Sit and stay a moment, because we've got a real treat for you. As the first mainstage of 2019 prepares to open, we asked its cast to sit down with us and sniffed out some nosy conversation. SYLVIA's title character is a famously bold, bright, and very physical role (Note: she's a dog). Actor Devin Whitten graciously gives us some insight into the making of her character
Why did you audition for Sylvia?
I've been in Los Angeles for the past three years doing film work and have just moved back home to Houston and needed some real live theatre in my life again. It was one of the first audition postings I found – I had heard incredible things about the company through the grapevine – and I was just so excited for an opportunity to audition for a show! The fact that it was for a show I've loved for such a long time was a nice little bonus.
What's something special or new about our production that potential audiences need to know?
This is my first show through Stageworks so everything about this production is brand new to me! As someone with fresh eyes to the company I can say that this is truly an amazing place to be; the environment is kind and inviting from the moment you walk in to audition and that shows in the production – you can really tell what a nice time we all have together and how much we all really love this. So to anyone that's on the fence about coming or has never heard of Stageworks and isn't sure, as someone that was very recently an outsider herself, let me assure you, you're gonna have a great time at this show from the second you pull up and see our gorgeous posters.
Has this role challenged you or changed your thinking in any way?
Sylvia has been pretty physically challenging because I roll around and jump up and down much more than I would ever do normally and have to take things into account like "Okay, so this is what my dog would do but should I jump on Sean's back because I'm a bit heavier than my dog? Maybe he wouldn't like that...okay what is the human equivalent of that that doesn't involve back breaking labor on my part?" It's a difficult balance to be 'dog enough' and human enough at the same time without being obnoxiously obvious or too subtle. It's been a really fun challenge to play with each night in rehearsal
Do you have any special pet or animal adoption memories you'd like to share?
I. Love. Dogs. I was a dog walker when I lived in LA, grew up with dogs, currently live in a house with three, am allergic to some but power through because why wouldn't you?? And like most dog owners I could go on and on about my own pup. I got Patronus my first year living in LA when I absolutely did not need a dog – I had gone with a friend to help him pick one out and I just fell in love with her sad eyes and scared little self. I went back to the shelter about three different times trying to convince myself that I shouldn't do what I already knew was done. (Especially since I had an allergic reaction each time we got close to one another.) But I was hers the second I looked into that kennel. I ended up leaving with her (complications and all) and my friend was sensible and left with no animal! In the three years I've had her she's blossomed into a completely different happy and confident pup and walking back up to her kennel was one of the best decisions I ever made. Fun fact side note: she actually got me my first big time commercial gig! We were in a Subaru national a few years back so her little baby puppy self lives on forever.
What's something you and your character have in common?
We both love sleeping on the couch.
Something that makes you two very different?
I don't invade people's personal space quite as much as Sylvia. And I like to think I have better control of my bladder. I'm also not nearly as outgoing as Sylvia – that's a really fun thing to play because it's so opposite of myself.
Will Stageworks/local audiences recognize you from something else?
Nope! This is my first show with Stageworks. They might recognize me from a commercial or teensy tiny baby itty bitty roles in television or internet sketches but that's as obscure as obscure gets. My family might though...They've seen most of my stuff and know me sort of well.
What's a fun fact about you that might surprise our readers?
I spend about as much time driving to and from rehearsal each night as I do actually being in rehearsal! I've been to four continents. Acting is my main skill but I can also burp the alphabet, so, you know. I'm definitely goin places. Despite my foul mouth and candid nature on stage, I spend the majority of my days teaching kids. I really love math so much so that I spend time doing extraneous budgeting and unnecessary imaginary expense reports just so I can have an excuse to problem solve. Have I mentioned I'm an introvert? That's my fun Friday night.
What's a fun behind-the-scenes memory from rehearsal so far?
This production was cursed with all sorts of different sicknesses so one of the funniest (to me) was the night I did all my lines from the couch because I was in too much pain to move, Tim did his amazing Tim thing (he was sick most of rehearsals and you never would've known, the trooper), Amanda's lines were being read by Nathan because she was home sick and feverish, and Sean, the ever-healthy Sean, ran around going through the motions full out doing the show imagining us in the right places while we all muddled through sick as (ahaha) dogs with Lisa coughing or raspily whispering notes once in awhile. There was another rehearsal where I just straight up fell asleep on the couch...I'm telling you, dogs have got the right idea...
Come see what all the fuss is about! Buy tickets today for SYLVIA, opening January 11, at stageworkshouston.org/tickets!