Behind the Scenes of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” with K’nique Eichelberger

K’nique, a second-year Resident Actor, is performing the character of “Dennis,” who plays “Butler Perkins” in the play-within-a-play of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Hear more about his process in “Play” and being an actor with Charleston Stage!

You are returning for your second year as a Resident Actor for Charleston Stage! What are your favorite memories from last year? What are you looking forward to this year?

My favorite memory from last year was my closing performance as Lola in Kinky Boots, a role I got to share with Jerquintez, a former Resident Actor. It was a magical show because “Lola” was a dream role of mine and to see that dream come true meant so much to me! What made the closing night so special was when Cedar, my roommate and another second-year RA this season, presented me with flowers onstage as the whole cast crowded around me. A video that was taken of the audience and cast members screaming–this celebration will always be a memory I cherish! 

This year I am looking forward to new opportunities to grow as a person and actor. In this season my roles are completely different from last year’s shows, and I am excited to stretch myself as a theatre artist and act with the new Resident Actors who have joined us.

How have you been preparing to play the role of Dennis, who plays the character of Perkins in the show-within-a-show that takes place in “The Play That Goes Wrong?” 

This show is a hard show to prepare for because it’s very technically driven. I have had fun exploring Dennis as a person and his relationship with the other characters. We have had to learn the lines and blocking for this show in only 2 weeks so we can be free of the burden of a script in our hands and better able to focus on fight choreography and technicality. My main goal thus far has been to get off book as fast as possible, so I can spend more time on character development. I have watched and researched different butlers in shows to learn their mannerism and their physicality traits, and I will say that Dennis is not your typical butler!

This show is very technically and physically challenging–you and your fellow actors have to coordinate so many tricks, falls and mishaps. What has been the most difficult aspect of rehearsals for you? What has come more naturally? 

The most difficult thing in our rehearsal process has been the pre-set rehearsals; pantomiming tricks until we could get in the theatre and try out the trick set for size. We didn’t really know the timing of how things would work until we got on stage to practice, which is why we were given two weeks to work out stunt choreography onstage before the performance. Something that has come naturally is the support from my fellow actors and director, Marybeth Clark, have given. We are all in this process together, so we feed off of each other to make this show all that we want it to be! 

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform?

My pre-show standard varies depending on if it’s a musical or a play. In a straight play like “The Play That Goes Wrong,” I’ll start with a workout in the morning to wake my body up and stretch the muscles I need particularly for such a physical show as this one. I always include a warm-up for breath support, projection and articulation. Those things are very important to me to be able to stay dropped into a show for 2+ hours. I have to have a chai tea latte before the show–not sure why, but it’s a must! Then I review the script to make sure I have the show in my body, mind and soul. Before entering the stage I jump, wiggle and dance to get out my nerves, let loose and have fun!

What is your favorite show of all time? 

That’s a tough question–I have a long list of favorites. My favorite shows of all time are Kinky Boots, Violet and Next to Normal. Violet and Next to Normal are shows I hope to be in one day!

Seasons 44 and 45 Resident Actor K’nique Eichelberger

K’nique is originally from Columbia, South Carolina but moved to Brevard, North Carolina to earn a B.A. in Music and Theatre. He is so excited to be returning to the company for a second year. His recent credits include: Kinky Boots (Lola), The Last Five Years (Jamie), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey II), Into The Woods (Jack), A Streetcar Named Desire (Stanley) and more. He is very thankful for his friends and family who have supported him throughout the years. K’nique is so excited to change lives through creating art at Charleston Stage! Stay tuned on Instagram @nique_tg3

“A Sense of Home:” Resident Actor Eliza Knode on the Meaning of Live Theatre

Eliza Knode, one of our Season 45 Resident Actors, recently shared with us her personal reflection on how the power of live theatre has impacted her life and has given her a sense of place and home. Here is in her own words below:

As the daughter of a diplomat, I had quite a unique childhood. I was born in Malaysia, then moved to Japan, Hungary, Long Island, and Brazil. This made the question, “Where are you from?” pretty complicated to answer, however, this upbringing allowed me to create wonderful alternate versions of home, such as the theatre. 

