On Playing a Real-Life Character: Eliza Knode as Inga Arvad Fejos in “JFK AND INGA BINGA”

We sat down with Eliza Knode, Season 45 Resident Actor and our Inga Arvad Fejos in JFK AND INGA BINGA, to hear about her development of a character who existed in real-life — a unique challenge for actors that also reaps unique rewards. Hear from her below:

Resident Actors Raymond Cronley and Eliza Knode as Jack Kennedy and Inga Arvad Fejos in JFK AND INGA BINGA, February 2023 at Charleston Stage.

JFK AND INGA BINGA is a really interesting, special play given it’s little-known history, Charleston locale, and celebrity interest. How is this show unique from others you’ve performed in before?

This is the first show I’ve done based on true history. I’m very glad to have this experience because I think biopics are growing in popularity in theatre and cinema. Now I know what it’s like playing a real person and have established a process, so if I were ever asked to do something like this again, I confidently could!

How have you prepared for this role? 

One of the ways I prepared to play Inga Arvad was reading a biography about her called Inga: Kennedy’s Great Love, Hitler’s Perfect Beauty, and J. Edgar Hoover’s Prime Suspect by Scott Farris. It was a great resource because I got to learn about her life and what kind of person she was socially and personally, which I was then able to translate to the stage. Knowing her background helped greatly to inform my acting choices. For example, I learned that she studied ballet when she was younger, so the physicality I’ve developed for Inga is very graceful and poised. Also, by knowing what happened in her life before the moment of the play, it makes the circumstances within the play more meaningful and interesting. 

Another way I needed to prepare to play Inga was to learn her Danish accent! I’m very lucky to have a Danish friend who helped me with some pronunciations. I also listened to Danish people speaking English on a website called IDEA (International Dialects of English Archive) and watched a Danish comedian named Sofie Hagen on TikTok. From listening to these people, I made a chart of the sounds that change from the way I speak English. For example, I noticed that “w” sounds often turn into “v” annunciations in the Danish accent. I then went through the script and marked where these changes occurred so that I could memorize them right away.

Resident Actor Eliza Knode as Inga Arvad Fejos in JFK AND INGA BINGA, February 2023 at Charleston Stage.

What are the easiest and most difficult aspects of playing this role and doing this show?

The easiest part about playing this role is that I have an amazing cast to respond to. Everyone has made really fun character choices that engage me, even when I’m not on stage with them! The most difficult aspect of this role is putting on/taking off costumes pieces onstage. It seems really simple, but there’s a certain timing in the lines when items need to be on or off, so the pressure of getting it done before that point can be surprisingly stressful! 

Do you prefer plays or musicals? Why?

I grew up doing choir and being really involved in music, so I have to say I prefer musicals. However, I’m an avid reader and I love reading plays — I am enjoying my experience being in a new play!

What’s your favorite show of all time?

My favorite show is constantly rotating…right now my favorite is Big Fish: The Musical. It explores a strained relationship between father and son, the power of imagination, and the strength of love. The music is epic and fun-it has similar vibes to the score of Wicked. Also, I would love to play Sandra Bloom someday! 

Resident Actor Eliza Knode as Inga Arvad Fejos in JFK AND INGA BINGA, February 2023 at Charleston Stage.

Eliza is a recent graduate of the University of Miami with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Some of her previous credits include Into the Woods (Witch), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena), and 9 to 5 (Roz). Eliza has lived in Malaysia, Japan, Hungary, and Brazil and is very excited to make Charleston her next home! She would like to extend gratitude to her teachers, friends, and family around the globe who support her. Website: https://elizadknode.wixsite.com/mysite || Instagram: @eliza.knode

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