Some of my favorite concepts taken from my interviews with the talented cast of Sonia Flew are ones that can be easily applied both inside and outside the theatre: listen to your intuition; happy accidents may change the course of your life; and stop fighting yourself, embrace your passions whole-heartedly. Through entertaining stories of church pageants, being “discovered” outside of your academic advisor’s office, and turning in handwritten plays in lieu of assigned papers, we learned some fabulous life lessons, as well as theatre-specific lessons for you actors out there. Only nine shows are left: so book now through our box office.
How did you get into acting and what do you most love about it?
Nancy Tutunjian Berger: I got into acting when I was in college. It was a happy accident. I had an appointment with my advisor who’s office happened to be next to the drama director’s. I went in and was singing to myself, waiting, and the drama director came in and asked, “Do you have a few minutes?” I said, “No, I am waiting for my advisor.” He said [my advisor] wouldn’t be back for a while, so to come with him. He then had me sing something, gave me a premise, and gave me a script, saying he was casting a musical and still couldn’t find someone to play a certain part. We read lines and he asked if wanted to do it. I was immediately like “No. I’ve never done this. I can’t do this.” But this director was really smart and asked me to give him a two week commitment – come to rehearsals for two weeks and if I still feel like you can’t do this, then he will find someone else.
In those two weeks, I started making friends and having fun. Then opening night I remember being in the wings with the nervous butterflies. I thought ‘What have I done?’ ‘What have I done?!’ Then I went out on that stage and felt that audience and thought, “This is GREAT!” That was it. I did all of the plays at school and got involved in community and regional theaters. So I kept with it. That coincidence was very providential for me.
Ed Peed: The thing that made me want to consider this, pursue this, study this, and do this as a profession was a play I saw in high school at the local college where I eventually attended…and met my future wife of 46 years. It was a production of The Caretaker and was just so exquisite, so perfect, and moving that I immediately said that this is what I wanted to do. And it is what I did.
Karina Ithier: I’ve always been drawn to theatre and all artsy, creative things. I always went to summer camps for theatre in my town and my parents would bring me to local theatre shows – I have just always had a love for performing. I did dance as a kid but there is something about the playhouse that I love. One big thing that I think theatre does that I really appreciate, is that every show that you are in creates a new dynamic and makes a new family. You become so close to them [as in the other cast members] because you work so hard with them and you have to trust them. You really learn to pay attention and listen in rehearsals. Acting is reacting. And it is just incredible.
Woody Gaul: I first got into acting in an actual organized fashion when I was 14 years old, after playing King Herod in a Christmas pageant. Prior to that period I had performed only in church pageants, which is actually how I made the transition into community theatre. One of the members of my church parish was involved in this theatre and asked me if I would be interested in coming and auditioning for a play. The first play I was in was Richard III, which was a huge, overwhelming, wonderful experience. The director of that production was also the artistic director of the company and had such wonderful knowledge of Shakespeare and how to teach it to an inexperienced actor in such a way that made me fall in love with Shakespeare and his language. That experience really propelled my acting career. I think that what I love about theatre has changed greatly in my 20+ years onstage in the fact that I think I was much more interested in performing than now, where I really enjoy the rehearsal process the most and that period of uncertainty in the rehearsal process where you don’t really know where you are going and how you are going to get there.
Luis Negron: Acting has always been an interest of mine. I finally started taking classes, however, only in my college years. I took classes at HB Studio in New York City, auditing classes by greats like Uta Hagen. It was a terrific experience. So I guess you could say I was slow coming to it and slow to embrace it: I was introduced incrementally, little by little over years.
The impulse [that started me on this path] was kind of a conviction or, really, finally accepting that, “You know what? I think this is what I was meant to be, so stop fighting and embrace it.” It was an inner voice if you will.
Mariela Lopez-Ponce: From childhood I loved acting and the theatre. I remember in elementary school I would turn any assignment I could into a little play. It is a lifelong passion and it is not actually my profession, but I love it and I do it when I can.
Brigitte Demelo: I just followed my interests and they led me to doing what I am doing now. I had done some acting as a child and a little bit in high school. When I came to Wellesley [College], there were so many opportunities available in theatre that I was able to jump right in.
How would you describe the creative process of getting into the world of your characters?
Woody Gaul: I am a very introverted person in general. My creative process is very introverted as well. For me personally, in developing characters I think it is incredibly important – esp. in stage productions – to have good, strong relationships with everyone in the company. But as far as my personal creative process, I tend to internalize and question a lot, then take my characters(s) outside of the rehearsal hall and run thru it all in my head to figure out how my character walks, their cadence, what they eat, drink, and, really, how this character lives in their world in order to establish that in myself in some honest way. Once you go through the creative process of rehearsal period you can just show up on show day and easily slide into that skin.
Mariela Lopez-Ponce: For my own interest, I took acting classes throughout high school and early adulthood. I think those are really key to set the fundamentals of acting. Overtime the process becomes much more intuitive: you walk into a character and a lot of what goes on is unconscious. It is coupled with the training that is somewhere in you and kind of guides that process.
Karina Ithier: I don’t like to think a lot [in creating my character]. I know a lot of actors like to go back and build a history of the character, asking “What would my character do when ________ happens?”. And I think I, first, just look at the words of what the character is saying and try to relate them to the emotions. My director now, Lois [Roach, director of Sonia Flew], tells us that as an actor you should do something with intuition. Don’t do something because you want it to look right, do it because it feels right, even if it is not in the blocking.
Luis Negron: Getting into the world of any character – for me at least – starts with looking at the facts: Where is this taking place? When is this taking place? What are the issues? What is the history of the place and the time we are focused? What has been going on at that place? How would that affect my character? What is my characters role in that? That is where it begins for me: The biography of everything that frames the character…before I even look at the character himself.
Ed Peed: The script is where it all begins for me. This script [written by Melinda Lopez] in particular was so well wrought. I always go back to the script of a show.
Of course, I also rely on a great director. Lois is certainly one. I’ve worked with her several times and each has been fulfilling. I am just thrilled to be able to work with her again.
Nancy Tutunjian Berger: I read the script once or twice. In those readings, certain things will hit me that ring true to the character. For me, I like the memorization part to be done as soon as possible. That allows me to start building the nuances of the character. I really try to put myself in that situation and think how I would react in that situation. After I determine that, I start to think how the character would react and ask “How is the character different from me?” I build it in layers.
Brigitte Demelo: It all starts with the script: reading it and getting used to the language, pulling out what bits of information you think go into the character and then taking that into rehearsal to workshop it with the director and the other actors.