My parents introduced me to theatre because I was a wild child that needed to release a lot of sporadic energy and because they loved the theatre as well. My dad was like Troy Bolton in High School Musical–he played basketball in the fall and performed musicals in the spring! My mom loved to sing and was led from the choir room to the stage. They met at university doing a show together, and while neither of them considered the arts professionally, their love for theatre is what brought them together.

Moving frequently to drastically different places as a child had its challenges. It was hard to uproot the relationships built in one place and have to start all over again, not to mention having to learn the social rules to engage with different cultures or attempting to learn new languages to try and communicate with people. But somehow, by some sort of magic, when I did theatre those struggles all faded away. 

In order to put on a show you have to dive head first into working with other people. So when I moved somewhere new, I would do theatre so that I could immediately find community. Throughout the years I tried a couple of other activities, but I always found myself gravitating back to the theatre because of the people. 

Theatre people are creative! We explore how to communicate using different mediums like song, dance, dialogue, etc. As a child It didn’t matter so much that I was surrounded by cultures that were foreign to me because I had learned how to communicate through communal things like music and movement. I found I was able to express myself and better understand others too. 

Theatre people are empathetic! We spend our time immersed in others’ stories and living in various character’s shoes. We often have to embody people who are very different from ourselves. I’ve learned in order to do this, one has to start by finding the parallels between their life and their character’s life, and when things diverge, you imagine things from the character’s perspective given the context (whether provided by the script or via your imagination) of their life story. Theatre allows me to practice this in a fictional setting, but as a child it provided a beautiful lesson on how to connect with different people in my real life from different cultures. 

I’m now addicted to collaborating with people and making stories together, and so that’s why I am here at Charleston Stage today. I am so grateful to have found another home at this theatre to create meaningful art with other passionate, creative, and empathetic theatre artists. 

Season 45 Resident Actor Eliza Knode

Eliza is a recent graduate of the University of Miami with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Some of her previous credits include Into the Woods (Witch), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena), and 9 to 5 (Roz). Eliza has lived in Malaysia, Japan, Hungary, Brazil, and is very excited to make Charleston her next home! She would like to extend gratitude to her teachers, friends, and family around the globe who support her. Website: / Instagram: @eliza.knode

The Historical Making of “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Our Season 45 opener, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” is unlike any show we’ve ever performed in the past and, for that matter, any show that has ever existed in theatre history. It draws from three schools of theatrical art: whodunnit mystery, slapstick comedy, and the play-within-a-play to create an evening of mayhem that just keeps getting more deliriously funny. Read on as we explore the history of each theatre form and show how this trifecta offers a perfect storm of comedy.

The Mystery Play, Detective Fiction, and Whodunnit

For centuries storytellers have been utilizing mystery plots to keep audiences hooked and dropped into their tales. Early mystery plays of the Medieval period revolved around Biblical accounts and characters, frequently performed as tableaux, a staged scene in which actors do not move, as if they are “acting out” a painting, with song. Theatre designers, writers, and actors went great lengths to ensure that the plays centered on a strong moral theme tied closely to Christian ethics: the consequences of sin, heaven and hell, salvation by Christ, and the themes of each major feast of the liturgical calendar. Elaborate and featuring ordinary people rather than professional actors, these pageants involved practically the whole town (what a dream it’d be for our productions to do the same!). York, England was particularly known for holding these spectacles displayed in public squares. As the Protestant Reformation encouraged the publication of Scripture in the vernacular, mystery plays reflected this as well.

Eventually the mystery genre evolved from these medieval spectacles into what we better recognize today. The Elizabethan and Jacobean styles of theatre followed, and detective fiction rose as a literary and theatrical genre in the 18th century, beginning with Voltaire’s Zadig. Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the character Sherlock Holmes, all made great contributions to early modern detective fiction. The name “whodunnit” first appeared in the Merriam-Webster dictionary after 1930 during the “golden age” of mystery novels and plays: works by Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, and their contemporaries. Popularity of this British genre spread to the U.S. with the board game Clue, released in 1948.

