Actress discusses upcoming production of ‘8000M’ in San Diego

Ellie MacPherson
Actress Ellie MacPherson Mark E. Bender

Canyon Crest Academy grad Alice Cash, 27, founder of Golden Shards Productions, will direct a production of "8000M" (pronounced “8,000 Meters”) from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18 at the Moxie Theatre for the first time on the West Coast. Previously, the San Diego native directed the show in New York, where it garnered favorable reviews and captured sold-out audiences. Many of the actors from that performance are returning for the San Diego shows, Cash said.

Leading actress Ellie MacPherson talks in the Q&A below about the play, 8000M and why she’s attracted to her character. MacPherson plays the Ice Climber in the play 8000M about scaling Mount Lhotse (the mountain right next to Everest) in the Himalayas. She’s an award-winning actress in New York City and coming to San Diego exclusively for 8000M.

What made you fall in love with this play and character?

Ellie: 8000m immediately pulled me in by the unique world of the professional mountain climbing community. To be honest I had no idea that it even existed, I thought once we summited Everest the glory of it had passed. I was mistaken. There is something to be said about a community that seeks to continue to improve itself, by climbing faster or in worse conditions. It’s more than a sport, it’s a whole lifestyle that I have been completely fascinated by. Not to mention the incredible exotic locations where the play takes place, truly it feels like another world.

Erica is driven to push herself past boundaries both physical and mental. She chooses an unconventional life of following her passion and yet is simultaneously torn by the comforts of convention. I deeply identify with this conundrum. I love being an actor and feel like the rehearsal studio and the stage is the only place I can really breathe, but I also would love to have a 401k at some point.

What makes you want to play Erica again?

Ellie: Erica has been stuck in my brain ever since I first played her. Playing Erica stretches me past my own limits. I started bouldering and rock climbing to prepare for the role and it ignited my old competitive self. Could I climb faster and higher and better than everyone else? No, of course not, other people devote their lives to this. But there is something deeply primal about reaching the top of something that fills you with a sense of accomplishment.

How do you like working with Alice Cash?

Ellie: Alice directs with the kind of energy and clarity that you hope to work with as an actor. There’s almost something musical about the way she directs, the show eventually runs as swiftly and as cleanly as a big budget Broadway musical no matter what the environment. She creates a rehearsal room where the actors are truly free to play within the parameters of the world. I love how she can create whole worlds out of some rope and fabric.

What draws you to Erica?

Ellie: Something about Erica’s drive and her ability to push through and get things done reminds me of my own mother who was a Military Intelligence officer in the Army. I’ve often wondered at my mother’s decision to leave her military career to care for my brother and I, and whether that fulfilled her. I think Erica struggles with that issue, of what makes a meaningful life, not only as a mother but as a human.

What made you push for this play to be produced again?

Ellie: The conversation around what women can and can’t do has been going on for some time now, but I think the election of our current president and the growth of the #metoo movement has electrified it. For me personally, I’ve become far more interested in claiming a female voice and female narrative. This question of ‘Can women have it all?’ seems like it should be played out at this point but I think it’s just getting started.

Are women allowed to have their children and their accomplishments? Is that an actual viable possibility?

Have you ever been to San Diego/California and what are you looking forward to?

Ellie: I’ve visited San Diego once as a high schooler when I’m sure I spent too much time on my phone and not enough time paying attention to the city. I’m looking forward to the weather and Balboa Park and some fun outdoor adventures and I’m bringing lots of sunscreen.

When: Nov.15-18 (Nov. 15, 16, & 17 @ 8 p.m.; Nov. 18 @ 2 p.m.)

Where: Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd N, San Diego, 92115; $25 general admission, $15 students;; Facebook: @goldenshardsproductions; Instagram: @goldenshards