Sometimes actors have to do some unusual things to be able to portray their characters realistically.
Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank dressed as a male for a while in preparation for her role in "Boys Don't Cry." Gene Hackman hung out with undercover cops before starring in "The French Connection." And Robert DeNiro gained 40 pounds and learned to box for "Raging Bull."
For the seven cast members of University Theatre's production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," it meant meeting with Anima Mundi, a Lawrence psychic to talk about ghosts, mediums, seances and crystal balls.
The gathering was spearheaded by director and Kansas University theater professor Paul Meier, in an attempt to make the occult aspect of the production authentic.
"Blithe Spirit," set in 1941 in Kent, England, is about writer Charles Condomine and his second wife, Ruth, who have invited two of their friends to a dinner and seance conducted by a medium. Condomine hopes the medium will be a fraud and provide humor for his next novel. But the tables turn, and the writer is visited by the ghost of his first wife.
Questions and answers
The first topic of discussion for the actors and Mundi: life after death.
"Everyone has to deal with it, so I don't see it as something to be feared," Mundi began. "It's a new journey, a new birth. We all have an energy or life force that doesn't die. Our energy goes on.
"Ghosts are people who don't know they are dead and have unfinished business (with those still living). Most often they are here to protect us. It's a matter of different levels of existence."
The actors listened intently as Mundi described how she carried burning sage and chanted throughout her home to calm a ghost who lives there. She thinks the spirit is that of a woman who died of an aneurism.
"What about crystal balls?" one of the KU actors asked.
"Scrying (the term for using a crystal ball) is one of the known and used methods by psychics. I believe in the power of stones. (A crystal ball) is a prop to tap into your mind, to see things in a different way."
"It has to do with the magnetic pull of the body and the subconscious," she said.
"I've only heard of it being used with vampires," Mundi answered, "but maybe it wards off evil."
"They can be precognitive or symbolic of things to come," she said.
"I believe we are surrounded by spirits who are guides for the people who are still here and trying to get (to the next plane)," she said.
Here to help
When she was a little girl, Mundi said, she would see flashes of light in her grandparents' home. In junior high, she knew what songs would be played next on the radio.
"I came to KU and graduated, but then I fluttered about," she said of her young adult years.
About 12 years ago, she went to have her astrological chart read and the first thing the man doing the reading said was that he didn't know why she was coming to him because she was clearly an astrologer herself. That day, she bought a book on astrology and began teaching herself about tarot cards and other psychic tools.
"I can't read minds. I can't see thoughts, but I get a feeling from the cards. I think I had the gift in a previous life and misused it and now I'm here to use it responsibly and to help people evolve and love themselves," she said.
Mundi said a psychic operates much like a therapist asking questions and listening intently, and being careful about how responses are phrased because clients will cling onto every word said.
"Life is a choice. We have lessons to learn, and we do that by the choices we make," she said. "My responsibility is to ask them questions rather than tell them answers."
Mundi told the KU actors that she, too, is asked to play a role. When she sets up her tarot reading table, customers expect her to have a certain look sort of a New Age, hippie, gypsy mix and to have on hand certain paraphernalia, such a crystals.
Mundi said everyone has the potential to be a psychic.
"They just need to be in tune and trust themselves," she said. "It's about knowing when to take advantage of the things in your life."