The Play-Within-a-Play

The “play-within-a-play” genre derives from the French term mise en abyme, meaning “placed into the abyss.” Like standing between two mirrors, viewing a painting that has another painting depicted in the scene, or the movie Inception, the “play-within-a-play” format allows for audiences to see both the “play” being produced and the characters and plots of the company of actors producing the 2nd-degree-of-reality show.

The play-within-a-play made its formal debut in 1587 with The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd, with Shakespeare’s Hamlet being the more famous Renaissance example (though The Murder at Gonzago is only a small part of the plot, while some plays-within-plays such as The Play That Goes Wrong almost entirely center on the 2nd-degree play). In Cabaret we see not necessarily another play unfolding within the plot, but the Kit Kat Klub’s night show. 

Slapstick and Physical Comedy

Slapstick comedy employs the use of larger-than-life violence that’s so absurd in scale, it can’t help but steal laughs from just about every audience. The first widely known use of slapstick is with the Harlequin figure of Italian comedy plays during the Renaissance period, though many glimpses of it can be found in ancient Greek and Roman theatre, and surely in oral performances predating even antiquity.

Physical comedy enjoyed a revival in 19th century American vaudeville–surely Charlie Chaplin’s antics, seemingly chance yet so carefully planned, come to mind. We suppose it hasn’t really left since–think Home Alone, Will Farrell’s movies, and, as you’ll see this September at the Dock Street Theatre, The Play That Goes Wrong. 

Eliza Metts, our Marketing Assistant, has a particular love for dramatic theory and dramaturgy. She earned her B.A. in Theatre and English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Wofford College in 2021 and is a native Charlestonian. She is thrilled to return home to work for Charleston Stage and help tell the company’s stories.

Further Reading:

Britannica: Wakefield Plays

History of York: Medieval Plays

British Library: Medieval Drama

Portland Center Stage: The Play-Within-a-Play

Britannica: Slapstick Comedy

Behind the Scenes of “The Play That Goes Wrong,” with Jhonika Wright

Jhonika, one of our Season 45 Resident Actors, is performing the character of “Annie,” the stage manager of the play-within-a-play of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. Hear more about her process preparing for “Play” and being an actor with Charleston Stage!

You are a member of our Season 45 Resident Acting Company–welcome to Charleston! What have you enjoyed about the experience so far? 

Prior to moving here, I had heard so many great things about Charleston! Everyone talked about the amazing food, the history, and the city’s beauty. I have enjoyed getting to explore around town and meet new people. One of my favorite things has been getting to know everyone in the Charleston Stage Company, especially my fellow Resident Actors. We come from all over the country, so it’s been rewarding to hear about their life experiences, backgrounds, homes and passion for theatre that we all share. 

How have you been preparing to play the role of Annie, the stage manager for the show-within-a-show that takes place in “The Play That Goes Wrong?” 

While I have never stage managed a show before, I have experienced working backstage and handling things going wrong in productions I’ve worked on! It’s been relatively easy to channel Annie’s mentality of making sure things go well and fixing mistakes backstage. However, without spoiling what happens, it’s definitely been fun exploring the “show must go on” mentality stage managers have to have.

This show is very technically and physically challenging–you and your fellow actors have to coordinate so many tricks, falls and mishaps. What has been the most difficult aspect of rehearsals for you? What has come more naturally? 

Because this is a show with many tricks and mishaps, it’s been very important for us to block our movements and memorize our lines very quickly so that we can have plenty of time to work out the purposeful “mistakes.” I feel like it will be an adjustment once we add those elements on stage, but it will also be very exciting to do so!

Surprisingly, understanding the context of the show-within-a-show has come more naturally than I thought it would. When I first heard about the show it sounded a little confusing, but after reading through it a few times I was able to grasp the concept and the characters’ motives.

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform? 

Warm-ups, warm-ups, and more warm-ups! Before shows I always try to do some cardio or a body warm-up to make sure I am physically ready for performances. Along with doing vocal warm-ups, you can catch me with a cup of tea in one hand and my water bottle in the other. Once I’m at the theatre getting ready, I always listen to my pre-show playlist with all of my favorite songs! 

What is your favorite show of all time?

