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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

September 2, 2010

Becoming Amber, by Actor Allison Schnake

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 12:25 pm

Playing the role of Amber has been a great and challenging experience for me. I’ve never played the villain before so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try something new. To prepare for this role I thought back to my days as a teenager in high school. As most people know, high school can be a lot of fun but also a time of development and turmoil. Each student is changing and maturing and that often creates many insecurities with one’s self.

My character has a very outwardly confident demeanor at the top of the show, but the minute her status is threatened and her man taken away, she loses control. Amber isn’t mean just for the sake of being mean. She’s just a brat who has had most of her life handed to her by her equally bratty mother, so she has a hard time coping with the entrance of the new “it” girl, Tracy. She takes her insecurities out on Tracy in an effort to restore her own confidence. This is something every girl who went to high school can relate to. It’s only when we are older that we look back and realize that bringing others down doesn’t make us any bigger.



Second from Right: Allison Schnake as Amber Von Tussle.



Front Center: Allison Schnake as Amber Von Tussle.



Directing Hairspray, by Associate Artistic Director Marybeth Clark

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 8:27 am

Hairspray is one of those scripts that we have been waiting to produce.  It first hit Broadway in 2002 and ran for over 2,500 performances, closing in January 2009 after winning eight Tony Awards.  Though I was not lucky enough to see it in NYC, I did fall in love with the soundtrack and followed the production from afar.  It ignited a whole new generation of young theatre people and our TheatreSchool students began performing numbers from the show as soon as we could get our hands on the material.  The idea of a young girl who is not just like everyone else appeals to the educator in me and the fact that she discovers her voice through music and dance makes the story really come alive.  We wanted something special to celebrate our Dock Street Theatre homecoming and this show not only offers us a story we believed in, but the opportunity to cast many actors in their first show with Charleston Stage.  Twenty members of our cast of thirty are performing for us for the first time!

I have always been a fan of John Waters, who wrote and directed the original movie version of Hairspray.  I love that his stories are based on characters that most people overlook or push into the background.  Hairspray manages to deal with the turbulent early 60s without becoming preachy or didactic; instead it allows us to vicariously relive the changing attitudes of the younger generation as they experience the music, fashion, fads and politics of the time. Tracy is not a typical leading lady – she is a big girl with big dreams and very big hair – but her clear view of herself and of right and wrong make her an instant favorite.

The following John Water’s quote is one of my favorites.  It seems to sum up Tracy’s view of the world, except she is not reading banned books but delighting in learning the prohibited dance moves of the day.

“It wasn’t until I started reading and found books they wouldn’t let us read in school that I discovered you could be insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else.”  —  John Waters

In many ways, this quote seems to sum up the way I feel about theatre.  Here’s hoping we all find a way to be “insane and happy and have a good life without being like everybody else”.



Charleston Stage Resident Actor Ira Lindberg Harris as Seaweed, Allison Schnake as Amber Von Tussle, Charleston Stage Resident Actor Mary-E Godfrey as Tracy Turnblad, Nicholas Piccola as Link Larkin, Tamia Horton as Lil' Inez and former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Crystin Gillmore as Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray.



Hairspray cast singing "The Big Doll House."


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