gazillion. Guns that didn’t go off, props that weren’t where they were supposed to be, sets on revolves that didn’t turn. Actors who went up on their lines, actors who missed their entrances, one actor who made his dramatic entrance through a closet door instead of the front door.
And then there were the wardrobe malfunctions. I was in this awful thriller called Victim where I was supposed to get shot at the end of Act Two. Unfortunately, the blood pack I was wearing under my costume began to leak BEFORE I was shot. Since I was tied to a chair, there was nothing I could do about it. Another actor turned my chair away from the audience and I had to deliver my lines over my shoulder.
In college, I was doing the striptease “Take Back Your Mink” from Guys and Dolls and instead of pulling the Velcro tab to remove my skirt, I accidentally grabbed the one securing my top. I spent the rest of the number trying to refasten it while keeping my arms VERY close to my sides so I didn’t flash the audience.
In Tribute, I had to appear topless, although the final “reveal” was upstage so that only the other actor in the scene saw anything. And since Tom wasn’t wearing his glasses, he didn’t see very much! He patted my shoulder after dress rehearsal and said, “I’m blind as a bat, you know. But I’m sure they’re lovely.”
For more on the world of the Crossroads Theatre, visit www.barbara-ashford.com.
Barbara is giving a way a copy of Spellcast & a copy of Spellcrossed to two lucky winners. Just tell us what your favorite play of all time is. US/Canada only & please indicate which book you would like to win!