by Kailey Larson, guest writer
“The Theatre is Burning” is a one-woman show surrounding the true stories of senior Samantha Stewart’s relationship with the theater as different members of her family battled cancer. The series of non-fiction essays performed as monologues will be accompanied by original dance pieces and a few jazz standards. Join Samantha as she recounts everything from her embarrassing childhood memories to the emotional struggle of supporting a family member fighting a terminal illness.
What was your initial inspiration for “The Theatre is Burning”? How does that tie into the original format you designed for the play — I hear it’s a musical as well?
Samantha Stewart: Well the concept of the show started two years ago when I was a sophomore and my friend told me she was going to get fruit leather from the vending machine. I was immediately incensed since fruit leather was the bane of my existence as a young overweight girl at summer camp. The big rant that preceded the realization felt like something, but I didn’t know what. I just knew I wanted to use it for something. A year later, I began joking with friends about doing my own one-woman show. It started as a joke because it seemed like something reserved for retired broadway stars. Then after I had been joking about it for so long, I realized it was something I really wanted to do. So the script has evolved a lot since the initial conception that it would be a series of 8 five-page creative nonfiction monologues that would also compile my senior writing portfolio with Broadway standards in between. But, like so often with writing and theater, the piece took a life of its own and I couldn’t stick to such regimented limitations. There are nonfiction monologues, there’s songs, there’s dance.
During your four years here at Warren Wilson, what have you taken away from your experiences that may help you in your future?
Patience and presence. We have so many distractions surrounding us, it’s easy to avoid experiencing a moment as it’s happening. That’s one of the most important things about acting, focusing completely on the present, on your partner, and on your scene. To do that takes patience. But the patience is really for when you’re watching someone else work. In acting, there are plenty of times when another actor may be getting direction while you’re standing on the side. The key is to watch, to learn from the good instincts and bad habits of everyone around you, so when a scene feels off you can pick out the bad bits and make the good bits better.
What are your aspirations for a theatre career?
I just hope I can keep acting for the rest of my life. I have a few special goals, like to enroll in dance classes, take acting classes in new cities, and read so many plays a year, but I know my real job is auditioning. So I’m going to keep it simple and say I just hope to get cast somewhere. I hope I am never away from the theater for too long. I hope I never go a year without saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t. I have rehearsal.”
What would your number one advice be to a brand new acting student?
It’s a David Mamet quote that I think of everytime I go on stage, “Be present. Look your partner in the eye and tell them the truth.” Nothing could be simpler, and nothing could be harder.
Tell us about your creative process in the making of “The Theatre is Burning,” including any collaboration you may have had.
The best part of memorizing your own work is the ability to append to it. When I can’t memorize something the way I wrote it, I figure that the writing is awkward. I go through it a couple times and try to find the way I want to speak it, to find the way that’s most natural. As far as collaborations go, I’m working with Belle-Pilar on a modern dance piece about supporting someone with a terminal illness. I’m also very excited to have Peter Constantinou as a pianist for all of the musical pieces and Bri Garanzuay designing the light and projection plans.
Senior Mike Wiley will also have his own act in the show “Welcome to the Zoo.” Make sure you come and support both of our soon-to-be Theatre graduates!