It’s definitely Once on This Island! I discovered the show when I was in high school and immediately loved it. Not only is the story one of my favorites, but the music is what truly gives it life and makes it beautiful. I cannot wait for our production of it in the spring!

Season 45 Resident Actor Jhonika Wright

Jhonika is thrilled to be joining Charleston Stage as a Resident Actor! Originally from Maryland, she spent most of her life in Arkansas where she graduated from Ouachita Baptist University and received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Her favorite roles include: Wendla (Spring Awakening), Cairo (We Are the Tigers), Woman 1 (Songs for a New World), Grizabella (Cats), and Yertle the Turtle (Seussical the Musical). Sending all the love to her incredible family and friends for their endless support, “This one is for you!” To keep up with all things Jhonika, you can visit her Instagram: @jhonikaaaa

Meet Our New Director of Education and Engagement, Rylee Coppel

Rylee Coppel is a longtime performer with Charleston Stage, and we were delighted that she recently joined us full-time as our new Director of Education and Engagement! Hear more from Rylee about her experience in theatre education, favorite memories with Charleston Stage and her passion for the performing arts.

You have over 15 years of experience in music, theatre and dance education for the youth. What are the most valuable life lessons you’ve learned in your career?

Kids are just the most amazing little things! I love getting to know my students and watching them grow and progress through the years. Also, the arts are life-changing. Being involved in the arts was a game changer for me as a child, and I love to provide the opportunity for students to participate in the arts. 

Both participating in and teaching theatre, music and dance have taught me to be flexible, to have fun and not take myself too seriously! I truly have the most amazing job. I am grateful every day to be passionate about what I do. 

You’ve performed in so many shows with us! Please share some of your favorite Charleston Stage memories.

I have truly loved all of the shows I’ve been a part of, but Mamma Mia! and Sister Act were my favorites. I was 8 months pregnant during the run of Sister Act, which was well hidden under my habit (thank you costumes!). When my daughter was an infant, she would calm down right away when I played Sister Act music for her. It’s like she remembered it from when she was in my belly!

How do your backgrounds in yoga instruction and trauma-informed education impact the way you teach?

Learning how our brains operate under stressful conditions has helped me empathize with my students. We don’t know what our students are coming to us with, so it’s just so important that we approach them with empathy. It’s also helped me to look at behavior as a student’s way of telling us something. It’s our job as educators to figure out what they need from us. I also use yogic breathing mindfulness in all of my classes. 

What can our TheatreSchool students and parents look forward to from you this year?

You will see me teaching and observing lots of classes! I’m excited to get to know all of the families and students. Please always reach out if you have any questions!!

Finally, what is your favorite show of all time?

This is a hard one!! I think Memphis or Baby It’s You!

Rylee Coppel, Director of Education and Engagement for Charleston Stage.

Rylee (she/her/hers) is Charleston Stage’s Director of Education and Engagement. Rylee is originally from Pennsylvania but arrived in Charleston by way of New Jersey. Rylee has a Bachelor’s in Vocal Performance from Ramapo College of NJ and a Master’s in Integrated Arts and Education from the University of Montana, and over 15 years of experience teaching voice, music, theatre and dance. 

Most recently, Rylee was the co-founder and Artistic Director of Dance.Laugh.Learn., a music program for kids, and the music teacher at Murray LaSaine Montessori School. Rylee is a certified K-12 music teacher, certified in kids yoga and trauma-informed. Rylee lives in West Ashley with her husband Ben and five-year-old daughter Vivian. 

In addition to teaching, Rylee has performed regionally and internationally with such companies as; Sesame Street Live, Joey Casella Productions, Roxy Regional Theatre, and RWS and Associates. Charleston Stage credits include; “Kinky Boots” (Pat), “Footloose” (Vi Moore), “Beauty and the Beast” (Mrs. Potts), “The Curious Incident of a Dog in the Night-Time” (Judy), “Mamma Mia!” (Donna), “White Christmas” (Tessie/Mrs. Snoringman), “Sister Act” (Sister Mary Patrick), and “Avenue Q” (Ensemble). 

