Thursday, March 21, 2013

Getting to Know Helen Sadler and Wyatt Fenner

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?
 “For me, South Coast Repertory means artistic integrity and quality theatre. Worth braving the 5, the 605, and 405 for!”—Helen Sadler
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.

 “As an actor, building a career means to dedicate yourself to what you hope to do and say yes to every opportunity you can. Surround yourself with people you admire. Read. Enjoy the process.”—Wyatt Fenner
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.

 Sadler: On Her Debut in The Whale

“Ok, you asked for it, so now I’m afraid I’m going to start gushing!

“Being in The Whale, has been one of those rare experiences where you have to pinch yourself as a reminder that it’s actually happening; to appreciate every moment of it, because it doesn’t happen very often and it will over so soon. First, the cast is incredible, really brave and generous actors, and we all get on sickeningly well. Working with Martin [Benson] is a dream; he is so experienced and supportive and his enthusiasm for the play was very contagious it made the rehearsal process really enjoyable. And then of course, there is the play itself.

“When I read The Whale, I could tell immediately that this was really something special and I was desperate to be a part of it. Sam Hunter’s writing just acts itself, frankly, he is so brilliant. He has created this amazingly realized world, darkly hilarious, and deeply moving; full of interesting, complex characters, which is great fun to inhabit every night. And we’ve been really lucky to have him around during the rehearsal process."

“Finally, the audiences at SCR here have been amazing so far--so responsive--and they seem to love the play as much as we do!”
Fenner: SCR Is a Special Place

“I have great respect for people capable of the dedication and doing the amount of work that the founding members put into building South Coast Repertory. Richard [Doyle] played my character’s dad in Misalliance and from the beginning of that process, he and I became close. I recently did a reading with Hal [Landon Jr.], and he was talking to me about when they started this company together—it's nice to be reminded that ultimately, the only person responsible for you doing or not doing what you want with your life is yourself.”

No comments:

Post a Comment