|Wyatt Fenner and Helen Sadler in The Whale. Photo by Scott Brinegar|
.Helen Sadler and Wyatt Fenner are featured as Ellie and Elder Thomas in SCR’s production of Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale. By using their own experiences and through dedication to their art, they have been able to revel in these strong and challenging roles.
We recently sat down with them and got to know a little more about the people behind the characters.
What drew you into acting?
Helen Sadler: I think it came from spending a lot of time with my dad, who was a film professor, and watching old Hollywood black and white films. I was enamored with the strong female actresses, like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck, and felt a real kinship with them and their point of views! Also, I was the fourth of five children, so I probably had a bit of middle child syndrome—that need to make my mark and be seen!
Wyatt Fenner: After lunch one day in first grade, we went down to the gymnasium where Mrs. Grove, my first-grade teacher, led us in a game of kickball. She was pretty old and I remember thinking how cool it was that she was teaching us kickball in her teacher clothes, long skirt and glasses! Before that day, though, recess had always been for me a time for playing “pretend“: my friends and I would set up these pretend worlds outside on the jungle gym and we'd play Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, Little Mermaid or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the school year went on, we got to have recess outside again. But after that day with Mrs. Grove teaching us kickball, everyone was crazy about kickball and every recess from then on was all about kickball. It drove me nuts. So, basically I started doing plays because it was a way to still play “pretend” when other kids seemed to be growing out of that.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced building your acting career?
HS: Money. Or rather lack of! Financially, it is very challenging while you are still building career momentum and credits. One of the hardest parts of being an actor is when you’re not working, and being able to handle those periods in between jobs, to retain equilibrium and not freak out! So that when you do have a job, you can just appreciate the work you’re doing, in the present, without worrying about what’s next.
WF: Rejection; specifically learning to handle rejection early on. My senior year of high school, I completely bombed my audition for The Juilliard School. I remember walking across Lincoln Center in New York City in the rain, weeping because I felt like a total failure and thought that was the end of the line for me. But, eventually I understood that as long as you are giving everything you can, then you can be more “zen” about it all because you've earned that peace of mind by working hard. I still weep in the rain every single time I don't get what I want, but I'm way more zen about it now!
Is there any personal experience that you drew upon for the characters of Ellie and Elder Thomas?
HS: Oh sure, I was a seriously angsty teen, so I can definitely relate to her frustration and disappointment in adults and the world around her and her strong opinions. But, I had an outlet in art, so I could channel those feelings into something more productive until I grew out of them.
WF: Yes, but I won't say what.