Inside the Work of a Production Manager, with Ashley Palmer

We sat down with Ashley Palmer, Charleston Stage’s Production Manager, to learn more about the ins and outs of all she does behind the scenes from conception to closing night. Here from her below!

In a nutshell, what do you do as Production Manager for Charleston Stage?

A production manager works with director, designers, the technical crew, and the management team to make sure the technical elements of a show are completed safely, on time, and within budget for each and every show. I start working on pre-planning for a season about 7-8 months before the next season starts. I also oversee the daily and weekly schedules of all production staff members. Although I started out at Charleston Stage as their Resident Stage Manager and stage managing will alway be my passion, I have moved on to overseeing our shows in a big picture way. But I still like to stage manage about two shows a year just to be sure I never forget how! 

What is the first thing that needs to be done after a show is chosen in a season?

Everything starts with an idea and a calendar. Many will tell you reading the script is the first step, but most of the people who claim such are the directors and designers of the show. For me and my fellow stage managers and production managers, we start with the almighty company calendar! 

Describe for us the process of moving a show forward from conceptual idea to opening night.

Once we pick a season of shows and put these dates on a calendar, the next step is setting up casting and design meetings. A design meeting is when the director meets with our technical designers and starts cooking up the ingredients needed for the show: what makes this show tick, what story we want to tell, and how we as artists want to tell it. We talk about ideas for about 3 weeks, looking at research images and having lengthy conversations about the big artistic picture. Through the next following months we solidify everything you see and hear on stage: lights, sets, props, costumes, sound and choreography. All of these things are discussed and chosen by a team of people long before the first actor ever arrives to rehearsals. 

Once a show begins the rehearsal period with actors, we are typically already in the process of building all the technical elements we discussed in those design meetings. These few weeks are a fun time when all participants of the production are in “building mode”–building both design elements and characters. It’s an exciting time in the process! 

Then, we finally get into Tech Week to Opening Night. This is when our actors move from the rehearsal room to the stage, where our technical staff have worked long and hard to get everything ready. We use these tech rehearsals to sync up what each department has worked on in “building mode” and bring all the puzzle pieces together for our big picture! On Opening Night we finally get an audience in the seats to watch the accumulation of months of hard work and dedication by everyone involved in the team of the show. 

Which step is the most rewarding part of the process for you?

Without a doubt, Opening Night!  After many months of pre-production, rehearsals, design meetings, and long tech rehearsals, nothing feels as satisfying as enjoying our opening night with an audience. We get to finally see the “big picture” in all its glory!

Finally, what is your favorite show of all time?

A hard question! Stephen Sondheim’s Company has always been a long time favorite of mine, but not one I have worked on here at Charleston Stage. I hold many productions that I have worked on here near and dear to my heart; Peter and the Starcatcher and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are some favorites that come to mind. 

Ashley holds a B.A. degree in Stage Management from Florida School of the Arts. This will be her 5th season with Charleston Stage, although she has been a part of theatre for about 13 years. Having worked backstage and stage managed in the Central Florida area for over six years, she also spent two years as an Associate Company Member at Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN.  Some of her favorite show credits include “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (In the Wings Productions), “Big River (The Coco Village Playhouse), “4000 Miles” (Playhouse on the Square), “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Surfside Players) “Build Me Up Buttercup!” (World Premiere at The Coco Village Playhouse), and “Gypsy (Playhouse on the Square). Ashley has always enjoyed stage managing but also has served as a deck captain, props master, child wrangler, and assistant director for multiple shows and summer camps over the years. She is looking forward to many more years at Charleston Stage and the opportunity to work on exciting and memorable theatre.

“The Ability to Shape-Shift:” Facia Lee on the meaning of live theatre

Facia Lee, one of our Season 45 Resident Actors, recently shared with us her personal reflection on what the power and beauty of the art of live theatre means to her. Here is in her own words below:

I have always looked up to my dad because we are similar in many ways. He is a behavior analyst, and is constantly trying to “read” me and my brothers to see how we feel about certain situations, especially when we do not have the words to voice our feelings. Most of the time he is right, which is frustrating but fascinating at the same time. 

