Same Character, Different Roles: Actors Tackle Unconventional Storytelling in NWU Theatre’s “Fun Home”

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Kate Stacy

From left to right: Molly Davis, Reanna Rohrer, Audrey Stecher

Kate Stacy, Reporter

It is safe to say, for many actors in the Nebraska Wesleyan Theatre Company (WTC), that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically impacted how theatrical productions can be organized and presented. Guidelines, protocols, and general safety measures have been implemented across the board, which means that much of this year’s anticipated season was unfortunately scrapped. With the re-introduced 2020-2021 season, however, came the possibility that a few NWU Theatre actors also did not expect– the chance to all be playing the exact same role.

Well, sort of.

The Nebraska Wesleyan Theatre Company will soon be presenting a musical adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from Alison Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir of the same name– among the cast, Molly Davis (Junior, Acting B.F.A.) as Adult Allison, Reanna Rohrer (Sophomore, Theatre Studies B.F.A.) as Medium Allison, and Audrey Stecher (Freshman, Undeclared Musical Theatre B.F.A.) as Small Allison. In this story, the audience will have the opportunity to follow Allison Bechdel, a real-life cartoonist author, throughout several stages of her life, navigating concepts such as loss, growth, sexuality, and love. With that, comes many challenges for Davis, Rohrer, and Stecher.

 

From left to right: Molly Davis, Reanna Rohrer, Audrey Stecher (Kate Stacy)

“First, we had character conferences with Shannon Chinn, Fun Home’s Assistant Director, ” explains Rohrer. “Individual conferences, and then one all together. We talked about how [the characters] all lined up; how they were together.”

The three also discuss watching each other’s performances to gain insight on their own possible character choices, such as a “master gesture,” a movement that all three actors can do to connect their portrayals with each other.

“There’s little things that carry over through the various ages,” says Stecher. Rohrer adds, “Rebecca Armstrong, Fun Home’s Costume Technologist even has three versions of white converse for each of us to wear. They each have sketches across them that vary throughout the ages.”

“And there’s things that we do as individual characters that influence the other two,” adds Davis. “We’re both cohesive and individual… growing the ‘same person’ but a completely different role.”

When asked to elaborate on the significance of having separate roles, Davis explains, “When you’re a kid, you don’t know how to deal with things. When you’re older, you’re trying to hide them. It’s about evolving.”

Stecher agreed, saying, “Especially from Small to Medium Allison. Small Allison is very ‘out there’, and is much more courageous than Medium Allison. And [yet] Small Allison isn’t completely aware. She doesn’t register things the same way they do.”

“Medium Allison goes to college, and discovers who she is”, says Rohrer. “She can finally be accepted as who she wants to be. Small Allison is in an environment where she can’t.”

With such complex material, comes difficulty. The three talk about taking care of themselves outside of rehearsals, and leaving the characters in the space.

“It’s such a heavy story to tell,” explains Davis. “ Just retelling these aspects of her life, while also knowing the outcome. Trying to keep that innocence, without taking away from what actually happens in the story– that’s really taxing on us as actors. We live in that space for 3-4 hours every night. It’s a real test of stamina.”

But Fun Home, as emphasized by the three, is a must-see, “tragically beautiful story.” A true story– “coming-of-age,” “coming out,” “coming home,” “coming apart,” explains the three.

“This show covers a lot. It’s not a problem show, it’s a people show,” says Rohrer. “It’s about holding a mirror to what is realistic to life,” adds Davis. “It may not “resolve”… [but we try] to bring a sense of closure to a show that shouldn’t have any. And [that] means the story’s not over, and there’s still somewhere to go. [Allison] has her whole future ahead of her.”

Be sure to check out Fun Home at McDonald Theater, opening Thursday, February 25th for NWU students and faculty, and February 26th for the general public. Reserve your tickets online, or through the box office. This show contains adult themes and is intended for mature audiences.

For more information, visit https://www.nebrwesleyan.edu/theatre/current-season/fun-home

Performance dates:

Thursday, February 25th, 2021 – 7:30pm (NWU Students & Faculty Only)
Friday, February 26, 2021 – 7:30pm
Saturday, February 27, 2021 – 7:30pm
Sunday, February 28, 2021 – 2:00pm

Thursday, March 4th, 2021 – 7:30pm (NWU Students & Faculty Only)
Friday, March 5, 2021 – 7:30pm
Saturday, March 6, 2021 – 7:30pm
Sunday, March 7, 2021 – 2:00pm