‘Intimate Apparel’ ladies best friends on, off stage

In Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, Esther and Mayme are leading ladies and best friends.

When guest artist Tangela Large and Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actor Whitney White landed the two roles in CTC’s production, which continues its run at 4 p.m. today in Bratton Theater, they had already developed a strong rapport.

Large and White both received their Master of Fine Arts degrees from Brown/Trinity Rep and have been friends for years.

“Tangela completed her degree a year before I did,” White said. “When I first came to the university, I had nowhere to live. Tangela and her roommates had a spare room. She showed me the ropes at Trinity, and we lived together for two years.”

Their off-stage chemistry and friendship translated to the stage.

“Whitney is charismatic and spunky,” Large said. “She tells me when to loosen up and have fun.”

On the other hand, White said Large is “incredibly strong and grounds me.”

Their real-life friendship is similar — if not identical — to Esther and Mayme’s.

“If you can actually stand someone after school, you have probably made a good friend,” Large said.

Like all good friends, the two have taught each other and have learned from each other’s strengths.

“Tangela teaches me how to be strong, stand up for myself and be composed like a lady,” White said.

Back in their school days, the two knew, or at least hoped, they would get a chance to share the same artistic space.

“I knew I would run into her again,” Large said.

White agreed.

“We are very different, and there are lots of play where our ‘types’ complement each other,” she said.

Besides Nottage’s Intimate Apparel, the duo wishes to someday work on Dreamgirls and some Alice Childress plays, like Trouble in Mind.

“I would put in The Color Purple, too,” White said.

With such a short rehearsal and run schedule, Large and White are “savoring every moment, because who knows when we will work together again,” White said.

Intimate Apparel closes Sunday. With only four shows remaining, both leading ladies believe this play is for every woman in Chautauqua Institution.

“This play will teach you something about love, womanhood, self-worth, strength and what you do for it,” White said. “The story is universal.”