As a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was sitting on the couch and watching superhero movies with my dad. Our favorites were the X-Men movies, mostly because they are stories about mutants who do not fit into society and have to create their own brotherhood for themselves, something that felt close to home because I, too, didn’t always fit in. I was an awkward kid who had a little trouble making friends, but I never had trouble picking up a book or a pen. Teachers would always tell my parents about how quiet I was, but that I was articulate in reading and writing. 

As I got older I became a little more sociable, but this was not without help from my dad. He once again was able to read me, and noticed my abilities to read, write, and re-enact things I saw on TV and write songs with my brothers when I was at home and felt comfortable. He saw early on that theatre might be a good outlet for me. He asked one of his best friends if their daughter (who I am still great friends with to this day) would be interested in being in a play with me, and in no time, I was a thirteen year old playing Mrs. Gloop in the musical Willy Wonka Jr. I had sung and performed small plays in church before, but never with kids my own age who were just like me. I immediately felt like I belonged–like in the X-Men’s brotherhood. Finally, I could shapeshift like Mystique.

Before I decided I wanted to attend higher education for performance, I wanted to be a behavior analyst like my dad. However, theatre allows me to analyze behavior too; I can learn about characters in scripts and why they do what they do, and find myself along the way. Theatre is an ever-changing universe for everyone to feel welcome, included, and seen. It acts as a mirror that helps us see who we are and how similar we are to everyone around us. I believe it is nearly impossible to be involved in theatre and not only be challenged, but also changed for the better. I cannot be more thankful for theatre, my dad and the rest of my family, my teachers who believed in me, my friend who started with me at thirteen, and everyone else who has been on this journey in the beautiful, shapeshifting world of live theatre with me.

Facia is thrilled to work with Charleston Stage for season 45! She has been performing on stage since she was about 6 years old. Her favorite credits include Macduff in “The Scottish Play”, Cinderella in an in-house written children’s theatre version of the same name, and Sandra/The Witch in “Big Fish“. She graduated from Florida School of the Arts with both her A.A. and A.S. in Musical Theatre and graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with her B.A. in Theatre with Concentration in Music. Facia would like to thank her loving family, friends, teachers, and father for all of their support.

Our Newest Administrative Staff

We are so pleased to welcome Eliza Metts, Marketing Assistant, Mary Elizabeth Ray, Box Office Manager, and Monica Vanderbeck, Associate Director of Development, to our administrative team in residence at the Dock Street Theatre! Hear from them below:

Eliza Metts – Marketing Assistant

You are a recent graduate of Wofford College’s theatre program. What did you learn?

My theatre degree was heavy on the playwriting and dramatic theory disciplines. I read and wrote about a plethora of Shakespeare, ancient Greek plays, and contemporary works alike, and I’m so grateful for the wide variety of styles my professors introduced me to. Seeing how theatre has evolved throughout cultures and eras was transformative for me as a writer and artist. The faculty didn’t go easy on us! Most importantly, I learned how to write and communicate well, something I’ll utilize for the rest of my life regardless of how frequently I have the privilege to be onstage.

As a Charleston native, what are your favorite things to do around the city?

My fiancée and I love taking long walks around South of Broad–we always make sure to wind through the little alleys off of East Bay and lower Church Street. I love nature, so I’m always on the lookout for the best window boxes and gardens. Make sure you notice the Resurrection Fern growing on the limbs of live oaks and in the mossy cracks of old brick walls. When it hasn’t rained in a while it looks like it’s dead, but come next rainfall it “resurrects” back to green life! Fun fact: it can live for 99 years without water! 

What is your favorite show of all time?

My mom first took me to see Oklahoma! produced by the College of Charleston when I was 4 years old. I was hooked–it was my first experience with live theatre! It’s an evergreen classic that I learn new things about every time I see it, and I believe the characters–particularly Laurey–are more dynamic and nuanced than we normally remember. It changed Broadway history when it opened in 1943.

Mary Elizabeth Ray – Box Office Manager

You worked with us part-time in the box office before joining full-time. What do you enjoy about working for Charleston Stage?

I’ve loved the opportunity to learn so much so quickly. I had never done theatre work before joining Charleston Stage, so when I discovered this as an interest of mine in college I wanted to soak up as much of it as I could. Working at the Box Office has given me that first peek behind the curtain into the dazzling theatre world, which is priceless!

