We asked some questions to the actors of The Whipping Man about their upcoming performance, and here's what they had to say:
What was the most challenging thing about working on this production?
Trenton (plays the character John): Managing my time. This production requires a great deal of information that I have to consider, think about, and study in order to portray my character. From memorizing lines, to learning Hebrew, there is a lot for my fellow cast members and I to manage. Trying to juggle all of that, plus classes, homework, projects, and work, is not an easy task.
Stephan (plays the character Simon): I have the pleasure of playing the role of Simon, and the most challenging aspect of this production for me has been the character development. Simon has been a slave in the DeLeon household for 20+ years, and his loyalty to the family after being freed is completely different from what I understood was the case for most former slaves at the end of the Civil War. It has required me to do a lot of research on the differing master/slave relationships in the south.
Avery (plays the character Caleb): The process of analyzing and breaking down the level of emotional baggage that is deeply rooted in the development of each character. Each character has their own overpowering secret that drives their action through the play and affects their connection with the other characters. The emotional journey of each character is magnified and heightened through their connection with the others. It is through these secrets and emotion that the events of this play come to a blistering head. Working to build this tension has been very challenging, but has also been some of the most rewarding work that I've done.
What was your favorite thing?
Trenton: My favorite thing about the production is the script. We have a very detailed and beautifully written script. Each character has their own complexities that help drive the story. I've been given the chance to be a part of a wonderful production and a wonderful cast and crew and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.
Stephan: I love my cast mates and production team! The rehearsal process for this production has been very rewarding. With such a small cast our character relationships grow in complexity during every rehearsal, and the more time I spend with these beautiful humans the more it saddens me that the process will have to soon reach its end.
Avery: My favorite part of this process has been working so closely with the cast and crew. Everyone involved in this process has worked incredibly hard and is very dedicated to the process. The work ethic of this group has been intoxicating; we have accomplished a lot and have grown close in the process.
What's something you learned from this show?
Trenton: Throughout the whole production process, I've learned that actors have more homework than I initially expected. For the past couple months, I've read multiple books, watched documentaries, and participated in numerous table reads with my fellow cast members, director, and crew members in order to direct and understand my character, John. And I have been enjoying every step!
Stephan: This play opened my eyes to how close the story of Passover, when the Jews were delivered from bondage in Egypt, is in relation to the story of the end of slavery. The playwright for this show did a great job with his research, and because of that, it has allowed me to dive into many historical aspects of both the Civil War and the Jewish faith.
Avery: This has been my first main stage performance at CMU and I can cannot emphasize enough how valuable this experience has been. The process of breaking down, analyzing, and bringing a play to life has been fulfilling and enjoyable. The content of this play has also required a lot of research; having to piece together and understand the timeline of events in the final stages of the war has been a bonus. One of the more beautiful aspects of theatre is the knowledge that one gains while preparing for a production.
Why should people go see it?
Trenton: This show is intended for a mature audience, so I can't say everyone should come out to see it. But, The Whipping Man is an incredibly moving story that I feel a wide variety of people would enjoy. It's a fantastic show! And I cannot wait for people to see it.
Stephan: The play is so powerful and it's sure to move anyone. It's worth taking the time to come see.
Avery: People should come see this production because it poses many questions that are still being dealt with and talked about today. The repercussions of the Civil War are still undoubtedly affecting the United States today. Mathew Lopez's play will cause a person to question the foundations of faith, love, betrayal, and racism.