Hanging Out With the Cast of How I Learned to Drive
The actor's process is one that can be very stressful and cause a lot of frustration, especially with a serious show like How I Learned to Drive. This cast, though, knows how to have fun. Inside Beat went backstage with the cast of How I Learned to Drive and learned all about their personal processes and all the things they love about theater.
Inside Beat: What do you like about acting?
Mark Mills: Among many things, I really enjoy the role of the actor in the collaborative process. The playwright sets his or her ideas onto paper, and the director creates an overarching theme and adds his or her interpretation to the playwright's message (as well as inserts his/her own separate message). But the actor gets to create an entire universe behind their character, which can often be much more fascinating than the relatively few words spoken during the play, which dictates not only their thoughts and emotions, but their behaviors and reactions to other characters as well, since the actor brings the character to life on stage. This work all becomes interwoven with the other actors and the director during collaboration, and this can be an incredible experience.
Taylor McKay: I love that I always take away something from the characters I play; when you act you become the character, so why would the character not become at least a small part of you? I learn something different from every role I play, and I think that's the beauty of acting.
IB: What other aspects of theater do you enjoy?
Amanda Padro: I respect every occupation found within theater - theater is, in many respects, a collaboration of artistic minds. In this way, every particular part of theater is significant to the body of the production. Directing is amazing to me - good directors are truly compelling; their perspective is on a grander scale, and they can often see things that the actors can't. It's certainly a position of great responsibility and an irreplaceable one to the performance. The actors provide the micro perspective while the director adds the macro perspective. Scenic design is also wonderful! I love to paint and draw and creating a set is a daunting and rewarding task - to create a world for characters to reside in is a job I'd love to have.
IB: What is your acting process?
Boris Van Der Ree: For this particular show, I used a mask technique. Each of my characters has a distinct set of expressions and habits - a mask. By doing this I can specifically portray the emotional connection that the main character Lil' Bit has to the memory of that person.
Stephanie Van Huss: Using the script as a springboard to delve farther into the details of a character's life. The process can be long, sometimes arduous, but always fun. I have to ask a million questions about the character and make sure that I have strong answers from the character's perspective. I have to know what makes the character "tick" in order to justly portray them. I am also a huge believer in the effort of a team, your fellow cast mates can make or break your performance. A huge part of the process is working together and trusting one another.
IB: Do you plan to pursue acting outside of college?
Taylor McKay: I would love to pursue acting outside of college. I probably will try to stay within live theater though instead of film; there's just something so exhilarating about a live audience that I think I've become addicted to. Every audience is different every night; they laugh at different things, respond to different lines. I love seeing a different reaction every night.
Amanda Padro: Theater is not my primary goal at the moment; however, I do like to entertain dreams of joining a prestigious MFA program and being cast in a Broadway show. At this point of my life, I'll work hard and take opportunities where I see them. Someone once said that a true actor, a true artist, is a student of the liberal arts. That's what I want to be ... I want to explore this world and understand more of it before I seek to portray it truthfully on stage - that is how I'll genuinely and sincerely grow.
IB: What has your experience with acting been in the past?
Stephanie Van Huss: Honestly, I'm still pretty new to it. I was in several plays in high school and performed at Cabaret Theatre last season, but my résumé isn't that elaborate. The different projects have been very versatile, which is a blessing, but I've only been a performer in five shows - I have a lot more to learn and experience!
Mark Mills: I got involved with acting later in life, around sophomore year in college, but I have been barreling through ever since. I have done mostly musicals and a few plays, but two years later How I Learned to Drive will be my 12th production at Rutgers University.
IB: Talk about a favorite role. Why was it your favorite?
Mark Mills: Although I have a bunch of serious and challenging roles that I hold dear since they were stimulating and made me a better actor, I would have to say that my favorite roles are the ones that were just a lot of fun. My all-time-favorite has to be playing Frank-N-Furter this fall in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. From entering from the ceiling in a heavy duty scissor lift, sliding down poles and spiral staircases, to entering the world of Frank's over-the-top drag queen clothes, voice, makeup and overall outrageousness was simply an incredibly fun experience. But my favorite thing about roles like Frank-N-Furter is that when you come to see How I Learned Drive you would never guess that that was me.
Boris Van Der Ree: I started acting with the serious intention of making it a life choice in high school where my first real part was as Leonato in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing - because of this I have a strong love for classical drama. In fifth grade I played a cowboy in a Western-themed musical called Wagon Wheels West where we lip-synced all the songs and my shtick was that I inappropriately hiccupped at comic intervals. It's still the most fun I've ever had in a show.
Amanda Padro: In the past, I've been very blessed when it comes to acting. I've had the pleasure and privilege of portraying some wonderful characters on stage and experiencing different aspects of their lives. I started theater very late in life. I did a few shows in high school, but I never considered it as something I truly loved. It wasn't until my first year in college that I began to pursue theater faithfully. Since then, I've been cast [as a] lead in almost every show I've been in, which is nice. In that time, I've worked with some amazingly talented directors, artistic directors, musical directors, stage crew and, of course, cast members. I've learned so much in the four years I've been a college student - lessons that reverberate so much farther than the stage. The thing about theater is that it's a true portrayal of life - actors get to live so many lives. It's a rewarding profession. So, a really good cast becomes a family and instructs one another, through compassion and care, about life. Whether it be through hardship or happiness, the actor grows more as a person - it is a profession of the soul. I hope to do it for the rest of my life.
How I Learned to Drive opens February 17th at Cabaret Theater.