What do you love most about the experience of live theatre?

I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in art as an audience member. I think there’s a lot of active thinking and suspension of disbelief in live theatre that requires not only a creative production team, but an imaginative viewer. I love to fill in the gaps that aren’t included on stage with my own mind–it makes me feel like I have a part in creating that artistic experience for myself as well, and it’s so cool that it may look different for every audience member in a seat. It’s all art happening on stage and in each individual’s head all at once and it’s a wonderful thing to share.

What is your favorite show of all time?

Mamma Mia!!! It was my favorite movie growing up and it was the very first show I saw at the Dock Street. It was also the first time I’d seen the show live. I went to the Pay-As-You-Please night and the audience could not have been more excited! There were people in Dynamo-esque outfits, overalls, and bell bottoms all over. I think that was the first time I thought I wanted to be a part of making live theatre happen. 

Monica Vanderbeck – Associate Director of Development

You spent some time working in the event planning industry before joining us. What prompted you to switch gears?

I graduated from the College of Charleston with a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management. I have been told I am bossy (I prefer the term type-A) and detail-oriented, so the event world did not seem too far out of my scope. I decided to pursue an internship in the wedding industry at Intrigue Design and Events, given that weddings are such a dominant industry in Charleston. I was hired full-time as an event manager one week after graduation, and from there my title changed many times over the years. I fell in love with the industry because of the sentiment behind the meaning of marriage. I cherish the sanctity and union of the relationship and couples’ expressions of love. Still, the gear switch was prompted by a series of life changes, personal growth, and the need for professional growth in a new industry. It was my time to move towards a career that would fulfill my purpose and couple my passion with my vocation. 

Nonprofit development is a special vocation of work. What does serving the arts community in Charleston mean to you?

My relationship with the arts started many moons ago (preschool through young adulthood). I was on track to become an opera singer, but different plans were intended for me. I have always spent my free time volunteering and being involved in different community outreach programs, and moving into the nonprofit world was a natural choice. My fulfillment stems from the direct correlation of my efforts, whether time, resources or intellectual property, implemented towards making a difference in the community. The tools and skills I learned in the wedding and events industry helped set a foundation for my current title of Associate Director of Development. Stepping into this role at Charleston Stage has allowed me to align my professional skills and goals with my personal passions.

What is your favorite show of all time?

This question always feels like a loaded question! My favorite opera is Toshio Hosokawa’s Matsukaze. My favorite Musical is technically a comic opera, The Enchantress by Victor Herbert. 

Mary Elizabeth Ray, Eliza Metts and Monica Vanderbeck

“An Avenue of Self-Expression” – The Meaning of Live Theatre, by Resident Actor Raymond Cronley

We sat down with Raymond Cronley, one of our Season 45 Resident Actors appearing as Jonathan/Charles Haversham in our production of The Play That Goes Wrong, opening on August 31. Here, he shares his “why” for being involved in theatre and unpacks what the art form means for him.

Theatre is an internet-obsessed kid’s best friend. 

I always had a lot of energy when I was young–too much energy, some might say. It got me in a lot of trouble sometimes, especially when cracking jokes or doing impressions at inopportune times. It always frustrated me that it seemed like I wasn’t allowed to express myself in the way I wanted to. It got simultaneously better and worse for me when I found a couple of friends who matched my energy, because not only did they play along with my antics, they also added their own layers of energy and cookiness to the bits I loved to do.

I grew up in the early days of the internet and YouTube, so for us the pinnacle of comedy meant finding the most inane and nonsensical content possible, memorizing it, and spouting it out to each other on the bus, the playground, or in classrooms. We were all about those in-jokes that caused our teachers and fellow students alike to roll their eyes at us. We thrived on that attention, that honey-sweet mixture of bemusement and irritation. As the years went on we kept up our schtick of parroting bizarre comedy to each other and to our peers, bouncing our energy between ourselves. Eventually that energy would wing off and attract others of a similar ilk, the kids with too much energy and way too much free time on the internet who needed an outlet. Our friendship was strong, but there was only so much energy we could release at school, especially once high school rolled around.

