As a result of the premiere of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the “glam rock meets genderqueer fabulosity” musical showing through the Todd Union International Theatre Program, the Campus Times had the chance to interview one of the cast members. First-year and double major in Biomedical Engineering and Theater Gabriel Pierce plays Tommy Gnosis in the show, and provided the CT with some insight into the inner workings of a Todd show and his experiences with UR theater.
What is “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” about?
“Hedwig” is a retelling of her own story, an autobiography in a way. It’s set during her own rock concert, where she recalls her past and she contemplates where she ended up. In doing so, Hedwig and the audience learns much more about how her past experiences, particularly memories of her mother and her former interest, Tommy Gnosis, have influenced her actions.
What was your experience with theater before coming to UR, and what made you want to pursue theater here?
I did musicals and plays in high school more for the social aspect than for the acting or stage experience. But I did end up absolutely loving the time I spent rehearsing and on stage, and it became a bigger part of my life than I had first expected it to [be]. So, when I heard about Todd and how the idea is to get a close-to-professional experience putting on shoes, I jumped at the opportunity, and here I am in my second Todd show in my first year at the University.
How do you think your theatrical experience and understanding of acting have changed as a result of working with the Todd Theater Department?
I’ve learned a lot from the past two shows, which in my opinion comes from having feedback from different directors. As of now, I’ve had a total of approximately seven different directors I’ve acted for in productions, meaning I’ve had seven different points of view on where I could grow as a performer. I will say that I’ve definitely grown the most during my experience with Todd, which comes with a higher standard for everything at the collegiate level.
What does a typical week of rehearsal look like?
A typical week of rehearsal depends on how deep we are into the production, and how involved a role is in the production. I’ve not played any character that’s been on stage for very long, so in early production I’ve had between five and 12 hours of rehearsing each week between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weeknights (excluding Monday), and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends. When closer to opening night, I would say that rehearsals are close to every night for the full rehearsal time, so it gets up to perhaps 20-25 hours each week, and perhaps more when performances begin. Tech weekend is a particularly heavy weekend, being called for 20 hours of rehearsal between Saturday and Sunday.
What are your expectations as an actor during tech week?
As an actor, my expectations of tech week are that we have a good time. We’re all tired, we’re all trying our best, so why make it so stressful? By that point, we should have a show together and be confident in our abilities to perform, so just allowing the tech geniuses that do lights, sound, makeup, costumes, etc. to do their work is important. Tech rehearsals aren’t for the actors, they’re for the designers to do what they need to do to make the show look and sound fantastic. Patience is a virtue!
You were in “Stupid Fucking Bird” in the fall and now “Hedwig” this spring — what is different about working on a Todd straight play versus a musical in the audition/callback process and during rehearsals?
There are so many differences between the musical and straight play processes. It’s really what one would expect, the callbacks and auditions involved both acting and singing for the musical, but for the straight play it was just a lot of acting. For a musical it’s a challenge because there is the same amount of time to put on the show, but both music and scenes to put together.
What has been the hardest part of “Hedwig” thus far?
The hardest part of “Hedwig” specifically has been the COVID-19 difficulties, particularly having the rehearsals in January solely over Zoom. We essentially put the entire show legitimately together within a four-week period.
What has been the most rewarding part of “Hedwig” thus far?
I’d say the most rewarding part of the show has been the fact that we can say that we, the cast, band, directors, and everyone else involved, did this against the odds. Putting this big of a show together in four weeks is an incredible feat and everyone should be incredibly proud of that fact.
For any students interested in auditioning for an upcoming show, do you have any words of wisdom?
For other students considering auditioning: Have an open mind, and don’t assume anything before or during the process. I had no idea I would be accepted into either of the shows I’ve acted in, but just auditioned so I could say I tried. It pays to just try things out whenever the chance arises. You’d rather look back and say you tried than say you wish you had tried.
“Hedwig and The Angry Inch” is showing at Sloan Performing Arts Center from Feb. 25 to March 5. Tickets can be purchased here and are free for UR students.