A Day in the Life is a Campus Times series highlighting the studies and lives of UR students. Answers have been lightly edited for grammar, clarity, and/or style.
Prior to the Sept. 29 world premiere of the newest Todd Theatre production, “Fellowship,” the Campus Times had the ability to interview sophomore Rhea Bharadwaj, one of the six actors in the show.
What character are you playing in “Fellowship”?
I am playing Sherene, who is one of the activists and first-year fellows in the show. It centers around these four women who are in this fellowship organization, and they’re protesting an immigration bill being passed. Sherene is basically dipping her toes into this organization and learning how to work with the three other girls on their mutual passion for social change. In my initial audition, I was reading for another character, but I got matched with Sherene because it seemed to the director, Dominique Rider, that it was the best fit for my reading.
Have you participated in a Todd Theatre production in the past? If not, what made you want to audition for Fellowship in particular?
This is my first show in an acting capacity — I helped stage manage for last semester’s production of “Marisol.” I’ve always had a passion for acting, and this was a production that I really resonated with since getting a sense of the script during auditions. The fact that this majority of this cast is female, and especially women of color, I think this representation is so necessary, especially when communicating the perspectives of these four individual characters with their own experiences, and being able to show the tension and internal conflicts that arise when four women of color, even though they share an identity. There are also internal tensions between them due to their layered identities as members of specific groups. That was something I was very passionate about exploring and being able to develop that dimension to my specific character.
What has been different for you when it comes to experiencing Todd Theatre from both on and off stage?
With the acting side, there is a lot of autonomy with specific choices that you make and being able to make decisions to further your character […] Behind the scenes, it’s more about the actual mechanics and inner workings of the show. For stage management, there are a lot of different tasks — some focus on lighting, others focus on sound, others focus on run crew […] Ultimately, I think it all comes down to teamwork and being able to coordinate and collaborate with everyone around you. Collaboration is ultimately what has made the production come to fruition.
What is it like working on a show that is premiering at the University?
It’s really exciting! This is really our chance to develop these characters on a personal level. I really want to be myself, and as I play this character, I want to have pieces of me in there that resonate with an audience and make them feel seen as themselves. I think Sherene has this sort of silent power, where she has all these really impactful ideas. For me, it’s been all about her journey of finding the courage to articulate that in a bold way, and I think there’s a boldness in her silence.
How is it balancing the rigor of a Todd production with the life of a college student?
I feel like I’ve been doing my best with time management, but I think that getting to balance the rigor of my STEM courses with a more artistic outlet has helped me express myself and be creative with how I present myself to an audience, and having that stage presence is really powerful to me. There’s a very tight timeline, just because our shows are sandwiched between Meliora Weekend and fall break, so in just two weeks, we were already getting into our designer’s run. The third week was tech week, so we had to be off-book in two weeks. I didn’t get my script until later in August, but it was a much shorter play than we’ve generally done, so I felt like the process was really smooth because all of the cast had great chemistry with each other.
What was it like to work on such an expedited timeline for a show, given that the premiere is only a month from the beginning of courses?
The majority of the cast was from “Marisol”, so that made it easier for everyone to connect with each other. Two of us were stage managers last semester, and another actor was from “Stupid Fucking Bird” (Fall 2022), so I think that made the process a lot easier. For the crew, specifically, our acting and voice coach was crucial to giving us warmups that really helped. Your voice is so critical to making certain acting choices, so I think it was important to have that creative perspective — alongside that of our director and stage management — contribute to our work.
For those on the fence about seeing “Fellowship” — what is the main takeaway from the show that you think people would resonate with?
“Fellowship” is all about working in an organization — while it can be very powerful being united together, there can be points of tension that divide movements and efforts. I think this play is a great showing of the birth and loss of an organization, and how achieving success and achieving objectives may not always be straightforward.