What were a group of nerdy kids with an obsession with parroting media and seemingly boundless amounts of energy to do with themselves? It’s at the junction that I thank my lucky stars we found our school’s theatre club. At last, my friends and I had discovered a platform by which we could all learn funny in-jokes, goofy voices, and memorize ridiculous songs and movements which we could then showcase to the entire school. No longer were we the annoying kids singing YouTube songs on the playground–in our minds, now we could be so much more. 

Theatre is many different things: a profession, a craft, an avenue for exploring history, politics, art, and humanity as whole. For a fourteen year old Raymond, however, it was more than that. It was a chance to finally express myself in a way that made sense to me. To use tendencies that many found aggravating and transform them into a work that I could be proud of was life-changing for me. The kids of today are more terminally online than ever before, and as a theatre professional it’s my responsibility to show those energetic and niche-interested kids that there is an avenue here for them to express themselves. Theatre is that avenue, has been that avenue for me, and it always will be. 

Raymond is incredibly jazzed to be joining Charleston Stage as a Resident Actor for our 45th season! Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Raymond graduated in May of 2021 from Ohio Northern University with a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre. Previous credits include Jack (Into the Woods), Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein), and George (Sunday in the Park with George). He would like to thank his family and friends for their wholehearted support and encouragement! Hear from him at / @raymonley

An Inside Look at TheatreWings, with Sayde Handegan

Meet Sayde Handegan: a budding actress, TheatreWings member, and student at Wando High School. We recently sat down with her to offer you a closer look into our TheatreWings program, a free, pre-professional apprentice program for high school students committed to learning the craft of backstage theatre design and management. We also had the joy of watching her perform as “Ladybug” in our summer teen production of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach! Here from Sayde herself:

You just finished performing in our production of Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach” as Ladybug. How did you prepare for the role? I had a blast playing Ladybug in “James!” The biggest challenge in playing this character was the accent. Naturally, I speak with a standard American accent. and when rehearsals started, I had never performed with a different accent before. My character specifically had a posh British accent, so when I had downtime at rehearsal, I listened to people speaking this specific accent to hear their particular inflections. Eventually, I landed on an interview with Emma Thompson and that was it–her accent was perfect for Ladybug. I watched a ridiculous amount of her interviews to prepare for the role! Physically, the preparation was straightforward, as I didn’t have a very dance heavy track. 

What is your favorite Charleston Stage memory? I have so many wonderful memories with Charleston Stage! I’ve always had a great time working with the company. Four of my favorite memories are being a dresser for the production of Bright Star in season 44, learning stage combat for The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, singing Wicked with Cedar (2nd year Resident Actor) at WingsWeek, and the whole “James” experience.

How are you looking forward to growing as an artist in TheatreWings this year? This year I am a part of the costume design concentration. During the past year I’ve been trying to teach myself to sew and make clothing, so I figured this would be a great way to learn! At the high school I attend, I am the production manager of the school’s theatre program this academic year. My responsibilities include head of stage management, costumes, and props, so to help me succeed more in my job, I decided it would be good to learn the art of designing, making, and maintaining costumes. 

What did you learn in TheatreWings last year that was new to you? Last year I was a part of the stage management concentration, but got assigned to be a dresser for Bright Star. Being in stage management, I had no clue what a dresser did for a show. I learned all about this role’s responsibilities during tech week and ended up being in charge of all the mens costume changes for the show! It’s one of my favorite theatre experiences ever!

What is your favorite show of all time? Another hard question! My favorite show that Charleston Stage has produced is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” My favorite Broadway show is “Finding Neverland”.

Sayde has been working with Charleston Stage since 3rd grade with their classes, Performance Troupe, and High School TheatreWings Program. She is a Junior at Wando High School and production manager of Wando Theatre. Some of her favorite roles include Katie Travis (School of Rock), Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz), Ryan Evans (High School Musical, On Stage!), and a supporting role in PYPO’s Spelling Bee. She’s very excited to play Eurydice in Wando Theatre’s production of Eurydice this Fall. You can find her at and on Instagram at @saydejhandegan