Annie Parisse has never been upstaged by a raccoon. Yet. But it's bound to happen if the critters -- as they sometimes do -- hop onstage at Central Park's Delacorte Theater, where Parisse is starring in Shakespeare in the Park.
Yes, New York's iconic annual outdoor theatrical experience is back. This summer, The Public Theatre is presenting "All's Well That Ends Well" and "Measure for Measure." Now in previews, "All's Well" opens Saturday, and "Measure" debuts June 30, alternating through July 30. (Tickets, all free, are given out the day of performances in the park and online -- for details, visit shakespeareinthepark .org.)
Parisse is perhaps best known as Jack McCoy's sidekick, Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Borgia, on "Law & Order" -- a role she played for several seasons, until she asked to leave the show . . . after which her character was kidnapped, beaten, gagged and died after being stuffed in a trunk.
The actress, an Alaska native who now lives in New York with her partner, actor Paul Sparks, and their son, also appeared in the film "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," the TV soap opera "As the World Turns," and Broadway's "Prelude to a Kiss." Her next gig trades raccoons for spiders -- she's the villain's wife in "The Amazing Spider-Man," due out next year. She chatted with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
How's an Alaska gal dealing with all this heat?
It's not easy. Although, growing up in Alaska and Seattle, I actually don't need another day of snow or rain in my life. I prefer the heat.
You lived in Anchorage?
Till I was 11. My dad worked for Alaska Airlines. Anchorage is pretty suburban, but the wilderness is like an hour away. It's a beautiful place to visit . . . in summer. When it's 65 degrees, instead of 20 below.
Then you moved to Mercer Island?
Yes. It's a tiny island in the middle of Lake Washington. A suburb of Seattle. Green, lush. The trees are gigantic. We had a redwood in our backyard. The first time I took my guy there, he said, "I can't believe you grew up here. It's like 'The Lord of the Rings.' " You feel like a fairy might pop out from around a corner.
Just like in Shakespeare in the Park.
Yes. There's something magical about being outside and doing these shows. My role is bigger in "All's Well." But "Measure for Measure" is interesting. It's a creepy, dangerous world, especially for the women, or someone not highborn, where you can die of the plague or people can kill you for . . . having premarital sex. The world of that play is not the world we live in today.
Is it challenging to perform outdoors?
Oh . . . in one rehearsal, I swallowed a bug. Just breathed it in. I started coughing maniacally, and was like, what do I do if this happens in a show? "Excuse me, I just have to cough up a mosquito, and then we'll get right back to it." We haven't yet had a raccoon onstage, but I hear it happens a lot.
Will your son see the show?
He's only 19 months. But he's come to the theater a bunch. He refers to it as "the feater," with an "f." He likes to walk up and down the steps. And he's so into the turtle ponds behind the stage.
No doubt he'll be into your upcoming "Spider-Man" film.
I'm so excited to be the mom at the playground who was in "Spider-Man" -- even if it's only for one minute. I had a great time doing it. It was a very good vibe on the set.
Was it weird being killed off on "Law & Order?"
No. I'd asked to leave the show. And they'd wanted to do an episode where one of the main characters gets murdered. A producer said, "We may end up doing that. Umm . . . don't take it the wrong way." It was a total blast. On "Law & Order," the big emotional scenes always go to guest stars, because the stories are really about them. It was suddenly like I was the guest star and things were happening to me.
It seemed they were taking revenge on you for leaving.
People always tell me, "That was terrible what they did to you." I try to comfort them by telling them I had a really good time doing it.
Why'd you want to leave a steady gig?
I became an actor because I wanted to join the circus . . . basically. I like the adventure of going from job to job to job. Not knowing what's next. That's just my crazy personality. [She laughs.] That said, with a kid, maybe I'll change my tune. Not yet, though . . . not yet.